Whickham (Away), League Cup 2nd Round, 30/10/02
Won 2-1 (Lawson, Teasdale)

The League Cup may not be the biggest cup that the Terriers are chasing, but every trophy counts and it was a game the management weren't taking lightly. Whickham are currently riding high at the top of the second division, but went into the game on the back of a 3-0 drubbing at home by Penrith.
Bedlington were hoping to start with new signing and ex-Newcastle United junior player Johnny Mann up front, but he was unable to get to the game due to work commitments. Other players missing were John Milner (unwell), Steve Boon and Micky Cross (holiday).
Bedlington:- Powell, Coxall, Hildreth (Harmison), Graham, Kirkby, Teasdale, Elliott, Bogie (Cockburn), Gibb, Fletcher (Chapman), Lawson. Subs not used:- [all used].
Whikham:- Hands, Seed, Elliot, Hall (Ainley), Jackson, Cavanagh, Craddock, Elliott (Robson), Greenwood, Scott, Henderson (Hutchison). Subs not used:- Connelly, Broughton.
The game was not helped by a pitch that sloped from one side of the pitch to the other, unusual seeing as most pitches slope from end to end, so it meant that crosses from either flank were going to have to be spot on. So it was no surprise when the game was a bit of a let down performance wise, and with Clitheroe represented at the game, they wouldn't have taken too much away.
The game got underway and it was the hosts who had the better start, it was obvious they had been told to get at the Terriers in the opening stages, however they could only create a couple of half chances that were easily dealt with by the Bedlington defence. Whickham were pushing forward in the 9th minute when Bedlington hit them with the classic counter attack. The ball was played out of defence to Alex Lawson on the left wing, and from his own half, went on a 40 yard run, evading a couple of weak challenges and from 30 yards released an unstoppable shot into the top corner, leaving Tim Hands in the home goal rooted to the spot. A fantastic finish and not a bad way to open your account for the ex-Ashington and Gateshead player.
Whickham replied immediately and it took a goal line clearance from Christian Graham to deny Graeme Jacksons shot following a corner. The game settled down and most of the play was concentrated in the middle of the field, neither defence having much to do, until that is just before the interval. Thomas Scott was released down the left wing and he managed to skip past an unusually bad timed tackle by Martin Kirkby, and after cutting in to the edge of the box was desperately unlucky to see a curling shot come back off the bar with Gareth Powell beaten. It would have been at least what the home side had deserved as they had more than matched their Division One counterparts, the only difference being that moment of brilliance by Alex Lawson.
Bedlington were forced to make a double substitution at the break with Hildreth suffering from concussion and Ian Bogie haven taken a knock on the ankle, Cockburn and James Harmison came on in their place.
Whickham were close to an equalizer just before the hour mark when Paul Cavanagh fed Thomas Scott and his fierce drive from a narrow angle just went past the foot of Powells far post. But Whickham were not to be denied and got a deserved equalizer on 63 minutes, Daniel Halls deep free kick found Graeme Jackson unmarked at the back post and he supplied a neat finish to lift the ball over the advancing Powell and into the net. It was no more than the home side deserved as Bedlington struggled to get to grips with the game.
Bedlington used their final substitution when Tony Chapman replaced the disappointing Andy Fletcher and it was the little winger who nearly helped Bedlington back into the lead, his corner found James Harmison but he construed to miss a glorious chance at the back post, heading wide from 6 yards.
The visitors regained the advantage with a disputed free kick on the right wing, Christian Graham appeared to be tackled fairly, however the referee awarded a free kick to the visitors (to say the home bench didn't like it was an understatement) and when the ball was whipped in by Chapman, Teasdale rose above the rest to thump his header past Hands, who couldn't get his hands (apologies for that one) anywhere near it.
It seemed like Whickham had no comeback for this and were lucky that Bedlington didn't take a 3-1 lead, Phil Coxall popped up on the edge of the box with a low 20 yard drive which flashed inches wide of the far post. With Bedlington trying to kill the game off in the dying minutes, Whickham were limited to only one more chance 2 minutes from time, Andrew Elliott (not his Bedlington namesake) saw a 15 yard shot on the turn go agonizingly wide of the upright with Powell struggling to make up the ground.
It was a hard fought win for Bedlington but they just edged the game with the extra class that they could call upon on the night, but Whickham were by no means disgraced on a heavy pitch and did themselves credit with their battling attitude and all round controlled play.

