NORTHERN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Founded 1889 - second oldest League in the world
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Wednesday, 24 January 2018
31/01/2017 Marske United 3 Bishop Auckland 2 - Camerons Brewery Brooks Mileson League Cup Kick-off for many midweek games at Marske is at 7.45. And last night Marske did start playing after quarter to eight. The only problem they faced last night was that the game kicked off at 7.30 and by the time they got going, they’d already conceded two goals and could have been 3-0 down. In the second minute of the game Andrew Johnson was given all the time and space he needed to put the visitors ahead, despite a desperate attempted goal line clearance by Adam Wheatley. We didn’t have to wait long for the second. Three minutes later Andre Bennett doubled Bishop Auckland’s lead with a wonderfully struck shot. The team looked sharp and quick. Marske were dozing. Three minutes after that they still hadn’t started and only a fantastic save by Robert Dean prevented what looked a certain goal. Then, out of the blue, they woke up. With their first effort on goal Curtis Round got them back in the game with a free kick which got a deflection before finding the back of the net. Round was also involved in their next best effort – driving down the left he crossed it perfectly for Danny Earl. He knocked it back into the box, but there was no-one close to get on the end of it. Earl also set up Glen Butterworth with another chance but the midfielder scooped the ball wide. In the 23rd minute they were level. Matthew Bell floated a free kick into the Bishop Auckland box, Ashley Coffey deftly headed it backwards and into the goal. Peter Bulmer turned the game on its head with Marske’s third. Not many in the ground would have predicted the comeback after the first 10 minutes. In less than 40 minutes we’d gone from Bishop Auckland on the brink of going 3-0 up to Marske taking the lead in a flurry of five goals. It couldn’t last and it didn’t last. The second half wasn’t much to write home about, so I won’t write much about it. Seven minutes after the break Matthew Bell hit the bar with a free kick and in the 76th minute, the visitors thought they’d equalised. After a foul on one of their players in the box, the ball fell to Johnson who found the net. The referee awarded the penalty. The “goal” by Johnson wouldn’t have counted anyway as the assistant flagged him offside. Johnson took the penalty and was thwarted by a great save by Dean who went the right way and knocked it on to the bar and away. The second half mainly saw scrappy play constantly interrupted by fouls and yellow cards. The penalty save was the decisive moment and it saw Marske through to the quarter finals. 28/01/2017 Newport Pagnell Town (The Swans) 3 Sunderland RCA 2 – Buildbase FA Vase Fifth Round RCA will be gutted. Absolutely gutted. A place in the quarter finals of the Vase was theirs for the taking but they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. For the Swans it was a stirring and gutsy comeback and a victory crafted with drama. It all started so well for RCA too. They were clearly the better team in the first half – pegging Newport Pagnell back in their own half, creating the better chances and more of them. Newport relied on counter attacks and it was almost half an hour before they had much meaningful possession. It was no surprise when the visitors went into the half-time break two up: the first courtesy of Colin Larkin. RCA broke down the right, Larkin made a blind side run to pick up a cross field ball, took his time and fired it in. They doubled their lead thanks to Stephen Callen. Wide on the left, he cut back in and unleashed a curler past the keeper’s far post. The visitors were on a roll. Newport spurned a great chance just before the half-time whistle. Elliott Sandy took on the RCA defence and pulled it back for Dom Lawless only for the striker to send his shot over the bar with the goal gaping. He more than made up for it later. Within five minutes of the re-start, RCA should have been out of sight. Unfortunately, striker John Butler missed two glorious chances to score. In the 46th minute he only had to beat Mark Osbourne in the Newport goal, but he shot straight at him. Four minutes later Larkin ran from deep, beating the Newport offside trap, crossed it to Butler and Osbourne denied him again – blocking this attempt with his legs. The game was about to be turned on its head. RCA had to substitute right back Clayton Davis and Larkin who had provided so much quality and pace to their play. Without them, they weren’t quite the same team and Newport got a goal that gave them hope. Newport caused the biggest problem for RCA with several high looping balls into the box and then out of the blue in the 69th minute Daryl Smith forced the ball home through a