See-saw season swings to Town

NNL Division One winners Alnwick Town Reserves with the trophy
NNL Division One winners Alnwick Town Reserves with the trophy

Percy Main...0 Alnwick Town...1

Northern Alliance Premier Division

ALNWICK Town were handed a lifeline in the race for the Premier Division title as closest rivals Ponteland United lost 3-1 to last year’s champions Harraby Catholic Club, while they won at Percy Main.

They made several changes to the team before their trip to North Shields, with key players injured as the hectic fixture list took its toll.

Alnwick travelled with only one recognised striker in their squad for their visit to Purvis Park.

On the first Saturday after the end of the Northern League season, with many regional eyes on Whitley Bay’s FA Vase final at Wembley, BBC Radio Newcastle chose Percy Main Amateurs versus Alnwick Town as their featured game.

Commentator Barry Hindson had clearly chosen his assignment wisely as the two sides served up a fabulous spectacle in front of a season’s best crowd. The game was a credit to Northern Alliance football and testament to the quality the league can produce.

The game was played in a constant, cooling drizzle that kept the pitch greasy and made the ball zip off the surface, making it a breakneck spectacle.

In the first minute, the home side almost broke the deadlock when Main captain Ritchie picked up a loose ball in the penalty area and drove in a fierce effort that Alnwick keeper Brian Brooks did well to parry.

However, Alnwick almost took the lead two minutes later when Neil Catlow’s cross in to the six-yard area was met by Mark Cockburn’s effort, but Rob Rodgerson pulled off a stunning save at the foot of the post to deny the midfielder.

The Percy Main midfielder had two right-foot efforts from distance that went wide of the mark.

Alnwick almost stole a half-time lead when striker Stephen Hogg turned smartly in the box and clipped onto the roof of the net.

After the break, Alnwick began to exert a measure of control on proceedings, helped by a suicidal pass out by the home keeper that appeared to give Tony Brown an open goal, but Main defender Locke got back to make a clearing challenge.

Brown, then Cockburn, were both denied by spectacular tips over the cross-bar by Rodgerson. Locke, for Main, made a good run down the line but his curling effort drifted wide of the upright.

Alnwick midfielder Kevin Elliot picked up the ball on the halfway line before hitting a shot from 30 yards. It was spilled by the keeper as it fizzed off the surface, but was collected at the second attempt.

Chris Moffet had a terrific chance in the 70th minute, but his downward header from six yards out bounced over the crossbar.

Substitute Smyth should have done better for the home side when going clear of the Alnwick defence, but ran the ball out for a goal kick.

Moments later, Scott McMullen scored the only goal of the game on 75 minutes, when his speculative curling ball in to the box evaded everyone and skidded off the surface in to the top corner of the net.

Indeed, it could have been 2-0 to Alnwick in the last minute when Moffet’s skidding low drive brought another good stop from Rodgerson, who managed to shovel the ball round the post.

Alnwick: B Brooks, D Lillico, G Patterson, B Murray, N Catlow, S McMullen, T Brown, K Elliot, M Cockburn, C Moffet, S Hogg, G Bails, M Armstrong. Pizza Royale man-of-the-match: Stephan Hogg.

Town’s next match is at home to Stocksfield on Saturday, kick-off 2.30pm.