UTTOXETER Town missed the chance of facing their own reserve team in the Leek Cup after their patchy form continued with a 2-1 defeat against Newcastle Town at the Aspire Stadium.
With the reserves claiming a stunning result at Eccleshall’s second string it meant that a victory for the Town would pair the two head to head in the semi-final, but the first-team came up short with another disappointing Saturday afternoon display.
It has been a difficult month for Town, who have returned from a prolonged break in poor form, and they can have no complaints as a young and energetic Newcastle side grabbed two late goals to take them into the last four.
After Monday night’s encouraging display against Stapenhill reserves, supporters could have been forgiven for thinking that the bad spell was behind them as they went into the quarter-final with Liam Sowter and Rob Collins the only absentees.
Mark Grimley and Andy O’Connor made a slight change to the side that had dispatched the Swans six days earlier, James Curley replacing Ollie Crookes, with Curley then pushed forward into a three-pronged attack alongside Nick Ward and Matty Redshaw.
The visitors started brightly enough and Redshaw got a shot off within two minutes, collecting the ball from Martin Gadsby before curling an effort just over.
Newcastle looked bright on the counter but Alex Langridge was relatively untroubled as the game never really flowed on a difficult surface.
When Redshaw crossed for Curley on 24 minutes, it seemed that Town had taken a deserved lead but the striker’s header across goal for Ward to nod home was adjudged to have found the frontman in an offside position, despite what looked like a square ball.
It was one of only a handful of bright moments in the match for Town, who were working hard enough but had lost the attacking confidence that had been so evident prior to the bad weather.
Another laboured period after the break saw Ward contest an aerial battle with Castle defender Dave Harper for the most part as Town tried a more direct approach, but the forward got little change from his counterpart.
Gadsby and Ward combined to give Redshaw sight of goal with 30 minutes remaining but again another dubious flag denied the striker.
With 10 minutes left on the clock Newcastle hit Town with a sucker punch when a routine long ball evaded both Harry Price and Alex Woods, allowing the Town stirker enough sight of goal to inch the ball past Langridge.
It sparked some jubilant celebrations for the hosts and with few opportunities to restore parity Town were again hit on the break when a quick counter saw Langridge’s point blank save ricochet kindly to the Castle striker to slam home.
Substitute Tommy Smith was able to halve the deficit with an overhead kick in the last minute and there was even chance for Lee Bagley to fire a free kick towards goal in the last second but a heroic block by the young Newcastle full-back saw Castle progress to face Uttoxeter’s second string in the semi-final.
Town must regroup now knowing that their title dreams will be in tatters if they fail to collect maximum points against Cheadle on Saturday at Oldfields, kick-off 2.30pm, before travelling to Alsager on Wednesday, March 12, kick-off 7.45pm.
Infinity IT Man of the Match: Mark Hodson.
TOWN: Langridge, Woods, Price, Bagley, Douglas, Hodson, Gadsby, Esplin, Redshaw (Smith 73), Ward, Curley.