The game lived up to its star billing as Northern Alliance first division table toppers Percy Main Amateurs saw this season’s 100 per cent home league record ended by third placed AFC Newbiggin in an entertaining spectacle at Purvis Park, which ultimately could have gone either way.
The result propelled Newbiggin above Cullercoats who had previously led the chasing pack, but found themselves idle due to a waterlogged pitch at Hexham and into second place, some five points behind The Villagers but with a game in hand.
Lining up in the black and red stripes of the visitors was Ashley Smyth, a former Main player of recent times, and although lacking match practice, Smyth proved the difference between the sides and was instrumental in many of the visitors’ attacking forays during the afternoon.
Both goalkeepers excelled throughout the contest, but Newbiggin’s former Ashington custodian Craig Towart would be remembered for two crucial saves, one in each half at key moments during the game, which went some way to securing the win for the away side.
In front of a large crowd, Newbiggin came out of the blocks all guns blazing and it was a start that Percy Main never really got to grips with, nor fully recovered from.
Inside the first five minutes Brent Aisbitt sent a curling effort just wide and then brought a great save from Rob Rodgerson in the Main goal, having fastened onto a defence splitting ball from Smyth.
Aisbitt twice again went close for Newbiggin, with Smyth again the provider, and it was no real surprise when the visitors went ahead on 12 minutes with a goal that carried an amount of good fortune, as John Bone’s right wing free kick, touched on by Steven Slaughter, saw Mark Humble get the vital touch as the home defence failed to clear their lines.
The goal seemed to waken Percy Main, who had the lion’s share of possession during the rest of the half.
A good chance came and went as Ryan McKee threaded the ball through to Chris Laidlaw who found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat, but Towart raced from his line to block and preserve his side’s lead.
More Main pressure saw Sam Thompson cleverly make space down the left and his low centre reached Ant Ridley who turned and fired just over, while Redmond Cockburn saw his shot from the edge of the area charged down.
Laidlaw almost atoned for his earlier miss, but his goal bound header from McKee’s corner was kicked from the line at the far post, while Newbiggin reminded the home side of the danger they posed as Aisbitt broke in first half stoppage time and supplied Ross Muter, whose shot was saved by the legs of Rodgerson.
Following the restart, Newbiggin started the second half as they had the first, Main’s Micky Haley made a vital challenge in the area to halt Smyth, Rodgerson kicked clear from Kris Allington, while the same player sent an effort just the wrong side of the upright.
At the other end, Haley’s glancing header from McKee’s free kick was saved at full length by Towart and McKee played another set piece over the crossbar following a foul just outside the area on Thompson.
But Allington was to have the next word and when he converted a low centre on 67 minutes to put the visitors 2-0 up, it seemed a long road back for The Villagers.
It could have been worse as Newbiggin’s Muter saw his shot parried by Rodgerson minutes later.
But Percy Main threw themselves a lifeline on 76 minutes as Ryan Laws’ corner into a crowded area saw Laidlaw and Haley have a stab at the ball before James Leggett drove home at the far post.
Perhaps the most defining moment of the game came three minutes later as Percy Main’s Adam Green’s inch perfect cross from the right was met by Thompson’s diving goal bound header to which all inside Purvis Park thought to be the leveller, but Towart produced a breathtaking save to preserve his side’s advantage.
That was the closet Main were to come, while the dying minutes saw action at the other end as Smyth found Allington whose shot hit the post, while Muter’s run into the area was halted by Rodgerson.
Percy Main will look to get back to winning ways this Saturday with another home game as Blyth Isabella provide the opposition at Purvis Park, kick-off is 2pm.