Newton Aycliffe 1, Marske United 0
By Martin Walker
Dan Mellanby thrilled Newton Aycliffe’s suffering fans for the first time this season with a magical second-half display against Marske United.
Even though the Newtonians were already leading 1-0 by the time of his 66th-minute introduction, thanks to Paul Broom’s winning goal 10 minutes earlier, the player dubbed ‘Magic Man’ by supporters produced a vintage cameo performance to put smiles back on faces.
Mellanby, who returned to Moore Lane Park from Darlington last week, pulled the Marske players all over the place and tied some of them in knots with a touch of class Aycliffe have been badly lacking this season.
And in new striker Danny Earl, who was man-of-the-match with a hard-working, creative shift, the pair created enough chances to win two games.
Aycliffe just needed three points from somewhere – it didn’t matter how – so to win by the solitary goal was enough to give them their first win of the season and lift them off the bottom of the Ebac Northern League first division.
But it was the manner of their victory which created a renewed buzz around MLP – and a strong feeling that Aycliffe’s season has just begun.
The home side started brightly and had the ball in the net after 13 minutes, but scorer Earl was flagged off-side, and Paul Robinson tested Marske ‘keeper Scott Allinson with a 20-yard drive five minutes later.
Aycliffe had three chances to take the lead mid-way through the first half. First Tom Hinchley had a header cleared off the line and Martin Young’s effort was also cleared off the line seconds later, then Hinchley saw another header clip the crossbar a minute later to frustrate Allan Oliver’s men.
Scott Pocklington was called into action in the 36th minute when Carl Charlton curled a decent free-kick over Aycliffe’s wall, but the home keeper was well behind it.
Then the unmarked Leon Carling met Charlton’s corner with a thumping header which flew just over minutes later.
Aycliffe re-started the second half brightly, and in the 52nd minute Earl forced a fine save from Allinson when he met Robinson’s knock-down with a perfectly-struck left-footed volley.
But the crucial goal came three minutes later. Fred Woodhouse did exceptionally well to get to the left byline before looping a cross to the far post, where Broom squeezed the ball in between Allinson and the post with a good finish at an acute angle.
Mellanby came on for Robnson in the 66th minute, and it didn’t take long for the former Quakers play-maker to start pulling the strings.
Two minutes after coming on, he combined well with Young to release the former West Auckland midfielder, who should have shot but instead opted to return the ball to Mellanby near the penalty spot, but he hesitated and Marske cleared.
Aycliffe were playing some decent stuff by this point, easily their best football this season, and in the 70th minute Mellanby found Earl with a peach of a ball, but Earl’s shot was saved by the stretching Allinson.
Mellanby and Earl combined well again in the 77th minute, but the latter’s shot was too soft.
Aycliffe had a glorious chance to kill the game off in the 87th minute when skipper Sean Tarling won a penalty, but Young missed the spot-kick with a poor effort.
Mellanby almost had the last say on the game in the 93rd minute with yet another brilliant ball in behind the back line which was just too long for Broom.
But it didn’t matter. Aycliffe did enough to win more than one game, but it only took one goal to claim this crucial, elusive victory.
“Great to be home,” said Mellanby after the game. It’s great to have you back, Dan…
Aycliffe (4-4-2): Pocklington, Hinchley, Owen, Craddock, Peck, Tarling, Young, Broom, Earl, Robinson (Mellanby, 66), Woodhouse.
Unused: Knox, Coad, Wilson, Hughes.