Birtley closed the gap on leaders Boro Rangers over the weekend, overcoming Billingham Synthonia by the odd goal in seven in a nervy contest at the Arrowmark.
Synners looked dangerous from the off – hitting the crossbar twice in the opening exchanges – before skipper Ash Lavan earned a deserved lead after just nine minutes, rifling past Isaac Robinson from the edge of the box. Robinson was in action again shortly afterwards, producing a fine finger-tip save to deny impressive debutant Shawn Spozio. Birtley finally got their break on 24 minutes after Callum Smith was felled by his marker on the edge of the area. After consulting with his assistant, the referee pointed to the spot and Aidan Rutledge duly dispatched the equaliser.
Smith could’ve added a second on the stroke of half-time, as a defensive error allowed him in behind the defence, but keeper Ben Fairless was equal to the challenge.
Half-Time | Birtley Town 1 – 1 Billingham Synthonia
Birtley were bang at it after the break, and with fans still trooping out of the clubhouse Tom McIntyre extended his side’s lead with a sweet bottom-corner finish after great work from Rutledge. The visitors then went down to ten-men, with Lavan dismissed for dangerous play after catching Glen Hargrave with a high boot. Hargrave soldiered on, and got his revenge on 54 minutes with a glancing header to convert Smith’s free-kick.
It should’ve been over, but with twenty minutes to go, Synners gave themselves a lifeline – Spozio finding his fellow-debutant Steven Johnson who poked home to set up a grandstand finish. Birtley decided that attack was the best form of defence and continued to pour forward, with Rutledge and substitute Matty Ward both striking the upright, and Alex Francis forcing a wonder save from Fairless.
Relief finally came two minutes into injury time as Matty Ward opened his Hoops account in style, collecting a lovely cross-field ball from Joe Barwick and finishing with aplomb. Synners had one final trick up their sleeve as Ryan Gooch grabbed his side’s third with a lovely finish, but any hopes of an equaliser were quickly dashed as the referee blew time straight from the restart.
Full-Time | Birtley Town 4 – 3 Billingham Synthonia
But for a five minutes spell at the start of the second half, it could’ve been a very different result for Birtley against a strong Synners side. But it’s a results business and the Hoops once again passed a difficult challenge with flying colours.
H2H vs Billingham Synthonia – all comps
P10 W4 D1 L5 GF12 GA20 Pts 13 (league only)
28.11.2007 – Billingham Synthonia 1-2 Birtley Town – (Barrie Smith, C. Hepple)
15.08.2009 – Billingham Synthonia 1-1 Birtley Town – (A.G. Soulsby)
18.08.2009 – BIrtley Town 1-3 Billingham Synthonia – (K. Hughes)
26.09.2015 – BIrtley Town 0-1 Billingham Synthonia – N/A
20.02.2016 – Billingham Synthonia 5-0 Birtley Town – N/A
22.09.2018 – Billingham Synthonia 2-2 Birtley Town – (J. Barwick, R. Tanoh)
09.02.2019 – BIrtley Town 1-0 Billingham Synthonia – (T. Smith (pen))
05.02.2020 -Billingham Synthonia 3-0 Birtley Town – N/A
07.10.2020 – Billingham Synthonia 1-2 Birtley Town – (K. Thear, T. Smith)
30.10.2021 – Billingham Synthonia 2-0 Birtley Town – N/A
16.04.2022 – BIrtley Town 0-3 Billingham Synthonia – N/A
13.08.2022 – Billingham Synthonia 0-3 Birtley Town – (S. Hedley, A. Rutledge, G. Hargrave)
11.02.2023 – BIrtley Town 4-3 Billingham Synthonia (A. Rutledge (pen), T. McIntyre, G. Hargrave, M. Ward)
Paul Bryson was delighted with three points: “Synners started the game really well, they were on the front foot. Their captain was causing us real problems playing in the pocket. They deservedly went 1-0 up. Fair play to our lads as we didn’t start the game very well but gradually grew into it. We equalised with an Aidan Rutledge penalty. We made a couple of tweaks at the interval and the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half we were excellent. Tom McIntyre scored an excellent goal with a really good finish. Glen then nodded home after a brilliant delivery from Smiggs. That particular spell of the game is what went on to win us the match. They then had a player sent-off, I actually thought it was a little bit harsh as I think he has his eye on the ball and didn’t really see Glen coming.”
“They then pulled a goal back to make it a little bit nervy but I was delighted that Matty Ward came on and it made it 4-2. They then scored with the last kick of the game. Attacking wise it was very good but defensively we need to tighten up. Its another three points and it gets us three points closer to where we want to be. We look forward to going to Redcar next week.”
Next up for Birtley is a trip to Teesside to face Redcar Town on Saturday afternoon. We’d love it if you could join us on our travels.