Sunday, 29 July 2012

It's Chilli for Billi as Town fight back for a draw


A SUPERB second half strike from Carl Chillingsworth gave Town a fully deserved draw in their latest pre-season friendly at Billingham Synthonia on Saturday.

Winning the ball out on the left in the 69th minute, Chillingsworth strode forward before curling a wonderful shot beyond the reach of Synners goalkeeper Josh Moody into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

And it was no more than Town deserved for a stirring second half display which was the best they have produced so far in this pre-season campaign.

After a slow start against Shildon on Wednesday evening -  where they had conceded twice in the opening nine minutes - Town were determined to keep things tighter this time, and they achieved that aim despite starting with a new-look back four.

Craig Winter was the only constant from the Shildon match, with Steve Banks starting at right back, James Bowman at left back and Grant Hickman partnering Winter in the centre. The midfield five saw Ian Smurthwaite alongside Gary Cook and Gav Parkin, with Marcus Laing and Nathan Hemingbrough supporting Chillingsworth in attack.

Town started well and almost got the boost of an early goal when Chillingsworth headed narrowly wide from a Cook set-piece delivery inside six minutes. But it was the Synners who went in front midway through the first half.

Andy Jennings, who has caused Town many problems in the past, beat the offside trap and broke clear down the left before pulling the ball back for the dangerous Shane Henry to finish from close range.

And it was nearly 2-0 moments later. Jennings beat Town keeper James Briggs to a through ball from David Hillaby, but Matt Crossen rolled the ball wide of an empty net from a tight angle.

That would have been harsh on a Town side who had dominated possession up until that point, but they came close to an equaliser twice in as many minutes soon after.

Laing released Cook down the left in the 23rd minute, but his effort from 20 yards was deflected harmlessly into the arms of Moody, while Parkin was then denied by the home keeper from a similar distance in the very next attack.

But for all their hard work, Town were saved only by the woodwork seven minutes before the break. Steven Huggins was given far too much space on the edge of the Town penalty area, and when his initial effort came back off the post, he was unfortunate to see the follow-up deflected over the top.

Town, however, finished the half on top. Cook fired a free kick down the throat of Moody before Chillingsworth was denied by the legs of the Synners keeper in the final attack of the first period.

After failing to have much influence on the game, Hemingbrough was replaced at the break by Adam Emson as Town began the second half - played in a torrential downpour - on the front-foot.

Parkin should have found the target after a great right-wing cross from Cook just past the hour-mark, before Chillingsworth came even closer three minutes later. Bowman did well down the left to find the veteran front-man just inside the penalty area, and he cut inside full-back Andrew Forester to make an angle for the shot. But with the travelling Town fans ready to rise as one in celebration, he somehow placed the ball just the wrong side of the right-hand upright.

He more than made amends for that miss, however, nineteen minutes from time. Pinching the ball from Synners substitute Curtis Collantine out on the left, Chillingsworth burst forward before curling an unstoppable shot into the same corner of the net he had just failed to find.

Either side could then have won it in the closing stages. Emson and Cook both came close for Town, whilst Briggs did well to deny Huggins and Crossen for the hosts. But a draw was probably the right result in the end.

Town manager Mark Fanning was delighted with the efforts of his team. "It was another good performance against a very good side, following on from the Shildon game on Wednesday night" he said.

"We knew we had to defend better and we did that. We restricted them to very few chances. (Andy)Jennings has caused us problems in the past, once scoring four against us for Stokesley, but we barely gave him a sniff here.

"We now travel to Norton on Wednesday before a return trip to Billingham to face Town next weekend, and we will be looking to go into the season with two wins."

More performances like this and you would not bet against them achieving it.

BILLINGHAM SYNTHONIA - Moody, Crossen, McWilliam, Forester, Horsman, Hillerby, Huggins, Henry, Richards, Blyth, Jennings. Subs - Cattermole, Collantine, Dowson, Wrath.

TOWN - Briggs, Banks, Bowman, Hickman, Winter, Smurthwaite, Hemingbrough, Parkin, Cook, Chillingsworth, Laing. Subs - Dunn, Caisley, Roberts, Butterworth(S), Emson.

Referee - Michael Gillespie

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