BEDLINGTON Terriers FC produced a stunning late comeback to overcome a two-goal defecit to snatch a point at home to league leaders Consett on Saturday.
Both sides finished with ten men after a second half that more than made up for a drab opening 45 minutes.
The visitors featured three ex-Bedlington players in their line-up, with Craig Robson, Anthony Lund and Jamie Poole all named in the starting XI.
Richard Hodgson retained his place up front, with the league’s leading scorer Alex Benjamin surprisingly rested with a place on the bench alongside new signing Andrew Dugdale.
The exciting finish that was to come could hardly have been anticipated after what was a dire first half, albeit on a pitch that cut up badly, especially in the middle, which made any kind of passing game difficult.
Chances for either side were at a premium, although Newton in the Bedlington goal had to be the more alert of the two goalkeepers due to Consett’s tactic of playing the ball over the top and their pacey strike force chasing it down.
In reality, those watching – and probably the players – were grateful to hear the half-time whistle to end a period where the only memorable moment was a caution for Terriers skipper Stuart Elliott.
Bedlington were forced into making a change during the interval as Chris Carr was unable to continue on after picking up a knock late in the half.
His place was taken by Anthony Chapman, as Lowery and Perry reorganised their back line.
After 45 minutes of near purgatory, the second period started off in a more positive fashion, with only an excellent challenge denying Anthony Shandran when through on goal within five minutes of the restart.
However, it was the visitors who made the breakthrough in the 56th minute when Jonjo Dickman was given the freedom of the Bedlington 18-yard area to fire home with aplomb.
The Terriers were forced into a second change on the hour mark when Steven Baptist had to be replaced by Benjamin.
Shandran soon after became the second home player to be cautioned.
The game got worse for the home side with 20 minutes remaining as the visitors doubled their lead.
Gavin Barton timed his run perfectly to be put clear on goal, and despite Phillipson’s attempts to put the striker off, he finished low under Newton to seemingly secure the points for the runaway leaders.
Phillipson was cautioned for his persistent attempts to stop Barton.
Bedlington made their final change on 75 minutes when Henderson replaced Hodgson – at the same time Consett made their first change with Mark Eccles replacing Dale Burrell.
The hosts finally gave themselves a lifeline three minutes later when they reduced the deficit.
Shandran broke down the right wing before playing a superb first time cross into the area that Benjamin powered home with a diving header for his 31st league goal of the campaign.
Bedlington hopes rose higher into the final ten minutes when Ryan Bell was sent off for the visitors for denying a goalscoring opportunity for Benjamin by pulling him back.
It was debatable whether Benjamin had the ball under control or that Bell was really the last defender, but the referee and assistant were in agreement and the Consett No. 2 was giving his marching orders.
The hosts were awarded a free kick 20 yards from goal, which Chapman struck beautifully and was unlucky to see his effort crash against the bar and out for a goal kick.
Consett made their second change of the game with Scott Martindale replacing Craig Robson, and then with three minutes remaining the game was reduced to ten-a-side.
There could be no complaints from the home side, as Henderson for reasons only he can explain, clearly went studs first into a challenge with his opponent already on the ground.
An automatic red card added to an increasingly frantic end to the game.
Chapman was also booked for dissent in the aftermath of the dismissal.
Still the Terriers sniffed the chance of an unlikely equaliser, and when Chapman broke down the right and played an early low cross to Shandran, it took an excellent block by Poskett to deny the Bedlington striker.
However, he was not to be denied his goal, which finally came in the third minute of added time.
Phillipson was needlessly fouled just outside the right corner of the Consett 18-yard area, and Convery’s resulting free kick took a slight deflection of the head of a defender before finding its way to Shandran well beyond the far post and almost level with the goal line.
To the disbelief and unbridled joy of the Bedlington faithful he somehow managed to guide an almost impossible header from the narrowest of angles into the unguarded goal to level the scores and spur scenes of jubilation on and off the pitch.
Consett only had time to restart the game before the referee blew the final whistle and confirmed the Terriers’ ‘great escape’ – a comeback that could not have been envisaged just 15 minutes earlier was complete and the Consett players were dejected.
It definitely felt like the Terriers had used a get out of jail card, but credit goes to the players for never giving up, their efforts got their just rewards.
Bedlington were due at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday night for their eagerly anticipated Wansbeck derby against closest rivals Ashington.
The Terriers were going into the game hoping to erase the memory of the 2-1 reverse at Welfare Park last August.
This Saturday sees the Terriers head down the A19 for a trip to Billingham Town, the second of a run of five away games they will play, which will give the Welfare Park pitch three vitally needed weeks to recover.
Tuesday, February 15, finally sees the Terriers play their Northumberland Senior Cup tie against Newcastle United Reserves at Blue Flames.