Three exquisite strikes were the centre piece of this high octane derby, which saw Birtley Town taking the 3 points with a 2-1 win. The game started in top gear and the pace never relented for the rest of the match.
Neither team gave the opposition much time or space on the ball. It wasn’t a night for silky, 10-pass football, but the effort by the players more than made up for it. Within two minutes the 286-crowd were treated to the first quality goal: Birtley No. 10 Robbie Williamson took the ball 20 yards out for the Chester-le-Street goal, kept possession and then looked up before taking his chance – curling a superb shot into the top right hand corner of the goal. Minutes later Chester-le-Street came within a whisker of equalising. Michael Hepplewhite had a turn and shot, with Birtley keeper Sam Wilson managing to push it out for a corner with his foot. From the corner Dan Hepplewhite’s shot was deflected back to him and his second effort hit the post.
The Cestrians kept the initiative, Luke Collins taking a free kick on the edge of the visitors’ box, with the strike punched away by Wilson from under his bar. Many of Chester-le-Street’s attacks were quick, high balls towards the Birtley goal, while Birtley’s attacks were on the deck. And then, with less than 10 minutes to go before the break, Chester-le-Street were level. Birtley only half cleared the ball which landed at Fraser Colling’s feet. The No. 8 hit a strike just as impressive as Birtley’s opener from 25 yards out and into the net.
Birtley closed the half out with two good chances of their own: Ben Garrity passed to Joe Barwick who pulled the ball square across to Williamson whose shot hit the post before spinning across the goalmouth. Liam Butler then hit an over the shoulder pass to Barwick who returned the ball to the No. 11, with Cestrian keeper Jack Wilson able to save the shot with his legs.
The pace and effort didn’t let up in the second half, but clear-cut chances were few and far between with both teams setting up solid walls of defenders on the edge of their respective boxes. Butler had Birtley’s best chance in the 54th minute, turning on a sixpence and hitting a shot stopped at his near post by Wilson – a sharp, crisp strike and save. In the 81st minute Elliott Judson saw his shot saved by the Birtley keeper.
It looked as though both sides would have to settle for a hard-fought draw until the 89th minute when Birtley were awarded a free kick. Sub Thomas Scuthern stepped up and hit the ball with power and precision past a despairing dive by the Chester-le-Street keeper.
Report Courtesy of Mike Snowdon – Life of Pie – Blog