By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe lost narrowly to a Michael Mackay inspired Consett under the floodlights at Moore Lane Park.
In a closely fought game, defences were well on top but it was the former Hartlepool United striker who proved to be the difference, clinically taking two chances in the last 15 minutes to secure victory for his side.
It was always going to be a case of first-goal wins and Aycliffe saw good chances for Danny Earl and Fred Woodhouse pass by, before Woodhouse was within millimetres of a goal of the season contender.
But with 15 minutes left Mackay outstripped John Close – who had kept the hot-shot quiet superbly before then – before slotting past Scott Pocklington.
In stoppage time he added a second to kill the game off as Aycliffe suffered an 11th defeat of the season.
Aycliffe were without skipper Sean Tarling and defender Darren Craddock, due to work commitments. The last time the pair were missing was against the Steelmen in the Brooks Mileson League Cup, when the Royal Blues were beaten 7-2.
But a similar result was never on the cards.
Aycliffe started the brighter of the sides and forced a save from Chris Elliot within the first 10 minutes.
Paul Broom found Earl in the box and the former Billingham Synthonia man found Woodhouse on the edge of the area, whose low drive needed to be beaten away by the Consett goalkeeper.
Scott Pocklington then saved well from Mackay just before the half-hour mark as the visitors had their first sniff of a chance.
But it was Aycliffe who had the chance of the half as Earl raced clear down the left but his curled effort went just the wrong side of the far right post.
The second-half continued off from the first, with the two defences giving nothing away and the two midfields cancelling each other out.
It was always going to come down to whoever scored the first goal, and Aycliffe came agonisingly close to finding it after an hour.
The ball dropped to the former Stockton winger on the edge of the area and he connected sweetly with a picturesque volley that had Elliot well beaten in the Consett goal. But, unfortunately for Aycliffe, Woodhouse’s effort that was described as Tony Yeboah-esque in the press box, glanced the outside of the post.
And to make matters worse Mackay hit the target. Six minutes after he was denied by a brilliant stop from Pocklington, Mackay was released down the left and he bore down on goal and slotted into the bottom right corner.
Aycliffe pressed for an equaliser, with Danny Lambert firing over from the edge of the area, but in the third minute of stoppage time Consett secured the points as Mackay finished off from close range after a Steelman counter attack.