PONTELAND UNITED 1 MORPETH FC 0
Northern Alliance Premier Division side Ponteland United secured a place in the quarter-finals of the Reeves Investment Services George Dobbins League Cup with a hard fought 1-0 win against Second Division rivals Morpeth FC on Saturday.
In a feisty encounter which threatened to boil over on several occasions, both teams lacked a clinical edge up front and the game was drifting towards a penalty shoot-out until a composed finish from centre forward Myles Candlish settled the tie in favour of the hosts.
Ponteland United started brightly, with winger Mason Stephenson and Candlish both threatening inside the first 5 minutes.
Stephenson picked up a long crossfield pass from Chris Hibbitt and set off on one of his trademark weaving runs down the left before cutting inside into the box but his shot from an acute angle lacked the power to trouble Jordan Mallaburn in the visitors' goal.
Candlish was then put clean through in the right corner of the box and fired narrowly wide of Mallaburn's right-hand post.
They kept pressing and Hibbitt had a long range effort tipped around the post for a corner, with the resulting delivery from Elliot Tate headed off the line by a defender at the back post.
The visitors' first chance came on 12 minutes when they broke at pace from their own half, creating space down the middle of the park before a shot flew just wide of home keeper Liam Blair's left-hand post.
The hosts' next attack down the right saw Candlish's final ball flash across the face of goal with Stephenson returning it into the mix. It was only half-cleared to Tate standing inside the box and his angled effort looked to be going wide of the far post when it struck Charlie Maddison's knee, with the deflection sending it inches wide of the near post.
Despite spending most of the opening 20 minutes in the opposition half, the hosts had nothing to show for it.
Full back KIeran Tubman then surged forward from well inside his own half and spread it wide right to Candlish who had another effort saved, while, at the other end, the visitors won their first corner from which Kyle Shaw's shot was comfortably saved by Blair.
A better spell for the visitors around the half-hour mark saw them win a corner and free-kick in quick succession, with the second set-piece fired over the bar by centre half Joel Laviers.
Soon after, 18-year-old centre forward Zac Benjamin worked an opening and his firm strike on the angle was palmed away by Blair at full stretch.
Normal service was resumed for the remainder of the half with the hosts back in the ascendancy. Hibbitt's sweetly-struck free-kick from 25 yards out was tipped onto the post by Mallaburn and bounced away from goal. Moments later, Tate's corner ricocheted around in the box and in the ensuing goalmouth scramble a close range effort was saved on the line.
Early in the second half, a well-worked move involving James Walker, Tate, Sam White, Hibbitt and Stephenson ended with Stephenson's floated cross to the back post being nodded wide by an unmarked Maddison.
On 55 minutes, a defensive mix-up created a gilt-edged chance for Candlish who was put clean through in a one-on-one with Mallaburn but he fired too early and his low strike was blocked by the keeper's legs.
The visitors were posing little threat and wasted a rare opportunity when Laviers blasted a 25 yard free-kick high over the bar.
Despite being temporarily reduced to 10 men in the 66th minute when Stephenson was sin-binned for dissent, the hosts took advantage of another defensive mistake by going in front a few minutes later.
From a central position, Hibbitt's curled ball towards the edge of the box sliced off a defender's boot as he attempted to clear and dropped perfectly into the path of Candlish who took a touch before slotting it home for his 6th goal of the season in all competitions (1-0).
They came again from the re-start with Maddison and Candlish creating space as they linked up well down the right. The final ball into the six-yard box from the byline was turned onto the bar by Niall Codling with Mallaburn beaten before being cleared for a corner.
Both sides utilised most of their substitutes in the last 15 minutes but they made little impact with clear-cut chances at a premium and neither keeper seriously tested.
As full-time approached, the visitors wasted a promising position from a set-piece just outside the right corner of the box when Shaw's left-footed delivery curled over the heads of his strikers and drifted beyond the back post for a goal-kick.