Alnwick Town 1-5 Whickham
Alnwick kicked off 2018 in the same way 2017 had ended, with a defeat.
The gloom detractors were happy, and whilst it is results that count, this game does not give credit for the quality of football played at times by the team.
The score will possibly indicate to those who were not there that it was one-sided.
A catastrophic few minutes before half-time and another short period before fulltime were two of the factors plus the Town fullback Scott Brotherwick was sent off after 20 minutes following a hard tackle.
If that was not enough Adam Shanks had to come off after 30 minutes. Apart from those short periods, Alnwick were as good and in some ways better playing with only 10 men for 70 minutes!
The match went ahead following a pitch inspection and credit has to go to the small ground crew for the magnificent surface while many other games were called off.
Alnwick went on the attack from the start, but Whickham appealed for a penalty as Town keeper Glasper charged out and collided with Joe Mole, who went on to score four goals for his side. The referee waved play on, but the turning point came when Brotherwick was dismissed, apparently for lashing out following a challenge.
Darren Riddel was introduced as Alnwick reshuffled the pack, but bthere was a further set-back when Shanks was forced to leave the field with a hip injury.
Play continued with Alnwick’s 10 men handling Whickham and giving them some headaches.
What then followed in the final five minutes of the first half finished the game when Mole scored a quick-fire hat-trick. He opened the scoring when he nipped in behind the defence to head home. He then netted with a cross-shot from the right and completed his treble with a shot from outside the box which went in off the underside of the crossbar.
Halftime arrived with the visitors three up but Alnwick had some half-chances in the second half including a move from Kevin Westphal to Darren Riddel which visiting keeper John Mordley just managed to clear.
Additional changes came via Philip Bright, whose speed caused the visitors some problems, but being down to 10 men and chasing the game started to take its toll against a very lively Whickham.
Alnwick were caught by Mole who scored his fourth, but Alnwick did not give up and Tony Brown netted for the home side to make it 1-4.
James Norton finished off the scoring to make it 1-5 to Whickham.
The defeat leaves Alnwick rooted at the toot of the Northern League 2 table on 13 points, two behind Darlington RA and three adrift of Brandon United. They will continue to fight, however, and will be looking for a change in fortunes when they take on Durham City at home on Saturday.