AFC Newbiggin 1 Percy Main 3
Away day success for The Main.
A very cold south easterly wind chilled the bones at AFC Newbiggin's exposed Sports Centre ground, but those of a Percy Main persuasion were sufficiently warmed to forget about the wintry elements as their side put out a gritty and determined display to take the points and following a 2-1 Main success at Purvis Park in the corresponding league game back in October, completed a league double over their hosts.
The win continued Percy Main's much improved league start to 2018, which has seen The Villagers win four, draw one and lose just once, while Jake Forster who once again put in a great shift for his side, netted a superb early headed goal, his 9th of the season to date, currently topping the club goalscoring charts.
The benefits of having a large squad again bore fruit as unavailability once more ruled out a few of The Main's key regulars, but it certainly wasn't apparent as those who turned out gave their all and it was a virtual impossible task to select a 'Man of the Match' with 5 or 6 contenders for that accolade, including goalkeeper Craig Byrne who pulled off a quite superb second half penalty save, right back Marcus McCreedy solid as ever, Adam Bambrough, making his first start for the club and Dan Hadfield, restored to the centre of midfield, who just about covered every blade of grass on the pitch.
Facing the worst of the wind and kicking up the slope, Newbiggin were first to show and The Main were indebted to a fine save from Byrne only 2 minutes in as the home side's Morton Bailey was fouled out wide on the edge of the area and Michael Butcher's goal bound free kick, was competently dealt with by the visiting goalkeeper who set his stall out and proved his worth early on.
That save was to prove vital as just 5 minutes later, Percy Main replied in devastating fashion as Joe Rowan's measured centre from the right flank was met perfectly by the head of Forster who out jumped the Newbiggin defence to power the ball home.
For the visitors, Jack Armstrong (who had a bit of trouble with his hair during the contest - that damn wind!) found himself thwarted by Kyle Barnard in the home goal and Rowan fired just past the post, while in between Newbiggin threatened as Kevin Haliday saw his cross cut out by Byrne and Ross Muter fired over. The Main always looked dangerous and gave themselves some breathing space on 38 minutes, doubling their lead, as a long throw from Armstrong on the left, found its way to Rowan whose looping header beat Barnard and went in off the post.
Either side of the interval Newbiggin endeavoured to half the deficit as Butcher flashed another free kick just wide and the home side's top scorer Bradley Higgins went close, but a goal for Newbiggin, on top at the beginning of the second period, duly arrived on 48 minutes as another Butcher free kick, this time from the left, deceived Byrne to put the home side right back in the game.
Newbiggin's Robert Oates found himself in the referee's notebook as he halted Rowan's run and from the free kick, The Main's Paul Collinson saw his effort kicked from the line, while the home goal continued to see most of the action as Barnard touched behind from Ben Senior and from the resultant corner, Collinson drew a diving save from the home custodian.
Percy Main's lead was a slender one and nerves were jangling as a quick Newbiggin break from defence, saw Byrne race out to clear from the feet of Higgins, but the visitors restored their 2 goal cushion on the hour as the busy Hadfield supplied Senior who executed a neat low finish into the bottom corner and beyond the dive of the stricken home goalkeeper.
For the visitors, Rowan tried his luck and Collinson had an effort tipped behind by Barnard, while Newbiggin tried to narrow the lead once more as Bailey Morton fired across the face of goal and Jordan Coleman's cross, caught by the wind, was just to high for the onrushing Kevin Haliday. On 76 minutes, Newbiggin were given the break they had sought, as Kieran Tubman was adjudged to have brought down Butcher in the box.
The referee took a long hard look at it and his assistant's flag stayed down, Butcher made a lot of noise and a penalty kick was duly awarded. Byrne had saved an early season penalty from Ponteland's Alex Benjamin and he repeated the feat once more with a brilliant diving save to deny Higgins well struck shot and the rebound was smuggled away by the grateful Main defence.
As the conditions started to take their toll, both sides tired during the latter stages of the game, Jakey got a bit of cramp and there was no further addition to the scoring.
However there was still time for 'Hatchet Man' Rob Watson on as an 87th minute substitute, to get himself booked less than 10 seconds after taking to the field, (is that a record?) following an incident with Butcher (probably just in case he took any more free kicks.....)
FC United of Newcastle away next week,....