Grand National Day saw Consett exit the Durham Challenge Cup at the first hurdle when a late winner gave Birtley Town a 2-1 win at the Arrowmark Home Improvements Stadium.
The delayed 1st Round tie was the first match in four months for both Consett and their 2nd Division hosts, and Terry Mitchell’s Steelmen looked rusty, to say the least, on their first-ever competitive meeting with their opponents.
After a handful of substitute appearances Daniel Marriott was given a first competitive start for the club, while Darren Holden and Arjun Purewal made their 100th and 150th appearances respectively.
Consett had the first attempt on goal after three minutes when Dale Pearson met Jake Orrell’s corner, but blazed his shot way over the bar.
Marriott was welcomed to the starting XI by a clattering tackle from Sam Hedley, which might have earned a card if it had happened later than the 11th minute.
The challenge set the tone for the behind-closed-doors game, which was punctuated by a series of players needing treatment after robust challenges.
In a first half of few chances it was Birtley who took the lead on 15 minutes when a long ball sent JOE BARWICK clear. He kept his composure to round keeper Kyle Hayes and finish to give the 2nd Division side a 1-0 lead.
Birtley’s Kaleb Young and Consett’s Matty Slocombe were yellow carded for fouls, and Lewis Green came on for Dale Pearson just after the half hour as the game struggled to find any rhythym.
Five minutes before half-time Birtley went close to doubling their lead when Chris Stevens cut in from the left and fired a shot just wide.
Consett’s best chance of an equaliser came just before the break when a through ball left Slocombe with just the keeper to beat. Unselfishly, he chose to square for Ali Alshabeeb instead, but the pass was a poor one and the chance went begging.
Half-time: Birtley Town 1 Consett 0
Consett hadn’t managed a shot on target in the first half, but began the second half with much more urgency, and got themselves back in the game on 57 minutes when SIMON JAKAB headed home Orrell’s free-kick with the help of a deflection, pictured top.
Another free-kick from a similar place four minutes later brought another half-chance, but Jakab couldn’t get enough on his effort from Ross Wilkinson’s knock-down to trouble the keeper.
Clear-cut chances were still few and far between, though Birtley sub Kelvin Thear and Consett’s Alshabeeb joined Young and Slocombe in the referee’s notebook for late tackles.
On 71 minutes Birtley centre-back Owen Lancaster put a half-chance over the bar, while at the other end Marriott’s shot curled wide after he drifted in from the left. The young midfielder then had another chance from Orrell’s corner, but scuffed his effort into the ground.
Just when it looked like a penalty shoot-out was inevitable, Birtley raised their game in the last few minutes in a bid to force a result.
Consett were grateful to Hayes for a good diving save from Lancaster in the 90th minute, diving low to his right. But the Steelmen didn’t heed the warning, and conceded a goal in the fourth of five added minutes.
Jack Honour’s shot was blocked by a combination of Jakab and Wilkinson, and Hayes saved Barwick’s follow-up, but KELVIN THEAR was first to the loose ball for a tap-in which gave Birtley a deserved win.
|10/04/2021||3:00 pm||Durham Challenge Cup||2020-21|
|Club||1st Half||2nd Half||Goals||Outcome|