Sunday, 16 December 2018

15th December 2018 - North Shields (h)


Well done all the fans who contributed to the Whitley Bay Food Bank collection. The response phenomenal! Well done the organisers for taking the time to do it. What a great bunch of supporters we have at both clubs!
Thanks Paul my new Bay Oddballs hat!

The last time we won a league cup tie we lost the following game and at the back of my mind was the big fear that our nearest and dearest were going to trump us for the season. Having beaten Hebburn 4-1 in their last game, they would be up for today's game. On top of that was the fear that we had only managed to win two concecutive games once all season and that was at the end of August / beginning of September. So far this season the Bay have won 11 games out of 27 played. The trouble is that 7 of those wins were before September 8th.
The final score of Whitley 0 Shields 3 didn't even flatter the visitors. They were just better all over the pitch...yet again!
We need something new! 
Changing Managers all the time does not work!
The team have managed the odd win since but it is no wonder that Andy Gowens became frustrated and felt he had nothing left to offer. Add in the fact that your star striker, who had been banging goals in for fun left and wasn't replaced, when can we see our managers feel like they are being supported properly? The sad fact is that since Ian Chandler left in 2014, we have had 5 managers and the longest any of them has stayed has been 16 months. Also, not one of the managers that have started a season since 2014 has finished their new season. A combination of resignations and sackings have contributed to this sorry mess. Each time, new players have arrived at the start of the new season and been left in limbo when the manager that has brought them in has moved on. Nashie's sixth place position is now a distant memory as his team was slowly ripped apart. The team that Andy and Mick inherited was a young team that was lacking in form and confidence so it was no wonder they found it hard to turn things around.

Just for the record:
Ian Chandler
Jan 2004
Feb 2014
Leon Ryan
Feb 2014
Jan 2015
Paddy Atkinson
Jan 2015
Feb 2016
Ian Chandler
Feb 2016
Oct 2016
Marc Nash
Oct 2016
Feb 2018
Andy Gowens
Feb 2018
Nov 2018
Mick Mulhern
Nov 2018

The fact that always annoys me is that we have the second best home attendances in the league, second only to an extremely well organised Consett yet we are being beaten regularly by teams that don't have half our fans (and therefore gate money).  What is happening to all the gate money that comes in? the club needs to look at more ways to make money. When we had the pie shop under the main stand, I assume the club ran it and therefore took any profits. Is that the same for the burger trailer? So many clubs make a heap from their food outlets, if we aren't then maybe it is time we did. Other grounds are brimming with advertising yet our perimeter fences are mostly bare or filled with adverts that have been there for years in some cases. Do we really get any money from them?
The reason why I am ranting on like this is because in the last five years, the club has sunk down the standings and on current form will sink further. The one thing that is enjoyable is the companionship of so many like-minded people but how long will people put up with the regular beatings that are becoming common place? My friends are definitely picking and choosing their matches and I don't think they are the only ones.
The team needs investment.
The ground needs investment.
When will see an improvement on either front?
My Shields-supporting friend, yes I do have one, moans about their team and ground yet they are now sitting fourth in the league. Today's match was not much to write about so I won't. But we need a turn around at Whitley. Yet again there was plenty of effort but there were once too many misplaced passes and mistakes all over the pitch. At times Flynn had to pull out the stops but even he couldn't prevent the goals that came in. Wednesday Chris and I were not amused.
Here are the only video highlights of Whitley attacks:

This will probably be my last blog of the year as I am away on the 29th December for my eldest's 21st. So thank you to all my regular readers, have a relaxing Christmas and New Year. See you on the 5th for an easy game against...Dunston. Grrreat!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

17th November 2018 - Penrith (h)

If the lads played like they had in the last twenty minutes against Guisborough (equalising goal apart) then today was going to be a cracker. However, they were just as likely to play like they had in the first 70 and the whole game against Shields. 
The Bay, however had a secret weapon in their Arsenal: one of the Junior teams had camped outside the away dressing room while waiting to come on as mascots. They then proceeded to chant "Whitley Bay" until the teams came out...but would it work?

The secret weapons...field loads of players....and have them sing outside the opposition's dressing room! Nice one!

There were once more changes to the team with Ramsay coming in for the unlucky Taggart and Brannen was chosen to play up front in a classic big man / little man (smaller man?) combo. Is Andy Gowens enjoying being a tinkerman? Who cares, we just wanted a win.
Coming up to the ground full of nerves, it is amazing how that changes when you step through the turnstyle to be surrounded by so many like-minded Bay fans who I am privileged to call friends. No matter what happens outside of Hillheads, it is like an oasis in the problems of the outside world. Brexit doesn't matter, and isn't mentioned, and neither are all the day-to-day troubles and worries that wear you down. Football can be a great healer. After a hard week personally, I was hoping that it would be just that for me.
On my own at the start, I was joined by Running Keith and Chris Wednesday and we were soon celebrating a Bay penalty award when a corner was only partially cleared. Chris Salmon reacted quickest gliding towards the ball like However Penrith's Stuart Johnson was like a bear (a bit) grabbing hold of a tasty meal. Our slippery winger was felled.

