SUNDERLAND PROGRESS TO FINAL
Sunderland saw off Seaham in the semi-final of the Durham Challenge Cup, where they will play Spennymoor Town in the final.
The visitors got off to a great start when Stan Agumugha tapped in from six yards out, after a scramble in the box, to give Sunderland the lead a minute in.
Seaham took control after they fell behind, going close to an equaliser when Dan Wilson’s header was saved by Anthony Patterson.
The hosts went close again a minute later, when Sean McRoberts effort was fumbled by Patterson, however the keeper did well to keep the ball out.
The home side drew level 33 minutes in, after a mix-up in the Sunderland defence from a corner allowed Liam Gillesphey to hit his shot low. It was spilled by Patterson before rolling over the line.
Sunderland took the lead just before half-time, when Cieran Dunne ran onto Will Harris’ through ball before slotting beyond Seaham keeper Chris Bannon.
The away side increased their advantage 54 minutes in, when Agumugha’s deflected effort fell into the path of Harris, leaving him to tap home.
Seaham pulled a goal back 10 minutes later, when Paul Gardiner struck the ball home, after a scramble in the Sunderland area.
Sunderland hit back with 20 minutes to go, when Harris laid the ball off to Dunne before he curled his effort into the top corner. The home side went close again in the 79th minute, when Gillesphey’s header was well saved by Patterson.
Sunderland held on for the win to progress to the final, where they will face Spennymoor Town in what should be an entertaining game.
For 45 minutes North Shields held their own against a team two divisions above them. But they faded in the second half, unable to repeat their first half endeavours.
In the first half both teams played open, attacking football, with chances at both ends.
The first came in the 3rd minute when Shields No. 9 Connor Campbell put a glancing header from a corner over the bar. In the 9th minute captain Adam Forster dispossessed a Morpeth midfielder, passed it wide left to Kyle Patton whose cross swept across the goal mouth, with no team mate able to get on the end of it.
Despite making the early running, it was Morpeth who took the lead. Forster cleared a corner close to the line only for the ball to be put back in by Jack Foalle with captain Jeff Henderson rising above the Shields defenders to head it in.
Two minutes later the Robins came close to levelling it up. Wayne Buchanan met a free kick with a looping header which almost caught Morpeth keeper Dan Lowson off his line, with the No. 1 forced to get back to tip it over the bar. In the 19th minute Lowson parried a Campbell shot against the post.
At the other end excellent defensive work by left back Chris McDonald prevented an almost certain goal. Morpeth No. 7 Joe Walton beat the offside trap, raced forward and was one-on-one with Shields keeper Greg Purvis but McDonald managed to tackle Walton just as he was about to shoot. In the 35th minute McDonald came to the rescue again – heading a Foalle cross off the line with Morpeth attackers bearing down on him.
Morpeth’s Ryan Hutchinson then had two back-to-back chances – the first blocked by Paul New and the second well saved by Purvis.
North Shields were rewarded for their play in the last move of the half. Campbell intercepted a crossfield pass by Morpeth, ran at goal before knocking it out to Callum Smith who hit it home to make it 1-1.
However, they fell behind in the third minute of the second half and never quite recovered. A three-man move ended with Walton thumping the ball into the Shields net.
For much of the rest of the half Shields were pushed back much more than they were in the first half, with Morpeth keeper Lowson kept more busy dealing with back passes than Robins attacks. Overall the game lacked the sparkle of the first half.
However, sub Gareth Bainbridge came within a whisker of equalising with eight minutes to go when he came close to connecting with a Paul Robinson cross as he slid in right in front of the Morpeth goal.
The visitors put the nail in the coffin in the 90th minute when Liam Noble drilled a free kick past the wall and between Purvis and the post to make it 1-3. Shields acquitted themselves well, but there can’t be too many complaints about the result.
The Football Association has issued an update on the restructure of Steps 5/6 for the 2020/21 season.
(The Northern League first division is at Step 5 and the second division at Step 6 in the National League System.)
Three teams will be promoted to Step 4 from the Northern League, North West Counties and the Northern Counties East Step 5 divisions where they will be joined automatically by the champions of the other 11 Step 5 divisions.
An additional four second placed clubs from these 11 division will, based on points per game basis, also receive automatic promotion while the seven remaining second placed clubs from these divisions will play a one-off fixture against the bottom placed clubs in the existing seven Step 4 divisions.
The bottom placed sides in the 14 existing Step 5 divisions will also be ranked on a points per game basis with the bottom 12 being relegated to the most geographically appropriate Step 6 division.
Clubs finishing in first, second, third and fourth places in the Step 6 divisions will be promoted to step 5 except in the case of the two South West Peninsula divisions where only the teams finishing in first and second place will be promoted.
Those clubs finishing in the bottom two places of the 20 Step 6 divisions will be liable to relegation.
Clubs wishing to be promoted from a Step 7 league must finish in first position, although clubs down to 5th position may be considered if the higher placed clubs don’t meet the appropriate entry criteria or do not wish to be promoted and for this season only more than one club may be considered from each league.
A maximum of 40 clubs will be promoted from Step 7 with reprieves, again on a points per game basis, if the number of eligible clubs does not reach that number.
