Sunday, 28 January 2018

27th January 2018 - Dunston (h)

It felt like an age since the last game I'd been to. Last weekend had been spent cleaning out my Mother-in-Laws house after she had passed away in May so the Guisborough Town game had taken place in my absence. There had been the usual pre-match text from Pogo Patterson wondering where I was but it was out of concern more than questioning my loyalty. After all the team were playing some great football, especially away from home where seven wins on the trot had lifted them to seventh in the league.
It was however, the home form that was proving a bit of a sticking point with one point gained out of six in 2018. The reasons were being thrown around like confetti: the fear of finishing in the top two and the enforced promotion that could bring about but the most believable one was the pitch! Despite being worked on in the summer, the Hillheads turf was not looking its best. The 5-2 win at Stockton had been played out on a 3G all-weather pitch: was it  much more suited to the Bay's style?

Courtesy of WBFC Twitter
 The pitch had had a bit of a trim and didn't look too bad but it sure wasn't a 3G or as flat as the Shields pitch. The rain, snow and wind that had battered it over the last month certainly hadn't done it any favours. 3G for Hillheads anyone?
The Boy Mark and I were joined by Running Keith and he was especially excited to finally receive the blue and white bar scarf that I'd ordered for the pair of us. TBM was indifferent to our return to the golden age of football. Rosettes and rattles are planned next, along with 20 Woodbines and a Whippet each. (He's already got the flat cap). Unfortunately my baseball cap will have to go but then what do I think I am? American?
Suits us sir!
On the pitch, things were looking good, with Brooksy on the end of everything going forward. With barely 10 minutes gone, the big man had put us ahead!
The strong wind that was blowing towards the Allotment End was a mixed blessing with gusts occuring at inopportune times and despite playing into the tornado, Dunston were taking hold of play as the break approached. The Bay were struggling to stay ahead. In typical fashion, with three minutes to half time, the score was level: Mark Fitzpatrick heading home. Thanks to a terrible dose of Doom-Cold (that only men get and is very very bad), I resorted to some orange locozade from the teahut and in the second half it looked as if Whitley could have done with some themselves. 
For the second half, Dunston battered away. There was very little for my video to record in terms of Bay attacks and it was no surprise when the Bay conceded. This time, it was Dan Halliday who scored. Two minutes later, in the 63rd minute, Liam Thear put Dunston 3-1 and that, as they say, was it. 
Final score was 3-1 and despite the fact that it hadn't been cold and also that there had been a very nice evening sky....
Appreciate the evening sky cause the football is....
there hadn't been much to enjoy for the home faithful. Hopefully, the lads will bounce back on Tuesday and then we can say we were concentrating on the cup! See you Tuesday!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

6th January 2018 - Consett (h)

There was a great response from North Shields fans to Wednesday's #FlagGate and within 24 hours the Bay flag had been retrieved amid a lot of recriminations from both sets of fans. The unfortunate incident had brought a real period of cooperation that was great to see and the lads were certainly happy to see their property back They promised to follow the Flag Club rules more closely...especially the one about not leaving your flag!
Courtesy of @whitleybayfc Twitter
As for the visit of Consett, hopes were high after the win at 'The Morgue' (not a nickname that i feel comfortable about using). There was a welcome return to the starting line-up for Professor Wilko with PGR dropped to the subs bench while Matty Cornish was moved to the wing. Callum Johnston kept his place after his wonder-goal in El Classicoast.
There was a presentation before the game as Alex Kempster was presented with something in a box for having played 200 games for the club. He looked thrilled. I, on the other hand, was not so thrilled with the cold wind blowing across the pitch. It was probably the weather, combined with the black and whities charging a tenner for the visit of Luton Town in the FA Cup, that meant the stands looked distinctly empty. As it turned out, when the match kicked off, 307 hardy souls emerged from their various warm dwellings to brave the elements. Amongst them, I was delighted to see Running Keith so that I could avoid a lonely vigil of both flag and videocam. 
There were misgivings before the kick-off as we had to decamp to the car park end: always an ominous sign. In fact there was nothing really of note in the first 28 minutes until Callum Johnston was brought down in the box by the Consett keeper. The aforementioned Ross Coombe looked distinctly like the last man and should have been shown a red card: a fact that was pointed out to the extremely young-looking and nervous-looking Jonathan Urwin. Shivering in the cold winds and even colder stares from the home fans, the boy in black only pulled out a yellow. this act, I reasoned, would only matter if we lost.  
Up stepped the Mr Magic Potter to blast home a sparkling penalty into Coombe's top left hand corner. Keith and I magnanimously decided it would have been harsh if he had been sent off as well.

 I hoped we would not regret it.
It almost looked like we would soon after when Consett's Michael Sweet looked to have a tasty chance. Flynn saved. Once again the sugary visitor tried his luck. The Flynnster blocked that one. A final confectionery delight ended up at his feet and once again Bay's number one soured his celebrations with another save at the expense of a corner.
There was, however, a bitter pill to swallow in first half injury time as Daniel Craggs blasted from distance and this time the Flynnster saw it late and the ball slipped under his body.
By now, the Keithster and I had resorted to winding scarves, hoods, snoods and anything else we were wearing around ourselves to keep warm as the temperature plummeted and the wind grew stronger. It was no surprise that the majority of the crowd had abandoned the goal-ends for the protection of the stands as sleet lashed the ground. When we looked around, Keith and I were the only ones left behind the goal. Even the FlagClub lads had broken the club rules by abandoning their flag! Disciplinary action will follow!
The Bay were almost rewarded soon after the break by an overhead kick that would definitely have won the goal of the month. Coombes managed to get a hand to it but unfortunately the effort was cleared before it could trickle over the line! Spoilsports!
Next up Coombes acrobatically punched clear a cross  and when the ball was played  to the roving Jack Walker (there's only one...), his brilliant drive was tipped over acrobatically by Coombes.
The boy was on fire!

