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Monday, 22 September 2014

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Substitute Craig Cooks Wallsend’s goose

EVEN when facing higher ranked opponents, Ponteland United just can’t stop winning.

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Ponteland United's Liam Anderson

The Division One outfit booked their place in the prestigious Northumberland FA Senior Benevolent Bowl semi-finals as they toppled Premier Division hosts Wallsend Town with thanks to a 2-1 success.

Wallsend were United’s second scalp since the turn of the year, the recent 3-2 extra time success over Premier’s Blyth Town seeing them through to the final four of the league cup.

The weekend’s victory extended Ponteland’s unbeaten run to 10 games, and they are in the draw for the semis of the county’s second largest competition alongside Percy Main Amateurs, Heaton Stannington and either Stocksfield or Blyth.

But Ponteland did it the hard way as, just as they had at Blyth, they conceded early when Ian Graham provided a cultured finish to side foot a volley past Stu Taylor.

The visitors struggled to settle in the opening period, and Wallsend controlled the play with Lee Garwood and Craig Burk looking dangerous up front.

The former passed up a great chance to increase the score, Taylor saving brilliantly to frustrate the experienced forward.

United looked dangerous going forward, too, and a break from a corner saw former Town player Mick Rankin send in a great cross which just evaded Stevie Rae in front of goal.

Ponteland’s Marc Findlay was impressing with a range of passes and he found Liam Anderson down the left, but his shot at the near post was well saved by keeper Rikki Donaldson.

The striker was soon to be thwarted by the stopper again when he flicked Jack L’Argent’s cross towards goal, Donaldson tipping the ball around the post.

The game continued to swing from end-to-end, and Taylor kept out the tricky Garwood with a dive low down to his right as the first half drew to a conclusion.

With the next goal to prove vital, Ponteland came out of the interval with all guns blazing as they put pressure on their hosts.

After a good passing movement, teenager L’Argent was released down the left and his cross following a surging run was just too high for Anderson at the back post with the goal beckoning.

The pace of Dan Wright and L’Argent down the left was starting to stretch the Wallsend defence, and an equaliser looked certain when Wright broke clear but Donaldson spread himself well to block the striker’s effort.

On 65 minutes, Wallsend brought on Tom Malloy for Paul Mills but, with goalkeeper Taylor in commanding form and Peter Scott throwing himself to block Garwood’s shot, Ponteland started to believe that this could once again be their day.

However, Pont still struggled to find a way through, Anderson’s back heel not troubling the goalkeeper and Rankin unable to find a way past Donaldson when clean through on goal.

But Wallsend’s, and in particular Donaldson’s, resolve was broken on 80 minutes when the away side levelled the tie.

Rae, in the heart of the Ponteland midfield, played a neat ball to Paul Hodgson and he subsequently delivered it over the top for Anderson to control and plant into the bottom corner of the net.

Ponteland were then celebrating what they thought was the goal which gave them the lead, but Rae had been ruled offside and it remained level at 1-1.

Yet they didn’t have long to wait for their winner, Anderson turning provider and squaring the ball into the path of substitute Craig Cook who gleefully fired home.

Unsurprisingly, Pont’s tails were up and they looked to make sure of their passage to the semis but Rae was again denied by the impressive Donaldson.

The sound of the full time whistle signalled the second successive giant killing for Ponteland who booked a third semi-finals place this season.

In addition to the county cup, Pont face Wallington for a place in the Kicks Leisure George Dobbins League Cup final and rivals Heddon in a battle to make the last two of the Pin Point Recruitment Combination Cup.

Before they meet in the league cup semi on February 23, Ponteland welcome Wallington to the leisure centre tomorrow with both teams looking to improve their position in Division One.

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