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!

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