PERCY Main Amateurs reached their fourth cup final in three seasons and second Northumberland FA Senior Benevolent Bowl during that time with a hard fought 2-1 victory over Ashington Colliers at Purvis Park.
The thrilling semi-final went to extra-time and it was fitting that man of the match Ashley Smyth was the one who proved to be the difference between the sides when he tapped in to an empty net after Craig Towart in the Colliers goal had made an impressive block from a Malcolm Morien cross shot in the 113th minute.
Having seen the tie postponed the previous week because of a waterlogged pitch, the Villagers were in good heart following a 6-4 midweek win at Shankhouse.
While there were only three goals on Saturday, compared to the ten in midweek, it would not be wrong to say Saturday’s game was the more exciting game, possibly because the prize of a cup final spot was more enticing than a prosaic haul of three league points.
Perhaps the importance of the occasion was reflected in the opening exchanges that showed the two teams to be nip and tuck, with very few clear chances.
While Ashington defended resolutely and in depth, John Amos did work a decent opening for himself on the left of the area, but his attractively shaped shot just flew too high of angle of bar and post.
For much of the first half, play veered from one penalty area to the other, with the two defences taking turns to make heroic blocks.
Percy Main, especially through the creative running of Smyth and Michael Bowman, were the side on top, but a breakthrough seemed elusive.
Indeed it seemed a fond hope when Ashington took the lead through Dylan Williamson after 40 minutes.
A few minutes previous he had turned in the box and fired in a powerful low shot that Rob Rodgerson showed great handling to hold cleanly.
However there was no mistake about the finish for the goal. Drifting away at the back post, Williamson produced an accurate header that beat both Rodgerson and Tony Browell’s despairing clearance.
Two minutes later there was controversy when Main had a goal disallowed after a lengthy consultation between referee and his assistant.
The flag was raised against Bowman right on halfway after he came back from an offside position. However, the referee acknowledged it and waved play on.
About 30 seconds later play finally came to a halt when Malcolm Morien hooked in after Bowman had fed Amos whose shot was blocked.
Initially the goal was given, but after furious protestations by Ashington, the referee consulted the assistant and chalked the ‘goal’ off.
The second half began with Smyth twice denied by last ditch tackles when well placed to shoot and Bowman fizzed an effort across the face of goal after a Morien pass.
The equaliser finally came after 69 minutes when Morien fired home from the spot after the effervescent Smyth had been body-checked by David Brown.
It was no more than the home side deserved and it seemed as if there would only be one winner from then on.
In injury time Bowman and then Amos both ran out of pitch after getting round the back of the Ashington defence, but a winner was definitely in the air.
The quiet first half of extra-time seemed to hint at a penalty shoot-out, but Smyth made this unnecessary when scoring with seven minutes to go, then being buried under a pile of his ecstatic team mates.
In the end, justice was done and the best team had won.
Percy Main will play Seaton Delaval in the final at West Allotment’s Blue Flames ground on a date to be announced.
Next Saturday, March 26, Percy Main are in action away to Wark in a Northern Alliance league game. Kick off is 2.30pm.