By Dan Lewis
Newton Aycliffe produced their result of the season with a fine victory at home to local rivals West Auckland to climb off the bottom of the league.
Allan Oliver’s side chalked up only their second win of the campaign with another gutsy display to disappoint the one-time World Cup winners at Moore Lane Park.
The Newtonians leapfrogged South Shields to drag themselves off the bottom of the Ebac Northern League first division for the first time in two months.
And on the back of a string of promising performances which merited more in recent weeks, Aycliffe finally got the result they deserved, which will now hopefully provide a springboard for them to climb up the table.
Aycliffe showed a positive intent against sixth-placed West right from the start, and a desire to prove that they are a better side than their current league position suggests.
As early as the first minute, the lively Paul Broom drew a foul on the edge of the area. Although the shot from Stuart Owen went just over the bar, it was a sign of things to come from Aycliffe.
Fred Woodhouse worked tirelessly in a lone striker role all afternoon and in the eighth minute he robbed the full back in the right hand channel and pulled an inviting ball back to Martin Young on the edge of the area, although the midfielder’s shot was mis-hit, meaning the chance went begging.
In an open start to the game, West soon offered their first real threat, with a goal mouth scramble eventually being hacked clear by Wood to safety.
In the 14th minute Aycliffe had a gilt-edged opportunity to open the scoring, and the skipper Sean Tarling will be disappointed not to have done better.
The chance was again fashioned by the excellent Broom, who turned his man inside out before crossing. Tarling, unmarked on the six-yard line, somehow managed to head the ball over. Given his recent goalscoring exploits, it was a chance all in the ground expected him to take.
On 27 minutes the goal Aycliffe had been threatening duly arrived. Stuart Owen didn’t live up to the usual front page of the programme curse when he closed down the West full back, and charged down the rushed clearance with such effect that the ball rebounded back off his left foot and over keeper Bell and into the top corner.
It was no less than Aycliffe deserved after the way they had started the game and the slice of luck the goal owed much to was certainly no more than the hosts deserved after the number of times it has deserted them this season.
Soon after Woodhouse again turned the West defence in knots, and forced an outstanding save from Bell, a one-handed left-handed effort low to his bottom corner.
On 33 minutes, Broom was forced out of the action. West defender Hubbard finally managed to catch him, but the tackle that earned the defender a caution also ended Broom’s involvement in the game, his place being taken by the fit-again Kris Hughes.
On 41 minutes, and largely against the run of play, West equalised. Darren Craddock, again marshalled the defence with his usual authority, but unfortunately was deemed to have committed a foul on the edge of the box.
From the ensuing free kick, Aycliffe old boy Elliott Gardner snuck in from of James Oliver to plant a header firmly beyond Pocklington’s reach.
The Royal Blues again came out of the blocks quickly in the second half.
In a sign of what was to come, Hughes made a great run into the left hand channel, although his dangerous cross was cleared by the visitors.
However on 52 minutes, a great chance for West to take the lead fell to Hubbard, but fortunately he blazed his shot well over the bar.
Hughes continued to lead the attacking threat for Aycliffe, with the West defence seemingly unable to keep up with the pace and movement of both Hughes and Woodhouse.
These two linked up particularly well with Young, who was clearly intent on getting one over on his former club, in arguably his best display in a royal blue shirt.
At the other end, the Aycliffe defence maintained their shape, with Tarling and Winskill offering good protection in front of them as the visitors went to a more direct style of play as they looked to make the breakthrough.
Chances at both ends came and went as the game became slightly more stretched.
However the crucial moment arrived as Craddock switched from stopping goals to scoring them, as he rose in the West area to head majestically passed Bell and into the net.
Following on so quickly from best mate Tarling breaking his goal drought, Craddock could hardly have timed his goal better. The goal came on 78 minutes, and given what Aycliffe have been through, a nervous last 12 minutes followed!
Banks had a good chance well saved by Pocklington, and Campbell wasted an excellent chance to equalise, but there were also opportunities for the hosts to extend the lead, with Hughes and Woodhouse both stretching the play and creating chances for themselves.
Woodhouse in particular created two excellent opportunities for himself in the 84th and 87th minutes, on the first time denied again by Bell, and on the second time shooting just wide.
The last minute saw a corner for West with a chance at the back post, but fortunately the header sailed harmlessly over the bar.
The final whistle was greeted with a mix of relief and joy, as Aycliffe climbed off the foot of the table.
The performance, in front of a loyal 166 attendance, was a continuation of the form displayed in recent weeks, and offers real hope that an improvement in results is to follow.
Aycliffe: Pocklington, Wood, Oliver, Craddock, Hinchley (Peck), Tarling, Broom (Hughes), Butterworth (Winskill), WOODHOUSE, Young, Owen. Unused: Lambert, Knox.