By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe slipped to a fourth-consecutive defeat, as title challengers Spennymoor left Moore Lane Park with a 1-0 victory.
Moors, coached by Newtonian Brian Atkinson, won thanks to Craig Ruddy’s 17th minute goal, in front of 313 people on a gloriously sunny day at Newton Aycliffe Sports Club.
Aycliffe are now down to ninth in the league, with Bishop Auckland’s 3-2 victory over Newcastle Benfield moving them into eighth.
Aycliffe were again without skipper Sean Tarling, due to suspension, and switched to a 4-4-2 system from the start for the first time this calendar year. Josh Knox returned alongside Nathan Wilson in midfield, with Anthony Campbell slotting in at left-back. Danny Mellanby and Warren Byrne were partnered in attack, with Dale Jardine on the bench.
But the forward pair saw little of the ball in the first half as the visitors took control.
As early as the sixth minute, the defensive duo of Darren Craddock and John Close had to be at their best to deny Spenny an opener. Sonny Andrews forced a shot goalwards from an acute angle which Craddock cleared off the line, before Leon Ryan’s powerful follow-up was bravely blocked by Close.
Next it was Scott Pocklington’s turn to prevent an away goal, saving well from Ruddy who had cut in from the right.
But Pocklington was unable to keep out the winger’s next effort. Keith Graydon sliced open the Aycliffe defence with a glorious through ball, and Ruddy fired his shot over the Aycliffe goalkeeper into the top corner of the net.
Spennymoor should have doubled their lead soon after. Stephen Capper crossed from the left and found Ryan in acres of space in the Aycliffe area, but the defender-cum-striker could only head his effort wide of Pocklington’s right-hand post.
It took Aycliffe 32 minutes to have a first effort on goal, but Byrne’s 25-yard shot barely troubled Craig Turns in the Spennymoor goal.
The away side continued to come forward and Close had to intervene to stop Andrews doubling the lead, clearing the striker’s effort off the line.
Moors really should have gone into the break two goals up, but Andrews was guilty of wasting a simple opportunity, blazing over from six yards out when it seemed easier to score.
Aycliffe’s best spell came in the opening moments of the second-half. A flowing move released Josh Gray down the left, and the former Darlington winger’s cross was met by the head of Mellanby, but the striker couldn’t steer his effort on target.
The home side were much improved in the second period, but couldn’t breach the reigning champions’ rearguard. A Craddock header from Nathan Wilson’s free-kick forced Turns into action, but the keeper held well.
Jardine, Fred Woodhouse and Chase McMullen came off the bench to try and force an equaliser, but it was the visitors who came closest to another goal.
Graydon’s right-wing free-kick was met by a fierce Ryan header but the former Whitley Bay man saw his effort cannon back off the woodwork.
While Spenny now go on in search of silverware, Aycliffe are left with just pride to play for, as they search to finish as high up the table as possible in their first season in Division One, and head to Whitley Bay next week as they look to end the losing run.
Newton Aycliffe: Pocklington, Gibson, Campbell (Woodhouse 65), Craddock, Close, Wilson, Broom (McMullen 65), Knox, Byrne (Jardine), Mellanby, Gray. Subs not used: Owen, Black.