Birtley Town 1-6 Heaton Stannington
Saturday 23 January 2016
The Birtley pitch had dried out more than enough for the Stan to play their first match in 3 weeks. There were 4 changes to the team including a debut for defender Steven McCabe while Shane Jones and Michael Trodd also made their debuts from the bench. Although there were 2 penalties, there were no cautions or sending offs and it was not a dirty game (tackles or mud). In fact there were more fowls above the pitch than fouls on it as a flock of geese kept passing over the pitch during the quieter first half. This was some consolation for train spotters such as Twitter Tom as, due to a fault on the east coast line, not a single train past the pitch all afternoon.
In 4 minutes, a ball from Rowntree to Grieveson saw his effort just put out by the home keeper. 2 minutes later and a Fulcher chip was caught by the keeper and after another 2 minutes Bailey headed wide. Birtley shot wide with their first effort of the match after 10 minutes and then shot over 3 minutes later. In between, Hayton shot wide at the other end. The next 17 minutes saw more Stan pressure including Hayton shooting just wide twice and 2 efforts by Johnson which were both stopped by the keeper. Although it always seemed likely that the Stan would score, the only goal of the first half did not come in open play. In the 30th minute, Grieveson was brought down in the box. Rowntree blasted the resulting penalty into the right hand corner of the net to make it 1-0. Birtley finished the half with 3 chances which Smith stopped and the Stan went in at half time 1-0 up.
Teenager Shane Jones, signed from Benfield, made his debut at the start of the 2nd half when he replaced Lee Johnson and by the end of the match the Stan Army had all taken note of this talented youngster. In 48 minutes Fulcher should have scored when he was clean through but shot straight at the home keeper. Jones then made a confident cross to Grieveson in the box who hit the post. After Bailey had shot over, the 3rd missed sitter in 2 minutes came when Hayton ran into the box and shot wide. Things changed in 53 minutes when Grieveson accelerated down the right and managed to cross just before reaching the bye-line which allowed Bailey to put the ball away to make it 2-0. Grieveson did the same again but this time Bailey, who had a good game, then put the ball to Hayton who saw his effort deflected for a corner. The Stan kept attacking and had a number of corners. It was not until the 62nd minute that Birtley had their first 2 attempts of the half. It was the Stan though who scored again 2 minutes later when Hayton took the ball into the crowded home box and passed to Grieveson who tapped it into the net to make it 3-0. Birtley got a goal in 68 minutes when one of their players was brought down in the box. Smith dived the right way but could not stop the penalty attempt. The Stan immediately attacked and a Hayton effort, after some twisting and turning, was put out for a corner. The corner from Jones in the 70th minute led to a scramble in the box which ended with Scott blasting the ball into the net for 4-1. Birtley had a shot caught by Smith and another that went just wide before it was back to a sustained Stan attack. In the 78th minute, Rowntree broke through the home defence and, with only the keeper to beat, blasted the ball over when he should have scored. Imray had a shot blocked in 81 minutes followed by McCabe shooting wide after being tackled. 3 minutes later and Rowntree made it 5-1 when he got the ball on the left and ran just inside the box where he confidently blasted it into the net. 2 minutes later and he beat 5 players before he ran out of steam and only managed a soft shot. In 88 minutes Jones, who was showing some good ball control, hit the wall from a free kick and Rowntree’s follow up shot was caught by the keeper. Hayton then made a run down the right and crossed to Rowntree whose shot was deflected for a corner. Into injury time and Hayton and Rowntree this time involved Jones in their attack with the youngster shooting just wide. The Stan kept the pressure on and it paid off just before the final whistle when Jones moved up the left and in towards the home penalty box. Still outside the box, instead of crossing he tried a shot which beat the keeper who was not expecting it. What a goal!
The match ended 6-1 although it could have been double figures for the visitors. So with an unbeaten run of 4 away games, the Stan Army are looking forward to next Saturday’s match against Tow Law and the first home fixture for over 6 weeks.
Stan Team: Smith; McCabe; Stoddart; Wear; Scott; Fulcher; Rowntree; Bailey (Imray); Hayton; Grieveson (Trodd); Johnson, L (Jones).