By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe’s 11-game unbeaten run came to a crashing end with a 2-1 defeat away at South Shields.
The Mariners came from behind to inflict the first defeat on Allan Oliver’s men since the opening weekend in December.
A debut goal from Stephen Bogie had given Aycliffe the lead, but the home side fought back to achieve a deserved victory against an Aycliffe side missing the experience of Darren Craddock and Danny Mellanby.
The Newtonians went into the game looking to move into the top five, but now face a fight to hold onto sixth as Ashington sit just five points behind with half-a-dozen games in hand.
On a miserable, rainy night on Tyneside, Aycliffe were on the back foot from the start. Sean Tarling was forced into a goal line clearance within the first minute, sliding in to block Denver Morris’ header.
From the resulting corner Duncan O’Brien’s powerful header flew just past the returning Scott Pocklington’s left-hand post. The goalkeeper, who missed Saturday’s goalless draw due to work commitments, was busy, making a superb save on 20 minutes from Stephen Ramsay’s close-range header.
But, against the run of play, Aycliffe went ahead. Bogie, who had signed the previous day from Birtley Town and scored 14 goals in 16 appearances for Sunderland West End in the Wearside League, took just 30-minutes to score his first goal for the club. Stuart Owen, in his 100th Aycliffe appearance, crossed from the right flank and picked out Bogie in the six-yard area and the debutant clinically headed past Mariners keeper Jonathan Bell.
Aycliffe enjoyed a rare spell on top following the goal and Tarling went close to making it two. The skipper turned past a couple of challengers before letting fly with his left foot from 25-yards out, but Bell was able to parry the ball away from danger.
However, Aycliffe were soon back on level terms. In the 40th minute, the excellent Andrew Barclay released Morris down the Mariners’ right, and the winger’s mis-hit cross flew straight into the Aycliffe goal.
Within 30 seconds of the second-half the hosts were ahead. Barclay picked the ball up in space just inside the area and let fly with an unstoppable effort to give his side the lead.
South Shields didn’t look like a side that hadn’t won for four games and had chances to extend their lead. Pocklington was forced into a sweeper role on a couple of occasions, storming out of his box to clear dangerous counter-attacks.
Aycliffe could only muster a couple of half chances in return. Ben Wood tricked his way past O’Brien, but Josh Knox was unable to steer the resulting cross goalwards. Paul Broom then found Owen in space on the edge of the area, but the winger’s left-footed volley flew harmlessly over the bar.
Defender John Close came the closest to equalising, narrowly heading Nathan Wilson’s 75th minute free-kick over the crossbar.
With time ticking away, Aycliffe shoved on Dale Jardine, Warren Byrne and Luke Black in search of an equaliser, but it was the home side who nearly added to the scoresheet.
Substitute Peter Kane released Morris, whose cross found David Calvin in acres of space, but the winger could only crash his effort off the bar.
Aycliffe remain sixth, level on points with Dunston who travel to Moore Lane Park on Saturday.