Alnwick Town 2-4 Newcastle Chemfica
It was a story of ever so nearly for Alnwick as they were denied twice by the offside flag, goals which would have given them a share of the points.
Phil Airey almost managed a second-half four-goal haul after his introduction at half-time but had to settle for just two after half of his strikes were ruled out by a raised flag.
Steve McLaughlin’s four goals all counted, one from the spot, to leapfrog his side above Alnwick in the table.
Alnwick looked to get on the front foot from the start with a high intensity pressing game, which resulted in the early opening chances for the hosts.
A day after his brother had scored the only goal and winner for Newcastle United, Samuel Perez made his 18/19 debut for Alnwick, having played for the club during the 16/17 season, and the forward had Alnwick’s first opportunity.
Jonathyn Quinn intercepted the ball high into the opposition’s half but didn’t know much about the deflected pass that rolled straight into Perez’s path. Turning ninety degrees to face the goal, the forward hit his shot first time but it ended up being just a sighter for both striker and goalkeeper as the effort was hit straight in to the keeper’s hands.
A minute later and the same two linked up again. This time it was Perez who was the feeder of the pass as Quinn made a run beyond the forward and behind the opposition’s defence. The role reversal was evident, however, as the pass had too much on it and ran out of play.
Chemfica lost their cup final appearance only on Thursday but took the lead first in this match. A long ball was flicked on and McLaughlin found himself alone inside the penalty area. Cutting to his right, he placed his left footed effort under the keeper.
They nearly added a second just four minutes later when Darryl Basham smashed over the bar.
Attacks were coming thick and fast for both sides with possession being turned over quickly and both sides had chances to add to the scoring towards the end of the first half.
For Alnwick, Perez was unlucky when he tried to lob the goalkeeper, only to see the ball strike the top of the crossbar.
The attacking action was even more thorough in the second half.
Forward Airey replaced Leon Midgley for Alnwick at half-time, and his impact was undeniable, getting Alnwick’s equaliser after an hour. Kieran Hogg’s whipped ball from just inside the opposition’s box found Airey who produced a diving header which lobbed the goalkeeper and put his side on level terms.
Two minutes later and Alnwick were leading. Ros Moore crossed from the right and found Perez, who passed to Airey who was all alone and placed his first time, right footed effort to the keeper’s right.
Both sides were attacking with intent and Chemfica drew level just two minutes later. Another headed flick on from a long ball forward rolled perfectly into McLaughlin’s path and he fired through keeper Slack’s hands into the net.
Alnwick were nearly ahead again moments later. Following a poor clearance, McEwan lobbed the ball back into the box for Lee Dundas’s head. His aerial pass across goal met Airey who managed to lob the keeper with his header. Celebrations were cut short however, when the ref spotted the linesman’s flag was raised, suspected to be for Dundas’ initial header.
There was a further set-back for Alnwick when they conceded a penalty, Brendan Balmbra at fault for an aerial challenge inside his own box.
Slack dived the right way for the spot kick but McLaughlin’s shot just evaded the keeper’s fingertips and gave the forward his hat-trick.
Alnwick had the ball in the back of the net shortly after, but again the were denied by a flag.
Jack Henderson played a long ball forward from deep on the right inside his own half. Airey chipped the goalkeeper in stylish fashion only for the linesman to rule out the goal for a second time.
Eventually the game got away from the hosts. Jack Henderson was this time at fault for a poor pass infield, meant for the goalkeeper but was closer to McLaughlin. One on one, the striker rounded the keeper to give himself an empty net to grab his fourth of the day.