Consett picked up their first point of the season in a 0-0 draw with North Shields – but were the width of the woodwork away from making it all three.
Encouraged by Saturday’s battling performance at Cleethorpes Town, the Steelmen hosted last season’s Northern League champions at Belle View Stadium in their first home Northern Premier League game.
A healthy midweek crowd of 429 was treated to a good, hard-fought contest between two well-matched sides – and all that was missing was a goal.
With manager Andy Coyles away, his assistant Richie Hill took charge, and named a team showing one change from Saturday’s last-gasp defeat at Cleethorpes, with Jake Orrell returning in midfield for Lee Hume.
The changes which have taken place at both clubs over the summer to prepare for life in a higher diivision were evident, as only five of Consett’s starting XI and four of the visitors’ were among the 22 who took to the pitch when the sides drew 0-0 at North Shields back in March.
The game got off to a lively start, with the sides trading half-chances. Karl Byrne fired over the bar for Consett inside the first minute after cutting in from the flank, while Paul Van-Zandvliet had an effort deflected wide at the other end.
Shields’ David Palmer tried his luck from distance, but was well wide, and then home No 9 Zak Atkinson was put clean through by Cyril Giraud’s pass, but was flagged offside as he bore down on goal.
On 16 minutes David Robinson had the ball in the net for the visitors, but the ‘goal’ was correctly ruled out for offside. Play switched to the other end, where Jake Orrell sent a dipping effort just wide from 25 yards.
On 28 minutes Shields were grateful to keeper Finlay Hodgson for keeping the scoresheet blank as he stood up well to Giraud’s fiercely-struck drive, then got up to grab the loose ball before any Consett player could capitalise.
Seven minutes later Hodgson made an even better save from Orrell, tipping his effort onto the post after the midfielder created space for a shot with a tremendous piece of skill.
Matty Slocombe picked up the first yellow card of the game in the 38th minute for a foul on Dan Wilson, who was kept well in check by the home defence all night. The Consett skipper would be no means the last player asked for his name as the game began to heat up.
Half-time: Consett 0 North Shields 0
The early stages of the second half followed the same pattern, with few clear-cut chances created. Consett thought they should have had a free-kick on the edge of the box when Shields skipper Anthoyn Myers flattened Kieren Aplin, but nothing was given.
Then there were half-hearted appeals for a penalty from home supporters behind the goal when the ball appeared to strike a defender’s arm as he blocked a cross into the box, but again play was waved on.
The game threatened to boil over in the 57th minute after a late challenge by Darren Holden on Palmer. The left-back was rightly booked, and Atkinson and Van-Zandvliet were perhaps lucky not to join him after exchanging heated views about the incident.
Robinson, who’d had the ball in the net in the first half, looked Shields’ best bet for a goal, putting one header well over the bar and another straight at Ross Coombe, who didn’t have a serious save to make all night.
Consett had a big shout for a penalty on 72 minutes when a surging run from Slocombe was brought to an abrupt halt by Anth Myers.
The referee decided the offence, pictured top, was right on the edge of the box, and awarded a free-kick, which was fired against the foot of the post by Orrell, with the rebound evading the following-in Zak Atkinson.
Dan Marriott had a late chance to be Consett’s hero a minute, but his curling shot from 20 yards a minute after coming on as sub flashed just over the bar.
The match ended honours even, but the Steelmen are off the mark, and can take lots of positives from their performance – easily their best of the season so far.
MATCH REPORT: GARY WELFORD
PICTURES: KENNY TAYLOR
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