Willington Quay Saints started 2015 with a whimper as they were beaten by second bottom Cramlington United who recorded their first Northeran Alliance League victory since September in the process.
Quay made five changes from the derby draw with Howdon as Turner, Ferrier, Taylor and the two Johnsons, Glen and Dale, returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Ben Senior, King, Breheny, Young and Kyle Austin, while John Foggett captained the side on his 200th appearance for the club.
On a freezing afternoon it was the home side who were quickest out of the traps and they missed a great chance to take the lead in the first five minutes as striker Niall Younger was gifted too much space in the box to meet a right wing cross but after a decent first touch he fired wide.
Saints’ early efforts were mainly long range ones with Foggett twice trying his luck from distance but both times the Cramlington keeper watched as the ball flashed wide.
The home side took the lead in their next attack, Mark Nicholson showed great pace to keep a long ball in play and when his lay off was drilled across the box Younger was once again first to react and this time he made no mistake firing low into the corner to give his side the lead.
The goal seemed to wake Quay up and they were almost level but for a brilliant save from United keeper Nathan Hewitt, Foggett’s out-swinging corner was met by a bullet header from Glen Johnson but Hewitt dived to his right to keep the ball out before jumping on the rebound as Quay players looked to pounce.
Johnson then battled his way onto a long ball over the top and was again denied by Hewitt with the rebound falling to the saints striker but his back heel raced along the six-yard box with no one in sight to score an easy tap in.
Just before the interval Younger was denied his second of the game by a great save from Saints stopper Carl Henderson who reacted well to tip over a stinging strike from the pacy forward’s shot from 18 yards.
Quay came out after half-time looking for a massive improvement on their first half efforts but they were nearly made to pay for more sloppiness after they failed to clear properly the ball fell to Nicholson who spun and fired a low shot that Henderson did well to save with his feet.
Liam Taylor went on a mazy run into the Cramlington area and when he went down his appeals for a penalty were waved away by the referee as it appeared Taylor had lost his balance. The midfielder was booked for his protests as frustration spilled over.
Struggling to create any chance of note, 20 minutes into the second half Quay made two changes as Austin and Senior were introduced to the action with Foggett and Taylor coming off.
Austin imposed himself on the game straight away and his pin-point through ball put Micky Turner through down the left but his first time effort went well wide.
Minutes later it was Austin whose effort went wide as he met a Duffield right wing cross with a deft header that went agonisingly past the post.
With Saints pushing forward looking for a leveller, Cramlington hit them with the ultimate sucker punch as they broke quickly on the counter attack to double their lead with 15 minutes remaining.
After winning a throw-in deep in the United half, Saints twice passed up opportunities to swing the ball into the crowded area penalty area. Younger then pinched the ball in the opposite corner and raced down the left hand side unchallenged before cutting it back to Nicholson who showed the greater hunger to get to the ball and tap in from six yards out.
With Saints in disarray Cramlington should have sealed the game as Younger somehow fired wide after a mix up in the visitors defence saw him run clean through onto a long Hewitt goal kick that bounced over everybody.
With 10 minutes left Quay grabbed a lifeline as a long ball into the area was once again won in the air by Glen Johnson and his header towards goal was flicked over the keeper and into the net by midfielder Matty Adams, his third of the season and last action of the game as he was replaced by Stephen King.
With just seconds left Saints were awarded a free kick in the Cramlington half and with everybody including goalkeeper Henderson in the area the ball was swung in, but with bodies crowded the referee blew for a foul by a Saints player and then blew for full-time to the delight of the home team.
A disappointing performance against one of the division’s poorer sides was not the best way to start a new year, leaving players and management at a loss to explain how a team with an abundance of talent continues to under perform.
They will hope to bounce back away to Swalwell on Saturday.
Willington Quay Saints: C Henderson, Duffield, Ancrum, D Johnson, M Henderson, Adams (King 82), Taylor (Senior 65), Ferrier, Foggett (K Austin 65), Turner, G Johnson.