A disastrous home defeat, coupled with midweek wins for Dunston, Benfield and Spennymoor, dealt a fatal blow to Consett’s hopes of a first-ever Northern League championship on this day back in 2009.
For while the stuttering Steelmen remained top of the table, it meant their lead was cut to five points, with the chasing pack all having plenty of games in hand.
To be honest, Consett never looked like winning against one of the 1st Division’s awayday specialists, for whom this was a ninth league win of the season on the road. Ironically, only Consett have more, with 10.
Kenny Lindoe made one change to the side which had recorded a fourth 1-0 win on the trot against Chester-le-Street in their previous game, with fit-again Adam Emson returning up front in place of the injured Steven Johnson. But he went for a different formation from the off, starting with a back four, five in midfield and Emson as the lone frontrunner.
Consett had one former Nissan player, Chris Scott, in midfield, and another, Ian Davison, on the bench, but there was no sign of their third, ex-Newcastle striker Paul Robinson. The visitors included ex-Consett forward Andy Appleby among their subs, but there was no place for Carl Heiniger, who moved to Sunderland in the deal which had brought Robbo to Belle Vue Park. There were two future Steelmen in the Nissan ranks, centre-back Paul Collins and left-back Anthony Lund.
It was a lovely night for football, but there was little played in a scrappy opening, as both sides struggled for fluency on a bumpy pitch which had dried out rapidly in the last couple of weeks.
Scott put a header straight at Billy Hanson in the Nissan goal while David Pounder hit a half-volley well over, and Carl Piecha put in a good challenge at the other end as Anthony Chapman and Joshue Gillies threatened to carve a way through the home defence.
Michael Coulthard hacked clear a first-time shot from Gillies after the back-four failed to deal with a long punt forward, and Hanson then presented Consett with a half-chance, clearing a back-pass straight to Scott, but, with the keeper off his line, he couldn’t get his long-range effort on target.
A strong spell of pressure midway through the half earned Nissan five corners in succession, and from one of them Jack Norton had to be alert to turn Paul Collins’ header round his near post.
On the half-hour Consett had their best chance to break the deadlock when Andrew Cuthbertson picked up a loose ball and fed it to Scott, whose 20-yard drive was tipped onto the bar and over by Hanson.
Pounder, who seemed to have a roving role, came within inches of opening the scoring just before the break. Consett were awarded a free-kick just inside their own half after an aerial challenge by Rowe on Scorer, for which he was fortunate not to be booked. Mark Gaffney’s ball into the Nissan box was knocked down by Emson, and Pounder’s dipping snapshot dipped inches past the left-hand post.
Seven minutes into the second half Gary Ormston should perhaps have done better when he placed his header from eight yards out from Gaffney’s cross too close to the keeper, and at a comfortable height for him to parry away.
Having defended well, Nissan began to come more into the game as an attacking force, and almost made Consett pay when they had the ball in the net on 57 minutes, but the whistle had already gone for offside.
Emson was largely fighting a lone battle up front, with little support from his midfield, and the warning signs were there when Nissan right-back Kallum Griffiths saw a dipping shot from 25 yards just clear the crossbar.
The visitors made a double substitution on 64 minutes, with Appleby and Andrew Stephenson coming on for Gillies and Anthony Lund, and within five minutes the Consett old boy had a chance when his former club’s defence failed to clear a free-kick, but couldn’t keep his shot down.
Consett brought on Richard Logan for the tiring Emson on 71 minutes, but a minute later the visitors were ahead. Anthony Chapman picked up the ball on the right and ran at Coulthard. The defender backed off into the box, giving the winger the chance to hit a bobbling strike past Norton into the bottom left corner.
Lindoe responded by bringing on Jonjo Dickman for Craig Robson, and reverting to three at the back, with Piecha going into midfield, and pushing on with Ormston.
Dickman had a scissor-kick which he couldn’t keep down, then Piecha had a shot charged down and Cuthbertson fired the rebound narrowly wide as Consett pressed for an equaliser.
But when a goal came it was at the other end, and it was down to a catastrophic mistake by young centre-half Scorer, who has impressed greatly in his recent run in the side. He was last man when a moment’s inattention a minute from the end saw him allow a ball to run under his foot on the edge of the centre circle, and he could only watch in horror as Nissan’s burly striker Neil Tarrant lifted his finish over the onrushing keeper.
That was effectively game over for Consett, though Logan still had time to squander a couple of opportunities to reduce the arrears, and the night eneded on a frustrating note when Pounder and Nissan midfield spoiler Rowe were booked for an off-the-ball squabble.
With an inactive weekend due to Whitley Bay’s FA Vase involvement, Consett faced seeing their lead at the top whittled away even further by the time they next take to the field against Seaham Red Star in seven days’ time.
Consett: 1 Jack Norton, 2 Mark Gaffney, 3 Michael Coulthard, 4 Carl Piecha, 5 David Scorer, 6 David Pounder, 7 Chris Scott, 8 Andrew Cuthbertson, 9 Adam Emson (sub Richard Logan 71), 10 Craig Robson (sub Jonjo Dickman 75), 11 Gary Ormston. Subs not used: Paul Curry, Ian Davison.
Nissan: 1 Billy Hanson, 2 Kallum Griffiths, 3 Anthony Lund (sub Andrew Stephenson 64), 4 Brian Rowe, 5 Richard Flynn, 6 Paul Collins, 7 Anthony Chapman, 8 Brian Fairhurst, 9 Neil Tarrant, 10 Richard Hodgson, 11 Joshua Gillies (sub Andy Appleby 64). Subs not used: Paul Stephenson, Andrew O’Shea, Lee Owens
As we know, Consett went on to finish second, with Newcastle Benfield snatching the title from their grasp with a goal seven minutes from the end of their final game, after we had already completed our fixtures.
This was to prove our last-ever meeting with Sunderland Nissan, who finished 5th in the league, but folded in the summer after the carmaker pulled the financial plug on the club.