Thursday, 7 March 2013

Town's League Cup run over as Synners triumph in extra time


Gav Parkin, right, battles for possession against Billingham Synthonia at the RGPS last night
Town crashed out of the Brooks Mileson League Challenge Cup on Wednesday evening, but there was certainly no disgrace in the performance as they took Division One side Billingham Synthonia all the way to extra time.

After a hard fought 90 minutes, Town finally ran out steam in the extra period as an unfortunate own goal from Stu Dunn along with further efforts from Dan Newby and Chay Liddle sent the Synners through.

Manager Mark Fanning again rotated his squad with Stephen Banks, David Alderson, Steve Butterworth, Col Anderson and Grant Hickman all returning to the side after being rested for the weekend draw with Ryton.

Another change was in formation as Fanning switched to a 4-5-1 with Carl Chillingsworth the lone striker, supported from midfield by Butterworth and Anderson.

The RGPS Stadium looking great on a cold, misty night
The tie got off to an explosive start with early chances at both ends. Aiden Cattermole was denied by Town goalkeeper James Briggs, while at the other end Anderson and Chillingsworth combined well for the latter to hit a half-volley narrowly over the top.

The remainder of the first half however, become a dour midfield battle with chances at a premium. Town had to reorganise inside half an hour when Anderson limped off with a groin injury giving young Callum Fletcher, who had starred in the previous round against Whickham, another opportunity to impress.

But it was the Division One visitors who should have been in front just before the break. Robbie Bettison was brought down by Alderson right on the edge of the area but referee Gary Liddle ruled it was just inside and pointed to the spot. However, Kieran Edwards blasted the kick off the top of the crossbar and into the car park.

Billingham began to get on top in the second period but they could find no way past an inspired Briggs. The Town 'keeper did well to keep out a header from Daniel McWilliams ten minutes after the resumption before producing an incredible double save to deny both Bettison and Cattermole.

Man of the match James 'Safe Hands' Briggs
Town were working extremely hard to keep the Synners at bay but offered very little of an attacking threat, with Chillingsworth often cutting a isolated figure. But while it remained 0-0, Town always had a chance and Fanning brought on Adam Emson twelve minutes from time in a late bid to snatch victory.

And it almost paid off with five minutes of normal remaining. Emson got clear down the left after a lovely ball from Gav Parkin, but his low cross was gathered by Synners 'keeper Tim Griffiths with Fletcher waiting to pounce.

However, the visitors could have spared the freezing crowd extra time when substitute Joel Callendar finally beat Briggs only to see his stoppage time effort come back off the left-hand upright.

But the Synners did make the breakthrough just three minutes into the first extra period, although it took the intervention of Town substitute Dunn to finally beat Briggs. Callendar's shot from the edge of the penalty area was heading towards to the corner flag until Dunn, who had only just replaced Alderson, stuck out a leg and diverted the ball into his own net.

Town were almost level within a minute when the ball fell kindly to Emson on the edge of the area but he did not get a good contact and Griffiths saved with ease.

Billingham celebrate their second goal
That proved to be the turning point as Billingham doubled their lead three minutes into the second extra period. Edwards played Matthew Crossen in down the right and he raced past Ian Smurthwaite before drilling the ball across the 6 yard box for Newby to turn home.

Town rallied as Hickman saw a header tipped onto the crossbar Griffiths while Butterworth then chipped narrowly over the top from 25 yards.

But it was the visitors who completed the scoring in the final minute. James Dowson lifted the ball over the top of the Town defence and the impressive Liddle, who had been the best player on the pitch, rounded Briggs to roll in the goal he deserved.

"You could not question our work-rate or commitment," said Fanning. "But the better side won in the end.

"I do not like losing any game but in the circumstances this is not a disaster for us. We have once again matched a side from Division One over 90 minutes and that will hold us in good stead.

"At 0-0 we felt we had a chance of nicking it but it was not to be. However, I will take defeat here if we can now go on and win our next 14 games."

The management team with much to ponder at the final whistle
There was some good news for Town with a league defeat for promotion rivals North Shields at home to Thornaby, and Fanning's side will look to take advantage when they visit Chester-le-Street on Saturday.

TOWN - Briggs, Alderson, Smurthwaite, Banks, Hickman, Parkin, Butterworth, Laing, Chillingsworth, Anderson, Bowman. Subs - Dunn, Emson, Fletcher, Winter.

BILLINGHAM SYNTHONIA - Griffiths, Crossen, McWilliams, Robinson, Abel, Liddle, Edwards, Newby, Bettison, Jameson, Cattermole. Subs - Callendar, Dowson, Lavan, Turton, Forster.

REFEREE: G. Liddle.


*Pictures copyright of Paul Gaythorpe at Pk4 Images. No unauthorised uses allowed.

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