Ground Number: 359
Saturday 19th April 2014
Birtley Town 3-1 Chester Le Street
Northern League Division 2
BIRTLEY TOWN - A BRIEF HISTORY
The current Birtley Town FC was established in 1992, though another club existed in the town from 1889 until 1952 when they dropped out of football. The new club joined the Wearside League Division 2 and spent three years there before winning the title in 1995. They then spent twelve seasons in the Wearside's top and at sometimes only tier until they won the title in 2007. Promotion to the Northern League followed but they remained in its second tier with their best finish being 6th in 2012. In 2016 however, they finished second-bottom and were relegated to the Northern Alliance. In 2018, they won promotion back as runners-up behind Newcastle University. This was good enough for promotion back to the Northern League and after some lower mid-table finishes, they struck gold last season. A 5th place finish was good enough for a shot at the playoffs. They were the outsiders but overcame Horden CW and Billingham Town, both on penalties to reach Division 1 for the first time in their history.
Birtley Town have played four campaigns in the FA Cup. Their best and only progress came in 2012 when they overcame North Shields in a replay before losing 4-1 to West Auckland Town in the Preliminary Round. So far their best progress in the FA Vase came in 2021. They beat Knaresborough Town and Swallownest before a respectable 3-1 defeat at Bury in the 2nd Round. Local cup honours include three Wearside League Cups, the Northern Alliance League Cup in 2018 and the Monkwearmouth Cup in 2002. Birtley is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, in Tyne and Wear. It is situated to the south of Gateshead and is conjoined to Chester-le-Street across the county boundary in County Durham. The population is just under 8,400.
MY FIRST VISIT
For the third and final game of day one (at least for me anyway) on the Northern League Hop, it would be Birtley Town v Chester Le Street, a local derby of teams near Gateshead. I had been to the ground before, whilst on the way to South Shields when I was up in the area for a Wycombe game in the North East. So I had got pictures, or more to the point, I hadn't, as it was so foggy that day that I couldn't see a thing. So it would be nice to revisit what looked quite a basic ground at the time, for a game. One thing I noticed when looking for information is that they have neither a website nor an active Twitter, which can't really help trying to attract new fans. After the Washington game, I was ready to shoot off to the Barley Mow, a pub near Birtley's ground as soon as the final whistle blew. My CAMRA app promised real cider, but all they had was Strongbow. I made do with that and watched the Newcastle v Swansea game which the Welsh side won with a last-minute penalty which didn't leave the whole of the pub who supported Newcastle happy, but I did think of my Swansea supporting friends who would have been well chuffed with the result.
After that, I made my way to the ground, after collecting stuff from my car. I went in and got some chips, though no curry sauce as Stu had the last of it. I settled down along the side of the pitch for the game and typed my blog and went on Facebook while I waited for the game to start. It was a cagey opening to the game but Birtley on a long losing streak opened the scoring on 27 minutes with a shot from inside the area by number 7. It was fairly bland up until 69 minutes when Chester Le Street equalised with a goal very similar to the opener. Almost immediately Birtley regained the lead, number 15 with a decent shot on 71 minutes. The best goal of the game came on 79 minutes, a cracking volley on the spin by Birtley's number 16 making it 3-1 to the home side. That was how it stayed and it was a well-deserved result for the hosts and the best game of the day. After the game, it was off to my guest house in South Shields. After hitting the town with Stu for a couple of pints, I went back to my room and watched Match of the Day before going to bed just before midnight. I was quite pleased with the accommodation, nice and comfortable and clean too.
BIRTLEY SPORTS CENTRE is your usual step 5 or 6 ground. With the only accommodation on one side of the pitch, there are seats and a standing area for around 250 combined. The tea bar is decent - cans of booze are only £1.50 and the food is quite well priced too. There was no club shop that I saw. There was a reasonable pub within walking distance, and a chippy too, but that was closed when I went.