Sunday, 5 January 2014

Whickham gone for a Burton as Town start 2014 with a win

By Ricky Butler at Glebe Sports Centre

Highlights of this match are available here

FIRST half goals from Dale Elgie and new signing Chris Burton saw Town start 2014 with a comfortable away victory over ten-man Whickham at the Glebe Sports Centre on Saturday.

Having dropped down the table after three weeks without a game, this had become a must-win match for Peter Mulcaster's side if they were to keep themselves in the promotion race.

And after taking 15 minutes to blow away the cobwebs, Town went on to dominate for long periods. After Elgie diverted a shot from substitute Mikey Stevens into the roof of the net after 26 minutes to score Town's first goal of the New Year, Burton capped a fine debut with a powerful header just before the break.

Whickham's chances of a comeback were over when substitute Mark Pattison was sent off early in the second half and Town were able to ease to a first league away win since late September.

Mulcaster was rightly delighted with the performance of his side. He said: "Yes, I was very pleased, especially with the first half. It was good for Chris Burton who scored a great goal, and the team performance was excellent.

"The second half it was more a case of us having won the game and then they had a man sent off which helped us. But a win is a win especially at Whickham as they are always difficult to beat here."

Mulcaster gave debuts to Burton, signed from Thornaby just before the Saturday morning deadline, and Richie Dacombe, while goalkeeper James Howarth was fit to start after suffering a nasty head injury on his debut last month.

After such a long lay off, Town was a little slow out of the blocks and it was the hosts that created the first opportunity after 12 minutes when captain Michael Hedley headed a free kick from Jack Moulding just wide of the left-hand upright.

But Town dominated the remainder of the opening period. They should have been in front midway the half when Col Anderson and Darren Kokes both saw efforts cleared off the line following an amazing goalmouth scramble. But the deadlock was broken four minutes later.

Dacombe's debut lasted just 25 minutes before succumbing to a calf injury but his replacement, Stevens, made an immediate impact. A corner from the right by Gav Parkin fell to the substitute on the edge of the penalty area and his first time effort was diverted into the roof of the net by Elgie.

"An inspired substitution," as Mulcaster called it, and who could disagree.

Town looked comfortable now, although in a rare Whickham raid, Mark Hemingway was forced to head off his own goal-line after a clearance from Howarth had deflected off Chad Collins.

But Mulcaster's men always looked the more likely and they doubled their advantage six minutes before the break. Burton had just missed a great chance when he fired wide with only goalkeeper John Mordey to beat, but he made no mistake with a powerful header to Anderson's inviting right-wing cross.

"They say you normally miss the easier ones," said Burton. "I was shouting at myself and I think that was what sparked me to get the goal afterwards."

Whickham came out strongly at the start of the second half but any hope they had of getting back into the match was over within ten minutes of the restart. Substitute Pattison, who had only just been booked for a foul on Anderson, jumped in on the Town winger again right in front of the assistant on the near side and referee Martin Bunting had no hesitation in producing a second yellow card.

Whickham worked really hard after that but Town were now in almost complete control and it was just a matter of whether they would add any further goals. Darren Kokes headed over after another great cross from Anderson, while Anderson himself would have been celebrating had his shot on the turn not been deflected wide off the unsuspecting Kokes.

Then in stoppage time, substitute Mike Colman, who has spent most of the season on the bench, was denied what would have been a very popular goal by a fine save from Mordey down to his right.

"We were all wishing Mikey (Colman) would get a goal as he is a great lad," said Mulcaster.

On the promotion race, the Town boss said: "We need a good run now to keep ourselves up there. Two or three wins on the trot and we are back in the reckoning.

"We won't win the league, I know that, but we will keep putting pressure on other people. We are disappointed with some of the points we have dropped but we have a good set of lads. There was a good atmosphere in the changing room today which I was pleased about."

Town now face South Shields at the Calvert Stadium next weekend before a rearranged Ernest Armstrong Cup quarter final tie at Jarrow Roofing on Saturday 18 January.

WHICKHAM - Mordey, Moulding, Rook, Johnstone, Hedley, Martin, Falcon, Peareth, Aiston, Collins, MacIntosh. SUBS - Cavanagh, Burnett, Robson, Holmes, Pattison.

TOWN - Howarth - A fairly comfortable afternoon for the new goalkeeper but he looked assured throughout. 8/10

Banks - Got forward to great affect in the second half and was as solid and dependable as ever at the back. 7/10

Hemingway - Has made a massive impact since breaking into the side in late-November. Outstanding again. 9/10

Howlett - Possibly his best game in a Town shirt. Did not lose a header and was good in possession. Impressive. 8/10

Hickman - Like defensive partner Howlett, Grant was solid and strong in the air. Afforded Whickham very few opportunities. 8/10

Parkin - Typical captain's display. Kept driving the team on and unlucky not to score on one or two occasions. 8/10

Anderson - Is a defenders worst nightmare. If he not bringing fouls, he is weaving his magic. Once again the best player on the pitch. Unplayable. 9/10

Elgie - Scored the all-important opening goal and was once again strong in the middle of the park. 8/10

Kokes - Usual hard-working display up front and unlucky not to score on several occasions. 8/10

Burton - An impressive debut. Worked hard and took his goal extremely well. Looks to be a great addition to the squad. 8/10

Dacombe - Lasted just 25 minutes on his debut but looked lively down the left. 7/10

SUBS - Stevens - His first touch was to create the opening goal and it led to a strong performance. 8/10

McLachlan - Worked hard in the closing stages and was a useful outlet. 7/10

Colman - Finally given some minutes on the pitch and was very unfortunate not to score with a superb late effort. 8/10

UNUSED - Porritt, Caygill.

REFEREE - M. Bunting


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