 Up stepped Mr 'Cool' Cairns. We all thought it had sailed wide but he had chipped it sublimely into the opposite corner to that of his last one at Hillheads. 1-0 to the Bay.

Soon after, we celebrating again as the Bay went 2-0 up. A long ranging shot was turned away by Penrith's Tom Fowler and before you could say "Oi Pauline, what's wrong with Arthur?" Ramsay had turned and rolled the ball into the path of Salmon, who had swum into the box. Heclinically made the score 2-0. 

Half time was welcomed and although Penrith had fought back fiercely, the Bay held onto their two-goal lead. 
At the start of the second half, however the Bay were reduced to hitting Penrith on the break and it was then that I noticed some of the Bay faithful were getting high on sugar-products to ease their tension. The sad thing was that there were youngsters involved in this diabolical practice and that Tommy's Tea Emporium not only condoned it but was their dealer!
Shameful sugar junkies...some drinking alcohol!
The sugar junkies probably never even noticed that Andrei had come off the bench, turned in a rebound for his first before rising ...a Carp (Google says they leap) to head home a cracking cross from supersub Dan T. 

The lads had scored four for the first time at home since the opening day of the season. Keith was absolutely delighted with that one and it also represented the first victory my Bay bar scarf had seen. I only bought it in February!
Delight...note the Sugar junkies behind haven't even noticed!
 4-0 and we headed back to the real world. Everything looks so much better after a victory though! I'd forgotten how good it felt!

Monday, 12 November 2018

10th November 2018 - Guisborough Town (a)

The first reaction of most of the Whitley fans when I appeared at Guisborough was: "You never did this in 45 minutes!" They were right of course. The helicopter is still in the garage. Mrs Blogger and I took the opportunity to visit some of her family friends in and around Guisborough so I had the perfect excuse to get to the game.
You couldn't fail to be impressed, just before entering through Guisborough's magnificent turnstile, by the view. The Cleveland Hills rising behind you is as impressive as the view surrounding Esh Winning, even if there are many more houses added to take away from the view. However, at Esh Winning there is no programme seller making use if a handily-placed tree stump to sell his wares so Guisborough wins on that front. The stands either side of the ground have real character and there is an overall charm to the place. The ground is a throwback to the 1970s: white-bricked walls and corrugated iron roofs. On a crisp November afternoon with the all the colours of Autumn there is no better advert for the Northern League.

 Unfortunately, the good people of Guisborough don't realise what a gem they have on their doorstep. The bar area was filled with the great and the good of Whitley (and Gibbo - joke) and very few others...
 ...while the refreshment area had ghostly mists emanating from it. All it needed was some Guisboroughians to suck its tempting smells into their lungs...but they weren't here yet. the girl at the counter carried on playing with her phone!
As one Guisboroughian commented: "Thank god Whitley have brought some fans." The crowd would eventually reach 145. How many of those were from Whitley it would be impolite to guess!
Before the game, the traditional Remembrance Day minute's silence was broken by an extremely rude inhabitant from the depths of Guisborough's allotments. The Guisborough Goose was quiet for no man and was not a respector of tradition. One japing fan asked whether I had space in my bag to fit her: again I will keep Foxy's name out of this! Such an appropriate name I feel. 
After all this, there was a football match to play!
 Back into the team came the fit-again Thomas Flynn. Out went Lewis Walton, Kieran Brannen and Andrei and in came Taggart, Suddick and Callum A.
I blotted my copybook straight away as I called the roving camera that is Julian by his alter ego (in my twisted mind) of Jeremy. I have no idea why I have started doing this and will be seeking psychiatric help to rectify the situation.
After all this excitement and communion with nature, a football match had to start and many wished it hadn't as mis-placed and nervy passes dominated. The number of chances was at a minimum. Eventually one of the teams settled and began creating chances, unfortunately it wasn't Whitley. The Flynnster maybe had hoped for a quiet game to find his feet but the rug was well and truly pulled from under him on the front. He had to be on his metal as Guisborough camped out in the Whitley half. He was assisted by his defence, Craig McFarlane heading off the line at one point but everytime the ball was cleared, a stray pass or hasty shot meant the ball came straight back, despite Dan Taggart's best endeavours.

The Raven almost snatched the lead but his first effort was saved and the rebound sailed gracefully over the Town bar. The half time whistle was greeted with  relief by the away following. 
Into the second half and things weren't much better. Town attacked, Whitley defended. In the 58th minute, Kieran Brannen came on for Jack Cooper. Not many thought much of this but when the youngster chased a lost cause and managed to hook it back across goal, suddenly it looked like the team had a bit of belief that maybe the three points were there for the taking. 
The youngster's pace was suddenly worrying the home side. A run down the opposite wing ended up with a cracking shot that Town's Jordan Nixon acrobatically dived full length to keep out; the ball flashing just past the approaching Taggart.

