Baker Leaves It Late To Deny Birtley
It was definitely a game for the neutral at Birtley one groundhopper said leaving the ground, as both sides failed to capitalise on chances to win the game and take a share of the spoils.
Birtley Town 3 - 3 Alnwick Town
(Ross Straughan (OG), Smith, Townsend; Robson, Macpherson, Baker)
The first half was all about the away side, with Alnwick creating plenty of chances and playing the better football.
Lewis Robson had the first chance of the game, breaking through but Birtley’s keeper kept him at bay. Robson wasn’t to be denied though, as another through ball sent him clear, and he made no mistake smashing home the opening goal to put Alnwick 1-0 up.
It was 2-0 shortly after, a deep cross was met by the head of Tom Macpherson who bulleted home to put Alnwick 2-0 up and cruising.
Further chances came and went for the home side with a mixture of good goalkeeping and the wrong bounces keeping the home side in the game.
Kieran Hogg almost made it 3, but his dipping freekick from distance rattled off the front of the crossbar. He had another chance a minute later, but this time it crept just over the bar.
Alnwick were in control, but a minute before half-time Birtley were given a way back into the game. A freekick was swung into the box, and defender Ross Straughan managed to guide the ball past the helpless Callum Brooks in goal.
2nd half, and it seemed as if the own goal knocked Alnwick’s confidence. Birtley’s confidence grew as Alnwick took their foot off the gas, and two freekicks in the space of 10 minutes had the home side coming from behind to lead 3-2. The first cross was punched by Brooks to the feet of the Birtley attacker who placed the ball through a crowd to draw the scores level. The 3rd goal, again a ball into the box, was diverted towards goal, with Brooks saving, but only to the feet of another Birtley striker to give them the lead. A complete turnaround, and despair for the visiting players.
Alnwick were given a chance to get back into the game following a red card to Birtley’s captain, who had tested the referee’s patience enough and was given a 2nd yellow card for persistent fouls.
Alnwick were getting the ball forward but just couldn’t break through Birtley’s defence, who were needing the points as much as Alnwick in the relegation scrap.
Just as time was almost up and Alnwick awarded yet another dangerous free-kick, with everyone forward Ross Gair whipped the ball in. The ball was headed across goal, and despite offside appeals, Rob Baker bundled the ball home to bring the scores level at 3-3. Heart breaking for the home side, relief for the away side.
Alnwick should have been home and dry after the first 45 minutes, arguably their best football of the season, but the 2nd half performance will have to be improved upon as Willington visit St James’ Park on Saturday 5th March in another relegation battle.