East Midlands Counties League: Impressive Holwell ease past Birstall

Kieran Foster adds the coup de grace with a late fourth EMN-160823-093123002
Kieran Foster adds the coup de grace with a late fourth EMN-160823-093123002
0
Have your say

Holwell made it two wins in a row on Saturday when they comfortably dealt with league newcomers Birstall United at Welby Road.

Despite the return of a few experienced players from holiday, manager John Webster was still unable to field his strongest side with Aaron Ridout, Liam Chapman and Andre Fontoura unavailable, while Mark Tinsley failed a medical prior to kick-off.

Holwell's star man Michael Stevenson is congratulated by Ian Bitmead after putting Holwell 3-0 up EMN-160823-093135002

Holwell's star man Michael Stevenson is congratulated by Ian Bitmead after putting Holwell 3-0 up EMN-160823-093135002

Both teams struggled to get to grips with the blustery conditions in a frenetic, scrappy opening.

Holwell looked the more dangerous and Senior league champions Birstall found it hard to deal with the runs of Graham Wells, David Hazeldine and Tom Harris.

Hazeldine had a chance when Reeves sent in a cross from the right, but he just couldn’t control the ball to get a shot away.

With the wind in Holwell’s favour, the visitors’ back four were under severe pressure as Carlton Cropper sent in a couple of searching free-kicks.

Holwell stand-in skipper Chris Hibbitt tangles with his opposite number EMN-160823-093148002

Holwell stand-in skipper Chris Hibbitt tangles with his opposite number EMN-160823-093148002

Wells and Hazeldine fashioned a chance for Chris Hibbitt on the edge of the box, but his shot sailed over, while Cropper’s 30-yard free-kick forced a good low save from Birstall keeper.

Birstall had a rare shot at goal as they got a slight foothold in the game, but the hosts were deservedly in front after 29 minutes.

Ian Bitmead broke up a promising attack near the halfway line and set Wells away into the box. Defenders thought Hazeldine, who was offside, made an attempt to play the ball, but referee Hewins let Wells continue to the bye line and present his strike partner with a tap-in.

Within a minute Holwell were cruising when Michael Stevenson won the ball in midfield and sent Wells through to calmly beat the advancing keeper.

Birstall tried to respond as Lewis Dodd fired a shot over, but Bitmead and Sam Kibble at the back had the measure of most attacks.

Another teasing Cropper free-kick came all the way through to Bitmead at the back post but his header was just wide.

Cropper did well to stay on the pitch a moment later when he escaped with a yellow card for a lunging tackle on Dodd which some refs may have deemed a two-footed tackle with both feet off the ground.

Holwell continued to dominate, but right on half-time Dodd almost got Birstall back into the game when his shot from the far edge of the 18-yard box crashed back off Witham’s right-hand post.

As expected, Birstall began the second half strongly and for the first five minutes pressured the home side.

Witham had to make two quickfire saves, while Young missed from close range.

But Holwell had soon weathered the storm and Stevenson put the hosts further ahead with an audacious back header which bewildered the visitors’ keeper, from yet another Cropper free-kick on 55 minutes.

Birstall threw on all subs in an effort to get something out of the game, but their play disintegrated.

Kieran Foster replaced Hazeldine and combined well with Harris as Holwell turned up the tempo in the last 20 minutes.

Holwell’s dominance was such Foster could have had a hat-trick, and was rewarded for his effort with six minutes left.

Put through by the outstanding Stevenson, he easily slipped the ball past Shilliam to add gloss to a good home performance.

Holwell: J. Witham, D. Reeves, I. Bitmead, S. Kibble, C. Cropper, C. Hibbitt, B. Smith, M. Stevenson, T. Harris, D. Hazeldine (K. Foster), G. Wells. Subs: T. Barnard, E. Chiavetta.