Match Report by Christopher Sweetman
JAKE Lovatt’s late winner saw Newcastle Town progress to the Preliminary round of the FA Cup, after beating ten-man AFC Wulfrunians 2-1.
The game at the Castlecroft Stadium offered Newcastle a chance to begin their competitive season on a high note.
Newcastle had shaded a scrappy first half before Ethan Vale’s well-struck free kick saw them take the lead after 34 minutes.
Wulfrunians came back strong in the second half, but Newcastle should have been clear as Lovatt, Will Llyod, Jack van der Laan and Joe Hurst all missed chances.
Instead, Wulfrunians earned an equaliser when Brad Sharman poked the ball past Joe Slinn off a drop ball.
However, Wulfrunians captain Hayden reeves was sent off soon after and Newcastle secured the win when Lovatt headed home off Hurst’s first time cross.
Both sides looked to get off to a fast start, with a few early attacks at both ends not quite creating an opportunity.
Wulfrunians had the first real chance, with Jamie Meadows’ shot deflected wide, as the home team got into the Newcastle box.
Newcastle had their first chance a few minutes later, with James Askey finding space off a free kick, but his shot was straight at the keeper.
While the game was scrappy, Newcastle were starting to exert some pressure, with a series of rushed Wulfrunians’ clearances giving them a platform.
However, Newcastle were struggling to beat the first man with their set pieces, allowing Wulfrunians to ease the pressure.
However, Ethan Vale gave the visitors the breakthrough, with his free kick leaving Jake James stranded on the wrong side of the net.
Wulfrunians pushed hard for an equaliser before the break, but despite some nervy moments Newcastle held out for a half-time lead.
Wulfrunians came out swinging for the second half, putting Newcastle under plenty of early pressure.
But it was the visitors who came closest to scoring, first through Lovatt, who somehow managed to put Jayden Bailey-Hunter’s cross over from two yards out.
Then, Lloyd broke and saw James save his shot, before Tommy van der Laan hit the post, and James again saved Hurst’s shot off the rebound.
After that, Wulfrunians got a drop ball on the edge of Newcastle’s penalty area, and Sharman poked a beautiful floated ball past Slinn.
However, Newcastle saw momentum swing their way when home captain Reeves was sent off for tripping Connor Russo, who was through on goal.
Against ten men, Newcastle was starting to threaten again, with possession in the Wulfrunians’ box.
Hurst then beat his marker with a series of deft chips and headers, before a first time cross across the six yard box. Lovatt rose highest, and his powerful header gave James no chance of saving it.
Newcastle tried to see out the last five minutes, but Wulfrunians kept pushing forward to try and force a replay. Jordan Uppay nearly gave them the equaliser in injury time, but Slinn got down well to make a sharp save.
Newcastle now progress to the preliminary round of the FA Cup, where they will play Bedworth United on 20th August.
Slinn, Russo, Ritchie, Vale, Askey, Dennis, Lloyd (Smith), T van der Laan, Lovatt, J van der Laan, Bailey-Hunter (Hurst)
Subs not used : Parker, Conlon, C Lovatt, Morley
Attendance - 155