Northern Alliance Division Two
Burradon FC 0 Willington Quay Saints 3
Willington got the new season off to a cracking start as they produced a great display to beat league newcomers Burradon FC, only the second time in 10 years the Quay have won on the opening day.
With 12 new signings in the squad, manager Bobby Foreman sent out a new-look side featuring three debutants in Jak Mcdougall, Brandon Williams and Ben McDermott, who became the first player to be born after the Saints was formed in 2000 to play for the club.
Four others – Callum Ancrum, Scott Ramsay, Glen Gallon and Ross Thirlaway – returned to the side after spells at other clubs, with Ellis Burns, Jack Wearmouth, Ryan Ferrier and captain Micky Young the only players from last season’s squad to keep their place in the side.
Burradon were playing in their first Northern Alliance game and they started brightly as their young side pressed forward from the off with left-winger Sam Walker sending a shot just over in the early stages.
The positivity that had surrounded the build-up to the Saints’ new season was quickly transferred onto the pitch as they took the lead on seven minutes. Gallon ran through on goal only to be denied by a smart save from Burradon’s Joseph Mclean but the ball fell kindly into the path of Thirlaway who tucked the ball home left-footed from eight yards to give the Quay a dream start.
The Quay almost had a second after brilliant work from wing back McDermott, who raced down the right flank before pulling the ball back to Thirlaway, whose first-time shot cannoned back off the post.
McDermott was causing havoc and another ball in saw Gallon rise highest to power a header that beat the keeper but not the crossbar as the Saints went so close to doubling their lead.
The home side then created a great chance of their own as Sam Walker was played in on goal but Saints stopper Ellis Burns produced a great save to keep out the winger’s powerful strike .
Thirlaway volleyed wide after a great diagonal ball from Ferrier while debutant Brandon Williams danced his way past two defenders before firing a left-footed strike that went just the wrong side of the post with the keeper beaten.
Willington’s fine attacking display finally reaped another reward just before half-time and it was all down to the perseverance of forward Gallon who ran onto a ball over the top before shrugging of the last defender before smashing the ball home, despite the best efforts of Mclean, who almost kept it out.
Right on half-time, Burradon went desperately close to pulling a goal back as right back Owen Barrett let fly right-footed from 35 yards only to see the ball crash back off the bar with Burns beaten.
Burns was replaced at half-time due to an eye injury with another player on debut Liam Davison taking his place between the sticks. However, the action was all at the other end as the Saints went for a third goal with Gallon denied a second by a great save from Mclean, who deflected the ball onto the post and wide from point-blank range.
Wearmouth then followed his fellow wing back with a great run down the left with his cross just evading Thirlaway in the middle and when McDermott kept the ball in, his pull back was met with a stinging strike by Ferrier which was bravely blocked by a defender.
The killer third goal came for the Saints just before the hour mark. Thirlaway, who was unplayable from the first minute, turned past the left back before pulling the ball back to the penalty spot where Williams’ deflected strike found the back of the net for his first goal for the club.
Stephen King and Marky Wilkinson came on for Williams and Young while last season’s top scorer Joe Connor came on for the highly impressive McDermott. Matty Adams also appeared replacing Wearmouth as the manager took advantage of the new rule of all five subs being able to be used.
The final 20 minutes saw the Quay dominate with Connor certain his strike had crossed the line but the appeal was waved away, Gallon somehow fired wide at the back post after great play from Connor while at the other end Davison was untroubled as the back three of Ramsay, Mcdougall and Ancrum who never lost a header all day put in a fine display to start the season with a clean sheet.
Willington’s 19th season as a club looks set to be an exciting one as a young team with pace and bags of talent have breathed fresh air into the side, leaving last season’s struggles a distant memory.
They go again this Saturday at home to Wideopen FC in a 2.30pm ko at the Barking Dog.