Billingham Synthonia (Away), ANL, 26/10/02
Won 2-0 (Cockburn*2)

Bedlington faced an in-form Synthonia side that was looking to extend their 100% home record, having won their previous 5 league games there. With Brandon's game being called off due to a waterlogged pitch, it gave the Terriers an opportunity to open up a three point gap at the top. The teams lined up as follows;
Bedlington: Powell, Coxhall, Hildreth, Graham (Lawson), Harmison, Kirkby, Chapman, Bogie, Fletcher (Mann), Milner, Cockburn. Subs not used: Teasdale, Elliott.
Billingham Synthonia: Mohan, O'Gorman, Bridge, Fawcett, Marron, McGee, Ripley, Flanagan, Wood, Wilson, Wells. Subs: Wilkshire, Haslam, Swales, Cater.

The Synners were forced into making a substitution in the second minute, when the unlucky Dean McGee was forced to retire with an injury, and was replaced by Wilkshire. The first chance of the game fell to Bedlington in the 7th minute, when Milners shot from a Chapman corner had to be cleared off the line and away for another corner. A minute later, Powell was almost left embarrassed when he tried to shepherd a ball into touch for a goal kick, only Synners number 11 Wells to keep the ball in and hit it across goal. Fortunately, Kirkby was there to save his blushes and clear the lines. The opening quarter of an hour saw the home side dominating the play, without causing the Bedlington back line too many problems. The next Bedlington effort originated from persistence by Cockburn, who chased a defensive clearance, forcing Synner's keeper Mohan into conceding a throw-in.. A quick throw in led to Chapman's cross being deflected for a corner. From the resulting corner, O'Gorman headed the ball back towards his own goal, and the sub Wells had to clear off his line to prevent an own goal.
Chapman's crossing caused more problems on 21 minutes, when his corner, was missed by the defender, but Harmison's backward header from only 3 yards was well saved by Mohan.. This was followed shortly after by a rasping 25 yard shot by Bogie that the keeper did well to hold. Bedlington were beginning to dominate the home side with their familiar passing game, while the hosts were disappointing their fans with a long ball tactic that the central defensive pairing of Harmison and Kirkby easily dealt with. Kirkby in particular had an outstanding game, with many crucial tackles and good distribution of the ball. On 27 minutes, Milner ran on to what seemed to be a perfectly timed run to put him clear on goal, only for the referee's assistant to flag for offside. Even the Synners own fans (including those in the press box) were shaking their heads in disbelief (and relief!).
On 34 minutes, after great holding play, Milner played the ball to Chapman, whose cross to the far post was brilliantly headed out as Fletcher was about to pounce. From the corner, this time Bridge head back on goal, and again the ball had to be scrambled to safety by his teammates. Minutes later, Milner saw his bullet header just clear the bar from another fine Chapman cross. Almost immediately, Cockburn raced clear down the left, cutting in to the byline where he squared the ball to the onrushing Milner. Typical of the visitors luck in this first half, a defender attempted to clear the ball, only to see the ball cannon of the prolific front man and land safely into Mohan's grateful arms. So half -time came with nothing to show for Bedlington, despite being much the better team.
Minutes into the restart, after a good 1-2 between Bogie and Chapman, his cross was headed just wide by Milner. On the hour mark, the home team came the closest yet to breaking the deadlock, when Powell flapped at a cross. Although he chased the ball down, blocking a shot with his body outside of his area, it eventually fell to Anthony Wood who saw his shot comfortably clear the bar. On 70 minutes, Fletcher went close with a sweet 20 yard half-volley from a Milner cross. With 14 minutes remaining, Chris Graham was substituted in the favour of Alex Lawson. His introduction caused Cockburn to pushed up front while Milner played a more midfield role, and it was this tactical change that made the difference, as Cockburns pace down the left had caused problems all game. On 82 minutes, this was evident when a Fletcher headed flick put the Felton Flyer through on goal, however, Mohan got a hand on his attempted chip, that deflected the ball agonizingly wide of the left hand post. Two minutes later, a snatched shot from 20 yards by Chapman forced Mohan into a fine save.
On 85 minutes, Bedlington finally made the breakthrough they thoroughly deserved. A header forward was missed by Ripley, and Cockburn got to the ball first, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball home. Only 2 minutes later their lead was doubled when the outstanding Chapman beat his defender down the right flank, and squared the ball to Cockburn on the penalty spot, who again made no mistake, firing the ball to Mohan's right. A minute from the end, Andy Fletcher was replaced by Jonathan Mann. So Bedlington ran out deserving 2-0 winners and consolidated their position at the top. The performance also acted as a reminder to their rivals that Bedlington are by no means a declining footling power.

