The 2022/23 Isuzu FA vase campaign kicked off on Saturday with a difficult home draw against Ilkley Town.
The Hoops progressed to the next round with a 2-1 victory over Ilkley Town. Birtley made a number of changes to the side which won comfortably over Willington in midweek. Mark Pattison came in for the missing Sam Hedley for his first start of the season. Owen Lancaster returned to defence with Jack Honour pushing into the midfield. Joe Barwick replaced the injured Glenn Hargrave.
The visitors were denied by a great save from Conor Grant. Grant denied Shaban Mehmeti with a brilliant string right hand after it looked like the forward had opened the scoring. After 15 minutes Ilkley struck the post. The early dominance from the Yorkshire side paid off when they took the lead through Mehmeti. His pace was causing real issues for the hosts and he shrugged off a challenge from Owen Lancaster, before cutting inside to fire beyond Grant.
Birtley were level within a minute. Sam Hedley played a ball into Barwick who delivered a neat layoff to Rutledge. The Birtley number nine managed to nick the ball ahead of the defender before being brought down and the hosts were awarded a penalty. Rutledge himself stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. On 40 minutes, Callum Smith saw his effort cleared off the line for a corner but it wasn’t long before Smith was involved again. He drew a foul from the Ilkley right back in the area and Rutledge smashed home his second spot kick of the game.
After the break it was Birtley who started brightly, Rutledge was sent clear by Tom Scothern but the Ilkley defence managed to force the Birtley forward wide. His effort was cleared for a corner. Ilkley were starting to dominate the game by the midway point of the second half. Conor Grant did well to smother the Ilkley number 7 after a neat move. Grant again made an excellent save to deny an equaliser after the visitors had broke down the right wing.
In the 70th minute Ilkley Town hit the post again. A beautifully floated ball from midfield saw the Ilkley through on goal again. This time it was the post which came to Birtley’s aid. Callum Smith then struck the post for Birtley as the game seemed destined for more goals. Joe Barwick nearly secured the win on 83 minutes but he couldn’t quite reach Brandon Turnbull’s excellent delivery.
Manager Paul Foster was pleased to progress. “That was a difficult game for us and Ilkley are the best side we have faced this season. We have a few injuries and everyone who stepped in did very well. We are pleased to be through to the next round against a top side in Newton Aycliffe.”
Birtley managed to hold on to progress to the next round and will now play Newton Aycliffe FC in the 2nd qualifying round on Saturday 24th September at The Arrowmark Home Improvements Stadium.
MOTM – Conor Grant
Attendance – 258 including a number of former players who attended our players reunion.