The FA has carried out a mapping exercise (based on league tables at the end of December on a points per game basis). A further mapping exercise will be carried out in March to be considered by the Leagues Committee on April 1. No later than April 17 that update will be circulated to clubs and leagues, along with an indication of possible lateral movements for clubs between leagues.
These mapping exercises are to give the FA a draft indication of how leagues may look next season, but obviously no decisions will be made until the end of the season, once final league standings are confirmed.
On May 12 the committee will agree the draft allocation of clubs to step 5/6 leagues. On May 12 clubs will be informed of lateral movements and will have a week to express any views. The Step 5/6 allocations will be released on May 21.
The FA says its intention is to have 20 teams in Step 5 divisions. It is also their aim to have, where possible, 20 teams at Step 6, but some divisions may operate with 18 or 19 teams next season.
To reflect changes to the National League System the FA’s referees department has decided that with effect from the start of the 2020/21 season the refereeing structure will be brought in line, with Step 3 & 4 being Contributory Leagues and Steps 5 & 6 being Supply Leagues.
The five Step divisions that currently have Contributory League status, Northern League Division One and the Premier divisions of the Eastern Counties, North-West Counties, Eastern Counties and Western League are all reclassified as Supply leagues with the effect in the region being the Northern League will have the same level of referees for both divisions – a Step 5/6 referee.
A number of changes have been made to the second division schedule:
Wednesday 4th March 2020
Billingham Synthonia v Chester-le-Street (from 15/02)
Tuesday 24th March 2020
Birtley Town v Ryton & Crawcrook Albion (from 15/02)
Wednesday 25th March 2020
Willington v Carlisle City (from 12/02)
Saturday 28th March 2020
Bedlington Terriers v Chester-le-Street (from 11/03)
Tuesday 31st March 2020
Carlisle City v Crook Town (from 28/01)
Wednesday 1st April 2020
Esh Winning v Redcar Athletic (from 15/02)
Jarrow v Easington Colliery (from 14/02)
Willington v Bedlington Terriers (from 28/03)
Tuesday 7th April 2020
Tow Law Town v Carlisle City (from 15/02)
Wednesday 8th April 2020
Bedlington Terriers v Durham City (from 15/02)
Brandon United v Sunderland West End (from 15/02)
Crook Town v Birtley Town (from 11/04)
Saturday 11th April 2020
Bedlington Terriers v Birtley Town (from 29/01)
Wednesday 15th April 2020
Bedlington Terriers v Jarrow (from 11/04)
Willington v Newcastle University (from 15/02)
A number of fixtures have been re-arranged – most of the games affected by yesterday’s weather:
Top of the table clashes don’t always live up to their billing, but this encounter was every bit as good as it promised to be.
West Allotment Celtic have been the pace setters in the second division, while going into the match, Crook were on a run of 12 wins, two draws and a defeat in their previous 15 league games.
The game got off to a brisk start with Crook winger Christian Holliday having a shot well saved by Allotment keeper Finn Hodgson. That was soon followed by controversy with Allotment No. 9 claiming handball by a defender just as he was about to break clear, but referee Richard Rowe gave a free kick to the visitors – seeming to indicate a shirt pull by the attacker.
After the initial Crook effort, Allotment took the initiative but it was the visitors who grabbed the lead in the 13th minute. The referee played a good advantage for a foul, allowing Holliday to break down the left and cross the ball, with No. 10 Nathan Stephenson scuffing the ball home under the keeper.
The lead lasted a matter of seconds with an excellent solo run and goal by Allotment left winger Abu Salim who turned the Crook defence one way then the other before prodding the ball past keeper Ronan Makepeace.
The chances kept on coming.
Two minutes later Holliday sent over another dangerous cross, met first time by No. 9 Daniel Maddison, with Hodgson making a fingertip save. In the 20th minute his counterpart – Matty Hayton – put the hosts ahead. Shane Jones pushed the ball out to left back Luke Parkinson who delivered a perfect cross between defenders and keeper which Hayton buried.
The game then developed into a midfield tussle, with both teams trying to thread the ball between defenders to release their strikers, with the defenders able to intercept it. With the last attack of the half Crook were level. The ball fell to captain Tom Gavin who was in bags of space 25 yards from goal. His deflected shot left Hodgson rooted to the spot and all of a sudden it was 2-2.
In the second half it was Crook who seized the initiative, while Allotment couldn’t get their game back up and running. Allotment captain Jack Errington was forced into a crucial interception of a Holliday cross, a Gavin free kick bounced just wide of the post and then Crook No. 15 Daniel Kent was within inches of connecting with a Calum Johnston cross.
Within a three minute spell Crook wrested control of the game. A cross-cum-shot by Maddison floated over Hodgson and into the net off the right hand post. And then two crucial contributions by Crook substitute Joseph Smith sealed the win. In the 80th minute he managed to dispossess Hayton just as he was about to shoot and then a minute later his inch-perfect pass found fellow sub Kent who ran on and thumped the ball into the net to make it 2-4.
The win meant that Crook overtook Redcar Athletic into second place, but the title remains Allotment’s to lose.