The Bay had woken up. There was delight for the visitors on 76 minutes when the much-improved Dan T skillfully dribbled into the box before rolling the ball into Peter the Raven's path. His initial shot was saved but he volleyed home the rebound.

The Bay now surged forward, full of confidence and could have sealed the win but Brannen's shot flashed wide. He was doing everything that he hadn't managed to do against Shields the week before.

With injury time upon us, Guisborough threw caution to the wind and Nixon joined the attack as 11 outfield players fought for the equaliser.  The very serious man with the stepladder, who had come to take the nets down early hoping that Nixon wouldn't need his, enjoyed informing us that Nixon had already scored three late goals coming out of goal.
Surely they couldn't manage to do it could they? Unfortunately, the answer was yes. in 90+2 a familiar sight of an opposition forward celebrating a late goal was repeated as 80s pop-icon-turned-Northern-League footballer Paul Young scored.
The final score of 1-1 was a fair result but hard to take. However on the plus side, it was a point and an improved final 30 minutes. 

Sunday, 4 November 2018

3rd November 2018 - North Shields (a)

On the Tuesday night , I had been delighted and disappointed at the victory in the League Cup at Shields. Disappointed because I was in Keswick and not Hillheads but delighted at the victory. In apparently what was an exciting game, the lads had pulled out a cracking win and my one hope was that it would be a spring board to the rest of the season. However, after the last great cup victory, against Whitby in the FA Cup, we lost 2-1 to Whickham in the Vase. I was praying that I would not be jinxing them by coming but I could hardly miss it. My recent record has not been good, however and my last victory was two months ago...against Whitby in early September. In the five games I have attended, I have seen 2 draws and 3 defeats. Having said that, the only victories we have had in the last two months have been away (Hebburn 4-1 and Shields 2-0).
However, I  travelled in hope, if not confidence. The Boy Mark and I arrived at the ground in good time and it was clear the crowd was not going to match previous ones. Newcastle may well have been at home but even half an hour before kick off, the ground was empty. This sad sight was spared The Bay Mark as he is not tall enough to be able to see over the fence, thankfully I was able to show him through my phone screen. He wasn't impressed either.
There was only one Shields flag on display (and that was blown over the fence after 20 minutes) and two individuals who managed to last five minutes before the first "We hate Whitley" drifted across the ether.
They obviously were a bit mixed up as they then launched into a version of "Leeds, Leeds,.....Who the ....... are Leeds". Obviously hankering back to the 70s and 80s when Leeds were regular visitors...?
It was good, on the other hand to actually be able to hear the PA for once as the announcer's voice boomed out of four large trumpet-like loudspeakers.
Woaw! Nice Speakers!
This really does put to shame Hillhead's tin can PA!
Also, enjoyable is the hard rock version of "The Red Red Robin, goes bob bob bobbin..." booming out. I would like to say that the Shields players were like the friendly little robin I met in Keswick...
 ...but they weren't.

 They showed no sign of letting Whitley repeat their victory of Tuesday night for me and what they lacked in skill, they more than made up for in determination. Every time a Whitley player had the ball, three or four Shields players would converge. They also knew how to exploit the gaps that appeared in the Bay defence and Bannen had to be on his metal to save bravely at the feet of a speedy Shields forward. Soon after, he almost got a hand to a Shields penalty taken by Callum Johnston but, like the Shields performance, it had too much power for Whitley. The crowd was announced to be 412 but my intensive count revealed there were only 280. Then I was reminded, the other 132 were probably in the clubhouse and toilet. Obvious!
Despite my GoPro running for the whole match, there was not one chance of note for the Bay: Shields' domination was absolute. They doubled their lead in the 55th minute and the Bay were lacking in ideas and fight. Only in the closing stages did Shields tire and Whitley come back into it. Otherwise it was a thoroughly miserable afternoon. Final score: 0-2
The Boy Mark is not happy!
It was a relief to be able to escape at the end of the game. Once again, the sky was the most interesting feature of the afternoon: very dark and broody with the clouds being driven with the same force that our hosts had displayed.

With one league win in six games, we are well and truly in a fight at the wrong end of the table. The lads need to show their metal next week at Guisborough because a repeat of this performance will see us perilously close to the bottom three.
Hopefully the money raised from the 521 who attended the Hillheads Firework display will be put to good use in four new loudspeaker, or maybe a new roof for the PA hut?

