CONSETT’S season sunk to a worrying new low after this dismal derby defeat by second-bottom Tow Law at a windswept Ironworks Road, as they conceded four goals for the fourth successive game. A side already deprived of Ryan Bell, Carl Piecha and Dale Burrell through injury showed six changes from the one beaten at Newcastle Benfield 12 days earlier.
Peter Jameson started in goal in place of Barry Poskett, Damian Maw came into central defence in place of the injured Anthony Lund, and the absences of Craig Robson, Harrison Davies, Jonjo Dickman and Jamie Poole for various reasons meant an entirely new midfield of Sam Hodgson, Chris Hutchinson, David Molloy, and Daniel Reeves – the latter making his debut after signing from 2nd Division strugglers Horden CW on Christmas Eve. Of the starting XI, only left-back David Brown, captain-for-the-day David Scorer and front pair Michael Mackay and Marc Walton could be classed as regulars. The other seven players had just 17 starts this season between them, and Jameson accounted for 10 of those.
The game kicked off with a strong wind blowing across the pitch, and the home side adapted better to the conditions from the start. They took the lead after just nine minutes when two of their ex-Consett contingent worked a short free-kick routine out on the left. Midfielder Andrew Thompson played it short to player-manager Ian Davision, got it back, and lofted a speculative ball into the penalty area. Unfortunately for Consett, keeper Jameson slipped as he came off his line to claim the ball, and could only watch as it sailed over his head into the unguarded net.
Consett were struggling to string more than two passes together, with many of their moves down the exposed right wing in particular ending with throw-ins to the home side. They had a major let-off on 15 minutes when Tow Law broke quickly from their own half and the ball found its way to former Consett reserve Matty Scott, who turned Maw inside-out, leaving himself with only the keeper to beat. Luckily, he tried to be clever, and mis-hit his attempted chip tamely at Jameson when a more assured finish would have doubled his side’s lead.
Scott went closer from his next chance, meeting Mark Fitzpatrick’s low cross from the right at the front post but steering his shot just over the bar, but the Lawyers didn’t have to wait long to increase their advantage.
A straightforward long ball found centre-forward Mark Nixon on the left, and he had time and space to pick his spot past the exposed Jameson.
The young keeper then saved well from Scott, but he could do nothing as Tow Law increased their lead on 28 minutes. Nixon picked up a loose ball 25 yards out and as Consett’s defenders hesitated in closing him down, he rifled a shot into the bottom-left corner.
On the half-hour Consett at last created a chance, with Walton’s header from Brown’s cross striking the base of the post, but it wouldn’t have counted if it had gone in, as the linesman had flagged the No 9 offside.
As the interval approached, Walton finally forced home keeper Stephen Robinson into action, twisting and turning to create a chance, but hitting his shot straight at him.
Consett went in at half-time three goals down, but it could have been worse. Scott’s shot beat Jameson but hit the post after he got the better of Maw after being left one-on-one, and Mark Fitzpatrick shot a yard wide when well-placed.
Half time: Tow Law 3-0 Consett
Kenny Lindoe was forced into a change at half-time, with Poskett coming on for Jameson, who had picked up a knock, and within three minutes of the restart Consett had reduced the arrears. Right-back Luke Gilbert started the move, picking up the ball in his own half and feeding debutant Reeves. His pass to Mackay saw the centre-forward sweep the ball home over Robinson and into the far corner for his 26th goal of the season.
The goal should have given Consett the impetus to get back into the game, but it didn’t work out that way, and it was Tow Law who went closest when Scott broke clear with only Poskett to beat, and although he shot past the keeper, his effort rolled inches wide of the post.
The Steelmen gave two more players their debuts, bringing on Paul Oxley in place of Maw and manager Kenny Lindoe’s son Barry, who usually plays for Annfield Plain in the Wearside League, for Chris Hutchinson as they sought to claw their way back into the game.
But with little in the way of midfield creativity, and the front two starved of service, they never looked like getting anything out of the game, and it was the home side who finished strongly.
Nixon had the ball in the net on 81 minutes after Poskett missed a cross from the right, but the ‘goal’ was ruled out for handball, but the Tow Law No 9 didn’t have to wait long to complete his hat-trick. A minute later he picked up the ball on the right edge of the penalty area and lashed home a fine shot, which Poskett got a hand to but could not keep out.
The goal was the signal for many visiting supporters to leave, but this result and the slump to 18th place resulting from Penrith’s 4-1 win over Jarrow Roofing left everyone in no doubt: despite having games in hand on all the teams around them, the Steelmen are in the thick of a relegation battle.
Full time: Tow Law 4-1 Consett