Rovers downed by ten-man Cramlington
Cramlington Town 3-1 Spittal Rovers
Despite having a numerical advantage for well over an hour of this one, Spittal’s participation in the promotion hunt took a severe blow courtesy of an impressive brace from John Wyres and a late Gavin Agnew strike for the hosts.
A very competitive game from the off, both sides found joy in the wide areas while the central third was comparable to that of a battlefield at times with various fouls awarded for late, robust challenges from both sets of players.
Kyle Jeffey found space at the far post early doors, but Town stopper Craig Jones was well positioned to repel his shot after Niall Jones’ drifted cross.
Jones then watched another curling Jeffrey effort sail just over his crossbar from a set piece before Dimitrijs Paplavskis created some space for himself after a clever, reverse pass from Ben Fairbairn - the Latvian forward wriggling his way goalwards only for a fantastic, last ditch challenge from Michael Brady to keep him and the visitors at bay.
At the other end, it was the left flank that was proving to be Cramlington’s preferred route to goal, Michael Tams’ creativity almost resulting in the opener - the returning Michael Beveridge palming away his drilled effort at the away goal.
Beveridge was then called upon again with the home side squandering two guilt edged chances to get their noses in front - the big keeper tipping one around his post before somehow getting in the way of another, which had been struck by the lively Ben Senior from close range.
Jones then made the save of the game to deter Jeffrey once again - the experienced keeper somehow getting his hand to the wide man’s shot, guiding it onto the upright before watching on nervously as it trickled along the goal line and away to safety.
A moment of madness then descended minutes later - the volatile Richard Kennedy dismissed for dissent after over zealously contesting a free kick that had been given against him.
The aftermath then saw the referee announce that the match would be abandoned immediately, but after much persuasion, he returned from the changing rooms to continue proceedings.
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Despite the expected loss in momentum following the sending off, the directness of Rhys Bloomfield down the Spittal right almost produced an opener, released by Marco Lambert’s clever pass, Bloomfield crossed for the onrushing Paul Wood, whose shot was effectively blocked on the edge of the box by Joel Robson.
A frantic spell for Scott Mitchell’s men then followed, but they weathered the unexpected storm and despite making some aimless clearances and finding themselves on the ropes at times, the Seasiders got to half-time with a clean sheet entact to analyse their game plan with their extra man for the approaching second half.
After the interval, Rovers fell into a common trap that teams playing against 10 men often tend to do. They failed to make good use of the football or utilise the space and their approach lacked any significant tempo.
The wake up call arrived when a loose ball was turned into a swift counter attack - Wyres prowling at the far post to power his header past a helpless Beveridge. He then saw Ewan Sherry somehow skew a block millimetres from the top corner after the striker had met Tams’ corner.
He made no mistake with his next effort, however, venturing in field and unchallenged to hit a wonderful strike past the sprawling Beveridge which went in off the underside of the crossbar, sending his team mates into raptures.
Despite now having a mountain to climb, Rovers began to press more. Substitute Craig Bell was unfortunate not connect with Jones’ whipped cross before the supplier then hit one of his own goalwards - the powerful shot somehow stopped via the defenders face as it fizzed with venom towards the top corner.
Bell then saw another effort saved well by Jones before Ben Amers came inches from toe poking Leigh Walker’s swirling cross home.
He did grab a goal not long after this, bundling home from close range to give Scott Mitchell’s men hope with Bell then taking a great opportunity at the back post off the head of Richard Baxendale, who frustratingly was well positioned for a very likely equaliser.
With the game now extremely stretched, Beveridge produced an unbelievable double save to keep his side in the contest, but Agnew soon had other ideas when he finished off another sweeping counter attack - blasting his shot high into the roof of the net to cap off an admirable team performance and vital win for his side.