crowded penalty area. It was the cue for Newport to start pressing and play the better football. RCA were on the back foot and making hard work of hanging on to their lead. Their fans needed strong hearts for the last 10 minutes of normal time when Newport had several chances to level it up. RCA watches were being watched every couple of seconds, praying for the referee to end the game, but there was a sting in the tail. Newport were throwing everything at RCA in search of the equaliser – keeper Osbourne going up for a corner with minutes to go and then Adam Pryke broke RCA hearts with a glancing header to make it 2-2 with the last touch of the 90 minutes. Cue a pitch invasion and celebrations by the home fans. RCA never recovered in extra time and it was inevitable when Newport bagged the winner. Lawless had been Newport’s biggest threat all match and in the ninth minute he swept past the RCA defence and sealed the game with a confident finish. The RCA players were dead on their feet at the end – in particular Craig Hodgson and James Cassidy. They’d given everything, but it wasn’t quite enough. It was a fantastic day for the hosts – a record crowd of 764 (beating their previous best, coincidentally also against Northern League opposition: Ashington). There was a great atmosphere in the ground and the pitch invasions and celebrations showed what it meant to the town. They’ll remember this game for quite some time. On the day of FA Cup drama, the Vase had its own match that showed why cup ties are so enthralling. Sometimes depressing too, but this was a thriller. Footnote: A quick shout out to Swans (and MK Dons) fans Simon and Martin. Thanks for your company during the game. Good craic. 25/01/2017 Blyth Town 3 Team Northumbria 3 – second division You wonder if this game will be crucial in the promotion run-in. It’s a tight race at the top of the second division and both these teams are in the mix. Every point counts, but in the end it was honours even. Blyth got off to the perfect start. After only two minutes centre back Adam Chrostowski and keeper Steven Mundy left the ball for each other, Blyth forward Malky Morien stole in, picked their pockets and tapped it home. It was a basic blunder. Blyth exerted the early pressure - getting the ball up to their front men as quickly as possible. They should have doubled their lead when Joel Bradley was judged to have handled in his own penalty area but Mundy saved well by diving to his left to deny Morien’s spot kick. The visitors were being crowded out of midfield and their play was unusually untidy, being forced into the kind of errors they usually inflict on other teams. Morien made up for his penalty miss by latching on to a through ball which bounced perfectly for him to control with one touch and then fire it home. Team Northumbria got themselves back in the game with their last attack of the first half and their first of the second. First up was a centre back combination – Ross McKeown knocked the ball into the Blyth penalty area and Chrostowski was first to react and score. Second up was from a set piece: Ben Dibb-Fuller knocked a free kick into a crowded six-yard box and Nick Hay got the decisive touch to get them back in the game. All of a sudden it was role reversal from the first half - Blyth playing the untidy football and Team Northumbria exerting the pressure. Blyth manager Mick Connor then made a positive double substitution, bringing on Michael Riley and Sean McRoberts. It was an inspired move. Riley beat one defender after being set up by Morien, took one more touch and hit across the keeper to make it 3-2. The scoring was wrapped up by Team Northumbria’s Robert Spence. Blyth only half-cleared a cross, Spence kept his nerve to shoot low and hard. Either side could have snatched victory in the dying minutes of the game but both keepers – Mundy and Mathew Crook – made double saves to keep it at 3-3. The first half didn’t quite live up to expectations but the second half certainly did. Blyth will probably be the ones kicking themselves by letting the three points escape them. Team Northumbria will look back on a good display of character with their comeback. Only time will tell what effect the draw will have on the promotion race. Footnote – Team Northumbria suffered what looked like two serious injuries – Nick Green and Dan Taggart both going down with possible knee ligament damage after twisting awkwardly in separate incidents. We hope it’s not as bad as first feared and they make a full and speedy recovery. 