Willington Quay Saints saints came out on top in the Howdon derby as three goals in the first half hour saw the game wrapped up before half-time as they produced one of their best performances of the season on a bitterly cold day at High Flatworth.
Quay made four changes from the 3-3 draw with Alnwick with Micky Austin and David Smith replacing Stu Duffield and John Foggett in the full back positions, Micky Young came in for Liam Taylor in central midfield and Carl McGuire replacing suspended Carl Henderson in goal.
Howdon came out of the blocks quicker and after an early spell of possession they had the first attempt at goal as Chris Marshall fired a shot that was bravely blocked by former Howdon player Kyle Austin.
After weathering the early storm Saints took the lead with their first meaningful attack.
A long ball forward was cleared into the path of midfielder Ryan Ferrier who fired powerfully first time past Howdon keeper Craig Jones from 18 yards to give Quay a dream start.
Just five minutes later the lead was doubled. Smith’s teasing left wing corner caused panic in the Howdon box and when the ball fell to Andy Breheny his shot was deflected into the roof of the net for his fifth goal in five games.
With Stephen King and Young winning the midfield battle, it allowed Ferrier more time to get forward and five minutes later he showed his attacking instincts as beat the offside trap to run on goal but he unselfishly tried to square the ball to Breheny only to be denied by a brilliant defensive clearance from a Howdon defender.
On the half hour it was three and the game was over as a contest as Howdon defender Craig Black brought down Saints’ Glen Johnson in the box for a penalty and was then sent off for arguing the decision. Johnson stepped up to convert the penalty but only just as Howdon keeper Jones got a good hand to it.
Howdon forward John Wyres moved back to centre half to fill the gap as Saints pushed forward, and they were close to going in at half-time with a fourth as Ferrier met Smith’s cross at the back post but his volley was saved on the line by Jones and cleared.
Saints were forced into an early second half change as centre back Kyle Austin was forced off with a knee injury. Forward Kane Chirnside replaced him with King going into defence in Austin’s absence and Breheny dropping back into King’s midfield spot.
Howdon finally tested McGuire ten minutes after half-time as midfielder Paul Westphal’s dipping strike from 25 yards was smartly tipped over the bar by the Saints keeper.
Youngster Chad Dalby came on for his Saints debut on the hour mark, replacing the impressive Young, and he looks to be a good signing as he played a quality ball into the path of Chirnside who cut inside his man before firing an unstoppable strike into the bottom corner to seal the win with 25 minutes remaining.
Howdon, to their credit, never let their heads drop and they almost scored a goal of the season contender as ex-Saint Declan King let fly with an audacious effort from his own half that flew narrowly over the bar with McGuire stranded.
The home side went close again as another effort from King needed a good touch from McGuire to tip it over, and when Marshall’s header came back to him off the post, Quay were relieved to see the offside flag raised.
Ben Senior replaced Glen Johnson for the remaining ten minutes and after turning past his marker brilliantly his powerful left footed strike was well held by stopper Jones.
With the game dying out in a barrage of hailstones, Saints went after a fifth goal and the icing on the cake, but when Chirnside picked out Ferrier in the area his shot was boldly blocked by Wyres, and when David Smith fired a shot well over the bar the full-time whistle was blown to the delight of the Quay players.
Buoyed on by around 40 supporters, Saints produced one of their better displays in recent times as they enjoyed their biggest win of the season as every player played their part in a great team performance.
Howdon started well but could not recover from a bad 20-minute spell in the first half, however, their fight and spirit remained until the end as they battled valiantly with ten men, almost grabbing a consolation goal.
Up next for Willington is the difficult trip to high-flying Shilbottle CW on Saturday.
Willington Quay Saints: McGuire, M Austin, Smith, M Henderson, K Austin (Chirnside 48), D Johnson, King, Young (Dalby 60), Ferrier, G Johnson (Senior 80), Breheny.