This final League Cup Group match was switched to Stockton because of waterlogging at Esh Winnings ground. Michael Dunwell shuffled his pack tonight and gave a few of the promising u18s some exposure to the first team squad
Considering the weather and the fact this was a dead rubber the Anchors faithful turned up to watch and were treated to a bright entertaining display by Stockton who probably should have won more comfortably.
Craggs effort from McWiliams cross was the wrong side of the post on 2 minutes then Mulligan on his 100th appearance for The Anchors, rattled the upright with a lovely strike from 20 yards as Esh struggled to contain the movement of the red shirts(it was our away game) . Esh keeper Craig Hannant made the first of several top quality saves on 10 minutes when a near post Mulligan corner was met on the volley by Robinson who directed it towards goal but the keeper made a spectacular reflex stop pushing the ball over the bar as it rocketed towards his goal.
Fred Woodhouse almost profited from hesitation in the Esh defence when he stole in between them and the keeper to pick up the loose ball but his effort went the wrong side of the post.
Hannant was in the action again on 23 minutes when he soared to his left and tipped around the post a near certain goal as Jackson turned in the corner of the box and picked a spot with a curling effort.
Esh Winning got in on the act after 26 minutes when a powerful long throw in wasn’t cleared properly and it dropped to Donaldson but his effort although on target lacked power and Roberts collected it easily.
It was Mikey ROBERTS who finally broke the deadlock after 29 minutes making a good blindside run he was picked out by Max Craggs and crashed a shot past the keeper on an acute angle 1-0.
The Anchors continued to pour forward and Roberts met a low Woodhouse cross at the near post but the upright saved Esh again after good play again from Craggs had created the space for the ball in.
It was WOODHOUSE benefitting this time from Roberts pull back along the box after drawing the keeper and the striker had the simple task to finish into the empty net from 6 yards on 36 minutes 2-0.
Risbrough got in on the act on the opposite side when he streaked past the full back and pulled a ball back but Jackson stretching to reach it couldn’t keep his effort down and it flew over the bar to safety and then Hannant made a brilliant double save first from Roberts, then as Woodhouse followed up he re-adjusted to push it away for a corner.
Esh got themselves into the game with a goal right on the stroke of half time and it was a bizarre incident which ended with the players having to ask the Referee if he had awarded the goal or not. Max Stokers free kick from the edge of the box was curled towards the top corner, it clipped the underside of the bar and dropped down deceiving Roberts and MARLEY hooked the rebound back into the net. Whistle goes, Ref points to the changing rooms, no celebrations….. Only the man in the middle knew it was 2-1 until he deigned to answer our pleas. Apparently you don’t need to restart the game, but surely its two separate actions, a whistle for the goal and then a whistle for half time, what do I know ? HT 2-1
Second half was much of the same, Anchors controlling possession and camped almost exclusively in the opposition half, but some careless finishing and some excellent shot stopping by Hannant in the Esh goal kept the scoring down to a lone goal by ROBERTS who volleyed the ball over the onrushing keeper from well outside the box after Jackson had helped on Mulligans throw in.
As the game petered out a little over elaborate footwork from Callum Roberts allowed MARLEY to nick a second and make the final score 3-2
Was entertaining to watch in the most, would have been nice to have got some more goals but job done and onto a tough run of League games starting with Whitley Bay away on Saturday
The real highlight of the evening for the hardy souls watching was the introduction of some rising stars from our u18s side Lewis French (who played the full 90), Joe Smith and Brad Marron got decent time on the pitch and they all fitted into the team nicely and contributed well. We will see more of these guys as the season progresses I’m sure.
ALL THREE U18s HANDLED THE SITUATION REALLY WELL AND SHOWED WHAT A GREAT JOB THE JUNIOR SECTION ARE DOING PRODUCING QUALITY FOOTBALLERS.