24/01/2017 Dunston UTS 5 Washington 1 – Camerons Brewery Brooks Mileson League Cup It was dominant Dunston at a canter in this league cup encounter at the UTS Stadium. It looked as though it was going to be a competitive game in the first 15 minutes with plenty of hustle and bustle, but once Dunston scored it became one-way traffic. They scored five but it could have been double figures had it not been for some wayward finishing and Washington keeper Daniel Mullen. Liam Thear helped himself to a hat-trick and won a penalty. The pick of the bunch was his first when he rounded the keeper and threaded the ball through in a tight gap at the near post. He could have had five or six. They opened the scoring with the penalty which was converted by Steve Bowey. They were two up after 36 minutes when Dale Burrell finished precisely. They were quicker, sharper and won just about every 50-50 ball. It’s been a season of instability for Washington, with new managers and a high turnover of players. They made wholesale changes from Saturday and used this game to take a look at new players. It was a tough baptism for many of them, particularly in defence. It was the first time that some had played for the club. They looked fragile at the back and didn’t create too many chances – the best two both falling to Gary Shaw. In the 80th minute he had a shot blocked by Andrew Clark in the Dunston goal and then managed to score after good work by Shaun Pickford. It wasn’t much of a consolation goal. It’s Dunston UTS through to the quarter-finals. 20/01/2017 Esh Winning 3 Ryton and Crawcrook 2 – second division It didn’t look the most promising of fixtures – two teams struggling at the wrong end of division two – but it turned out to be a little gem. Both teams played some decent football - knocking the ball around well, despite some difficult conditions in parts of the pitch. Sam Moore got the visitors off to a flyer. He was left free at the far post from a corner and he scored with defenders standing and watching. For the first 10 minutes the Esh Winning defence looked less than assured: an attempted clearance going back over their own goal and a fumble by the keeper didn’t settle the nerves. But gradually Esh Winning played their way back into the game and 23 minutes in they were all square. Kieran Day had one shot well saved by Anthony Patterson. He managed to block a follow-up attempt but he couldn’t stop a third when Andrew Clarkson was on hand to bundle it in. Graham Embleton had the last chance of the half when he forced a diving save from Patterson. The first half had flown by. The second half saw the goal of the game. It was that man Clarkson again. He picked the ball up outside the box, turned the defender and unleashed a swerving shot that bent round Patterson and into the net. The keeper had no chance. Ryan Bell came on as a sub for Ryton and was instrumental in improving their play. He was pivotal in helping them draw level. He opened the Esh Winning defence up with a pass to Liam Anderson and his cross was knocked in by Moore for his second. Esh Winning wrapped it up in the 83rd minute when Patterson failed to deal with a cross and Joe Kerry pushed it home. There were a couple of stand-out players: Clarkson played like a good old-fashioned centre forward: battling with defenders, holding the ball up and bring teammates into the game. His two goals were just reward for his efforts. Esh Winning’s midfielder Scott Arnott was also instrumental in much of their play. After a good performance on Monday against Team Northumbria, Ryton’s keeper Anthony Patterson was having another good game until his mistake for the third goal, but that shouldn’t cloud the fact that he looks a useful addition to the Ryton squad; and Moore scored his third goal in two games. More than 100 people turned up and they were given more than their money’s worth. 18/01/2017 North Shields 1 Chester-le-Street 1 (4-2 on penalties) Camerons Brewery Brooks Mileson League Cup For the second time in a week, Chester-le-Street were pitted against one of the top teams in the league and for the second time in a week they did themselves proud. They couldn’t quite repeat last midweek’s win over Shildon, but they pushed North Shields all the way – only losing in a penalty shootout. North Shields are top of the division and Chester-le-Street are bottom, but for an hour it didn’t look like it. The Cestrians matched the leaders pass for pass and move for move. North Shields had more chances, but many of them were long-range efforts. When they got closer they came up against keeper Jack Wilson who produced several top saves. Chester-le-Street took the lead with a slice of good fortune. In the 6th minute left winger Joseph Hailes (who had an excellent game) sent in a cross. David Latham managed to block an attempted clearance and the ball rebounded into the net. The second half picked up where the first ended – two sides playing good, positive football at a high tempo. And then, with 25 minutes to go, the whole tone of the game changed. Chester-le-Street starting playing passively – dropping deeper and giving North Shields more time and space. It was, in part, down to North Shields cranking it up a gear or two. The