No disgrace in defeat to Harraby for Main

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LAST season the severity of the winter meant Percy Main endured a staggering 112 days between league games from early December to early April.

This year, the total stood at 84 days between the home loss to Ponteland United on November 6 and the trip to Cumbria to face Harraby, with the hosts enduring a similar period of inactivity from November 20, though the Main have faced no fewer than four cup games since the start of 2011.

However, this game was only able to go ahead when Harraby were able to transfer the fixture from their own pitch, which was unplayable because of incessant rain over the past few weeks, to the second pitch of the Gilford Park complex.

It was a superb afternoon for football and the two teams served up an entertaining spectacle that ended up going the way of the home side.

It must be stated at the outset that to lose to a side who have claimed the Northern Alliance premier division title twice in the past three seasons was no disgrace and, in all fairness, was probably the right result on the balance of play.

Percy Main travelled with a squad weakened by several work-related non-availabilities, reflecting the distance to be travelled and the early departure time, with no less than three debutantes in the squad of 14.

Of these, Salim Hassaine started on the left wing and the former Tottenham Hotspur associated schoolboy showed some impressive touches before being injured in a block tackle and having to leave the pitch after 37 minutes to be replaced by another first timer, Dan Cave, who had a solid game at the back.

Hassaine’s departure was the second injury Main endured in the opening period, with the returning Chris Doig being forced off in the tenth minute with a knee injury.

His replacement Craig Ewart had himself played his first game in 17 months the week before, coming on as substitute against Ponteland United, though a casual observer would not have detected this as Ewart put in a superb display that fully merited the award of Main’s man of the match.

After 23 minutes Ewart was upended 25 yards from goal on the right and Malcolm Morien confidently gave the Villagers the lead with a gloriously curling free kick that was past home custodian Jordan English before he had completed his dive.

Sadly the lead was short lived and within ten minutes Percy Main were behind.

Firstly Marc Shiel equalised by tapping in at the back post from a delightful cross by Harraby’s star performer Sergio Royo after 29 minutes.

The Spaniard was involved again on 32 minutes when Rob Rodgerson blocked his powerful low drive only for the rebound to fall kindly for Daniel Balmer, who bundled it home from close range.

It could have been worse moments later when Hassaine miskicked in the box and Rodgerson and then Mark Watson were called on to block efforts on the line.

But the Villagers kept themselves in the game by reaching the interval without further mishap.

In the second period, with the advantage of the slight slope, the Main were much more in the ascendancy.

After 50 minutes Watson’s astute pass played in Ewart, but keeper English got down smartly to smother.

Steven Shadforth twice almost scored, as firstly an angled cross-shot dipped narrowly wide of the post, and then he headed a Tony Browell flick inches over the bar from point blank range with English beaten.

This miss was to haunt Percy Main as Harraby stormed up the other end to make the game safe when substitute Guiseppe Amato curled a low shot through a forest of legs with less than ten minutes to go.

With the last kick of the game Morien pinged the home crossbar with a fierce drive from distance, but it would only have been a consolation effort.

This Saturday, in another change to the published fixtures, Percy Main are at home to long term league leaders and promotion seekers Alnwick Town, kick-off at Purvis Park is 2.30pm.