A mild but windy September afternoon greeted two teams in decent form, Esh finding themselves in the top half of the table after two impressive league wins on the bounce and Town pushing towards the promotion places as expected.
The big worry for Esh before the game was how they would handle the wind after a poor performance against Easington in the same conditions earlier this season.
The first half saw chances at either end, the better chances being created by Billingham Town, the first such chance falling to Connor Hood cutting in from the left hand side before unleashing a rocket of a shot that whistled a yard past the opposite post, with Fish in the Esh goal rooted and looking relieved to see it wide.
A few runs into the channel by both Reece Brown and Daniel Kent produced good dangerous crosses into the Town box. Unfortunately Nick Marley just being unable to reach either of them.
A huge opportunity presented itself to Billingham Town on the 16th minute, with Hood whipping a dangerous low cross into the Esh box across the 6 yard line, Max Stoker getting a toe on it to deflect it past one striker, however the ball finding its way to an unmarked Gary Redman on the corner of the 6 yard box, hitting a quick shot it looked destined to open the scoring until the first save of an impressive afternoon for Fish saw him manage to somehow get a leg on the ball and deflect it to safety.
Just a minute later Town nearly scored a bizarre goal after Stoker looked to find a way out of trouble on the edge of his own box, looking to clear his lines he puts his foot through it, Chris Dickinson sticking a boot in to get a block deflected the ball just over a stranded Mark Fish’s goal, a let off for Esh.
The best chance of the half for Esh came after some lovely football including Gav Brown, Boakes, Allison and Marley; the latter finding a lovely through ball to Kent on the right wing, he whips in a first time ball which was possibly an inch to high for an unmarked Reece Brown on the edge of the 6 yard box, who could not control his header and blazed over.
28′ Goal Billingham Town 1 (Dickinson) – 0 Esh Winning
After a period of sustained pressure the ball found its way to Redman on the right wing, he looks up and sends in a perfect delivery to find Chris Dickinson 10 yards out who diverts it to the bottom left corner leaving Fish with no chance.
The rest of the half passed with much of the play in the middle third of the pitch, whilst being end to end there was no real chances, a long range effort from Gav Brown which was straight at Hodgson in the Town goal the best of them.
HT: Billingham Town 1 – 0 Esh Winning
The start of the second half saw a different Esh side come out, looking to take the game to Town, the first chance saw a beautiful ball from Reece Brown pick out Callum Boakes on the right of the 18 yard box, dropping a shoulder and leaving Lee Moore on his backside he finds himself on edge of the 6 yard box, getting the ball on his favoured left foot he forces Hodgson into a smart save at his near side, tipping the ball onto the post and out for a corner.
Increasing Esh pressure resulted in more free kicks being generated in the Town half, a quick thinking Boakes spots Reece Brown making a dart into the penalty area, swivelling he should really have done better with the effort which is straight at a grateful Hodgson who was out to narrow the angle.
Town’s first effort of the second half saw a viscous shot from Dickinson acrobatically tipped over by Fish.
75′ Goal Billingham Town 1 – 1 (Boakes) Esh Winning
A much deserved leveller and a contender for goal of the season came after a hurried clearance from the defence sees the ball find its way to Callum Boakes, some 40 yards out, he takes a touch, the ball sitting up nicely, strikes a 35 yard howitzer of a shot which finds its way over former Esh keeper Mark Hodgson and into the top of the goal, an exceptional strike silencing the ever increasing noise from the Town faithful and sending the Esh bench wild.
They say the most dangerous time for a team is straight after a goal has been scored, and so it proved today, straight from the kick off the ball finds its way to Dickinson 20 yards out, he strikes a low effort only to be thwarted by a good save down low by Fish, the rebound being picked up again by Dickinson who gets a dangerous low cross that for all the world looked like it was to be tapped in by the Town striker who found his way in front of Summerson, however Fish had different ideas somehow getting a glove onto the cross, diverting it away from the striker, Stoker sweeping up.
A minute later after a defensive lapse by Summerson, sees Dickinson again free, yet again Fish thwarts the effort, producing another save with his feet to divert the ball away for a corner.
The last 10 minutes saw Town threaten the Esh goal more and more without too many clear cut chances being a created. A few dangerous looking free kicks put in by Dickinson saw pressure put on the Esh side, the most noticeable saw a towering header from captain Oakley put wide of the post when he really should have hit the target. Another chance that should have been on target followed a cross from Redman, the substitute Kirkbridge having a relatively easy header at the back post headed it a long way wide.
Into injury time and the last chance of the match saw another town substitute McDonald hit a hopeful looking long range shot, Stoker getting a touch on the ball however diverted it up and over Mark Fish in the Esh goal; fortunately for the Stags the crossbar was not to be beaten, clipping it the ball went out for a corner.
The final whistle was greeted with happiness from Esh and disappointment from Town, it was a fair result and again shows how far The Stags have come this season. Finally having a mid week off, we resume action away at Alnwick next week.
Billingham Town XI: Hodgson, Moore, Dixon, Ruddy, Oakley (c), Summers, Redman, Fenton, Travers, Dickinson (g), Hood
Subs: Kirkbridge, Lambert, Beddow, McDonald, Lavan
Esh Winning XI: Fish, Mordue, Swift, Stoker (c), G. Brown (Bailey 70′), Summerson (y), Boakes (g), Allison, Marley, Kent (Wigley 56′), R. Brown (Mann 73′)
Unused Subs: Hird, Wilkinson
Referee: M. Carroll
Assistants: K. Barron, A. Morton
Please note that all views expressed are my own and are not in any way associated to the club.