Monday, April 8, 2013

Wintery weather as Town spring up the table

Marske United 0-1 Guisborough Town

The term 'thick and fast' may refer to several professional footballers who, for fear of litigation, will remain nameless. The term also certainly applies to the fixture pile up in the Northern league, where the gap between games is shorter than Sammy Lee. This is the spring that never was, following on from the winter that never ends. But solace can always be found in two derby wins over your local rivals in the space of a week. Both games were 1-0, both games were tight and neither were classics. But the win propels Guisborough into ninth place and the clean sheet is testimony to a superbly organised display where Jamie Poole's commitment and Craig Bishop's composure were central features. The decisive goal came in the first half when Marty O'Riordan - rejuvenated and reborn in his second spell at the club - latched on to a perfectly weighted diagonal ball over the top and lashed the ball left-footed into the top corner. It was a goal that was a goal before it was even a goal; from the moment it left O'Riordan's foot it was in. The travelling support leapt upwards to celebrate, none more so than Rob 'Shaka' Hislop behind the goal, who roared as the ball hit the net in an outpouring of energy that could have powered the National Grid.

The travelling support may have hoped that this goal would open the floodgates, but Marske battled hard and in former Town striker David Onions were always a threat going forward. Onions did not so much have the fire in his belly than an inferno. He urged teammates on and for the first half an hour chased down every ball. But Guisborough soaked up all that was thrown at them and their tactic of playing the ball across the back is an opposition attacker's nightmare. Onions and McGill chased and harried, but increasingly were running low on energy as they ran themselves into the ground. 

In a second half high on action but low on chances, Guisborough's Roberts came closest when his mazy run and shot flew goal wards, but clipped the top of the crossbar. Two years ago, Marske sneaked a last minute winner into the goal Guisborough once again defended in the second half. As the clock ticked on, Marske pushed and pressed hard for an equaliser. This time, Guisborough held firm. Style has been a hallmark of Chris Hardy's Guisborough sides for several years, but add to that substance and stomach. His side continues to evolve and the precise passing that was the hallmark of victories against West Auckland and Whitley Bay has been complemented with grit and guts when required. 

Some players walked off, others hobbled, some limped. Wednesday brings another fixture, this time at South Shields. To end as I began, the fixtures continue onwards - thick and fast. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Town back on winning trail

Guisborough Town 3 – 0 Durham City

Last week, the mercurial West Indian batsman Chris Gayle made cricketing history when he blasted the first ball of a test match for six. This had never happened in the sport’s 145 year history and made headlines around the world. This morning, Ian Bell – a rather less imposing but nonetheless talented cricketer – made an ill conceived attempt to smash the first ball of his innings back over the bowler’s head and succeeded only in top edging it into a jubilant fielder’s hands. Whilst Gayle looked imperious, Bell’s effort was lambasted by commentators and former players. The margins between success and failure in sport can be incredibly slim. When things go badly wrong, it can be difficult to recover a situation.

Today’s football match between Guisborough and Durham may not make local sporting headlines, never mind being splattered across the broadsheets and red tops, but there was a moment in today’s game which arguably tipped it in the direction of Guisborough. An even first period had seen Guisborough lead through Austin Johnston’s bullet header, as he leapt like an Atlantic Salmon navigating Scotland’s River Blackwater to head home. Then Durham equalised. At least, they thought they had. But the goal was chalked off for an apparent tug on a Guisborough defender. This was Durham’s top edge moment. Their protests suggested that they felt more than a little hard done by and had the game been level at half-time the outcome could have been different.
Durham came out for the second half clearly pumped up and determined to put right their perceived sense of injustice. They looked to pass the ball and carved openings, but they couldn’t find the net, despite some near misses. What was warming up to be a close, fiery and competitive encounter was emphatically doused with two Guisborough goals in quick succession. Both oozed quality.  Lewis Wood turned his marker inside out before driving the ball across for the diminutive Michael Roberts to stroke the ball home.  Having been dealt a blow, Durham were undeterred and immediately sprung an attack. But as the attack broke down and Guisborough broke from defence, a long ball was played over the top for Roberts. Like a greyhound released from its traps, Roberts gained ground on the defender with every step. It only happened in a nano-second, but I knew that the defender was done for. Sensing Roberts’ breath on his neck, he made the cardinal error of taking half a glance back over his shoulder to see just close Roberts was. The moment could not be recovered. By the time the visiting defender had turned around again, Roberts was ahead of him and in on goal. Left with little option, Durham’s visiting keeper left his line to narrow the angle. But the Guisborough attacker had momentum and his minor and deliberate diversion to the goalkeeper’s left gave him an open goal into which to place his shot. Where Ian Bell had failed, Guisborough momentarily looked as though they had succeeding in hitting the opposition for six. From a position where Durham conceivably could have been level, they were now swaying on the ropes and threatening to hit the canvas.

