An excellent opening game saw Bedlington Terriers fully deserve their victory over a workmanlike Billingham Town.
Manager Keith Perry’s decision to hand debuts to no fewer than seven new faces paid dividends with some outstanding individual performances with 17-year-old midfielder James Loughborough in particular showing great composure in his first senior game to pick up the man of the match award.
The home side created the first opening in the opening minute after Phil Bannister was fouled just outside the box but Martin Brittain’s free kick went wide.
Billingham set up a promising move in the 16th minute when Stephen Gamble lost his marker to pick out Craig Skelton whose powerful header brought a great save from Shaun McCaffrey.
Terriers were quick to counter, Sean McRoberts making ground on the right to fire in a fierce drive that visiting keeper George Willey did well to turn around the post.
Within a minute Mark Doninger’s delicate chip flashed over the crossbar.
Town winger Chris McGill was posing a threat on the right and he went close in the 26th minute his close in his effort going just wide.
Terriers missed a glorious chance to take the lead in the 34th minute when Bannister broke clear on the right to drill a low ball across the face of the Town goal, the ball only needing a touch with Paul King inches away.
After the break the home side deservedly broke the deadlock in the 50th minute with a glorious strike from Doninger who finished off a three-man move to rifle a tremendous shot high into the net with keeper Willey helpless.
Billingham fought back but were unable to break down a solid Terriers rearguard.
The young Bedlington side continued to give a good account and on the hour Doninger was guilty of the miss of the match as pulled his low drive wide of the upright.
Bedlington were well on top but disaster struck in the 82nd minute when a rare lapse in defence let in substitute Karl Charlton who got up well to plant a looping header past McCaffrey.
Undeterred Terriers grabbed two goals in the dying minutes the first coming from Jordan Mellish who turned the ball home from close range. Doninger atoned for his earlier miss, picking up a great pass from Davy Brown, he smashed another bullet past the visiting keeper.
After the match, manager Keith Perry said he was delighted with his new look side’s performance.
He said: “I asked the players, particularly the youngsters, to step up to the plate on their Northern League debuts and they did the club proud.
“Whilst it’s difficult to single out any individual, James Loughborough was impressive showing a maturity beyond his years and certainly looks one for the future.
“We were solid at the back with James Harmison and Jordan Mellish outstanding plus two great strikes from Mark Doninger.
“With no disrespect to Billingham, we will meet stronger opposition as the season unfolds and that will be the test.”
Coach and former Terriers player Tony Burgess added: “Both John Egan and myself worked with the youngsters during the pre-season and they showed a great deal of potential but today they showed character.
“The Billingham equaliser did not deter them fighting back, snatching a deserved victory.”