Sunday, 28 October 2018

27th October 2018 - Ashington (h)

Jack Foalle has gone and post-Jaxit Whitley was not looking good. There may well have been an exciting game at Heaton Stannington but the hard fact of it all was that the lads had lost 4-3 to the Division 2 side and that their goals had been scored by ex-Whitley players. Can we have Andy Robertson back now please?
My morning had started with a frozen, wet, sleety, thunder-and-lightningy and windy parkrun. The prospect of venturing out again to watch the Bay was not tempting. However, on the fast-walk up Hillheads Road, I was delighted that my early morning activity paid off. The two more mature men in flat caps were easily overtaken by Marden Bridge School, as were the woman with her young son by the bus stop. Next up there was the man with his headphones in, which was more of a challenge but sure enough he was left trailing in my wake. The two old fellas in Bay bobble hats proved to have had too much of a head start to catch but as I entered the ground my extra layers made me feel extremely warm.
Courtesy of @WhitleyBayFC Twitter
Meeting up with Gibbo and little Gibbo, Heather and the Kinnon it was clear that the youngest was taking results badly and had come up with her own way of watching the Bay...

Nevertheless she was here and so were a a very respectable 341. Also in the crowd were a group of Ashington fans who had walked to the game in aid of Prostate cancer. David Hall came across to say hello, jangling a bucket so we added to his growing collection. With that, he was gone.
The strong wind whipped around Hillheads and made good football difficult so it was no surprise that there were few chances and little to excite. The most interesting part of the first 20 minutes was Little Gibbo's search for the nearest bin: Bingate. There were just too many choices. There was relief all round when she decided upon the final destination for her twix wrapper. This relief was doubled (if that was possible) when Ashington hit the post. An Ashington striker bore down on goal then perfectly slotted past Brannen only to see his shot bounce back off the near post to be cleared by a grateful Bay defender.
Soon after, the Bay were ahead: Kieran Brannen coming up with a super strike that looked out of place in the match.

Into the second half, it was the Colliers who struck the equaliser and there was a sense of deja vu as the Bay were rocked by the goal. Colliers keeper, Conor Grant began to feel unused so decided upon a spot of yoga, lying down to stretch as the match continued at the other end of the pitch.

Ollie Martin came on for Andrei and both he and Kieran looked dangerous on the break.
The Ashington walkers were enjoying themselves and gave us a rendition of their favourite ode to their home town:
"Oh Ashington,
Is Wonderful,
Oh Ashington is wonderful,
It's full of of clubs, bookies and chip shops..."

There was a moment of hope when Taggart challenged for a through ball but his chance rolled wide.
Controversy followed as Ollie Martin looked to have superbly volleyed home a great move but Stephen Ramsay was ruled to be offside. I couldn't see it myself and neither could Gibbo and co!

Shock! No way offside!

In the closing moments, a rash tackle from the Bay's Luke Taylor began a bout of handbags and the young defender was given his marching orders. The final whistle blew and the Bay had extended their unbeaten run to two. 1-1 the final score.
Next week, we will be seeing our friends from NE29 on two occasions, fingers crossed for a place in the next round of the League Cup and three points for the Bay!

Sunday, 14 October 2018

13th Octobe 2018 - Newcastle Benfield (h)

In typical wbayblogger tradition, I had missed the league game of the season when the Bay outplayed leaders Hebburn 4-1 the previous saturday. The chance to spend a day with my eldest daughter at a day of music in Manchester proved too strong to resist. Local legends Sam Fender (did I mention I taught him when he was 8?) and the Pale White needed my support after all!
Therefore, today I was out to make amends for my lack of loyalty towards the Bay and hope I could enjoy a home win against a team they had beaten 6-1 in August. My first aim was to catch all of the Bay goals on video for the first time this season. A new techique was employed: videoing done in 10 minute sequences with a short break in between. I would not be defeated in my quest for documenting the Bay's attacking prowess.
Long-haired Andrew, the Benfield fan appeared along with son Thomas and I tried to not get too excited when they railed at the weaknesses of their own team. Unfrotunately the big factor was the appointment of new manager Tom Wade in the preceding week. Always a bad sign!
The rain that had soaked the Boy Mark and I at parkrun looked to be on its way out as we left the car to squeeze through the increasingly narrowing gap that exists between the back fence of the Hillheads Road houses and the Scout hut field. I'm sure that, in the week, they get the scouts to push their fence to gradually extend their field without anyone noticing. Bay fans be warned: those Scouts are up to no good! No good comes of a woggle!
There didn't seem to be that many fans there when we arrived but by kick off 455 souls had arrived and there were a few fans from Benfield along to add to the fun!
I was looking forward to seeing the Bay's new Romanian superstar Andre Ardrelean but Thomas put the dampeners on my excitement by giving his frank opinion of a player he had seen at Team North. He surely couldn't mean our new striker!
Before kick off, Andy Gowen's new tactic to win games was revealed as no less than 25 Bay players of varying ages ran onto the pitch.
Unfortunately, the ref spotted the unequal number and Andy was forced to choose only eleven. The tallest eleven got the nod! The smaller ones ran off to get their high energy drinks and crisps.

