|Newton Aycliffe FC||2|
By Paul McGeary
Newton Aycliffe stunned Ashington with a late fight back to secure a point despite playing the entire second half with ten men, following the dismissal of skipper Sean Tarling in first half injury time.
An 87th minute strike from substitute Glen Robson was followed by Darren Craddock’s 91st minute header to secure the draw which looked unlikely once Darren Lough’s clinical strike put the hosts 2-0 up in the 81st minute.
Stephen Young had the Colliers ahead just minutes before the break, and with Tarling seeing red moments later, Ashington fans could have been forgiven for thinking their side were heading for a comfortable victory.
However, it was Allan Oliver’s Newtonians that set the tone during the second period and his side dug deep to bring a spirited and deserved point back down the A1 from Northumberland.
Anth Campbell was drafted into the side for Christopher Beckett as Oliver named an otherwise unchanged side from the one which romped to victory at home to Stokesley just three days previous.
It was Campbell who was instrumental in the game’s first opening after just 65 seconds, the left back travelling with the ball before feeding Saturday’s hat-trick hero Ben Wood on the edge of the area. Wood’s clever turn and shot was deflected onto the bar and out for a corner.
Minutes later Lough broke with haste down the left hand side and his deep cross was dealt with by ‘keeper Andrew Spence who tipped the ball off the head of Young steaming in at the back post.
A vociferous game swayed from end-to-end with both sides wasting half chances. Jon Godsmark fed Young who fired across goal after 19 minutes while Elliot Gardner forced a good save from the outrushing Karl Dryden just after the half hour mark.
In between times Tarling questionably received his first yellow card for a tackle which the referee deemed a foul, although the home support were more irate that the whistler hadn’t let play run to the advantage of the hosts.
Ashington went ahead in the 43rd minute after James Taylor hooked a deep cross back into play from the byline. Godsmark and Mark Peck contested the header and as the ball fell inside the six-yard box, Young was first on hand to fire the loose ball into the roof of the net.
Two minutes injury time were signalled and with virtually the last phase of the over time, Tarling received his second yellow for a tackle in contrast to the first.
Aycliffe reshaped at the break, with the impressive Josh Gray given a role in the midfield three, as Allan Oliver refused to sacrifice his two-man attack. Paul Broom and Dan Mellanby made way for Robson and Josh Knox in the reshuffle.
Wood stung the palms of Dryden on 56 minutes with a fierce cross-shot from the left wing while Gray’s speculative lob 60-seconds later just dipped over the bar.
Gray’s rasping 30-yard drive flashed past the post in the next wave of visiting attacks while Robson saw a close range effort blocked for a corner inside the six-yard box.
With nine minutes remaining and firmly against the run of play, the Colliers doubled their advantage. Substitute dup Joe Race and Paul Buzzeo teamed up on the right to send a deep cross to the back of the penalty area where Lough ran in unchallenged to send a superb half volley across the face of Spence and into the bottom corner.
Aycliffe were sucker-punched but showed the same spirit as they had numerous times last season, bringing scenes of rapture and solidarity as they refused to give up on the game.
Spence’s long hoist forward with three minutes remaining bounced over the home defence and Robson reacted to send a cute lob over the stranded Dryden from 25-yards to halve the deficit.
Spence saved well from Carl Bainbridge before Wood was crowded out by a host of defenders on the line as he danced past Dryden in the last minute.
Just as the visitors thought their last chance had gone, Gardner swung a left-wing cross into the area and stand-in skipper Craddock was well placed to power a header low past Dryden, to score his second goal in two games for his new club, bringing joyous scenes amongst all associated with those in red.
Aycliffe remained top of the table with the point and the message is clear to the rest of the Northern League – despite not making up the numbers for 45 minutes, the Newtonians are not in the top flight to merely make up the numbers.
Josh Gray – threat!
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