Birtley Town 1 Jarrow 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two

You couldn’t get a cigarette paper between these two teams after 90 minutes.  Jarrow were marginally the better team in the first half and a goal to the good, Birtley with the upper hand and the equaliser in the second.

The managers thought a draw was just about right, and who am I to disagree?

Birtley fell behind in the 6th minute.  They almost got away with a mistake by keeper Jordan Bolton who missed a clearance, with the ball rolling under his boot.  He was rescued by centre back Connor Lane who booted it out for a corner before a Jarrow player could pounce.

The reprieve only lasted a couple of seconds when Jarrow No. 9 Jonathan Higham had a free header from the ball sent into the box

His opposite number – Joe Barwick – levelled it up in the 61st minute when a long ball from the back was flicked on by Anthony Smith and Barwick thumped it home.

There may not have been a bagful of chances and shots but that didn’t detract from a competitive encounter, with both teams looking to go forward at every opportunity.

When they did get a shot away, Birtley’s strikes mostly lacked power to really trouble Jak Wells in the Jarrow goal.  The home side’s strongest shot of the first half came from Kallum Hampson-Broadhead who managed to hit the target from a tight angle close to the by-line that Wells could only punch away.

In front of Wells, Jarrow No. 5 and captain Jordan Mellish hoovered up everything in and around the box with an impressive defensive display.  At the other end he was within inches of connecting with a cross by Jonathan Wightman in the 49th minute.

Birtley had three shots in as many minutes by Smith, Barwick and Davidson just after the 70th minute.

The last chance fell to Barwick who tried to squeeze the ball between Wells and the post, but the keeper just managed to get to it.

The last thing of note was in the 90th minute when there was a communal “Ooohhh!!” from the Jarrow dugout when they thought Bolton was about to spill the ball in front of one of their strikers, only for the Birtley No. 1 to gather it safely with one hand.  (And to be honest, for a split second I also thought he might not keep a hold of it.)

PS:  Congratulations to referee Paul Mosley who I thought had a really strong game – playing advantage when others might have blown the whistle for fouls and letting strong tackles go rather than penalising them.  Common sense also prevailed in the second half when Jarrow’s Dean Martin was fouled by Birtley No. 10 James Davidson.  There was a hint of a confrontation but a quiet word with both of them ended in a handshake between the two of them.  Problem sorted.

PPS:  Talking of having a quiet word, one player was given some wise advice from his own dugout:  “Shut your mouth and get on with your game.”  It came a little bit too late as he was booked for dissent.

Mike Snowdon