YOU could not have written the script as in a nervous, nail-biting finish the Northern Alliance advanced into the FA Inter-League Cup first round after a penalty shoot-out win over Lancashire & Cheshire.
Alliance keeper Ian Milburn was the hero as he pulled off two stunning penalty saves as they went through 3-1 in the shoot-out.
When Matthew Thompson hammered in off the underside of the bar in the last minute of injury time it looked like the Alliance had won it, but the visitors forced a leveller with the last kick of the game.
Represented by reigning champions Harraby CC, the Alliance began brightly with Segio Royo, Thompson and Rob Bainbridge all going close.
The Alliance suffered a setback on the half hour when Dan Balmer was brought down and was unable to continue, being replaced by James Tose.
Bainbridge limped off soon after, and with half-time approaching Lancs forced a corner that was only cleared to just outside the box where Hector Samuel struck a blistering half-volley that flew past Milburn into the roof of the net.
To rub salt into the wounds, Tose pulled a hamstring as the corner came in and he had to be replaced by Peterlee Town’s Steve Hockaday, who was helping Harraby out due to their shortage of fit players.
Marc Shiel looped a header over the keeper but a covering defender raced back to head off the line.
Royo let fly with a shot from 20 yards that flew inches wide and a Thompson back post header hit the side netting before the Alliance levelled with ten minutes to go.
Royo again fired from distance, which was deflected into the path of substitute Jordan Cowley who whipped in a low cross that Shiel fired in at the near post from six yards.
The Alliance were celebrating in the dying seconds of extra time when Thompson smashed a shot against the underside of the bar that bounced up into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.
But Lancs threw caution to the wind as they went on one last surge forward and forced a corner.
With all of their team, including the keeper, packed into the box, Milburn’s punched clearance fell to Kane Berkeley on the edge of the box and he unbelievably lashed into the top corner.
In the shoot-out, Otutu took the first kick for the visitors but his well struck effort saw Milburn dive to his right to touch the ball onto the bar.
Shiel confidently slotted his effort home to put the home side ahead before Knott then hit his kick at a comfortable height for Milburn to go to his right and save again.
Royo gave the Alliance a two-goal lead with his successful kick before Berkely then fired the visitors’ third over the bar.
Ashley Combes’ effort came back off the bar with Costa netting for Lancs but Dan Anderton became the match winner as he slotted home.
The Northern Alliance now face the Yorkshire Amateur League in the first round of the competition, which sees the winners represent England in the UEFA Regions Cup.
Northern Alliance League Round-Up
SEATON Delaval’s Steven Anderson must have felt that he had gone from hero to zero as he was sent off after just two minutes against leaders Ponteland United.
Anderson had netted twice from the penalty spot as Delaval lifted the Challenge Cup in midweek, but his afternoon’s work came to an abrupt halt with the straight red card.
His team-mates, however, did him proud as Steven Gray bent a free kick around the wall and in off the post for the only goal of the game.
United’s defeat blew the title race wide open as second-placed Alnwick Town came from behind twice against battling bottom side Cramlington Town to win 4-2 and move within two points of the leaders with a game in hand.
Johnny Lowes and James Card scored for the visitors with Scott McMullen hitting a double and Mark Cockburn and Danny Lowes getting the others for Alnwick.
There was a surprise at high-flying Killingworth as Murton striker Paul Wintripp netted a hat-trick to give them hope of avoiding relegation in a storming 4-1 win.
Nathan Ball grabbed the other for rampant Murton while Craig Harley netted the consolation.
Steve Forster, Glenn Caygill and a Wayne Stewart penalty secured Stocksfield’s 3-0 win at Walker Central as they got a bit of breathing space, while Wark’s Thomas McAlindon got a double in a 2-2 draw with Shankhouse, who had Kevin Ward and Chris Rue on target.
Liam Davidson gave Ashington Colliers the lead from the penalty spot against Gateshead Rutherford but Eddie Keenan levelled soon after. Michael Hogg hit the winner for Colliers.
