It was a straight swap on the wing, as Harrison Poulter was welcomed back into the fold, after his parent club Scunthorpe had denied him playing in the FA Cup ties against Matlock. Joel Holvey the unfortunate one to miss out. Starting the game amongst the substitutes. For the first time in a competitive game, Trinity were able to name Dayle Southwell in the sixteen. The experienced front man a welcome addition to the matchday squad.
The hosts, fresh from their victory over Radcliffe in the FA Cup seven days ago started the brighter, though it was Trinity's Bobby Johnson who had the first shot in anger. His shot sailing over Dan Lowson's crossbar from 30 yards. With Vinnie Steels and Andrew Johnson constant threats on the flanks for the hosts, one such raid down the left saw Lowson quickly release Johnson, who cut in, onto his right foot, and his stinging effort brought a brave block from Trinity skipper, Dylan Cogill, sliding into block.
Both sides were having some joy getting in behind the full backs, but both sides' centre backs covering their goal mouths. And making life difficult for the opposition forwards. Sam Hodgson should have done better from six yards though, when Steels' cut back found the number nine, only to see the striker with his head in his hands, as he fired off target.
Patient play through the thirds gave Johnson the opportunity to split the home defence. Liam Hardy, a willing runner, just lacking the legs to get in behind as Michael Turner recovered well to nudge the ball away from danger. Johnson, Javelle Clarke and Harrison Poulter combined in the final third, with Poulter flashing a clever ball across the face of goal, with Hardy hanging back - Turner was on hand to clear away from danger.
Will Jenkins bent an early ball into the box, which was met on the half volley by Danny Barlow, but unable to get his knee over the ball he could only divert his effort onto the crossbar - and clear of Dylan Wharton’s goal. Steels then teed up Jenkins, but his first time effort bent away from Wharton’s right hand upright.
Popping up on the left, Clarke looked to torment the hosts. Flashing a dangerous ball across goal. Before at the other end Jack Moore-Billam had to be alert, as he tracked his runner and diverted the ball behind.
Just past the half hour mark, the Highwaymen led. Liam Noble's right footed corner was swung in. Met powerfully by the head of Michael Turner, Wharton did brilliantly to block, grasping the loose ball as he returned to his feet. Only to see the Assistant on the near side, signalling the ball had crossed the line. In real time it looked a fine piece of goalkeeping from the Sheffield United youngster - but when your luck is out - your luck is seemingly out...
Soon after conceding Morpeth created another opening, with Andrew Johnson flashing an inviting ball across the six yard box. Crying out for a touch, it proved to be a let off for the Holy Blues. But would it be one the visitors could capitalise upon? A patient passage of play from the home side was ultimately well marshalled as Barlow, leaning back failed to hit the target. An element of frustration in the effort as despite the possession, Morpeth were unable to penetrate the Trinity back line.
Gainsborough had a great opportunity for the leveller just before the break as Poulter again fizzed one across the face of goal, but lacking numbers in the box, the chance was gone. Southwell on the bench would have been salvating at the type of ball being delivered from wide.
Half Time: Morpeth Town 1 Gainsborough Trinity 0
The Holy Blues came out in the second half with renewed purpose. And a flowing move down the Trinity left saw Moore-Billam lining up to shoot, only to be upended on the edge of the box. Bobby Johnson stepping up and ruffling the roof of the net from the direct free kick.
The bright start evaporated, when a speculative Liam Noble effort was charged down, the ball looping up and over the stranded Wharton and doubling the home side advantage. When things are going against you - you know they're against you. As 99 times out of 100 the block ricochets anywhere but into the back of your net. And a difficult task became near on impossible.
But credit to Stampy's charges. The group didn't give up and continued to battle. Southwell's introduction gave fresh purpose. And with it some concern in the home ranks, as the former Alfreton man was clattered on halfway. Fairly in the view of Referee Mr Bell. Who awarded the Highwaymen the throw, subsequently booking Bobby Johnson for his protestations. A card that would have repercussions later in the game, when the central midfielder saw a second yellow deep in stoppage time.
Vinnie Steels was allowed to advance too far down the visitors' right, and meant that Wharton needed to be at his best to get in a good block. Morpeth unable to react to the follow up that went behind for a goal kick off the black and amber shirt.
George Hornshaw was getting forward down the Trinity right, and his supply line was keeping Lowson busy. Claiming one cross high, before having to sprawl across to his near post to smother after substitute Ryan Wombwell diverted Hornshaw's centre towards the 'keepers near post, bottom corner.
Fellow Morpeth substitute and former tormentor, Jack Foalie was looking to make an impact on the game following his introduction. And with the Blues appealing for a free kick that wasn't forthcoming, Wharton did well to divert the attackers effort over his bar for a corner.
In the 30 degree heat, temperatures began to soar, as cards were flashed in quick succession, before Southwell fizzed an effort over from twenty yards. The high press from a Morpeth restart seeing Trinity win thr ball back to present Southwell with his first proper sighter of goal.
Deep into stoppage time, tempers became fraught as Bobby Johnson appeared to be on the receiving end of a Ryan Donaldson headbutt. Johnson shown a second yellow for his retaliation. The headbutt seemingly missed with Donaldson's only punishment a yellow card for his part in the skimish. The red card capping a disappointing afternoon at Craik Park for Stampy, the team and the visiting supporters making the long trip back down the A1 empty handed. An improved showing, two goals with elements of good fortune for the hosts - but ultimately nothing for the Holy Blues to show for the toils in sweltering conditions.
Morpeth Town: Dan Lowson, Josh Robson, Liam Miller (Ryan Wombwell) Will Jenkins, Jeff Henderson, Michael Turner, Vinnie Steels (Ryan Donaldson) Liam Noble, Sam Hodgson, Danny Barlow, Andrew Johnsonb (Jack Foalie). Subs not used: Ben Sayer and Connor Thompson.
Gainsborough Trinity: Dylan Wharton, George Hornshaw, Lewis Butroid, Jack Moore-Billam, Dylan Cogill, Will Flint, Javelle Clarke, Bailey Conway, Liam Hardy (Dayle Southwell) Bobby Johnson, Harrison Poulter (Joel Holvey). Subs not used: Adam Porritt, McCauley Snelgrove and Harry Lovick.
Morpeth goals: Michael Turner 33, Liam Noble 49
Morpeth bookings: Josh Robson, Ryan Donaldson and Sam Hodgson
Gainsborough bookings: Cogill, Johnson x2 Southwell
Gainsborough red: Bobby Johnson (Second Yellow Card)
Match Report written by Rob Hughes (@AATM_Media)
Photos by David Bury