Heaton Stannington 2-1 Birtley Town
Monday 25 April 2016
On the coldest night of the season, even though it was late April and sunny, there was plenty of movement on the pitch as the players tried to keep warm. The earlier snow and sleet seemed to scare off all but the hardiest members of the Stan Army as Grounsell Park recorded its lowest crowd of the season. There was 1 change from Saturday’s team as Rowntree replaced Yates. Visitors Birtley needed to win to have any realistic chance of not finishing the season 2nd bottom and potentially being relegated.
Apart from 2 Stan attacks that were blocked, nothing happened in the first 20 minutes apart from the fans getting colder and colder. There was then a great cross by Jones which went across the goal but was missed by everyone. Burns sent the ball back into the box and a shot by Hayton resulted in a great save by Birtley’s keeper McMahon. Eventually, in the 21st minute, there was a counter attack and Birtley’s Townend broke free and easily beat Smith to put the visitors 1-0 up. Dixon then put a long shot over the bar and a Jones free kick into the box was caught by the keeper. In the 27th minute, Jones ran down the right wing and sent a long ball to Hayton in the box. He was blocked but held onto the ball well until he could pass to his left to the advancing Adam Rowntree who shot to make it 1-1. Smith got down to save a Birtley shot in 30 minutes and he again got to a ball first 4 minutes later. In 37 minutes, a Hayton attack was blocked for a corner. From the corner, there was a scramble in the box with the keeper catching then dropping the ball but which resulted in Hayton shooting over the bar. Another Hayton attack was blocked and in 39 minutes a Stoddart free kick was punched away by the visiting keeper. Hayton then shot over the bar but it was 2-1 in the 42nd minute. Hayton, on the left, passed to Burns just outside the box and he sent a great ball into the box which Adam Rowntree half-volleyed into the net.
The Stan should have finished Birtley off but their failure to do so in the 2nd half meant that both teams continued to attempt to attack until the final whistle. The Stan started the half on the attack with Hayton shooting over and a powerful Imray shot from outside the box being caught by the keeper. Birtley had their first opportunity in the 55th minute when a poor clearance saw them hit the Stan bar. In the 59th minute, a Stan counterattack saw Jones pass to Burns who then bombed up the pitch only to shoot over. In 68 minutes, a Birtley player shot over but it was the Stan who should have increased their lead 2 minutes later. Bailey sent a good ball to Hayton whose shot was parried by the keeper. The resulting corner by Jones went across the goal and was deflected out for another corner which saw Hayton, under pressure, shoot wide. The wind got up in the last 15 minutes as both teams attacked and counter attacked although the Stan had more efforts on goal. With 10 minutes to go, the Birtley keeper took 2 attempts to hold the ball from a Jones free kick. 4 minutes later, from a corner, a Birtley player had a good headed effort saved brilliantly by Smith. The last few minutes were dominated by the Stan who kept attacking. Most efforts were eventually blocked although Jones and Telford both shot just wide. In injury time though the visitors had one last attack but it was stopped by Smith who got to the ball first. The final whistle saw a mad rush to the heat of the clubhouse and to celebrate another win for the Stan.
Stan Team: Smith; McCabe; Dixon (Telford) ; Stoddart; Scott; Imray; Jones; Bailey; Rowntree; Hayton; Burns (Philipson). Unused subs: Fulcher; Ward. No cards issued.