Whickham FC 1-4 West Auckland Town
West Auckland Town ended a four-match winless run with a convincing victory over relegation-threatened Whickham at the Glebe Sports Ground.
Amar Purewal’s second hat-trick of the season – two penalties either half and a cushioned header – along with Tom Portas’ audacious lob saw West comfortably secure their first win in Division One since January after Lewis Orrell had given the hosts the lead inside seven minutes.
The result sees West climb to 10th in the Northern League Division One table with 41 points from 28 matches meanwhile Whickham remain just above the relegation zone in 17th, six points clear of Penrith.
In the reverse fixture in November, West came out on top in a seven-goal thriller at the Wanted Stadium as goals from Adam Burnicle, Adam Mitchell and Purewal gave Gary Forrest’s side a 4-3 win.
Whickham got off to the ideal start within seven minutes as Orrell’s curling free-kick from the right-hand side inexplicably sailed past everyone and flew into the bottom corner with Shane Bland left rooted to the spot.
After a slow start, West responded 12 minutes later as Steven Snaith was brought down inside the penalty area by Dimitrios Tsapalos. From the resulting spot-kick, Purewal stepped up and rifled the ball home to level proceedings.
For the majority of the first-half, it was closely contested with chances at a premium as both sides produced notable defensive displays.
After the interval, Whickham started brighter and almost regained the lead as Damien Stevens was played in one-on-one though Bland was alert to the danger and made a superb save to keep the contest evenly matched.
On 54 minutes, Bland was called into action once again as Stevens saw his right-footed strike expertly tipped over the bar as Robin Falcus’s side began to up their tempo.
On the hour-mark, West capitalised on the hosts missed opportunities as Purewal reacted quickest to send Forrest’s side ahead, delivering a powerful header past Tsapalos following an exquisite delivery from Mitchell’s free-kick.
Whickham were inches away from levelling proceedings 10 minutes later as Stevens cut inside and watched his effort cannon back off the post as West needed a third goal to ease the nerves.
With nine minutes remaining, Falcus’s side looked to be in deep trouble when West were awarded another penalty – Purewal looking for his second hat-trick of the season comfortably dispatched his spot-kick to collect the match ball for the first time since September.
In the closing stages, West assured themselves of the three points when Snaith’s well-timed pass found Portas, who kept his composure and cleverly dinked the ball over Tsapalos to secure a crucial victory.
Next up for West is a home tie against Seaham Red Star on Saturday (15:00).
Whickham – Tsapalos, Burrell, Pattison, Little, Grieve, Peareth (c), Lowther, Scroggins, Stevens, Bulford, Orrell
Subs – Hedley, Scott, Cowburn, Lister
Goal – Orrell (7)
West Auckland – Bland, Mitchell, Price, Cobain, Hunter, Portas, Hegarty, Dodds (c), Purewal, Snaith, Francis
Subs – Morris, Heaney, Connor, Coulson
Goals – Purewal (19 ‘pen, 60, 81 ‘pen), Portas (89)
Referee – Matthew East
Attendance – 84
Report by Harry Crowe
Picture by Andy Mitchell.