chances came thick and fast for the hosts. Gareth Bainbridge couldn’t convert two crosses from the right. They were quickly followed by Lee Mason just missing with a header from a left-wing cross by Dean Holmes. The pressure was pretty relentless. Chester-le-Street defended well and kept their concentration, but Shields finally managed to grab an equaliser with six minutes to go. A Gary Ormston shot careered off a defender and fell to Bainbridge who tucked it away. There was a sense of relief among the home supporters to see the game go to penalties. Shootouts are a tough way to go out of a cup competition. North Shields held their nerve and Kyle Hayes produced two fine saves to see Shields through 4-2. Retaining their first division status might be a tall order for the Cestrians, but with more displays like this they’ll give themselves every chance of staying up. The two teams produced a game that was great fun to watch. 17/01/2017 Whickham 0 Sunderland RCA 5 – Camerons Brewery Brooks Mileson League Cup This season RCA have clearly got the hang of cup competitions. Progressing well in the FA Vase, they’re now through to the quarter finals of the league cup after an emphatic win at The Glebe. Apparently Whickham have been getting off to a slow start in recent games. That failing was to come back and bite them again. Within 20 minutes they were 3-0 down and the tie was effectively over. In the 11th minute RCA’s Stephen Callen beat the Whickham offside trap by latching on to a Colin Larkin through ball to put the visitors up. 20 minutes in and a Keiron Martin cross was knocked in by Michael Charlton. Seconds later James Cassidy made it 3-0 with a tap-in from a couple of inches out. Charlton was substituted a couple of minutes after scoring. On came 17 year-old Brad Wilson making his Northern League debut and he should be proud with his performance – he set up Colin Larkin for RCA’s fourth and more than played his part in the win. RCA were always looking for the quick, early ball and it paid dividends. They wrapped the game up on the 75-minute mark with a free kick routine that looked straight off the training ground. Martin was left unmarked and he crossed it for Preston to knock in. Callen should have made it six with the last kick of the game, but he screwed his shot wide with only the keeper to beat. Whickham were second best for most of the night. On the plus side, they weathered the storm after going 3-0 down. It could have been an avalanche but they re-grouped and upped their defensive work. Captain Ross Peareth was their best player, trying his best to compete in midfield and saw a 30-yard effort go just over the bar. They also looked sharper in the second half and made more of a game of it, including a couple of free headers, but neither chance really tested Neal Bussey in the RCA goal. On the downside they struggled against the pace and through balls of RCA. They also seemed to want too much time on the ball and were regularly dispossessed by the visitors. RCA won with something to spare. - A minor footnote – it was Secret Hopper’s 100th game of the season (the vast majority Northern League matches) with 370 goals racked up. The Northern League has provided the best two games of those 100: Chester-le-Street’s remarkable comeback at Dunston UTS to win 5-2 and Billingham Town’s Vase win at Bishop Auckland. 16/01/2017 Team Northumbria 2 Ryton and Crawcrook 1 – Division Two Good football is usually on show at Team Northumbria, but last night was a disappointment. It was an untidy game peppered with niggling fouls and tetchy behaviour by both teams. The mood was set in the 14th minute when Team Northumbria’s Kevin Carr was sent off for kicking out at Ryton defender Gavin Cox. For the home side Ben Dibb-Fuller proved to be the player who made the difference, but for once it was laying on goals rather than scoring them. He provided the crucial crosses for both goals. The first was tucked away by Joel Bradley. He was outnumbered in the box by five Ryton defenders who all decided to let the ball go past them. Bradley probably couldn’t believe his luck. In the second half Dibb-Fuller was on hand again, and again crossing from the right byline, setting up Aidan Heywood who took his chance with a fairly straight forward finish to wrap up the points. As for Ryton and Crawcrook, they couldn’t muster a shot in the first half. Team Northumbria’s keeper Steven Mundy had a suitably clean and dry kit at the break. They improved in the second half, pushing forward with a bit more urgency and in greater numbers. They levelled the score in the 55th minute with their first proper chance. The ball fell to Sam Moore in the box and he fired it high into the Team Northumbria net. After the sending off they never made their numerical advantage tell. They had defender Lee Brown stretchered off after being treated for more 10 minutes