Apart from the fact that I knew half of the children from my school would be there supporting Shields and ready to rib me on Monday morning, there was also the memory of two Bay demolitions by the men in red the previous season.
The Boy Mark and his daughter (for her first ever Bay game) was kept waiting outside yours truly's as I raced back from masterminding a 3-0 victory for my girls' team in Hexham. He was extremely anxious about getting in considering the queues the previous year and I was extremely anxious because I hadn't had anything to eat since 8am that morning - an eternity!
Arriving 20 minutes before kick-off there were not the queues that had met us the previous time, as the lure of watching Newcastle lose at home to Watford proved too big for some but the regulars were there including the Shields Ultras who spent the whole match chanting about hating Whitley (with an occasional song about winning the FA Vase once upon a time: tongue firmly in cheek). Despite the lack of choral variety (IMHO) it was great to see this level of support for a team at this level. Okay so, Bay fans nowadays are more sedate but we always travel in large numbers and having two well supported teams at this level can only be good for the league. Those people who spent £30+ in the big city certainly missed out by not coming to the coast.
Having missed out on lunch there was time for the healthy option for fitness fanatics the world over: mince and onion pie (it did have onion in), crisps (sadly not a canny bag of Tudor but did have VEGETABLE oil in) and a can of coke. Sure enough as I cued for my goodies there were repeated cries of
"Hello Mr Stephenson!" from some of the children I teach and would probably to take stick from on Monday. By the time I had finished my feast, Shields had already begun battering the Bay and a repeat of last season looked on the cards.
|....and the Boy Mark and daughter|
partake of refreshments
Whitley were starting to whether the storm with 25 minutes gone when, against the run of play, Chris Bannon in the Shields goal dropped a long throw and Alex 'wunderkind' Kempster slammed it in. The ground was stunned, but we should have had faith: this was the new Whitley - the one that doesn't give up and challenges for every ball. The tough tackling and workrate at the back had paid off!
The spirit of Tuesday night was still there, despite our worries.
Five minutes into the second half it looked like there would not be a happy ending for us as Jennison this time, palmed the ball straight to a Shields player who blasted it in from just outside the six yard box. Not the start to the second half we wanted. However, no matter how much the home team huffed and puffed, they couldn't blow the Whitley house down. Apart from a lone occasion when Shields managed to get the ball past Jennison, only for an angelic linesman to rule offside, the Bay defence held firm. There was even a chance for Williamson to head off on a mazy run which ended up with Bannon saving well.
|Determination! You shall not pass!|
|Our celestial hero!|
Exciting times are returning to Hillheads! Roll on the Cup games! Haway the Bay!
Not as dramatic as Tuesday but every bit as satisfying...