CONSETT put a further dent in the title aspirations of FA Vase finalists Dunston UTS when they held them to a draw at a rain-lashed Belle Vue Park. Manager Kenny Lindoe made two changes to the side which had been beaten by Shildon in the previous game 11 days earlier. Barry Poskett replaced Peter Jameson, who was unable to make kick-off, in goal, and Craig Robson returned to his usual central midfield berth after a nine-game injury-enforced absence in place of Ryan Bell, who was on holiday. With David Scorer suspended, the Steelmen's back-four had a slightly unfamiliar look, with Matty Slocombe at right-back, Anthony Lund on the left, and Michael Pearson slotting in beside Carl Piecha in the centre. Dunston included two former Steelmen, midfielder Danny Craggs and centre-forward Andy Bulford.
The home side had a chance straight from the kick-off when Dale Burrell surged down the left and crossed to the edge of the box, but Lewis Teasdale, arriving late, ballooned his shot over. With the pitch slick, to say the least, the game was fast and furious, and Dunston created their first opportunity on four minutes, when Bulford's ball out to the left saw Craggs try a speculative effort which landed on top of Poskett's net.
Two minutes later Consett had the ball in the net, but the 'goal' was disallowed. Slocombe's cross from the right found Burrell, who took a touch and shot goalwards. Young Ryan King, starting his second game in succession, reacted to touch the ball home, but the linesman flagged that he was standing in an offside position. Robson for Consett and Bulford for Dunston both shot over from outside the box as the game to'd and fro'd. Midway through the half the visitors were the width of a goalpost from going ahead after Michael Chilton's header beat Poskett but came back off the post.
On the half-hour Consett suffered a blow when Robson was forced to leave the field with blood streaming from a cut near his eye, and they played the rest of the half with 10 men as medics tried to patch him up and get him back on the field. Dunston made the most of their extra man, and a Lund miskick almost gave them with the lead, only for Bulford to drag hisshot wide without troubling Poskett. The keeper then did well to thwart Steven Shaw, driving him wide and then getting a hand to his shot after he had been slipped in by Ian Herron. The interval arrived with the score all-square, which was a fair reflection of how things had panned out.
Half time: Consett 0-0 Dunston
The second half saw Robson back on, sporting a bandage around his head, and his return seemed to lift Consett. Just three minutes in, Burrell's crossed from the left, slightly behind Teasdale, but the No 9 still managed to get a shot in, which UTS keeper Liam Connell held on the line. Teasdale then dragged a shot wide and Burrell blazed over as Consett kept up their attacking in the face of worsening rain.
Dunston responded, with Bulford forcing a good diving save from Poskett, and the keeper - playing against one of his old clubs - was then relieved to see a well-struck from substitute Lee McAndrew flash inches wide of his right-hand post. By now, puddles were starting to form in the centre-circle and other areas of the pitch, and, as long as the score stayed 0-0, you started to think the referee might even abandon the game. On 64 minutes that became less likely when top scorer Michael Mackay put the Steelmen ahead with his 40th goal of the season, swapping passes with Ryan King before finishing from eight yards.
The lead lasted only two minutes, however, as Consett's Achilles heel of conceding avoidable goals again manifested itself. They failed to clear a right-wing corner, and Chilton forced home an equaliser from close range, with the linesman signalling that the ball had crossed the line.
Mackay was in the mood for more goals, and stung Connell's hands with a well-struck effort from 20 yards. He didn't have to wait long, however, and got his second of the night and 41st of the season in the 80th minute. Some good footwork by Teasdale saw him beat two men before slipping the ball to his strike partner, who finished from close range with the aid of a deflection off a defender.
Dunston threw everything at Consett in a bid to keep alive their title hopes, which were diminishing after defeats in their last two games, and they got their reward with three minutes left on the clock when they dug deep to find a second equaliser. It was the lively sub McAndrew who got the goal, cutting in from the left and firing home beyond Poskett.
There was three minutes of added time, and the referee decided enough was enough when a Dunston player slid off the pitch into a deep, freezing-cold puddle. If the weather had been as bad at the start of the game as it was at the end, it's unlikely the match would ever have kicked off. As it was, despite the conditions it was a fairly entertaining game, and a draw was probably the right result for a game played in torrential rain which got worse as the night progressed.
Full time: Consett 2-2 Dunston