West Auckland Town 1-1 Stockton Town
Nathan Fisher’s sublime second-half strike extended West Auckland Town’s unbeaten run to eight matches with a hard-fought point against Stockton Town.
Sonni Coleman’s 55th minute back post goal was cancelled out by Fisher’s long-range effort on 67 minutes in the final league encounter of the 2018/19 season.
The result sees West finish the Northern League Division One campaign in eighth on 53 points with the second-best defensive record throughout the season while the Anchors dropped to seventh as Shildon claimed a 3-1 win at Whitley Bay to secure sixth.
In the two previous meetings this season, it was a six-goal thriller when the two sides met at the Coverall Stadium in November and just five weeks ago, in the League Cup semi-final, West edged a closely-contested affair as goals from Liam Hegarty, Amar Purewal and Alex Francis secured a 3-2 win.
Before kick-off, there was a wonderful reception from the travelling supporters, who were dressed as minions, as they welcomed the players out onto the pitch at the Wanted Stadium.
Following a slow start from both sides, Stockton presented the first meaningful opportunity on 26 minutes, as Mikey Roberts’ cross from the right found an unmarked Fred Woodhouse at the back post though his close-range header skimmed just wide of the right-hand post.
Eight minutes later, Michael Dunwell’s side came close to open the scoring as Chris Stockton pulled it back to Jordan Robinson, who forced a routine save from Shane Bland before Woodhouse diverted the rebound wide of the target.
West’s best chance in the first-half fell to Lewis Dodds, who’s left-footed volley from 35-yards out sailed narrowly inches over the crossbar as it proved to be a scrappy yet tight contest.
On 55 minutes, Stockton took the lead following a devastating counter-attack – James Ward’s low cross from the left was converted at the back post by Coleman, sending the visiting supporters into a carnival mood.
Moments after Michael Arthur produced a sensational save to deny Fisher, the experienced forward charged towards goal and brought the scores level with an exquisite 23-yard strike which left Stockton’s No.1 rooted to the spot.
The Anchors looked for an immediate response as Ward’s cross picked out Max Craggs in the area only for Bland to pull off a smart save with his right-foot, and substitute Kevin Hayes’ follow up shot was well blocked by Tom Price.
With less than a quarter on an hour remaining, it turned into an end-to-end battle as West pushed for a late winner and almost got it through Fisher, who’s effort from the edge of the area cannoned off the post as the points were once again to be shared for the second time this season.
Next up – West have a League Cup final to look forward too against Newcastle Benfield at Seaham Red Star’s Ferguson Motor Repairs Stadium on Easter Monday as Gary Forrest’s side go in search of winning the title for the first time since 1963. (12:00pm).
West Auckland – Bland, Mitchell (Fisher, 45), Cobain, Hunter, Colquhoun, Dodds, Francis, Portas, Price, Snaith, Purewal (c)
Subs not used – Connor, Bell, Coulson,
Goal – Fisher (67)
Stockton Town – Arthur, Bulmer, Ward, Robinson, Nicholson (c), Coulthard, Roberts (Hayes, 69), Craggs, Coleman, Woodhouse, Stockton
Subs not used – Taylor, Mohammed,
Goal – Coleman (55)
Referee – Martin Conroy
Attendance – 248
Report by Harry Crowe
Photo by Andy Mitchell.
Highlights curtesy of Stockton Town:-