Birtley Town 2 Percy Main 1
Can't buy a win at the moment, but still a decent performance....
Long serving Percy Main goalkeeper Rob Rodgerson, with approaching 300 appearances for the club under his belt, was unable to celebrate his 36th birthday with a win, despite an inspired personal performance which included a couple of breathtaking saves during the latter moments of the game, while in contrast the Main's Jake Forster who was born in that same year that a then youthful Rodgerson made his debut at Percy Main, scored a first half leveller which would ultimately prove a mere consolation.
Team manager Steve Hurd had clinched the signings of former Walker Central pair Paul Collinson and Robert Hamilton in midweek, both were handed a place in the starting line up and gave assured displays in the visitors attack and midfield respectively, while Adam Bambrough on as a late substitute made his first appearance for the club, strengthening the competition for places at The Main.
Birtley stretched the impressive start to the season to 6 wins from their opening 8 games, while their Twitter feed perhaps critically described their showing as 'the worst performance of the season' a statement that in hindsight didn't give an improving Percy Main side too much credit for their own efforts, which had forced the home side to dig deep during the course of the afternoon for their win.
The sides had met 3 times in league and cup last season and Birtley had won them all, with 18 goals scored during those meetings, this time around there was to be no goal fest as both defences were in good form. For The Main in particular, Marcus McCreedy who has figured right across the back four this season, this time in the left back berth caught the eye, while in the front line Michael Hedley put in a useful shift, without getting the reward of a goal that his efforts undoubtedly deserved.
All too often this season, Percy Main have conceded early on and that trend was to continue with 11 minutes in, as Graham McTaggart centred from the left, Mathew Baldwin's effort was half cleared and the loose ball fell to Andy Hall who curled the ball past the dive of Rodgerson from the edge of the area, it was a good finish, without doubt. Minutes later The Main's Adam Green made a timely challenge to thwart the marauding Ricky Fenwick and both James Leggett and Hamilton headed clear as Birtley pressed.
The Main came close to an equaliser on 26 minutes as Steve Hurd's free kick was deflected centimetres past his own upright by Birtley's Jacob Roberts, but 10 minutes from half time Green's throw in, helped on by Hedley fell to Forster who cleverly engineered space for himself and drilled home through a crowd of players.
Fenwick for the home side rattled the crossbar from a free kick on the right, but the latter stages of the half belonged to Percy Main who exerted a spell of pressure on the Birtley goal which ultimately went unrewarded. Hurd put in a couple of telling free kicks, which tested the home defence, including one a minute from the interval in which Leggett was just unable to get on the end.
Once again for the visitors, those chances were to count for nothing as less than a minute after the restart, Birtley restored their lead, Fenwick's free kick was crossed by Baldwin and Hall slotted home his second of the afternoon.
It was tough on The Main who tried valiantly to get back on terms, Collinson found himself crowded out by Morgan Spence and Leggett headed another free kick by Hurd to Hedley, who was off target. In response Hall looking for his hat trick fired over and Dan Irving turned and shot into the hands of Rodgerson.
The birthday boy pulled off a great save from Fenwick's 20 yard effort on 83 minutes and if anything made an even better stop in injury time with a superb reflex save to deny Baldwin' s header. There was still time for Green of Percy Main to fire over from Forster's lay off, but it wasn't to be and the points headed the way of the home side.
It's FC United of Newcastle at home for Percy Main next Saturday.....