Heddon moved back to the top of the table after a hard fought and eventful win over Bardon Mill.
With several key players missing, as well as the combined management team of O’Donnell and Green away on holiday and watching girls’ rugby at Twickenham respectively, Heddon knew they would have to perform to a high standard to achieve a positive result. The pre-match team talk was delivered by a subdued/badly hungover Connor Ballantyne and consisted of no more than ten words!
Both teams took a while to get settled, with little fluency to the play. Bardon Mill were causing problems with their long ball tactics, with the ball hanging in the wind. The away side came close to scoring early on with a long range strike from a midfielder hitting the post. Heddon gradually got a footing in the game, passing the ball around and enjoying plenty of possession, without creating many gilt-edged opportunities, save for a couple of headers and potential chances thrown away by poor decision making in the final third. Heddon were rewarded for their enterprise with a goal 30 minutes in. Good work from Murtagh on the right led to the ball landing to Dan Walker on the edge of the area, and he emphatically finished into the bottom left corner. The lead didn’t last long however, a set piece was not dealt with fully, and the unmarked Bardon striker headed in from the second phase of play, with Heddon not getting out early enough to play him offside.
The second half started disastrously for Heddon. A soft free kick was given just inside the home team’s half, the resulting ball landing between defence and goalkeeper, allowing the Bardon striker to grab his second. The shock of conceding a second goal seemed to kick Heddon into life, and immediately they started to play with more urgency and pace. The equaliser arrived with half an hour to go, excellent play through midfield led to Elliott playing in an overlapping Jamie, who calmly stroked the ball in first time across the keeper. With Heddon on the ascendancy it looked like there was only going to be one team taking away the three points. This looked increasingly likely when more good play down the Heddon right resulted in Murtagh flicking in a third from close range.
Everything was going swimmingly, until fifteen minutes from time, when Ramshaw was harshly adjudged to have barged over the Bardon striker in the penalty area, when challenging for a cross. What followed was one of the most bizarre pieces of officiating seen at Selman Park. As the referee turned her back, the Bardon penalty taker took the penalty before the whistle was blown. His tame effort was saved by Bull. With everyone expecting the penalty to be retaken, a goal kick was given instead, and the Bardon player booked for taking the penalty before the whistle was blown. This caused him to throw his toys out of the pram and walk off the field. A minute later Sean was clearly brought down in the box, however a free kick was given instead!
Heddon pushed for a fourth goal to kill the game off, Walker unlucky to see his free kick hit the underside of the bar and come back out. Moments later, more good work in and around the box led to Woody poking home from close range to seal the victory.
Overall, an excellent result against a team that have also started the season well. This game was very much the opposite of the Ryton game in that we showed a lot of character to fight for the win, despite it being such a stop-start affair. Next up is another massive game against Hexham Phoenix, who beat us in the first game of the season.
Ratings compiled by Rafa Edmonitez: