Birkenhead United have become the third Northern League team to make sure of qualification to this year’s National League after being Hamilton Wanderers 2-0 under the Tuesday night lights at Shepherds Park.
The result moves United into second place on the table but leaves Wanderers hanging precariously to their hopes of making the top four split.
Birkenhead took the lead midway through the first half when they won a free kick wide on the right flank.
The ball was knocked to the far post where Andrew Cromb got a clear header, pounding it into the net.
Both goalkeepers were busy late in the half, with end-to-end play.
The turning point in the game came a few minutes into the second half when Wanderers’ Mark Jones was given a straight red for a foul, leading to a couple of minutes of confusion as referee Calvin Berg tried to calm tempers, and Birkenhead’s Luke Jorgensen was shown yellow.
Wanderers kept pushing forward despite being a man down and Birkenhead were content to hold their lead.
With 10 minutes to go, Wanderers went down to nine men when ‘keeper Matt Oliver was sent off for denying Birkenhead an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
The home side’s second goal came four minutes into stoppage time after Wanderers failed to deal with a short corner that led to the ball being passed across the face of the goal, for Cameron Mackenzie to score from close range.
The final whistle confirmed Birkenhead’s place in the National League and left Wanderers players dejected for the second time in a few days, following their 1-0 Chatham Cup semi-final loss.
It’s now between Melville United and Hamilton Wanderers for the fourth and final place, and Melville can go five points clear of their arch-rivals with a win at Eastern Suburbs on Wednesday (August 24).
Melville United play Eastern Suburbs (a), North Shore United (h) and Wanderers (a).
Wanderers play Manukau United (h) and Melville (h).
Main photo: Birkenhead scorer Cameron Mackenzie (20) slides into sideline supporters and is congratulated by teammates after his stoppage time goal. Source: Screengrab, Bev’s Broadcasting Stream.
Game played Tuesday August 23, 2022
Birkenhead United 2 (Andrew Cromb 24′, Cameron Mackenzie 90’+4′)
Hamilton Wanderers 0