From zero to hero as Johnson salvages Saints a point

Willington Quay Saints' defender and goalscorer Dale Johnson.
Willington Quay Saints' defender and goalscorer Dale Johnson.
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Willington Quay Saints grabbed a point in the dying seconds of their game against Alnwick Town Reserves.

And it was Dale Johnson who redeemed himself after the previous week’s own goal to score with the last kick of the game and rescue a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Making two changes from that narrow defeat at Whitburn, Quay welcomed back Ryan Ferrier and Kyle Austin into the side at the expense of the injured Micky Young and Gary Latimer, while on the bench there was the first sighting in three years of Saints veteran David Smith.

In overcast conditions Willington were quickly on the front foot and when Liam Taylor found Glen Johnson in space the Alnwick defence scrambled to block his effort and clear the ball as Quay made their attacking intentions clear from the start.

Only five minutes in Saints right back Stu Duffield was forced off with an ankle injury as a heavy challenge from Alnwick’s left back left him unable to continue, Kyle Austin replacing him for his first appearance in five months.

The change did not hinder Saints’ early intensity and they were nearly ahead through a piece of magic from Ferrier.

A weak defensive header landed straight at the midfielder’s feet 25 yards out and his attempted chip sailed narrowly over the bar with the keeper left stranded.

With their next attack Quay went ahead, Ferrier’s ball over the top found Taylor clean through and after Alnwick’s offside appeals were waved away he coolly slotted past the keeper to fire his side into a well deserved lead.

Alnwick responded well and twice they went close to leveling in identical fashion. Forward Ryan Taylor finding space down Saints’ right before firing powerfully across the goal; the second of which grazed the face of the crossbar as the visitors showed they were going to be no pushovers.

Ten minutes before half-time the visitors got their leveler from the penalty spot. Taylor was brought down in the box by a combination of Kyle Austin and Liam Taylor, and Dominic Schievetta stepped up to place the ball into the bottom corner to square the game up.

With the half about to end Alnwick took the lead, Schievetta’s powerful shot was blocked into the path of Taylor who controlled before side footing home from six yards as Saints’ appeal for offside fell on deaf ears.

Saints were on the back foot at the start of the second half and Alnwick nearly grabbed a third as Scott McMullen’s speculative effort from 40 yards sailed agonisingly over.

Manager Peter Donkin threw on Anthony Bruce and David Smith for Taylor and Foggett on the hour as Quay looked to get back into the game, and it almost paid off straight away.

Breheny found himself in space and played an inch perfect pass into the path of Bruce who took a touch before firing a strike painstakingly past the post with the goalkeeper beaten.

That miss proved to be crucial two minutes later as Alnwick doubled their advantage.

McMullen played a great ball over the top and it was met by Taylor’s swift finish past Henderson for his second and Alnwick’s third.

With seven minutes left Saints were handed a lifeline as they were awarded a penalty of their own.

David Smith’s corner was headed straight up in the air by an Alnwick defender and when the ball came down Kyle Austin was inexplicably pushed in the back by a visiting player.

As usual Glen Johnson made no mistake from the spot for his tenth of the season, setting up a grandstand finish.

With Quay piling forward Alnwick should have wrapped the game up as they broke away with a three-on-one but Micky Austin did brilliantly to stop Taylor in his tracks when it seemed like the visitors would wrap the three points up.

Awarded a free kick in their own half, Saints piled everyone forward as the game entered its last minute desperately looking for a equaliser, they were not to be disappointed.

Kyle Austin’s long kick was superbly headed into the penalty area by skipper Mark Henderson and as Alnwick failed to clear, centre half Dale Johnson ran onto the loose ball and fired a stinging shot from 18 yards that was too hot for the keeper to handle as he parried it onto the post before the ball trickled over the line, much to the joy of Saints players and staff.

That proved to be the last action of the game with Alnwick distraught they had not taken all three points and Saints relieved to have taken a point as Dale’s first goal for a year provided a memorable ending to an entertaining game.

Next up it is the second instalment of the Howdon derby away to High Howdon at High Flatworth on Saturday, kick-off 2pm.

Willington Quay Saints: C Henderson, Duffield (M Austin 5), Foggett (Smith 62), D Johnson, K Austin, M Henderson, Taylor (Bruce 62), Ferrier, King, Breheny, G Johnson.