Percy Main secure title with a dramatic fight back

Percy Main players celebrate after winning the Northern Alliance first division title.
Percy Main players celebrate after winning the Northern Alliance first division title.

Promoted last week at Blyth Isabella, Percy Main were crowned Northern Alliance first division champions on Saturday after an amazing comeback against promotion chasing Wallsend Boys Club Seniors.

Main were seemingly dead and buried at 2-0 down during the latter stages of the game, but an inspired double substitution pitched Sam Thompson and Steve Hart into the fray in the 64th minute.

It was a critical move to which both players played a major part in all three of their side’s goals and a victory which meant Main had beaten every side in the division this season.

The Villagers had gone in at the interval a goal down to Jordan Robertson’s 19th minute penalty, but had perhaps just shaded matters.

But when Will James added a second for the visitors just before the hour mark, combined with a subdued second half start for the home side, there seemed little chance of a way back, but those present in Purvis Park’s biggest crowd of the season were treated to a sensational comeback which sparked wild celebrations on the pitch.

Supporters had to think back to the 1998-99 season for the last time that their side had won a divisional championship, under the guidance of current club treasurer Bob Rodgerson, while it was the season that a youthful Rob Rodgerson made his debut in goal for the club and it was the same goalkeeper with around 250 appearances under his belt who found himself beaten twice during the course of the afternoon.

Percy Main have led the table from the beginning of the season and can deservedly claim the plaudits which have come their way from near and far as they wrapped up the championship with three games to play.

On Saturday they faced one of their toughest games of the season against a side who earlier in the campaign knocked them out of the Combination cup and halted their 100 per cent winning start to the season, both at Wallsend’s Bigges Main base.

The early stages saw Wallsend’s Steve McCabe fire over and Redmond Cockburn made a vital challenge in the area to deny Alex Nisbett, while Percy Main threatened as Ryan McKee’s shot was just wide, Chris Laidlaw fired at Jake Cunningham in the visitors goal and Jorge Bollado headed off target.

The deadlock was broken as James Leggett tangled with Nisbett in the area and the same Wallsend forward stepped up to despatch the resultant spot kick, with Leggett yellow carded.

Main endeavoured to get back on terms as Laidlaw flashed a shot across the face of goal, McKee volleyed just past the post from Leggett’s deep cross and Laidlaw again went close from McKee’s free kick.

After the break little was seen of Percy Main’s attack and with the visitors seemingly well in control, it was no surprise when Wallsend doubled their lead as James converted a deep right wing cross at the far post.

At this point it looked as though the champagne would have to put on ice and that Wallsend would gain a crucial three points to assist in their own promotion aims, but when Thompson and Hart replaced Bollado and Joe Betts all that was about to change.

The Villagers came close as Leggett met McKee’s corner perfectly only to see Cunningham tip the ball over the crossbar.

But the home side threw themselves a lifeline as Rob Watson’s run into the left side of the area was abruptly and illegally halted according to the referee and Thompson confidently fired home the subsequent penalty to give the home side a crucial lift.

Thompson, recovering from injury and nowhere near fit, still proved too hot to handle for the visitors and minutes later played in McKee out wide on the left, and he curled a glorious effort beyond the reach of the goalkeeper to level matters with 11 minutes remaining.

Any thoughts that Percy Main may be happy to settle for a draw were dashed as Hart laid the ball off to Watson who sent a fizzing shot just over the crossbar.

But incredibly there was to be another twist in the tale as Leggett played a long ball out of defence for Hart to race on to, and faced with the on-rushing Cunningham, he produced an exquisite finish over the head of the goalkeeper to spark scenes of mass celebrations.

Percy Main wrap up their season with an away game at Bedlington Terriers Res on Saturday, host Gosforth Bohemians on Wednesday, April 15, and travel to New Fordley on Saturday April 18.