But credit must go to the visitors, for they did not capitulate. They have had a turbulent time of late after voluntary demotion to the Northern League at the end of last season and a new manager in recent weeks in the form of Adam Furness. But things have been looking up, with four consecutive wins prior to today’s game. You could see why.  The three goal margin perhaps suggests that the game was won comfortably, but Durham more than played their part and on a different day the scoreline may have been a lot closer. They continued to press forward and home keeper Dixon had to be alert several times to ensure a clean sheet. For Guisborough manager Chris Hardy, the clinical manner in which the goals were taken will be of particular pleasure. There have been times this season where Guisborough have dominated possession but not taken their chances. The three goal cushion allowed him to use his full quota of substitutes, safe in the knowledge that the game was all but won.    
Durham is famed for its university – listed as one of the top 100 universities in the world – and in turning to Adam Furness the football club have turned to a leading light in Durham University sport, for Furness is the Head coach and First Team Coach as well as an FA tutor in charge of coach education. They play football and with a touch more finesse in front of goal, they will win a lot of games.

For Guisborough, this was three well-earned points. This week they have played two games in three days against university based Team Northumbria and today’s fixture against Durham.  A win was very welcome. Whilst the display was not quite of first class vintage, Guisborough more than passed with honours.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A rare draw as Town net late goal

Team Northumbria 1 – 1 Guisborough Town

It’s sometimes stressful, can be exciting, occasionally frustrating but never boring watching Guisborough. By 10th November you would expect that after twenty three games a side might have drawn a game. Not Guisborough. There have been many wins, several defeats and nothing at all in between. Breaking their acquired convention of all or nothing, today Guisborough snatched a late equalizer against Team Northumbria. It might have been a draw, but it was most definitely a point gained. Travelling up to Team Northumbria’s Coach Lane ground is never easy. It becomes a touch more difficult when you have to make a repeat journey for a League Cup game in two days time. The visitors will hope to finish where they left off. In a rousing final twenty minutes Guisborough snatched a goal from the spot and could have sneaked a winner. But a draw was as much as they deserved, for having dominated the beginning and end of the game, the home side controlled the middle stages and should have been more than a goal up before Town equalized.

Last season Chris Hardy listed Team Northumbria as one of his favourite grounds. Whilst the ground hardly bursts with atmosphere, it is modern, well kept and the pitch is perfect for passing. It is the latter characteristic which is most likely to appeal to Hardy, whose teams play football that is easy on the eye. As Brian Clough once noted, if God wanted football to be played in the sky he would have put goalposts in the clouds. On a clear day, there were few clouds and few balls lumped forward in an airborne fashion. Both sides looked to maintain possession and patient build up was the name of the game. For the first half an hour Guisborough controlled possession but moves frequently broke down in the final third and goalmouth action was as rare as a Neville Southall diet regime. As the half wore on, Team Northumbria began to look more threatening. In Peter Watling they have a centre forward that only needs the slightest sniff of goal to remain interested. A controversial free kick was awarded to the home side twenty five yards out. Watling – economical in his run up – clipped the ball into the top corner. The ball zipped in, kissing the back of the net and rippling in the corner. It was a moment of quality you might expect from a man that scored 39 league goals in last year’s promotion winning season.

