Willington Quay Saints leave it late to prove a point

Willington Quay Saints' Ross Thirlaway makes it 1-1.
Willington Quay Saints' Ross Thirlaway makes it 1-1.

Willington Quay Saints left it until the 93rd minute to rescue a well deserved point at Cramlington United.

Matty Adams headed home with the last touch of the game to make it 3-3 in a pulsating encounter in the Bluefin Sports Insurance Northern Alliance second division.

Two changes were made to the Quay line-up from the previous week’s defeat at Wideopen, with Carl Henderson returning in goal and Phil Doolan replacing Andy Breheny in an attacking formation as Saints looked for their first win of 2016.

Saints, wearing their blue away strips, almost took the lead early on as club captain Mark Henderson swiveled eight yards out before firing a left-footed strike that flew narrowly over.

Cramlington took the lead in their first real attack as a long ball down the left saw striker Niall Younger get to it first before cutting inside and firing a powerful strike past Henderson into the left hand corner of the net.

The impressive Younger then nearly doubled the lead as he almost got on the end of a slack back pass, but Henderson did well to thwart the danger-man with his feet before gathering the ball before the striker could finish.

Quay were dealt a blow ten minutes before half-time as centre half Dale Johnson went down in agony after landing awkwardly on his ankle and he was forced to go off, Matty Adams replacing him in defence.

Willington went close to equalising before the break as right winger Callum Chirnside found Mark Henderson with a peach of a cross but his looping header was tipped over the bar by the Cramlington keeper.

Two minutes into the second half Saints were level. Youngster Ross Thirlaway side-footed through a crowd of defenders after a ball was cleared straight to him to give the visitors a brilliant start to the half his ninth goal in his tenth game of his debut season.

Thirlaway nearly had a double just minutes later as he raced onto a short back pass before rounding the keeper, leaving a tight angle, and when he tried to cut back from the byline he slipped with the goal gaping.

Younger remained a threat at the other end and the Cramlington forward forced a fine finger-tip save from Henderson as he struck a venomous shot from just outside the box that the Saints stopper tipped over the bar.

With 25 minutes remaining Quay grabbed the lead. Great build-up play between Mark Wilkinson and Micky Young found Jack Dixon, who took a touch before firing low and hard into the left hand corner for his first ever Saints goal.

The lead was short lived as the visitors shot themselves in the foot as keeper Henderson dallied on a back pass from Noel Clynch and Younger robbed him of the ball before firing home from a yard out to level the game at 2-2.

Lumi Ballabanaj and Stu Duffield replaced Dixon and Young with the game in the balance and Duffield almost created a third goal for Quay as his cross from the left found the head of Henderson but he glanced his effort wide.

Phil Doolan’s long throws were putting the Cramlington defence under all kinds of pressure as Saints pressed for a winner, with Wilkinson forcing a fine save from the home keeper after a throw was cleared to him, and then Clynch was unable to find his feet as the ball fell to him just yards from goal.

Typical of the season so far for Quay, they were hit by a sucker punch as after a period of sustained pressure they lapsed in concentration allowing a long ball to find Younger who beat two men before finding strike partner Sam Stevenson who calmly stroked the ball into the corner from 12 yards out putting his side ahead with five minutes left on the clock.

With seconds remaining Quay forced a corner and threw everyone including keeper Henderson into the box in the hope of grabbing a point, and remarkably they grabbed one as Doolan’s delivery was powerfully headed home by sub Adams from six yards to the delight and relief of all involved with the side.

A rollercoaster of emotions for Quay as they nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory but ultimately salvaged a draw in a dramatic ending to a highly entertaining game of football.

Back to back good performances and they will hopefully put in another one on Saturday at home to Prudhoe Youth Club Seniors, kick-off 2pm at the Barking Dog.

Willington Quay Saints: C Henderson, Chirnside, Doolan, King, Clynch, D.Johnson (Adams 34), Wilkinson, Young (Duffield 75), Thirlaway, Dixon (Ballabanaj 72), M Henderson.