An early shout for a foul on Foalle was turned down but the swift one was not to be denied and when the legs of a Benfield defender were wrapped around his ankles, he tumbled and had no qualms at appealling for a penalty which he was duly awarded.
Up stepped Gavin Caines...

Cool as you like, as the keeper dived one way he rolled the ball into the other. 1-0 to the Bay after 18 minutes. Soon after there was double delight for the Bay as a shot from the edge of the box flew into Benfield's Granger's net: 2-0 to the Bay. A super Salmon strike!
It looked liked our own Peter Andre (here to help) was destined to double the lead after Foalle had perfectly supplied the pass from his position on the ground...
But a defender was on hand to deny the Romanian superstar a home debut goal. "Told you he was $%&@e!" commented Thomas but I thought he was being a bit harsh.
Unfortunately, the Bay took their foot off the peddle and Benfield roared back, to the accompaniment of some of their pleasantly sporting fans. "This isn't good enough Benfield!" "Sort it out!" "Work!" were some of their more encouraging remarks.
But the visitors were roaring back and only Craig McFarlane's backside prevented a goal in the 31st minute. This was followed by a triple B save sequence...Bannen then the bar and another Bay backside. It was backs and bums to the wall time!
Thankfully, half time arrived and we were still 2-0 ahead!
Unfortunately the Bay luck ran out in the second half as the lead was wiped out by the 56th minute. Sadly for the Bay, 2-2 was a fair reflection of the game. I was glad Thomas and Andrew had chosen to stand with their Benfield buddies in the second half. 
Foalle almost scored with a superb lob (the only Bay attack I didn't manage to catch as the camera was cooling). However his effort dropped wide and Peter Andre wasn't able to help this time by keeping the ball in play. 
The chances came at both ends but Foalle was denied  by the impressive Granger who was confidently dominating his area.

It looked like the Bay would rue the missed chances when Benfield were awarded a penalty but Super Bannen came up trumps with a super safe. Soon after, we thought Jack Foalle had sealed the victory, pouncing on another rebound to make the score 3-2 with 18 minutes left.

The Bay might have had a penalty when the ref told Issy and Benfield's Robson to stop their personal battle. 
I'm watching...always watching! Shame you weren't watching the same as everyone else!

He told them he was watching but when Robson's arms were lovingly wrapped around Issy, Mr Ellis decided that Issy had backed into both Robson and Granger.
With the last kick of the game, Benfield had the last laugh, bundling home a 93rd minute corner. 
It was a fair result overall but frustrating to draw so late on. At least I managed to catch all three goals on camera. A first for the season at least.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

29th September 2018 - Bishop Auckland (h)

Could the lads recover from the previous week? There was a sense of deja-vue on entering Hillheads as a change to the team sheet was announced: Dan Taggart had injured himself in the warm-up. Still he was only one player and surely the rest would be keen to get back to winning ways. The sun was shining, it was warm, Mr Wednesday and little Wednesday (Chris and James) had arrived (the latter back from Uni to see the Arctic Monkeys at the Arena) and so had Bob and Moira. What could go wrong?
Sun and good company!

Unfortunately Bob had left all his positivity at the gym, where he'd been working out that morning. He started off with the phrase "That's the end of our season then!" and reminded us that now we were out of the FA Vase and Trophy, it wouldn't be long before Shields beat us in the League Cup. He continued: if we can beat Heaton Stan in the Northumberland senior cup, Morpeth are waiting to marmalise us. Moira reminded him that he had missed out our search for the league title...strangely he wasn't too optimistic about that either. Having finished saying all that, he then said Foalle wouldn't be with us long...there would be plenty of clubs looking enviously on. I love the confidence of youth!
In charge of the visitors were ex Bay stalwarts: the Chan and Brian Rowe. It would be the perfect pick-me-up to get one over them and the number of ex-Bay players returning in the visiting colours. 
Unfortunately, the returnees had a few things they wanted to say and it was Kyle Fryatt who put the visitors ahead. The lads responded well but just couldn't get the precious equaliser. 
Luke Salmon forced a great save and then Ben Richardson went close with two freekicks: one either side of each post. Foalle also came close after a great bit of skill but his cross was cleared. His skill had deserved better!

In between all this, there was bad news for the Bay as Tom Flynn was forced to go off with an injury. Soon after, his replacement, Liam Powell went the same way. With no more goalkeepers to call upon, Luke Salmon had to go in goal. It wasn't boding well.
There was hope however for the 334 fans who had turned up when Foalle blasted home, the ball landing kindly for him to finish with great aplomb. Our spirits were lifted for the firt time since scoring the opener against Whickham. The feeling of bonhommie barely lasted six minutes before Bishops scored, exciting their band of supporters behind Salmon's goal. The stand-in keeper had performed well but was just unlucky to be outwitted by some good attacking play. 
By the final whistle, the visitors had added another two to make the score 4-1 to them. Salmon had made two excellent saves and performed admirably to put himself in with a chance of retaining his number one jersey. 
However, lady luck had deserted the lads once again: the sending off the previous week and two injured goalkeepers. At least Bob and Moira were excited: it was spinach risotto night then Strictly Come Dancing. What more could you want?