Whilst Guisborough began the second half with positive intent, they struggled to break down the home defence. If anything, Team Northumbria looked the more likely to score again. A change was needed and Chris Hardy threw on Steel and McPhillips as a double substitution. After his midweek hat-trick, Steel was brimming with confidence. His physical presence up front caused panic in the home defence and as is so often the case when a side is defending a slender advantage, they fell into the trap of defending too deeply and inviting pressure. Another factor in Guisborough’s late showing was Lewis Wood. Despite playing for the whole game, Wood was starved of possession for much of the time. When he was finally given the chance to run with the ball, his quick feet and direct running caused problems. The late pressure eventually yielded a result. McPhillips calmly slotted home from the spot as a visiting attacker was scythed down. There were more shots wide, more scrambles and more hoofed clearances. But if Guisborough had half an eye on grabbing a winner, they were left relieved in the final seconds when the home side spurned a chance to win it as the ball slid narrowly wide of Ben Escritt’s goal. Sherlock’s hands went to his head as he watched his effort go wide. On a different day he may have passed the ball to his strike partner, for whom it would have been a lot easier - a genuine case of elementary, my dear Watling.  

Both sides trudged off, perhaps considering what might have been. As Guisborough headed down the A19 they may have been contemplating whether or not to even bother going home. With two games in three days at the same location, there was the threat of more repeats than Channel 4’s Come Dine with me. Both sides will reflect that with better service, they too may have been celebrating victory. There’s plenty to chew on before Monday’s next encounter. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Whitley edge close encounter

Guisborough Town 1 -3 Whitley Bay  

Whitley bay is famous for many things – its former status as a seaside resort and current tag as a Stag and Hen Party hotspot perhaps chief amongst them.  Less well established is Whitley Bay’s rather impressive record for producing footballers and bass guitarists. Current Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor heralds from the town and his namesake - Andy Taylor - was quite literally instrumental in Duran Duran’s 1980s dominance. It is rather apt that Duran Duran’s biggest international hit – The Reflex -  was exactly what turned the game in Whitley Bay’s favour today. Those reflexes belonged to visiting goalkeeper Kyle Hayes. With the game approaching half-time, Guisborough enjoyed a spell of dominance which saw them equalise and carve out a number of good chances. They looked to have taken a half-time lead, but for Hayes’ outstanding low stop. The ball was turned away and the game turned in the visitors’ favour. From this point onwards Whitley Bay never truly looked like surrendering their lead again. Or, as Duran Duran may have put it, they were not about to let themselves Come Undone for a second time.
Whitley Bay have some rather impressive pedigree, though last season (by their own exacting standards) represented a disappointment. Having won the FA Vase in three consecutive seasons, it must become rather difficult to fulfil expectations. Also, as with all great sides, key performers begin to age or players move on to pastures new. Manager Ian Chandler has been working hard to blend new talent with the old formula and in recent weeks Bay’s results suggest that he is nearing the perfect recipe. For the first twenty minutes today they looked slick. Movement was good from front to back and with Paul Chow spearheading the attack, they will always be dangerous. Chow did not have his most influential game today, but a measure of his worth was that when he was presented with a chance, he finished it with aplomb. It rather reminded me of Gary Lineker; not in looks – Chow is more reminiscent of Gary McAllister in this respect. Nor is he like Lineker in style. But he seemed to similarly come alive in the box and have the same predatory instinct. With the twenty minute mark approaching, Chow slipped free of his marker as the ball was played into the box. Home ‘keeper Escritt narrowed the angle as he left his line. Chow knew just how long to wait before dinking the ball over the onrushing keeper. It was a goal that smacked of quality and experience. Chow has scored hundreds of them and there is no reason to think that the tank has run dry yet.

