Consett’s away game at North Shields, billed by many as a Northern League title decider, ended in a goalless stalemate at the Daren Persson Stadium as the top two locked horns in front of a bumper crowd.
With the visitors 9 points clear of their hosts before kick-off, but the Robins having four games in hand, it was a game which could have had a big bearing on the destination of the championship.
A Consett win would mean matters were back in their own hands, while a North Shields victory would have handed them a big advantage.
It was a game neither side wanted to lose, but nobody did enough to win it either, and the outcome was a 0-0 draw in front of a tense 569 crowd.
Consett manager Andy Coyles made two changes to the side which had won 2-1 at Bishop Auckland at the weekend, with Ross Wilkinson coming in for Arjun Purewal at centre-back and Carl Lawson up front instead of Colin Larkin. In the absence of both the skipper and vice-captain Luke Carr, the captain’s armband went to Matty Slocombe, who was one of seven survivors from the cup game between the sides three weeks earlier.
North Shields’ side showed six changes from that night, and included two former Steelmen in defender Jack Walker and veteran midfielder Gary Ormston, plus a third, Dan Halliday, on the bench.
The early exchanges were tense as the two sides went toe to toe, but the battle was largely waged in midfield, with goalscoring opportunities almost non-existent. The first real attempt on goal didn’t arrive until the 30th minute, when Shields centre-back Jack Walker’s header was gathered easily by Consett keeper Kyle Hayes.
At the other end, Calvin Smith, who’d scored a spectacular long-range goal in the cup game, had an effort easily saved by Oliver Marshall, while Scott Heslop headed a half chance wide, as the two teams largely cancelled each other out.
The main talking point of the first half was the referee’s decision not to send off Shields midfielder Cam Cunningham a few minutes before the break for what appeared to be a stamp on Matty Slocombe, showing just a yellow card instead.
Half-time: North Shields 0 Consett 0
The start of the second half reverted to the same pattern as the first, with both sides content to keep possession, and not allow their opponents the chance to score a crucial goal.
The game briefly burst into life around the hour mark, when Calvin Smith was well-placed to clear David Robinson’s header from Chris McDonald’s cross off the line, and Cunningham fired the loose ball just over the bar.
At the other end Darren Holden’s excellent cross from the left created Consett’s best chance of the game, but Heslop’s weak header was straight at the keeper.
Shields made a big penalty appeal as top scorer Dan Wilson went to ground, but the decision was a free-kick the other way.
On 75 minutes Consett brought on David Dowson, who had just re-signed after leaving West Auckland, and within a minute he had been booked for what Shields claimed was an elbow on Walker.
Even five minutes of added time at the end of the game wasn’t enough for either side to find a goal, but everyone in the bumper crowd seemed to agree that a draw was probably a fair result.
MATCH REPORT & PICTURES: GARY WELFORD
|Northern League Division One