Birtley Town’s double quest comes to an end

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BIRTLEY Town’s hopes of claiming a double by winning promotion and the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup, ended at the hands of STL Northern League Second Division leaders Team Northumbria last night.

Scott Oliver’s side, who are fourth-top, went ahead on 34 minutes when Danny Smart lobbed goalkeeper Andrew Jennison.

Early in the second half, John Redhead fired past Neil Bussey for the equaliser and 12 minutes from time Jack Palmer’s strike earned Team their place in the semi-finals.

In Division Two, Washington lost a five-goal thriller to Alnwick Town at St James’ Park when three of the goals were scored in a frenetic opening five minutes.

Chris Moffat latched on to a poor back-pass in the second minute and John Colley doubled the home side’s lead with a clinical finish from 20 yards.

The Newtowners battled back and on five minutes Lee Hamilton headed wide of goalkeeper Brian Brooks.

There was then a 47-minute lull in the scoring before another defensive lapse allowed Colley to score his second goal of the game.

Washington were then given a lifeline in the 74th minute with a header from John Wear, but Alnwick held on to improve their position near the bottom.

In the First Division, two sides fighting to avoid the drop both won.

Tow Law Town claimed crucial points with an unexpected victory over Newcastle Benfield at the rain-soaked Ironworks Road ground.

The only goal came after 34 minutes when a cross from Matthew Scott was fired into the net by Mark Nixon.

Ian Graham had a good chance for Benfield and in the second half visiting goalkeeper Andrew Grainger foiled Nixon on three occasions.

South Shields stay in the bottom six, but they too celebrated a surprise victory against top-six side Newton Aycliffe at Filtrona Park.

A corner from Stuart Owen was headed home by Stephen Bogie after 28 minutes, but the Mariners quickly drew level with a fine solo effort from Denver Morris who beat two defenders before firing past Scott Pocklington.

Within 40 seconds of the restart Shields were in front for the first time. Johnny Wightman’s effort was blocked and Andrew Barclay pounced on the rebound from 15 yards.

Consett are seventh from the basement after losing to Ashington, for whom Marc Walton struck twice against one of his former clubs.

Gareth Bainbridge added a third goal before Michael Mackay converted a late penalty for the Steelmen.

H Sunderland RCA could be toppled from pole position tonight by West Auckland Town, but the FA Carlsberg Vase semi-finalists could find it difficult at Guisborough Town who have improved considerably since the turn of the year.

Third-placed Spennymoor Town will also be looking to close in on the Wearsiders when they meet Bishop Auckland in the local derby at The Brewery field.