With the opportunity to take the game by the scruff of the neck, the visitors seemed to get sucked back towards their own goal, defending ever more deeply and surrendering midfield possession. Guisborough have an excellent balance in midfield at present. Adam Gell and Lewis Wood add subtlety and look to unlock defences, whilst the other Wood (Gary) and his fellow midfield general Austin Johnston are the engine of the midfield. Johnston undoubtedly benefits from Wood’s presence, being able to thunder forwards when given the opportunity, safe in the knowledge that Gary Wood will often do the less desirable but equally important task of snuffing out attacking threats and breaking up play. Yet Wood is more than that, as proven in recent weeks. His range of passing has widened, as has his ability to control the tempo of the game. What appeared to be a temporary move into midfield has proven to be a masterstroke.
As the half hour approached, the home side enjoyed a spell of dominance. They moved the ball at pace and every time the ball was played into wider areas, resultant crosses caused panic in the visiting defence. Guisborough eventually got the goal their play deserved when Luke Bythway picked up a loose ball in the penalty area, before turning and picking his spot in the bottom corner. Had Guisborough scored another goal at this point, the outcome of the game could have been very different. Hayes’ excellent stop put paid to that. His handling and general awareness were excellent throughout and it was not difficult to see why he had been chosen as the Northern League’s young player of the year last season.

Perhaps warmed by Ian Chandler’s words as well as their half time cuppa, Whitley Bay looked far more organised in the second half. They had strengthened their wider defensive areas and whilst the home side enjoyed spells of extended possession, they found it ever more difficult to unlock the visiting defence. This was a conundrum made all the more testing when Bay retained their lead from the penalty spot. Whilst the award of a spot kick was a touch dubious, the manner in which forward Ashley Davis dispatched the penalty could not have been more clinical. Guisborough continued to push hard for an equaliser, but were thwarted by an organised and committed visiting side, made all the more tenacious in midfield with the introduction of Lee Paul Scroggins. Whilst Scroggins helped to break up play, the introduction of Bay forward Denver Morris gave the home side a tremendous attacking option. Morris – who terrorised our defence whilst playing for South Shields last January with his pace and trickery – is a bigger outlet than the A19’s Dalton Retail Park. With twenty minutes remaining, Bay turned defence into attack in two passes. Morris surged forward at blistering pace and would have finished the game but for an excellent low save from Escritt in the Guisborough goal. When a side pushes hard to equalise, there is an obvious double edged sword. With bodies committed to attack, Bay finished the game when Robinson wriggled past his marker and shot low into the bottom corner. On balance, Whitley Bay probably merited their victory, but the two goal margin perhaps leant the score a sense of comfort which never truly existed.

Whitley Bay are closely associated with Wembley. But long before the club was even conceived, Whitley bay resident Captain Gladstone Adams travelled down to London to see Newcastle United take on Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 1908 FA Cup Final. A car in those days was something of a novelty, to the point where his 1904 Daracq-Caron motorcar was stored in the safety of a car showroom whilst he was at the game. On the way home, heavy snow resulted in Adams having to stop regularly to clear the screen so that he could see where he was going. His experience led to his subsequent invention  - the windscreen wiper.  Today’s game was terrific with some top quality passing football from both sides. Whilst this may well live on in the memory, Guisborough will be keen to wipe clear today’s result from their consciousness. They have a midweek trip to Carlisle to occupy their thoughts as they travel to Celtic Nation, formerly known as Gillford Park. Hopefully this all goes smoothly and windscreen wipers or not, let’s hope it doesn’t snow.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Extra time ecstasy for Morpeth

Morpeth 1 – 0 Guisborough Town (AET)

