Newton Aycliffe 1, Shildon 1
Newton Aycliffe FC put an end to their recent run of defeats on Easter Bank Holiday Monday, and in doing so ended any slim chance that remained of Shildon lifting the Northern League First Division trophy.
With Spennymoor defeating Team Northumbria earlier in the day, Shildon knew nothing less than the three points would be enough to keep their dream of completing a League and Cup double alive.
However on the day, they found an Aycliffe side up against them who showed the desire, commitments and work-rate that has been lacking in a number of games recently.
Indeed, had the referee seen a couple of major incidents differently, Aycliffe could easily have come away from the game with three points rather than one.
With Allan Oliver again finding his resources stretched by unavailability, he switched to a 4-5-1 formation. Dan Mitton returned to the heart of the defence and Craig Mickle returned to lead the attack.
In front of a season high attendance of 466, Aycliffe started very brightly.
With just four minutes on the clock, Stuart Owen found Mickle who laid the ball off for Hedley to cut inside and smash a right footed shot into the roof of the net.
The first half was open, and evenly contested. Richardson saw a shot come back off the Aycliffe bar while Graham made a couple of top saves in the Shildon goal.
As half time approached, Aycliffe spurned a great chance to double their lead. A beautiful passing move involving Green, Hedley and Butterworth saw the ball crossed for Mickle in the centre of the box. Unfortunately the big striker was unable to make a proper contact and the chance was lost.
Both sides clearly wanted the win. A number of tackles were going in on both sides, with Clough for Aycliffe and Craddock for Shildon both seeing yellow.
On the hour mark, the first major decision for the referee, and one which it appeared he got wrong. With Mickle looking to have got away from Craddock and with a clear run through to the Shildon goal, the former Aycliffe man pulled the striker back. It would have been a questionable red card, but a clear yellow, which with Craddock already having been booked would have been followed by the red. Unbelievably the referee chose to issue a ticking off instead!
And then as is so often the way, Shildon went up the other end and were awarded a penalty, as another former Aycliffe man Ben Wood was challenged on the edge of the box. He managed to pick himself up and strike his penalty into the bottom corner. Spence got a hand to it but it wasn’t enough to keep it out.
Fresh from his goal scoring exploits in the Durham Challenge Cup victory on Friday, Greulich-Smith had a couple of great chances to put the visitors in front, but was unable to accept them.
At the other end Tom Atkinson, who had replaced Butterworth cut inside the full back and curl a shot across goal that just evaded the far post.
And that was how the game ended. A much improved Aycliffe performance that must surely give players, management and supporters heart as they look towards next season.
Aycliffe: Spence, Oliver, Clough, Mitton, Close, Butterworth, Broom, Green, Mickle, Owen, Hedley. Substitutes M Wood, Raitt, Atkinson, J Young, Farley.
Aycliffe’s next, and final game of the season is this coming Saturday as they welcome FA Vase finalists West Auckland to Moore Lane Park. The game is a 3pm kick off, with admission costing £6 for adults, £4 concessions with u12s going FREE.
Tickets continue to sell well ahead of the Party in the Park. The live music event is taking place on Sunday 4th May, with a number of live bands scheduled between 12pm- 10.30pm. There will be several can bars situated around the ground selling a range of alcoholic drinks, with food vans also there to ensure the festival feel is complete! Tickets are priced at just £10 and remain available from the Sports Club bar. If anyone has any questions regarding the event they should contact Shaun Saunders on [email protected]