Hard-fought draw ends losing streak

FOLLOWING four consecutive away defeats, Percy Main’s patched-up side gained a deserved draw in an entertaining game against Ashington.

The Colliers went into the game a place below the Villagers in the table.

Player-manager Jason Ritchie was forced to juggle his squad due to an injury and unavailability crisis which ruled out forwards Kevin Westphal, Craig Ewart, Jon McEnaney and Michael Bowman.

However, those who deputised – in particular, Mattie Dunn, making only his second start for the club – put in a superb shift in the home side’s front line.

Making up the bench were the nowhere near fully fit Mick Haley, Ashley Smyth and Mark Watson, all of whom could have probably done with an afternoon’s rest if the truth be told.

The sides had met twice previously this season in league and cup, with the Main winning both by a 2-1 margin.

This time around, Ritchie’s side were forced to come from behind twice during the course of the afternoon to claim their hard-earned point.

In the opening minutes, the Villagers were first on the offensive and showed encouraging signs as John Amos fired over from Ritchie’s corner and Dean Ellis steered just wide following good play by Dunn down the left.

But against the run of play, the Colliers took the lead, David Brown firing home a fourth-minute free kick from 25 yards which stayed low and found its way past the unsighted Phil Hogg in the home goal.

The visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession and looked to double their lead as Gregg Martin nodded Patrice Butters just past the post, while Carl Sayers and Brown both had efforts which weren’t too far away from the target.

Percy Main, for their part, enjoyed a purple patch around the half-hour mark as Liam Knox released Malcolm Morien, whose stinging drive was acrobatically tipped onto the underside of the crossbar by Ashington goalkeeper Craig Towart.

Towart again preserved his side’s lead seconds later by palming behind Dunn’s goalbound effort.

But the visitors’ respite was to prove short-lived after Ellis volleyed wide from Shadforth’s cross.

Percy Main drew level just before the break after Amos played a great through ball for Morien to fire home in style.

The start of the second half saw Percy Main denied what looked like a stone-wall penalty for a handball offence, but the match referee was having none of it and waved play on.

Morien looked to add to his afternoon’s tally, but nodded narrowly wide from Ritchie’s measured flag kick.

Ashington always looked a threat and regained their lead on 63 minutes in a move down the left as neat interchange play by Simon Cunnningham and Butters saw the former fire low into the net from the edge of the area.

Play swung from end to end, and Morien again went close for the Villagers, while Ashington’s Glen Bolton saw his effort desperately hacked from the line.

The Main were awarded a penalty in the 74th minute after Smyth was upended in the area, and Ritchie confidently fired home to level matters once more.

The industrious Dunn, who did everything but score and certainly deserved a goal for Percy Main during the course of the contest, again saw an effort go inches past the upright, while a deep ball from Ellis found Shadforth in space, but, not for the first time in the match, Towart pulled off a superb save to deny what may have been the winner for the home side.

Ashington themselves could have snatched the points in the dying minutes as Cunningham’s dangerous cross was cleared from the line by Tony Browell and Ritchie made another last-ditch goal line clearance from the resultant corner.

This Saturday, Percy Main are at home to Wark in another Northern Alliance Premier Division match. Kick-off is at 2.30pm.