Andy and Michael Hudson on the latest results in the Northern League.
Paul Bennett called for a “professional performance” as Hebburn Town looked to bounce back from their FA Cup heartache against fellow Northern League Division Two side West Allotment Celtic in a Brooks Mileson League Cup Second Round clash on Wednesday night. For Bennett, his assistant Andrew Wood, and no fewer than seven players in the Hebburn starting line-up, there was the added spice of facing their former club.
The Hornets got off to a great start when Tony Stephenson was bundled over as he was about to tap in from a yard away from goal. The referee pointed straight to the spot and Dean Nicholson lashed the penalty home with just six minutes on the clock. Paul King almost doubled the lead ten minutes later but he couldn’t stretch far enough to gather real purchase on a Stephen Forster cross.
With Jamie McClen dictating play after passing a late fitness test, Nicholson completed his hat trick in a first half of almost complete dominance by the South Tyneside team. His second goal of the night came midway through the half when a deep cross was controlled by Chris Jewels at the back post. Jewels shaped to shoot but then teed up Nicholson to smash the ball into the net through a crowd of Celtic defenders. If his first two goals were all about powerful finishes, then Nicholson’s third was all about skill. After being played in wide on the left of the box, Nicholson drew the ‘keeper towards him before executing a perfectly weighted dink into the far corner to give his side a 3-0 half-time lead.
Hebburn came out for the second half and played as though Celtic were still in the changing rooms. After a minute, a quick clearance set Paul Gardiner away on the left. As Gardiner advanced, Stuart Nicholson held his run and sprung clear as the ball was centred to tap past the ‘keeper. Five minutes later and another counter-attack from Hebburn saw King collect the ball just inside his own half before slipping a perfect pass through to Stephenson, who curled a left footed finish into the opposite corner of the goal to deservedly get his name on the scoresheet. Midway through the half Dean Walker, who had just been on the receiving end of a nasty tackle that resulted in Celtic being reduced to ten men, weaved clear inside the box before forcing a brilliant save from the ‘keeper. The ball bounced around the box, finally ending back at the feet of Walker to hook into the net for 6-0. “There aren’t many more places where I’d like to score a hat-trick,” said Dean Nicholson after the game. “It’s always nice to score against an old club and we could’ve had seven or eight tonight. It was pleasing for all of the ex-West Allotment lads to turn in that performance”.
In Northern League Division One, Bedlington Terriers looked to get their season back on track when they faced Penrith at Welfare Park. Goals from Shandran, Stewart, Novak and a Nugent own goal gave the Terriers a 4-1 win, Allison scoring a consolation for the visitors. Team Northumbria extended their lead at the top of Division Two, winning 4-2 at troubled Easington through goals from Sherlock, Redhead and a Critchlow brace. Winspear scored both for the home side.
In the Durham Challenge Cup, the shock of the night came at Ryhope CW, where the Wearside League champions outclassed Northern League Division Two outfit Washington 5-2. West Auckland Town won emphatically away against neighbours Bishop Auckland, a Nicholls hat-trick, two from Moffatt and a Hindmarch goal giving them a 6-2 win.
In Tuesday’s games Whitley Bay picked up their second win in a row with a 2-0 victory over struggling Tow Law, who remain four points behind third bottom Guisborough having already played six more games. Ian Chandler’s side replace Sunderland RCA – surprisingly beaten 2-1 by Tow Law at the weekend – in third place on 34 points from 16 matches. Dunston UTS, 2-0 winners at Billingham Town on Saturday, are top with 38 points from 17 games with West Auckland three points back after their derby defeat to Newton Aycliffe, but with two games in hand on the leaders.
After losing their last three games, RCA knocked Evostik North side Durham City out of the Durham Challenge Cup on Tuesday night with a 4-3 win in extra time. Neil Hixon’s side host champions Spennymoor Town – nine points adrift of the leaders in fifth but with up to three games in hand on all the teams above them – this weekend in what is undoubtedly the Northern League’s game of the day. The rest of the top four face the teams in seventh, eighth and ninth places. West Auckland head to Billingham Synthonia, Whitley Bay travel to a resurgent Newton Aycliffe side, and Dunston are at home to Bishop Auckland. Even at this stage of the season, wins for all three will see a sizeable gap open between the top four or five and the rest of the division. Of the teams currently in midtable, free scoring Bedlington Terriers are at home to Tow Law and in-form Ashington (six league wins in a row before their weekend loss to Grimsby in the final qualifying round of the FA Cup) go to a Marske United side who are looking early favourites to fill the third relegation place.