Morpeth SC Gunners...2 Longhoughton Rangers...4
NABC U16 DIVISION FOUR
LONGHOUGHTON Rangers U16s went into this away fixture on Sunday, against second-top Morpeth Gunners on the back of a 2-1 mid-week defeat away to Blyth, which put an end to their hopes of finishing runners-up in the league.
Although Rangers still had two games left to play this turned out to be their final game of the season due to players understandably concentrating their minds on imminent GCSE exams.
With manager Dave Young forced to shuffle the pack due to injuries and unavailability, the match kicked off during a torrential downpour.
Early chances fell to Rangers, with Jake Morrison attempting to lob the home side’s keeper on five minutes and netting on nine minutes with a successful lob from an Ash Williams pass but the goal was adjudged offside.
Morpeth’s reply was instant with a 10th minute shot going wide of the Rangers goal. Barely a minute later, Morpeth took the lead after Rangers’ goalkeeper Andrew Smeaton forced the Morpeth attacker wide but couldn’t prevent a ball across the box from being comfortably slotted into the net (1-0).
As has been the case in several matches this season, going a goal down seemed to wake up Rangers, who equalised on 12 minutes following a good move and through-ball which the Morpeth keeper failed to hold, allowing Andrew Stanwix to fire the loose ball into the net (1-1).
Following end-to-end play, Will Young tried his luck on 16 minutes with a well-struck speculative shot just wide of the Morpeth post. With 23 minutes gone, Rangers’ first substitutions saw Ryan Love and Callum Hedley come on to replace Ash Williams and Andrew Stanwix.
As the half-hour came up, Morpeth were unlucky not to take the lead when they hit the Rangers post with a follow-up shot after an initial attempt had been cleared by Andrew Smeaton.
This prompted an excellent counter by Rangers with Edwin Gillon’s cross just beating Jake Morrison’s toe in the opposition box.
A further substitution saw Dale Jemmett replace Jimmy Campbell, who went off for a well-deserved rest, following a minor delay as they swapped boots. Fourteen players and only 13 pairs of boots ... teenagers!
Rangers took a deserved lead on 35 minutes when Kieran Martin scored with a cracking long-range shot, which beat the diving Morpeth keeper (1-2).
An injury to James Virtue, playing at left back instead of his more usual spot between the posts, forced him off with Andrew Stanwix returning as his replacement.
Half-time: 2-1 to Rangers.
The second half started where the first left off with some good end-to-end play from both sides.
With Rangers looking the stronger side, they extended their lead to 3-1 on 52 minutes when Callum Hedley fired in following an attempt by Edwin Gillon, which the Morpeth defence failed to clear.
With Rangers appearing to be coasting, a high, long-range Morpeth shot beat Rangers keeper Andrew Smeaton on 55 minutes for 3-2.
Ash Williams replaced Callum Hedley and Rangers calmed the nerves on 59 minutes when, following a well-worked move from midfield, Ryan Love’s cross into the Morpeth box was converted by Andrew Stanwix for 4-2 and his second of the match. The Morpeth keeper could only get a hand to his well-placed shot.
Morpeth went all out to pull a goal back and Rangers were forced to defend a succession of dangerous corners and free-kicks but were unlucky not to score a fifth on 75 minutes when Edwin Gillon’s fierce shot was just saved by the Morpeth keeper. With the clock running down, the final attempt of the game fell to Morpeth with a dangerous cross into the Rangers box which was collected by Andrew Smeaton.
Full-time: 4-2 to Rangers.
Another excellent resilient team display by the Rangers team who have given their supporters much excitement and entertainment this season, regardless of the score.
The club said a very big thank-you to everyone who has played this season, to all parents for their commitment, whatever the weather, and to Dave Young for all of his efforts in organising, training and ‘encouraging’ the lads in his own inimitable style. All the very best to all involved for the 2011-12 season.
Longhoughton Rangers: Andrew Smeaton, James Virtue, Keegan Watson, Callum Batey, Jimmy Campbell, Ash Williams, Will Young, Kieran Martin, Edwin Gillon, Jake Morrison, Andrew Stanwix, Ryan Love, Dale Jemmett, Callum Hedley. Rangers man-of-the-match: Callum Batey.