BILLINGHAM TOWN LINE UP: Lewis McDonald, Jordan Patterson, Matthew Robinson, Shaun Ross, James Frazer, Kris Summers, Connor Dunlavey, Jack Connor (C), Elliott Beddow, Ash Lavan, Jamie Poole. Subs: Kallum Hannah, David Hillerby, Reece Kenney, Nick Cranston
STOCKTON TOWN LINE UP: Lee Callum Roberts, Lewis King, Dan McWilliams, Jordan Robinson, Adam Nicholson (C), Tom Coulthard, Kevin Hayes, Tom Portas, Michael Roberts, Fred Woodhouse, Peter Bulmer. Subs: Max Craggs, Cieran Jackson, Nathan Mulligan, Jamie Owens, James Ward
GOALS: Peter Bulmer (9'), Kevin Hayes (21', 76'), Jordan Robinson (51'), Max Craggs 81, Adam Nicholson (90')
Welcome to division one Billingham Town! The gulf in class from division one to division two can be personified by this result but so too at Shildon where Thornaby were hammered in an 8-1 defeat at Dean Street.
Over at Consett - Northallerton also endured defeat but in a creditable 1-0 loss. All three promoted clubs will have better days than this, but the established elite have the wherewithal to take teams apart. Billingham were down to the bare bones today with no less than eight players missing due to holidays, injuries and other various reasons.
That’s not an excuse - even a full, fit squad would have had trouble containing Stockton’s onslaught. The movement, pace, and fitness levels were on a different level altogether. Kenny Hayes was highlighted beforehand as the lynchpin of a multifaceted squad and he produced a performance of sheer brilliance. Maybe other sides will consider man marking him in the future but good luck with that! Hayes is on the path to being the best player in the Northern League. Elsewhere, If it wasn’t for an outstanding goalkeeping display from Lewis McDonald, the scoreline could have been even uglier.
At the other end, Callum Roberts was virtually redundant but only he will know why he came rushing out of his goalmouth to leave Elliott Beddow poleaxed on the floor. The game had to be delayed for twelve minutes as Beddow required extensive assistance while Roberts trudged off the field after receiving a straight red card. Moments before that infamous event, Kris Summers saw red for keeping out Mikey Roberts goal-bound header with his hand. The football was one sided, the fair play factor more even!
Paul Edwards, who was assisted by Craig Haley will be concerned with the injury to Beddow but also to Ash Lavan who limped off towards the end - leaving Town with only nine men. There will be no time to dwell on this result though as Billingham have a trip to Whitley Bay on Tuesday night to plan for.
The home side actually began the game with some promise - Beddow with the angled finish which avoided the far post but it only took Stockton nine minutes to take the lead. Fred Woodhouse’s pull back into the middle nonchalantly dispatched by Peter Bulmer and worse was to follow when the Anchors doubled their lead when Hayes was given too much time and space to pick his spot from eighteen yards out.
Just shy of the half hour mark, Connor Dunlavey took out Jordan Robinson from behind for a soft looking penalty although McDonald read Roberts spot kick perfectly. Billlingham finished the half with a spell of pressure of their own - the best chance falling to Lavan who’s curling shot was just off target.
The game was over as a contest when Summers hand-balled on the line and saw red but once again, McDonald dived to his right and once again, Roberts went the same way as before, ending with the same outcome. It wasn’t a good day if your surname was Roberts - Roberts one saw red for his outrageous challenge on Beddow - Roberts two, taking over goalkeeping duties, maybe sensing it wasn’t going to be his day either!
With space becoming more apparent on the pitch, and with Stocktons firepower on the bench coming to the fore, it was a case of damage limitation. The third goal came via Robinson’s posterior, who got in the way of Jack Connor’s defensive clearance and Hayes second goal had an element of deja-vu but from further distance. Max Craggs, known for the odd majestic set piece strike achieved just that for the fifth and the sixth was a close range Adam Nicholson header.
There was still time for McDonald to make several saves of quality and for Stockton to hit the woodwork twice as the game drifted towards five o’clock. There will be some tired legs on Sunday morning - the punishing exploits of division one already on view!