Marske United (Home), ANL, 19/10/02
Won 5-1 (Chapman, Milner*3, Fletcher)

Marske United were the latest visitors to the Welfare, with Bedlington looking to make the most of league leaders Brandon being on FA Vase duty - a win would put the Terriers top for the first time this season. A couple of new faces were in the squad for this game; first was a new goalkeeper in ex-Spurs veteran Peter Guthrie, who was apparently the first £100,000 keeper signed from non-league. He played in place of Gareth Powell (work commitments) and John Egan (Glandular Fever). The other new player was Jonathan Mann, a 19 year old signed from Blyth Town - having been released by Newcastle United in the summer. He took his place on the bench. Martin Kirkby again missed out due to injury and thier were rumours that both Elliott and Boon had left the club. The teams lined up as follows:
Bedlington: Guthrie, Hildreth, Lawson, Bogie (Mann), Coxhall, Harmison, Chapman, Graham, Fletcher, Milner (Gibb), Cockburn. Subs not used: Teasdale, Harmison
Marske: Jackson, Larkin, Millington, Brown, Hammond, Murphy, Howes, Alexander, Woods, Ward (M), Ward (N). Subs: Melon, Berry, Booth.
Marske made a bright start, pinning the Terriers back in their defensive third for most of the opening 15 minutes - indeed in the first minute, a shot from close range thankfully hit the side netting for a goal kick. However, it was the home side that took the lead on 10 minutes, much against the run of play. A diagonal cross field ball from left to right found Chapman in tons of space. He controlled the ball and lashed an unstoppable 20 yard shot beyond the reach of the diving Marske keeper and just inside the left hand upright. On 26 minutes, Bedlington keeper Guthrie earned his 'spurs' (Sorry!) when a Marske corner was met with a powerful header at great pace of which the keeper made a blinding save to tip over the bar. The Terriers next chance did not come until just before the half hour mark, when Fletcher headed just wide from pinpoint Chapman ball, after good battling play by Milner and Graham. Six minutes later, Fletcher was in again, when a Lawson cross from the left was header into the former Dunston forward's path by Milner. However, he dithered and gave Jackson time to dash out and block the eventual shot. On 39 minutes, Milner showed his teammate how to do it when his bullet header from another Chapman cross smashed into the top left corner of the Marske goal with Jackson left stranded, to give the home team an undeserved (but very welcome) 2-0 lead. The Terriers thus went into the break knowing that they had been outplayed for much of the opening 45 minutes, yet had a strong advantage.
Bedlington got the ideal start to the second half, with a third goal within 2 minutes of the restart. A defensive mix-up occurred when a Marske defender headed the ball away from Jackson, who had come to collect a nothing ball. Graham seized hold of it, and seemingly only had to tap it in with his left foot - amazingly he spurned the opportunity and knocked the ball to Chapman. Eventually, the ball was played to the unmarked Milner, who crashed the ball home into the roof of the net from 10 yards.. The second half was seeing a much improved Terriers display, with the the visitors being pinned back in their own half for much of the time
Milner scored his hattrick goal, and Bedlingtons' fourth, after 65 minutes, when Cockburn chased a ball over the top, reaching it just before Jackson, who brought the Felton Flyer down. The referee seemed to waving play on, however, the assistant put his flag across his chest to signal a penalty. The referee accepted this advice, showed the Marske keeper the yellow card, and awarded the penalty, despite the visitors protests. Milner made no mistake from the spot by coolly despatching his shot to the keepers' left.
Immediately after this goal, Bogie was replaced by new signing Mann, and was followed 5 minutes later when an injured Milner was replaced by veteran Dean Gibb. With 12 minutes left on the clock, Bedlington scored their fifth, when Cockburn chased another ball, again beat the keeper (but stayed on his feet), then squared the ball to Fletcher, who despite again looking uncomfortable, managed this time to fire the ball home from 8 yards. With a minute to go Marske scored a consolation goal, when Marske sub Greg Booth tapped the ball past Guthrie with Phil Coxhall down injured in the box.
So a poor first half display was more than compensated by a stunning turn around after the break, and in the end Marske were well beaten. This victory therefore saw Bedlington make the most of their game in hand on Brandon to return to the top of the table, where they have resided for so much of the past 6 seasons. The onus is still very much on our rivals to displace form this position, as the Terriers continue to pick up maximum points in games without always convincing.

