Birtley’s impressive run came to an end on Saturday afternoon as the Hoops fell to a 3-0 defeat away to league leaders Bishop Auckland.
There was very little to report in the opening exchanges, with Storm Isha causing issues for both sides. While the hosts had the best of the possession, it was the Hoops who nearly drew first blood on 13 minutes, with Glen Hargrave being denied by a last-ditch tackle after being played through by the imperious Alex Francis.
Louis Johnson nearly put the hosts ahead a couple of minutes later, as his looping wind-assisted effort landed straight on top of Alfie Gordon’s net. Johnson had another chance on the half-hour mark, but this time Gordon was able to push his shot away. With five minutes to go in the first half, Bishop Auckland got their noses in front, with Dean Thexton poking home through a sea of bodies following a controversial corner.
Birtley’s task became even harder on the stroke of half-time, as Thexton’s flick-on played in Johnson, who slotted past Gordon to double his side’s lead.
HALF TIME | Bishop Auckland 2-0 Birtley Town
With the wind behind them, Birtley would’ve been hoping to get back into the game quickly, and they almost had the perfect start as substitute Stephen Hall placed a gilt-edged chance wide just a minute in. Any hopes of a comeback were extinguished on 52 minutes however, as JJ Bartliff’s well-placed header beat Gordon at his far post, much to the delight of the Bishops supporters behind the goal – which included a sizeable contingent from Manchester United.
With the result in the bag and the wind whipping up a storm, neither side really troubled the goal in the remaining half hour, and with Shildon going down 3-2 away at Penrith, Bishops extended their lead at the top to 11 points.
FULL TIME | Bishop Auckland 3-0 Birtley Town
Birtley won’t face many sides as good as the Two Blues this season, who were good value for their victory against a Hoops side that were far from their fluid best. But the Birtley following would’ve been proud of how the lads dug in and avoided a heavy defeat.
Player of the Match – Alex Francis
Paul Bryson: “It was a brilliant opportunity for us to go to Bishop Auckland. We knew it would be a really difficult task with Bishop’s being league favourites. We had a game plan after the first encounter. We played them earlier in the season and tried to go toe to toe with them but found ourselves 2-0 down within six minutes so we knew we had to try something different. Our game plan was to try and frustrate them whilst trying to catch them on the counter attack. The plan worked quite well and we did frustrate them whilst limiting them to very few chances throughout the majority of the first half.”
“I thought it was a poor decision on 40 minutes to award the corner. Alfie has tipped the ball over the bar when the player collides with him so its a foul. Having said that, we needed to defend the corner better. We needed to show more determination to win the initial first ball. The goal knocked the sails out of the lads as they had put so much work into the opening part of the game. It was a poor goal to concede. We conceded twice in a couple of minutes. The second goal, you can’t concede goals like that at this level. We didn’t deal with the contest in midfield and in defence. That was frustrating. The message at half-time was to keep going and keep our discipline. The next goal was crucial.”
“We changed the formation and made two substitutes. Our best passage of played resulted in Hally being in on goal but he’s put the finish wide. That is the big difference in this league, when you get big chances like that then you have to take them. That would have given us a bit of hope and got us back in the game. They went on and scored to finish the game.”
“They are rightly favourites for the league. They are a quality side in possession, their movement is brilliant and there was always options on the ball. People will look at Bishop and say they are nice to watch and easy on the ball but take nothing away from them off the ball, they work really hard. As soon as there was a transition they went after us to win the ball back. I was full of compliments for Bishop and wish them well in their season.”
“I was really pleased with our lads and their commitment. They showed brilliant attitude. Discipline was massive and we are proud of the lads. Games against Bishop Auckland don’t define our season. We have a lot to play for, we are 18 games in and we are rightly up there. We have to keep going and look forward to the game next Saturday against West Allotment Celtic.”
H2H v Bishop Auckland
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Previous away games at Bishop:
|FA Vase | 2nd Qualifying Round
The Hoops’ campaign continues next Saturday, as we welcome West Allotment Celtic to the Arrowmark Home Improvements Stadium in a 3pm kick off.