I’d tempted fate. By discussing Guisborough’s likely penalty takers with just minutes until the sudden death competition, it was almost inevitable that Morpeth would score a last minute winner. Cue mass celebrations from the home players and supporters and looks of collective dejection from the substantial Guisborough travelling support. Wembley will have to wait for another year.
Morpeth have undergone something of a resurgence in recent months. They are unbeaten in the second division this year and during the week travelled to First Division Team Northumbria in the Northumberland Cup and returned as 2-0 victors. The warnings were all in place and nobody from Guisborough was taking the game lightly. The recent floods to sweep the North East may have been erased from the landscape, but not from local memories. Morpeth was especially badly hit. Whilst the local football side have been rising, so were the local water tables. Heavy rain over the two days prior to this fixture put the tie in doubt. Whilst the pitch was clearly playable, the soft, greasy surface meant that flowing football was virtually impossible. Passes were overhit, passes were underhit and moves broke down more often than a 1973 Skoda.  “This looks like a game where the first goal will be the winner” said one Guisborough fan. Little did he know just how accurate this statement would prove to be.

Morpeth are very organised. The back four were well drilled, the full backs looked to support up and down the wings and the front men were energetic and pressed the visitors when they didn’t have the ball and threatened when they did. But as the first half wore on, Guisborough’s midfield began to enjoy superior spells of possession. The chance of the half fell to Liam McPhillips. He was played in smartly by Stewart from the left and with just the keeper to beat, he deliberated for a split second too long. By the time he struck the ball past the home goalkeeper, a defender had tracked back and cleared the ball off the line. The half time whistle blew with the tie deadlocked.
Half time discussions in both dressing rooms no doubt centred on how to open up the opposition. Whilst managers mused over set plays and potential changes in personnel, it was clear within moments of the second half that Morpeth had opted to change their formation. To counter the visitors’ superior possession , they had moved to three men at the back and added an extra man to midfield. For the initial stages this simply induced further midfield congestion and meant that attacking intent was stymied ever more quickly. But as the half wore on, the game became more stretched. In tight games, the decisions of officials are brought into greater focus and both sets of fans were left infuriated and amused in equal measure at some of the decisions. One Morpeth player appeared so far ahead of his marker when played in that he could have been assigned a different grid reference to the visiting defence. The chance came to nothing, but it invoked furious protests from the traveling fans. The same fans were relieved moments later when the flag was raised. In a neat move, Morpeth scored from close range. As they celebrated the goal, realisation slowly dawned that the goal had been chalked off. As ten different people had different perspectives on the decision, it demonstrated just how difficult an official’s job is.

At the other end, Guisborough had a series of corners and pressed hard, but could not find a route through, as Poole was denied from close range and McPhillips blasted over from the edge of the box.
Extra time arrived and substitute Nathan Evans wriggled free of his marker with minutes left. His right footed shot was crisp and low and looked likely to hit the bottom of the net. Agonisingly, the ball took a coat of paint off the post and the chance went begging.

In all honesty, Ben Escritt in the Guisborough goal was the busier of the two goalkeepers in extra time and in the dying minutes he parried brilliantly from close range. The ball ran free from his grasp, but Escritt was quickly back to his feet to throw himself forward and acrobatically deny the onrushing striker. Morpeth were not to be denied. With virtually the last kick of the game, Anderson lifted the ball over Escritt from close range. The ball seemed to travel in slow motion as it crept into the corner. This time, there was no referee’s whistle and no flag raised on the touchline.  There was no reprieve. Morpeth had scored the perfect goal. There was barely time for the game to restart before the end of the game was signalled by the shrill sound of the referee’s whistle and the resultant cheers from the home support.
Two seasons ago, I won the raffle prize at Morpeth. Today, I won it again. I would have gladly traded the prizes for a win. Instead, the whiskey’s best use would be to drown my sorrows. But I’d driven to the game, so I was not even afforded that luxury.

Well done to Morpeth. In their humbling season two years ago, it was difficult to see a way forward for them as they sank to their lowest ebb. Now, they appear a side rejuvenated. Unless a lengthy FA Vase run results in a fixture backlog, I fully anticipate that they will be in the promotion mix come the end of the season.