Unfortunately for the visiting number 1, he landed awkwardly on his shoulder and appeared to be in great pain. Not that his team-mates showed him much sympathy as they thought up a collection of unprintable gags about his painful moanings. The youngster was substituted and one of the subs was put in goal: winger Josh Scott picking the short straw. In the first attack he faced, he managed to punch clear under pressure but when the ball was eventually turned in, Consett's Ryan McKinnon was on hand to score a fantastic own goal. Maybe the day would be ours after all!
Alas! No! Ryan's misfortune galvanised the visitors and they roared back. In the last 12 minutes of play, they pulverised Flynn, Wilko and co. Their defence lasted exactly two minutes before David Dowson scored a peach to equalise. Three minutes later, the game was up. Mr Confectionery himself scored the winner. A final nail in the coffin was provided by David Dowson, who scored on the break. Painful memories of the Vase exit at West Auckland sprung to mind. We were cold and wet and we'd lost the game in 15 minutes...and it should have been a red card!
To rub salt into the wounds I was asked to stop off at Morrisons to buy some bread on the way home: all I wanted was to curl up in a darkened, but warm, corner of the house. 

Thursday, 4 January 2018

3rd January 2018 - North Shields (a)

Posh teamsheet time!
Every New Year, since 2000 when the Milennium Bug was supposed to see the breakdown of civilisation as we knew it, I have been delighted to see January 1st arrive. This year, there was the added bonus of only 2 days to wait until El Classicoast. Considering the amount of rain that had swamped the country on Christmas night, leading to the original match being postponed, Bay fans arriving at the ground wondered whether the pitch conditions had been that different to today's: post Storm Eleanor. Conspiracy theories apart, Shields were going to be tough opposition whenever we played them and we were still without Professor Wilko at the back. There was also a shock to see Thibault on the bench alongside Callum Patton and Mr Juracell Jasper: none of whom were happy at being on the bench, judging by their glum expressions as they traipsed past.
As a fan, you want to see the strongest Bay team on paper out on the pitch but on paper isn't the same as in form and it is a tribute to the current squad that we have such strength in depth: new boy Callum Johnson starting up front with Callum 'two consecutive games' Anderson returning in defence. It was a bold move by Nashy and was one that, at first, looked likely to backfire spectacularly as the lads struggled to steal the ball from the bigger, nastier Shields boys.
My new Christmas toy, a sports camera (a-cheaper-than-Go-Pro!), was looking distinctly underused as Flynn and co desperately fought to clear their lines. Sean McCafferty, in the home goal had had nothing to do and may as well have nipped off to the bar for a pint and he still wouldn't have been missed.
The home fans were celebrating when big Ben Harmison leaped high to score with a powerful header. The writing looked on the wall for the Bay. Long Haired Andrew and sidekick Thomas joined us and he proudly announced that he had never seen us lose to Shields: our faith was suddenly lacking!
Simply pleased not to be even further behind, we were shocked to see the Bay awarded a penalty when a random player, possibly Kyle Patton, was sent tumbling. Gobsmacked, we couldn't believe our luck. When Tom Potter apparated with the ball onto the penalty spot, prayers were said to the God of Wizardly footballers. We shouldn't have worried, McCafferty was held spellbound as Tom slotted home. It was an equaliser the Bay scarcely deserved!
Flag Club had been split up for this game...we just hadn't got organised! Pogo had arrived an hour early to guarantee he got a good spot and his two flags were being closely guarded in the far corner of the ground, away from Shields' own collection. The other Lads, Jamie, Carl and Chris, had planted theirs at the same end that Tom had defended but had foolishly wandered around to their usual spot behind the home goal. My own Tricolor remained in my pocket: a combination of my disappointment at the lack of French nationals on the pitch and...well, TBH, I just couldn't be bothered. The shame!
At half time I hung mine up and was shocked to find the lads' flag had gone! Only the sad entrails of it's strings and clips remained, dangling forlornly in the brutally bitter wind: some scallies had half-inched it! Sure enough, the back gate was flapping pathetically back and forth as if ushering the lads to continue their fruitless search into the darkness that surrounded the Darren Persson Stadium...
Third rule of Flag Club: watch your flag like a hawk!
The team must have realised the karma that had been disturbed by an act of opportunist theft and raised their game to dominate the second half. We didn't have long to wait before a contender for Goal of the Month arrived courtesy of newbie Callum Johnson's dragback-and-lob! There was a god!
Callum was unlucky again as the Bay kept up the pressure but suddenly it looked like everything might be going Pete Tong when a slip in the box resulted in the ball rolling onto an unfortunate Bay player's hand: penalty! This was promptly dispatched but Flynn was equal to the task and the ball struck him as we celebrated.
Soon after, Thibault, on for the limping Alex, went close then Potter curled the subsequent corner onto the crossbar. The lads held strong and at the final whistle blue and white hearts were leaping.
We were now only eight points behind our illustrious neighbours with five games still in hand. 2018 will be a great year if we keep this second half form up! Now if we can only find that lost flag!
Happy New Year!