Boxing Day started badly at Tow Law Town, staff arriving at the ground to find thieves had broken in overnight and made off with the whole stock of spirits in the social club bar. On the pitch at least there was a happy ending as Ian Davison’s side thrashed his former club Consett 4-1 to move the Lawyers within two points of third bottom Billingham Town and leave Kenny Lindoe’s team – last season’s runners up – in the bottom five with just twenty-two points from their first twenty games. Three goals from former Carlisle United striker Marc Nixon and one from Andy Thompson earned Tow Law’s fifth win of the season, Michael Mackay’s 15th league goal since rejoining Consett from League One Hartlepool providing scant consolation for the Steelmen. The Lawyers now have sixteen points, fifteen more than Stokesley who stay bottom with a goal difference of -104 after a 3-0 loss at Norton which included a goal from Nathan Mulligan 13 seconds after kick off.
Further up the table there was an even bigger surprise as South Shields travelled to leaders Sunderland RCA and returned with all three points. Close range finishes from Wightman and Fraser put Shields two ahead with just over an hour gone, the visitors holding on despite significant second half pressure and an 88th minute reply from Cuthbertson.
View from the stand at Billingham Synthonia
With second-placed West Auckland Town not in action until January 4th, RCA’s loss gave Whitley Bay the chance to go top with a win at home to Newcastle Benfield. In front of a crowd of 523, Mick Chilton’s 17th league goal of the season put the visitors ahead, and though Robbie Dale levelled before half time Bay couldn’t find the winner in an entertaining second half. The draw leaves Ian Chandler’s side a point behind the leaders in third, four ahead of Dunston UTS – who, like West Auckland, didn’t play yesterday – and defending champions Spennymoor, who won 2-1 at Shildon with goals from Sonny Andrews and Craig Ruddy.
Teenage centre forward Dan Taylor, on loan from Newcastle United, scored twice on his debut as Ashington won the Wansbeck derby 4-2 at Bedlington Terriers. A double from Andrew Johnson had given Ashington a 2-0 half time lead, Steven Richardson and Steven Bowey replying for the home side. Bedlington stay seventh ahead of Ashington on goal difference, though the Colliers’ FA Cup and Vase exploits mean they’ve played two games fewer. Ahead of both are promoted Newton Aycliffe, 2-1 winners at home to Bishop Auckland with goals from Nathan Wilson – an ex-Sunderland reserve who spent the first half of the season at West Auckland Town – and striker Dan Mellanby.
Last season’s other promoted sides shared the points in a 1-1 draw at Guisborough Town watched by almost 400 fans. Ozzy Johnston and Rob Jones traded goals to leave Marske 14th in the table and the home side two places behind, eight points above the third relegation place. That’s a spot currenly occupied by Billingham Town, who lost a competitive Billingham derby 3-1 to Synthonia. Jarrow Roofing stay fourth bottom after a 4-1 defeat at fellow strugglers Penrith. The full table is here.
In Division Two, North Shields closed to within five points of the top with a 2-1 home win over fifth-placed West Allotment, while leaders Team Northumbria slumped to a 2-0 loss at home to struggling Ryton and Crawcrook Albion. A manic game at Esh Winning saw Crook Town go 3-0 and 4-1 ahead, concede an 80th minute equaliser to bring the score to 4-4, hit a fifth goal in the 86th minute and still only leave with a point after Esh scored the tenth and final goal with just two minutes left to play. The point keeps Esh in third, a point above Morpeth Town – 3-0 winners at Alnwick Town – West Allotment and sixth-placed Darlington RA, who beat Thornaby 4-2 at home. Northallerton Town moved up to seventh with a 2-0 win at Seaham Red Star and Easington’s 1-0 win at Horden – their fifth of the season – leaves them just two points adrift at the bottom of a league table which looks like this ahead of tonight’s games at Birtley Town and Whickham. The next full round of fixtures takes place on January 2nd and 3rd, the pick of the matches the relegation face-off between Jarrow Roofing and Billingham Town and Whitley Bay’s trip to Dunston UTS.