Dan Lewis reviews a stunning opening to the 2013-14 season for Northern League side Newton Aycliffe…
So just 5 days into the EBAC Northern League season, and with a number of key players missing due to holidays and suspension, Aycliffe would have maybe looked at the opening week of the season with a sense of nervous anticipation.
The opening days of the season saw Oliver’s men make the trip across the A66 to Penrith, a team they were struggling with at the wrong end of the table last season. As part of the Northern League 125th Anniversary, the game kicked off at 7pm as part of the organised ‘Ground Hop’. With three games organised for Cumbria, kicking off at 11am, 3pm and then 7pm, Aycliffe were given the ‘main event’ slot and certainly didn’t disappoint.
Last season’s leading scored Danny Earl lead the way with 2 goals, picking up where he left off last season, and with his close friend and new strike partner Jamie Owens also notching a brace, Aycliffe ran out 4-2 winners. The result was made all the more impressive when one considers they were missing captain John Close and key full backs Stuart Owen and Stephen Gibson.
Also worthy of note are Aycliffe’s loyal band of travelling supporters. National exposure at last! Talk Sport reporter Tony Incenzo tweeting “I noticed that @NAycliffeFC have some of the most passionate travelling supporters in Non-league football at Penrith last night”
And so on to our first home game of the season, and the visit of Billingham Synthonia.
Once again, leading scorer from last season Danny Earl was quick out of the blocks, with a beautiful lob setting Aycliffe on their way early in the game. The rest of the first half was a reasonably even affair. In truth the visitors probably had more of the possession, although they didn’t really look like hurting the new look back 5 of Aycliffe, while Oliver’s men looked capable of scoring when they went forward. And so it proved, as with half time approaching it was once again that man Earl who netted from close range to take Aycliffe into a 2 goal lead, and a well-deserved half time break. Synthonia may have felt a little hard done by to be 2 down at the break, but after last season I’m sure few in the home dressing room were too worried about that!
Into the second half and in truth Aycliffe bossed the game. It was effectively over as a contest following Danny Lamberts screamer into the top corner from the right hand edge of the box after 48 minutes, and from then on it was effectively a game of Aycliffe attacking at will!
The next chance followed shortly after. Woodhouse was revelling in his new midfield role, popping up all over the field. On this occasion he found himself in a wide left position, and a great cross found Earl’s head, and with the hat trick waiting, he headed narrowly wide.
Next, Earl found himself through on goal again following a Woodhouse pass, but the visiting keeper got out well to save with his legs. However the rebound fell to Broom, and he lifted a delightful ball to the back post, where once again Earl headed just wide! It wasn’t to be his second half!
Soon after, the football Oliver has his team playing was clearly demonstrated. Great midfield link up play between Selby, Broom and Woodhouse saw Earl set free in the inside left channel. He lifted the ball to the back post but this time it was partner Owens who headed wide.
In what was increasingly becoming ‘attack v defence’ Danny Lambert then again showed the positive side of his game. Twisting the defender inside and out he pulled a great ball back to Earl on the penalty spot, who once again was denied by the keeper!
However, on 68 minutes, Aycliffe got the 4th that their play deserved. Once again, the flanks were giving us a lot of success. Down the left this time, and Paul Broom once again put a great cross in, which Jamie Owens headed home, for his third of the season. Broom then should have got on the sheet himself, but once again the keeper saved with his legs from a 1:1 following good play by Earl to slide him in.
On 72 minutes, Oliver made a double change, bringing new signings Michael Gibson and Dan Mitton on to replace Selby and Oliver.
The fresh legs certainly helped Aycliffe keep the pressure on. Gibson crafted another chance for Earl with some neat footwork on the edge of the box, but once again the keeper denied him his hat trick. And then as the game neared its conclusion, Gibson let fly from the edge of the box, but somehow the keeper once again kept the ball out!
Final score of Aycliffe 4-0 Billingham Synthonia. What a start to the season! Early days but the signs are promising! The new signings have settled in well, and the team looks full of goals. Defensively solid as well means the smiles are returning to the faces of the locals. A healthy crowd of 132 will surely get better if this brand of attacking and more importantly winning football continues.
Next up on Saturday is a trip to near rivals Darlington RA in the FA Cup. Is this to be the season when the Royal Blues break their duck in the most famous competition of them all?