Four Es a Jolly Good Fellow
Table Toppers Byron House came to Old Road but 4 goals from Steve Ellor allowed United to sent them back to Sheffield on the end of a 4-1 defeat.
United went into this promotion clash knowing a victory would give them the best chance of overhauling the Division's Top Team at the start of play. The Reds started very strongly with a free kick from Ainsley Finney met well by Mark Gedney but his header just cleared the crossbar, Finney himself then got in a shot at the visitors goal but lacking any real zip Birtley the opposition keeper saved comfortably. On 6 minutes United rattled the post when Steve Ellor chased a lost cause to the goal line, he kept the ball in play and from a tight angle saw his shot strike the woodwork. With the visitors penned back near their own goal United's promising start was to give them the lead, Finney put in a crunching tackle in midfield, the ball went to Ashley Cantrill on the right, his cross looped over the keeper and hit the far post and though the ball seemed be bouncing behind him the lurking Steve Ellor somehow arched his body backwards to meet the ball and head the ball into goal to give the Reds a deserved lead. Moments after that goal Grant Hill had a fierce drive at goal but Birtley tipped over, it was 18 minutes before the United goal saw any menace, a long throw bounced around the penalty area but United stopper Priestley gathered to halt the danger.
Finney had a great chance to double the lead when he got clear of the visitors back line but his shot was saved and Luke Skelton was crowded out as he tried to get on the end of a Cantrill cross. At the other end Marshall put over a dangerous cross well met by Gabbitas but Priestley was equal to the shot and saved low down. After the promising start United went somewhat quiet and allowed Byron House to get a foothold in the game, Saynor got a rasping drive in a goal but his shot was always rising and Paul Mills had to bravely throw himself in front of a shot from Gabbitas which he deflected for a corner. From this corner the visitors thought they had equalised when Priestley fumbled the ball as he tried to catch it, with the ball on the goal line Priestley gathered it at the second attempt and the referee deemed that it had not crossed the line. United had a further chance when they got a 3 versus 2 break but the move broke down with a half hit shot from Skelton. The visitors had the last chance of the half when a flicked header from Shipley went over Priestley but cleared the right side of the post as far as United were concerned. Half Time United 1-0 Byron House
A free kick from the visitors Marshall went just over the bar as Byron House started the half strongly with Marshall and Higgingbottom having plenty of the ball and on 57 minutes they pulled level, Skelton tripped Gabbitas on the edge of the penalty area and though United blocked the first free kick attempt the referee ordered it to be retaken and Marshall drove the ball low and hard past the United wall and inside the left post to make it 1-1. The long throw in was proving to be a valuable weapon for the visitors and yet another had some menace as Shipley got his head to the ball but saw his effort go wide. Within 5 minutes United regained the lead, Martin Lawton passed out wide to Skelton on the left and his cross found Ellor with his back to goal, it seemed that the chance would be lost but Ellor swivelled around and prodded the ball into the net to give the Reds a 2-1 lead. The visitors were not deflated by going behind again and Higgingbottom had a shot blocked by Mills while Edwards rose highest to meet the ball from a corner but his header went over the bar.
Steve Ellor achieved yet another goal treble scoring his hat trick on 70 minutes though this was somewhat of a fluke, out on the touchline on the right wing he sent in a speculative cross which arched over the keeper and inside the far post to make it 3-1. Three minutes later the points were safe when Ellor got his and United's fourth, Lawton passed to Hill who in turn found Paul Hemmingway, it seemed that Hemmingway had a chance at goal for himself but he feigned to shoot and gave the ball across goal to Ellor who struck it cleanly into the net for a 4-1 lead. Priestley was called upon to parry a shot from Marshall and got to his feet quickly to smother the follow up from Shipley. A strong run from Hill almost gave United a fifth however though Ellor hit the bar with his shot he was deemed offside and the visitors had a reprieve. Final Score United 4-1 Byron House
This was an important victory for the Reds, a draw would have kept any hope of promotions still in our own hands but defeat would most likely have seen United with too much ground to make up so not only was victory achieved but it was done with a strong performance with United full value for the win over a side that looked like runaway champions until a few weeks ago