Northumberland U16 travelled to Stockport to take on national champions Greater Manchester in what turned out to be an epic encounter to cap a memorable season.
On a rain soaked 3G playing surface, Manchester started between with their strong midfield and quick front men causing numerous problems, opening the scoring with a dubious penalty.
Northumberland goalkeeper Mark Strasshine (Marden High School) was kept very busy but confidently dealt with whatever was thrown his way.
One minute into the second half they got onto level terms when Josh Briggs (Duchess HS) saw his shot blocked but Callum Johnston (Ashington HS) was on hand to dispatch the loose ball.
The tie moved from end to end, with Manchester again punishing Northumberland’s sloppy defensive play by dispatching another penalty.
Northumberland needed to lift themselves again and it was Johnston (Ashington HS) who played a major part in bringing Northumberland level. His sweetly struck free kick from 25-yards was parried by the Manchester keeper only for defender Thomas Bramley (Burnside HS) to slot the ball into an empty net.
Johnston then saw a 30-yard free kick thunder off the Manchester crossbar with the keeper firmly rooted to the spot before an uncharacteristic error by skipper Joe Robson (Benfield HS) played in a Manchester forward who slotted the ball under the onrushing Strasshine.
Northumberland dominated the last ten minutes as they looked for an equaliser. The Manchester goalkeeper fumbled an effort which defender Dan Mosettig (Walbottle HS) chipped goal wards for Johnston to force home.
In the last four minutes came the two defining moments.
With Manchester searching for the winner, Northumberland failed to clear and a Manchester forward was left with a open goal to tap home when Robson appeared from nowhere to save a certain goal by making an outstanding tackle.
Substitute Ben Thompson (Kenton Academy) was fouled 30-yards out, with Johnston hitting an arrowed strike through a ruck of players which nestled in the corner of the net to claim a memorable hat trick.