AFTER a tumultuous week in the history of Percy Main Amateurs, the Villagers answered their critics with a 3-0 win over Ponteland United in the Challenge Cup first round.
The week had seen the departure from the dug-out and dressing room of joint player manager Jason Ritchie after almost three and a half seasons at the helm, as well as half a dozen other senior players.
But a magnificent display simply blew away the Northern Alliance premier division champions.
If this superb performance of controlled, disciplined attacking football is an indication of the future for the club, then the Gareth ‘Beanie’ Allen era at Purvis Park will be one to savour.
Following the exodus of six big names, Beanie worked tirelessly in the week leading up to the game to bring in several new faces, resulting in no less than five debutants.
All acquitted themselves admirably, from keeper Joe Clayton, deputising for the unavailable Rob Rodgerson, whose handling was exemplary throughout, to full back Anthony Grahamslaw, who has followed his brother Kevin to Purvis Park, to midfielders Aaron Kah and Kyle Howshby, to late substitute, teenager Ryan Laws.
The first of the newcomers to make their mark was strong running winger Kah, whose astute short cross gave man of the match Kevin Westphal the chance to open the scoring with a smart finish from six yards out with barely two minutes on the clock.
Percy Main had beaten Ponteland 4-2 at the Leisure Centre in a league game last month, as well as twice coming out on top in cup games last season, including in the preliminary round of this competition, so the Villagers were facing a side they always do well against, but this victory had everything to do with disciplined team play, intelligent tactics and a strong team ethos.
When Tony Browell put the Villagers 2-0 to the good after seven minutes, smashing home a bullet of a header from a Kevin Grahamslaw corner, the cheers by those on the pitch drowned out the applause of the crowd on the side lines, showing the level of unity and sense of common purpose this squad now possesses.
If this second early goal effectively ended the game as a contest, there was no chance of complacency from the home outfit.
The impressive Ziggy Ewart headed just over from a Westphal cross after 13 minutes and Tony Abladey was foiled by a desperate block moments later, before the ball fell to Ewart, whose goalbound shot was kicked away by a full-stretch Ryan Carter in the Ponteland goal.
Things calmed down after this frenetic opening, as Beanie’s side calmly took the sting out of the game with controlled possession football, with the excellent Kah and Grahamslaw always probing the away defence, creating unease among the visitors.
Ponteland’s Swiss forward Sebastien Anzevui had their first serious effort on 30 minutes, but keeper Clayton easily dealt with it.
The half ended with Westphal’s mazy run providing Ewart with another opportunity but the massed ranks of Ponteland defenders smuggled the ball away.
After the break, there was the odd sign of a United revival, but Clayton maintained the two-goal lead with a smart stop from Max Turner, before the Villagers put the game to bed with a marvellous team goal.
Seemingly trapped in the corner, Abladey’s jinking skills brought the ball away, feeding Ewart who drove strongly in to the box.
When many a player would have shot, the tireless and unselfish front man cleverly looked up to find the unmarked Westphal arriving at the back of the area to roll the ball in to an unguarded net.
While this was the end of the scoring, there could have been many more goals.
Ewart was twice denied by Carter and then the substitutes combined when Shadforth’s cross-field pass from a Ryan Laws through ball was met by Kyle Howshby, whose effort was only just off target.
On Saturday Percy Main are away to Whitley Bay A in a Northern Alliance premier division game. The kick-off at Hillheads is 2.30pm.