It was a very Good Friday indeed for Consett as they lifted the Durham Challenge Cup on this day in 2007 for the first time in 38 years with a 3-2 win over Chester-le-Street Town.
Despite the inconvenience of the venue – the Nissan Sports & Social Club, off the A19 at Washington – and the kick off time (10.45am) on a Bank Holiday, a good-sized crowd were in attendance. Club sponsors Hargreaves put on two coaches to take supporters to the final, with free travel for under-16s, which meant a sizeable Consett contingent in the crowd to cheer on the Steelmen.
Of the 20 players that make up Consett’s current first-team squad, Steven Istead, Ian Robson and Steven Johnson were all cup-tied. So when Michael Brown pulled out due to work commitments the 16 named by manager Kenny Lindoe effectively picked themselves. Chester’s side included Andrew Cuthbertson, who would later join his former Brandon boss Lindoe at Belle Vue Park.
Consett kicked off attacking the Social Club end, resplendent in their new all-red kit with white trim, produced specially for the final. The game had barely settled into any kind of pattern when Consett found themselves a goal down, to an unfortunate own goal. Carl Piecha overhit a backpass to keeper Craig Turns who, despite his valiant attempts to control it, couldn’t prevent the ball trickling agonisingly over the line to hand Chester the lead before they’d even mounted an attack.
Thankfully the lead lasted only 13 minutes as Consett were grateful to a piece of quick thinking by Kraig Wilkinson. Consett were awarded a free-kick some 25 yards out for a foul on Gary Ormston. With the Chester keeper at one side of his goal trying organise the wall, Wilkinson took the free-kick quickly, curling it left-footed into the far corner to level the scores.
Chester almost regained the lead within a minute when a long throw was headed clear only as far as Anthony March, who headed it back towards goal, but Turns was on hand to make the save.
Nerves were still very much in evidence, with the play generally scrappy and genuine chances rare. David Pounder caused a scare on the half-our mark when he ran on to a loose ball and slipped it past Cestrians’ keeper Aitken, but Rob Houghton got back to clear the ball off the line.
Consett were starting to get on top now, and in the 37th minute Neil Wilkinson headed John Ewart’s right-wing corner just wide. Wilkinson’s defensive partner Piecha went even closer on the stroke of half time, seeing his towering header from another Ewart corner tipped over the bar by Aitken.
Half-time was reached with the scores level and very little between the teams, but with the Steelmen having fashioned the better chances. The second half was far more one-sided, with Consett always looking the more dangerous. The two Wilkinsons combined 11 minutes into the second half, when Neil’s long throw was flicked on to Kraig, but he flashed his shot well wide.
The Steelmen were unable to turn possession into goals, and almost paid the price 20 minutes from time when Chester mounted a swift counter-attack which culminated in March’s cross-cum-shot clipping the far post and running away to safety, to the relief of all present from Derwentside.
Consett finally made the breakthrough and scored the crucial second in the 73rd minute. Kraig Wilkinson went on a run into the Chester penalty area and cut inside Houghton, who brought him down with a clear trip.
The opposition were understandably annoyed with the decision, but there seemed little doubt to neutrals that it was a foul. David Pounder stepped up to send Aitken the wrong way with the penalty and Consett were 2-1 up.
Four minutes later Mark Patterson came close to extending the Steelmen’s lead, but Aitken pushed his drilled shot from outside the area round the post.
The Chester keeper could do nothing about Consett’s third five minutes from time though. Pounder dispossessed Colin Wake inside his own area and reacted superbly to send a crashing volley flying past Aitken. There was a moment of confusion as the ball somehow flew straight through the net, leading many in the main stand to think the shot had actually gone wide. There was a delay of several seconds before the celebrations could begin.
The Cestrians, to their credit, refused to throw in the towel and came back at Consett. With 90 minutes up Jonny Wightman went on a jinking run into the area, but was denied by a saving tackle from David Johnson. From the resulting corner though Armstrong powered a header towards goal and Gary Shields turned it home from close range. The ball only crossed the line by inches before being cleared, but the assistant referee was well placed to award the goal.
Chester had left their fightback too late though, and the final whistle was blown soon afterwards to signal Consett’s first Cup success since their Sunderland Shipowners Cup triumph in 1998, and their first county cup since 1969. Skipper David Johnson went up to collect the trophy to the delight of the traveling hordes from Consett.
A delighted Kenny Lindoe, winning a Durham Challenge Cup Final at the third attempt, said afterwards: “I thought Chester out-battled us in the first half, whether we were nervous or not I don’t know. But in the second half there was only one team in it, and it was a definite penalty!”
Chester-le-Street: 1 Ian Aitken, 2 Chris Hunter, 3 Colin Wake, 4 Rob Draper (sub David Fairless 82), 5 Andy Armstrong, 6 Rob Houghton, 7 Jonathan Wightman, 8 Andy Cuthbertson (sub Mark Anderson 67), 9 Gary Shields, 10 Anthony March, 11 Sam MacIntosh (sub Michael Cook 87)
Consett: 1 Craig Turns, 2 Gary Ormston, 3 David Johnson, 4 Jonjo Dickman, 5 Carl Piecha, 6 Neil Wilkinson, 7 Mark Patterson, 8 Steven Brown (sub Craig Robson 74), 9 Kraig Wilkinson, 10 David Pounder, 11 John Ewart.
- Many thanks to John Paul Hardy for the pictures used with this article, many of which are previously unpublished.