Billingham Town v Birtley Town (NLD2 – Play-Off Final)


Billingham Town

  • Paul Braithwaite - 1 (75') goal(s)
  • Jack Pounder - 1 (67') goal(s)

Birtley Town

  • Liam Wotherspoon - 1 (45') goal(s)
  • Aidan Rutledge - 1 (85') goal(s)
Mon 01 May 2023 | 3:00 pm
Billingham Town


Birtley made history on Bank Holiday Monday when they beat Billingham Town on penalties to reach Northern League Division One for the first time in their history.

The Hoops made easy work of Billingham back in January, winning 5-1 at a bitterly-cold Bedford Terrace, but the Teessiders had turned things round in the interim, going unbeaten for the final sixteen games of the season to secure a fourth place finish. Top-scorer Jack Pounder let the Hoops know they were in for a battle early on, knocking Alex Francis to the floor with barely a minute on the clock. Before long, Birtley were almost ahead as Callum Turnbull headed wide from a Liam Wotherspoon free-kick. The Hoops had the ball in the back of the net in the sixth minute but scorer Lewis Orrell was adjudged to be offside.

On thirteen minutes, a lovely one-two between Lewis Exley and Aidan Rutledge saw the latter’s strike deflected narrowly wide. Billingham had plenty of chances of their own, with Conor Grant having to be at his best to deny the rapid Luke Spalding, after the young winger had burst through one-on-one. Billingham came close again on the half-hour mark as the evergreen Robbie Bird forced a trademark goal-line clearance from Hoops stalwart Owen Lancaster.

Alex Francis had to perform some last-ditch defending of his own in the 40th minute, twice putting his body on the line to block successive shots from Spalding. With Billingham in the ascendency, the Birtley contingent were praying for half-time, but Liam Wotherspoon had other ideas, and saw his injury-time effort wriggle under keeper James Winter to put the Hoops ahead at the break.

Half-Time | Billingham Town 0 – 1 Birtley Town

After the break, Billingham continued to pile forward in search of an equaliser, and came close on 63 minutes as Paul Braithwaite’s shot stung the palms of Conor Grant. On 65 minutes Birtley came agonisingly close to a second, with Glen Hargrave rattling the woodwork after Rutledge had been dispossessed by Ben Riding. As often happens, Billingham immediately hit back on the counter and drew level through Pounder, who hit a sweet shot into Grant’s top left hand corner.

The game continued at the same frenetic pace, with Winter & Grant both forced into spectacular saves before Braithwaite pounced on a rebound to put Billingham in front. The Hoops were then left chasing an equaliser with 10-men, as Sam Hedley was sin-binned for dissent.

Lancaster had nearly pulled one back on 80 minutes, nodding just over from a Liam Wotherspoon corner but with the clock ticking down, the former Blyth man again whipped in a fierce set-piece, this time met by Aidan Rutledge who powered home a header to force the game to penalties.

Full-Time | Billingham Town 2 – 2 Birtley Town

As with Thursday’s semi-final, Birtley were deadly from the spot, putting their first four comfortably past Winter. With Conor Grant diving low to save Billingham’s fourth effort, it meant Callum Turnbull just needed to convert the final spot-kick to win it for Birtley. With admirable calmness, he did just that, sending the four hundred travelling Birtley fans into raptures, and creating memories to last a lifetime.

Callum Turnbull sends us to Northern League Division One (Credit: Scott Llewellyn | @SL_SportsPhotos).

Manager’s Corner

Paul Bryson and Paul Foster couldn’t hide their emotion at the final whistle:

“We are delighted for everyone at the club. We will start with the players who have been outstanding all season. The committee, the volunteers and for the whole town of Birtley. I was absolutely blown away by the amount of support we had on Monday. There was nothing between the four teams that made the play-offs. Every game has shown that. It has taken penalties to separate every game.

