Blair keeps Colliers at Bay
A series of fine saves from keeper Liam Blair and a determined all round performance by United almost secured victory but they were denied five minutes from time when substitute Michael Hogg for the Colliers took advantage of a defensive misjudgement to share the spoils.
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Unfortunate teenage keeper Michael Bertram looks like being sidelined for the remainder of the season following a thigh injury sustained mid week in a college game. Bertram has been out of action for most of the season and was just returning to top form before this latest set back. Bertram's injury resulted in a quick recall for regular custodian Liam Blair who himself had been out with a metatarsal injury. With another teenager Jack Bell selected for the County Squad club captain Chris Flynn returned to the starting eleven.
Flynn was quickly into action turning in an excellent cross after good work on the ball by Anderson but the ball was cleared away for a corner which came to nothing. Ponteland were guilty of giving the ball away far too cheaply and after one misdirected pass Anthony Watson found himself in the clear down the right but his shot across goal was pushed away to safety by Blair. It was quite end to end in the early stages as both sides tried to come to terms with the blustery conditions and bobbly pitch. The best chance came to Ashington's Ian Nichalls on 20 minutes when he headed over a corner from Jason Ritchie. The Colliers then had another opportunity when a loose pass from Stephenson resulted in Jamie Patterson running with the ball towards goal but his lob lacked sufficient height to trouble Blair. At the other end the nippy Holden nipped in to pinch the ball away from Nickalls but the experienced centre back brought him down some 30 yards from goal and was duly cautioned. The freekick was powerfully struck by Robinson but into the chest of keeper Towart who collected cleanly. Anderson limped off following s strong tackle as half time approached but United saw out the half with ten men to give Anderson a little more time to recover which he duly did.
At the start of the second half three quick fire passes by the Colliers high in the Ponteland half ended with Brown through on goal but he was thwarted, not for the first time, by the keepers outstretched legs. A nice move involving Wood, Robinson and Stephenson finished with the latter having a shot on goal but this was deflected for a corner but again nothing came from it. On 57 minutes United did take the lead. A long ball by Wood found Anderson in the clear down the left. He went down the wing before cutting inside and then released Holden who took his time to fire across keeper Towart into the far corner. United then nearly gifted the home team an equaliser when a misunderstanding between Rankin and McAlindon ended with Rankin's clearance hitting an opponent and fortuitously for the embarrassed defenders the ball ricochet back over the bar.
As the half progressed Ponteland looked more comfortable but with twenty minutes remaining they had to thank Blair once again for yet another one on one save this time saving at the feet of substitute Michael Hogg. It looked as though lady luck was with the visitors when with ten minutes remaining Colliers' substitute Liam Davidson was dismissed for foul and abusive language. Nevertheless Ashington plugged away and were rewarded for their endeavour with five minutes left when a misjudged header from experienced defender McAlindon fell at the feet of Michael Hogg and this time he made no mistake to level the scores.
Pont will look at the game as two points lost which would have lifted them out of the relegation zone whereas Ashington, if they had taken their chances, should have taken the points. In the end a draw was perhaps a fair result.
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