|Newton Aycliffe FC||0|
By Paul McGeary
Newton Aycliffe resumed league battle at a wintery Central Avenue but failed to make any real ground on the top-five sides, four of whom were sidelined due to the heavy frost.
Instead, the point Allan Oliver’s Newtonians took from their stalemate with Billingham Synthonia served only to draw them level on points with Spennymoor in fifth, Moors having a huge seven games in hand.
That said, Oliver would much prefer points on the board than games in hand and after the game he was positive about the 90 minutes that went before him.
“I think it was fair,” chirped the 50-year-old boss, “we were better in the first half, and they were better in the second.
“Neither team deserved to lose, on reflection, and with the patched up side we had, we’ve got to be happy with a point.”
Patched up indeed, as Oliver was without Stephen Gibson (hamstring), Mark Peck (leg), Paul Broom (holiday) and Dale Jardine (knee) while Dan Mellanby (flu) was restricted to just 10 minutes from the bench.
Warren Byrne remains sidelined with a broken foot, and won’t be back until February.
Chase McMullen was restored to the starting eleven, while Ben Wood was employed to plough a lone furrow up front, in what was his first start for five weeks.
Stuart Owen was bright in the opening exchanges and he fashioned the first attempt on goal when he dribbled his way out of the corner and found Nathan Wilson on the edge of the area.
The former Sunderland Academy player let fly with an angled shot which screeched past Josh Moody’s right-hand upright.
Four minutes later and Owen again dazed his marker in a similar position before finding McMullen in the exact spot where Wilson had tried his luck from moments before.
McMullen fired a shot across Moody’s goal this time seeking the opposite corner from what Wilson had, forcing Moody into an acrobatic tipping save, resulting in an Aycliffe corner.
Wood had a tame left-footed effort easily saved by Moody while both John Close and Darren Craddock – immense all afternoon – both flashed headers wide of the goal from further corners.
The second half saw Synthonia come more and more into the game, with Chay Liddle and Shane Henry pulling the strings in the middle of the park. Close and Craddock remained resolute at the back with Scott Pocklington backing them up when required.
Owen invited Josh Gray to have an attempt at goal in the 69th minute when he laid a square ball to the former Darlington man, who laced a 20-yard shot which Moody spilled, his blushes spared with Curtis Collantine being the first to react to the loose ball and clearing the danger.
Liddle played a neat through ball to Henry on 72 minutes but the former Guisborough man could only fire into the side netting with his left-foot as Synners turned the screw against a leg-weary visiting side.
With 11 minutes remaining the same two players once more linked up to release Danny Earl on goal but Pocklington done well to block the 12-yard drive with his knees, to preserve his third consecutive league clean sheet.
Wilson forced a corner in the last five minutes with Moody again scrambling to tip a goalbound effort wide and from the resultant centre, Craddock saw another header almost breach the home goal, this time for Collantine to be well posted at the far upright to avert the danger.
And so Aycliffe reached the 50-point barrier, six behind top side Whitley Bay with 13 games remaining. The four sides between the Newtonians and the Seahorses still have games in hand which no doubt distort the standings, but with three of them still to visit Moore Lane Park, and the FA Vase as a distraction for some, Oliver’s outfit may still have a say in where the title ends up in late April.
Darren Craddock - Resolute
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