West Auckland (Away), ANL, 12/10/02
Drew 1-1 (Milner)

Well, where to start? Most fans at the game would compare this identically to last years game where we drew 2-2, were reduced to 8 men and left complaining about an inept refereeing display. This year, it was 1-1, we only had 2 men sent off, but the complaints about the referee were ten times worse. I'll have to be careful what I say for fear of reprisal, but a complete lack of understanding about the basic concepts and rules of football left most fans at the game wondering how the referee is allowed to officiate, even at this level, however, more on that later. Bedlington were forced to make a number of changes to the team, Phil Hildreth was again available after missing the Shildon game through work commitments, Christian Graham was attending his brothers wedding, Martin Kirkby was forced to sit out with the cracked rib he picked up against Vauxhall and in-form striker Andy Fletcher had to miss the game with a stomach muscle injury. Bedlington lined up as follows:- Powell, Coxall, Hildreth, Lawson, Harmison, Teasdale (Boon), Chapman, Bogie, Gibb, Milner, Cockburn (Elliott). Subs not used:-.
West Auckland:- Hall, Johnson, Stanger (Lang), Bainbridge, West, Railt, Stout (Nicholson), Carter, Rose (Turner), Allen, McGuire. Subs not used:-.
A woeful first half gave no indication as to the excitement (ahem) which was to follow in the second, with both team struggling to break each other down and a slightly heavy pitch combined with the slope meant that both teams were limited to long range efforts. The home side had the best of the early exchanges, first Stout had his 30 yard drive easily saved and then Stanger had an audacious volley go well wide following a poor defensive Hildreth header. Bedlingtons first real chance came in the 26th minute, Chapmans volley from the edge of the box was straight at Hall and the keeper made an easy save. The returning Warren Teasdale nearly played a part in giving the County Durham side the lead, his foul on Stout 20 yards out led to a Andrew Rose free kick needing to be saved by Powell, this coming minutes after Bedlington had had penalty appeals for a blatant block on Milner. The end of a dull first half couldn't come quick enough and the refreshment supplied by West Auckland was top notch.
A sensational start to the second half saw Bedlington take the lead, Chapman doing superbly well to get past his marker on the right wing, his low cross eluded Dean Gibb, but at the back post was Milner who controlled the ball well and slotted low past the advancing keeper. James Harmison at the back was having a monumental game alongside the equally impressive Hildreth, Coxall and Teasdale made a vital tackle on Roy Allen 4 yards from goal. Steve Boon replaced Warren Teasdale who may have come back from his three week lay off a little too soon. Boon nearly had an instant impact on the game, his low ball into the near post was brilliantly met by the right boot of Gibb and it forced Hall into an equally impressive point blank save to tip the ball round the post. The corner was swung in by Chapman and it was met by the head of John Milner (who had been forced to drop back into midfield as a result of the substitution) but it went well over. The game suddenly went downhill from then on with the referee deciding to wreck what had been a well contested game. Steve Boon was in possession of the ball in the middle of the field but when the referee blew, few would have thought that the Bedlington man would be sent off for what was judged to be an elbow on the West man when all he was doing was shielding the ball - granted his arms were high, but how many times do you see a player shielding the ball with his arms? The West Auckland defender Neil Johnson raced in on Boon and pushed him over, normally a straight red card, but the referee then decided on booking him for what was obviously more of a sending off offence than Boons (remember that Boon was sent off in the corresponding fixture last year as well). That was in the 70th minute and the game turned from a joke into a farce, firstly Dionn Railt was only booked for a stamp on John Milners knee and then Dean Gibb was sent off in what was easily the most comical sending off since Paul O'Connor got sent off against Seaham Red Star for swearing at himself for kicking a ball out of play. Dean Gibb made a good run through the middle of the park and when he failed to spot Chapman who was screaming for the ball down the right and lost possession, the young winger had a right gobful for Gibb. Deano responded as anybody would with a similar tirade, however, the referee decided enough was enough and he sent Gibb off for foul and abusive language - aimed at his own player. To say that the people in the ground were stunned would be a massive understatement and the game had lost all credibility as a game between two teams with title ambitions. With Bedlington down to 9 men and Milner struggling on with his injured knee, Alex was also struggling with a heel injury and Robbie Cockburn had to be replaced with Andy Elliott as he had ran his legs off. It left Bedlington with 15 minutes to defend their one goal lead and they nearly did so, Powell doing a great job in goal to deny Stanger, Rose, and Allen on a couple of occasions. Bedlington were being pinned into their own half but few were expecting Auckland to make the breakthrough as they looked to have ran out of ideas, however substitute Andrew Turner popped up with a header from Lang's long throw which gave Powell no chance. The referee then proceeded to play only one minute of injury time (we weren't complaining!) when there should have been at least 6 or 7.
Bedlington probably would have been pleased with a point before the game, but were rightly left fuming at the final whistle as they had been robbed by a performance from a referee who on this performance isn't fit to referee.

