HEXHAM went into their Northumberland FA Minor Cup semi-final with Jesmond full of confidence. 

Three straight wins had put them above opponents Cramlington in the Northern Alliance Division One table. They were handed a home tie, and almost 100 people turned out to cheer them on. 

But a strong wind was blowing along the pitch at Wentworth Leisure Centre, and it wasn’t in Hexham’s favour during a difficult first half on Saturday. 

Cramlington took full advantage. Winger Niall Younger used the wind to assist his inswinging corner on the half hour mark.

The ball curled its way, untouched, into the top corner, and the goal proved to be significant in the visitors’ 2-0 victory. 

Younger was a thorn in Hexham’s side throughout, and he threatened as early as the third minute, with a 25-yard free kick which was well saved by home keeper Tom Craney, before centre back Michael Robson cleared to safety. 

The hosts responded with an attack of their own a minute later. Owen Murtough broke away down the left before slipping the ball through for Robbie Pattison, but visiting keeper Regan Ward rushed out to dive at his feet.

On the opposite flank, Sam Mannion’s long throw was flicked across goal by Kurtis Harvey at the near post, but the outstretching Hamish Forsyth couldn’t quite connect. 

Cramlington had a penalty appeal when Younger went down in the box on 17 minutes.

It was turned down, but the visitors grew in confidence from then on, with Anthony Brannon going close with headers either side of Younger’s 30th minute goal. 

Hexham battled on, and won several free kicks, but they came to nothing. 
Mannion came close to scoring a goal of the season contender on 54 minutes.

Picking up a scuffed clearance just inside the Cramlington half, he hit an incredible volley from all of 50 yards, which bounced on the six-yard line and up over the crossbar.

Hexham piled on the pressure in the second half. A 20-yard shot from Hamish Forsyth forced a save to keep it out of the top corner, before Tom Hacking came close with a side-footed effort following a set-piece. 

But they couldn’t find a breakthrough, and Cramlington punished them against the run of play.

On 82 minutes, dangerman Younger evaded a challenge from Robson, who had otherwise been rock in the centre of Hexham’s defence, before dispatching a low shot which was deflected past keeper Craney.

On 87 minutes, a 20-yard power drive from Hexham’s Lewis Loughhead was too close to the keeper.