Birtley Sports Complex
Northern League First Division Billingham Synthonia survived a late scare against battling Birtley to qualify for the next round of the Cup. With a decent crowd, with many followers heading up the A1 from Teesside, cheering the sides on, both teams were desperate for some FA Cup success.
Buoyed on by Saturday’s draw, Birtley started on the offensive as they looked to cause an upset and the first real opportunity of the game fell to Birtley skipper Steven Burns, who beat Liam McPhillips before striking a near post effort which Christopher Porter did well to save.
This woke Synners up, and they sprung into life almost immediately. They almost opened the scoring when Danny Earl beat a defender and struck a fine strike past keeper Andrew Mallinson, only to see his effort cleared off the line.
Synthonia did not have to wait long to open the scoring though. After winning a corner on the left, Colin Iley and David Yale played a quick one-two before Iley fired a cross into the area and captain Darren Hollingsworth rose highest to power a header home into the back of the net.
The visitors were now starting to settle, and they had chances to extend their lead through Andrew Harbron and the influential Yale. They did eventually double their lead on 39 minutes. when Iley used some great trickery to beat the full-back and fire a dangerous cross into the area. The ball fell to McPhillips, who knocked it to James Magowan to smash the ball past the keeper and give Synners a two goal lead at the break.
With 45 minutes to keep their Cup dreams alive, Birtley came into the second half like a different team. As they pushed forward in search of a comeback, they left themselves exposed at the back and Synners had several break away chances which they failed to convert.
Synners were punished on 67 minutes as Birtley grabbed a lifeline. After a great build-up, Kris Hughes struck a powerful volley past the despairing Porter to get his team back into the game.
The home team and their followers could sense the chance of a comeback as the small ground started to buzz with excitement. Game on.
With time ticking away, Birtley were throwing more and more men forward as they looked for an equaliser, but found the Synners backline, particularly Man of the Match Hollingsworth, hard to break down.
After 87 minutes, Birtley had two corners but failed to convert any of them into scoring chances and they were soon to be punished. As Synthonia held the ball upfield in the corner, Earl collected the ball and jinked past one defender before squaring to Michael Jameson who fired past the keeper.
Birtley did themselves proud on this warm summers night in the North-East, but must be left rueing the late equaliser they conceded on Saturday at Billingham. Next up for Synners is an away tie at Morpeth Town.