Two teams currently languishing in the bottom six of the Northern Alliance Premier Division met at Ponteland Leisure Centre on Saturday in the semi-finals of the Reeves Investment Services George Dobbins League Cup and it was the hosts who booked their place in the final after coming out on top in a penalty shoot-out.

On a very windy day in front of the biggest crowd seen at the Leisure Centre this season, the visitors started the better and had an early free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the corner of the box but it came to nothing.

On five minutes, Ponteland had their first corner and Sam Armstrong struck it low to find Niall Codling at the near post but keeper Lee Graydon saved well. Soon afterwards, Armstrong had to leave the field with an injury and was replaced by teenager Lewis Waters.

Even at this early stage, it looked as though it would be a long afternoon with the prospect of penalties being the deciding factor. However, the complex of the game changed dramatically a few minutes before half-time. 

A slick break by Delaval down the left ended with a good save by Liam Blair pushing the ball around the post for a corner. From the resulting delivery, the hosts were struggling to clear their lines until club captain/centre forward Dan Hadfield assumed control. He brought the bouncing ball clear of the penalty area and as he did so accidentally collided with an opposition player.

The assistant referee on that side of the pitch flagged for an infringement and, after a lengthy discussion with referee Dillon Bloomfield, a red card was shown to the shocked and distraught Ponteland captain who left the field still pleading his innocence.

The incident turned the match on its head with the hosts facing an uphill struggle in the second half with only 10 men.

Delaval started to look far more threatening after the re-start with Matty Todd and Jack Curry causing problems with their pace and control. Todd did well to collect a cross from the right and turned to fire a volley over the bar.

A cross from the left was then blocked by Codling at the near post for another corner to the visitors. Moments later, a free-kick 25 yards out was firmly struck by Todd straight at Blair who saved comfortably.

The ever dangerous Todd was unlucky not to put his side in front when he lobbed the ball over Blair but on the firm playing surface it bounced up and over the bar to the relief of the hosts.

In a rare Ponteland attack, substitute Robbie Kinnieburgh sent a ball down the left for lone striker Mason Stephenson to chase. He managed to get on the ball and beat his man before cutting inside towards the box but without any support had little option but to shoot and his effort flew wide of the far post.

With five minutes to go, Delaval took the lead when striker Matty Todd received the ball on the left and drifted inside before firing on the angle past Blair to the delight of his teammates and supporters. He ran to the corner flag to celebrate what most of those present expected to be the winning goal (0-1).

However, strange things happen in football and a couple of minutes later centre half Codling, up in attack and 30 yards from goal, headed the ball into the path of Chris Hibbitt as he was bursting through into the penalty area. His well-timed run and determination took him beyond the defence before firing past the advancing Graydon to the shock and delight of both teammates and home supporters (1-1).

For the second time this season in a cup semi-final, Ponteland were faced with a penalty shoot-out having lost the first one to Wallington. Hibbitt took the first spot-kick and scored, but Delaval were immediately on the back foot when Jack Curry's effort was saved by Blair diving to his right.

The next six penalties were all clinical leaving the pressure on Ponteland substitute Myles Candlish to convert his side's fifth spot-kick. His strike found the back of the net before being surrounded by his joyous teammates.

A dress rehearsal of the final against promotion-chasing Alnwick Town will take place at the Leisure Centre on April 6 when the two sides meet in the Premier Division.