In what was undoubtedly the Northern Alliance first division’s game of the day, league leaders Percy Main put more daylight between themselves and second placed AFC Newbiggin.
An excellent 3-1 away win will surely go a long way to realising the club’s ambition of promotion back to the premier division at the first attempt.
Main now lead the table by 14 points with just six games remaining, although some of the chasing pack do have two or three games in hand.
The game itself was spoilt as a spectacle by a strong and unrelenting end to end wind to which Main put to better use than the home side, who when playing with the elements had only one goal to show for their efforts at half-time, despite having the lion’s share of the action.
The result put an end to Percy Main’s mini losing streak which had seen their three previous games against Newcastle University, Lindisfarne and Hexham perhaps surprisingly go unrewarded, and with it any doubts that the side might not have what it takes when facing the more physical sides.
Lining up for Newbiggin were ex-Villagers Ashley Smyth and Jon McEnaney, who had both figured with distinction for Main in the not too distant past.
Although those of claret and blue persuasion could reflect on what was undoubtedly a great team performance, the visitors were particularly indebted to two players who have found appearances restricted this season.
Stewart Wright has recently returned to the side having spent time abroad and made what was only his second appearance of the season, yet put in a superb shift in the Villagers’ front line and was a real thorn in Newbiggin’s side throughout, while midfielder Ryan McKee, last season’s Young Player of the Year, excelled, scoring the equaliser and providing the ammunition for the other two goals.
Due to the conditions, the contest was the proverbial game of two halves with Newbiggin more or less encamped in Main territory during the first period as the visitors at times struggled to clear their lines.
Despite the advantage which saw Newbiggin’s Gary Bailes, Ross Muter and McEnaney have noteworthy attempts on goal, the home side took only a single goal lead into the second half courtesy of John Bone’s 25th minute header from a long through ball which caught out Main’s defence.
Ironically playing against the wind and with the second half only eight minutes old, Newbiggin almost doubled their lead as Bailes’ free kick fell to Richard Morris who saw his shot kicked from the line.
It was to be the last opportunity for Newbiggin as Percy Main took their turn to use the wind to their advantage.
James Leggett saw his header saved by Newbiggin custodian Craig Towart, while Ryan Laws and Redmond Cockburn went close, but parity was restored on 71 minutes as McKee’s superb free kick from distance gave Towart no chance. From then on there was only going to be one winner.
Joe Betts was added to the fray for Jorge Bollado and after only five minutes the centre forward made a telling contribution by converting McKee’s right wing centre to give Main the lead for the first time in the afternoon.
It was Betts’ tenth goal of the season and how important could that one turn out to be?
Things got even better for Percy Main with six minutes remaining as Wright struck from McKee’s assist to complete the scoring, while the closing minutes saw Dan Sneap force a save from Towart and Laws’ wind assisted 35-yard free kick was just over.
On Saturday Percy Main will host another of the sides with promotion aspirations as Ponteland United visit Purvis Park, kick-off is 2.30pm.