Newton Aycliffe bounced back from Saturday’s defeat to earn a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw at South Shields – but will feel disappointed not to have won the game.
The Royal Blues battled back from conceding a second minute goal to put in one of their best attacking performances of the season and led 3-1 with under 20 minutes to go.
But the Mariners pulled a goal back from the penalty spot before Mark Peck was harshly sent-off two minutes later. The hosts made use of the numerical advantage to draw level, before a late red card of their own, again a strange decision, saw the game end 10-a-side.
Aycliffe went into the game on the back of their heaviest ever defeat and without skipper Sean Tarling, who was away with work. Adrian Webster, Tom Hinchley and Danny Lambert all returned from injury, while new signing Paul Harvey slotted in at left-back. Stuart Owen, who had been filling in on the left side of the defence, was moved to centre midfield.
Aycliffe suffered an early setback as Anthony Burnell’s through ball released Peter Kane, who tucked his effort under Scott Pocklington to give South Shields a second minute lead.
Many teams would’ve folded at that point, especially after such a drubbing at the weekend, but it galvanised the Newtonians. Harvey found Danny Earl, who held the ball up well to feed Owen. The midfielder squared the ball to Martin Young and the former West Auckland man released Danny Lambert, who forced a good save out of Thomas Courtney from the right side of the area.
Then after nine minutes the equaliser came. Owen hit the post with a fierce strike before Earl’s follow up was cleared off the line by Glenn Ford, but Owen picked up the loose ball and rifled it into the back of the net.
The dangerous Lambert then beat Paul Talbot with ease on the right but was again denied by Courtney in goal as he fired in an effort from 18 yards.
South Shields still posed a threat, though, and Pocklington had to produce a smart stop to prevent Kane’s 25 yard effort flying into the top corner after 28 minutes.
But it was Aycliffe who looked the more likely to score again, and Courtney had to be alert to make a sprawling save to stop Earl’s close range effort creeping into the bottom corner just after the half-hour mark.
Aycliffe started the second half as they finished the first, as Webster fired wide from the edge of the area after 51 minutes.
He found the target with his next effort five minutes later as Aycliffe went ahead. Lambert sent a superb pass through for Earl, who got to the byline, looked up and sent a perfect ball into the path of Webster and the former Darlington man rifled an unstoppable first-time shot into the bottom corner.
The busy Earl got on the end of Webster’s cross to force Courtney into another save, as Aycliffe searched for a third.
But the Mariners were still a threat on the counter. Burnell went clear and tried to chip Pocklington from the edge of the area, but the goalkeeper reacted brilliantly to tip over.
And just a minute later Aycliffe went ahead. Earl showed more fight to win the ball from Gilberto Chapim on the half-way line and tore towards goal. The home side were convinced the ball had gone out for a throw-in – it certainly looked like it had – but the former Billingham Synthonia forward played to the whistle, got to the edge of the area and sent a delightful chip over Courtney and into the corner of the net.
It appeared the game was over as a contest with Aycliffe looking comfortable, but the Mariners were handed a lifeline with 17 minutes left. Harvey brought down Barrie Smith in the area and Lee Bell fired a terrific penalty into the top right-hand corner of Pocklington’s goal.
Two minutes later and the tide had turned back in the hosts’ favour. Peck brought down Burnell on the halfway line – a common foul a defender will make in any game of football at every level – and jogged away expecting to see a yellow card brandished. To his astonishment, and to many in the ground, the colour of the card was red and Aycliffe had 15 minutes to hold on to the three points with 10-men.
But they only lasted eight before Barry Marshall found the bottom left-hand corner of Pocklington’s goal from the edge of the area to level the game.
Having led 3-1, a draw was a tough result to take, but the performance from the team showed positive signs for the weeks ahead. The Billingham Town defeat is firmly in the past.
Aycliffe: Pocklington, Hinchley, Craddock, Peck, Harvey, Young, Webster, Owen, Lambert, Earl, Hughes: Subs: Knox, Oliver, Mellanby, Woodhouse, Broom.