Heaton Stannington 2-0 Northallerton Town
Saturday 21January 2017
The Stan Army’s post mortem into the 95th minute defeat at Team North in our last game concluded that it was the strength of the respective bench’s which was the difference between the 2 teams. The Stan had brought on Johnson, who lasted 5 minutes, and 2 promising 17 year olds whilst the students bench was full of experience. On Saturday, the Stan bench was equally experienced and was key to turning a drab draw into 3 valuable points. The pre-match buzz was all about the return of goal scoring Jonathan Wright from Bishop Auckland and Jordan Ray from long term injury and loan at Walker Central. There were 4 changes in total from Team North with Robinson and Deagle returning from injury, replacing Yates and Jones, and Errington and Riley moving to Blyth Town.
The visitors kicked off attacking the Church End on a heavy looking pitch. The opening quarter was cagey as both defences were on top and other than a dangerous ball across the Stan’s 6 yard box there was little to report. The Stan eventually got going and after Deagle shot wide from 30 yards, Wright then shot across the face of goal from out on the left before missing the best chance of the half when sent clear and his left footed curler drifted wide. A free kick from Wright from 20 yards was wide, before he then crossed and the Northallerton keeper did well to punch clear as Imray challenged. Northallerton forced the 1st corner of the game on 37 minutes which Smith easily dealt with and the Stan ended the disappointing half with a deflected cross almost falling to Holland, a Robinson shot being blocked, and Wright’s volley from the rebound being easily saved.
Northallerton were first to show after the break and Sims should have done better on 48 minutes but he shot over the bar when well placed. The Stan were restricted to shots from distance from Deagle and Holland as both teams 4-4-2 line ups cancelled each other out. There was a scare for the Stan on 62 minutes when a glancing header from a Northallerton attacker was saved by a combination of Smith and the far post. This seemed to wake the Stan up and a great cross from Deagle forced their first corner on 65 and from this Jon Jon got in a shot at the near post which was well saved at the expense of another corner which was eventually scrambled clear. As we entered the last 20 minutes, most of the crowd of 97 would have believed 0-0 was on the cards but not Dekka and Geoff. They replaced Fulcher and Imray with the more attack minded midfield pairing of Jones and Johnson in an attempt to break the deadlock. Jones was immediately on the ball running at Northallerton and within 5 minutes the changes paid dividends when he beat 2 men in the centre of the pitch before releasing Deagle on the left and his superb cross was turned in on the volley by Lee Johnson. The Stan were buzzing now and Deagle set up Robinson who’s shot was blocked for another corner. This was cleared but another tremendous run by Jones set up Johnson again. This time he poked it past the keeper from close range for 2-0 on 78 minutes.3 minutes later and Smith had to be alert to block with his feet at the expense of a corner, which was then cleared after another shot was blocked. Johnson had a glorious chance of a hat-trick on 85 minutes as his close-range volley was blocked and trickled inches wide. The Stan stayed on the offensive as we entered stoppage time and firstly a Johnson cross was deflected for a corner, and then a great move down the right involving Stoddart, Holland and substitute Yates set up Robinson who shot into the side-netting. There was still time left for the lively Yates to shoot past the keeper on 94 minutes but his effort rolled wide of the far post. The final whistle blew on 95 minutes with the Stan Army delighted with the result and the cameos from the bench.
There was no doubt that the introduction of Jones and Johnson had deservedly won the points for the Stan and the management team should be applauded for opening the game up although the foundations were built by the solid back 5 with Ray outstanding. A 4th successive home league win, followed now by 4 more home games, gives the Stan an excellent chance of getting back into the top 6, providing that the bench is strong enough to support the starting 11.
Team 4-4-2 Smith, Stoddart, Dixon, Wear (C), Ray, Fulcher (Johnson 72), Holland, Imray (Jones 72), Wright (Yates 83), Robinson, Deagle. Sub not used: James