Shildon (Away), ANL 9/10/02
Won 3-0 (Graham, Cockburn*2)
Report by Jeff King

With the Terriers in fine form the visit to newly promoted Shildon was seen as an opportunity to keep their winning run in the league on track at the home of the Railwaymen. Phil Hildreth was unavailable due to work commitments so Alex Lawson came in to play at left back in the only change to the side that had saw off Durham City at the weekend. In goal for Shildon was ex-Bedlington keeper Adam Clementson who knew he was in for a busy night.

The game got off to a sensational start with the Terriers scoring on the first attack. Tony Chapman was the instigator with a great run from halfway that took him past two defenders before he chipped a ball in to the box for Christian Graham to run on to and lift over the advancing Clementson. The goal was timed at 25 seconds and was a brilliant start for Bedlington. Chapman had made a good start and receiving a pass from Ian Bogie he "nutmegged" Danny Richmond before shooting wide from 25 yards. The home side showed their hand when Dave Bayles's kick free kick on the right caught the Bedlington defence napping giving Lee Ellison a great chance that he pulled wide of the far post from 10 yards. Nice play between Phil Coxall and Bogie saw a ball played up to Andy Fletcher who flicked it on to John Milner. His lay-off found Coxall again who picked out Fletcher with his cross but the forward's header was well wide. On 20 minutes Lawson conceded a free kick on the edge of the Bedlington area. Charlie Walton chipped it in only to see Milner head clear where James Middleton picked it up and crossed well and Walton who had stayed up failed to connect with a good heading chance. Three minutes later the Terriers made Shildon pay. Bogie's ball from midfield found Robbie Cockburn in full flight on the left. Without breaking stride he cut inside before curling a brilliant shot from just outside the box beyond Clementson's dive to put Bedlington two goals in front. Shildon skipper Danny Key was penalised for a foul on Graham thirty yards from goal. Chapman crossed to the back post where Steve Tobin did well to clear at the expense of a corner. Chapman's kick was headed clear only to fall to Lawson whose instant volley from fully 20 yards went just over the top. Shildon missed a great chance to get back in the game when Bayles put Ellison through on goal but with only Gareth Powell to beat he pulled his left foot shot wide of goal. The miss was made even more important as Bedlington stormed in to a three-goal lead on the half-hour. Martin Kirkby's ball out of defence found Cockburn sprinting clear of the home defence and as he reached the edge of the box he smashed a great shot at goal that although Clementson got both hands to still had enough power to nestle in the back of the net. From their next attack the rampant Terriers almost made it four as Fletcher controlled Lawson's through ball and was only denied by a great block by Clementson. Clementson came to his side's rescue again when he denied Cockburn a hat-trick with a good diving save from the winger's cross shot. Cockburn was in excellent form and taking another pass on the left his pace took him past two defenders to the by-line where he crossed low to find Milner whose goal bound effort seemed to be deflected wide by Tobin but no corner was awarded. On the right flank Chapman was causing problems as well for Shildon and he cleverly won a corner off Walton. He took the kick and Fletcher making a great run from the edge of the box got in front of his marker to power a header past Clementson but it went inches over the bar. The half time whistle came as a relief to the home side who had found Bedlington's passing football and pace too hot to handle.

