Paul McGeary previews Newton Aycliffe’s trip to Durham City this evening…
Ebac Northern League Division One: Durham City vNewton Aycliffe (Tuesday 4th September, 2012)
The last time Newton Aycliffe played Durham City at the Esh Group Stadium, City were two tiers above the Newtonians, competing in the Evo-Stik league as Aycliffe – admittedly topping it – were in the Northern League’s second division.
Tonight the sides meet again, this time at the Northern League’s top table, with Allan Oliver’s side looking to end a club-record six straight league defeats, after a horrific start to the 2012-13 campaign.
We’ll bring you match updates via our Twitter feed on the right-hand side.
It was 22-months ago – on 2nd November, 2010 – when the sides met for the first, and only time in their history. The competition was the Durham Challenge Cup. Aycliffe, by contrast, were on the back of six straight league victories.
Oliver’s side outplayed their hosts, even on their plastic surface, but fell victim to two sucker punch goals as City took the spoils. The rest is history as the Newtonians went on to secure the title and then establish themselves as a top-flight team, while City fell from grace, back to the league which they dominated just six years ago.
Tonight’s game takes on such importance, not just for the visitors, but also the Citizens. One win in four is all Dickie Ord’s side has managed so far this term, and news that Darlington are looking to plunder their ranks once more by signing star player Steve Thompson – a scorer two years ago – will do little to appease the fans.
The Quakers have already hooked David Dowson, skipper Gary Brown and the impressive Purewal twins from the cathedral city in recent months.
For Oliver’s side things can’t get much worse. Defeats aside and the inevitable bottom of the table rank, his side has been ravaged with injuries, suspensions and untimely absences. The signings of Matthew Coad and the returning Dan Mellanby mean the 51-year-old boss will have already used 22 players this season, compared to just 31 in last season’s entirety.
The signs, however, show things are improving. Oliver and assistant Gary Farley have enlisted the help of former Quakers and Hartlepool man Andy Toman, to fill the void left by Brian Atkinson’s departure mid-way through last season.
Saturday’s defeat at three-times Champions Spennymoor came only after a much-improved and spirited performance, which saw a make-shift defence thwart ‘Moors for 76 minutes. Mellanby’s arrival, along with the additions of Sam Vernalls and Lewis Wing mean Oliver has five cards to play up front, compared to just the two he started the season with.
Mark Peck and John Close near a return in the defensive line, and with Darren Craddock now back at the heart of defence after missing three games early on, it shouldn’t be too long before the Newtonians once more show signs of the resistance which saw them house the fourth best defensive record of last season.
Attentions turn to the Esh Group stadium tonight, where Aycliffe will once more be followed by a strong and committed band of support. The same support that went to the Brewery Field on Saturday – 15 who actually walked there to raise funds for the club – despite many believing the club were in for a hammering.
While the chips may be down at Moore Lane Park, the unity grows stronger amongst players, staff and fans. Not one person has questioned the hierarchy while the players remain as committed and dedicated to getting the club back into the division’s top-10 as they were back in June when they returned to training.
Tonight, in the shadow of Durham Cathedral, Aycliffe will hope to lie to rest their poor start to the campaign and build the foundations for a sturdy season ahead – even if it is a month later than expected. Winning is always so much better on the back of a defeat. Or six!