With Sonni Coleman still suffering from a knock he was on the bench and Fred Woodhouse was back in the squad, Nathan Mulligan started and Alan Cossavella replaced jet setter Dale Mulligan as the team reverted back to League action. Good football was guaranteed against a Team North side that was promoted along with the Anchors last season and have been impressing in the First Division so far, sitting comfortably mid table.
Team North started at a good pace and their quick pass and move style kept the Anchors defenders on their toes, Djukic had a great opportunity on 8 minutes but slid it wide of the goal despite being deemed offside. Stockton’s best chance came on 15 minutes when Nathan Mulligan broke in the right channel into the box past the defender and pulled the ball back to Garbutt who spurned the chance to shoot at the target and the ball dribbled into Holdens arms in the TN goal. Djukic again did well to turn in the box after good approach work from Livin and Ardelean but his effort was off target. Stockton had another effort well saved by Holden on 31 as Hayes cut inside and unleashed a fizzing drive. Stockton were having to work very hard to contain the lively TN forwards but did have success when they got around the Team North 18 yard box. Jordan made a good one handed tip over from a Dibb-Fuller drive from inside the box on 38mins but despite the pressure it was the Anchors who took the lead on 44 minutes when Nathan Mulligan rose to head Hayes cross against the post with Holden rooted to the spot, OWENS followed up to bundle it over the line and make it 1-0 to Stockton at half time.
Team North started the second half with even more purpose and intensity, they were pressing Stockton all over the pitch and were quick to break out from the back especially through full backs Livin and Heyward. Jordan kept Stockton in front when he made a terrific one handed save from Dibb-Fullers shot, then from the resulting corner Simpsons header was bound for the top corner when the Anchors stopper came from nowhere to claw the ball away one handed just in time for what deserved to be a match winning save. Woodhouse replaced Garbutt on 64 and his pace and movement helped Stockton back into the game and twice he had opportunities to extend the lead, shooting over in the 69th minute from Owens through ball and then being first to react to a deflected pass he flew past the static TN defence but couldn’t force it past keeper Holden on 77. Just a minute later Team North did get back on terms Heyward doing well down the left after being allowed to run too far unchallenged, his low cross was turned in at the far post by DIBB-FULLER. You would have expected TN to press on for the win and they did but the equaliser seemed to spur the Anchors to play and they got a new lease of life. The ever dangerous Carter joined in the attack down the right on 82 mins he turned inside leaving 2 TN defenders in his wake he rolled the ball into Jamie Poole who drilled a left foot shot low to keeper Holdens left, the unfortunate keeper did everything right making a brilliant save pushing the ball away only to see CRAGGS following up to drive the rebound home from a tight angle. Team North pushed on for an equaliser and drew a few dangerous free kicks from an over eager Referee who also managed to find almost 6 minutes of injury time in a game where the physio was conspicuous by their absence. Keeper Holden coming forward to add his huge frame to the attack but Coulthard, excellent as always, alongside Cossavella were strong in defence to hold them off.
Team North must be kicking themselves having lost this game but you have to take your chances while youre on top and despite periods of dominance in possession they didn’t really convince in front of goal. Stockton on the other hand, after blowing some teams away with their pace and movement are showing a resilience and an appetite to grind games out when required and its no fluke that they score a lot of late goals. Woodhouse and Stockton are being missed at times its hard to replace the pace they offer the team. Kev Hayes did really well again up against a tough quick full back and when he contributes defensively he looks like a special player. Tom Coulthard was imperious at the back as he is every week and Cossa is not far behind. The match winner this week has to be keeper Liam Jordan for a flawless performance of handling and kicking sprinkled with 4 or 5 stunning saves he’s operating at an impressive level of performance right now.