Depleted Consett’s slim title hopes were all but extinguished as they suffered a home defeat to relegation-threatened Northallerton.
It was a case of ruing missed chances in the first half, as the Steelmen could easily have gone in at the break three or four goals up, but a much more even second half saw the visitors snatch the points courtesy of a late long-range strike from Dale Hopson.
As has often been the case recently, manager Andy Coyles was forced into fielding a much-changed side through injury, particularly in defence.
After letting Matt Ridley leave for Guisborough, injuries to Arj Purewal, Ross Wilkinson, Dan Capewell and James Metcalfe saw an unfamiliar centre-half pairing of James Martin and Alex Francis. However, there was better news up front, with Scott Heslop able to return. Northallerton included former Steelman Shaun Ryder and came into the game as one of the form sides in the league.
The game started in sunny conditions (punctuated by the odd hail shower) and it was the visitors who took the early initiative, almost scoring twice in the first few minutes. After four minutes a defensive error allowed Alex Bruton in on goal, and while he beat keeper Kyle Hayes, Martin was able to get back and make a goal line clearance. Then on seven minutes Nathan Stephenson went one-on-one with the keeper, but Hayes came out on top.
The home side responded in positive fashion and were inches away from taking the lead on nine minutes as skipper Luke Carr just failed to reach Darren Holden’s excellent cross for what would have been a tap-in.
On 18 minutes there was a good chance for the returning Heslop as he latched onto a through ball from Colin Larkin, but his attempted lob of the advancing Aleks Petrovic wasn’t quite hard enough and the keeper was able to save.
Consett were well on top at this stage, launching attack after attack, but they somehow failed to score in a remarkable 15-minute period. Carr was the first to be denied on 20 minutes as he saw a goalbound effort cleared off the line, then on 25 minutes Larkin had a great chance with a header from a few yards out after another superb cross from Holden, but Petrovic made a magnificent save with his foot.
The Irish striker was denied again in the 29th minute after he received an excellent pass from Carr and looked to have done the hard work in beating two defenders, pictured below, only to see his shot smash against the crossbar.
The pressure continued and there was a half-hearted penalty appeal as persistent work from Carr saw him rob Ryder of possession and home in on goal, but the former Consett player managed to get back to put in a last-ditch challenge that bundled Carr to the ground in the process.
The final chance for Consett to take the lead came 10 minutes from the break as the instrumental Carr turned his marker on the edge of the penalty area, only to see his following shot cannon back off the base of the post.
There was a scare on 38 minutes as, against the run of play, Northallerton broke and veteran striker Michael Rae brought a flying save out of Hayes from a tight angle.
Although Consett continued to surge forward there was no further goalmouth action, and the teams headed into the break level, although Consett will have wondered how they weren’t ahead.
Half-time: Consett 0 Northallerton Town 0
As the second period started it was clear that Northallerton were happy to sit with as many men behind the ball as possible and try to catch the home side on the break and it worked as Consett struggled to create anything resembling any of their many first-half chances.
Indeed, the first chance of the half arrived on 57 minutes and it was the visitors who almost scored as Rae beat Hayes to a deep cross and the resulting header skimmed the top of the bar. Three minutes later, Rae went close again as an effort from just inside the area was inches wide, and on 63 minutes the lively Jack Stapley forced a smart save out of Hayes with his feet at his near post.
Despite the glut of chances for Northallerton, it was still the home side who were enjoying the bulk of possession, but making no headway at all against the packed visiting defence. In an attempt to shake things up the manager made a double change, with Carl Lawson and David Dowson replacing Heslop and Larkin, but in truth it made little difference.
It wasn’t until the 80th minute that there was another serious effort, and it was again Carr who hit a firm shot from the edge of the area but it was narrowly off target.
The only goal of the game arrived on 82 minutes as a long ball fell to Dale Hopson 25 yards out, and his effort, possibly with the aid of a slight deflection, seemed to deceive Hayes and nestle in the roof of the net. Northallerton almost doubled their lead five minutes from time when substitute Luke Jones was inches wide with a cheeky backheel flick.
Consett huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser but it never looked like coming, and apart form a decent effort by Carr from the edge of the area which Petrovic saved comfortably, Northallerton saw the game out reasonably easily.
It was very much a game of two halves, the first with some lovely football played by Consett and a failure to take chances, and the second a struggle to create much at all.
This defeat, coupled with North Shields’ 1-0 win at Redcar Athletic, means the North Tyneside outfit only need a point from their remaining five games to secure the Northern League title, while Consett need to regroup and focus their attention on the League Cup and the probability of an end of season promotion/relegation play off.
MATCH REPORT: ANDY BALL
PICTURES: ANDREW THOMPSON
|Northern League Division One