League leaders Consett were beaten at home by newly-promoted opposition for the second time in four days, losing 2-1 at Belle View to Crook Town.
The stuttering Steelmen again went behind, got themselves back in it, only to concede again, just as they had against Redcar Athletic at the weekend.
They remain nine points clear of second-placed Thornaby, who have played the same number of games, but third-placed North Shields, who have a point less than the Teessiders, now have five games in hand on the two teams above them.
Manager Andy Coyles made four changes to the starting XI, with Nick Cassidy coming in at right-back, which allowed captain-for-the-night Matty Slocombe to push into midfield, and James Metcalfe at left-back. Darren Holden and Scott Heslop also returned, with Luke Carr unavailable and Dale Pearson missing through injury. James Martin and Calvin Smith, who’d both started on Saturday, were among the subs.
Crook started the evening in 15th place – the same position as Redcar before the weekend’s game, and like their fellow Division One newcomers, showed no signs of nerves at visiting the league leaders.
After scrappy opening exchanges, the first chance of the game fell to Scott Heslop in the 18th minute after he latched onto Colin Larkin’s pass, but he couldn’t get enough on his shot to trouble visiting keeper Ronan Makepeace.
Consett had their goalkeeper Kyle Hayes to thanks for a top drawer save in the 22nd minute, as he pushed a fiercely-struck 25-yarder from Joey Smith over the bar.
A minute later Larkin broke clean through on goal for Consett, but uncharacteristically fired high and wide from the edge of the box.
Hayes was grateful to his woodwork for preserving his clean sheet in the 26th minute, as a free-kick from Crook skipper Lee Hume, awarded for a Cassidy foul on Daniel Myers, rattled the crossbar.
The game was beginning to open up, and Heslop hit the side netting from 20 yards, before Cassidy’s deep cross from the right found centre-back Dan Capewell, who has stayed up after a corner, but his scuffed shot was deflected for a corner.
Crook took the lead in the 40th minute when a through ball sent Craig Moody running at the home defence, and he blasted the ball past Hayes from 12 yards to make it 1-0.
Half-time: Consett 0 Crook Town 1
It stayed that way at half-time, but it only took seven minutes of the second half for Consett to level, as midfielder Alex Francis, scored his first goal for the club with a deft header from Darren Holden’s corner, pictured below.
The goal gave Consett a lift, and they began to dominate, but they seemed to lose their momentum after two big decisions went against them.
First, on 55 minutes, Heslop was flattened by Crook centre-back Oscar Eckley-Aldsworth just outside the box as he ran through on goal, but the card was yellow rather than the red the Consett players were demanding, and the resulting free-kick came to nothing.
Then in the 70th minute they had a huge shout for a penalty when a shot by Holden appeared to strike a defender’s arm, but the referee waved away their appeals.
But in the 76th minute the Steelmen had the wind knocked out of their sails when Crook scored again, with Mason Hurworth running through unchallenged before firing left-footed past Hayes to make it 2-1.
Consett ran out of ideas long before the end, and only time – and North Shields catching up with some of their games in hand – will tell how damaging to their title aspirations this defeat might be.
MATCH REPORT & PICTURES: GARY WELFORD
|08/03/2022||7:30 pm||Northern League Division One||2021-22|