GUEST of honour at Purvis Park for the Northumberland FA Senior Benevolent Bowl first round tie between Percy Main Amateurs and Heddon was former Villagers legend Ronnie Robinson, who celebrated his 80th birthday in style by seeing his old club deservedly prevail by a single goal margin to secure a place in the quarter finals of a competition the Main last won in 2011.
Both teams formed a guard of honour for Ronnie, who was applauded on to the pitch, and the warm applause, hearty cheers and spontaneous, lusty chorus of ‘Happy birthday to you’, by supporters, officials and players, both of the modern era and those of Ronnie’s vintage, made this an occasion to remember.
Once the game kicked off, however, events on the pitch, certainly in the opening period, failed to match up to the pre-match period.
Heddon, whose retro 1960s style West Ham influenced kit added to the air of nostalgia on the day, despite playing their football a division below Main, were not overawed and took the game to their hosts.
For the hosts, the speedy Chris Doig made one of his trademark mazy runs down the wing, delivering a dangerous ball that was scrambled away from Nkuriza Suabi at the last second, while for Heddon, a suspiciously offside looking John Pearson squandered their best chance, by lifting a shot over Rob Rodgerson’s bar.
The second period saw the Main transformed and a 45-minute blitz on the visitors goal saw innumerable chances created and spurned.
A Doig run and cross provided Suabi with a chance, but grateful Heddon keeper Ian Harvey fell on the ball.
Twice Harvey denied Manu Esumeh; firstly with a flying save and secondly with a more routine block.
Dan Quine almost opened the scoring with a scorching drive from the edge of the box.
But with time running out and extra time seeming inevitable, the breakthrough came.
Doig was blocked almost on the byline and Quine stood the free kick up to the back post, where man of the match James Leggett ghosted in to chest the ball in from only yards out.
This was enough to see the Main home, ensuring that Ronnie and his old team-mates had an enjoyable visit back to their former club.
They, like all former Main players, can be assured of a warm welcome whenever they return to Purvis Park.
On Saturday Percy Main are away to Blyth Town in the George Dobbins Northern Alliance League Cup second round. Kick-off at South Newsham is of 2pm.