League champions show their pedigree

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HEATON Stannington did not undeservedly become Northern Alliance champions in 2011-12.

For this level of football, they are a truly excellent side.

As well as boasting the finest front three in local football, they have keeper Shaun Backhouse, skipper Andrew Weeks, striker Gary Yates and midfielder Russell Ward an experienced spine that have plied their trade at Grounsell Park for upwards of half a decade.

Indeed it is a measure of the strength in depth that manager Derek Thomson has available that Yates was only a late arrival from the bench and Ward did not even make it on to the pitch.

Yet Percy Main were architects of their own downfall, to a greater or lesser degree, with all of the goals Heaton Stannington scored in this game.

Playing with the benefit of the gusting westerly and the dazzling sun behind them, Main had the lion’s share of possession in early exchanges.

The pacy Chris Doig on the right wing was enjoying success ploughing his furrow down that touchline, slinging in a couple of testing balls that Kevin Westphal and Chris Bell were unlucky not to get on the end of.

Sadly 30 minutes of encouraging play was squandered when gifted former Hibernian trainee Jonathon Wright picked up a loose ball in the box and turned and fired powerfully home under the body of keeper Rob McGregor.

From the restart, Villagers’ captain Dean Ellis attempted to get the Main a toehold in the match by firing in a testing long range effort that keeper Backhouse smothered well.

Unfortunately the next attacking action saw the home side extend their lead when an astute diagonal ball from the wing by Weeks was finished emphatically in to the top corner by Lee Johnson.

While the strike was admirable, what stuck in the craw of visiting management and supporters was the inability of the Main to mark the opposition.

Things went from bad to worse when Johnson grabbed his second and Heaton’s third, to make it 3-0 after 37 minutes.

Returning centre back Tony Browell’s header back to McGregor was intercepted and the front man waltzed round a stranded McGregor before apologetically tapping in to an empty net.

Following this, the Main could have folded, but it is to their credit that in the dying embers of the half, the Villagers carved out two chances;.

First Graeme Troughton’s stinging effort was brilliantly palmed away by Backhouse and then Bell’s clever pass put the on-rushing Doig in on goal. A slip by Backhouse made up Doig’s mind and, instead of calmly side-footing the ball home, he hit it first time, a fraction over the angle of bar and post.

In the second period, Percy Main continued to try and find a way back in to the game and Westphal was able to cut the deficit with a picture book goal on 50 minutes.

Collecting the ball on the edge of the box, he demonstrated excellent control on the ground where he broke his ankle two seasons ago; gliding round several challenges, before producing a quality finish.

Sadly, this was as good as it got for the Villagers.

In the space of a minute, keeper McGregor was booked for dissent, pulled off a smart one handed save to deny Weeks and then woefully misjudged the flight of the resulting corner and presenting an unmissable tap-in from almost on the line for centre half Mark McGarrigal.

While Bell was almost able to grab another goal for the Main, Backhouse proved equal to his angled drive and the home side were largely content to play out time.

However, they did score again, with Johnson completing his hat-trick, firing in a swerving effort in to the top corner.

On Saturday, Percy Main have the opportunity to get this defeat out of their system with a first round Northumberland FA Senior Benevolent Bowl tie at home to Heddon.

It is a competition the Main won back in 2011.

Guest of honour at Purvis Park for Saturday’s game will be Percy Main legend of the 1940s and 1950s, Ronnie Robinson, on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Kick-off at Purvis Park is 2.30pm and all are welcome.