Billingham Town Football Club
(80) Craig Hutchinson
(83) Craig Hutchinson
Lee Scott (3)
Lee Scott (25)
Sam Norris (73)
Town's promotion hopes were further dented by a bitterly disappointing defeat in South Northumberland. Billingham needed a win to keep in touch with Stockton and Billingham Synthonia but that never looked likely after falling 2-0 behind inside the opening twenty five minutes. Although Town dominated in terms of possession, Bedlington took their chances and in truth, Town contributed to their own downfall. A spirited comeback inside the final twenty minutes came too late to rescue a point and with news coming in that the Synners were 2-0 down, it felt like a massive opportunity lost for the blues. A late equaliser would have been the perfect tonic going into Tuesday nights thriller against an in form Heaton Stannington but it means Town now have to win their games in hand, and beat Synthonia on Easter Monday just to stay on level terms. Team Northumbria and Stockton Town are near certainties for promotion so Town and Synthonia are now fighting it out for the final promotion place.
Alex Leeds failed a fitness test so Kieren Proctor was drafted in to become Town's sixth goalkeeper of the season so far! Skipper, Stephen Oakley made a welcome return in defence while Jack Connor moved forward into midfield, meaning Matty Osmond had to be satisfied with a place on the bench alongside Jamie Davis. Yours truly was caught off guard when straight from the kick off, Bedlington launched the ball upfield and Proctor had to be alert in tipping the ball over his own crossbar. It was certainly a baptism of fire for the new keeper because a minute later, Proctor had to get his body down low to keep out a long range effort from Andrew Hall. Town failed to heed the warning signs and went behind after only three minutes of play. A cross field ball into the box was only half cleared to Lee Scott who rifled home leaving Proctor rooted to his own goal-line. Billingham soon recovered, playing some neat possession based football on a surface that will have suited the home side. It was noticeable that the grass on both wings was much longer than anywhere else, clearly an attempt to hinder the progress of both Luke Hogan and Elliott Beddow but both wideman looked to having the beating of their respective fullbacks. Jack Connor linked up well with Craig Hutchinson and the striker cut inside but shot straight at David Stewart and then Oakley saw his powerful header fly over the bar from Beddow's corner. It appeared that Town had settled their way into the game but they unexpectedly fell further behind on twenty five minutes; Gary Redman's pass back to Proctor seemed harmless enough but as the keeper attempted to clear, the ball took a nasty bobble resulting in a poor kick that fell invitingly for Scott. The ex Ashington frontman showed good control and stroked the ball into an empty net from twenty yards. The second goal was a sucker punch but at times, Town continued to look shaky at the back and the away side became frustrated as promising moves broke down in the final third. Further sloppy play from the back allowed Calvin McMahon to strike from twenty yards but thankfully the ball struck the crossbar and behind for a goal kick.
HT Bedlington Terriers 2 Billingham Town 0
Town needed an early goal to stand any chance of winning the game and unsurprisingly they dominated the majority of the second half. Clear chances were hard to come by as Bedlington got bodies behind the ball but there was the odd opening for Town; Hogan blazed over from the edge of the box after a half clearance and Hutchinson did likewise on fifty six minutes. The home
did look dangerous on the counter attack and Scott was inches away from his hat-trick while under pressure from Lee Moore. Town were struggling to break down Bedlington's stubborn resistance and then against the run of play, the home side extended their lead on seventy two minutes. A long ball upfield left Mattie Crossen and Sam Norris in a duel on the far side but when the striker won possession, Proctor slipped at the wrong moment leaving Norris the chance to put the Terriers three ahead. The electronic scoreboard made grim viewing with the game effectively over.....or was it? With ten minutes to go Town pulled one back when HUTCHINSON tucked the ball home from Crossen's cross (waited a long time to write that!) and then it was game on when HUTCHINSON put away a penalty two minutes later after he was brought down inside the box. Bedlington were out on their feet as more shots were blocked or crowded out but Town couldn't force an equaliser in added time.
FT Bedlington Terriers 3 Billingham Town 2