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Highland Hotel 3 – 2 Great Northern Athletic

Division Three at Inverdee on Saturday 18th February

Report by Scott McPherson

Division Three high flyers Highland Hotel and Great Northern Athletic met on Saturday with the teams second and third respectively. Both sides were determined to win and close the gap on leaders Ferryhill. However, it was Athletic which started much the hungrier.

It didn’t take Athletic long to take the lead during their early dominance. Within five minutes the home side were behind. Winger McIntosh crossed the ball for striker Masson, who was denied by the ‘keeper, and when the ball fell to winger Lloyd his shot crashed off the bar, Great Northern Athletic appealed that the ball had crossed the line, but striker David Smith didn’t wait around to find out as he smashed a half volley past the goalkeeper and the covering defender on the line.

Third-placed Athletic continued to dominate largely due to impressive winger Lewis McIntosh who was popping up wherever he could find space. He came closest to doubling their lead as he rounded ‘keeper Calum Yule and slid the ball towards goal before it was kicked off the line.

After dominating the first two thirds of the half Athletic were punished for their sloppiness. Completely against the run of play Highland Hotel equalised from a long throw. The ball was thrown into the box it hit a defender the home side claimed for handball but like his counterpart Smith, striker Adam Bonney reacted first to drill the ball across goal into the bottom corner.

As Great Northern Athletic striker Masson passed up another great chance, Hotel went up the other end to take an unlikely lead. As the ball bounced on the edge of the box, the defence hesitated as striker Bonney took control and headed the ball into the top corner from the 18 yard line, a truly extraordinary goal which made it 2-1 Highland Hotel at the interval.

Half-time: 2 – 1

As the second half progressed Great Northern Athletic pushed for an equaliser. They would have been on level terms if it wasn’t for a magnificent save from stopper Yule. Again McIntosh was the architect as he broke through to square the ball to Smith who was denied from 4 yards as Yule inexplicably pushed out a hand to divert it for a corner. Their chances of gaining a point seemed to fade minutes later when striker Masson was sent off for what appeared to be abusive language.

Despite this set-back Great Northern Athletic showed their heart as they netted a surprise equaliser despite their numerical disadvantage. Direct from the goalkeeper’s kick out, the home side failed to clear which resulted in substitute Webster going clear and lobbing the ball over the stranded Yule.

The game looked like it would finish 2-2 as neither side really took control after the equaliser, but a goalkeeping mistake handed Highland Hotel victory. As the ball rebounded about the penalty box ‘keeper Smith tried to smother it but it squirmed underneath his body and fell to winger Tom Fegen who calmly slotted the ball into the empty net.

This late winner resulted in great scenes of celebration as the match winner pulled off his top before being pulled to the ground by the majority of his teammates and spectators.

As the final whistle blew the you could see the delight and disappointment in both teams. It had been a competitive game between two title contenders determined to win. Despite the defeat, with two games in hand, Great Northern Athletic won’t give up in the title chase making it an interesting run in to the end of the season

Full Time: 3 – 2