07 May 2018 – A LIFE OF PIE

The blog has a triple bill of reports from yesterday’s games.

It was crunch time in the second division yesterday, a day that saw promotion joy for two teams and despair for a third. Going into the games, Hebburn, Whickham and Northallerton all faced tense 90 minutes of football to decide their fate.

We have contributions for the games involving the two successful teams. Commiserations to Northallerton on just missing out.

While the Life of Pie was at Bedlington Terriers to see Blyth celebrate their second division championship success.

First up, Mark Carruthers reports from Hebburn’s home tie against Chester-le-Street:

Hebburn Town 2 Chester-le-Street 0 – Ebac Northern League Division Two

There’s something intriguing about the last day of a season. The tension, the nerves, the excitement, the thought that everything that players have worked towards over the past ten months will be decided by full-time.

For Hebburn Town, the game marked a line in the sand, a start point, another step away from the worries of just over a year ago. The Hornets secured promotion into the Northern League’s top-tier with a 2-0 win over Chester-le-Street Town. They had a job to do and they did it with the level of professionalism that has become their hallmark over the past few months.

They could have been distracted by events involving promotion rivals Whickham and Northallerton Town.

They weren’t.

They could have been complacent against a Chester-le-Street Town side that have the Ernest Armstrong Cup Final ahead of them.

They weren’t.

They could have been thinking of the post-match celebrations, rather than focussing on the task at hand.

They didn’t.

A first-half goal from Mechack Kanda and a standard Paul Chow strike after half-time gave them the three points they needed to secure promotion.

Chow could have claimed Kanda’s goal after trying to touch his downward header beyond Cestrians keeper Jack Lawson. He even joked after the game that he would have claimed it if he had a sniff of claiming the Division’s top scorer.

Instead he had to settle for 22 goals for the season, a total that leaves him in joint fourth place, four goals behind Billingham Town’s Ash Lavan.

There will be tougher times ahead for Hebburn as they take the place in Division One but there is a sense of excitement and anticipation around the place today.

They’ll be joined by Blyth AFC and Whickham in Division One and all three will bring very different challenges. The Braves will be expected to bring in eye-catching signings and Whickham will rely on a remarkable team spirit and a group of hardworking, disciplined young players.

Hebburn was may lie somewhere in the middle of that scale. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of signings catch the attention of those that follow the league.

But by no means should we ignore what they have in their squad at the moment. They have quality, they have ability and Scott Oliver has them organised into a solid unit.

On and off-field plans are in progress and there is a buzz around the place. Division One football will only fuel that burning desire for progress. These are exciting times for Hebburn Town.
Next up, Andrew Gibson was at the Glebe Sports Ground for Whickham’s game against Heaton Stannington:

Whickham 2 Heaton Stannington 0 – Ebac Northern League Division Two

Arriving at The Glebe and there was more of a sense of hope than anticipation from fans. Whickham needed either Northallerton or Hebburn to slip up on the final day of the season to be in with a chance of a top three finish.

It took only two minutes for the home side to build a first attack, resulting in a free kick hit wide, then strong appeals for handball in the box and a penalty, waved away by referee Daniel Jackson.

As the half progressed both teams were off target with long-range shots. On 12 minutes the home following thought they were up when a shot by Andrew Bulford hit the side netting. Whickham were looking the stronger of the two teams when news started to filter through Northallerton were a goal down to Thornaby. It was suddenly in their hands. Just before the half hour, Whickham made their pressure count and took the lead through Steve Aiston, pouncing on a loose ball and sliding it past stranded keeper Matthew Smith.

Heaton were not ruling themselves out of the game but couldn’t take advantage of some good interchanges from the midfield, releasing Matthew Parker down the wing. His cross was flicked on and a scramble in the six yard box finished with Whickham keeper John Mordey coming away with the ball. At half time Whickam would sit in a promotion spot, but they were still relying on Northallerton not making a comeback.

Heaton were the stronger in the opening stages of the second half, they came closest with an attempted lob by Jonathan Wright only for it to fall short and then gathered. Hearts were in Whickham mouths again on the turn of the hour as Andrew Robertson rattled one off the bar for Heaton Stannington.

On 73 minutes Whickham doubled their lead. Good play down the left resulted in a low cross into the six yard box. The Heaton keeper was stranded and Kyle Wharton finished from close range. 2-0.

Smith was called into action again shortly after when a curling free kick by Owen Lancaster was saved low. Whickham finished the game much the stronger of the two teams.

On the final whistle there was applause but no celebrations as everyone awaited the final whistle from Teesside Park where Northallerton were still playing out a 2-2 draw. One shout came from pitchside: “Its over.” It sparked a huge cheer from the 233 crowd and celebrations for newly-promoted Whickham.

And finally:

Bedlington Terriers 0 Blyth AFC 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two

Whatever level they play at, getting your hands on silverware is a special feeling for footballers.

And the players at Blyth AFC took proud possession of the second division championship cup after the game, only two days after clinching the title. They went out on a high, winning the match with the only goal of the game.

However, it was a game that they could well have lost. Terriers created a bagful of chances and should have put a couple of them away.

The afternoon started with the Terriers players lining up to applaud the Blyth players on to the pitch. From then on in, it wasn’t a stroll in the (Doctor Pitt) park. Most of the good chances came the hosts’ way.

Jack Foalle had two scoring opportunities in the first 15 minutes, striking both wide. They saw another shot come back off the post. Blyth broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when the ball came across the Terriers box. Bobby Taylor collected the ball on the far side of the box, took a touch and then struck it low and in to make it 0-1. It turned out to be the decisive moment of the match.

Bedlington kept on pressing, with two shots by Chris Glass. Foalle, Glass and Scott Lowery had more attempts in the second half but couldn’t find the net, with off-target or blocked shots. Stephen Young might have won a penalty in the closing 10 minutes when his shot looked as though it came off a Blyth defender’s hand in the box, but the appeals were turned away. Blyth saw the game out.

Champagne was duly popped when the trophy was presented to captain David Robinson. A just reward for a season of hard work.