Sunday, 23 September 2018

22nd September 2018 - Altrincham (a) FA cup 2Q

The previous weekend, family duties had taken priority over the Bay as I had taken my eldest to university. The 2-1 defeat at Whickham had put a real downer on the weekend and if I could have made a pact with any kind of celestial entity, trading a guaranteed place in the next round of the FA Vase with a place in the FA cup, I would have done so gleefully. In the FA Cup, the games are only going to get harder. At least in the Vase we had the chance of more winnable matches. As it was, the Bay faced the likely prospect of being knocked out of both of the money-making competitions in the space of eight days. While we were losing to our fellow Northern Leaguers, Altrincham were winning away to Bradford Park Avenue 3-2. I was not hopeful.
My expectations dropped even further when I saw that top scorer Foalle was abroad at his father's stag do. Wandering up Hillheads Road, I had come to terms with this loss.
 I was singing:
"Foalle's not on fire, He's gone to his dad's stag do!" to Mr Programme David Hall when he told me that our striker wasn't the only absentee. Dan T, Callum A, Kevin Carr...the list was growing. They obviously hadn't thought that they would be involved at this round of the FA Cup: the curse of semi-professional football! We would just have to manage without them.

The bus was filled from the front first with all the usual suspects with an average age of ______ (actual age has been removed to protect the innocent). Therefore, there was only one place to go: to the back with the wild boys and girl! Smithy, Pogo and his dad, Pc Paul, Kieran Brannen's mam and dad, George 'Whitters'... the ultimate collection of anarchists!
The anarchy started straight away when Mammy Brannen started handing out the mini sausages and scotch eggs. Then Barry emerged with the chocolate toffees! Bedlam. There was a further period of anarchy when one member of the group decided to teach all of us to swear in sign language... his dad wasn't impressed!
The journey passed quickly and in no-time we were stopping at a services near Manchester. Happily, we greatly outnumbered the combined numbers of Wolves and Manchester United fans: none of whom had a clue who we were. Philistines!
It's always a great moment when you've been on a long bus journey and finally see the ground and this time we actually had the bonus of arriving at an actual stadium, with stands or banks of terracing on all sides. The stands were covered by a multitude of roofs of different heights and styles, which reminded me of a big version of Jarrow Roofing (RIP). One of the stands seemed to have an open air toilet for the use of the camera crew... or maybe it was just me!

From the programme sellers to the bar staff, everyone I talked to was extremely friendly and humoured me with my photos but my favourite had to be Dawn, the pie seller. She has already emerged as the front runner for pie-seller of the season with her amazing Balti chicken pie! It was packed with stuff and had herbs and everything! Beat that Northern League? I'm not so sure. It has blasted Stockton Town's mince and onion pie into second place. Well done Dawn! Can we eat here every week? On the down side, Pogo was not impressed with his mince pie bought from the opposite end of the ground. Should have gone to Dawn's and should have had the Balti mate!

Spot the concealed baby!
Look at Dawn's pie!

Look at her condiments!

Flaky pastry, herbs and that, chicken baltiness inside!
Thanks Dawn..... not so keen on the polystryrene, though!

The next friend I made was the wandering mascot who turned out to be a robin! How excited we would be if we could have our own seahorse patrolling the the touchlines of the Northern League!
It's a robin!
It was great to be on a bank of terracing again and there was a good collection of Bay fans and flags.

Ground of many roofs.

Courtesy of WBFC Twitter: thank you Julian!!!!!!!

The first 28 minutes were going smoothly for the Bay. They were holding their higher placed hosts at bay and Flynn was dealing comfortably with the few long distance efforts that came his way. We'd even managed a couple of efforts on goal ourselves. Could this be our day after all? Then things started to go wrong...
One nil down, it looked like the tie was slipping away from the lads. However it looked like qualification would be impossible when Altrincham were awarded a penalty and Issy was given his marching orders as he was the last man. For me, there seemed to be very little contact and a disappointing twist in the game that threatened to undo all of the Bay's hard work.
Up stepped the Altrincham forward...
We did our best to put him off and were delighted when it worked. His shot hit the upright, bounced in front of Flynn and then the half time whistle was blown. The Bay were still in it! I was later to find out that it hadn't been my exotic dancing that had put off the forward off but Karen (KB's mam) and George "banging on the boards". Enough to put anyone off!

