This encounter between the top two teams lived up to its top rated billing with Birstall United 6 points behind the league leaders with a game in hand. The game had all the ingredients of a mouth-watering affair and certainly did not disappoint.
On the day West Bridgford were without Jamie Spiers, Abou Sylla and Tom Coole but welcomed back experienced goalkeeper Martin Kearney after a shoulder injury and central defender Pat Newsome.
The game started explosively with the home side out of the blocks like ‘Usain Bolt’ but finding the Bridgford rear guard in resolute form.
Unfortunately after 2 minutes the away side suffered the loss of centre half David Belshaw after an awkward fall – Ross McCaughey returning from a long spell on the sideline slotted in at left back and Jonathan Ventrella moved inside to fill the gap.
Bridgford keeper Martin Kearney was soon in the thick of the action making smart saves twice from Dan Jelley and Mitchell Williams as Birstall exerted early pressure.
The away side started to create chances and in front of a large home support took the lead in the 19th minute when Aaron Large slipped home – it was West Bridgford’s 100th league goal of the season and also took the midfielder’s personal tally to 19 for the season. 0-1 (Bridgford)
Tomi Jayeiola and Jurgen Charlesworth tested the home defence further down the flanks and the tireless running of Tim Hopkinson had the Birstall defence in knots. In the 37th minute the league leaders went further ahead when a pinpoint corner from the outstanding Will Heath allowed Tim Hopkinson to bullet a header home. 0-2 (Bridgford)
HT 0-2 (Bridgford)
The second half saw the home side ‘really have an early go’ but were unable to penetrate the Bridgford defence who along with goalkeeper Martin Kearney were magnificent on the day.
The reds weathered the Birstall storm and were starting to look a threat on the counter attack with Will Heath, Kevin Spriggs and Aaron Large taking control in the middle of the park – one or two crunching tackles from Kevin Spriggs really setting the tone.
Hopkinson, Jayeiola and Charlesworth all had further chances for Bridgford.
The home side should have got back into the game when a goal bound effort by Dan Jelley was hooked off the visitors goal line by Aaron Large with the impressive Martin Kearney for once beaten.
Bridgford continued to attack on the break – Hopkinson and Charlesworth both missing one on one opportunities and Aaron Large having a brilliant effort rebound off the upright.
The home side began to get frustrated as the away side were in complete control. Pat Newsome and Jonathn Ventrella were yet again superb at the heart of the defence and the return of Ross McCaughey was a huge plus for the management duo.
All in all it was a great day for the visitors, management and travelling supporters.
One supporter who was missing however his first game of the season was Barry Ingle who had a hernia operation on Thursday – his wife having to lock him in to keep him housebound, the club would like to wish Barry a speedy recovery.
FT 0-2 (Bridgford)
Man Of The Match: David Erentz
Joint Manager Chris Marks was delighted at the full time whistle, ‘It was a terrific performance, Birstall have won 16 of their last 18 games and have been in tremendous form – we knew it would be difficult but Robbo and I have huge faith in our players who were absolutely outstanding on the day’.
Speaking on the chances of winning the East Midland Counties League in their first season Chris Marks and Stuart Robinson were keeping it low key, ‘It’s been a fantastic campaign so far – after promotion last year the target set at the start of the season was to cement our place in the top half of the table, we have exceeded our expectations and regardless of where we finish from here on it will go down as a truly remarkable achievement from all the coaching staff and players.’
By John Burns