AFTER five years of dominance, Haltwhistle Jubilee are handling over the gauntlet to their Sunday League rivals.
Wrapping up a fifth league title in five years, the all-conquering boys in blue from the west of the district are bowing out of Sunday League action and transferring their skills to Saturday football.
The Tyneside Amateur League, should their application be accepted, beckons in August as they look for more of a challenge, the team agreeing to stay together with the main exception of the league’s leading talisman Dan Kirkup, who will remain in the Northern League.
In that dominant five-year spell, Haltwhistle have won 13 of the 17 trophies up-for-grabs - and they could yet make it 16 from 20 before the season ends as they are yet to contest three cup finals in their pursuit to repeat their quadruple achievements of both 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.
All that has evaded their grasps is the Holy Grail of the Northumberland FA Sunday Cup, the team coming desperately close to it last season but going down 2-0 in the final to Amble Tavern.
The plan is to enter the Tyneside Amateur and play their home games at nearby Bardon Mill, with the hope the football facilities at Haltwhistle Burn will be ready for the following season to allow entry into the Northern Alliance.
Manager Cameron Bell said: “We’ve done all we can in the Sunday League, and we just want a new challenge.
“I’ve been involved in the Sunday League for nine years so I will miss it, but it is the right time to do it and the next challenge for the lads, the majority of whom have said they’ll sign on.
“It’s good to win things but we want a bit more of challenge, and the aim is to get to the Alliance once our facilities are up to scratch.
“I would like to think we could end by winning all three cup finals, but it’s not going to be easy especially as we have to play Hexham Phoenix, who always give us a hard game, in two of them.”
Haltwhistle’s 4-2 victory over second placed Heddon St Andrew’s at the weekend meant they could no longer be caught, confirming a fifth successive title with two games left to play.
Two goals from Kirkup meant he is likely to reclaim the league’s golden boot as he took his tally for the season to 27, two ahead of last season’s winner Marc Nixon, with just one game remaining.
Scott Jacobsen and Greg Irwin also netted, with James Charteries star man, with Heddon’s replies coming from Sean Hownam and Scott Flynn. The accolade of man of the match was bestowed on Elliott Price, stretching his lead at the top of the awards list by two.
Charteries’ midweek goal against Bardon Mill Bowes Lyons geared them towards the trophy, the teams playing out a close game in which Greg Irwin impressed for Haltwhistle and Billy Rogan starred for Mill.
In a busy week for Halty, they drew 3-3 with Barrasford on Tuesday as Mark Elliott scored two and Dan Parker one. David Hall was named man of the match against his old team.
For third-placed Barrasford, Nixon, Unpha Koroma and Gareth Rhodes were on target, and Owen Murtough was man of the match.
Elsewhere in Division One, Bardon Mill scored twice in extra time to defeat Hexham Phoenix 5-4.
With man of the match Rob Hayes hitting a hat-trick, and Rogan and Michael Oliver also getting on the scoresheet, they fought back from trailing 4-3 as 90 minutes elapsed.
Free-scoring Haydon Bridge Anchor are on course for the Division Two title as they fired 18 without reply past nine-man Ponteland United Stamfordham.
The division’s leading scorer Kieran Robley slammed home six goals, with Jack Robson and Darren Dobson both hitting hat-tricks. Joining them on the scoresheet was Kevin Thompson, Dan Fitzsimmons, Andrew Pape, Abdulla Rashid Rashid, Paul Ballantyne and Gavin Boyd. Kev MacDonald was man of the match, with Steve Johnson earning Stamfordham’s equivalent.
Stamfordham were at full strength for their midweek game with Rose and Crown Bellingham, man of the match Reece Havelock-Brown, Lloyd van Konignenberg, Sam MacKenzie, Gary Cook and Andrew Davidson on target in the 5-3 victory. Mark Robinson, Lewi Clint and Jonny Herdman were on target for Rose, who had Ross Milburn starring.
Goals from Scott Turley and Nathan Jones, and a star display from James Blackburn, couldn’t prevent Adam and Eve Prudhoe losing 6-2 to Prudhoe Town East End.
Prudhoe missed out on the Division Two KO Cup as promoted side Ryton Country House retained their title from last season, Chris Chapman scoring twice and Jordan Martlew once in the slender 3-2 victory. Andrew Below was man of the match.
A 2-2 draw with Prudhoe Town saw Barrasford top Division B of the Mick Simmons Trophy, although both teams progressed to the semi-finals of the competition.
Ben King and Gary Nixon scored for Barra, who were best served by John Walton, while Aaron Ridley and Anthony Porter registered for Town, who had Paul Bell starring.
Town were boosted when they defeated Adam and Eve 5-2, man of the match Dean Brown scoring two and Sam Brown, Reece Davies and Taylor Lowes one each. Adam’s star man Freddie Allan and Corey McLauchlan responded.
Adam went down 5-3 to Crawcrook Fox and Hounds at the weekend, Allan again netting in a man of the match performance, with Lyall and Jason Reid also notching.
However, a hat-trick from Taylor Williamson and singles from Scott Fothergill and Rikki Kent, as well as a man of the match display from Stephen Dobson, earned Crawcrook the points.