For Guisborough, now exists an opportunity to climb the table with several fixtures in hand over all but one side in the league. Our tally of eighteen points from nine games is a tremendous start. Chris Hardy has built a talented, committed side. Being a Guisborough fan at the moment feels good, even if today did not quite go to plan. The club (and team) are moving forward. There was a significant travelling support here today, a sure reflection that people are enjoying the quality of the football being served up.
Next up is a trip to Billingham Synthonia on Wednesday night. The Synners earned an impressive 4-2 victory at West Auckland today and the game will provide another stiff challenge. Synner’s most famous player has to have been the late, great Brian Clough. Perhaps it should be left to the man himself to describe his own greatness. As he once noted, “I wouldn’t say I’m the best ever. But I’m definitely in the top one”.

As far as the Teesside clash on Wednesday goes, Guisborough will hope to be the number one side by the end of the ninety minutes. Either way, at least there can be no extra time.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sun shines on slick Priorymen

FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round

Stokesley 0 – 5 Guisborough
North Yorkshire could not have looked prettier as I drove through Hilton and Seamer from Stockton under clear blue skies and September sun to get to today’s game. The town of Stokesley bustled with life as I was held up on the high street outside Chapters, the town’s high class Bistro/restaurant. In the story of Stokesley Football Club, recent chapters have been ones to forget. After climbing up through local leagues and then the Wearside League, under the guidance of Ted Watts the club won the Northern League Second Division and held their own the following season in the First Division. Then problems arose. Watts left the club, many officials followed and not a single player from the previous season remained at the club. The task for new manager Monty Alexander was one of mammoth proportions. Reputedly operating on a budget slashed more savagely than the Amazon rainforest, Alexander and his side had to be commended for their enduring commitment. They went through the whole of last season without winning a league fixture. This season has started more promisingly. In the previous round of this competition they beat Thornaby 3-0 and in a landmark moment, travelled to Chester Le Street during the week and returned as 1-0 victors.

As a Guisborough fan, this appeared a touch ominous. Whilst the visitors had to be firm favourites, a cup competition often galvanises a side and the supposed gap in quality can be bridged. The early proceedings were even. The two teams both squandered possession at regular intervals. It was Stokesley that had the better of the early chances and with more composure and greater venom two opportunities to test visiting ‘keeper Escritt may have been better utilised.

The reality was that if Stokesley were to cause an upset, realistically they needed to score first. Guisborough began to exert more influence across the central areas of midfield and as the half wore on Gell, Johnson and Guy started to pull the strings. The opening goal was a well rehearsed routine as Johnson made a diagonal run across the defence to latch on to a well taken free-kick to pass the ball past the home goalkeeper. Stokesley had not tracked Johnson’s run. They had been caught napping. To make matters worse for the home team, the same player doubled the scoring before the interval. Incredibly, the same free-kick routine resulted in an identical outcome. If they had been guilty of being half asleep before, this time the home defence were virtually comatose. Manager Monty Alexander exercised his vocal chords and scratched his head in frustration. A third goal was scored on the stroke of half-time when McPhillips – who until this point had been relatively quiet – suddenly sprung to life. He ghosted past four players in a mazy dribble before taking the home keeper off guard with a low left footed shot into the corner.

Stokesley have a young side that are learning. To their credit, they didn’t give up the ghost. Two more goals were scored in the second period by Luke Bythway – the second a driven shot into the roof the net – and other Guisborough goals could have been scored. A combination of disallowed efforts and wayward shooting kept the scoreline respectable.

Stokesley have a pleasant ground, good facilities and a well tended playing surface. This was their first defeat in three games. Today's game aside, they appear to be moving in the right direction.
For Guisborough, our next stop in this competition is Morpeth. The conquerors of Marske United beat Whitehaven today and we travel to Northumberland in four week’s time. They are unbeaten at home and have only conceded seven goals in ten games at the time of writing. It promises to be tough and tight. Two hours on I drove back through Stokesley High Street. By now, the earlier buzz had given way to a low afternoon murmour, except outside of Chapters where early evening diners were heading out for the night. Today, Guisborough got their just desserts for a clinical performance. It is to be hoped that this win in the competition is just for starters.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A week to savour as Priorymen dig in for all three points

