Jesmond 2-4 Rothbury
Leading scorer Dan Thompson got back on the goal trail with a first half double as Rothbury went top of the table on goal difference.
With Tony Brown and Gareth McCann also stretching the net before the break, the Reds had done the damage and defended resolutely after that to claim three important points in a game that the referee almost abandoned at one point due to a hail shower.
“We knew that the second half would be difficult against the strong wind and a tenacious Jesmond side but I thought we controlled the goal really well and defended excellently at times, limiting them to long range shots,” said player coach Tom Macpherson afterwards.
Although Andy Hall cancelled out Brown’s brilliant tenth minute opener, Rothbury raced back in front with three goals in six devastating minutes. Stewart Wright pulled another back for the hosts shortly after the turnaround.
Stobswood did the Reds a huge favour by beating Whitley Bay SC 2-1 while Spittal Rovers were 2-0 up at the break against Blyth – but the visitors notched six in a storming second half to blow the title race wide open.
Manager Dan Herron echoed his right hand man’s views and said: “I thought the defence did really well in the second half, which won us the game really. It’s also great to see the strength in depth too. Being able to bring such quality as Al Laviers, Chris Fawcett and Chrissy Coe off the bench is something Rothbury hasn’t had for a long time - true strength in depth.”
Herron hailed Thompson’s contribution as ‘great’ and picked out his second goal – running at pace from the half way line before jinking inside a defender and curling it into the corner – as the pick of his brace.
McCann’s hot form continued with his eighth goal in seven games, rounding the keeper and coolly finishing from a narrow angle with James Loughborough’s clever dummy on a Macpherson through ball creating the opening. Loughborough’s all-round performance was praised by both Herron and Macpherson, with his work-rate in midfield described as ‘brilliant’ and being ‘strong in the midfield battle and linking up play nicely.’
“It was a great win against what could easily have been a banana skin to be honest,” continued Herron.
“Jesmond’s high press and very quick counter attacks are always a danger. We weren’t brilliant by any means, which the conditions played a part in, but nevertheless we created a few chances and got our rewards I’d say.”
“It was good to see the character in the team show through - when we were pegged back to 1–1 we didn’t drop our heads. It’s very much a case of job done and another three points on the board.”
Rothbury have a huge fixture against third-placed Whitburn & Cleadon at Armstrong Park on Saturday, kick-off 2.30pm, and this is followed by games against Whitley Bay SC (home) and Willington Quay Saints (away).
“We have three massive games ahead to finish off March which could really define our season. But it’s exciting times ahead and the lads are loving the ride at the moment,” added Macpherson.