Carlisle City keeper Stephen Bellas was sent off at Percy Main as goals from Michael Bowman, Jason Ritchie and substitute Craig Ewart gave the home side a comfortable 3-0 win.
Heaton Stannington were made to sweat before they went into the Kicks Leisure George Dobbins League Cup final.
Goals from Ian Lee and Craig Smith put first division visitors Whitley Bay A 2-0 up in eight minutes. But Adam Donaghey netted a penalty to get Heaton back in it and then struck the equaliser before they went on to win the game 4-2 on penalties.
Leaders Hebburn Reyrolle continued their march towards the title with a 5-0 win over Newcastle East End.
Ray Oshin hit two and he was joined by Simon Jacobs, Channon North and Craig Watson as leaders Hebburn Reyrolle beat Newcastle East End 5-0 while Heddon recorded a 6-1 success at Berwick United.
Ben Haddock netted a double and Paul Thompson, Chris Moffat, Andrew Davidson and Steven Satherthwaite all got in on the act while Craig Heugh hit a consolation.
Amble United’s Sean Taylor got two and Brett Robertson the other in a 3-2 derby win at Stobswood Welfare. Kevin Bell and Adam Shanks were on target for the home side who are now deep in relegation trouble.
Jordan Nellis scored twice for Wallington as they were 3-2 victors over Morpeth Sporting to claim local bragging rights in the other derby clash. Kyle Reardon put the other away with Dale Chubb and Billy Hynes the Morpeth marksmen.
Anthony Abladey was the hot-shot of the day with a four-goal return in South Shields United’s emphatic 8-2 win at North Shields Athletic.
He was joined on the scoresheet by Mark Dawes (2), Aristote Guerin and David Hilary with Gary Farrage and Richard Speckman replying for shell-shocked Athletic.
Goals from Michael Reay, Darren Henderson and Alan Kelly ensured that First Division bottom side Forest Hall won their second game on the bounce as they beat Gosforth Bohemians 3-1 with Craig Allen replying.
Rob Watson, Gareth Armstrong and Craig Deighton scored for Cullercoats as they won 3-1 at Newcastle Uni. Tom Stapleton scored for the Students.
Wallsend Town stayed on top of Division Two as Craig Burke netted a double at Boys Club. Sean Reid was also on target while Connor Winter netted the consolation.
Matty Harrison also netted twice for Newcastle Chemfica Independent as they maintained their title chances with a 4-1 success over Tynemouth United.
Steve McLaughlin and new signing Manu were also on target in the win with United’s Scot Rowan netting the consolation.
Northbank’s John Slaven claimed the match ball with a treble in a 6-0 drubbing of bottom side Wideopen with Nicky Routledge, Andy Rogerson and Martin Rickerby also registering while Red House Farm were also among the goals as they ran out 5-2 victors over Willington Quay Saints.
Ben Cooper and Greg Wiley scored for Simonside SC whose promotion hopes are still strong after a 2-1 win over Hexham, with Curtis Hardy their scorer, while Stuart Rook struck twice for Swalwell in a 3-1 win at Whitley Bay Town.
Graeme Murray replied, but the unlucky Paolo Black put into his own net.
Nicky Hara, Ian Armstrong and Stephen Baker all scored in a red-hot six minute spell for Seaton Burn as they beat Cramlington United 3-0.
The league sadly lost their fourth side of the season as Cullercoats Custom Planet have resigned from Division Two.
Saturday, April 9
FA Inter League Cup Preliminary Round: Northern Alliance 2 Lancashire & Cheshire 2 (AET Northern Alliance won 3-1 on pens).
Kicks Leisure George Dobbins League Cup Semi-Final: Heaton Stannington 2 Whitley Bay A 2 (Heaton Stannington won 4-2 on pens).
