|Not much of a|
Arriving at Bede station, I was impressed to see another fan wearing South Shields maroon and blue trainers to match my Whitley Bay blue and white ones. He also shared my opinion that it was cool but instead of just buying his from Schuh in Newcastle...no, he had cast his search further afield - Italy no less! Not even I had thought of that!
South Shields as a club has changed completely from my last visit there when barely 200 people turned up on a cold February night to witness the Bay triumph 3-0. The problems of misbehaving floodlights and relegation to the Northern League second division are a long way behind them as the ground has new stands, a new army of fans, decent music playing and...an announcer with a microphone!
Instead of the Now That's What I Call Music 60s and 70s editions that gets played at Hillheads, South Shields fans are treated to Kasabian, Oasis (I know I said treated - but some people like them) and The Enemy amongst many other musical delights. The man with the mic calmly read the Bay team before launching into BIGSTADIUMODE to shout out the home team. The fact that no-one in the crowd was playing his game and joining with a cheer after each player didn't seem to make a difference to him. If anything he got even more excited when no-one joined in him: just to spite them.
The rain had eased off by kick-off and the ground had an extremely healthy crowd of nearly 1500. The Bay found themselves on the back foot from the off and with only nine minutes gone Shields had the ball in the net only for it to be disallowed for offside. However, this break for the Bay didn't last long as they failed to clear their lines and the home side's Jon Shaw had the easy job of scoring past Tom Flynn. The expected had happened.
|The Metro extension to Mariner Park gets underway.|
However, on the two occasions Kempster managed to break clear on Bay's left flank he delivered two perfect crosses: one for Shanksy's sliding boot and the other for his head. With the help of Tom Flynn's dominance in the visiting goal, the Bay were amazingly 2-1 up.
|South Shield's cafe culture?|
In the second half, Shields had obviously had a kick up the proverbial backside and battered our favourites. The lads struggled to get much of the ball and the experience of the Shields team was on show. Although the lads fought hard (too hard according to the whimsy ref who booked virtually the whole team), it was only a question of time before the Bay defence was breached. On 70 minutes it was 2-2 when Wayne Phillips slotted home.
In an attempt to stave off the inevitable and keep the point, Chan brought on Dillon Blake and Callum Patton for Fryatt and Shanksy. However no sooner had the substitutions been made, a wicked cross into the Bay box bounced off the luckless Steve Gibson and past Flynn. It was a cruel blow and suddenly the home crowd woke up. The Bay still had chances but Carmichael proved to be up to the task. Next, the determined Angelo the Elf upset Mr Fussy with another tackle and that was it for him: a second yellow card ended his game as the ref pulled out the red card. It was Shields' newest signing Carl Finnigan who had the last word scoring soon after with nine minutes to go.
Since coming to the Bay, Elfie the Greek has played a great part in the first few games. Hopefully he can be given a contract before some of the supposed big shots of the league come knocking. Goodness knows we need him! At the final whistle, there was no disgrace at losing out to a much bigger, more experienced and gifted team. However yet again, the lads had done themselves proud. What was obvious was that we need a fit-again Professor Wilkinson to organise the defence and a contract for Zorba / Elfie / Angel / Mr Eleftheriadis to help him.
We have a great team led by a great manager but it is very thin on numbers!