Rothbury...2 Alnwick Vipers...3
AS the two teams left the pitch, the parent of the Alnwick Vipers’ winning goal-scorer remarked, “that was a goal fit to win any match” and how right he was.
The Alnwick number 10 was no danger as he received the ball just inside his own half yet, after taking a few steps forward, he unleashed a shot at goal that deceived the eye.
At first it seemed as if it would float aimlessly over the bar, but like a sudden pouncing viper, the ball seemed to twist, fall and then dart into the top right-hand corner of the goal.
The goal, great as it was, was hard on a Rothbury team that had thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at a resolute Alnwick side.
The game had started so well for Rothbury. Urged on to score quickly, they followed instructions to the letter.
Thorsten Robinson ran down the right-hand side of the pitch and crossed the ball into the box. Initially it seemed Aidan Greaves’ attempt to connect had been foiled by the Alnwick keeper, but the ball squirted out of the keeper’s grasp and Greaves, hurdling the prostrate keeper, simply walked the ball into the net.
Rothbury now looked like they would power away from their Alnwick rivals.
Yet although a number of balls were played into the Alnwick box, Rothbury couldn’t find another scoring touch. Almost inevitably this gave Alnwick confidence and they scored with their first attempt.
A corner was played into the box and Rothbury, instead of playing the ball away from goal, knocked the ball across their goal. An Alnwick player said ‘thank you very much’ by leathering the ball into the Rothbury goal.
Then as soon as they’d equalised, Alnwick went ahead.
Pressing forward, Rothbury were suddenly caught on the counter as an Alnwick midfielder burst forward into the Rothbury half.
Both Rothbury defenders ran to the man with the ball. Sensibly the Alnwick player in possession bided his time and then slipped the ball past the rushing Hugh Dennis and Alex Kidd to an Alnwick player free in front of goal.
Unfortunately, he expertly converted an easy chance.
Amazingly, Rothbury had virtually all the possession but were now a goal down. Rothbury, however, settled well, and started playing some excellent football.
First James Williams slipped the ball wide to Robinson who crossed to Adam Crane in the middle of the box. Crane, with his back to the goal, turned quickly to shoot yet his shot slipped agonizingly the wrong side of the goal.
Then Williams shot wide to be followed by good saves by the Alnwick keeper from Dennis and Robinson.
Rothbury kept going and got their reward with the final kick of the half. Williams again played the ball to Robinson, who this time was on the left-hand side. His whipped cross found Gareth Rickaby darting into the box and the excellent cross was met by an equally excellent finish.
The second half started with Rothbury again in control.
Twice Greaves was within inches of adding to his maiden goal of the season but the ball just eluded a final touch.
Williams was denied again after his drilled shot was very well saved by an Alnwick keeper who was seemingly drawing the ball towards him by some secret force.
The goal had to come but when a goal did arrive, it was the Vipers who scored. Having drawn the full force of the Rothbury attacks, they struck with deadly force.
Rothbury kept up the assault on the Alnwick goal but it seemed that their labours were not going to be rewarded.
The match was now played in conditions so warm that it reminded Crane’s father of that balmy far-off day in May 2010 when we were forced to take refuge under the shadow of a huge horse chestnut tree on the Glendale Middle School perimeter during finals day.
Unfortunately there was no reprieve for Rothbury as they could not find a way through the Alnwick rear guard.
In fact Alnwick looked the more likely to score a fourth as five times they broke the Rothbury defensive line to run in on Niall Murtagh in the Rothbury goal.
Huge credit must go to Murtagh for the way he dealt with each of the confrontations.
Each time he stood toe-to-toe with the on rushing forward and each time it was the forward who blinked first as they failed to find a way past the Rothbury goal keeper.
Unfortunately for Rothbury, the Alnwick keeper was equally inspired and this time yet another incredibly tight, well contested encounter left Rothbury in deficit.