CONSETT HAVE TO SETTLE FOR 4TH AS HOSTS HEBBURN CLAIM 2ND SPOT
A season which promised so much for Consett ended in disappointment when they were beaten in a game they had to win if they were to stand any hope of finishing as runners-up.
The pre-match equation was simple: Consett had to win at the Energy Check Stadium, and hope third-placed Bishop Auckland didn’t do likewise in their last game against champions Dunston UTS.
Manager Chris Moore named a starting XI unchanged from the one which had won 3-1 at Newcastle Benfield in the previous game two weeks earlier.
This meant skipper Danny Craggs, midfielder Matty Slocombe, striker Michael Mackay and defender Nick Green, who have all been mainstays of the team this season, had to be content with places on the subs’ bench.
Second-placed Hebburn, looking to extend a 12-match unbeaten run, included former Steelman Luke Sullivan in their line-up, while veteran striker Paul Chow, who is hanging up his boots after 21 seasons in the Northern League, was along their subs.
It was Sullivan who had the first chance of the game after five minutes, when he latched onto strike partner Graeme Armstrong’s flick, and his effort was heading for the top corner until it was pawed away at full stretch by Kyle Hayes.
The next action of the game also involved the same two players, but this time Sullivan came out on top. Nick Allen was judged to have pushed over Lewis Suddick, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Sullivan confidently stroked home the penalty for his 18th goal of the season.
The next 20 minutes or so saw the two sides largely cancel each other out, and it was the 35th minute before Consett had a sight of goal, but Ryan McKinnon’s header from Aksel Juul’s free-kick was a simple catch for Andrew Jennison in the home goal.
In the 41st minute the Steelmen carved out their best chance of the half as Calvin Smith spread the ball out wide to Darren Holden on the left, and the full-back’s low cross picked out Luke Carr’s run into the box, but the No. 10 couldn’t find the target.
It remained 1-0 to Hebburn at half-time, and Consett were forced into a change at half-time, when Ross Wilkinson, who had suffered a hand injury in the opening minutes, had to go to hospital with what turned out to be one broken finger and another dislocated one. Nick Green came at right-back, with Arjun Purewal switching into central defence.
The second 45 minutes saw a much more open game as Consett sought a way back into the game. Just a minute in, top scorer Michael Sweet had a double chance to get them back on terms, with his initial shot blocked by left-back Gary Shaw, and the follow-up deflected into the side netting by the keeper.
But the visitors’ task became doubly difficult in the 52nd minute when Hebburn doubled their advantage. A simple ball saw former Gateshead striker Graeme Armstrong clean through, and he made no mistake, firing into the corner to make it 2-0 and take his goal tally for the season to 20.
Consett made a double substitution in a bid to get back into the game, with Craggs and Matty Cornish replacing Dan Hawkins and Nick Allen. The skipper was immediately involved, and almost sneaked a goal back through a hard, low near-post corner which made sure Jennison was paying attention.
Hebburn midfielder Jack Robson was booked in the 64th minute for hauling back Smith as he advanced, but Craggs’ resulting free-kick was wide of the mark.
The skipper was involved again on 70 minutes when Smith’s pass found him, and he tested the keeper at his near post with a well-struck left-footed effort while at the other end Consett were grateful to Hayes, who made a good save from Armstrong with his feet.
Robson fired wide after cutting in from the right as Hebburn looked for a third goal to kill any hopes of a Consett comeback, and then came the moment in the 77th minute when you just knew it wasn’t going to be Consett’s day.
Smith hit an absolute thunderbolt of a shot from 25 yards which came back off the foot of the post with the keeper beaten. The rebound fell to Craggs, and although Jennison fumbled his shot, sub Matthew Tumilty spared his blushes by hooking clear before Sweet could benefit from the loose ball.
Then came the moment the crowd were waiting for, as, after more than 800 games in the colours of Whitley Bay, Jarrow Roofing and Hebburn, Paul Chow came on to make his final Northern League appearance.
The 38-year-old’s12-minute cameo saw him contest each challenge just as keenly as he has during a career which has made him a true Northern League legend, but he didn’t get a chance to add to his 500+ goals.
Robbie Spence did almost get a third goal for Hebburn, but Hayes again produced the goods on a day when he was against Consett’s top performer.
When the final whistle went, this result, together with a 3-0 home defeat for Bishops at the hands of Dunston, meant Hebburn finished 2nd, Bishops were 3rd and Consett had to settle for 4th, which they achieved by a whisker after finishing on the same points and goal difference as Sunderland RCA, but scoring more goals.
It was the Steelmen’s best placing since 2010-11, when they were runners-up behind Spennymoor Town. Let’s hope the lessons of a tough second half of the season have been learned to prepare for a real tilt at the title next season.
|Northern League Division One