Rovers' poor away form a recurring theme
Cramlington United 4-2 Spittal Rovers
Spittal’s poor away form against top half opposition is starting to become a recurring theme. On a saturated, squelching park, sloppy and lethargic openings to each half gifted their hosts control - ailments that must be cured if Scott Mitchell’s men are to stay in touch with those above them.
As poor starts go, this one was up there with the worst of them - United 2-0 up as early as the sixth minute. The opener was the result of an interception, with Rovers trying to play in the wrong areas. With a slack pass across the back four cut out in the final third, the impressive John Wilson was on hand to finish off the sweeping move with a neat finish at the far post. He must then have thought that Christmas had come early moments later, finding himself in acres in a similar position to wrap up another. Trae Rowlandson then worked his way inside for Crammy and had Stephen Mason not pulled off a wonderful save down low to his left to deny him then the game could have been dead and burried.
Rovers finally sparked themselves into action with the returning Craig Bell causing all sorts of problems in the channels. The marauding Ben Fairbairn slotted him in on goal following an intelligent switch of play from Kyle Jeffrey and after getting himself the wrong side of Anthony Hyde, Bell’s rasping drive was parried by Jamie Wright - the rebound fell kindly to him however and he duly ended his recent goal drought at the second time of asking with an incisive finish. When he then broke down the other flank, putting the foot down to glide past Andrew Heads, Wright was off his line quickly to repel a possible equaliser effectively.
As the half progressed, both sides had further chances to score. United skipper Niall Younger had Mason scrambling with a left footed volley which sailed just wide before Luke Taylor’s well timed run saw him deliver a fantastic low cross - fortunately for Spittal, it zipped away from everyone with Mason helping it on it’s way. Just before the interval Fairbairn had his shot at the other end palmed away superbly by Wright with the resulting corner leading to a deflected Niall Jones effort which dipped late, but just over the crossbar.
Moments after the restart - Taylor became the latest beneficiary from Spittal’s poor decision making, reinstating the two-goal advantage after some sloppy marking at a corner from the Seasiders. Jeffrey’s fierce drive then saw Wright pull off a wonderful reaction save before his opposite number Mason produced a fantastic double prevention of his own, scooping the latter off the line before getting away with what looked like a stone wall penalty having taken Taylor’s legs from underneath him. A fourth quickly followed from the same player which effectively killed off the Berwick side despite a quick Paul Wood’s reply which gave them a glimmer of hope.
Late on Spittal rallied, but they were met by a determined, resolute United defence. Bell had an effort from an angle saved prior to a Wood header that was dealt with adequately by Wright. Substitute Baxendale then curled in a set piece for Wood to nod across goal, but with Rhys Bloomfield looking like prodding home, a last ditch challenge from Graeme Tait denied him. Marco Lambert fired in several corners too as Rovers bombarded the box aerially, but the hosts stood firm.