for a serious injury towards the end of the game. They’ve appointed Peter Bryson as their new manager. There’s plenty of work for him to do. 14/01/2017 Stockton Town 7 Crook Town 0 – Second Division The scoreline tells the story of this game – an emphatic and comfortable win for the leaders of division two. Stockton have now won 10 out of 10 in the league. The first chance went Crook’s way in the opening seconds when Daniel Mann forced a block by the host’s captain Adam Nicholson – it was almost an hour before they crafted another chance. The scoring started early for Stockton when Chris Dunwell was left unmarked in the box to head home a corner in the third minute. The doubled their lead when Max Craggs hooked a free kick over the defensive wall and into the net. Kallum Hannah provided their third from the penalty spot with one of the last kicks of the half. It was the 55th minute before Crook had their next meaningful chance, forcing a save from Liam Jordan in the Stockton goal. They had another couple of chances in quick succession. David Vincent found Peter Brown who got a shot off, but couldn’t get much behind it. Jordan was then forced to tip the ball on to the post as he dived backwards to deal with another Crook attack. The mini comeback wasn’t to last. Crook’s keeper Niall Harrison was their best player – making a string of saves to keep the scoreline down to single figures. He couldn’t hold on to one shot, which led to a Stockton goal, but that was the least of their worries. It was a glitch in an otherwise solid display by him – there wasn’t much he could have done about most of the other goals. Stockton extended their lead with goals by Joe Scaife Wheatley and Sonni Coleman with a couple. The scoring was wrapped up by Joe Postill, promoted from the club’s under-18s team who scored Stockton’s seventh and his first goal for the club. Crook were over-run and never really got close to finding an answer to Stockton’s passing. Stockton were done and dusted, home and hosed. It’s going to be a good team to beat them in the promotion race. 11/01/2017 South Shields 4 Morpeth Town 0 – FA Vase fourth round replay Football can be a cruel game – as Morpeth found to their cost last night. But for South Shields a reprieve gave them the chance to resurrect their FA Vase campaign and they grabbed the chance with both hands with a comprehensive win. Fresh from the controversy surrounding Saturday’s abandonment, the tie was moved with only hours to go from Mariners Park to Craik Park. The late change didn’t stop a bumper crowd from turning up for an eagerly anticipated game. And Morpeth almost picked up where they left off at the weekend. Five minutes in, a Ben Sayer cross fell to Sean Taylor but he splayed his shot wide from only a few yards out. It was a portent of things to come. Four minutes later Gavin Cogdon picked up a ball in the Morpeth box, turned on a sixpence and his snap shot found the back of the net. South Shields then turned the screws: a Michael Richardson pass bisected the Morpeth defence and David Foley finished with aplomb. With only 13 minutes on the clock, Morpeth were given a great chance to get back into the game when Jordan Fry was fouled in the area. Taylor stepped up to take the penalty but he skied it – it was a lifeline squandered. Cogdon at the other end was less wasteful. Deep into added time in the first half he made it 3-0 with another sharp finish within seconds of Morpeth being denied what looked like a clear penalty. The second half Morpeth seemed to lose their way – punting the ball out of defence, mis-placing many of their passes and giving the ball away cheaply. Meanwhile, South Shields took control of the game and never looked like letting go. And with nine minutes to go, Foley turned the Morpeth defence, shimmied one way and went the other to give him a scoring chance he didn’t squander. It was a brace apiece for Cogdon and Foley. They were exceptional. With the last kick of the game, a South Shields free kick skimmed off the Morpeth bar. It would have rubbed salt in the wounds. The holders are out. 10/01/2017 Chester-le-Street 2 Shildon 1 – First Division The Cestrians turned the table on its head with one of the best team performances Secret Hopper’s seen this season. They had a game plan and from front to back it worked a treat. At times this season Chester-le-Street have struggled, especially in defence, and for parts of this game they were second best, but they gained their first home win in the league with a battling, spirited performance. Few would have predicted the result. They packed their defence, relying on counter attacks to exploit the pace of David Latham and Dominic Laws in attack. Keeper Jack Wilson pulled off some top notch saves and Chris Stephenson headed one effort off the line. Both contributions were to prove crucial. Their goals were provided by Andrew