Guisborough Town 3, Birtley Town 4 (Northern League – Division One)

Guisborough Town striker Jason Blackburn looked to have had the perfect comeback when he scored after more than a year out following a horrific broken ankle.

His 79th minute spot kick had pulled the Priorymen level at 3-3 in a topsy-turvy game – but alas his goal wasn’t enough to ensure a fairy-tale return as just three minutes later Birtley scored to end up 4-3 victors.

The game itself was just one of the handful of Northern League games played – a great testament to the superb efforts of Guisborough Town’s volunteer ground staff team. Despite racing to a 2-0 lead in less than half an hour, Guisborough should have scored at least double that amount had they converted more of the excellent chances they created.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Guisborough midfielder Ben Cummings sets up a forward move

The Priorymen got off to a perfect start by taking the lead after only five minutes when captain Jordan Fielding scored with a smart near-post glancing header. They doubled their lead on 28 minutes when defender James Frazer showed what a great utility player he is by getting up front and scoring at the near post with another header.

Then, just as Guisborough were looking forward to going in at half-time with a comfortable lead, Birtley pulled a goal back when centre forward Stephen Hall rose unchallenged in the Guisborough penalty area to power home a header for 2-1.

In the second half, Birtley pressed hard for an equaliser and Guisborough were indebted to goalkeeper Robert Dean, who pulled off three really terrific saves to keep Birtley at bay. But they drew level in the 72nd minute when Birtley were awarded a penalty after a Guisborough defender was adjudged to be holding on unfairly and up stepped Birtley centre half Alex Francis to power home the spot kick for 2-2.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Guisborough defender Alex Nelson gets to grips with a Birtley attacker

Birtley took the lead for the first time in the game just four minutes later when Matty Ward surged through the Guisborough defence virtually unchallenged to put his side 3-2 ahead.

The game was flowing from end to end with both sets of players giving it their all and in the 79th minute Guisborough were awarded a penalty when midfielder Joe Pickett was bundled over in the box. This was Jason Blackburn’s big chance to mark his return after injury with a goal and he smashed the ball confidently home into the corner, sending the Birtley ‘keeper the wrong way. After the game Jason said it was a special moment for him to score after being out of the game for so long. “It was a great feeling,” he said. But he added: “It was very disappointing to lose after all the effort the lads put in.”

However, no sooner had Guisborough drawn level through Blackburn’s penalty than Birtley regained the lead when substitute Glen Hargrave burst up front and scored to clinch a memorable 4-3 victory for his side, much to the dismay of the Guisborough fans.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Guisborough midfielder Jack Bailey puts in a great tackle

After the game a frustrated Guisborough manager Steve Bell said: “I’m not going to lie, this one really hurt today. We seem to be like the Tottenham Hotspur of non-league at the moment, dominating most games but still ending up on the losing side. Today’s game was crazy. It’s no exaggeration to say if we’d walked in at half-time 5-0 up it wouldn’t have flattered us, instead we conceded a 44th minute goal to go in just one goal up instead of being 2-0 ahead.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Guisborough defender James Frazer (No 5) gets up well at the near post to beat the Birtley 'keeper

The attendance was 149 and sitting in the stand watching were two former well-known local professional footballers, ex-Boro and Chelsea midfielder Tony McAndrew and former Hartlepool and Darlington player and assistant manager to both clubs, Eddie Kyle. Both were very impressed with the standard of play and the high level of commitment showed by both teams.

Sitting between them was the multi award-winning journalist and former Northern League chairman Mike Amos.