Albion welcomed a badly out of form Birtley Town to Kingsley Park, keen to avenge the 5-1 rout in the reverse fixture in a game that was to be dominated by a strong nor’wester. The visitors had more bad news when Kai Hewitson was injured in the warm up prompting a late call up for Daniel Quine.
It was the Hoops in an unfamiliar sky blue outfit who kicked off with the wind behind them & from what could have been the quickest free kick ever awarded at Kingsley Park, Birtley’s Mathew Soulsby fired a shot towards the Albion goal from the centre circle which picked up speed in the gusty conditions forcing a fine save from Greg Purvis making his home debut. With Town almost a goal up in ten seconds, RACA knew they would be in for a tough half playing into the teeth of the gale. Nevertheless by keeping the ball on the deck, Albion were able to make progress into Birtley’s half & in the 6th minute, Darren Graham played in a cross from the right to the recalled Ryan Burnyeat, but the ball hung in the wind & harmlessly glanced off his shoulder, but when BURNYEAT received the ball a minute later, he turned & volleyed past Sean Hall to put the hosts 1-0 up.
The lead was to be short lived however as on 12 minutes, Birtley’s Scott Arnott’s shot from distance cannoned of the Albion bar & Lee BEST was quickest to react, slotting the ball unchallenged past Purvis to level the scores.
Albion came close to regaining the lead on 16 minutes when Josh Holland beat Town’s offside trap, but his hopes of getting his first goal of the season were thwarted by Hall who got just enough of his fingertips to the ball to divert it on to the post.
The wind was steadily increasing making a mockery of high clearances & passes, but came to Birtley’s assistance on 31 minutes when a Chris Mordue cross swung sharply goalwards forcing Purvis into another tricky save. A minute later Purvis was less convincing when caught dawdling with the ball on the edge of his box by Michael Gray, but the wind was to have the last word in this incident too as the loose ball blew across the pitch to safety.
Then on 37 minutes it was Hall’s turn to have egg on his face when what looked like a routine backpass went horribly wrong for the Hoops keeper. As Hall prepared to boot the ball upfield, it caught a divet & bounced at an unexpected angle, & as Hall walloped a load of fresh air, BURNYEAT nipped in to slot the ball into an empty net to make it 2-1
Town, aware of limited time left with the wind advantage, pushed forward again & had a squeak of an opening when Purvis, as so many players seemed to be doing, slipped when coming out to gather a loose ball, but Leigh Shickle was able to recover the situation before the Birtley forwards could capitalise. They weren’t to be denied their equaliser before the interval though as QUINE scored an a absolute beauty from 30 yards just as the half came to a close to make the score after 45 minutes-
HT RACA 2 BIRTLEY TOWN 2
The second half started relatively quietly with Ryton not exploiting the wind advantage as much as Birtley did in the first. Errors were commonplace as the conditions turned the game into a farce at times & for 20 minutes there were no chances of note. Birtley had brought on Andy Peacock in the hope he could curse his former club again, but this time round he wasn’t to have the same effect as the players manfully struggled in the conditions.
It wasn’t until the 67th minute when a looping lob to Gray running towards the Albion goal looked to have any semblance of a chance of a 5th goal being scored, but Liam
Barker beat him to hit only for Gray to tackle Barker before Barker won it back again inside the Albion box & cleared it to safety.
Then there was a small period of Albion dominance starting with a Will Forsyth corner that like Mordue’s cross on the first half, deviated sharply towards goal, forcing Hall into a punch out, the ball finding its way back to Forsyth who lobbed wide. Soon after, Craig Barker brought a round of applause from the home fans when firing narrowly over the bar with a rasping shot from 25 yards following a neat move involving Holland & Phil Hodges. Holland was then replaced by Tom Phillips making a very belated seasonal debut.
Birtley weren’t done with yet & Soulsby tested Purvis with a decent effort with ten minutes to go, followed by a skyward effort at the other end by Phillips.
Just as the game was looking for all the world like finishing level, there was a sting in the tail for Town as Albion pressed forwards & a ball to BURNYEAT who was racing towards goal, was met sweetly & he blasted it past Hall to grab all three points at the death.
FT RACA 3 BIRTLEY TOWN 2
A hard fought win for Ryton that just about keeps us with the slightest of chances of making the cut for the FA Cup & by avoiding defeat means we’ve still not lost three in a row this season.
More disappointment for Birtley as it’s just one point from the last thirty six now, though on today’s evidence that looks a surprising statistic as there wasn’t a great deal between the sides in a game that was a lottery at times with the wind winning the man of the match award again.
RACA- Purvis, Graham (Kastrati 84), Shickle, McMeekin. L Barker, Turnbull, Holland (Phillips 76), Hodges, Burnyeat, C Barker, Forsyth. Subs not used – Gillespie, Emmerson, Wilkinson
BIRTLEY – Hall, Mitchell, Boyd, Soulsby, Watchman, Gill (Boakes 17), Mordue, Arnott, Gray, Quine (Peacock 64), Best (Harker 46). Subs not used – Carlin, Hewitson
(injured in warm up)
REFEREE- Mark McMahon