Grant-Soulsby and Laws. Their first was fired home when the captain was left unmarked and the second when Alex White found Laws in bags of space on the edge of the Shildon box. He took his time and finished it off comfortably to seal the comeback. It’s been a miserable couple of days for the double winners – knocked out of the FA Vase on Saturday and losing to the bottom team in the league. They were some way short of their best. They’d started well, playing some quick, slick football and took the lead 19 minutes into the game. Jamie Harwood threaded a great ball through to Amar Purewal. The Chester-le-Street defence shouted for offside and stood still. Purewall played to the whistle and finished it nicely from a tight angle. Anthony Bell put in some decent crosses, especially in the second half, but Shildon couldn’t craft another goal, despite creating several chances. They won many of the 50-50 tackles and out-muscled the hosts, but Chester-le-Street kept battling. One man was missing from the game – Chester-le-Street chairman Joe Burlison who is recuperating from a hip operation. Hopefully this win will have lifted his spirits and help speed his recovery. Secret Hopper wishes him well. 09/01/2017 Shildon 1 Atherton Collieries 4 - FA Vase fourth round In the third of our FA Vase reports, Pete Sixsmith was at Shildon: I was faced with a dilemma on Saturday. Should I take up my regular seat at Sunderland for the Great Revenge Match against Burnley in the FA Cup or should I watch my home town team in the smaller sibling competition, the FA Vase as they took on Atherton Collieries? By skipping the Stadium of Light, I was spared a tedious goalless draw but I was bitterly disappointed at Dean Street as the Lancastrians came, saw and conquered a Shildon side who were shown up as being one paced and lacking in imagination. The first half had Shildon ahead on points if not goals but there was always a feeling among the home fans that this could well be a tricky afternoon. The centre forward was busy for the Colliers and their midfield and back four were uncompromising with their tackling. Amar Purewal put Shildon ahead with a well taken goal in the 57th minute, but the Railwaymen failed to impose themselves and Atherton were level within three minutes after a catastrophic error by goalkeeper Nick Liversedge. A speculative long ball turned the Shildon defence and faced with the energetic Battersby, Liversedge left his box and headed the ball straight to Ben Hardcastle who returned it to the net for the equaliser. After that, it was Atherton all the way and Battersby (as energetic as Les was feckless) headed home an excellent cross from Mark Truffas to take the lead. The Railwaymen hit the buffers when Liversedge failed to collect a corner and Dan Lafferty headed home to ensure a Lancashire party on the terraces. Jordan Cover’s goal three minutes from the end was the icing on the cake – although seeing as Atherton are from the Wigan area, gravy on the pie might be more appropriate. Shildon looked deflated as they trooped off and they now have to focus fully on retaining their league title. For Atherton, they look a good bet for the Vase. They have good support who, although boisterous, behaved themselves and mercifully stopped banging their wretched drum when asked to and, most importantly, a team that has now knocked out three Northern League Division One sides. 07/01/2017 South Shields 2 Morpeth Town 4 – FA Vase fourth round (abandoned) and Billingham Town 1 Cleethorpes Town 2 - FA Vase fourth round Secret Hopper reports on the South Shields v Morpeth Town tie: Controversial doesn’t begin to describe this match, which was one of the games of the season so far. Two of the best teams in the Northern League going head-to-head: South Shields – for some the favourites to lift the trophy – up against the current holders. It’s the kind of match that sometimes fails to live up to pre-game expectations. But, like last year’s Vase match between the teams, this was a classic. The Vase holders started well, but it was the hosts who took the lead when David Foley latched on to a header by Carl Finnigan. Foley’s precise finish made it 1-0 after six minutes. South Shields started to get into their stride and Morpeth had more and more problems holding on to the ball as the half progressed. Morpeth striker Sean Taylor produced his own precise finish on 21 minutes when he found a tight gap at the far post to level the score. South Shields’ corner count showed their ascendancy. Morpeth’s looked dangerous on the counter-attack but they had fewer and fewer chances. And then seconds before half-time South Shields captain Julio Arca was sent off for his part in a scuffle as he tangled with a Morpeth player. It was to have a major impact on the game. Apart the advantage in numbers, it gave Morpeth the space and confidence to turn the tide in