Percy Main lose out in seven-goal thrill against University
The last time Percy Main played at Newcastle University's neatly appointed Cochrane Park base was during their promotion season of 2014-15 when Newcastle Chemfica used the ground.
On that occasion those present witnessed an incredible nine-goal thriller in which Main had led 3-0 at one point, but found themselves pegged back at 4-4 during the closing stages only for Adam Green to net the winner with only two minutes remaining.
Saturday’s game, with Green as Main skipper, will also be remembered as a contest played out with no lack of incident and another which swung one way and then the other as the University found themselves two goals to the good inside the first six minutes, only for Percy Main to hit back through a Chris Glass strike and a second half double from Chris Laidlaw, Main’s top scorer, who had also registered in the previous goal fest against Chemfica.
However, any thoughts that Main would grind out a creditable away win were dashed by two goals within the final quarter of an hour by the home side to ultimately leave the battling Villagers with nothing to show for their efforts.
Promoted at the end of last season from the Northern Alliance’s middle tier, Newcastle University have made an excellent start to life in the premier division, with only two defeats from the opening 11 games and a current run of four straight league wins.
The home side could also count on a 4-1 home success over Main during their last meeting a year and a half ago in which centre forward Olly Walker netted all four, and ominously, Walker was to play an important part in his side’s latest win, scoring a brace which included a 79th minute penalty, the subsequent match-winner.
Main manager Richard Nugent made six changes to the starting XI which had capitulated 5-1 at home to Ponteland United seven days earlier, including a first start for Marcus McCreedy, who had signed on a transfer from Wallsend Boys Club two days prior to the game.
The opening minutes apart, Nugent was rewarded with a much improved showing and many positives to take from the game.
It was a near disastrous opening for Percy Main as goalkeeper Shaun Backhouse was forced into a save at the feet of Thomas Woodier, but he was powerless to prevent the experienced Keith Douglas putting the home side in front with a shot from 20 yards just five minutes in.
Barely 60 seconds had passed before the home side doubled their lead as a defensive lapse presented Walker with his first of the afternoon.
Main then visibly tightened up at the back and tested the home defence as Chris Glass fired narrowly over and Laidlaw won a corner and volleyed inches the wrong side of the upright from the subsequent flag kick.
For their part, University made their attacking presence felt as Tom Espin’s ball in from the right just evaded Woodier and Backhouse made an important stop from Walker on the half hour mark.
There was a let off for Percy Main on 39 minutes as Callum Horn found Walker and his shot hit the frame of the goal.
But the visitors threw themselves a lifeline as half-time approached as great play down the right by Jordan Miller saw him outwit the University defence and his low cross was converted by Glass.
On the stroke of half-time, home custodian Iain McLeod made a brave save at the feet of Stewart Wright, injuring himself in the process.
Parity was restored soon after the restart as a cunning ball in from the left flank, with the outside of his foot by Glass found Laidlaw who ran on to finish in style past the stricken goalkeeper.
As Main looked to gain the upper hand, Laidlaw was inches away from adding to his tally as he fired across the face of goal and Green played in Miller who shot into the side-netting.
Perhaps inevitably the stalemate was not to last and 65 minutes in Wright played in Laidlaw who showed great composure to run on and slot home despite the best efforts of Macleod.
Minutes later there was almost a fourth on the board for the visitors as Miller held the ball up well and supplied Laidlaw, but this time his effort was kicked from the line.
Unfortunately for Percy Main, this was to be the last of their attacking prowess as the home side rallied once more.
Espin went close and the visitors were indebted to a superb last ditch block by McCreedy, while it took the combined desperate efforts of Elliot Mitchell and Backhouse on the line to thwart Walker.
With the bit between their teeth, University drew level on 76 minutes as Walker centred from the right and ex-North Shields man Douglas, who had a sterling game in his side’s midfield, rifled the ball home.
A minute later Main hearts were in their mouths as Espin centred from the right and substitute Mathew Konadu-Yiadom hit the post with the goal begging.
For the visitors, that moment of good fortune was not to repeat itself and the deciding goal came 11 minutes from time in Newcastle University’s favour as Robert Hesketh was felled in the area and Walker made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Percy Main face AFC Newbiggin at home this Saturday, kick-off is 2pm.