Seaham Red Star Reserves have not found it easy during their first season in the Wearside League, but they almost upset the form book when Sunderland West End visited Seaham Town Park on Saturday.
The visitors, hoping to challenge for honours at the top of the table, were odds-on favourites, but, in the end, only just scraped a 2-1 victory.
Seaham were quickly on the back foot. West End’s Barry Turton split the defence on 10 minutes and Lee Smith fired the ball into the net at the far post.
Red Star battled back and, midway during the opening half, equalised with a superb goal from Andrew Upperton, whose direct free-kick not only beat the wall but also goalkeeper Neal Bussey.
Just before the interval, Anth Nelson’s side regained the lead with a clinical finish from a 20-yard free-kick by Turton which gave home goalkeeper Chay Adamson no chance.
The three points lifted West End to fifth. Although they are 10 points adrift of leaders Redcar Athletic, they have six games in hand. In fact, the Wearsiders have played fewer fixtures than every other team.
Horden CW were unable to halt Redcar Athletic’s challenge for the title, but perhaps they contributed to their own downfall by having Jonathan Payne sent off on 46 minutes when the game was goalless.
Within two minutes, Sam Webster’s shot went in off the inside of the post to put Redcar ahead, but 10-man Horden kept up the fight and it was only when Andrew Jennings drove in on 80 minutes that their hopes were killed off, with Redcar running out 2-0 winners.
There were two shocks.
Murton, with just a couple of points from their first 21 games, conceding 89 goals, held on-form hosts Silksworth CW to a goalless draw.
Ashbrooke Belford House, in sixth place, were surprisingly hit with a seven-goal blast by Spennymoor Town Reserves at Coxhoe, and failed to reply.
Three goals in 13 minutes just before the interval sealed Belford’s fate.
Connor Dunlavey opened the scoring with a fine individual goal on 20 minutes, before Mitchell McKenna, Matthew Pennall and man-of-the-match Ross Morrow made it four.
Early in the second period, Morrow converted a penalty and, after an hour, he completed a hat-trick with an exquisite finish when one-on-one with Ashbrooke goalkeeper Brett Wilson.
The scoring wasn’t over yet, though, and, just before the end, Pennall claimed his second goal with an excellent strike into the top corner.
Hartlepool consolidated fourth place when they went nap at home to Wolviston.
Carl O’Sullivan was unquestionably the man of the match. He scored the first four goals and, just before the final whistle, Joe Osborne completed a 5-0 victory.
Third-bottom Prudhoe Town were hit for six by Richmond Town, who just about had the points in the bag by the 25th minute.
Sam Joyce, with a brace, and Scott Ryan had the Yorkshiremen firmly in control and the visitors took their tally to five with strikes by Tony Callaghan and Chris Pattison.
There was temporary respite for Prudhoe as Michael Rankin reduced the deficit to 5-1. but Richmond finished strongly, with Michael Layfield taking his side’s tally to six.
Annfield Plain succumbed to Leam Rangers, for whom Alan Mulholland was an early scorer. Paul Clark levelled in the second period, but Leam sealed a 3-1 success with two late goals by John Hurst and Liam McVickers.
Stockton Town, defending the Monkwearmouth Charity Cup they won last season, reached the final when they coasted to a 5-0 victory against visitorsBoldon CA.
Tony Johnson (2), Stephen Roberts, Matthew Garbutt and Matthew Lovatt netted.
The other semi, between Harton and Westoe CW and Cleator Moor Celtic, was postponed and will be played in January.