the second half. Shields went to a back three and their positive tactics paid dividends when Michael Richardson put them 2-1 up in the 50th minute. It was the cue for a more quality goals. In the 55th minute a free kick by Ben Sayer rebounded to Michael Turner who belted it in: 2-2. All of a sudden the game had opened up, with both sides going for it. Sayer was involved in the fifth goal – he had a shot blocked, Keith Graydon was first to the ball and he rifled it through a crowded penalty area: 2-3. There were some meaty challenges by both sides. We had a game on our hands. Then in the 63rd minute it looked as though Morpeth were going to be down to 10 men too. The referee booked Michael Turner for a foul and then showed him the red card as he thought he’d already booked him. The referee was surrounded and then realised that the foul was Turner’s first card and he stayed on. South Shields were within inches of levelling it when Gavin Cogdon sent over a low, hard cross but two Shields attackers couldn’t quite get on the end of it. And then….. With eight minutes to go Morpeth were heading for the fifth round. The ball fell to Liam Henderson, he placed his shot perfectly, hitting the underside of the bar and into the net. But just as it bounced behind the goal line the floodlights went out. There was then 45 minutes of uncertainty as they tried to fix the problem. Evenutally the referee abandoned the tie. Understandably, Morpeth were less than pleased. It’s just a shame that the game ended so abruptly and with the fate of the tie still in the balance. Will it be replayed or will the result stand? Presumably, the date of any replay would also have a bearing on whether Julio Arca is available. I’m just glad I don’t have to make a decision. It was a thrilling game, hopefully not just remembered for the floodlight failure. Andy Potts reports on Billingham Town's tie against Cleethorpes Town: For Billingham Town, it felt like a missed opportunity. How much of a chance did they have against a team 12 points clear in a league higher than theirs? Enough to leave Cleethorpes Town’s players and management dancing on the pitch with relief and delight after scraping a 2-1 win on Teesside. The Blues, renascent under Barry Oliver, were the lowest ranked team left in the last 32 of the Vase. The Owls travelled from Humberside with an impressive record of just two defeats in the Northern Counties East League Premier. Buoyed by an early goal – so early that Andy Taylor tucked it away while I was still handing over my fiver at the gate – Cleethorpes should have had it easy. Not so. Billingham didn’t buckle, but discovered that Cleethorpes had done some scouting. Key threats, such as the long throws from Mark Dixon and the pace of striker Craig Hutchinson had clearly been identified before the game. “We know what’s coming!” came the repeated warning from the visiting goalie as he marshalled his defence and, for much of the first half it seemed that this might be true. The best chance of an equaliser came when Jamie Davies danced his way through the defence, only for his shot to be turned behind for a corner. At the other end, Cleethorpes weren’t dominant but a clinical finish from Brody Robertson made it 2-0 before in the 19th minute. Frustratingly, though, this wasn’t down to a great gap in class. Cleethorpes did the simple things well, shackling Hutchinson and denying him the chance to use his pace, while Billingham struggled to find a telling final ball. The mutterings from the bench great louder. A comically misplaced pass in the Cleethorpes midfield prompted an anguished cry of “that’s how good these are, man!” After the game, comments from home players on social media reflected on a below-par performance; gracious in victory, Cleethorpes spoke warmly of the hospitality and competitive football on offer at Bedford Terrace. The second half saw far more from Billingham’s attack. Hutchinson was denied by a last-gasp tackle from Matt Bloomer with the goal at his mercy; it felt that a goal was coming. When Chris Dickinson finally pulled a goal back in the 69th minute it gave real hope to the hosts. There was a slice of luck about it as a low shot from outside the box skipped through a line of players and nutmegged goalie Liam Higton, but it was unquestionably game on. Cleethorpes, reduced to counter attacks, tested home keeper Thomas Dawson a few more times, but the big moment came in stoppage time. Dickinson was at the heart of it, surging down the left and swinging in a tempting cross for substitute Gary Redman. The keeper was caught in no man’s land, the forward leapt and planted his header … inches wide. Redman sat on the six yard line, unable to believe the net wasn’t bulging; moments later his despair was swamped by jubilant relief from the visitors. 