Following a summer of wholesale changes both on and off the field, Birtley kicked off their Northern League season with a hard fought 1-1 draw as they faced Brandon United at the Welfare Ground.
The new management team of Paul Bryson and Paul Foster have been very active in the transfer market, adding strength in key areas with the likes of Callum Smith and Alex Francis making the step from newly-promoted North Shields and Consett to don the green & white.
The hoops fell behind in the 18th minute despite a positive start, Adam Storey opened the scoring by slotting the ball underneath both Callum Turnbull and Conor Grant. Birtley responded well and looked threatened throughout the game. The hoops looked very threatening from set pieces throughout the first half but struggled to take advantage of loose balls in the area and some half chances. Just before half time, Conor Grant produced a good stop low down to his right hand side. In the second period Birtley dominated. Callum Smith narrowly missed Aiden Rutledge at the back post after 50 minutes. On 54 minutes, Smith again tested the Brandon goal and forced a good save from Skelton.
On 64 minutes, the hoops were level. Callum Smith delivered the ball and after some help at the back post, Glen Hargrave was on hand to nod home from a yard out. Minutes later the hoops struct the crossbar from Jack Honour and their seemed to look like only winner. The game ended 1-1 after Skelton produced a strong stop to prevent Owen Lancaster from taking all three points for Birtley.
Paul Bryson said afterwards “Whilst we were pleased with the performance and created numerous chances, we were disappointed only to come away with one point. In the first half, we dominated possession but conceded due to a lack of concentration on the 18th minute. We had many chances to equalise, but the Brandon goalkeeper and defenders defended really well. ”
“The second half followed suit where dominated the ball. We equalised with a good finish from Glen Hargrave after a good play from Callum Smith. Ryan Keltie and Aidan Rutledge both had good chances to put us ahead but fired over and then their goalkeeper produces two excellent saves from Owen Lancaster and Callum Smith.”
“I suppose if you don’t win games, don’t lose it! On reflection, the new players settled in really well. Whilst disappointed with a draw we are up and running and go into the next game with confidence”
Match highlights can be found here.
The hoops are next in action away to Jarrow FC on Wednesday 3rd August with a 7.30pm kick off.