MORPETH Town travelled to Esh Winning looking to extend their unbeaten run to five games in the STL Northern League division two.
Esh went into the game knowing that victory would put them top of the table as they look to bounce back up to division one following their relegation last May.
As expected Esh started brightly and nearly took the lead on five minutes when Duke evaded a challenge and his shot just cleared the bar.
But Morpeth settled into the game and Howes, making his first start of the season, linked up with McAlpine on the left and Johnson in the Esh goal saved his first time shot at the near post.
Morpeth regained possession in midfield and Howes crossed to Patrick who directed his header just wide of the far post.
With Hall and Keenan, who had been recalled to the side after his injury at Washington in the first game of the season, controlling the midfield, McAlpine was played in by Howes and Johnson saved bravely at his feet.
The impressive McAlpine almost gave Morpeth the lead on 20 minutes when he collected a loose ball and advanced towards goal where his shot from 20 yards was deflected inches wide.
On 25 minutes Morpeth took the lead.
Dines beat two defenders on the right and swung in a cross that was met by Howes who directed his header wide of Johnson into the corner of the Esh net.
Before the game could restart Morpeth manager Nick Gray was forced into a change in goal as Mundy replaced the injured Hogg.
From the restart Morpeth regained possession and almost increased their lead as Johnson dived to save McAlpine’s cross-shot.
With Morpeth controlling possession, Esh were becoming increasingly frustrated and Ward went into the book for a foul on Dines.
As the half entered the last five minutes, Esh started to dominate possession for the first time in the game.
After a slick passing move involving Thompson, Duke and Coates, Hogg in the Morpeth goal saved a fierce drive from Ward.
The first chance of the second half fell to Keenan, who after drifting past two defenders shot narrowly over the bar.
The quality in the Esh squad started to show as they began to dominate play.
Thompson drove over the bar when well placed and then Mundy made a fine diving save from Ward.
Coates also went close as his drive just cleared the bar.
Coates won a corner on the left and from his cross Ward headed over the bar.
Esh substitute Mickle went down the left and crossed to Ward who again missed the target when well placed.
Mickle again went down the left flank and forced Mundy into making a save at his near post.
From the restart Morpeth went straight on the attack and McAlpine was impeded by Wilson 25 yards from goal. Robinson bent the ball round the wall and Johnson dived to make the save.
A neat interchange by Cairns and Patrick on the left released Keenan through the middle whose shot was diverted out for a corner by Johnson. From McAlpine’s cross Keenan headed just wide of the post.
Esh Winning again started to dominate possession and their slick passing game started to stretch the Morpeth defence.
Mundy again saved from Ward. Mickle then fired in a powerful cross shot forcing the keeper into an acrobatic save.
On 70 minutes Duke tumbled in the box and Johnstone was adjudged to have made the foul.
Ward stepped up and struck a powerful shot to Mundy’s right, but the keeper flung himself across goal and got a firm hand on the ball diverting it wide before he gathered it at the second attempt to complete a fantastic save.
He was soon called back into action as he combined with Hall to make a point blank save on the goal line to deny Ward from two yards out.
Ten minutes from time, Newton, who had been introduced up front to give Morpeth a more physical presence, took the ball round Megran on the Esh right and played it across the six-yard line to McAlpine, who with his back to goal turned and smashed a cross-shot into the bottom corner or the net to make it 2-0 to Morpeth.
With captain Walmsley expertly marshalling his defence and the composed play of Johnstone , Cairns and Robinson, Esh Winning were spent as an attacking force with the last chance of the game falling to Andrews who forced Johnson into another fine save.
This was another impressive display by Nick Gray’s young squad as they overcame the loss of goalkeeper Hogg to gain another well deserved three away points.
Due to injury and work commitments Gray had been forced to make several changes to his starting line-up, but the strength in depth Morpeth know have was plain to see.
Morpeth Town: Hogg (Mundy) Cairns Robinson Patrick Johnstone Walmsley Keenan (Newton) Hall Howes (Andrews) Dines McAlpine.
Esh Winning have a chance to gain revenge when we the two sides again in the FA Vase on Saturday in County Durham.
The next game at Craik Park is against another promotion contender Hebburn Town on Wednesday, September 14.