Birtley pulled off the surprise result of the opening day, sweeping much-fancied Redcar Athletic aside in what was our first ever game in Northern League Division One.
Match photos can be viewed HERE.
Birtley started the game on the front foot, with debutant Stephen Hall breaking through after just two minutes, only to see his effort clear the crossbar. Less than a minute later, the big frontman was involved in the opening goal, receiving a trademark Glen Hargrave long-throw in the box, before laying it off for Alex Francis to stroke home.
The North Sea wind was starting to cause real problems for both goalkeepers, and in the 11th minute, Redcar’s Jack Norton could only palm away James Proctor’s wayward-looking lob, allowing Glen Hargrave to fire the rebound into the empty net.
Hargrave was clearly relishing being back in competitive action, and immediately after the restart he’d completed his brace, beating Adam Wheatley for pace before slotting past Norton for Birtley’s third.
It almost went from bad to worse for the Steelmen on fifteen minutes, as skipper Daryl Hall went in hard on namesake Stephen. But despite appeals for a red card, the experienced centre-back got away with a warning.
The hosts were battling hard to get back in the game, and finally managed to pull one back on 26 minutes thanks to an absolute beauty of a strike from full-back Joe Thompson.
Half Time | Redcar Athletic 1 – 3 Birtley Town
The quality throughout the Redcar side meant that Birtley could not afford to rest on their laurels. Five minutes after the restart, Isaac Walker looked to be through on goal, but Alfie Gordon raced out to save bravely at his feet, taking a knock in the process.
A 57th minute substitution from The Hoops proved pivotal, as the returning Ben Garrity replaced Lewis Exley and was immediately felled in the box by Mason McNeill. The ref pointed to the spot, and Alex Francis duly stepped up to bag his second of the afternoon.
Just after the hour mark, the hosts were down to ten men. Tempers had been fraying for some time, and eventually boiled over, leading to Jack Norton being dismissed for foul & abusive language towards the officials.
Young midfielder James Sayer was forced to don the gloves, and did a fine job of dealing with a wind-assisted Liam Wotherspoon free-kick in the 74th minute, tipping it over the bar for a corner.
With the game looking done and dusted, Redcar rallied towards the end, forcing Birtley’s Chris Mason into a goal-line clearance, before a late Isaac Walker curler just missed the outstretched leg of McNeill. But it was too little too late, and a jubilant Hoops side headed back up the A19 having secured all three points.
Full Time | Redcar Athletic 1 – 4 Birtley Town
It wasn’t too long ago that Birtley Town nearly ceased to exist, and so it was a proud moment for the many long-standing committee members who were there to cheer the triumphant Hoops off at the end. The games come thick & fast at this stage of the season, and next up we welcome Guisborough Town to the Arrowmark Home Improvements Stadium on Tuesday night, before a mouth-watering FA Cup tie away at Pontefract Collieries next Saturday.
Player of the match – Alex Francis
Attendance – 301 including around 60 travelling supporters.
Manager Paul Bryson was delighted for everyone connected with the club. “It’s a fantastic day for everyone connected to the club. Our first game in the first division and to come away with a 4-1 victory is outstanding. We were over the moon with the performance. I want to thank the supporters again, I couldn’t believe how many had made the journey down. It was a lovely moment when the lads got applauded off.”
“We had to make hard decisions on the team selection and formation. We couldn’t have wished for a better start. We were 3-0 up in the first 15 minutes. The two front lads caused the Redcar backline problems all afternoon. Glen and Hally both player key parts in the performance yesterday. They pulled one back with an absolute worldy, it was a great strike from the left back.
We said at half-time that that the next goal in the second half was really important. We had a couple of chances early in the second period to finish the game off and that was one thing we did mention to the lads. We rushed the pass or made the wrong decision. That will need to be better. We did make it 4-1 and saw the game out. It was really pleasing, delighted for everyone.
I thought Alex Francis was outstanding, Alfie did really well in goal too. Owen had a very good game. Proc was excellent in midfield and I’ve already mentioned the two lads upfront.”
“We don’t want to get too hyped up as we have another big game on Tuesday at home to Guisborough. We welcome a couple of lads back into the squad and we’re looking forward to it.”
H2H v Redcar Athletic (at Green Lane)
P4 W1 D1 L2 GF6 GA9 Pts 4
25.08.2018 | Redcar Athletic 1-1 Birtley Town (R. Tanoh)
05.10.2019 | Redcar Athletic 3-0 Birtley Town (N/A)
23.09.2020 | Redcar Athletic 4-1 Birtley Town (J. Barwick)
29.07.2023 | Redcar Athletic 1-4 Birtley Town (A. Francis x2 (1P), G. Hargrave x2)