|Norton And Stockton||1|
|Newton Aycliffe FC||1|
By Paul McGeary
Newton Aycliffe made it three draws from three on the road as they shared the points with Norton & Stockton Ancients in a game which arguably they should have won.
Former Darlington winger Nathan Mulligan fired the hosts ahead after 33 minutes as the visiting back-line stood motionless as the 23-year-old played a one-two with another former Quaker, Garry Barnes.
After a stern half-time team talk, the Newtonians came out fighting for the second period and equalised four minutes before the hour when Ben Wood’s sublime through-ball was slotted home by Elliot Gardner from an identical position to that of Mulligan earlier.
Aycliffe dictated the play from there on in as the weather deteriorated and had Stuart Owen’s fine curling effort been six inches inside the post rather than outside it in the final minute, then Aycliffe would have secured maximum points.
Allan Oliver’s ranks were depleted as his side turned up at Station Road with just 12 players, missing suspended skipper Sean Tarling, the injured Josh Knox and Dan Mellanby and unavailable defender Mark Peck. Goalkeeper Andrew Spence gave way to Scott Pocklington while Chris Beckett, Liam Cooper and Fred Woodhouse were all grounded by work commitments. Winger Paul Broom remained on holiday.
11 minutes were on the clock before either side fashioned anything of note on the other’s goal. Anth Campbell set off from half way on a strong run but after superbly beating two men, he could only find former Hartlepool ‘keeper Jim Provett with his 20-yard effort.
Six minutes later and Andy Appleby made something out of Campbell’s punt into the corner, and in delivering the perfect cross to strike partner Ben Wood, could only watch as the 19-year-old’s expertly executed downward header was blocked by veteran Provett before running safe.
Wood outstripped Richard Gaston to Owen’s long ball minutes after but his angled left-footed drive was easier this time for Provett to claim.
While the chances were all Aycliffe’s, the play wasn’t pretty, as countless searching forward balls went begging and slowly the hosts started to control play, with Mulligan and Craig Gott orchestral in anything in and around the penalty area.
Mulligan’s inswinging free-kick on 30 minutes was cleared by Gardner only for Gott to superbly catch the bouncing ball on the half volley from 20-yards, a shot which flew just over Pocklington’s crossbar.
Three minutes later and Norton were ahead. Mulligan cut in off the right wing and played a huge one-two with Barnes. Aycliffe’s defence were guilty of ball watching as the return found Mulligan’s run perfectly before the winger lashed his right-foot effort high into Pocklington’s net.
After the interval Aycliffe started to get the ball down and play through their midfield, with Gardner and Josh Gray getting more and more involved in play.
Aycliffe’s equaliser came down the left. Campbell found Wood who held play up expertly on the edge of the area before his dead-weight, slide-rule through ball was slotted home by the onrushing Gardner for his third goal of the campaign.
A couple of half chances went begging for Oliver’s men and the rub of the green did not favour them with a couple of ricocheted balls pinging around in the home area but the visiting numbers thought they had the points as normal time elapsed into injury time.
Glen Robson and Wood couldn’t find a way through a dogged defence and with the ball falling to Owen 22-yards from goal, the 25-year old sent a fine curling effort toward Provett’s top right-hand corner.
With many in the ground believing the ball had beaten the post, their hopes were dashed as the ball skimmed past the upright and behind for a goal kick.
John Close – Lesson!
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