Unfortunately that was as good as it got. The Bay hardly visited the opposition half as Altrincham laid siege to the visiting goal. Some heroic defending was not enough to hold back the red and white tide. Roared on by occasional chants from the home fans...the goals kept coming and my best videoing of the season captured no Whitley efforts. With the Dunston scoreline in mind, it became damage limitation.
The ground rang out with the voices of ten individuals in the cow shed to our right.

"Ey oop alti...Alti ey oop"
The Alti chimes!

"A oL Ti!"
BLT would have been preferable but without the lettuce or just the bacon please.

" Oh Alti Alti... Alti Alti Alti Alti Altrincham"

When a perfectly targeted lob finished the scoring at 5-0, there was a final chant of "Wemberley" from the home fans and then the final whistle blew. To rub salt into our wounds, the final piece of music was "Another one bites the dust" by Queen. Predictable really. A nice touch was the way the Whitley players and coaching staff came over to our end and applauded us for coming. It meant a lot.
There was time to play "Where's our bus" before heading home in a disappointed state.
Disappointment didn't last long.
We were joined on the way back by Baldie Bruce and after half an hour, the banter returned and we had a great return with some lovely people...what football should be about. Regardless of the score we had had a good day out. Karen KBM (Kieran Brannen's Mam) was taught more sign language while George revelled in telling everyone about his "Banging on the boards" with KKBM. CKBD tried not to listen.

5-0 final score but that was just a sideline.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

8th September 2018 - Whitby Town (h) FA Cup 1Q

The day started with my best Whitley Bay parkrun in two years (22:46 for the record) but it didn't really feel like it was going to be a lucky day for the Bay. A sense of foreboding followed me up the hill. These reasons bounced backwards and forwards in my head:
  •  the team had won the last three games, scoring 18 goals...they had to fall sometime.
  • Whitby were two leagues above us.
  •  there would be a big crowd without any Premiership or Championship games on: the players were bound to freeze.
I had arranged to meet the Boy Mark at the ground but was late: buying new blue and white ribbons at the Singer shop in town for my car: great for spotting your car in car parks! He texted me to say there were lots of 'scary people' singing in our 'new' stand. I could hear them as I reached the ice rink...definitely not Whitley fans.
Sure enough, there were the usual crowd standing in the stand but they had decamped to the near side of the stand, trying to hear each other over a big group of visitors (to the Bay anyway). The back of the stand was taking a right battering as a makeshift drum as our visitors sang their medley. The were frequent inspersed choruses of "Sea, sea, seasiders" and "We hate Scarborough". The latter of which was my particular favourite. I had an immediate vision of two small groups of fans in a mostly empty stadium shouting abuse at each. You can't beat non-league football for comedy.

The Town Boys! The Seahorse did well today?
They were certainly welcome, as they had woken up our normally sleepy afternoon/evening terrace. Even Bob and Moira agreed before we launched into a discussion about favourite washing powder. It was also good to see the return to Hillheads of Chrissyboy: Mr Wednesday. It turned out he had attended the 6-1 victory against Barnoldswick in the previous round. His love for his adopted town's team had been re-awoken. There were a number of returnees from the Vase days and it was nice to see a 680 crowd enjoying the mild afternoon weather. The predicted rain was staying off too. What could go wrong?
Also returning was Josh Nearney, not that I noticed until I looked at the team sheet. I only hoped it stayed that way.
There were few chances at either end in the opening minutes and so the conversation swang around to the increased traffic using the Aldi causing problems on Hillheads Road. This followed onto the problems of the British Education system caused by years of government interference. Thankfully, 'The Raven's freekick interupted this topic: McHugh, in the visiting goal, turning it away smartly. Then Whitby started piling on the pressure with their numbers 9 and 10 finding themselves plenty of space at times to run clear on goal but thankfully Flynn was equal to them, saving on a number of occasions. The only time he failed to stop a shot, Ibby Hassan was on hand to clear off the line. All the while the Whitby Massif continued their sonic barrage and it only seemed a question of time before they were to be rewarded.
Thankfully, at half time the score was still 0-0 and we felt lucky to be level.

This is what part of 680 looks like...apparently!
There was a definite shift in the second half as the Bay boys seemed to be a lot taller and less willing to be knocked around. There also seemed to be a bit of gamesmanship creeping in to the Town game as they seemed to fall over easier with tumbles of varying degrees of artistic licence. It looked like Ibby was in trouble when a goalbound shot bi-passed Flynn completely only to strike Ibby's hand outside of the penalty area. Thankfully, the ref decided it was only a booking and a freekick to the visitors.
Despite the continued effort from the home boys, the game was still edgy and the visitors were dealing fairly comfortably with the Bay pressure. Too many crosses ended up in McHugh's hands or being booted clear by the Town defence. At the other end, Flynn and co were having their work cut out keeping a tricky set of forwards away from the goal. But battle they did.
It looked like all their hard work had been undone when a Whitby forward steamed into the box and was brought down. The ref theatrically pointed to the spot, seeming to enjoy taking the limelight. Up stepped the visiting penalty taker who launched a stinger away to Flynn's right.

