ANCHORS GET THE JOB DONE….. EVENTUALLY
Stockton Town struggled to overcome 10 man Whickham today until a late Kev Hayes goal took all 3 points in a turgid display lacking the zip and bite of the last few weeks.
After an overnight thaw any doubts about this game going ahead were dispelled early on and the pitch was in surprisingly good condition.
Josh Moody returned in goal and with Woodhouse suspended and Coleman not available Michael Dunwell made three changes. Tom Coulthard came in at right back and Nathan Mulligan and Michael Roberts started with Kev Hayes on the bench. Another good following of Anchors fans swelled the crowd to 123 and braved the biting cold weather
Whickham started the game trying to knock the Anchors off their stride and their long ball style brought a couple of attempts from Stevens and Burrell but both were well wide of the mark. The Anchors then showed their mettle when Jimmy Ward sent Mikey Roberts through and he elected to pull the ball back instead of shooting and the ball was closed down.
Nathan Mulligan strode onto a lovely pass from Craggs and drilled a low shot from 20 yards which clipped the post on its way out for what was the best effort of the first 10 minutes.
Whickhams physical style was keeping the Referee busy and dealing with the orchestrated complaining about any decisions that don’t go their way wasn’t easy either. They didn’t complain at the soft Penalty award after 17 minutes following a long throw by Hedley which was cleared by Nicholson. Craggs hesitated to clear it and Burrell nipped in and in his attempt to kick the ball contact was made and the ref pointed to the spot. Damien Stevens will skip this bit of the video as he skied the spot kick horribly and it was made even worse by bouncing back off the roof of the stand.
A let off for the Anchors but they were struggling to compete with the Whickhams midfield physicality and this led to an inevitable goal for Whickham on 31 minutes when Kyle Olivers free kick was flicked on and as Robinson and Moody left it for each other BULFORD snuck in and hooked it into the net for a lead you couldn’t deny the Lang Jacks.
The match changed dramatically for the second week in a row with a Red Card but this week it was for the opposition. Two minutes after the goal Dale Burrell went flying into to a challenge to block Robinson and was late, high and dangerous. Luckily Robinson wasn’t injured, but Burrell was dismissed despite astonishingly vehement protests from Whickham.
The Anchors enjoyed the extra space and finally got some passing going, on 38 minutes the lively BULMER cut in from the right skipped past two Whickham defenders and curled a lovely left foot shot into the far corner to level it up.
Mikey Roberts should have given Stockton the lead when the defence hesitated and he stole in but chose power and it flashed past the goal with the keeper in no mans land. A Nathan Mulligan header was inches from the post also as Stockton cranked it up. Half Time 1-1
Second Half was almost a non event. Whickham sat in and to be fair to them worked very hard to stop the Anchors from getting any momentum. The Anchors huffed and puffed but had very little to show for it as they hit a constant brick wall of black and white. Max Craggs had two nice Free Kicks go just wide and centre half Grieve just got to a Bulmer cross before Craggs as he rose to head into the empty net.The closest attempt came on 82 minutes when Nicholson, sent up front to win some balls flicked on a ball from Craggs and Nathan Mulligans effort looked in until keeper Tsapalos made a brilliant one handed save low down.
It was sub Kev HAYES who found the answer, cutting in from the right he skipped past Hedley and shot from 20 yards a slight but significant deflection combined with the pace of the ball saw it fly into the bottom corner and the large Stockton contingent went wild and wiped their brows. Full Time 2-1
Almost a very frustrating day for the Anchors. Whickham are big, strong, awkward and organised and they almost got something out of the game and you couldn’t have denied them that just for their effort but Dale Burrells Red Card probably cost them them a chance of any points today. The Anchors plugged away and heads never dropped as they drove forward in search of a goal for the whole 50 minutes of the second half. Skipper Adam Nicholson on his 26th birthday got the man of the match for another powerful centre half display. Two week break now then 2 more difficult away games…
Photos: Ray Sharpe
Video: James Cartwright
Words: Lee Nicholson