Billingham Town Football Club
I will start with the positives! There were signs of the old Town in the first half. The Town that started the new year in imperious form, based on a stoic defence and protected by an industrious midfield. Stewart Bath, John Maddison, Ashley Lavan and Luke Hogan worked their socks off and for large parts of the opening forty five minutes, were the better side. Despite losing Chris Dickinson to what appears to be a minor hamstring injury, the away side pressed and probed with intent. Craig Hutchinson and Daniel Lambert spearheaded the attack and the two forwards were involved in Towns first foray on goal. Hutchinson exerted pressure on the Ryhope keeper and his weak clearance fell kindly for Lambert on the edge of the box but his low shot was saved by the retreating shotstopper. Again, Lambert linked up with Hutchinson who appeared to be a yard offside but the keeper denied the mercurial striker. Moments later, Hutchinson earned a penalty from a heavy challenge from behind and scored his second penalty in successive games. Town looked full of confidence as half time approached. Maddison, Hutchinson and Hogan combined but the ex Esh Winning winger shot wide.
HT Ryhope CW 0 Billingham Town 1
And now for the negatives. I am not one for clichés.... But this was a proverbial game of two half's. Ryhope came out for the second half full of running, pace and power and it unnerved Towns back four. The away side looked shellshocked as Ryhope hit Town for four in a mad thirteen minutes......unlucky for Town....... not so for Ryhope who will ply their trade in division one next season. The first goal came from a free header and the second was a follow up after Stockburn made the initial save. The third goal was the most disappointing one because I could see it coming. The Town rearguard failed to read the near post corner and were duly punished for it. The fourth goal came from another header and game over!! Stephen Oakley who has had a truncated pre season, looked back to his best, making several crucial challenges and once Town have a settled back four, the big man will be an integral cog in the machine that at times, breaks down too easily.
Billingham did end the game with a positive mindset. The early promise shown by Lambert and Hutchinson had been snuffed out in the second half but a fine move ended with a another goal for Hutchinson. Assistant Manager, Graham Popple introduced three trialists and all three can be satisfied with their efforts. So, one friendly to go and it's this Saturday against Coxhoe Athletic at Bedford Terrace. If Town can take heart from the first half performance, and play with that intensity for ninety minutes, then improvement will come and we will see the old Town in a new season.
FT Ryhope CW 4 Billingham Town 2