Guisborough Town 0 – 1 Newton Aycliffe
In their Promotion winning campaign of last year, Newton Aycliffe became renowned for their brand of attacking football which focused so heavily on the prolific Warren Byrne. After netting more than forty times during the last campaign, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Byrne upped and left for his old side Shildon. Of the new additions that Aycliffe brought in, it was defender Darren Craddock that was the most notable; an experienced and no-nonsense centre half around which the team could build a strong defensive base. In today’s game, Aycliffe carved out just one clear cut chance which was clinically taken. For the rest of the game they defended deep, defended well and did just enough to take the three points. It was easy to see how Aycliffe had restricted the free-scoring West Auckland and Whitley Bay to just a goal each in recent weeks.
For Guisborough, the day was far from perfect. They had a goal disallowed and far more importantly lost not only the game but midfielder Joel Guy to an unpleasant injury. An ambulance was called for Guy as an initially diagnosed broken leg turned out to be ruptured ligaments and a long spell on the sidelines.
An even first half produced few chances. Aycliffe looked dangerous on the flanks and it was their left-sided player Owens who scored the only goal of the game. The energetic Gardner struck a seemingly harmless effort towards goal which was far more accurate than first appeared. The ball squirmed past keeper Jack Norton and struck the inside of the post. The onrushing Owens was left with a lot to do but made it all look easy as he clipped the ball perfectly into the bottom corner from an acute angle.
Guisborough began the second half reinvigorated and for the first fifteen minutes of the second period, Aycliffe struggled to get out of their own half. As Guisborough pushed for an equaliser, Johnson surged from a deep position and found himself with just the keeper to beat from close to range. With several in the crowd putting their house on him scoring, Johnson screwed the ball high and wide from close range. This chance almost marked a watershed in the game and Aycliffe began to exert more pressure and looked dangerous on the break. Tom Portas – far from a stranger to the home fans after three years of success in a Guisborough shirt – became more involved and his surging runs both forward and across the pitch posed an increased threat. Despite this, there was the feeling that if Guisborough scored they could go on to win the game. The goal duly came as the ball was swung in from the right and was forced home from close range. The home players and supporters celebrated, but the joy was short lived as the dreaded sight of a raised lineman’s flag saw the goal chalked off for offside.
Prior to this game, Aycliffe had never beaten Guisborough before in the Northern league. They had been left to kick themselves twice last season as Guisborough rescued points from seemingly impossible situations. Today there was perhaps less flair about Aycliffe’s performance, but certainly more steel. They were organised, committed and stuck firmly to their game plan in the second half. Without a doubt, they are club on the up. They have a healthy travelling contingent, are well run and clearly aspire to greater things.
Games between these two sides are always close and Aycliffe will have been both pleased and relieved to have taken all three points back along the A66 to County Durham.
The First Division offers no let up; we entertain reigning League Champions Spennymoor on Wednesday. But in case you didn’t notice, England beat Spain today. Over ninety minutes, anything can happen. Which I suppose is why we all come back week after week. Hope springs eternal…