04/01/2017 Blyth Town 1 Team Northumbria 1 (abandoned) – Second Division This was a game that didn’t quite live up to expectations and ended prematurely when the lights went out. Both teams are in the running for promotion and both play good, attractive football, but neither could get their A-game on show. Blyth settled the quicker of the two and had two openings in the first 10 minutes with chances for Malcolm Morien and Dean Walker. It took Team Northumbria 15 minutes to get into their stride with a quick, one-touch move involving Gerard Richardson, Ben Dibb-Fuller and Nick Hay. Their keeper and captain Steven Mundy was at the centre of the action 22 minutes into the game, with two wayward clearances and colliding with the post, falling backwards as he gathered in a cross. Against the run of play Team Northumbria took the lead when Dibb-Fuller sprinted to the byline and set Gerard Richardson up with a cross. The no. 9 found the back of the net despite the best efforts of Mathew Crook who couldn’t quite get enough of the ball to keep it out. At the other end Morien and Robinson didn’t have their shooting boots on, with efforts well off target. The second half saw the teams cancel each other out. Blyth got back into the game when Dibb-Fuller was judged to have fouled John Grey in the box and Morien scored for the penalty shot. It looked as though the game was heading for a draw – which was probably about right on the balance of play – until the floodlights failed with about five minutes to go. An inconclusive end to an inconclusive match. 03/01/2017 Chester-le-Street 0 Whitley Bay 4 Division One It wasn’t the most promising of starts – 25 minutes before anything much of note happened. Fortunately things improved and the first meaningful action saw Whitley Bay take the lead. Brothers Callum and Kyle Patton combined – Callum providing a cross that evaded the Cestrian defenders and Kyle timing his run into the box to knock it home. Chester’s first chance came soon afterwards when Michael Hepplewhite broke from midfield and found Dominic Laws. He got a shot away, it was deflected to Lee Mole, but his shot went wide. It was one of the few real chances crafted by the home team in the first half. On the night Hepplewhite was their most influential player but ball retention was a problem for Chester-le-Street all night long. They found themselves 0-2 down with five minutes of the first half to go when Alex Kempster provided the best piece of skill of the game. He crafted a Dennis Bergkamp-esque deft flick round centre-back Andrew Grant-Soulsby and found the back of the net. Callum Patton was on hand in the second half to put the visitors further ahead when he latched on to a short corner on the edge of the box and he found the goal with a crisp shot. Whitley Bay’s play improved with the introduction of Peter Glen-Ravenhill who provided a bit more vision and positive passing - setting Kempster up nicely on the left wing several times after coming on as a substitute. And with the last kick of the game Thibault Charmey converted a Kempster cross to make it 4-0. Chester-le-Street were indebted to keeper Jack Wilson who pulled off three good saves in the second half to deny Callum Patton, Kemptster and Charmey. They created a few more chances in the second half – a shot by Hepplewhite and Dominic Laws just failing to get on the end of a long free kick were their best efforts, but it was an uphill struggle for them. 02/01/2017 South Shields 2 Jarrow Roofing 1 – Durham Challenge Cup This was a game that went as most people would have expected – South Shields with the bulk of the possession and knocking the ball round with confidence, with Roofing working hard and trying to hit the hosts on the break. The hosts looked as though they could step it up another gear or two. Most of their attacking play came down their left, with Darren Holden and Wayne Phillips always looking to run at defenders and whip crosses in. In the first half they were mainly limited to long-range shots and there were few clear-cut chances. The deadlock was broken in the 41st minute when Phillips knocked it through to Gavin Cogdon who slotted it home. They doubled their lead in the 58th minute when the ball fell to Carl Finnigan who was unmarked six yards out and he had the simplest of finishes. He almost got his second a minute later, but he had a shot smothered by Lewis Brass in the Roofing goal. For all their effort, Roofing didn’t really get close to Shields and found it difficult to get past their back four. In the second half especially, Roofing seemed happy to give Shields time and space and to defend deep. Their goal came in the 92nd minute and against the run of play when Thomas Bailey made the most of his chance, tucking it into the corner of the Shields goal past the outstretched hands of keeper Liam Connell. All in all, it was a straight forward match. Both teams have higher priorities than the county’s Challenge Cup.