PONTELAND UNITED 0
NEWCASTLE INDEPENDENT FC 2
In a game switched to the 4G pitch at the town's leisure centre, Ponteland United played with loads of energy but lacked a cutting edge against in-form Newcastle Independent FC as they slipped to a sixth home defeat of the season in the Bay Plastics Northern Alliance Premier Division.
The opening quarter was anything but predictable as play quickly switched from end to end.
The visitors were first to threaten when a long range effort from Matthew Bowles was saved low down to his right by Liam Blair and, soon after, a counter-attack ended with a close range deflected shot being cleared off the line.
In between those chances, the hosts pressed down the left and, after hitting striker Myles Candlish on the back with his initial cross, Chris Hibbitt fired the rebound straight at Udochukwu Ugochukwu.
On 9 minutes, a ball over the top found defender Frank Tutt in space and, after beating two players, his shot was palmed around the right-hand post by Blair at full stretch, with the resulting corner headed over.
At the other end, Sam Armstrong curled a 30-yard free-kick wide of Ugochukwu's right-hand post, and the visitors' keeper didn't panic moments later after being put under pressure by a wayward back pass as he calmly dribbled his way out of trouble.
In a better spell for the hosts, Armstrong's corner was met by Kieran Tubman with an overhead volley that flew wide, and Dan Hadfield then released Candlish in a one-on-one with Ugochukwu but the keeper managed to block his shot for a corner from which Hadfield sent a header wide.
After a lengthy break in play mid-way through the half for treatment to Newcastle Independent striker Rhys Hutchinson, who was eventually able to resume, the hosts began to dominate possession and territory.
Sam White's chipped diagonal ball beyond the back post picked out winger Mason Stephenson who had a well-struck effort from an acute angle saved by the keeper.
Candlish, Niall Codling and Elliot Tate then linked up well down the right but, after being fed in the box by Codling, Tate failed to shoot first-time and the chance was gone.
They remained on the front foot in the closing stages of the half, winning three corners and a free-kick just outside the box but were unable to seriously test Ugochukwu and it remained goalless at the break.
Fortunate to be still on level terms, the visitors started the second half with renewed intensity and a quick-fire break on 48 minutes ended with loud appeals for a penalty being waved away by referee Daniel Appleby.
A few minutes later at the other end, a through ball found Candlish in space 35 yards from goal where he was met by the advancing Ugochukwu who made sure the striker didn't get past and the keeper would have received more than a yellow card had there not been defensive cover in the box.
On 57 minutes, another counter-attack at pace down the right from their own half ended with the visitors taking the lead through Hutchinson. Jermain Metz cut the ball back from the byline to the striker who fired it first-time low and hard past Blair (0-1).
The hosts rallied after that setback with a Candlish shot deflected for a corner, and Ugochukwu reacted well with a great save low down to keep out a close range follow-up effort.
Ponteland thought they had equalised in the 64th minute through Candlish who volleyed Hibbitt's first-time cross into the bottom corner but the assistant referee's offside flag came to the visitors' rescue.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts on 73 minutes when a wayward pass from the back was picked up on half-way and swiftly fed down the right to winger Nick Green who sent over a speculative cross that was diverted past his own keeper by Hadfield's outstretched leg when Blair probably had it covered (0-2).
The visitors almost added a third in the 86th minute when another well-worked move ended with substitute Nathanael Price's crisp, low strike hitting the base of the right-hand post before rebounding to fellow substitute Dylan Maher who saw his return effort blocked for a corner.
On the stroke of full-time, Ponteland substitute Jude Mattera spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to pull a goal back when a long range free-kick was headed back across to him on the corner of the six-yard box and, despite being unmarked, he managed to blast a shot out of the ground.
The visitors have only conceded 5 goals in their last 10 games in all competitions and this latest victory moved them up to second in the table.
In contrast, Ponteland United remain dangerously close to the relegation zone on 11pts, having only picked up 2pts from 8 home games.