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West and Ryhope share pulsating opening day draw

West Auckland Town 2-2 Ryhope CW

Nathan Fisher’s spectacular second-half strike earned West Auckland Town a hard-fought point in their opening Northern League Division One match against Ryhope CW.

Adam Burnicle opened the scoring on 20 minutes before Gary Pearson’s side hit back with goals either half from James Ellis and Micky Rae to kick start the 2019/20 campaign.

Gary Forrest made four changes from Tuesday’s defeat at home to Marske United with Mark Bell, Danny Mitton, Ross Colquhoun and Amar Purewal coming in for Tom Flynn, Liam Hegarty, Joe Hillerby and David Dowson.

Nathan Fisher carved out the first chance 11 minutes in when he struck a right-footed piledriver from 35-yards out only to see James Winter equal to it to tip it round the left-hand post.

Nine minutes later, West found the breakthrough after good work by Fisher and Tom Price as the latter crossing from the left to the advancing Burnicle who flicked it in to grab his opening goal of the season.

It could and probably should have been two a few moments later as Adam Mitchell’s corner was met in the centre by an unmarked Amar Purewal – with Jon Weirs making a vital clearance to clear the forward’s goal bound header.

Ryhope offered very little in the first half but found an equaliser with two minutes of normal time remaining when Micky Rae’s shot was inadvertently parried by Mark Bell into the path of Ellis and last season’s prolific goalscorer made no mistake to give Gary Pearson’s side a shift in momentum.

On 53 minutes, Ryhope completed their turnaround when a well-worked short corner was delivered low by Ellis before being fired in by Rae to spark jubilant scenes from the visitor’s technical area.

The last time these two sides met at the Wanted Stadium, was a pulsating 2-2 draw back in December and it proved to be a case of Déjà vu when Fisher’s thunderous strike just outside the area flew past Winter and nestled in the far corner to set up a tense finale.

With two minutes remaining, Ryhope look destined to score a late winner after Ellis burst through following a teasing through ball however Mark Bell came to West’s rescue with a fabulous one-handed save to push his effort onto the woodwork as both sides had to settle for a hard-earned point.

West make their first away trip of the season on Tuesday evening as they travel to Woodhorn Lane to take on Ashington A.F.C (19:30pm).

West Auckland – M. Bell, Mitchell, Price, Cobain, Mitton, Colquhoun (Hegarty, 58), Dodds (c) (Hillerby, 78), A. Bell, Purewal, Fisher, Burnicle (Dowson (74)

Sub not used – Turns

Goal – Burnicle (20), Fisher (72)

Ryhope CW – Winter, Woods, Cocks, Walker, Lay, Skidmore(Trewick, 70), Bird (Devlin, 71), J. Weirs, Rae (Hotchkiss, 70), M. Weirs, Ellis

Subs not used – Jones, Proctor

Goal – Ellis (43), Rae (53)

Referee – Christopher Keightley

Attendance – 172

Report by Harry Connor Crowe

Picture by Andy Mitchell.

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