Premier Division: Alnwick Town 4 Cramlington Town 2; Ashington Colliers 2 Gateshead Rutherford 1; Killingworth Sporting 1 Murton 4; Percy Main Amateurs 3 Carlisle City 0; Seaton Delaval Ams 1 Ponteland Utd 0; Walker Central 0 Stocksfield 3; Wark 2 Shankhouse 2.
Division One: Berwick Utd Ultras 1 Heddon 6; Forest Hall 3 Gosforth Bohemians 1; Hebburn Reyrolle 5 Newcastle East End 0; Newcastle University 1 Cullercoats 3; North Shields Ath 2 South Shields Utd 8; Stobswood Welfare 2 Amble Utd 3; Wallington 3 Morpeth Sporting 2.
Division Two: Newcastle Chemfica Ind 4 Tynemouth Utd 1; Northbank 6 Wideopen 0; Red House Farm 5 Willington Quay Saints 2; Seaton Burn 3 Cramlington Utd 0; Simonside SC 2 Hexham 1; Wallsend Boys Club 1 Wallsend Town 3; Whitley Bay Town 1 Swalwell 3.
Monday, April 11
Premier Division: Ashington Colliers 1 Seaton Delaval Amateurs 2; Heaton Stannington 2 Percy Main Amateurs 1; Killingworth Sporting 2 Walker Central 4.
Division One: Gosforth Bohemians 0 Forest Hall 2; South Shields Utd 3 Morpeth Sports 1.
Wednesday, April 13 (6.15pm unless stated)
Premier Division: Ashington Colliers v Cramlington Town (7pm); Blyth Town v Wark; Carlisle City v Stocksfield; Kilingworth Sp v Shankhouse; Ponteland Utd v Percy Main Amateurs; Seaton Delaval Ams v Heaton Stannington; Walker Central v Murton.
Division One: Heddon v Newcastle University; Morpeth Sports v Gosforth Bohemians; North Shields Ath v Newcastle East End; Peterlee Town v Berwick Utd Ultras; South Shields Utd v Cullercoats; Whitley Bay A v Wallington,
Division Two: Cramlington Utd v Wallsend Boys Club; Hexham v Wideopen; Newcastle Chem Ind v Whitley Bay Town; Red House Farm v Tynemouth Utd; Seaton Burn v Northbank; Swalwell v Willington QS.
Saturday, April 16 (2.30pm unless stated)
Kicks Leisure George Dobbins League Cup Semi-Final (2pm): Blyth Town v Ashington Colliers.
Premier Division: Cramlington Town v Percy Main Ams; Gateshead Rutherford v Alnwick Town; Harraby CC v Murton; Ponteland Utd v Heaton Stannington; Seaton Delaval Ams v Wark; Shankhouse v Stocksfield; Walker Central v Carlisle City.
Division One: Berwick Utd Ultras v Newcastle University; Cullercoats v Whitley Bay A; Forest Hall v North Shields Ath; Heddon v Amble Utd; Newcastle East End v Gosforth Bohemians; Stobswood Welfare v South Shields Utd; Wallington v Peterlee Town.
Division Two: Northbank v Cramlington Utd; Red House Farm v Newcastle Chem Ind; Tynemouth Utd v Swalwell; Wallsend Town v Hexham; Whitley Bay Town v Simonside SC; Wideopen v Seaton Burn; Willington QS v Wallsend Boys Club.
Monday, April 18 (6.15pm unless stated)
Premier Division: Blyth Town v Walker Central; Harraby CC v Killingworth Sp; Shankhouse v Ashington Colliers; Stocksfield v Heaton Stannington.
Division One: Amble Utd v Wallington; Newcastle University v North Shields Ath; South Shields Utd v Forest Hall; Stobswood Welfare v Gosforth Bohemians; Whitley Bay A v Hebburn Reyrolle.
Division Two: Tynemouth Utd v Cramlington Utd; Wallsend Boys Club v Whitley Bay Town; Wallsend Town v Northbank.