 However, Bay's number 1 dived full length to pull off a remarkable save. He appeared to take a boot for his troubles and lay forlornly in the penalty area as play continued. As the ball was cleared to the wing, there was another incident and Whitby's Jassem Sukar was shown a second yellow card. With Town down to 10 men, the game was there for the bay to take. However, they pulled nine men behind the ball, leaving one up front and managed to smother the Bay's attack for long periods. The crowd were doing their bit to raise the players but it was hard going against an experienced team.
Callum Anderson's header zipped just wide then Ramsay headed wide. The lads managed to break with three players but the chance was lost when Ramsay (I think) chose to selfishly shoot rather than pass to an unmarked Bay player. It looked like the Bay would be travelling to the home of Prawns (Whitby that is) when Foalle sent the home crowd wild.
There seemed to be nothing on for 'The Raven' as he flew down the wing in the 89th minute (my book is still available as a paperback btw: With a defender battling furiously for the ball, Captain Fantastic managed to swing in a left wing cross that was met by the superbly positioned Foalle to score. He couldn't hide his delight and neither could we!

The last few minutes were filled with tension and everyone was delighted to see Foalle head to the corner with the ball in the 93rd minute. Finally the whistle blew to spark celebrations not witnessed for many years. Fans were hugged by jubilant players and if anyone had suggested that the players didn't care then this was the perfect example of how much they did.
The fans and players applaud each other

The lads were into the second round and with a Vase game to come the following week against Whickham, these are certinly exciting times to be a Bay fan. We'll make sure we enjoy them as this team can only get stronger. Good decision to leave Josh?

Sunday, 2 September 2018

1st September 2018 - FA Vase Q1 - Esh Winning (a)

Like being back at Leeds Festival...
Autumn was here but the Summer sun was still strong. A hard Whitley parkrun had seen me applying first aid to a very shocked fellow runner, come acropper, tumbling on the course...but he finished! Surely this act of kindness to my fellow man would be repaid with a Bay victory?
It was Pogo and I who set off on the 45ish minute trip to County Durham. It also looked like he had chosen the best option by wearing shorts.
I'd never been to Esh Winning before but those that had would often regale me with tales of how picturesque it was so I was excited to see it for myself. Interesting to note that the name of the village comes from the Saxon word for Ash and the Victorian term for a discovery of a coal seam! For all you historical vocabulary fans out there!
Driving through Esh Winning itself did not prepare you for the picturesque drive through the forests that surrounded the ground while the car park resembled more of a meadow than anything else as we parked up.
Everything said about the ground and its location were true as it nestled amongst the rolling hills and forests. Perhaps the groundsman had been admiring the view when he had marking the lines: that might have explained the wobbly halfway line. I wouldn't blame him if this was the reason: it really was breathtaking.
A bit of a wobbly one?
No less than four bus shelters on offer!
The usual big crowd of away fans had converged on Esh using service buses, cars and coaches. Worth noting was the number of bus shelters on two sides, with the more modern versions decorating the sideline while their more rustic wooden counterparts proving to be very popular behind the goal away to our left.
Sing in the cheap seats!
At the start of the match, the only real danger for the travelling fans was the number of wasps marauding around anything and everything sugary. On the pitch there was a quiet start for Liam Powell in the Whitley goal but he was lucky when Esh hit the crossbar. This happened shortly after Ramsay had driven just wide from a good position: after 20 minutes the game had woken up.
Powell came to the Bay's rescue when he saved well, before Olly Martin stole in to give the Bay the lead. Powell again rescued the Bay with an instinctive save three minutes before half time. Happily the final piece of action was provided by Jack Foalle - sprinting through, this time onside, to slot home: a fitting reward for the young striker who had constantly been thwarted by the linesman's flag.

In the second half, the behind-the-goal-gang relaxed amongst the long meadows on the bank or sat on the provided park benches. The warmth of the sun combined with the pleasant surroundings, and the 2-goal lead, to give an off-pitch chilled vibe to the occasion.

Things got even better for us as a Karl Ross cross was lob/volleyed high into the net. For once, my video was running! Shortly after Esh had once again hit the post, substitute Kieran Brannen sprinted clear to score with great aplomb...the condensation on my camera making it an emotional occasion!

Three wise Bay monkeys enjoy an afternoon in the park?
David Attenborough eat your heart out!
Although my camera then went to sleep, there were two more goals for the Bay - both to the Bay's Jack Foalle who completed his hat-trick. Yet again my camerawork had let me down for Foalle's goals but at least I was able to join in with his song: "Foalle's on fire, your defence is petrified!"
Fingers crossed, this week, there are two more wins to go with the last three!
"6-0 to the mighty Bay!"