Heddon waved goodbye to their hopes of a league title after a spirited 4-2 defeat to champions Haltwhistle Jubilee on Easter Sunday.
Due to the bizarre scheduling of fixtures, Heddon were playing their first league game in three months, on the narrow Haltwhistle Railway pitch, chosen specifically for the occasion by the hosts.
In previous matches against Jubilee, Heddon have been guilty of showing their opponents too much respect and not playing their own game. Early indications showed that Heddon were up for it, flying into tackles and trying to hit the home team on the counter when the situation presented itself.
It was slightly against the run of play when the hosts took the lead on 15 minutes from a set piece (for a change). The corner was crossed to the back post where the Jubilee striker rose above everyone to power a header into the corner of the net. Heddon responded well to this early blow, however were guilty of rushing things too often, in trying to increase the tempo of their play. Sean and Murtagh were causing Jubilee problems upfront with their movement off the ball, and Heddon looked comfortable at the back, dealing with the route one tactics employed by the home team.
No-one could have any complaints when Heddon equalised. Murtagh chased down a ball over the top of the Haltwhistle defence, rushing the centre half into a mistake. The ball broke at hip height to Sean in the box, who managed to contort himself and slice the ball over the wrongfooted keeper and into the far corner. Any hopes of pushing on for a goal to put the away team into the lead, quickly evaporated soon after. A harmless looking ball down the left of the Heddon defence was chased down and crossed in by a Haltwhistle striker, Scott was unable to clear it with the resulting ball dropping to the other striker at the edge of the box. Scoob connected with his legs and sent him tumbling. Penalty and 2-1 to Jubilee going into the break.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first, Heddon seeing plenty of the ball with Jubilee attempting to slow the game down through various methods of gamesmanship. An uphill task for Heddon was made even more difficult when Haltwhistle got their third. A soft free kick was given away halfway inside the Heddon half. The ball into the box was met again by the head of the big Jubilee striker and diverted into the far corner. It could be argued the defence was slightly deep however give credit when it’s due, it was a hell of a header. Moments later and it was pretty much game over, Joe miscontrolled a pass, allowing another striker to run through and blast a rising shot past Waddsy before he had a chance to move.
In fairness to Heddon, unlike on other occasions this season, heads didn’t drop. After a goalmouth scramble, Scott smashed in from close range to put some doubts in the home team’s minds. Ramshaw then went close with a volley at the back post from a hanging cross from Frankie, which hit the keeper’s legs and rebounded out. Then with ten minutes to go, a pivotal moment in the game occurred. Elliott saw his shot from the edge of the box strike the hand of the Jubilee centre half. The referee had no hesitation in blowing for a penalty, with Elliott stepping up. Agonisingly, however the keeper guessed the right way and kept it out.
The final whistle saw Jubilee crowned as champions, however a lot of heart can be taken from this performance, with one more league game and a cup semi final to play for next week. Crucially it looks like we are starting to rediscover some of our early season form, and with a bit of luck and through cutting out individual errors, silverware is still a possibility this season.
Ratings compiled by Phil Edmondson.