Strangeways double as Rovers finish on high
Wideopen 1-2 Spittal Rovers
A Luke Strangeways double ensured that a heavily depleted Rovers ended their season on a high - a goal in each half securing maximum points for his side and this season’s top goalscorer award for the Wooler man (10).
With no fewer than ten players missing, Spittal were forced into playing 44 year old coach Paul Murray in a central midfield role as well as drafting in Steve McHoul, Akram Abdulfattah and Wooler goalkeeper Martyn Nesbit. All four played pivotal roles in the win in a performance that saw Spittal battle, scratch and scrape for everything in a pleasing team performance.
The early chances came the way of Scott Mitchell’s men. Strangeways was unlucky with a shot on the turn and Abdulfattah went agonisingly close with a lob which had Wideopen goalkeeper Ryan Sarginson scurrying.
Murray then floated a corner kick perfectly onto the head of the towering McHoul, but with the ball headed home, referee Stuart Watts chalked it off for an infringement elsewhere in the penalty area.
Abdulfattah again went close on the half hour, Baxendale’s cross field pass to Ben Fairbairn was recycled into the danger area, but after rising above Jonathan Tait, the strikers header came back off Sarginson’s crossbar before being cleared to safety.
At the other end, Wideopen fashioned chances of their own with a front three of Alex Hline, Daryl Gallon and Harry Johnson always looking a threat.
The opener arrived amidst controversy, the home side incensed that a foul had not been awarded during the previous passage of play. Murray calmly stood with the ball patiently waiting for what felt like an eternity, while Watts dismissed the Wideopen manager and dealt with other verbals. On his whistle, Murray took full advantage of the distraction - hitting acurling cross onto the head of Strangeways, who made no mistake from close range.
Wideopen came out in the second half looking like they meant business and at times played with four attackers. Their bravery in doing so got them back into the game soon after the restart when they hit Spittal on the counter - Anthony Swain getting in behind to square for Gallon who tapped home with ease. They would then be forgiven for wondering how on earth they had not taken the lead - substitute Jack Shaw somehow nudging a bouncing cross from Hline over the bar with his knee from a yard out. Johnson then left the crossbar shaking before lady luck decided to shine on Rovers, Johnson sending another goalwards past Nesbit only for it to clip the upright and role along the goal line to Paul Murray who volleyed to safety.
At the other end, Strangeways almost got a toe to Abdulfattah’s cross from the right and Murray saw his shot superbly saved by Sarginson. The major talking point arrived when Sarginson came flying off his line to upend Strangeways, injuring himself in the process. After dusting himself down however, he guessed correctly to save Paul Wood’s timid spot kick. With both teams going for it in the latter stages it was Strangeways who was to prove the match winner - accelorating onto a long through ball to edge his way past Sarginson before rollng the ball into an empty net.
A great way to end the season under the circumstances as Rovers now look to build for next season.