Ellison had looked the only source off hope for Shildon and just after the re-start he got on the end of a cross from Bayles to head towards the bottom corner but Powell got down to save well. Graham responded with a great diagonal run across the pitch before lifting a great ball over the Shildon defence to Chapman.
His cross was pinpoint and Fletcher looked a certain scorer but unfortunately he put his header over the top from 8 yards. A ball in to Fletcher's feet by Coxall was well held up and then touched off for Chapman but again Bedlington's finishing was off target as he put the good chance over the bar. After an hour referee Paul Simpson was forced to leave the field with a calf injury and his assistant took over. His first decision was to send off the home side's Glen Moan who tripped Cockburn on the edge of the box as he looked to be in on goal. There could be little doubt about the decision as if Cockburn had got past Moan he would have had only the keeper to beat. Bedlington were doubly punished as Chapman tamely curled the free kick over the bar. Although the whole Bedlington side was playing well Cockburn was certainly the star of the show and showed his worth to his side on 66 minutes. A good break from Shildon saw Ellison do well to hold the ball up and then square a great ball to his strike partner Neil Burn who thought he had a tap-in only to find Cockburn come from nowhere to block his close range effort. Lee Hainsworth became the second home player to disappear down the tunnel when on 73 minutes he was dismissed for foul and abusive language after disputing a decision. With the home side down to 9 men and three goals to the good, the Terriers made three substitutions with Dean Gibb, Andy Elliott and Steve Boon replacing Milner, Chapman and Fletcher. With only 15 minutes to go the visitors coasted through the final 15 minutes with the only other chance falling to Gibb on 84 minutes. He was denied his first goal of the season as he saw Clementson dive to his left to turn his low curling shot wide of the post.

So, another three goals for the third game running and another three points for a very well disciplined and flowing Bedlington side. The big pitch at Dean Street certainly suited their footballing style and led by the pace of Cockburn, Chapman and Graham they certainly deserved the win and gave themselves another boost before the difficult trip to West Auckland on the Saturday.

Durham City (Home), ANL, 5/10/02
Won 3-2 (Milner (pen), Graham, Cockburn)

