Percy Main succumbed to Blyth Town by the odd goal in five in an eventful Northern Alliance premier division game at Purvis Park.
However, the home faithful were rewarded and encouraged by a much improved Villagers performance following disappointing early season back to back defeats against newly promoted sides Wallington and Red House Farm.
Blyth had finished their 2012-13 campaign as runners-up to eventual champions and promoted Heaton Stannington, and with a host of summer signings including former Percy Main players Ian Lee, Malcolm Morien, Scott Pocklington and former player/manager Jason Ritchie in their starting XI, they are already being tipped by many to be challenging for honours as the season progresses.
The game was a fine advert for Northern Alliance football and although the visitors carved out the greater number of goalscoring opportunities, Percy Main caused countless problems themselves and the visitors could be grateful for goalkeeper Mathew Crook’s unbelievable save from Ryan Laws on the hour with the game deadlocked at 2-2.
Main forged themselves into a surprise early lead when Laws created space and raced away down the left and his measured ball into Joe Betts was met superbly by the centre forward who tucked the it under the dive of the advancing Crook.
Regular centre halves James Leggett and Micky Haley were both missing for the Villagers and deputees Connor Hale and match day signing Michael Carangelo soon found themselves under scrutiny by the visitors strike force as firstly Pocklington sent a low effort just past the post and Morien headed over when well placed.
Parity was restored on 21 minutes as another of the former home contingent stepped up to the breach. This time it was the turn of Ritchie, whose trademark deep free kick so often seen in the past in Percy Main colours, saw David Atkinson steal in at the far post to level.
Eight minutes later the omens did not look good for Main and Blyth found themselves in front as Pocklington was upended in the area and Atkinson despatched the resultant spot kick.
Connor Andrews was close to adding a third soon after but his cross-shot just evaded the on rushing Lee.
As the half drew to a close it was the home side who were in the ascendancy, with Redmond Cockburn, who had signed for the Villagers on a transfer from Blyth last season and had a superb game in his side’s midfield.
His through ball down the middle on 36 minutes released Chris Bell and his fizzing goalbound effort was acrobatically tipped to safety by Crook.
Moments later, Bell was impeded on the edge of the area but Laws was unable to take advantage of the referee’s play on decision by blazing over the bar, and Darren Walsh’s hot from distance was well held by Crook.
Following the restart, Rob Rodgerson in the home goal cleared from the feet of Morien and Bell forced Crook to do the same at the other end following a jinking run.
But it was Percy Main who were celebrating again as substitute Chris Laidlaw, on for the injured Walsh, centred low from the right and Bell slotted home.
Play then swung to the other end as Pocklington threatened once more for Blyth, firing into the side netting, and David Robinson drove the ball across the face of goal to which none of his team-mates were able to get on the end of.
With the game hanging in the balance, Laws sent over a spectacular overhead kick some 20 yards from goal which appeared as if it was destined for the top corner of the net, but Crook somehow managed to get up and tip the ball against the underside of the crossbar and the Blyth defence were able to clear to safety.
Sadly for Percy Main, with quarter of an hour remaining the winning goal was to come at the other end, and in perhaps controversial circumstances.
A low cross was fired into the centre from the right wing and the sliding and falling Cockburn was adjudged to have handled. Following protests by the home side the referee upheld the penalty decision and Atkinson duly netted his second spot kick and completed his hat-trick.
There were still chances at either end as Blyth looked to wrap things up as Chris Lisle was thwarted by the legs of Rodgerson and Daniel Young was narrowly off target, while Laidlaw’s strike at Crook’s goal whistled just past the upright.
Percy Main are in action again on Wednesday night and will face Whitley Bay A at Hillheads Park, kick-off is 6.30pm.