Newton Aycliffe 1 Washington 0
By Dave Strickland
Newton Aycliffe moved closer to Northern League top-flight safety with a narrow home win against second-bottom Washington.
Aycliffe edged the game 1-0 under the lights at Moore Lane Park thanks to a second-half penalty by Thibault Charmey, in a game where there were few good chances on a heavy pitch.
Centre forward Craig Hutchinson got a couple of shots away in the first 15 minutes, but both went just past the post.
Aycliffe were on top, with Stuart Banks, Charmey and Jordan Jewson all putting shots over the bar as the half progressed.
Home keeper James Winter had to tip one shot over on 39 minutes, but it was the only time he was troubled.
The pattern continued after the break, with man-of-the-match Ben Trotter tidying up in midfield and then prompting attacks.
Charmey and Kurt Matthews both missed the target before Aycliffe finally got the ball in the back of the net on 49 minutes, when a goal by Sean Tarling was disallowed for a foul on the Washington keeper.
The pressure finally told four minutes later when a strong run into the penalty box by Matthews was crudely blocked off, resulting in an easy penalty decision for the officials. Charmey stepped up and slotted home the spot kick.
Matty Pennal came on as sub and immediately started to cause the Washington back line problems with his direct running.
Nathan Stephenson hit a strong shot from 20 yards with five minutes remaining, but it fizzed just past the post.
Pennal broke through the defence at the end, but he too missed the opportunity to put the game to bed. That was the last chance in the game, as Aycliffe gained three valuable points.
Aycliffe, who stay 14th in the table but comfortable with eight league games to go, travel to Newcastle Benfield on Saturday (March 31). They are then at home to Seaham Red Star on Tuesday April 3, at 7.30pm.