PICTURE: George Davidson
A moment of magic separated the sides as Morpeth Town edged to victory over Penrith at Craik Park.
Sean Taylor got the scoring underway with a superbly composed finish following a magnificent cross-field ball from Chris Reid in the 26th minute. Nether side could find a second of the game though, making for a rare 1-0 score-line in Morpeth’s favour.
Goalkeeper Max Coombes was brought into the starting line-up for his debut, while Chris McDonald took his home bow following a switch from Berwick Rangers.
Although there was little in the way of shots on target in the opening stages, Morpeth were certainly the stronger of the two sides and played their football in and around the edge of the Penrith penalty area. But the first real opportunity went the way of the visitors when they earned a 13th minute spot-kick.
After being played through the heart of the Town defence, Martyn Coleman knocked it past a sprawling Coombes and then went down under the challenge. However, Andrew Murray-Jones could only scuff a tame effort wide of the target.
It was a let-off for The Highwaymen and they duly set about punishing their opponents for their profligacy. That punishment arrived in the 26th minute courtesy of a moment of quality. Centre-back Chris Reid looked up and pinged a 40-yard pass into the path of Taylor. The winger used his first touch to move the ball past the Penrith full-back before charging towards the box and slotting past Bonny Blues stopper Stuart Dixon.
The pass, the first touch and the finish were of the highest order and immediately blew the wind back in the sails of the home side. By the 37th minute, they really should have been further ahead but McDonald, when played in behind the Penrith defence, slashed across the ball and sent a rising drive over the top. Two minutes before half-time and they went even closer to extending their lead. However Taylor’s header was tame at the back post following a raking Wayne Phillips cross from the right.
Although a slender lead at the interval, it was a deserved one on the balance of play as Morpeth eased themselves into the game and gradually took control of the middle of the park.
The second half mirrored the end of the first, with Morpeth bossing matters. But they weren’t creating a tremendous amount, with only Liam Henderson’s back post header over the top causing the visitors problems.
But as the game neared its conclusion, Penrith knew they had to come out and go for an equaliser, leaving gaps down the flanks for Phillips and Taylor to exploit. As Town pressed though, they occasionally let the visitors loose, not least in the 77th minute when Coleman forced a smart two-handed save from Coombes in the Morpeth goal before sending a tamer effort straight at the Town custodian seconds later.
Despite the occasional moment to raise the pulses, Morpeth played out the remaining minutes to record a crucial victory in their chase for the Division One title. They turn their attentions to the League Cup Third Round on Wednesday when they host Willington (7.30pm) at Craik Park.
MORPETH TOWN: Coombes; Forster, Reid (Coppen 46), Danny Carson, McDonald; Graydon (capt), Sayer, David Carson; Taylor, Henderson (Davison 71), Phillips (Fry 76).
SUBS NOT USED: Elliott, Norris.
GOALS: Taylor (26)
PENRITH: Dixon; Hebson, Bowman, Moynan, May, G.Davidson (capt), Robertson, Main, Coleman, Murray-Jones, Read (Shields 48).
SUBS NOT USED: B.Davidson, Shields, Paul.