Newton Aycliffe 3, Guisborough Town 3 (EBAC Northern League – Division One)
Guisborough Town salvaged so much more than a precious point when a superb second-half comeback earned them a thrilling 3-3 draw at Newton Aycliffe on Saturday.
For the Priorymen restored their much-needed pride and self-respect which had taken a battering after that 9-0 midweek drubbing at West Auckland and then trailing 3-0 after an “abysmal” first half performance at Aycliffe spirits has slumped to an all-time low.
But after a real “roasting” at half-time from Manager Gary Forster gutsy Guisborough completely transformed themselves in a scintillating second half performance in which they stormed back level with three great goals in an amazing three minutes.
After the game team boss Gary commented: “This feels like a win after what I can only describe as an abysmal first half performance. It was the worst performance of my time here.
“A few home truths were spoken and after the half-time interval I’m delighted to say the lads showed a lot of character, fighting for each other and after we drew level we could have actually gone on to win the game and come away with all three points.
“This is something we can now build on and when we get a full squad available again I believe we will kick on further,” added Gary.
The game started dreadfully for Guisborough as they conceded the first of three goals due to sloppy defending after just three minutes, with Kurt Matthews cutting in from the left and firing diagonally across goal into the far corner from 15 yards out.
Things got worse in the 12th minute when former Prioryman Matty Pennal burst through the static Guisborough defence to score with ease and make it 2-0.
Then on 36 minutes Aycliffe went 3-0 up when striker Craig Hutchinson scored with a clever lob over the outrushing Guisborough goalkeeper Jordan Nixon, who had shown great commitment by coming to the game straight after getting off a plane after his holiday.
Aycliffe then had two further gilt-edged chances to put the game beyond Guisborough’s reach but they twice blazed over the bar from great positions close to goal.
Clearly, strong words were said in the Guisborough dressing at half time because in the second half they looked a completely different team and in three incredible minutes midway through the half they totally turned the game on its head.
And it was twice the combination of Connor Smith and Steve Roberts which sparked off Guisborough’s fantastic revival. First on 59 minutes Roberts put over a brilliant free kick and Smith pounced to shoot home from close range and make the score 3-1.
Then the same pair combined again barely a minute later with Roberts putting over another of his trademark pinpoint free kicks and Smith rose high at the far post to head into the roof of the net to reduce the arrears further to 3-2.
And in the 62nd minute Roberts himself got on the scoresheet with a clever prodded shot to send his team-mates, management and the travelling Guisborough fans into raptures as the score was levelled at 3-3.
Guisborough were totally in the ascendency and Aycliffe were clearly rattled as the tables were completely turned on what had happened in the first 45 minutes.
On 69 minutes Guisborough came oh so close to going into a 4-3 lead when winger Joe Ferguson, spotting the Aycliffe keeper well off his line, lofted a brilliant shot goalwards from fully 35 yards out but the ball struck the angle of far post and bar and bounced to safety. What a let-off for beleaguered Aycliffe!
Guisborough’s hard-working midfielder Ben Hugill was made Man of the Match by his manager Forster who commented: “Ben had a tremendous second half, he worked so tirelessly.”
He wasn’t the only Guisborough player who upped their game massively in that second period. Young Brad Mills – finally eligible to play with international clearance having come through – improved immeasurably in the second half, showing great tenacity and energy.
“GUISBOROUGH AS UNPREDICTABLE AS WEATHER” – WOODY!
Connor Smith’s confidence visibly increased after he scored his first goal and special mention deserves to go to big defender Matty Lovatt who played on despite the pain from a first half injury and he was particularly commanding in the air, barely losing a header throughout the match.
In the end a draw was probably a fair result, although Guisborough left the field knowing it could have been a memorable victory.
Last word goes to Guisborough’s wily old midfield legend Gary Wood, forced to watch nervously from the touchline due to injury, as he commented: “Guisborough are very much like the weather at the moment – very unpredictable!”
All the goals from a pulsating match are available to watch on Guisborough’s Twitter site via the following link
Guisborough now look forward to their first home league game next Wednesday, 16th August when Consett are the visitors to the KGV (KO 7.45pm).