Following a great midweek win at Billingham Town, Bedlington had another tough game, this time at home against Billy Crudas' Durham City. Both sides were in the top five going into the game so it was very much the game of the day as far as the league went and it was no surprise to see the different press reporters at the game, along with the Sunday Sun photographer and a scout from Wolverhampton Wanderers (wonder who he was watching!).
Bedlington lined up as follows:- Powell, Coxall, Hildreth, Graham, Harmison (J), Kirkby, Chapman, Bogie, Fletcher (Gibb), Milner, Cockburn (Elliott). Subs not used:- Lawson, Harmison (M), Egan.
Durham:- Riches, Stephenson, Brightwell (Healer), Douglas, Kitchen, Dawson (Mudd), Walklate, Ord, Dunwell, Halliday, Irvine. Subs not used:- Moore, Newton, Emmerson.
Bedlington got off to a bright start and should have taken the lead as early as the 3rd minute, Cockburns cross was met with a poor first touch by Milner who was unmarked infront of goal, he fed the ball back to Cockburn whose second cross was met by Chapman but he fired narrowly over from 10 yards out when he should have done much better. Bedlington were playing some good football as they kept Durham on the back foot, although the visitors nearly took the lead in the 12th minute when Dunwell went close with a drive from the edge of the box, however they did take the lead against the run of the play 6 minutes later. A goal mouth scramble which involved a great save from Powell and a block from Kirkby was rounded off with Brightwell firing in a shot which went in off the post. It was a cruel blow to Bedlington but they were literally gifted an equaliser on 25 minutes, Marc Riches in the away goal came to collect a Chapman cross, normally this would have been bread and butter, but somehow he managed to drop the ball and with Milner in close attendance a goal looked inevitable. However David Kitchen had other ideas and with a little help from Riches, pulled Milner back before the striker could tap the ball into an empty net, the referee duly awarded a penalty, booked Kitchen for his efforts and Milner did well to blast the ball past Riches who guessed the right way.
Christian Graham deserves a special mention for his efforts in the centre of the field, not only did he control the play well, he also had a good game physically which isn't normally one of his fortes
and along with Chapman and Cockburn is blistering form down the wings, the aging Durham back four had a tough time. Gareth Powell picked up what looked like a nasty injury in the first half, although after a lengthy spell of treatment he was able to continue and needed to be at his best when a dipping angled drive from Dunwell was destined for the top corner until the back tracking Bedlington keeper did well to touch the ball over for a corner which was easily cleared. On the stroke of half time Bedlington nearly took the lead when an excellent Chapman volley clipped the top of the bar after the little winger did well in the air against Irvine. The first half had shown what both teams were made of in a thoroughly entertaining contest, both teams deserving to be on level terms at the interval.
The second half started much the same as the first, Bedlington on top, and they nearly made their early dominance pay off when a great Chapman run through the middle of the park set up Milner who had turned his defender, but his flick with the outside of the boot lacked conviction and the keeper made what turned out to be an easy save. Just after the hour mark and the home side took the lead thanks to a comical bit of goalkeeping. Christian Graham tried a potshot from 30 yards, he hit the ball brilliantly but despite this you would still have expected Riches to save it, however he was caught in two minds whether to catch it or tip it over and he ended up dropping it over his head and into the empty net. God only knows what Billy Crudas was thinking in the visitors dug out. It got even better for the Terriers 13 minutes from time when they appeared to put the game beyond doubt, a neat Fletcher flick over the defence was headed into the path of Cockburn by Milner, and the Felton Flyer coolly controlled the ball and blasted it beyond Riches, just the confidence booster that the ex-Alnwick player needed and a goal that his performance merited. Durham warned Bedlington that the game was far from over with drives from Halliday and Walklate that both whistled past either post. However it was John Milner that decided he fancied a change from scoring for Bedlington, with an own goal, he tried to clear an Irvine corner, but he instead headed it over the line and despite the ball being cleared by Coxall, the linesman was already signaling the goal. Yet again Bedlingtons frailties this season were highlighted and ensured a nail biting end to the top of the table clash. Dean Gibb and Andy Elliott replaced Andy Fletcher and Robbie Cockburn as a time wasting measure, but with the referee insisting on playing 4 minutes of injury time, Durham nearly claimed a last gasp equaliser, but Healer (who came on wit the number 13 shirt on which was for Paul Newton according to the team sheet) fired well over when he was unmarked in the box. The Terriers managed to hang however and sealed their second 3-2 win in the space of a week and it was probably a win they deserved on their second half performance, both sides matched each other in the first half, but Bedlington had a little more going forward in the second). Tony Lowery after the match was delighted and praised the players for the performance and went on to say that Durham looked like an excellent side and would cause Blyth Spartans a few problems the week later in the FA Cup.

