By Dan Lewis
Newton Aycliffe rounded off an inconsistent 2013 with a rare away win, which enabled them to finish the year in the top half of the Northern League table, and in a considerably stronger position than they were 12 months previous.
The win at Sunderland RCA was as comfortable as Aycliffe have enjoyed for some time. The pitch was heavy and the wind blew down the slope with Aycliffe playing against the elements in the first half. However this was to be little obstacle for Allan Oliver’s men.
As early as the second minute striker Jamie Owens had an appeal for a penalty turned down, as the home defender appeared to block his goal bound strike with an arm.
After 15 minutes, new signing Stephen Butterworth linked up well with Harrison Davies, but the midfielders low shot was well saved.
However just a minute later and Butterworth turned provider as his right wing cross was turned home at the near post by leading scorer Owens to give Aycliffe a well-deserved 1-0 lead.
In what was a very open first half, Aycliffe old boy Gavin Barton thought he had found the equaliser as he got in a free header from a left wing corner. However Paul Broom had been stationed on the post, and was on hand to nod away to safety.
Left winger Davies was a constant thorn in the RCA side, playing against one of his former Clubs he seemed determined to prove a point! On 23 minutes he played Atkinson in on goal, but the striker pulled his shot wide of the post. And then 5 minutes later the same combination saw a volley from the striker just over form another searching Davies cross.
Just after the half hour mark, Aycliffe doubled their lead. Having turned earlier shouts for a penalty down, the referee awarded one which looked softer as the RCA defender was adjudged to have blocked Davies’ free kick with his arm. Owens calmly slotted the penalty home.
On 35 Owens almost turned provider, setting up a great chance for full back Michael Gibson. Somehow Carmichael in the RCA goal pulled of a top class save to deny him.
Just 2 minutes later though and Aycliffe did have their third. Once again Owens and Davies linked up well, and on this occasion Atkinson finished right footed from the cross.
On the stroke of half time, a let off for Aycliffe, as a header from Wray rattled Spence’s crossbar.
Atkinson was replaced at half time as a precaution by Mellanby, with Allan Oliver seeking to ensure he didn’t suffer any more injuries to his already threadbare squad.
On 46 Barton once again thought he had notched, but this time it was Spence with the quality save to deny him his goal.
Then on the hour mark, Butterworth grabbed his first goal in the Royal Blue shirt, heading home Davies’ corner to give Aycliffe an unassailable 4-0 advantage.
Chances came and went in the last half hour, most notably for Owens and Raitt, but all concerned will have been happy to see the game out with a clean sheet and no more injuries!
With no game this last week, Aycliffe have slipped a place in the league, but still find themselves in the top half, which is certainly a pleasing change from the end of 2012!
Off the field, and the Aycliffe Today sponsored Live Lounge event saw a packed crowd in the Sports Club enjoy local rap star Bygate, followed by Vocal Comedy artist Simon Cain, before the headline act of the night was provided by Aycliffes own Dion Raitt and his Live Lounge act.
As boss Allan Oliver builds into 2014, striker Dan Wilson has left the Club to re-join his former side Tow Law, after becoming frustrated at his lack of opportunities due to the form of the Owens and Atkinson partnership. He leaves with Aycliffe’s best wishes.
The next fixture for Aycliffe is a trip to the seaside as they face Marske on Saturday (11th Jan). That is followed by back to back games with Crook, with the away fixture on the 15th, before the two sides face up at Moore Lane Park on Saturday the 18th.