By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe produced a superb fightback to beat Guisborough Town 4-2 in an enthralling encounter at Moore Lane Park.
In front of new club president Phil Wilson, and fellow Labour MP and Guisborough president Tom Blenkinsop, Aycliffe fought back from two goals down thanks to a Warren Byrne hat-trick and a Dan Mellanby strike.
They were Byrne’s first goals since returning to the club in November and put him just four behind club record goalscorer Elliot Gardner on 48.
It was a reversal of last season’s epic at the same ground that saw Guisborough come back from two-down to win 3-2.
This time Aycliffe fell behind, conceding in the second minute, before going two down in the 25th minute. Byrne pulled one back before half-time and netted twice more in the second – including a rebound from his own missed penalty – while he created the fourth for substitute Mellanby.
The Newtonians were without John Close, after the defender jarred his knee during the club’s 1-0 defeat at Whitley Bay, with Paul Broom returning at right-wingback and Stephen Gibson moving into the centre.
The defence was caught out in the second minute as Bryan Stuart beat the offside trap and squared for midfielder Adam Gell, who slotted his effort past Pocklington to give the away side the lead.
Aycliffe attempted to battle back and end a four-game lean spell in front of goal, but Daniel Dixon saved well from Fred Woodhouse’s close range effort.
Stuart Owen then tested Dixon from 25-yards, with the goalkeeper collecting the ball at the second attempt.
But it was Guisborough who got the next goal. Again, the visitors sprang the offside trap and Liam McPhillips was one-on-one with Scott Pocklington. The midfielder’s effort bounced back off the post, leaving Liam O’Sullivan with a simple tap in to double his side’s lead.
Aycliffe hit back in the 38th minute. Byrne picked up the ball 30-yards out, ran at the back-pedalling Priorymen defence and let fly from outside the area to find Dixon’s bottom right-hand corner.
Byrne was given the chance to level the scores just after the hour mark when he was tumbled in the area by Dixon. But Dixon got down well to his left to save Byrne’s spot-kick, only for the former Shildon striker to find the net with the rebound.
Allan Oliver brought on Dan Mellanby and Nathan Wilson as the home side sensed a winner and, just four minutes later, Aycliffe were ahead.
Byrne robbed Mark Casey in possession deep in the Guisborough half, ran into the area and tucked his effort into the bottom corner of the Priorymen’s goal.
Guisborough were shell-shocked and Aycliffe rampant. Byrne turned creator in the 87th minute and found Mellanby in the area and the veteran striker rolled the ball under Dixon to make it four.
Mellanby and Byrne both wasted good opportunities to add a fifth in stoppage-time – both earning ticking-offs from Wilson who felt he should’ve been set-up for tap-ins – as Aycliffe emphatically ended their winless and goalless run.
Aycliffe: Pocklington, Gibson, Gray, Craddock, Oliver, Tarling, Broom, Knox (Wilson 71), Byrne, Woodhouse, Owen (Mellanby 71). Subs not used: McMullen, Campbell, Black.