After a year’s absence, Percy Main’s return to the Northern Alliance premier division ended in a six-goal thriller in which the spoils were shared with North Shields Athletic and probably deservedly so.
The game swung one way and then the other but ultimately ended in a point apiece for the North Tyneside rivals on a decidedly warm afternoon.
The game had an intriguing look about it as North Shields had finished their previous and only campaign in the league’s top tier with a highly creditable fourth place finish, while Main had been promoted as champions of the first division.
Along with a series of encouraging showings in pre-season against higher ranked opposition, hopes were high among the Purvis Park faithful.
What a first half it was, and there were not many watching who would have predicted Athletic’s devastating start which stunned their opponents as the home side went two up inside the first ten minutes, only for Main to roar back, playing some great attacking football with a three-goal salvo inside a 23-minute first half spell to put the visitors seemingly well in control by the interval.
On the home side’s artificial surface, Percy Main made a nervous start and Athletic were first out of the blocks as Dan Kenny’s looping header converted a left wing cross to give his side an early lead.
There was worse to come for the Villagers only a minute later as Kenny turned provider, touching on for Craig Boyle on the edge of the box who fired past the dive of Rob Rodgerson.
Stung into action, Percy Main responded as James Mobberley and Chris Laidlaw went close, but it was Laidlaw who halved the deficit on 17 minutes as Dean Ellis’s measured ball from midfield saw Laidlaw out pace the home defence and despite appearing to have been pulled back by the home rearguard, he fired home.
With Laidlaw and Ryan McKee instrumental, the action centred around Athletic’s final third as Jack Armstrong on his Main league debut headed over and Redmond Cockburn flashed a shot from McKee’s well worked low corner just past the post.
In reply, Boyle saw his goal bound effort tipped around the post by the alert Rodgerson and Dan Capewell headed over.
But the respite for the home side was short lived and parity was restored with the goal of the game as McKee latched onto a loose ball in midfield and shrugged off the home defence before running on to fire a glorious effort past Athletic custodian David Morton.
Laidlaw was causing all manner of problems for North Shields, firstly curling an effort just wide and then made the goal which gave his side the lead for the first time in the game as great perseverance saw him outwit his marker while out wide by the left corner flag and squared low for the hard working Jorge Bollado who led the forward line so well and rifled the ball home.
Just past the hour mark Bollado almost added to his account, having taken advantage of some poor defending by Athletic and faced with the on-rushing Morton, he managed to put the ball inches the wrong side of the upright.
The miss was to prove costly for Main as only a minute later, Athletic substitute Sean Millington was afforded acres of space on the left side of the area and he duly levelled matters once more.
Despite the heat taking its toll during the latter stages of the contest, to their credit, both sides endeavoured to win the game.
Boyle for the home side saw his shot deflected for a corner. Dan Barlow forced Rodgerson into a smart save and Boyle threatened again with a header across the face of goal.
At the other end, Athletic’s Adam Pollock got a vital touch to take the ball from the feet of Cockburn as he prepared to shoot, and Stuart Wright, on for Bollado, headed over the bar as Main finished the stronger.
Following Wednesday night’s game at home to Killingworth Town, Percy Main will stage an attractive game this Saturday when Carlisle City travel to Purvis Park for a 2.30pm kick-off.