“The game itself was very competitive. Both teams showed each other respect that the fixture deserved. We started well and thought we had taken an early lead but it was given offside. We haven’t seen that moment back just yet. We started well and played a lovely bit of football but the defender somehow denied Aidan from opening the scoring. I thought Ben Riding was excellent for them. The deliveries from set pieces from both sides were exceptional.”

“We had to stand up and be counted. They had a great chance and Conor made a top save to keep the score level. We thought Conor was excellent and probably had his best game of the season and at the most important time. Smiggs on the stroke of half-time made an excellent run, Spoons gets on the end of it and we head into the break 1-0 up. I thought the first half was fairly even.

“The second period they were really on the front foot. They had the majority of possession. Ben Riding has again denied Aidan from extending our lead before Glen Hargrave rattled the woodwork. Then they go and equalise through Pounder. It was a brilliant finish. That give them the energy and momentum. Braithwaite then put them ahead, they were really on top. We seemed a little dead and buried. Sam Hedley is sin binned and it looks really bleak at that point”

“Fair play to the lads, they showed great character again! The delivery from Spooner is out of this world and the header to match. Its a carbon copy of the goal from Thursday. The penalties were of the highest quality. It was a brilliant way to get promoted but one of the worst ways to lose a game. We send our commiserations to Billingham. It was an amazing day for everyone connected to the club and for the town.”


Celebrations from Birtley went on long into the night. The Hoops were backed by a large following from our Junior section. Credit: Andrew Jameson Photography


1315 – Including around 400-500 travelling Birtley fans. The club would like to thank every single person who roared the lads on to the greatest day in our history. A special mention to our Junior section who offered brilliant support throughout. The club would also like to thank Danny Craggs for his support in helping us arrange travel for 150 fans.

H2H v Billingham Town

PWDL4 F13 A18 Pts 8

13.09.2014 – Birtley Town 2-1 Billingham Town (K. Hewitson, Robert Smith)
14.02.2015 – Billingham Town 3-1 Birtley Town (OG)
08.08.2015 – Billingham Town 1-0 Birtley Town (N/A)
31.10.2015 Birtley Town 1-1 Billingham Town (M. Grey)
24.11.2018 Birtley Town 0-4 Billingham Town (N/A)
13.04.2019 – Billingham Town 4-1 Birtley Town (L. Whybrow)
20.09.2022 – Birtley Town 3-3 Billingham Town (A. Rutledge x3)
07.01.2023 – Billingham Town 1-5 Birtley Town (J. Honour, A. Rutledge  x3, C. Smith)
01.05.2023 Billingham Town 2-2 Birtley Town (L. Wotherspoon, A. Rutledge) Birtley won the game 5-4 on penalties.

Don’t you know pump it up! The Hoops are going up! (Credit: Scott Llewellyn | @SL_SportsPhotos)

Next up…

Northern League Division One!!




Date Time League Season
Mon 01 May 2023 3:00 pm Northern League D2 Play-Offs 2022-23


Billingham Town
Billingham Town, Stockton-on-Tees, TS23 4AE


Team1st Half2nd HalfGoalsPenalties
Billingham Town0224
Birtley Town1125

Birtley Town

1Conor Grant Goalkeeper
2Owen Lancaster Defender
3Sam Hedley Defender 82'
4Lewis Exley 14 Defender 58'
5Callum Turnbull Defender
6Alex Francis Midfielder
7Liam Wotherspoon Midfielder 45'
8Glen Hargrave 20 Forward
9Aidan Rutledge Forward 85'
10Callum Smith 15 Forward
11Lewis Orrell 12 Midfielder
12Joe Barwick 11 Forward
13Isaac Robinson Goalkeeper
14Tom McIntyre 4 Midfielder
15Matty Ward 10 Forward
20Andrew Clarkson 8 Forward
Yellow Cards
Red Cards
Sin Bin
Own Goal
Player of the Match

KO KO 8 42 45 58 63 65 65 65 67 69 75 81 82 85 85 90 FT