DIVISION Two leaders West Tanfield staged a thrilling late comeback to secure a point against second-placed AFC Beckside last Sunday. But an incident-packed encounter will be best remembered for an incredible piece of sportsmanship by Beckside defender Mark Flood.
With his team leading 3-0 with less than ten minutes to play thanks to goals from Martyn Stubbings, Danny Connolly and Kieran Thornton, Flood informed referee Tony Godkin that a shot from Tanfield’s Rafal Kochanski had crossed the line before being cleared away after the official had originally ruled it had not.
That proved to be the turning point of the match, and possibly the title race too, as a penalty from Kochanski and a strike from Karol Ratajcak gave Tanfield a point to keep them on top.
It was the visitors who grabbed an 18th minute lead – a free kick from Scott Healey being forced home at the far post by Stubbings.
Beckside doubled their lead midway through the first half.
Connolly’s ball into the box was surely only intended to be a cross but assisted by the strong breeze it sailed over goalkeeper Ben Richmond.
Tanfield had a great chance to get back into it before the break when Kochanski was brought down in the penalty area but Ratajzcak’s spot kick came back off the crossbar.
That appeared to be crucial when Beckside made it 3-0 six minutes into the second half.
Richmond did well initially to keep out an effort from Mark Swanwick but Thornton reacted quickly to turn home the rebound.
But things slowly began to go Tanfield’s way. Thornton had to leave the field with an ankle injury ten minutes from time, leaving Beckside down to ten men, and almost immediately Flood’s sportsmanship turned the match on its head.
Kochanski’s shot beat Beckside keeper Marc Briggs and came back off the inside of the post before Flood could clear it away. Godkin waved play on but the Beckside defender admitted the ball had crossed the line and it was 3-1.
Two minutes later Ross McSherry went down under a challenge from Briggs and Godkin pointed to the spot for a second time, even though it appeared the Beckside goalkeeper had got both hands to the ball. This time Kochanski took on the responsibility and made no mistake to set up a grandstand finale.
The visitors were now desperately hanging on but with just a minute left, Tanfield rescued a point to remain top of the table – Ratajzack making amends for his earlier penalty miss.