CHESTER-LE-STREET TOWN 0-1 BIRTLEY TOWN
By Chris Munro
A BRILLIANT TEAM PERFORMANCE HELPS CLAIM THE POINTS
It was Derby Day part three on Friday night as we travelled to Moor Park to face neighbours Chester-le-Street Town in the only fixture in the Northern League on the night. After excellent crowds at both of our other two meetings, which Chester won, we were hoping for a similar crowd for the final meeting of the season between the two sides and we weren't disappointed as 248 passed through the turnstiles to cheer on the two teams.
Tony Smith replaced youngster Ben Milburn in the centre of defence after he picked up an injury earlier in the week. With former Chester Town Mark Pattison unavailable, he was replaced in the starting eleven by another in Davey Surrey. Azza swapped wings from the Northallerton win which also saw Kallum Hampson-Broadhead come in, in place of Oli Leedham who was also unavailable. Yussef Hakmaoui dropped to the bench in favour of Robbie Williamson whilst the bench was made up of Simon Hay, Kai Elliott, Dan Hill and Cameron Hood.
Before the match started, we were joined by local 22 year-old Ryan Anstey who has won three football gold medals – two representing the North of England at the Special Olympic National Games and earlier this year at the World Special Olympic Games representing Team GB. He walked on to the pitch to show off his medal to a guard of honour from the two teams.
With only eight minutes gone, Birtley took the lead through Robbie Williamson with a pacey strike from twenty yards that went straight through the keepers' legs and into the back of the net. In fairness to the young keeper, I do think he's tried to cushion the ball with his body and with his foot firmly planted, he couldn't move it in time.
Chester best chance of the half, if not the game, came in the 20th minute when a free kick was headed away but only as far as Scott Robson who volleyed it straight at Jordan Bolton. Straight up the other end, Jordan finds Joe Barwick on the right hand side who pressurised Rhys Turnbull into a mistake and picked the ball up running towards the box. He squared it for Robbie who ended up kicking fresh air and the chance was cleared. Any time Chester make an attack though, it was dealt with by the Birtley back four.
A great counter from Birtley following a Chester free kick sees it picked up on the halfway line by Joe Barwick who played the ball out right to Robbie Williamson. He gets Kallum Hampson-Broadhead involved and a little one-two sees Robbie get behind the defender into the box but he fires his shot over the bar. A great chance for a second goal. Six minutes later, Nick Hay has a free header from a Birtley free kick but nods it just over the Chester bar.
The danger continued for Chester and Joe Barwick had a great chance with a cross from the right after turning the defender inside out and all it needed was a yellow shirt to tap it in but there was nobody there and it ran out to Williamson on the left but he saw his cross headed clear for a Birtley throw.
Right on half time, Chester had a chance from a corner that came about after a lack of communication saw two Birtley players go for the same ball. The cross was spilled by Jordan Bolton under pressure and it fell to Michael Graver just outside the box but his driven strike was along the ground and was easily cleared by Tom Soutar.
HALF TIME | CHESTER-LE-STREET TOWN 0-1 BIRTLEY TOWN
In the opening minutes of the second half, Davey Surrey saw an effort go wide of the post and a minute later a decent chance for Chester went begging as a header was glanced wide of the far post. Seconds earlier, Andrew Clarkson had been denied by some good defending from the Birtley back four.
Another good chance for Robbie Williamson saw him control a ball with his right foot, before twisting his body and striking it goalwards with his left but it missed the crossbar by inches.
A Chester cross into the box soon after is called for by Bolton who doesn't get it to properly. Scott Robson then tries to play it to the edge where a teammate is waiting but the ball is eventually cleared. Another chance for Robson to get himself in on goal goes begging when he gets the ball stuck under his feet which gives the Birtley defence enough time to get back into position. A cross from the left follows, aimed towards Andrew Clarkson but he is forced to play it back to Kevin Dixon and although he then plays it out wide to Owen Henderson, the ball is defended well and put out for a Chester throw.
A good bit of play between Nick Hay and Ben Garrity sees the Birtley full back beat his man on the right touchline. He plays Robbie Williamson in who gets a touch to the ball but as he tries to spin the defender to put himself through on goal, he is caught by an elbow across the face from Kevin Dixon. How no free kick was given is a bit of a mystery and seeing he is in a bad way, the Chester keeper who had collected the loose ball throws it out of the play so that he could receive some attention.
It is quickly apparent that he can't continue and he is replaced by Dan Hill. He remained on the sidelines behind the Chester goal for the rest of the game whilst an ambulance was called. The verdict being concussion and a hairline fracture above his eye but he's now home from hospital having seen a specialist over the weekend. During this time, Chester also made their first change of the night which saw Harry Wood replace Michael Hepplewhite and the first yellow card of the game was shown to Davey Surrey who had overly contested a decision made by the linesman.
Both sides followed that up three minutes later with their second changes. For Chester, Jack Oliver replaced Owen Henderson and for Birtley, Yussef Hakmaoui replaced Kallum Hampson-Broadhead.
Chris Stephenson then joined Davey Surrey in the notebook for a foul on Aaron McEwen. Play was allowed to continue with Hakmaoui down the left and although his low ball into the box found Dan Hill, the defender was there to block his effort and it was collected by Steavans before the referee showed the Chester full back the yellow card.
With four minutes of normal time remaining, Nick Hay was caught late by his opposite number, Kieran Megran. Advantage was played by the referee as Dan Hill had picked up the ball in acres of space. A bit of fortune here as it looked as though his through ball found Yussef Hakmaoui in an offside position. The flag was raised but play only continued as it was Aaron McEwen who ran for the loose ball. He then played it into the teenager in the box where his shot hit the arm of a Chester defender and was cleared as the Birtley player appealed for the penalty which wasn't given. The referee then spoke to the Chester player who committed the first foul and visibly tells him that the next one will result in a card.
In the 90th minute, a Dan Hill header goes narrowly over the bar and with pretty much the last kick of the game, Andrew Clarkson has a chance for Chester deep into stoppage time but he blazes over from the edge of the box. The final whistle then follows after the goal kick has been taken.
FULL TIME | CHESTER-LE-STREET TOWN 0-1 BIRTLEY TOWN
Another fantastic performance from the Birtley lads when all the talk after the game (and the days that followed) seemed to be about how poor the home side were instead of how well the away side had performed. We were excellent throughout and rarely gave Chester any time on the ball. Yes the goal might have been a bit fortunate but you'd take it no matter what. The chances were there to increase the lead and we could have easily went in at half time up by three or four goals. Regarding Robbie's injury, a massive thank you to both club physios and to anyone else who helped him after he went off the pitch, its much appreciated by both the player and the club.
Next up for Birtley Town sees us complete our two outstanding home games this week when we welcome Bedlington Terriers for a 7:30pm start on Tuesday night. That is followed on Friday night by the later 7:45pm kick off against West Allotment Celtic where we hope you will join us for the final time at home this season.