Birtley secured another three points to add to their impressive start to Northern League Division One, a single Glen Hargrave goal ensured the win for The Hoops.
Birtley Town took all three points back down the A19 with a well earned but hard fought away victory at West Allotment as Bryson and Foster’s men left everything on the pitch to come away with another vital three points. Ben Pentland returned to the side when he replaced the injured Jack Robson in the warm-up. It was West who started the better side and had early opportunities through Giraud and Beeston. Birtley struggled to get any sort of possession or control of the game but could have been ahead when Callum Smith beat the offside trap but was unable to capitalise. Birtley struggled to get to grips with West Allotment using Guy Bates to then link with Giraud and Lowery in the wide positions.
The crucial and decisive goal came on 21 minutes. Alfie Gordon made a long clearance which cleared the Celtic backline. Glen Hargrave latched onto some indecision in the Allotment defence before firing a deflected shot beyond the keeper to make it 1-0 to Birtley. Shortly after the re-start Alex Francis was booked as he enjoyed an excellent battle with Guy Bates.
Birtley had to put everything on the line to prevent a West equaliser in the first half. Gordon made two excellent stops to deny the home side and there were excellent blocks from both Callum Turnbull and Owen Lancaster as Celtic piled on the pressure before the break.
Half-Time | West Allotment Celtic 0-1 Birtley Town
The second half was an equally aggressive affair. It took just three minutes for Liam Beeston to be sent to the sin-bin for dissent following protests that West should have had a penalty. Beeston then spent the next 10 minutes leaning against a bin whilst Birtley looked to capitalise. In fairness, The Hoops didn’t manage to capitalise and it was West who remained on the front foot without really threatening Alfie Gordon’s goal.
The Hoops looked dangerous on the counter attack with James Proctor looking to support Stephen Hall and Glen Hargrave at any opportunity. Lewis Orrell replaced Ben Pentland on the hour mark as Birtley looked to take better control of the game. It wasn’t until 70 minutes that West produced their first real opportunity with Lucas Lowery-Matondo blazing over the bar from the penalty spot.
Both sides made appeals for handballs in the area but the referee waved away the protests. By the latter stages, Birtley were defending their one goal lead and looking to hold on. Lewis Exley and Owen Lancaster were both tested throughout the game by the trickery of Giraud and Lowery. In midfield the battle between Kanda, Proctor & Spoony was a fierce one, the Celtic midfielder showing his physical and technical abilities throughout the game. Guy Bates remained a constant threat until he was sin-binned late on for trying to referee the game himself.
As the referee announced 7 minutes of injury time, Birtley had to stand tall with both Callum Turnbull and Alex Francis producing brilliant displays at the heart of backline. In the dying moments tempers boiled over which resulted in a second bookable offence for Francis. The final whistle shortly followed, much to the relief and delight of the Birtley faithful.
Full-Time | West Allotment Celtic 0-1 Birtley Town
Attendance – 115 including 46 traveling Birtley supporters (Source – Eagle Eyed Colin Beat)
Player of the Match – Owen Lancaster
Paul Bryson was delighted with the result. “It was great to keep our run going. We would have been delighted if someone said at the start of the season that we would have 5 wins from 5 games. We had to really dig deep and we got our rewards for that. We weren’t great by any stretch, we showed a togetherness and a desire to keep the run going. We didn’t start the game very well at all. They started at a good pace. To be fair the best spell we had in the game was midway through the first half and we managed to score in this time. Glen Hargrave latching onto a long ball from Alfie to put us 1-0 up. They came again just before half-time. We were pleased to go in 1-0 at the break.
We spoke at half-time about how good we needed to be out of possession. We certainly did that in the second half. It was a stop-start game with some strange decisions from the referee. It didn’t really help either side but maybe favoured us as we were leading. It took them until the latter stages to really create chances but that was down to the brilliant defending from the lads. Owen Lancaster made blocks, Alfie made two good saves and we still looked dangerous on the counter attack.
I was a little bit disappointed in our final pass at times, we could have hurt them a lot more. I was delighted for the lads and the whole squad. We have a real togetherness. I thought Owen was outstanding again along with the other lads in the back four. It’s great to get another clean sheet. We now look ahead to Boro Rangers on Tuesday evening. They come to us and we want to get another good crowd behind us.”
Birtley now have back to back home games. On Tuesday we face off against Boro Rangers. Boro have themselves enjoyed a positive start. This is followed up by welcoming Sunderland RCA to the Arrowmark on Saturday.
Our resident video editor Alex is currently in Poland so highlights will be released in due course. We aren’t entirely sure who signed his holidays off during the season.