Consett completed their home fixtures on a high on this day back in 2016, achieving a sixth consecutive win with a good 4-2 victory over Newton Aycliffe at Belle View Stadium.
The result saw the Steelmen, who were under the control of interim manager Mark Eccles, leapfrog their visitors to go sixth in the table – the highest they’d been all season.
They made two changes to the side which had beaten Bishop Auckland in midweek, with Nathan Steel and Josh Gray returning for Dan Hawkins and Jordan Nellis. The back four was a bit of a patched-up affair, with Matty Slocombe at right-back, Joe Grant on the left, and Jordan Lavery lining up alongside Stephen Little in the centre.
Thankfully, the visitors, who had lifted the Durham Challenge Cup for the first time the previous month, were without Consett old boy Mattie Moffat and his strike partner John Campbell.
Aycliffe had the first chance when centre-back Grant Hickman headed wide from a cross from the right, but the next half an hour saw Consett take control.
Luke Sullivan, in the mood for more goals after getting his 100th for the club in midweek, walloped a 30-yarder straight at Lewis Brass, then saw a shot come back off the keeper, but no-one able to react to the rebound.
A great corner from the right by Lavery saw Sullivan and Calvin Smith inches away from getting a touch to take it past the keeper, then Sullivan was just off target from Gray’s cross.
It was against the run of play that Stuart Banks – so often a thorn in Consett’s side during his West Auckland days – gave the visitors the lead on 35 minutes, with Alan Harrison and Jordan Laidler swapping passes before setting up the winger for a simple finish.
The Steelmen responded by going back on the attack. Smith hit a 30-yarder straight at Brass, then his pass put skipper Danny Craggs through, but he made a hash of his attempted lob. Five minutes before half-time Consett got the goal their dominance deserved, however, when Steel headed home from Sullivan’s right-wing cross.
A minute later he almost had a second when Brass pulled off a fine save from another header from Craggs’ cross, and he went close with two more headers before the break as the visitors’ defence struggled to cope with his aerial threat.
Half-time was reached with the score still 1-1, and Consett went straight back on the attack after the break. Craggs blazed one over after being played in by Gray, but there was a warning that Aycliffe still posed a threat on the break, as Laidler hit a shot on the turn which struck the bar.
The odd break aside, it was all Consett, and Brass had to save a Craggs header, while Sullivan and Lavery put efforts just wide. The pressure was bound to pay off, and in the 72nd minute it did when Craggs’ shot in a crowded penalty area fell to Steel six yards out, and he fired home, despite appeals for offside.
The lead lasted just four minutes, as Consett conceded a soft equaliser. Grant was adjudged to have fouled his man as he contested a header, and the resulting free-kick saw Dennis Knight fire into the top-left corner from out wide on the right – a goal which raised question marks over keeper Gareth Young’s positioning.
The goal was the signal for Consett to mount a grandstand finish, with Craggs missing a trio of chances. First his header from Gray’s cross was well saved by Brass, then the keeper was grateful to his post after the Consett skipper chased a through ball and went round him, but hit the upright. Craggs then curled a free-kick just wide as the Steelmen sought a winner.
On 84 minutes Consett got the goal their display deserved, as Sullivan cut in from the right and arrowed a shot across Brass and into the bottom corner. It was a strike worthy of winning any game, but the striker wasn’t satisfied.
A minute from time Sullivan grabbed a second just-as-good but very different goal, beating the keeper with a deft chip after being played in by Craggs, who’d had an outstanding second half.
Aycliffe were a good side, but when the final whistle went they knew they’d been well-beaten by a convincing Consett display.
Consett: 1 Gareth Young, 2 Matty Slocombe, 3 Joe Grant, 4 Stephen Little, 5 Jordan Lavery, 6 Lewis Gibbons, 7 Luke Sullivan, 8 Calvin Smith, 9 Nathan Steel, 10 Danny Craggs (captain), 11 Josh Gray (sub 12 Jake Stafford 90). Subs not used: 14 Chris Mordue, 15 Jordan Nellis, 16 Ryan Cummings GK Ben Cole.
Newton Aycliffe: 1 Lewis Brass, 2 Aaron Brown, 3 Dennis Knight, 4 Grant Hickman, 5 Daniel Mitton, 6 Neil Pattinson (captain), 7 Paul Garthwaite, 8 Alan Harrison, 9 Jordan Laidler, 10 Zak Boagey, 11 Stuart Banks. Subs not used: 12 Jack Oliver, 14 Brian Close, 15 Mark Stephenson, 16 Andrew Green.