By Dan Lewis
Newton Aycliffe were denied all three points on Saturday by a world class free kick late in the game as they returned to Moore Lane Park for the first time in 2014.
The pitch passed a morning inspection due to the recent wet weather, but with areas of the ground being described as ‘heavy at best’ it was probably never going to be a day for defenders!
And so it proved.. Crook were first to threaten, as a mix up in the Aycliffe back line saw the ball roll across the face of goal, but the on-rushing Bird was unable to turn it home, despite his last gasp slide!
With just 5 minutes on the clock, Aycliffe took the lead, with Tom Atkinson showing great composure to finish right footed.
And things got better for the home side, as a Martin Young strike from 20 yards nestled in the top corner!
From then on though, Crook took control of the half. On the 20 minute mark Spence in the Aycliffe goal somehow kept out a back post header from Hughes. However, with 34’ on the clock, Crook’s pressure finally told. Kyle Davies outstripped Oliver, and finished past Spence and into the bottom corner.
Aycliffe were rocked early in the second half as leading scorer Jamie Owens limped off, to be replaced by Mellanby. And on 55 the visitors were level. Davies, who had been a constant menace for the Aycliffe defence once again got himself clear, before reversing the ball across Spence and into the bottom corner.
However just a minute later Aycliffe regained the lead. A great run from Atkinson took him clear of the defence and he once again finished right footed into the bottom corner.
Two minutes later, Mellanby fooled the defender in the area, chopping the ball back inside, but put his shot inches wide of the post.
In a game that really ebbed and flowed, Davies again went close for Crook after 67, after cutting inside Mitton he took the shot left footed but placed it wide.
With 20 minutes remaining, Hedley almost doubled the lead again. He took Mellanby’s pass before cutting inside his man but unfortunately for Aycliffe his shot went wide. A Crook chance came and went, before another opportunity for Atkinson. He looked to have placed his shot into the bottom corner, but somehow Norton clawed the ball to safety.
On 83’ Mellanby was fouled. The home side appealed for a penalty, but the referee awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Midfielder Young stepped up and rattled his free kick against the bar.
And in the cruellest of finishes, Aycliffe were made to pay for the missed chances. With just 3 minutes remaining, Davies was fouled on the edge of the Aycliffe area. He picked himself up to slot his free kick over the wall and into the top corner to complete his hat trick.
On reflection, a draw was probably to right result, and both teams deserve credit for trying to play the game the right way on a difficult pitch.
Aycliffe were also able to open their supporters bar for the first time. The facility was well received, with the opportunity to purchase alcoholic drinks ‘on the ground’ being a real boost to the supporters. The Club are looking forward to the facility developing and improving over the coming weeks.
With no game scheduled for next weekend, Aycliffe’s next game will be at home to West Auckland on Wednesday 29th January, with the game kicking off at 7.30pm.