There was one change in the starting 11 for the Stan from last weeks win over Jarrow, as Mackenzie Sharpe returns to the side in place of Leighton Hopper. Proctor and Bailey return to the bench in place of Kyle Dobson, who is getting married this weekend, and Connor Campbell who departed the club for Killingworth on Friday. The match was played at the Ford Quarry Hub and is our second visit to the venue this season – our last being a 0-3 victory over Washington back in August.
The Stan started on the front foot and within the first minute Andy Burn tried one of his trademark shots from distance, although it sailed comfortably over the bar. It didn’t take long for the first goal of the game to be scored, although it would be our opposition who were to take the lead. On the 6 minute mark a ball through the middle found the West End forward who got ahead of the defence and slotted home a low shot under Dan Regan’s body. It was a dangerous attack and tidy finish. 1-0 West End.
The next 20 mins were difficult for the Stan as they struggled to get a foot hold in the game and were getting regularly exposed at the back. In the 11th minute another ball over the top caused problems as the West End forward bears down on goal, only to over run it out of play. A bit of a let off. In the 18th minute, the Stan break with Holmes who lays off Chanayire although his shot goes over the bar. The only other significant event of the first half was Carr going into the referees book for a sloppy tackle.
Half Time – West End 1-0 Heaton Stan
The hardy 36 Stan Army (who made up over half of the 63 crowd) gathered in the cafe at the break and discussion was of what the team talk would be in the changing room. The Stan were way off their usual standard and West End looked strong at the back. Things would need to change in the second half if we were to get back into the game.
The Stan do indeed come back out determined to show improvement on the first half. In the 50th minute Sharpe has a shot from the left side of the box which skims the bar and a minute later he puts a superb cross into the box onto the head of Chanayire, who’s effort on goal is blocked by a defender. Things are already looking more positive.
In the 54th minute, Howard works hard on the left to get Holmes away to the byline. Holmes’ cross finds top goal scorer Liam McBryde in the box, but as he turns towards goal to shoot is smothered by defenders and ends up in a bundle on the floor. Stan appeal to the referee for a penalty but the appeals are waved away as the referee decides the ball was taken fairly.
On 57 minutes, a double change for the Stan as Proctor and Howard replace Sharpe and Chanayire. Proctor takes up his position on the right and recent signing Evan Howard on the left. Proctor makes an impressive impact on the game and begins to cause the West End left back problems with his pacey and skilful runs.
In the 68th minute there is what could be argued a pivotal moment in the game as Proctor breaks through the last line of defence on the edge of the box and looks to be through on goal when he is chopped down by the recovering defender. The foul was just outside of the box but certainly prevented a goal scoring opportunity with only the keeper to beat. The referee consults the linesman and after discussion shows the West End defender a yellow card. It is still unclear why a red card was not shown, which arguably would have changed the game.
On the 70th minute, manager Dean Nicholson throws his final roll of the dice as he brings on Jay Hornsby in place of the booked Kevin Carr. Hornsby takes up his position at left back and Stephenson pushes further up field on the left allowing Howard to take a more central forward role alongside McBryde. It only takes two minutes to pay off, as a blocked shot rebounds out to Dan Stephenson around 20 yards from goal and he unleashes a rocket. What a goal! The Stan are deservedly level.
The final 20 minutes of the game saw West End defend for their lives in order to secure a point and despite a few decent attacks and two Burn shots from distance, the hosts hold out. After only 3 added minutes, the referee blows his whistle and all ends equal.
Full Time – West End 1-1 Heaton Stan
It was certainly a game of two halves. The Stan have to accept that the first half just wasn’t good enough and our hosts were deservedly in the lead. However, you have to commend the team for their ability to put that out of their minds and come out for the second half wanting to get something from the game. In the end, the draw will feel a little bit like a defeat but it is another point on the board and that is not to be sniffed at, especially against Top 6 opposition away from home.
The travelling Stan Army voted Dan Stephenson as their Man of the Match, not just for his wonder goal but for his work rate and versatility. The management team also deserve a nod for some tactical changes in the second half which paid off. Next up we look forward to returning to Grounsell Park to face Ryton & Crawcrook Albion next Saturday.
Credit: Joe Street