Rothbury 2-2 Cramlington United
Big Kyle Smith lost his head and saw red after a shocking tackle left team-mate Tony Brown writhing on the turf but ten-man Rothbury hit back late on to stretch their unbeaten League run to 15 games.
Coach Tom Macpherson hailed the point as ‘decent’ and called for the side to be a bit more streetwise as he was left somewhat frustrated after a first half performance that saw the Reds hit the woodwork on three separate occasions before taking the lead through Dan Thompson.
After a tentative start, Rothbury got on top and midfielder Brown was unlucky to see a beautifully-flighted free kick thump back off the bar. Joel Laviers then had his head in his hands as he warmed up the crowd with a long-range drive that was also a coat of paint off going in.
The frustration continued as Thompson then headed against the crossbar, but soon after the Reds’ top scorer got on the scoresheet when he nodded in Michael Old’s pin-point chipped cross for his 13th of the season in the 42nd minute.
“I feel a point is a good result in the end,” said Macpherson.
“I would have been disappointed to take a point at half time, but after 70 minutes I would have took a point no question.
“I thought we were excellent in the first half, unplayable at times and creating chances at will. We came out slow in the second half, maybe complacent, however the fight back from the lads was brilliant. Obviously there were some tired legs after the festive period but the determination and togetherness the players showed following the sending off showed why we are up there fighting for the league.”
The result saw the Reds knocked off top spot by Whitley Bay Sporting who were 3-2 winners at Whitburn & Cleadon.
This season’s championship is looking increasingly likely to go right down to the wire as Bay now lead by a point, but they’ve played two games more. So forget Liverpool’s Premier League title race – the real excitement for local football fans is down at Armstrong Park with at least eight teams all capable of mounting a serious challenge for the silverware come May.
The visitors showed just why they are up there after the break as they came out and began to boss the middle of the park following a change in formation. Skipper Niall Younger danced through four or five challenges and slipped home past the advancing keeper to equalise in the 53rd minute.
Just seven minutes later Rothbury didn’t deal fully with a corner and it was whipped back over for Luke Taylor to power home a close range header. It could have been worse but for a superb double block by Joel Laviers and Macpherson to keep Rothbury in the game.
Smith’s reaction to an ugly tackle earned him a long lonely walk back to the dressing room but the decision fired up the Reds and they piled forward in search of an equaliser in the final 15 minutes.
They got their reward when Brown’s drive from distance was deflected into the path of Gaz McCann and he coolly slotted into the back of the net with just three minutes to go.
Rothbury almost stole the three points in the dying seconds but the unlucky Matty Travis couldn’t keep his shot down and it flashed over the crossbar from close range.
“The draw was a fair result on reflection,” admitted Macpherson.
“Maybe we need to be more clinical in front of goal and also a bit more streetwise in seeing a game out, but we are a relatively young side it’s still a learning curve. We are still on the up and progressing as a team and squad.”