Cramlington United 1-1 Rothbury
New signing Chris Fawcett was inches from grabbing a spectacular last-gasp winner for Rothbury on his debut.
The former Ashington, Blue Star and Whitley Bay winger hit a superb overhead bicycle kick from a corner that the United keeper got his hands to and somehow managed to keep out.
But the overwhelming sense in the Rothbury camp at the end was one of frustration as the Reds felt that they were denied a clear-cut penalty - and with the players still up in arms at the controversial decision, Cramlington went up the other end and grabbed a stoppage time leveller. It was tough luck on the Coquetdalers, who had led thanks to a first-half strike from the in-form Gareth McCann.
While a point away to a side that are challenging the Hillmen for a promotion spot would probably have been welcomed by boss Dan Herron before kick-off, to concede in the dying seconds left a somewhat deflated feeling in the dressing rooms after.
Herron admitted that Rothbury weren’t at their best and that the late equaliser was hard to take, but said that Cramlington had worked hard for the point.
“We struggled to get the ball down and play like usual. I guess United were quite well set up to counteract our passing from the back,” said Herron.
Rothbury created a few chances in the first half and had a goal chalked off for an unrelated push in the build up before McCann found the net in the 37th minute.
James Jackson and Tony Brown worked their magic in the middle of the park and the latter threaded through a ball to hot-shot McCann, who continued his scoring streak with a lovely first touch and turn before drilling low inside the near post.
“We were poor in the second half too, but I thought we defended quite well to be honest. We had a few half chances where their keeper saved well, Dan Thompson carving a few out for himself from sheer hard work and determination,” admitted Herron.
In the final minute of the game Al Laviers got on the wrong side of his marker in the box and although he was sent tumbling by him standing on his foot and crashing into his back, the referee waved play on.
The ball was lumped clear and a cross whipped over from the right which was struck on the volley by Rhys Groves, took a massive deflection off a defender, and ended up in the back of the net.
Rothbury, however, remain on a 19 game unbeaten run in the League since an opening day defeat as their first season in Northern Alliance football has exceeded all expectations and Herron wasn’t too downbeat about the result.
“We were all very frustrated by it in the end. I know not getting decisions are part and parcel of the game but to concede after we switched off through it was bitterly disappointing and a double kick in the teeth,” he continued.
“Nevertheless, a point away at fourth in the league is not to be sniffed at, and credit to Cramlington, they are a real team side who didn’t give up.”
“We need to forget about last minute heartache and go again next week. That’s ten games to go now - into the final third and a big push for promotion.”
Rothbury host Wideopen and District at Armstrong Park on Saturday when the League reverts to 2.30pm kick-offs.