Billingham Town (Away), ANL, 1/10/02
Won 3-2 (Fletcher*2, Milner)

Bedlington were looking to bounce back from their FA Cup exit with a trip to high flyers Billingham town who had started the season in superb fashion and were second in the table going into the game. Bedlington knew that a win would lift them above Town, into their highest position of the season and start to put some pressure on current leaders Brandon whose early season winning run has recently come to an end.
Bedlington:- Powell, Coxall, Hildreth, Graham, J. Harmison, Cockburn, Chapman, Bogie, Fletcher, Milner, Lawson (Elliott). Subs not used:- Boon, M. Harmsion.
Martin Kirkby had originally been in the starting line up, but he injured his back in the pre-match warm up and Robbie Cockburn came in as a late replacement. The game was delayed 15 minutes because of delays on the A19 but when the game got underway, Bedlington got stuck into their hosts from the off. A scintillating display of flowing football brought back memories of the Terriers of old (if not better) and they did what they have been struggling to do this season and that is punish teams for their mistakes. The visitors were having a lot of joy down the right flank in the opening few minutes with Hildreth and then Chapman wasting glorious opportunities to deliver the ball into the box. Bedlington were nearly forced to pay for this when a swift Town counterattack resulted in Woodhouse finding Mark Scott unmarked at the back post but he was gutty and fired well over with players in better positions in the centre of the box. However Bedlington took the lead in the 7th minute with a crisp move from one end of the pitch to the other. Andy Fletcher, who surely must have silenced his critics, collected a long punt up field from Powell, and with one touch control lifted a lob from all of 25 yards into the top corner with Billinghams debut keeper John Collinson left scrambling back to his line in vain. It was to get even better 30 seconds later with Chapman linking well with Hildreth down the right flank, the latter whipping a ball into the box (the kind that all defenders hate) and on hand was Milner at the back post to blast the ball past a stunned Collinson.

By now most of the people in attendance were looking at a landslide victory for the Terriers, such was their early domination, and it was nearly 3-0 on the quarter hour mark, Cockburn (who looked as if he is regaining some confidence) raced away down the left wing, leaving the defender standing and his centre was just inches away from being met by the boot of Chapman with the goal at his mercy. Bedlington then decided that the game was all but won and eased right back and allowed the home team into the game. Billingham had a goal disallowed in the 34th minute for offside, David Turners cross was met by the head of Chillingham, but the flag was already up and the home players had no complaints. A minute later and it should have been 2-1 with Powell showing his worth with a point blank save from that man Chillingham. The referee and his assistants had been having a steady game up until the 40th minute and then the game turned into a farce with some of the most blatantly wrong decisions being made, non more so when Chapman released Milner who was being played onside by at least 5 yards, he went on to finish well but the referee had his flag up for what one fan called a "clueless decision", even the Billingham manager said that it was a perfectly good goal. Bedlington had another goal disallowed just before the break, Chapmans ball in was again met by Milner, but it was the linesman who flagged for handball this time by the Terriers star man, he must have fantastic eyes to spot something from 35 yards, that the referee couldn't from 5.

With the score 2-0 at the break, it was a sign of the early dominance from a ruthless Bedlington, however Billingham had threatened and the game was far from over, a statement backed up as early as the 13th minute in the second half, Andrew Burton picking up a loose ball 25 yards out and he curled in a fantastic shot which somehow got past an out of position Powell. Bedlington were looking a little shaky and were forced into a reshuffle, Lawson having to go off with an ankle injury, Andrew Elliott coming on for him, it meant that Cockburn went up front and Milner went in at right back. But the goal of the season so far came from Fletcher in the 71st minute, he collected a ball all of 30 yards from goal, spotted the keeper all of 4 yards off his line and the former Dunston man picked out the top corner with one of the best lobs I have ever seen to put the Terriers 3-1 up.

Bedlington were getting back to the sort of football that they were playing in the opening stages of the game and Fletcher twice, Chapman and Cockburn all being brilliantly denied by Collinson. Just as the game appeared to be running out of steam, Billingham pulled another goal back, Mark Scott was played through the Terriers defence and he did well to round Powell and slot the ball into the unguarded net. It gave the score a bit of an uneven slant on the game, but the 3 points were all that mattered to Bedlington, and the way they started and finished the game would have been a bonus to Tony Lowery who was sole manager for the night with Keith in Turin.