Semi-final agony for Northumberland U18s

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Northumberland Under-18s made the long trek to King’s School in Cheshire with high hopes in the Northern Counties Trophy semi-final.

But Cheshire put them under severe pressure from the start and goalkeeper Callum Straker (Tyne Met) was soon in action, bringing off a fine penalty stop after only five minutes as well as several other saves during the opening stages.

With 20 minutes gone, Northumberland seemed to have weathered the initial storm, but Cheshire striker Ryan Masterson expertly turned his defender and struck a low shot inside the post.

This signalled renewed pressure and Cheshire went further ahead on the half hour as England international Daniel Bruce cleverly delayed his shot before picking his spot in the top corner.

An immediate reply almost came at the other end, a low shot from Liam Doyle (Tyne Met) being parried by the home keeper, but the rebound came quickly to the onrushing David Baker (St Thomas More) who could only head against the bar.

This turned out to be Northumberland’s last realistic come-back opportunity as Cheshire struck twice within three minutes.

Four goals adrift, the visitors started the second half much more positively with Tom Potter (Whitley Bay) working a chance on to his left foot which was blocked and then producing a shot which the keeper could not hold, Femi Williams (Monkseaton) bundled home the rebound only to find the assistant’s flag raised for offside.

Again, misfortune at one end was followed by even worse at the other as Straker fumbled a low shot at the foot of a post and was unable to stop it trickling over the line.

To their credit, the visitors continued to hold their own and with 20 minutes to go, Baker scrambled a consolation after a Nick Jarvis-Smith (St Cuthbert’s) shot had been blocked.

A Williams effort was blocked, but finished off by Nick Jarvis-Smith.

Sadly, brief hopes of a miraculous recovery were extinguished when the ever-threatening Masterson scored again to make it 6-2 at the final whistle.