Billingham Town Football Club
Jeff Smith (2)
(48) Luke Hogan
(62) Craig Hutchinson
Bjorge Lillelien..... Heard of him?? The older generation will know him! Oslo...September 1981.... Norway 2 England 1... A shock defeat for the three lions in the World Cup qualifier. The Norwegian commentator went down in history after the full time whistle with these words ' Nelson, Churchill, Lady Diana, Maggie Thatcher.... Maggie your boys took a hell of a beating'. If I had a megaphone tonight it would have sounded something like this 'Stan Laurel, Sir Arthur Hazelrigg, Sir Anthony Eden, Bob Paisley, Steve Riley.... Steve your boys took a hell of a beating!!
Tonight will live long in the memory for the players, coaching staff, committee and of course the fans. The club has endured some dark times in the last five years. Hartlepool Court case, Inland Revenue, winding up order, and a relegation to boot. At times the football was incidental. So tonight's unsung heroes are Chairman Peter Martin, Barrister Richard Bloomfield, Committee members such as Steve Palmieri, Neil Martin, Paul Harrison and too many others to mention. I apologise reservedly if I have missed anybody out. During the last twelve months, two more heroes emerged from the depths of despair. Manager Barry Oliver and Assistant Graham Popple have somehow built a squad, with a vision to steadily take this club to a level we can all be proud of and boy have they produced the goods. Tonight's scintillating FA Vase win is the culmination of long hours, travelling and scouting the opposition, seeking fresh young talent who are hungry to succeed in a grueling league of football. So tonight's actual match report isn't really a match a report. It's a homage to this fantastic club and what it means to the folk of Billingham.
The atmosphere was superb, despite the majority of the 300 odd crowd who were stunned to silence when Town took a 2.1 lead. We were all in dreamland,is this really happening?? Can we pull this off?? But we only have ten men and thirty minutes plus injury time left! Will we be able to cope mentally as well as physically?? So many questions.... So many emotions that none of us in the stands were expecting. I was happy visiting a smart ground and to sit on a padded seat in the directors box! Just enjoy the experience! When Jockey Mick Fitzgerald won the Grand National he infamously said 'Winning the race was better than having sex'. I won't go as far as that incase the divorce papers pop through my letterbox but I can see where he was coming from. Apart from winning the FA Vase itself, I cannot envisage being imbued with such raw emotion again for some time....but this feeling will keep me and us all going for sometime.
The game itself? Well Bishop's stunned Town with their pace and movement and the game plan went out the window after two minutes when Jeff Smith finished with a sweet left footed strike. Or did it?? Thomas Dawson kept Town in the game; one particular save was world class, tipping Chris Winn's curling shot behind for a corner. Once Town acclimatised to the pace of the game, they grew in confidence and created four or five good chances in the first half. John Jury cleared off the line to deny Hutchinson and Elliott Beddow had a close range effort saved by Edward Wilczynski. Jamie Davis flicked header went wide and Lee Jones blasted over just before half time. There was still hope!!
HT Bishop Auckland 1 Billingham Town 0
As long as it stayed 1.0, Town were always going to be in the game and they came out for the second half full of confidence. On forty eight minutes, Hutchinson released HOGAN on the left and he managed to shrug off Andre Bennett to drill home. Great stuff! Then the Town faithful went delirious when HUTCHINSON finished well after a defence splitting pass from Chris Dickinson, who was playing as an unorthodox holding midfielder. Unbelievable...Town 2.1 up!! Before that Bishops had a clear penalty not given and Stephen Oakley received a second yellow followed by a red card for a foul on the edge of the box..... The last thirty five minutes was sheer hell....clock watching, as wave after wave of Bishop's players poured forward. The home fans were stunned... We were stunned!!! As time ticked away, the game became frenetic and Gary Redman somehow headed off his own goaline deep into added time.... Final whistle!! WOW.... Stunning scenes at the end which left you with goosebumps!!
The whole squad did their club and themselves proud. Recognition flooding in on social media!! Twitter, Facebook... The news had gone viral....Even bookmakers took note making Billingham Town 33/1 to win the Vase. Today was our cup final, and today we were worthy winners! GET IN BOYS!!! HAPPY MEMORIES!!!
FT Bishop Auckland 1 Billingham Town 2