15 May 2018 – A LIFE OF PIE

Birtley Town 2 Newcastle University 0 – Reeves Independent George Dobbins League Cup (Northern Alliance League)

Apart from the chance to see a game after our league season has concluded, this final was also an opportunity to see two teams that have been vying for promotion to the Ebac Northern League from the Northern Alliance.

And on this showing, both looked well equipped to make the step up. The decisive factor in this cup final were the respective defences.

Within 15 minutes Birtley had secured a two-goal lead thanks to some slack/non-existent marking by the University back four. Within five minutes of the second goal, the University team took control of the game but Birtley’s defence proved to be more resolute and an obstacle Newcastle University couldn’t get past.

Birtley got off to the more solid start and they made it count in the 9th minute when Dan Hill was left all alone at a free kick sent into the University box and he made no mistake with a header to put them 1-0 up.

Newcastle University had a chance of their own two minutes later with Lefteris Alambritis got ahead of a defender and got a shot away, an effort blocked by Birtley keeper Daniel Lister with a diving save.

Poor defending cost them again in the 15th minute when Tony Smith was given bags of space as he got on the end of a ball into the box. His shot gave University keeper Harrison Avery no chance, with very little protection in front of him. Birtley looked more lively and more switched on at the start of the game and had got their rewards.

It took Newcastle University 20 minutes or more to get up to speed. Once they did, they looked a good footballing side – knocking the ball around the pitch with confidence, finding space and keeping possession, with patient build-up play.

When they did get the ball past the back four, Lister was quick enough off his line to twice nick the ball away from Alambritis as he tried to round the keeper.

Newcastle University’s best chance came halfway through the first half. Their No.3 Joshua Ferguson had a shot blocked on the line by his Birtley counterpart Martin Guy. The ball rebounded out to the edge of the box and Lister could only deflect a follow-up shot. It was heading in until Guy pulled off another goal-line clearance only seconds after the first. It was probably the most decisive moment for Newcastle University – it was the closest they came to scoring.

In the second half it was more of the same. Newcastle University keeping the ball with patient build ups, but they came up against a Birtley team who defended deep and in numbers. They got the job done. At times the defending was effective rather than cultured, but it worked. Going forward, Birtley didn’t hold on to the ball as well as University.

In the second half, for all their attacking, University didn’t pose too many serious threats to Lister’s goal. Their best effort was when Matthew Konadu-Yiadom improvised a header with his back to goal, forcing a good save by Lister who tipped the ball over the bar.

The Birtley defence stood firm and saw the game out to lift the trophy.