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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Hexham keep Bridge fightback at bay

HEXHAM edged a nail biting final with Haydon Bridge to lift the Northumberland FA West Division U15 Cup.

Hexham U15 lifted the West Division Cup trophy after defeating Haydon Bridge.

The Pin Point Recruitment Junior Football League Division One side and overwhelming favourites won 2-1, but were given a stern test by their determined division three opponents.

A goal 15 minutes from time by the Bridge’s James Carruthers ensured a grandstand finish as the underdogs tried in vain to force extra time.

The chilly night got under way with a fierce midfield battle, before Hexham’s Ryan Gardner turned on the edge of the box and fired into the bottom corner to open the scoring.

It was harsh on Haydon’s back four, with Jake Findlay and Ross Milburn looking a classy and assured central defensive partnership throughout.

But the Bridge refused to buckle, and moments later, playmaker Ciaran Fleming picked out flying winger Jamie Brown, who fired just wide from 25 yards.

Then a dipping volley from Dominic Rapier was well held by Hexham keeper Luke Edwards.

Hexham were always a threat, however, with menacing runs from Oliver Miller down the right, ably supported by the presence of Gardner and Hamish Forsyth at the heart of most attacks.

On 36 minutes, a Miller cross from the right side of the penalty area was deflected onto the left hand post, but it wasn’t long before the division one side doubled their lead.

Forsyth raced onto a precise through ball to slide the ball under the advancing Bridge keeper Lewis Weeks to make it 2-0.

Despite the scoreline, Weeks excelled between the sticks, and made three fine saves from one-on-one situations.

Early in the second half, Nika Sharifi ran onto a through ball down the inside right channel, and his low drive forced Weeks into a full stretch diving save.

On the hour mark, Haydon Bridge’s Rob Simpson almost connected with a left-wing cross from Brown, and they continued to build momentum with some crisp passing, an impressive style implemented by manager Dan MacMillan, himself a teenager.

After some good play down the left, the ball was played inside to Rapier on the edge of the box. He turned and picked out Carruthers, whose looping shot found the top left-hand corner to make it 2-1.

Haydon’s Josh Dodwell fired over from a late free-kick, and Rapier, taking down a diagonal ball with his back to goal, couldn’t quite turn in a crowded penalty area.

But it was Hexham’s captain Thomas Joyce who lifted the trophy, presented by special guest, Premier League assistant referee, Michael McDonough.