ALNWICK Town have been left ‘shocked’ after the senior team’s managerial duo resigned just a day after knocking Ponteland United out of the Senior Benevolent Bowl.
Joint managers Dougie McEwan and Stephen Gibbard stepped down from their roles at the St James’ Park side on Sunday.
The announcement comes as a surprise, after the pair had masterminded the black ‘n’ whites’ successful start to the season, which has seen the club flying high in Northern League, Division Two following promotion from the Northern Alliance last season.
A temporary management team has been put in place.
Club chairman Tom McKie said: “Alnwick Town FC secretary Cyril Cox received a telephone call from Dougie McEwan on Sunday night informing him that he and Stephen Gibbard had resigned from the club.
“To say we are shocked would be an understatement.
“I haven’t spoken to either of them regarding these resignations, however they have left the club in a good position – fourth in the league and we are in three cups.
“I would like to thank Dougie for the three years he has put into Alnwick Town and I would like to thank Stephen for his two seasons as coach and joint manager.
“On Tuesday night, after training, the senior team and myself had a meeting and have put in place a temporary management team from within the club for the next few weeks with the aim to recruit a permanent manager from the locality.
“The spirit in the club has never changed and as long as we have the present personnel it never will.”
Mr Gibbard and Mr McEwan did not wish to comment on why they had resigned but said that they wished the club well in the future and they had left the club in a good position in the league.
The news cast a shadow on Alnwick’s cup win on Saturday.
Skipper Bryan Murray was captain fantastic as he scored the only goal of the game to send Alnwick into the next round of the Bowl at the expense of eight-man Ponteland United.
His second-half header was enough to take the St James’ Park side into the competition’s quarter-final stage.
But the game could have been different – perhaps – if Ponteland hadn’t contributed to their own downfall by picking up three red cards.
Alnwick, however, won’t mind.
In fact, they probably relished beating Ponteland – and not only because it sealed their safe passage through to the Bowl’s last-eight stage.
Ponteland United, remember, scuppered Alnwick Town’s dreams of winning the Northern Alliance, Premier Division last season.
And United took the title on the final day of the season, snatching the championship by just one point.
A devastating blow made more painful by the fact that the fate of the Premier Division title was in Alnwick’s hands as they went into that final game last term.
A bitter pill made even harder to swallow by the fact that United snatched the title by coming from behind against Blyth Town and grabbing the all-important winner three minutes from time.
So you could be forgiven for thinking that Alnwick may well have enjoyed inflicting this cup defeat on Ponteland, exacting some sort of revenge on the team that dashed their title aspirations.
But the sides have started this season in contrasting fashion.
Alnwick are sitting pretty in Northern League, Division Two.
Ponteland have been disappointing, finding themselves fifth from bottom in the Alliance Premier Division, and lost their managerial team last month.
United did come into this cup contest though on the back of a 2-1 league win over Murton.
Alnwick on the other hand had been thumped 7-0 at home to Team Northumbria.
But Alnwick, who had made a number of changes from that mauling, looked dangerous early on.
First, John Colley was put through but United keeper Liam Blair saved with his legs, and then Gary Patterson latched on to a left-wing cross to head at goal but Blair pulled off a point-blank save without really knowing what happened.
The game’s first turning point came midway through the first-half.
Ponteland’s John Dunn felt he should have had a penalty and, after the referee felt otherwise, the aggrieved United player was shown a red card for abusive language.
Town had further chances in the first half through Ben Keenan and Patterson.
Although Ponteland – who were fielding a youthful team – were a man down, they kept possession well.
However, United lost another player early in the second half, when Huart was given his marching orders after a bad-looking tackle.
Town made their numerical advantage count on the hour.
A left-wing cross landed in a packed box and the ball broke 10 yards out to the right for Murray to head over the keeper and into the net to put Alnwick one-up.
Ponteland never really threatened in the second half and they lost their third man with about 20 minutes remaining.
United’s Billy Holden, returning after an 18-month absence through injury, came on as a substitute and was brought down.
Club colleague Max Turner let his emotions get the better of him and was sent off for dissent.
Alnwick had opportunities to increase their lead but in the end it did not matter as Murray’s goal proved decisive as Town took the honours and progressed to the next round, which is due to be played in February.
The draw for the quarter-final has not yet been made.
Other teams left in the competition include Amble United who beat Cramlington Town 5-0.
Alnwick are back in league action on Saturday, when they host Birtley Town, kick-off 3pm.
Alnwick Town (versus Ponteland United): Brooks, Murray, Catlow, Willis (Gibbard), Young, MacPherson, Patterson, Brown, Keenan, Colley, Hodge (McKenley). Subs: Tait, Hogg.