Chris Chan’s disputed penalty seven minutes from time earned Howdon a point in a fiercely contested local derby against Willington Quay Saints.
In the end both sides left the pitch feeling they could have taken all three points on another cold afternoon at the barking dog.
Saints made three changes from last week’s defeat to Benfield with Carl Mcguire replacing Henderson in goal and Kyle Austin and Stu Duffield in place of Glen Johnson and Michael Turner in a 4-1-4-1 formation as the two teams contested the first league meeting between the two sides.
It was Howdon who started the brightest and they should of been ahead in the first five minutes when a mix-up in Quay’s defence allowed striker Chris Marshall a free run on goal, but McGuire came to the rescue with a smart save with his feet to deny the visitors taking an early lead.
Marshall went close with two more efforts early on as first he battled his way through two strong challenges before firing straight at McGuire from outside the box, and then firing tamely wide from 12 yards as the home side started slowly for the second week in a row.
Saints responded with a Mark Henderson free kick that skidded through but was easily dealt with by keeper Craig Jones, and a John Foggett long range effort that flew high over the crossbar.
Just as Willington were enjoying their best spell of the first half they shot themselves in the foot and gifted High Howdon the game’s opening goal.
Player of the season so far Duffield tried to lay the ball back to McGuire but in a rare mistake his back pass went straight to Howdon’s Marshall who showed great composure to round the on-rushing keeper and slot into an empty net.
The mistake did not prove to be costly as just two minutes later Saints levelled proceedings with Kyle Austin scoring against his old club from just two yards out. Stephen King’s low right wing cross should not have troubled keeper Jones but somehow he failed to stop it, leaving Austin with the simple task of tapping into the net for his third goal of the season.
Howdon went straight back on the attack and a great pass from John Wyres found Marshall again in space but his left foot strike was bravely blocked by Duffield and was cleared by Henderson as Howdon looked for an immediate response.
The rest of the half saw no further chances but plenty of hotly contested challenges as both sides put bodies on the line for their team to keep the score level going into half-time.
No changes were made at the interval and there was no change in the commitment to every tackle as both teams flew into challenges with Saints left back Foggett lucky not to be carded after a bad foul on Marshall in front of the Howdon bench.
From the resulting free kick Matty Adams did well to block a shot from Wyres after Chan’s dead ball had caused panic in the home defence.
Ben Senior tried his luck from long range but his speculative effort went way over the bar as Quay started the second half better than they had the first, and ten minutes after the resumption they took the lead.
Austin, who was performing admirably in the lone striker role, won the ball just inside the Howdon half and after ignoring an overlap from King swung in a wonderful cross from 35 yards that winger Callum Ancrum met on the run with a brilliant header that flew into the corner, leaving the keeper no chance for his first goal of the campaign.
Ancrum was then booked for a string of deliberate aggressive fouls as tensions threatened to boil over with Austin also going into the book for tripping a Howdon player whilst Saints’ appeals for a penalty after Ancrum went down as he raced onto a through ball were rejected by the referee.
Gary Latimer and Noel Clynch replaced King and Breheny with 20 minutes left, and Latimer immediately threatened down the right and when his ball into the box found Senior and as he turned his marker he appeared to be dragged to the ground but the referee once again waved away the Saints’ appeal.
A tiring Austin was replaced by top scorer Glen Johnson with ten minutes to go with Howdon also making changes as they looked to grab an equaliser. And with seven minutes to go they did just that.
A ball from the left rolled into the path of Howdon’s Chris Chan who burst into the box before crashing to the floor under a challenge from Micky Young and the referee showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot with Young booked for his protests as he claimed his innocence of touching the Howdon man.
Chan stepped up to take the penalty and under huge pressure coolly slotted the ball into the corner past McGuire to the delight of the Howdon bench and frustration of Quay.
Saints reacted well and nearly went back ahead instantly as a great mazy run from Ancrum saw him hang up a great ball to the back post where Johnson was waiting to meet it with a header which was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Jones as he totally redeemed himself after his earlier mistake.
From the resulting corner the ball fell into the path of Clynch who turned and fired a low shot under the keeper only top see it cleared off the line by a Howdon defender as Saints piled on the pressure late on.
But time defeated them and the contest ended all square after a thoroughly entertaining game of football.
Both local rivals served up a great game for the neutral as they went hammer and tong at each other for 90 minutes, Howdon could of been 3-0 up early on in the game but Saints will feel hard done by with the penalty decisions and were unlucky their fine second half performance did not end with three points.
Willington Quay Saints: McGuire, S Duffield, Foggett, M Henderson, Adams, King (Latimer 63), Breheny (Clynch 72), Senior, Ancrum, Young, K Austin (G Johnson 79).