Bell pops up with a late winner for Spittal
North Shields Ath 3-4 Spittal Rovers
Craig Bell popped up with a dramatic injury time winner on North Tyneside, causing euphoric scenes at the end of this niggly affair - his late header capping off a memorable win for the Seasiders in what was their 100th match since reforming in 2015.
Despite missing skipper Paul Wood as well as Stephen Mason, David Glennie, Dylan Johnston, Ewan Sherry and Dmitrijs Paplavskis, Rovers more than caused their hosts problems going forward despite taking a while to settle into proceedings. They were on the back foot from kick-off with Josh Walsh testing Ashley Pendrich in the Spittal goal with two early efforts. He initially burst through to send a shot just off target before another floated inches wide - claims that Pendrich had got his fingertips to it casually waved away by the referee.
Deservedly, North Shields got the goal that they craved as a result of a slack pass in the midfield, the impressive Paul Van-Zandlviet starting a passage of play deep in his own half before driving, untracked to finish the move - collecting Liam McKee’s piercing through ball to calmly round Pendrich and roll the ball home. A superb block from the covering Ben Fairbairn then denied John Wyres after a penetrating run and cut back from the very direct Josh Walsh. Will Short also found himself repelling the danger with an important challenge minutes later.
The Berwick side then enjoyed a positive spell of their own with the left sided pairing of Kyle Jeffrey and the returning Leigh Walker causing all sorts of problems for North Shields’ fullback Richard Kennedy. Between them they got in behind numerous times and delivered some fantastic balls into the home penalty box. Duffy was very unfortunate not to turn one such move home before Niall Jones’ fierce volley was saved down low by Sean Gordge. Jones then fizzed another wide before Marco Lambert sent a speculative effort off target. The little playmaker did deliver more accurately moments later however, Jones ghosting in at the back post to drill home, completing a nicely worked set piece.
An action packed, controversial second half began with Spittal’s half-time team talk going completely out the window just minutes after the restart - Walker’s indecision culminating in the pacy Walsh stealing the ball before driving past Richard Baxendale in the box, the no. 10 taking a tumble after minimal contact from the centre half. After finally deciding to go down, he picked up the ball to dispatch the resulting spot kick straight down the middle, putting Shields in front once again.
Scott Mitchell’s men did not let the setback deter them and they flew forward again in search of an equaliser, which duly arrived on the hour mark - Ben Fairbairn scampering forward before crossing for Jeffrey, the powerful wide man beating his marker to the bouncing ball to nod home. Minutes later and the visitors had turned the game completely on it’s head - Baxendale making amends for the penalty incident by spraying a superbly hit half volley 40 yards into the path of Jones, who stripped Brian Pilling for pace before laying off to Lambert, who proceeded to lift a delightful, inch perfect chip up and over Gordge.
The celebrations were short lived though when Shields’ Ryan McKee curled home a clever, well worked free kick past Pendrich into the bottom corner with Spittal still confused as to why it had been awarded in the first place. McKee then rattled another off the upright after Baxendale’s synical yet calculated challenge on Walsh had stopped the striker in his tracks as he accelerated towards goal.
With the majority of Shields’ team now baying for Brian Blackburn’s blood following various incidents in the middle of the park, Spittal kept their heads and out of the trouble.
When Christopher Gillespie’s header sailed the wrong side of Pendrich’s post, it looked like extra time was looming, but another foul saw Lambert deliver the ball of the match - a dangerous, curling cross met by Jeffrey’s forehead, which redirected it across goal to the unmarked Bell, who despite an unbelievable save from Gordge, made no mistake with the rebound,