There was further disappointment for Birtley on Tuesday night as they exited the Durham Challenge Cup at the first hurdle against Division One side Tow Law Town.
Match highlights can be viewed HERE.
Manager Paul Foster rang the changes at Ironworks road, with Callum Smith absent through injury and the dynamic due of Glen Hargrave and Aidan Rutledge dropped to the bench, alongside skipper Jack Honour. This gave opportunities to other squad members, with defender Josh Strassheim and attacker Brandon Turnbull handed rare starts, and recent signing Frank Tutt making his Hoops debut in midfield.
The opening twenty minutes were even, but as the half progressed, the Lawyers began to exert their influence on the game. On 26 minutes the rapid Dan Marriott burst down the left wing and fired a powerful shot at Conor Grant. And only a minute later, Daniel Craggs found space on the right and hit a fine effort that had Grant beaten, but went narrowly wide of the post.
Grant had to be on his toes again on 35 minutes, as he rushed out of his goal to deny the marauding Jeremie Da Costa with his feet.
The second half began with Birtley on the front foot, attacking down the right hand side through Ben Garrity. In the 53rd minute, the Hoops’ full-back was brought down on the edge of the box, allowing Tom McIntyre to hit an impressive free-kick which only just cleared the bar. Tow Law had a great chance of their own shortly afterwards, with Da Costa seeing his effort cleared off the goal line by Owen Lancaster.
Da Costa had been a menace all night, and just before the hour mark he helped his side make a breakthrough, teeing up team-mate Craggs for an easy finish. Birtley made several changes in the next 10 minutes, with Jack Honour, Aidan Rutledge and Glen Hargrave coming on for Sam Hedley, Tom Scothern and Brandon Turnbull. This allowed the Hoops to ramp up the pressure on the hosts, but the Lawyers dealt will with the combined onslaught of Hargrave’s long-throws and Garrity’s invention down the right, and it took until the 87th minute for the first real opening, as Rutledge’s lofted pass almost found Frank Tutt to cap a dream debut, but ‘keeper Tom Orton was able to gather the ball.
In the third minute of injury time, the Lawyers hit Birtley with a counter-attack, resulting in a gilt-edged chance for Luke Page, who slotted past Grant to secure his side’s place in the hat for the next round.
Paul Foster: “Whilst we didn’t deserve to win the game last night I felt we didn’t deserve to lose it either. We make yet another mistake for the first goal then we were chasing the game and the second goal after 94 minutes probably made it look more flattering than what it was.”
“We rested a few players and brought in a few lads who hadn’t had much game time lately. I felt the shape we played frustrated Tow Law especially during the first half, and although we had a few half chances first half we never really troubled their keeper.”
“It was only when we brought Glen and Aidan on with twenty minutes to go did we look like we could get something out of the game. I said in my notes from Saturday that any mistakes we make at the moment get punished, and that was the case again last night!”
Player of the Match – Tom McIntyre
H2H vs Tow Law Town (at Ironworks Road)
12.10.2022 – Tow Law Town 2-0 Birtley Town (N/A)
18.09.2021 – Tow Law Town 3-1 Birtley Town (J. Norton)
03.08.2019 – Tow Law Town 0-1 Birtley Town (O. Leedham)
16.04.2019 – Tow Law Town 0-2 Birtley Town (R. Tanoh, T. Smith)
23.04.2016 – Tow Law Town 1-1 Birtley Town (F. Swales)
16.08.2014 – Tow Law Town 2-3 Birtley Town (D. Maddison x2, K. Hewitson)
23.11.2013 – Tow Law Town 2-3 Birtley Town (C. Hope x3)
27.04.2013 – Tow Law Town 2-0 Birtley Town (N/A)
Next up for Birtley is a league game away to Ryton & Crawcrook Albion on Saturday with a 3pm kick off. We hope to see you all there.