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Friday, 22 May 2015

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Armstrong’s strike seals extra time win for Hexham

THEY may have needed extra time but Hexham’s hopes of going all in the way in this year’s Northumberland Minor Cup remain on the right track.

After the disappointment on losing out in last year’s final on penalties, the team from the Wentworth are determined to eliminate the nightmare from their memories with success in May.

And they are on course to return to Whitley Park as they are now two games away from the final, booking their place in the final eight following a 3-1 victory at Division Two side Newcastle Benfield Reserves.

Hexham had been fortunate with the draws in the Minor Cup, their six ties around their appearance at the Northumberland FA HQ in the final all at home in a run stretching back to November 11.

But this time they were forced to travel in the competition, making the trip to a boggy Sam Smith’s Park which only got the go ahead after young referee Asa McDonough requested some drainage work to be carried out.

The heavy pitch played its part in preventing either side being able to play any sort of flowing football, and chances were hard to come by.

When Hexham did create an opening on 30 minutes, Aidan Armstrong was unable to get the ball from under his feet after rounding the goalkeeper and the chance to shoot at a crowded goalline or put it on a plate for teammate Matthew Blackith passed.

Hexham went into the break trailing as the hosts broke the deadlock shortly before the half time whistle, the away side punished for a string of errors.

A back pass to goalkeeper Peter Holland was too short to allow Benfield to steal in and send the ball past covering Hexham skipper Gavin Cox who became stuck in the mud.

Recognising the importance of striking back early in the second half, Hexham levelled the tie within 10 minutes of the restart as Armstrong continued his excellent goal scoring form by sending Liam Heenan’s pull back home.

With Scott Robson picking up an injury, Scott Coates was introduced from the bench for his first appearance since September and he helped drive his side on as they looked to avoid extra time.

But their rhythm was disrupted when all hell broke loose, Marco Fleitas on the wrong end of a lunging tackle which left Mr McDonough, the son of Premier League assistant Mick, no choice but to brandish the red card.

Conversely, the reduction to 10 men gave the home side a boost and Cox and Holland were called upon to keep Hexham in the game.

With their experience of losing in the shootout hanging over them, the visitors were determined to prevent the tie going into penalties - and all worries were eased when Armstrong pounced again.

The former Wark man powered a pin point through ball from Coates into the net early on in the first half of extra time to kill the threat from Benfield.

The home side folded and Armstrong turned provider to Blackith to cement Hexham’s place in the quarter-finals.