Mid-Annandale 2, Newton Stewart 3
This contest lived up to its pre-match expectations although the scorelaine does not tell the whole story.
Present league leaders Newton Stewart went into this game as slight favourites but the Lockerbie side, playing their final league match of the season, were determined to win.
The Creesiders, however, almost took an early lead when in three minutes a Calum Dunn effort was blocked and a minute later a Ryan McKie shot flew over the crossbar.
Play went from end to end, with Harry Fidler in the Newton goal being kept just as busy as his 17-year-old counterpart between the sticks for Mids. After 20 minutes Dunn found Grant Parker with a header but the striker’s effort was ruled offside and a minute later Dunn, who was made captain for the day before going to work in America for the next two months, saw his angular shot just miss the target.
With 23 minutes played a Dean Thomson free kick found the head of Dunn but again young Cochrane pulled off a superb save to keep the contest deadlocked.
Three minutes later the keeper again produced some heroics to keep Graeme Blain at bay but with the pressure rising on the Mids defence a McKie corner found Liam Muir lurking at the near post to put the ball in the net to open the scoring.
Mids replied instantly but found the Newton defence standing firm to take the slender lead into the half-time break.
The home side came out with all guns blazing and were unlucky not to find the net with a Murray header from a corner. With seven minutes of the second half played, however, Mids were rewarded when a Connor Murray free kick deceived Fidler and found the net to square the match.
The home side’s joy was short-lived when, two minutes later, McKie was upended in the box and Thomson stepped up to blast the ball home from the spot to restore Newton’s lead.
Play surged from end to end with Dunn coming close at one end and Chris Norvel just off target at the other.
Although the visitors pushed to put daylight between their opponents and themselves they could not break down the home defence. Newton paid for this with three minutes left to play when Norvel clashed with central defender Micky Wilson when a corner was being taken and was adjudged to have fouled the striker and a penalty kick was awarded.
Wilson received his marching orders for a second yellow card offence and Murray stepped up to send the ball past Fidler from the spot to again level the match with time running out.
Luck, though, was on Newton’s side when, in time added on, a superb ball was played by Curtiss Wilson into the path of Dunn who fired it into the net through a ruck of players. This was the best goal of the game and came from Newton’s top scorer following a good build-up and it was fitting that it came from the departing Dunn who was booked for his over-enthusiastic celebration.
This hard-earned victory puts Newton Stewart seven points ahead of Nithsdale Wanderers with the two sides meeting at Sanquhar this Saturday. Although the chasing pack have games in hand, it is always good to have the points in the bag.
Wigtown remain favourites to take the league title but if Newton can maintain their never-say-die attitude, which has extended their unbeaten league run to 10 matches, anything can happen in the title run-in.