Guisborough Town 1 – 0 Newcastle Benfield

Normal service has resumed. I was able to park my car within 200 metres of the ground, the stewards in high-vis jackets were now gone and it was possible to see play over the barriers without having to crane your neck or having conducted a pre-match elbow sharpening exercise to jostle more effectively for position. After the midweek drama that saw Guisborough stroke four goals past Darlington, there was always the danger that this could be a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show.  The reality was that today’s game was just as important as the one on Wednesday evening. Three points were up for grabs and a win would take Chris Hardy’s men into the top half of the table with games in hand.
Whilst it could not be quite claimed that Guisborough carried on from where they left off, they certainly dictated the early tempo. Benfield manager Perry Briggs has been busy in the summer, bringing in experience in the form of FA Vase winning (Whitley Bay) centre half Darren Timmons and midfielders David Pounder and Ritchie Slaughter. With midfielders called Pounder and Slaughter, Benfield should be a physical side. Briggs himself was a no-nonsense centre half who took no prisoners and his committed side are almost cast in his image.

Luke Bythway quite possibly had his best game in a Guisborough shirt on Wednesday evening. His link up play was a central feature of Guisborough’s dominant performance. Today, he was equally as involved. Whereas two days ago Bythway was so often the provider, today he found himself on the end of a through ball with the half-hour mark approaching. With just visiting ‘keeper Grainger to beat, Bythway looked to have opened the scoring. His low shot hurtled past the goalkeeper but fell the wrong side of the post.

The day was arguably as warm as any this summer, but this must be tempered with the fact that the summer has been unseasonably cool and wet. The referee, evidently concerned about dehydration, ordered a drinks break half way through the half.
“Ridiculous!” shouted one home supporter. “Does that mean that in December they have a Bovril break as well?”

Perhaps the extra fluids did the trick. With half-time approaching, Austin Johnson latched onto a high ball from Luke Bythway. With evidently still plenty left in the tank, he brought the ball down with one foot prior to smashing the ball in with his other foot. A half-time lead felt about right; Guisborough had edged the game, but it would always the case that Benfield would come out for the second half fighting.
As the second period got underway, play became more stretched. Benfield played with a higher line and committed more bodies forward. On occasions they played some intricate balls into feet, but having failed to unlock the home defence, clearly decided a change of tack was required. They began to launch the ball forward. On Wednesday, the raffle prizes included wine, beer and a breakfast. Today, Benfield’s long ball tactic was meat and drink to Guisborough’s defence. They soaked up all that was thrown at them and I couldn’t help but think that with greater perseverance, Benfield’s tactic of playing the ball into feet may have yielded greater results. In particular, summer signing Craig Bishop again excelled. A growing understanding has developed with his central defensive partner Lee Bythway. Today's clean sheet was testimony to a settled back four.

In the final fifteen minutes, with visitors committing men forward, Guisborough looked as likely to score again. Lively second-half substitute Evans was a menace, closing down and worrying the opposition. He went close to opening his Guisborough account when he shot narrowly wide. In the final moments, Joel Guy burst forward and appeared to have scored as his well driven effort headed goal ward. Grainger flung himself to his left to pull off a smart save, pushing the ball past the post.
What a difference a week makes. Three wins, seven goals for, two goals against. When you’re playing like that, the next game can’t come soon enough. As for Darlington – well, they vanquished any lingering thoughts of disappointment by thumping five goals against Consett. The first goal was scored after fifteen seconds.  Martin Gray probably told his side that they needed to set the tone. He was given an emphatic response.

The sun continued to shine and Man of the Match Gary Wood’s grin was as wide as the sun drenched panoramic view of the Cleveland Hills that could be seen in the background.
On Tuesday, Town travel to Penrith – a club whose motto – ‘Res non verba’ – translates as ‘actions speak louder than words’. This seems a rather apt point for me to stop. Hopefully the Guisborough players will carry on from where they left off and let their feet do the talking.