SATURDAY’S annual pre-season game between Percy Main and North Shields was played in honour of Percy Main’s former treasurer and committee member.
And once again it was a keenly contested and absorbing affair, which could have gone either way and was not settled until Andy Bowman’s late strike for the Robins.
The tenth playing of the game was blessed with glorious warm weather, unlike last year’s affair in which the heavens opened for practically the whole afternoon, and there was a healthy crowd inside The Main’s tidy Purvis Park ground for the game.
In the run up to the contest, both sides have had mixed fortunes in their previous pre-season run-outs, with the Villagers losing 5-3 at home to Peterlee Town a week previous, while Graeme Fenton’s North Shields side had not managed to secure a win since his players returned from their summer recess.
Percy Main manager Gareth Allen fielded a host of new signings with Assan Jallow catching the eye and Chris Doig, a former player who has returned to the club, was instrumental in almost giving the home side an early lead, first crossing for last season’s top scorer Tony Abladey and then found himself just unable to get onto the cross as the forward looked to return the compliment.
At the other end, home goalkeeper Rob Rodgerson found himself relatively untroubled during the first period, despite the endeavours of the visitors’ new signing John Hook, who impressed down the right flank, and Keith Douglas, whose curling effort from the edge of the area was just wide of the post, while Adam Rowntree was unable to capitalise on a half chance which came his way.
As both sides made changes, the game opened up after the interval and if anything it looked as though Percy Main would break the deadlock as substitute Declan King, full of running, supplied Doig who fired over the bar from six yards with the goal gaping.
Full back Linday Collinson drove in a couple of long range efforts which were dealt with competently by Michael Robinson in the visitors goal, and Doig’s pull back fell to Kevin Westphal and his shot on goal was blocked by the Robins defence.
Further action around the North Shields goalmouth saw Dean Ellis thwarted by Robinson diving at his feet, and then he sent a delicate chip just over the bar while Westphal produced a smart turn and fired inches wide.
Just under a year ago Dean Holmes had scored four for Heaton Stannington in his side’s 5-2 win over Main at Purvis Park, and it was the same player now in the red and white of North Shields who looked the pick of the Shieldmen’s attacking options.
Firstly he brought off an impressive save from Rodgerson and minutes later latched onto a defensive lapse only to see Ryan Shave make a last ditch goal line clearance for the Main.
As the clocked ticked down and extra time looked likely, Fenton made an inspired substitution for the Robins as he introduced assistant manager and the vastly experienced forward Andy Bowman into the fray
Bowman leading the line had only been on the field a matter of minutes when Dan Patterson produced a jinking run down the left and squared for Bowman, who made no mistake in firing beyond the dive of the goalkeeper from ten yards out with only two minutes remaining.
The medals and the impressive trophy were presented pitchside by Mr and Mrs Hull at the end of the contest, which had once again been a fine tribute to Gary Hull.
This Saturday Percy Main start their league campaign with a home game against Stocksfield, kick-off at Purvis Park is 2.30pm.