Anchors win promotion in thrilling fashion

Stockton Town Football Club are a Northern Premier League Premier Division side after an unbelievable penalty shootout victory over North East rivals Dunston.

After trailing by two goals twice, and one again in extra time, a Kevin Hayes free kick deep into the additional 30 minutes helped send the game to penalties, where Stephen Thompson converted the wining penalty to promote the Anchors.

Michael Dunwell named another unchanged side, but naming Stephen Thompson onto the bench in a move which would prove crucial.

It was Stockton who started the better side and had some chances to open the scoring within the opening 15 minutes.

But against the run of play, a moment of magic from Jack Maskell gave Dunston the lead after a thunderous volley on the edge of the box flew into the top corner.

As the Anchors pushed for an equaliser, it was the visitors who found themselves a crucial second goal, with Jack Maskell flying high to loop a fantastic header over Nathan Harker.

Glen Butterworth nearly closed the gap before the break with a free kick, but it flew inches over the crossbar, and the Anchors trailed by two goals.

Half-time: Stockton Town 0-2 Dunston

Stockton got a massive boost early in the second half when Mikey Roberts curled a low strike into the far corner with 53 minutes gone.

But that shortened deficit only lasted two minutes, when Michael Pearson headed in to silence the 1,800 in attendance at the MAP Group UK Stadium.

Stockton substitute Elliott Beddow caused problems when he came on and had a few chances to help the Anchors back into the game but couldn’t find the target.

With 81 minutes on the clock, Michael Sweet restored some hope with a powered header past Aaron Steavens.

As the Anchors pushed and pushed for a late equaliser, the yellow shirts thought a shot had gone over the line, and despite screams from all around the ground, the referee was unmoved.

But mere seconds later, it was that man again, super-sub–Michael Sweet who tapped in a scramble in the 96th minute to send the game to extra-time.

Full-time: Stockton Town 3-3 Dunston

As the momentum favoured Stockton in the first period of extra time, the ground was again silenced by Jack Maskell as he tapped in a rebound to secure his hat-trick.

But just after the break, resilience of the Anchors showed yet again, as Kevin Hayes drilled a free kick straight into the top corner to again level the encounter.

Nathan Harker was a hero for Stockton deep into added time of extra time, pulling off two saves to send the game to penalties.

Extra-Time Full-Time: Stockton Town 4-4 Dunston

So it was penalties. As Glen Butterworth converted first, Nathan Harker denied Jack Maskell to give Stockton an advantage after one penalty apiece.

Both sides were flawless throughout the next three penalties, and substitute Stephen Thompson coolly converted the fifth penalty for the Anchors to send Michael Dunwell’s side up at the third time of asking.

Stockton Town will play step three football for the first time in the club’s history next season, joining Hebburn Town in celebrating promotion.

Stockton Town: Harker, King, Coulthard, Nicholson, Baggs, Painter (Beddow 65’), Portas, Hayes, Butterworth, Roberts (Thompson 77), Fowler (Sweet 61’)

Unused Subs: McWilliams, Henry

Dunston: Steavens, Baxter (Carr 113’), McDonald, Turnbull, Swailes, Walker, Coulson, M. Pearson, Maskell, Robinson (Lamb 68’), D. Pearson (Djalo 85’)

Unused Subs: Phillips, Camarda

Goals: 0-1, Maskell, 16 min; 0-2, Maskell, 29 min; 1-2, Roberts, 52 min; 1-3, M. Pearson, 55 min; 2-3, Sweet, 81 min; 3-3, Sweet, 90+6 min; 3-4, Maskell, 98 min; 4-4, Hayes, 108 min.

Attendance: 1800

Photo: Harry Cook

Words: Jordan Clarke


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