By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe slipped to a second successive defeat after a 1-0 reverse against Dunston at Moore Lane Park.
Chris Swailes’ first-half header from a disputed free-kick gave the visitors all three points, but the game was overshadowed by Dunston midfielder Lee McAndrew’s nasty injury.
The winger made heavy contact with one of the concrete fence posts that surround the pitch, leaving McAndrew missing a large chunk of his leg and an ambulance had to be called to the ground.
But the visitors, who had already lost club record goalscorer Andy Bulford to injury in the first few minutes, recovered from their setback to secure a vital victory in their fight for the championship.
Aycliffe suffered a major blow before kick-off with news that John Close would miss the game with a knee injury, while striker Danny Mellanby was not fit enough to start and Ben Wood was sidelined through suspension.
Darren Craddock returned to the back three, while Dale Jardine and Warren Byrne started in attack. Fred Woodhouse was among the substitutes after arriving back in the country following a six month spell in Australia.
Aycliffe were looking to bounce back from a first defeat in 12 on Tuesday night, but FA Vase semi-finalists Dunston were in control from the start, denying the Newtonians any time or space on the ball.
The game was always a scrappy affair, but it was the visitors who were creating the chances. The left-foot of Terry Galbraith was keeping Aycliffe goalkeeper Scott Pocklington busy with a barrage of crosses from corners and free-kicks in the opening exchanges.
In the 16th minute, Aycliffe’s keeper did well to punch clear one of these corners, but the ball went only as far as Ian Herron on the edge of the area. The midfielder’s fierce right-footed effort from 18 yards was heading towards goal before a brave block by Josh Knox.
Ten minutes later McAndrew suffered his horrible injury, which provoked a lengthy delay while the winger was stretchered off to the changing rooms and an ambulance was called.
Soon after the game got back underway, Craddock was adjudged to have fouled Stephen Goddard on the left-hand touchline, much to the dismay of the home crowd. Galbraith whipped in a dangerous cross and found the unmarked Swailes, who headed past Pocklington from six yards out.
Aycliffe battled away but took until the 70th minute to have a serious effort at goal. Nathan Wilson finally found some room and put in a superb cross for Byrne, whose spectacular volley was brilliantly held by Liam Connell in the Dunston goal.
Wodhouse and Mellanby were introduced from the bench as Aycliffe searched for an equaliser but, while they saw more of the ball, still couldn’t create a clear cut chance.
Stuart Owen blazed a free-kick over the crossbar from the edge of the area, while Jardine had half a sight of goal late on, but the visitors successfully saw out the game. Dunston are now eight points off the top of the league, with five games in hand on leaders Sunderland RCA, but the injuries suffered to McAndrew and Bulford could dent their league and FA Vase aspirations.
For Aycliffe they aim to bounce back as they travel across the country to play Penrith next weekend, where a defeat could see them slip out of the top six for the first time since November.