West Auckland Town 2-2 Ryhope CW.
Second-half goals from Amar Purewal and Tom Portas earned West Auckland a dramatic draw in their final home game in 2018 against Ryhope CW.
Chris Wallace broke the deadlock on 39 minutes after converting Nathanial Skidmore’s corner to give the visitors a surprising half-time lead.
On 52 minutes, Robbie Bird doubled Ryhope’s lead following a clinical counter attack before West responded on 77 minutes as Purewal rose highest to head home Adam Mitchell’s free-kick.
With six minutes remaining, Jack Devlin was shown a straight red card for a nasty challenge on Arran Wearmouth and following the initial goalmouth scramble, West completed the fightback with Portas firing in from close range to rescue a hard-earned point.
Prior to this contest, West came out victorious on both previous meetings this season after winning 3-1 in August and 2-1 in the Durham Challenge Cup First Round back in October.
The first chance arrived for West inside the 10-minute markwhen Mitchell’s free-kick from 22-yards out was well gathered at the near post by Joe Atkinson.
Six minutes later, West posed another threat as Adam Burnicle broke through the Ryhope defence and hit a right-footed shot inches wide.
Ryhope found it difficult to break down a resilient Auckland side in the opening half hour as Gary Forrest’s side were in control keeping possession and applying pressure on the visitors.
On 32 minutes, skipper Lewis Dodds picked up a knee injury and had to be replaced by Purewal, who was hoping to recreate the form he showed at Recreation Park earlier on in the season.
However, with their first sight at goal, Ryhope struck six minutes before half-time as Skidmore’s corner was headed home at the back post by Wallace with scenes of disbelief around the Wanted Stadium.
Before the interval, West appealed for a penalty after Burnicle’s cross was judged to have hit Jack Walker’s hand though referee Graeme Hopper waved it away and blew his whistle to conclude the opening 45 minutes.
The second half began with chances for either side as Ryhope’s Bird forced a routine save from Shane Bland and at the opposite end, Mitchell blazed his effort over the bar from the edge of the box.
Ryhope inflicted more misery shortly after as they punished West with a swift counter attack in which Michael Rae on the left-hand side picked out Bird, who remained composed to slot past Bland at the near post.
Gary Pearson’s side were in the ascendency and almost added a third as Lewis King saw his shot well blocked by Bland to prevent further damage.
West began their fightback with just 13 minutes to go as Mitchell’s in swinging free-kick was met by Purewal, who guided his header into the far corner with Atkinson unable to keep it out.
Heading into the final six minutes, Ryhope found themselves in a precarious position as Devlin was shown a straight red card for a nasty late challenge on Wearmouth as they looked to try and hold on to their slender lead.
Though within a minute later following a goalmouth scramble, West took advantage of the extra man as the ball fell into the feet of Portas, who struck from close range to spark scenes of jubilation and earn a valuable point.
Next up for West is a crucial FA Vase Fourth Round match against fellow Northern League side Sunderland RCA at Meadow Park on Saturday 5th January 2019.
West Auckland – Bland, Morris, Hegarty, Cobain, Hunter, Colquhoun, Mitchell, Dodds (c) (Purewal, 32), Burnicle(Dowson, 61), Portas, Wearmouth
Subs not used – Connor, Coulson
Goals – Purewal (77), Portas (85)
Ryhope CW – Atkinson, King, Cocks, Walker, Lay, Jones, Skidmore, Wallace (Ball, 61), Rae (Melvin, 82), Devlin, Bird
Subs not used – Ellis, Kane, Riding
Goals – Wallace (39), Bird (52)
Referee – Graeme Hopper
Attendance – 151
Report by Harry Crowe