Nervy Alnwick Town secure win through in Alliance League Cup
Alnwick Town 3-2 Hebburn U23s
Cameron Cunningham struck twice on his debut, along with the returning Ryan Douglas, to put Alnwick through to the next round of the League Cup on Saturday.
They will now host Newcastle East End in the third round of the competition.
John Hobbs headed the visitors into the lead in the 15th minute. This was after Alnwick had hit the post through Brad McClelland, and had a Scott Maddison goal disallowed for offside.
Debutant Cunningham then struck twice with almost identical goals in the 18th and 29th minutes, both left foot into the corner of the net.
This gave Alnwick a 2-1 interval lead, but Ryan Douglas scored from close range on his return to the club the make it 3-1 in the 50th minute.
A host of substitutions followed, including Scott Maddison being replaced to attend the birth of his newborn.
Recce Jukes reduced the deficitto 3-2 in the 78th minute, ensure a nervy ffinale for the St James’ Park supporters.
McClelland almost added to the lead when through one on one, but his effort was just wide of the post.
All in all this was a good game of football, Hebburn, despite being from the league below, more than held their own for periods of the game.
Alnwick: Slack T, Drummond A (Lowes D), Lowes J, Douglas R, Burns K, Balmbra B, Moore R, Quinn J (Muter C), McClelland B, Maddison S (Schiavetta D), Cunningham C (Midgely L).
(AET, Rothbury won 4-3 on penalties)
Love them or loathe them, the one thing you can’t deny is that a penalty shoot-out is a thrilling way to end a Cup tie.
And while goalkeepers rarely get the chance to grab the headlines, Rothbury’s Dominic McMahon was the hero as he pulled off two superb stops with the Reds holding their nerve to send Premier Division Chemfica crashing out.
The hosts were understandably deflated and claimed that they should have made more of their chances during the 120 minutes, while Rothbury withstood the pressure better at the end and coolly fired into the back of the net from 12 yards on four occasions to cause a Cup upset.
But joint player/boss Tom Macpherson felt that the Reds had done enough throughout the tie overall to more than deserve their victory and set up a Third Round meeting with fellow north Northumbrian side Spittal Rovers.
“We were excellent and everyone played their part,” beamed a delighted Macpherson afterwards.
“The spirit and work rate the lads showed was second to none - despite getting pegged back twice they never gave up. The most pleasing thing was the way we did it – yes, we rode our luck at times, but in all honesty we deserved it on the 120 minutes of the game. We were the better side in the first half and they were the better in the second half, but we then found another gear in extra time and started passing the ball much better and causing them problems again,” he said.
Rothbury went ahead when Michael Old unselfishly squared for Daniel Thompson to tap into the empty net and complete a lovely flowing team move. However, the Premier Division outfit hit back thanks to a penalty decision that Macpherson felt was ‘dubious.’
Star man Thompson added his second to restore the Red’s lead when the striker drilled home at the near post following good work from Alex Makin and Greg Woodburn. But the delight and celebrations were replaced by much headshaking as Chemfica made it all-square from a set-play. Macpherson’s verdict on the goal - a ‘silly free-kick that we gave away and it went through the wall’ - summed up the exasperation felt on the Coquetdale bench.
“Although they were frustrating goals to give away, it didn’t matter in the end,” he continued.
“Penalties are a lottery but we were confident. We’ve got some good technical players in the squad and a free shot from twelve yards is bread and butter for someone like Tony Brown. Dom made two fantastic saves that helped too!”
Reds midfielder Brown was left unfazed by the penalty pressure and said: “It’s just a lottery; if you miss, so be it. I was very confident looking at our list of takers that we had a good chance if the match went the distance, and having a 9 ft 6 bitter shandy-drinking Yorkshireman in goal certainly helps your chances! Thankfully he’s made a couple of excellent saves and we march into the next round. Hopefully we can go a couple of steps further and lift some silverware, come what may.”
Macpherson is looking forward to visiting the Seasiders’ Swan Leisure Centre ground in Round Three and said: “At least one Division Two side is guaranteed a place in the quarter finals. It will be a tricky tie at their place and they are flying at the moment, but if we play to our high standards that we set on Saturday, we can be confident.”