16th July 2001 - BIRMINGHAM BULLS 40-20 GATESHEAD SENATORS
Bulls played a home game for the first time in the 2001 BSL, when they improved to 3-2 by
beating a hard-working but ultimately outgunned Senators side. The visitors ran the Bulls
close, particularly in the first half, holding the Bulls to a slim 7-0 lead, but when QB
Dave Winter found his range after the interval, Birmingham racked up 33 second half
points, including two safeties and the winning margin eventually reflected the difference
between the teams. Although the Senators drop to 5-2, they are still on course for the
play-offs, whereas Birmingham still have work to do to secure a post-season place.
Gateshead made the better start and threatened when U.S. import Larry Mann found Ian
Mullins on a half back option pass for 33 yards, but the Bulls defence held and forced the
Senators into a 36-yard field goal attempt that Gary Marshall sliced wide right. The
deadlock was broken near the end of the 1st quarter when Bulls fullback Will Powell drove
in from 4 yards out. Nick Burt's PAT gave Birmingham a 7-0 lead. The 8-play, 69-yard drive
was keyed by a 39-yard run around left end by Paul Duncan, whose 136 rushing yards on the
day gave the Bulls a clear edge.
Powell's score was the only one of the first half, the second quarter being dominated by
the respective defences. The Senators were held to only 8 offensive yards in the quarter,
but Birmingham were unable to capitalise.
Although a long Bulls drive early in the second half petered out, a well-placed punt by
Mark Cohen pinned Gateshead on their own 8-yard line. Veteran Ken 'Spats' Lewis sacked QB
Lee Fraser on 1st Down, then Mark Connolly trapped Fraser in the endzone for the safety
and a 9-0 lead. Birmingham took the free kick and, again using Paul Duncan's running,
drove into Gateshead territory, where Duncan was rewarded by running in from 11 yards out.
Now facing a 16-0 deficit, the Senators did themselves no favours by fumbling on their
first offensive play after the score, RB Michael Thompson dropping Fraser's pitch-out.
Connolly recovered to set up the Bulls on the Gateshead 13, from where Sharif Omar ran in
untouched to begin the final quarter.
On their subsequent drive, Gateshead at last began to threaten. Mann returned the kick-off
for 32 yards, then held a Fraser pass for 29 more. The drive appeared to stall when Fraser
was sacked on successive plays, setting up 4th and 30, but a lofted Fraser pass was held
by Mullins for a 1st down, and Fraser then hit his tight end from 6 yards to break the
shut-out. Again, though, they slipped up when Marshall's kick-off drifted out of bounds.
Bulls QB Dave Winter began to find his receivers, and first hit his tight end for 29
yards, then found Mark Cohen in stride for a 26 yard score. The Bulls defence stole the
ball again on the Senators
subsequent possession, Larry Mann being stripped of the ball as he ran out of running
room, but the Bulls were unable to take advantage as Winter's pass was intercepted by
Senators DB Mark Lindsey. However, this time Gateshead made another crucial error when a
shotgun snap sailed over Fraser's head and through the End Zone for second Bulls safety.
Winter was again picked off on the Bulls next possession and this time Gateshead did take
advantage, Fraser again finding his tight end for the score, cutting the Bulls lead to
32-12. This time the Bulls replied instantly, fielding Marshall's on-side kick, then
allowing Winter to throw a perfect pass to Cohen for a 25 yard TD. Again the reply was
immediate when Mann gained some reward for his tremendous play on the day by fielding Nick
Burt's kickoff and returning it 70 yards to complete the scoring. During the game, Mann
had caught 5 passes for 56 yards, thrown a pass for 33 yards, returned punts and gained
139 yards on kick returns, including his TD, giving him 225 all-purpose yards on the day.
For the Bulls, Mark Cohen caught 3 passes for 60 yards and two scores, and Mark Connolly
registered 2.5 sacks and a safety.
The win gets the Bulls season back on track after successive on-field defeats against East
Kilbride and London O's. Their next game is the return against London this Sunday. The
venue is a change from the Bulls usual home, the match taking place at Moor Lane Sports
Centre, kicking off at 2.30.