The last kick of the game was the decider in this thrilling contest on a cold evening at Norton's Station Road venue.
A very late arrival at the ground after going to pick up fellow attendees en route to the match went horribly wrong. It's not my fault that there are two churches with village halls on the same road! Then I had to pick my young cousin up who I had kindly invited along to see his first Non-League game. It was then a case of finding the quickest way to Norton...which I didn't.
With a slightly delayed kick off, we were lucky, and I got my favourite spot at Norton, just near the home dug out.
After last weeks 2-0 home win for Norton, Bishop were always going to be looking for revenge. A bright opening period of play started with Norton getting a free kick 30 yards out, which saw a comfortable save for the Auckland keeper. With 15 minutes on the clock, Norton's Keeper James Briggs flapped at a corner. A back post effort headed goal wards, and was cleared off the line, and the rebound was blocked by the same Norton Defender.
A Norton Counter attack created their first threatening chance of the half, but the finish was missing as the striker poked the ball wide.
However, the deadlock was broken on 22 minutes. A long clearance from the huge boot of the Bishop Auckland Keeper found his man to perfection. The ball was brought forward, and a nifty "one-two" between two Bishops players saw the ball volleyed into the back of the net from point blank range.
Norton didn't let their heads drop, and on 30 minutes, a 25 yard effort out of the blue produced a fine save from the Auckland keeper, and from the resulting corner, another chance was cleared off the line. This bizarrely resulted in jubilant cries from the Bishop's supporters. I don't know what goes in the drinks in their neck of the woods!
Briggs was again tested in the Norton Goal, pulling off a fine save from a goal bound effort. The 3rd clearance off the line of the night, again by an away defender, lead to a quick Bishop Auckland break. A defensive slip left Tyson Masters one-on-one with the keeper, and duly slotted home.
The last chance of the half fell to Norton. A defensive header went towards goal, but he was spared his blushes by a team-mate clearing off the line...again!!
Tonight, came a new phenomena in a Northern League game. I ate nothing at half time! However, I had promised my cousin that the Burgers from the "Norton Cafe" were top quality. And he wasn't disappointed! I quote: "These are better than McDonalds Burgers!" Back to the action on the pitch...
Norton came out onto the pitch looking like a determined team. With just 5 minutes on the clock, Norton won a free kick right on the edge of the Penalty Box. A routine straight from the training ground saw a near post shot hit the side netting. However, Norton still pushed on, and they were rewarded for the patience in the 61st minute, when a ball over the top was finished off past the keepers outstretched arm and into the back of the net. 2-1, and the game was back on!
Norton still drove forward, and Bishop Auckland were penned back in their own half for a long period. Another corner was half cleared by the nervous Bishop's defence. It was taken down nicely by the number 10 Sonny Andrews, and he hit the ball sweetly on the half volley. Now, this is time for a bit of poetic licence. I had the honour of been stood directly behind him when he struck the ball. It moved from left to right in the air, and the last minute dip took the keeper by surprise. A quality finish by a quality player. By some stoke of luck, my cousin had his phone out filming at the time. So Sonny, just for you, it will be on the site before long for you to savour!
The game was now any one's. Play went back and forth, until the 80th minute when a desperate tackle by a Norton defender, not dissimilar to one you'd see on the adjacent rugby fields, saw Bishop's win a penalty.
Again, my cousin had his phone out, and it will be another Norton Man who will want to see the video over and over again, as he pulled off a great penalty save, from what was a poor penalty.
And now our famous Quote of the Day. This week was from the Norton Dugout, where the shout of "Don't lose it, don't lose the f***er!" came from. Priceless!!
With just minutes to go, tempers flared up after a few tasty challenges, but the referee was quick to diffuse the situation.
Another Bishops counter, and another fine save. Play went down the other end, and Andrew's headed over from 4 yards out; a chance which could and should have sealed it.
However, with just seconds on the clock, Bishop Auckland has one last big push. A run through the middle, ball played out right-appeal for offside: "NO!" shouts the linesman! Striker clean through on Goal...Pandemonium behind the goal! The Bishop Auckland fans went mad!!! It was like they'd won the league! The ball is placed on the centre spot...3 long blasts on the referee's whistle, and Bishop Auckland had won in truly amazing fashion.
Final Score 3-2
A brilliant game for the neutrals, and what a reintroduction after 4 weeks away from it all.
Roll on Saturday...!!!
No photo's from the game tonight, but hopefully video action should follow shortly.