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?