Champagne celebrations as Rothbury crowned champions
Super Kyle Smith went ballistic and Rothbury were promoted as champions of the Northern Alliance Division 2 at the weekend.
The midfield battler hit a double and was inches from completing a sensational hat-trick in a man-of-the-match display.
He led the champagne celebrations as the Reds took the Second Division title at the first attempt – and in some style. The Coquetdalers respectfully held back until they’d shook hands with the Blyth team and let them leave the field before popping the corks to a rendition of ‘Championees’ in the goalmouth. The real party got started in the privacy of the changing rooms after and almost shook the roof off.
“Me and the lads have had a horrendous few weeks so it means everything to win the Championship,” said Smith.
“We did it for each other and we did it for Rothbury; I’d like to think we did Tom Sutton proud as well,” he continued, referring to the stunned feeling the Rothbury squad have felt after the sudden loss of their close friend and former team-mate.
Smith got brilliant Rothbury off to a dream start against the only side that could derail their title charge, and the only team to have beaten them in the League this season - on the opening day - when his deep cross-shot from the right flew over the head of back-peddling keeper Callum Straker and into the bottom corner of the net in the 8th minute.
“It was a cross I won’t lie,” he admitted, with a cheeky grin.
“I turned away in disappointment, but then I saw it heading over the keeper’s head - it means the world to me.”
It was almost two within ten minutes as Dan Thompson’s low drive came back off the foot of the post and Tony Brown’s sliding follow-up was disallowed for a foul on the keeper.
Leading scorer Thompson did get on the scoresheet just five minutes later as he robbed a backpass off the keeper’s toes and reeled away in celebration from a simple tap-in for his 16th of the season.
Gaz McCann came close to adding a third when Straker’s poor clearance went straight to him, but he scuffed the shot and the keeper was somewhat relieved to get back and smother it as the Reds threatened to run riot.
Dead-ball ace Tony Brown had a couple of sighters from free-kicks around the box towards the end of the half and when James Loughborough was fouled 20-yards out just two minutes into the second period, Brown’s effort crashed back off the post and Smith followed up to rifle home number three from close range.
While Rothbury were a constant menace going forward, they also worked tremendously hard to win back possession and were assured and organised both in defence and the middle of the park.
When Amateur Cup winners Blyth did breach the back line, they found keeper Rob Hodgson in inspired form. He made two outstanding diving saves within a minute before the Reds almost added a fourth on the hour.
Thompson span his marker and drove into the box, his drilled shot being deflected wide when strike partner McCann had bust a gut to get into a great scoring position. Brown flighted over the corner and Smith’s towering header looked destined for the roof of the net until Straker won the applause of the large crowd with a brilliant reaction stop to tip it over the bar.
He was called into action again when Brown let fly from 25 yards to parry away and although he was beaten soon after as James Jackson cleverly dinked Thompson’s low drive over his sprawling body, the linesman’s flag was raised.
Blyth almost pulled one back late on but Hodgson refused to be beaten – he flung himself to push a drive onto the post and out. If that was good his next, in the final minute, was absolutely top class. He not only leapt across goal to get a hand to a well hit point blank effort, but leapt up to parry away the rebound for an amazing double save.
Manager Dan Herron, soaked in the fizzy stuff by his gleeful squad, said after: “I couldn’t rate the performance any higher. Tom always drums into the lads that we need to earn the right to play football, and yesterday we more than did that.”
“Man for man we outworked Blyth and we just wanted it more really. Blyth have some quality players in their ranks too, and Gob (Hodgson) had to be on hand to keep them at bay. But I just thought our intensity and tempo was too much to deal with, the lads were well up for it, and they deserve to win that trophy,” he continued.
“We’ve always said that promotion was the target from the start, but starting to assemble the squad in pre-season, you could see we had some quality, and we’ve added a few more as the season went on. So I never expected to be winning it really, we always thought it might be an outside chance, but to win it with 3 games to go is unbelievable. 26 games unbeaten in the league is monumental and it just shows our consistency levels all year, and why we deserve to be top.”
“To be on the verge of folding at the end of the 16/17 season, then to gain promotion and win the Alliance Division Two for the first time ever, is an amazing turn around. On and off the pitch things have taken a massive turn, while we might not be the best at everything, we are learning through the process and trying to make Rothbury FC a force in Northumberland football.”
“Not one player had a bad game either, they all rose to the challenge and got us the win. Kyle (Smith), Greg (Woodburn), Tommy (Macpherson), James Loughborough were particular stand outs for me but I could name the whole 11 really,” said Herron.
“It has to be mentioned how amazing an achievement it is given the very difficult mental and emotional side of things for some of the players in the last few weeks. Even in the tragic circumstances they’ve never let their heads drop, and that is the best character you’ll ever see for me, so I’m proud of them all for that.”
ALNWICK TOWN 0
UNITED OF NEWCASTLE 1
Alnwick suffered a disappointing narrow defeat when they went down 1-0 at home against United of Newcastle in the Northern Alliance Premier Division at the weekend.
It was the team’s final home game of the season but they failed to go out in the manner in which they had hoped.
Alnwick found themselves on the back foot from an early stage when the visitors took the lead from a set piece.
Town were then awarded a penalty, but Sammy Perez saw his spot kick rebound off the crossbar.
Both sides were then reduced to ten men following a scuffle, with Perez being sent off for the St James’ park side.
Almost right on half-time Alnwick struck the woodwork again, this time Doublas smashing the bar with a free kick from 20 yards out.
In the second half Alnwick several chances but could not find the net. They now only have one game remaining, away on Saturday, May 11 against New Fordley.