Alnwick Town off to a flying start

STL NORTHERN LEAGUE, DIVISION TWO

Alnwick Town...1 Thornaby...0

A FINE second-half performance saw Alnwick Town beat Thornaby for the second time in four days to maintain their unbeaten start to the season, writes James Willoughby.

The 1-0 home victory on Tuesday night, courtesy of a long-range Scott McMullen effort on the hour, saw Alnwick go top of Northern League Division Two.

In what has been a great start to the season, the newly-promoted St James’ Park side have won their last three games on the back of a 1-1 draw with North Shields on the opening day of the season.

But despite the positive start, which has seen them take 10 points from a possible 12 on their return to the Northern League, joint manager Stephen Gibbard insists the club should not get carried away and survival at this level is still the priority.

“Everything is positive,” said Gibbard, speaking after the club’s latest win.

“I wanted to come out of August with five points. That was my aim, by picking up wins at home. But we have picked up wins at home and away.

“It all bodes well but we can’t run ahead of ourselves. Our aim is 30 points.”

But if Alnwick can go through the season playing the way they did in the second half against Thornaby, they should feel confident of reaching that survival milestone – at the very least.

Yes, Thornaby – an established Northern League side – shaded the first half, with some neat football and spells of possession. And yes, they did hit the bar with the last kick of the game.

But in truth, they never really caused Alnwick problems where it mattered.

And it was in fact Alnwick who had the better chances, creating two or three clear-cut efforts in what was a great second-half performance.

Gibbard, who is sharing the manager’s role with Dougie McEwan, said: “We worked hard second half. The first half we were poor.

“But the second half was a totally different story.

“We used the ball a lot more and we used the outlets of the wingers and we got balls across goal.

“We are working so hard as a team. We were missing four or five players tonight but the depth is there.”

The first half was a tight affair, with the keepers barely tested at either end.

Alnwick did look susceptible to balls over the top in the early exchanges and Thornaby nearly took advantage six minutes in when a long ball almost got the better of the defence, but for a crucial intervention from Gary Patterson, who had a solid game.

Danny Lowes had Town’s best effort with a curling shot after 12 minutes, but his attempt flew agonisingly past the post, while at the other end, Carlton McCabe’s shot from distance fizzed inches wide of the Alnwick goal.

But the second period was different altogether.

Alnwick began to control the game and played some tidy passing football, finding their rhythm and exploiting space down the flanks.

And it was one of these nice passing moves which led to the goal.

Forward Ben Keenan held the ball up on the half-way line before supplying a delicious ball out wide to David Davison, who came on as a second-half substitute and had a fine game.

He ran at the Thornaby defence before passing across field to McMullen who drilled the ball low from distance past Thornaby keeper Patrick Pisoni.

Alnwick had a number of chances to increase their lead, but all their hard work was nearly undone at the death when Darren Morton shot from outside the area, only to see it crash against the bar.

Alnwick’s form is a good omen for their Bank Holiday Monday derby tussle with Morpeth Town.

And while Gibbard admits derby games are tough to call, he believes it is a fixture that Alnwick can win.

“You can never predict a derby, it is different. But I would like a win.”

Alnwick Town: Brian Brooks, Bryan Murray, Neil Catlow, Danny Lowes, Tom MacPherson, Gary Patterson, Dale Kennedy, Scott McMullen, Ben Keenan, Neil MacFarlane, Alex Makin. Subs: James Davison, Michael Armstrong, Tom Vickers, James Swordy, David Davison. Match sponsor: MKM Building Supplies. Pizza Royale man-of-the-match: Neil MacFarlane.

• Alnwick face Hebburn Town at home on Saturday, kick-off 3pm, before they travel to Morpeth Town, on Monday, kick-off 11am.