LAST season, Birtley Town were too near the bottom of the Ebac Northern League Second Division for comfort and eventually finished sixth from the basement.
How times have changed. Last night’s stunning 6-2 win over Whickham propelled Paul Bryson’s side to the top of the table, a point ahead of Heaton Stannington and two in front of Seaham Red Star.
Birtley could hardly have made a better start, scoring twice in the opening 20 minutes through Matthew Fisher, with a good run and shot past goalkeeper John Mordey, and Daniel Taggart who beat three defenders before firing home.
Whickham hit back when Roddi Nellis headed in a corner but Callum Hope quickly added a third goal with a clinical finish that gave visiting goalkeeper Mordey no chance.
Before the interval, however, Stephen Aiston found himself in space to score and with just one goal separating the sides going into the second half, it was anyone’s game.
But Birtley stepped up a gear to hit their opponents for six. Taggart completed his hat-trick with two good efforts and Hope was again on target for his second goal of the night, leaving Mordey helpless when he broke free down the middle.
Birtley have won five and drawn two of their seven games. Only they and North Shields boast unbeaten records.
Marske United, the only team to have won every game, returned to the top of the First Division with a 2-0 win at Team Northumbria.
Liam O’Sullivan fired home on nine minutes and four minutes later Andrew Jennings also struck.