A SPIRITED second half performance saw Hexham come from behind to advance through to the semi-finals of the Northumberland Minor Cup after getting the better of local rivals Prudhoe YC Seniors.

Two goals from Owen Murtough, including one in the closing stages of the game, capped off a brilliant second half for the Greens to give them a memorable 2-1 victory.

It came after Hexham had gone 1-0 down in the first half to a header from Prudhoe’s Arron Fletcher.

The two teams met for the second time within a month at Hexham’s Wentworth Leisure Centre, on Saturday, with cold and blustery conditions making for a scrappy derby encounter. Prudhoe gained the upper hand in the last outing.

Both sides shared an equal amount of possession early on, but neither side were able to threaten the goal.

Prudhoe’s wide players worked in unison with the Red and Blacks’ defence as they threatened the Hexham back line.

The Tynedale derby circumstances allowed for extra competitiveness from both sides, with the referee eager to penalise and caution players for mistimed and rash tackles.

A dangerous long throw from Lewis Furness troubled Prudhoe’s defenders before Peter McRoberts produced an acrobatic overhead kick, but his shot was high and wide and didn’t trouble the Prudhoe keeper.

But it was Prudhoe who made the breakthrough from a threatening inswinging corner. The initial header was headed against the bar before falling to Fletcher to nod past Tom Craney in the Hexham goal.

Hexham responded positively with a fair share of possession and impressive team play, but failed to bring the tie level due to resolute Prudhoe defending.

The Red and Blacks went into half time with a deserved one goal lead.

Hexham’s management team deserve heaps of praise after an inspiring half time team talk motivated the players to be more clinical in the second half.

Recalling the half time discussion, manager Martin Lowes said: “I asked them how much it meant to them. I felt we weren’t winning the first and second balls in the first half and that affected our performance.”

But, it was Prudhoe who threatened early in the second half after a low shot from Fletcher was saved by the feet of the alert Hexham keeper Craney.

Hexham’s McRoberts was determined to put a penalty miss from the previous week behind him though, and the winger helped lead the fightback for the Greens when a darting run set the ball up for Robbie Pattison, however he fired straight at Prudhoe keeper Thomas White.

Hexham’s attacking play was eventually rewarded, and it was impressive build up play from McRoberts again who crossed to Owen Murtough, and the latter shot past White’s reach and into the net.

Hexham’s equaliser gave the side a well-needed boost of confidence with the home side looking comfortable in possession.

Picking up a loose ball from the right, McRoberts advanced forward and into the centre of the pitch unmarked, before a troubling shot deflected off a defender for a corner.

Prudhoe weren’t out of the game though, and were presented a promising goalscoring chance after a rash 50-50 challenge saw the referee award the visitors a free kick and Michael Robson a yellow card.

Sam Dibb-Fuller’s shot was destined for the bottom right corner, but an impressive diving save to the left from Craney prevented the away side from regaining the lead.

As the game was drawing to a close, and the score still at 1-1, Hexham’s McRoberts found possession on the right again before a cross looped over the towering Prudhoe defence. The ball once again fell to Murtough who rifled the ball past the keeper and into the back of the net.

A selection of Prudhoe’s players were left on their knees, contemplating how they had managed to lose the match after dominating the first half.

For Hexham, there was joy and jubilation from the on-field XI and the dug out as Murtough’s winner sealed a remarkable turnaround for the home side.

Lowes added: “I was over the moon for them all. We have got a young team and it was great to see them grow in confidence as the game went on.

“We only got going in the second half when we began to win the first balls, and grew more confident in the game.

“The win has given us a big boost because we have struggled with results in the past month.

“To beat Prudhoe, who I thought were the best team left in the competition, was massive. It’s great that three teams from the Tyne Valley have progressed this far in the competition.”

Bill Edgar