Taggart in for the kill as Birtley maintain promotion challenge

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BIRTLEY Town remain in the Ebac Northern League Second Division promotion race following Saturday’s victory at Ryton and Crawcrook Albion.

Paul Bryson’s side moved into seventh place and will be only eight points behind third-top Seaham Red Star should the East Durham club not lodge a successful appeal against the three points they were deducted by the management committee for fielding an ineligible player against Brandon United.

It was a close call for Birtley, though, and they just scraped home with an only goal scored by Daniel Taggart in the 23rd minute.

Ryton goalkeeper Conor Gillespie denied Taggart straight from the kick-off and the keeper saved from Jordan Lavery before Taggart curled in a shot from 18 yards.

With the wind behind them, Ryton had chances in the second half notably when David Backhouse and Lee McGill went close but Birtley held on for three crucial points.

Three games went ahead in Division One.

Celtic Nation moved back to the top of the table and deposed Shildon when they claimed a last-gasp winner in a seven-goal thriller.

A record crowd of 649 saw Paul Connor give the visitors an early lead but within four minutes Celtic levelled with a Colin McMenamin penalty.

Mark Hudson then fired in a spot-kick for Shildon only for McMenamin to equalise before the interval.

Shildon suffered a big blow three minutes into the second period. Darren Craddock was deemed to be the last man and when he brought down Michael Rae, was immediately shown a red card.

Willie Gibson gave the Cumbrians the lead for the first time on 77 minutes with an unstoppable free-kick only for 10-man Shildon to battle back with an equaliser from Hudson.

In the last minute, Celtic were awarded a penalty and Shildon goalkeeper Lewis Graham was sent off. McMenamin stepped up and despatched the spot-kick into the net to earn the Cumbrians all three points.

Consett’s all-weather 4G pitch enabled their fixture with Newcastle Benfield to go ahead. Aristote Guerin Lakonga’s shot was deflected by a defender past goalkeeper Andrew Grainger and the Steelmen held the lead until 18 minutes from time when Carl Paterson beat Daniel Regan.

The only other fixture to be played was on the Billingham Synthonia pitch which has an excellent reputation for its drainage. Scott Swanston fired Morpeth Town into an 11th-minute lead and two minutes into the second period Matthew Osmond restored parity from close range.

With two minutes of normal time to go, Swanston was shown a straight red card for a tackle on Foster Garton and worse was to follow for the Northumbrians. In the 96th minute, they conceded a penalty when Fred Woodhouse was brought down and Michael Sweet stepped up to fire in the winner wide of Steven Mundy.