Birtley were back in action and back to winning ways when they recorded a 3-1 victory over promotion rivals Blyth Town on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Aidan Rutledge and a controversial Glen Hargrave opener secured all three points for the Hoops. Birtley had not played in just under a month with weather cancellations and a floodlight failure meaning it had been a frustrating Autumn period when the team had found a run of form. Birtley showed no signs of rust however and started brightly against a Blyth side that have their own play-off ambitions.
Birtley had early chances through Hargrave, Rutledge and the returning Callum Smith. It took until the 27th minute for the opening goal when Alex Francis met a Callum Smith corner, he looked to have got the final touch but the opener was later awarded to Glen Hargrave after a long and lengthy debate/huff in Wadgey’s Bar after the game. This sprung Blyth into gear and they dominated the middle stages of the first half. The dangerous and impressive Brandon Slater got his side level when he coolly rounded Conor Grant to make it 1-1. Two minutes later though and the home side had restored their lead, Hargrave this time turned provider when he crossed for Rutledge to perfectly slot home a volley at the back post.
The second half started with more aggression from both sides and Blyth looked dangerous on the counter attack. Ben Garrity, Josh Holland and Lewis Exley all doing well to prevent Blyth opportunities on the counter attack. The impressive Callum Smith was brought down in the area on the hour mark and Rutledge stepped up to slot home his 40th goal of the season.
The aggression from Blyth then started to spill over with Liam Wotherspoon the first to go for a strong challenge on Aidan Rutledge in the 63rd minute. George Hayton was the next Blyth player to see red less than ten minutes later when he slipped entering a tackle on Ben Garrity which resulted in him dangerously catching the Birtley full back. Evan Fogarty compounded the Blyth ill-discipline when the visitors were reduced to eight men after picking up a second yellow card for a tactical foul in the 82nd minute.
Manager Paul Bryson was pleased to be back in action. “It was very pleasing to be back playing and back at home. Blyth have some very good players and are a very good side. We had to be at it from the first whistle and I thought we played really well. The first half was as good as we have played this season, the only blip was the Blyth equaliser. We were looking to keep our eight game unbeaten run intact and a fantastic result against a side who will be in and around the play-offs.”
“I thought our fitness levels were excellent and that’s credit to the lads, we have been training but they’ve obviously been doing their own work. There were some big performances. Stand in skipper Alex Francis really set the tempo for us. Tom McIntyre complimented him in midfield, Smiggs was terrific. Ben, Josh, Lewis and the lads at the back played their part. You know you have played well when there is 5 or 6 contenders for man of the match. Josh Holland deservedly picked up the award and well done to him and the lads.”
“The front lads deserve a mention, another three goals for them and a really pleasing afternoon. We take that confidence to Bedlington on Saturday.”
H2H (all games)
P3 W1 D1 L1 GF5 GA4 Pts4
03.12.2022 – Birtley Town 3-1 Blyth (G. Hargrave, A. Rutledge x2 (1P))
23.03.2022 – Blyth Town 1-1 Birtley Town (S. Hedley)
15.09.2021 – Birtley Town 1-2 Blyth Town (R. Tanoh)
Attendance – 121
Birtley will travel to Bedlington Terriers for their final away game of the year. The Hoops will be taking a supporters coach with travel leaving from The Hanlon pub at 11.30am on Saturday. Return travel will depart at 6pm with a drop off in Newcastle before heading back to The Hanlon for the England game.