Sunday, 18 March 2018

13th March 2018 - Sunderland RCA (h)

The silence from the top was telling. Reading the chairman's message in the match programme, there was no rallying call to get behind the team or explanation of what the club was going to do next. Instead, he talked about the Beast from the East which had paralysed the country in its icy grip. There was a welcome to Andy Gowens and Mick Mulhern but nothing about how he intended to support him. I know I expect too much! After all, Andy has only got until the end of the season. That's confidence!
Andy Gowen's notes paid tribute to Nashy and Co and the great job they had done. He also said how delighted he was to be back. He had struck exactly the right chord. He then called for everyone at the club to pull together to move forward. This is something that has to happen and all Bay fans hope this can happen. The wonderful volunteers were out in force, as always, and there were some new young ladies serving in Tommy's Tea Emporium. Mr MacIlduff was even visible near the turnstiles chatting to fans: a step forward.
Packed out at the Bay!
But the bad taste around Nash and Woody's departure still hung around as tales circulated about a board director who regularly and vociferously complained in public about how bad they thought the pair were doing. This cannot and should not be tolerated in the club and someone should have had a word. Personal views of the board should really be kept private and not broadcast. Instead, the situation was allowed to continue until the departure of our best management team in years. If, as rumoured, the individual still has a lot of power in the club surely for the sake of the club, they need to move aside. Until that happens, I can't see the togetherness that Andy calls for coming about. I desperately hope that Andy and Mick can pull things around. Good luck guys.
We had said goodbye to The Beast from the East and the Pest from the West now the Mini Beast from the East was looming on the horizon. As a result, it was cold. My arctic survival coat, purchased from NEXT many years ago, had been retrieved from the loft where it had resided for the last few years. It was my answer to any impending ice age that may come, along with my Bay hat and scarf. I was ready for anything. Unforunately not many had braved the elements as kick off approached: Hillheads was a bit of a lonely place. Maybe fans had been worried that if they had turned up they would have been asked to play. The new policy at the Bay may soon become: "If you are born, you are old enough!"
Available at:
It was great to welcome a new player, an ancient 19-year-old centre back Rhys Groves. He was pointed out to me as the 'big one' and he certainly wasn't hard to spot as he towered over the others. What was slightly worrying was the fact that the average of the Bay team was 18.54 (Thanks Mr Twitter for that!). Could we 'win with kids'?

Tonight's Bay side : Harley, Salmon, Walker, Haley, Groves, Summers, Potter, Glen-Ravenhill(C), Brooks, Johnston, Cornish SUBS : Jasper, Anderson, Bell, Hall, Brannen

Within a few minutes, the garden looked unfamiliarly rosy: the Bay had scored! I had been totally justified in taking time off from school work and planning my new book's launch. (for you sci-fi fans out there, it is called Albie: fugitive from Tenebria and is available at: - plug over with.

A great cross from the fit-again Brookster was turned in perfectly by the marauding Callum Johnson. The 216 fans were delighted and there was a palpable sense of relief at the goal.

This sense of optimism barely lasted as Sunderland's Colin Larkin was brought down by Whitley's Noah Summers, who was promptly given his marching orders. It seemed a harsh decision as there was some debate whether he was the last man. Soon after, the sense of unfairness grew.
Larkin found himself in acres of space and slotted past the on-rushing Callum Harley (in goal becuase the Flynnster was laid up in bed). The ball rolled along the line then appeared to hit the post and bounce out. The initial relief disappeared when the linesman ruled the ball had crossed the line before bouncing off the net's wheel. Naturally, this was disputed by the fans at that end of the ground. Harley produced his second quality save of the game, athletically punching the ball away to stop RCA taking the lead. In fact both Harley and new boy Rhys were looking confident in the makeshift defence, contributing a number of well-timed tackles and clearances. The 10 young Bay players bounced straight back, and took the lead again with 27 minutes gone. This time it was Matty Cornish who contributed a cracking curler from outside the box that left the RCA keeper clutching thin air.

Once again, however RCA were soon level. A failed clearance was finally headed in by Sunderland's Greg Swansbury.
This galvanised the 11 Sunderland men and they turned up the heat on the 10 men. Harley was forced to charge out of his goal to deal with a lose bouncing ball. His attempted clearance landed at the feet of RCA's right winger who fired towards goal but thankfully Chris Salmon was on hand to clear off the line.
The bald-headed Martin Swales, RCA manager, was dancing up and down the touchline, constantly roaring his disapproval at the decisions whereas, in contrast, Andy and Mick were calm; taking in the game and giving encouragement to their young team, which was good to see. 
...shouty, sweary bloke

Calm and collected...
Unfortunately, Mr Sweary was the one who was happier at the end of the first half as Stephen Callen put the visitors ahead. There was confusion as ref Craig Dean once again refused to blow the whistle to signal a goal: something the watching assessor would not have been too impressed with. 
The second half was predictably dominated by RCA. Although Harley and co battled gamely, the game was effectivelyover  when a  bout of ping pong in the box and a wicked deflection saw RCA take a 5-2 lead. By this point the Bay announcer had given up mentioning the goals, although he did do a medley of announcements when the sixth goal flew past Harley. 
Sub Jasper was unlucky when he almost beat the RCA keeper to a high through ball but it just wouldn't run kindly for the effervescent one and the final score was 2-6. 
Not the kind of start Andy and Mick would have wanted but these are early days and the fighting spirit of the Bay team was still there, although we need to have the experience of the likes of Flynn and Callum Anderson if the youngsters are going to thrive again. 

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