The league’s early pace setters, Hartlepool Jacksons Arms were the visitors to Hackworth Park last Saturday for a top of the table clash with second place Shildon AFC in the Sunderland and District Over 40s League Division Four.
With the Hartlepool team yet to drop any points this season, Shildon expected a tough game.
From the kick off the away team had the better of the early exchanges without causing too much of the threat to the Shildon goal.
The first half was a tight affair with Scott and Comerford doing an excellent job closing down Hartlepool’s midfield, and Shildon had three excellent opportunities to put themselves ahead which on another day the forward line would have scored.
The visitors took advantage of those misses as they broke out in numbers and scored.
Shildon’s Achilles this season has been the marking from crosses and so it proved again when a cross from the right found one of three unmarked opposition players around the penalty spot to head home – a lead they took into the half time break.
Shildon’s interval team talk was upbeat, and they started the second half dominating the proceedings.
The Hartlepool team tried to intimidate the Shildon players, a tactic that may have worked against weaker opposition, but would lead to the pivotal moment in this encounter.
After another blatant foul by the Hartlepool team, the centre half decided to get involved and tried to grab Bullyment round the neck. Scott, never shy of protecting his players, stepped in and fisticuffs ensued, with the centre half probably wishing he had not raised his hands.
Both saw red and both teams were down to ten men.
The away team continued to foul to try and disrupt the Shildon passing game, and from one of those resulting free kicks out on the right touchline, Shildon scored.
It was something special: Wheldon took the free kick, rapier-like over the keeper’s flailing arms and into the top corner.
It was a quality strike, as clinical as a Monty Don show garden.
Shildon were back on level terms and pressing for the winner when the game was held up again while the referee brandished another two red cards.
A scuffle ensued on the away side’s touchline when a substitute attacked their own linesman for not flagging a ball being out of play, resulting in two players being sent off and away from the pitch.
With 10 minutes to go another piece of brilliance from Wheldon set Paul Davis on his way through on goal. With a defender and keeper still to beat he managed to go round both and slot home the winner.
It was a great team performance against an unbeaten team who tried, but failed, to intimidate and threaten their way to a win.
Instead it was Shildon who closed the gap on their title rivals to six points with a game in hand.
Shildon are on the road for their next two games. First up are Hartlepool Tech on Saturday 4th November followed by the divisional cup away to Forrest Hall on the 11th. Both matches kick off at 10.30am.