By Martin Walker
Newton Aycliffe slumped to a third straight defeat at Team Northumbria to mark a thoroughly miserable start to the season.
Allan Oliver’s side, chronically lacking in confidence, actually produced a marginally-improved performance to their defeats against Marske United and Hebburn Town in the last week.
But a lack of creativity and poor ball retention let them down again, with Team Northumbria at times playing the far superior football on a lovely playing surface in Newcastle.
Four players made their debuts in what was a fairly new-look side for Aycliffe, with new signing Adrian Webster starting the game at right-back.
Sam Vernalls started on the right wing, while midfielder Martin Young, signed in the summer, made his first appearance for the club, starting in an attacking midfield role behind lone striker Gavin Barton, and young striker Lewis Wing got the last half-an-hour.
But goals by ex-Darlo winger Dan Riley, Tom Davies and Ben Sayer gave the home side a comfortable victory.
TN started brightly and Aycliffe have to defend an early corner, with John Sherlock heading over at the far post in the sixth minute.
Josh Knox seemed to be fouled in the area after 10 minutes, but the referee awarded a corner instead of a penalty, which TN dealt with easily.
Riley put the home side ahead in the 21st minute with a scrappy goal. Aycliffe failed to clear their lines in a defensive mix-up and Riley poked home from closer range.
Tom Hinchley hammered a 23rd-minute free-kick just wide and Robert Cavener saw his ambitious 25-yard shot flash wide on the half-hour mark.
Craddock did well to block Chris Dodds’ close-range effort in the 33rd minute, and a minute later Riley managed to get in behind Hinchley but Scott Pocklington managed to get his feet to the shot.
Webster was forced off just before half-time – he later told Aycliffe Today it was precautionary after feeling his back – and he was replaced by Anth Campbell, who slotted into the left-back position. Peck moved inside to a centre-back position, and Hinchley moved across to cover the right-back spot.
Aycliffe had played some decent football during the first half, just lacking a spark to open up their opponents, but they couldn’t find any momentum after the break.
And TN doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half with a fortuitous goal. Sayer’s shot was well off target but managed to hit Davies which turned the ball past a stranded Pocklington.
Aycliffe’s double substitution just after the hour, with Wing replacing Vernalls and Paul Robinson going on for Barton, gave the visitors a brief boost and they looked brighter for a few minutes.
But it soon faded, and TN got back on top again. Sayer’s 80th-minuyte free-kick flew wide after Craddock fouled John Jury on the edge of the penalty area.
Aycliffe had chances at the other end in the last five minutes. Young’s close-range shot was blocked before Peck’s follow-up was deflected wide, and a minute later Hinchley headed just over.
But Sayer hammered home TN’s third in the last minute, drilling home a free-kick through Aycliffe’s wall after Pocklington came off his line to foul Riley on the edge of the box.
Aycliffe: Pocklington, Webster (Campbell, 45), Peck, Craddock, Hinchley, Tarling, Vernalls (Wing, 62), Knox, Barton (Robinson, 62), Young, Woodhouse. Unused: Wilson, Farley.