Newton Aycliffe FC’s Northern League campaign got off to the worst possible start, with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of last season’s FA Vase finalists West Auckland.
Aycliffe weren’t helped by the unavailability of a number of senior players. However they will look back with justification and think that with more composed finishing, and arguably a couple of important refereeing decisions going in their favour, the score line could have been much closer.
Undoubtedly the visitors were stronger from the start. New boss Adrian Webster went with a 4-2-3-1 formation, utilising the experience of Raitt and Dukes to protect a patched up defence.
The visitors had the ball in the net early on. However the goal was rightly chalked off by the referee, as powerful forward Ward nearly kicked Johnson into the goal as well as the ball! On another day it was an offence that would certainly have received at least a yellow card.
Shortly after though, the impressive Dennis Knight struck the Aycliffe bar with a vicious shot that had Johnson beaten.
Aycliffe’s first real chance followed soon after though. Mickle and Morris combined well inside the West half to lay the ball into the path of Wing. However the midfielders shot was well saved.
In a game swinging from end to end, Wests new signing from Sunderland Laidler had a great opportunity, which he fired over in the 13th minute.
Back down the other end and Lewis Wing this time turned provider. A beautiful through ball played in Morris, but he was unable to control his shot which sailed way over the bar when clear through.
In the 15th minute the game saw its first goal. Knight saw his fierce shot brilliantly saved by Johnson in the Aycliffe goal. Unfortunately for him the rebound fell straight to Laidler who had the simplest of tasks to turn the ball home.
Another let off for West in the 20th minute. A near certain own goal was somehow saved by the goalkeeper. From the resulting corner Mickle saw his powerful header rebound back off the crossbar.
As the half went on there were chances at both ends. Unfortunately for Aycliffe, they were wasteful while West were not.
The inexperience in the home sides defence showed when Hinchley failed to clear a through pass, which fell to Ward. The oncoming Johnson brought the powerful forward down, with Knight slotting home the penalty.
Unfortunately for Aycliffe they had strong appeals for a penalty turned down as the half neared its end. What appeared to be a clear handball by a defender was instead only awarded a corner, much to Aycliffes frustrations!
On the stroke of half time, Ward finally saw yellow, following numerous fouls. A different official would have been producing a second yellow at this point!
Into the second half and Mickle continued to cause problems for the visitors defence. Seemingly surrounded by defenders he somehow got free, but shot just over.
In an indication of the strength of squad the visitors are able to call on, they replaced Knight with Moffat, and later Ward with Byrne. Both the substitutes are proven forwards at this level.
However Aycliffe were to carve out yet another chance. Mickle again the provider. His cross was met by Wing but the keeper again saved well.
On 65, Connor Lowes replaced Dion Raitt. However the substitution was the signal for West to stretch their lead and effectively kill the game off. A left wing cross found Ward at the back post and his close range header found the net.
Wing had delivered well from set pieces all afternoon. A free kick from wide on the Aycliffe left flashed across the goal, narrowly avoiding the on rushing strikers and just falling the wrong side of the far post.
However that was the last we were to see of Aycliffe. West continued to press. Laidler struck a great free kick that Johnson somehow saved. However from the corner Galpin should have got number 4, as he had a free header from the penalty spot that went over.
As the game moved into the last 10 minutes, Byrne found the net against his former side with a neat left footed finish following good work down the left from Moffat.
A disappointing start for Aycliffe, who will be hoping to bounce back quickly as they travel to Crook on Wednesday evening, before hosting Garforth Town in the FA Cup next Saturday.
Aycliffe: Johnson, Storey, Oliver, Hinchley, M Young, Raitt, Morris, Dukes, Mickle, Wing, Broom. Substitutes: Lowes, Williamson, Slatcher, Allison, Langthorne.