Saturday 24th September
Penrith Town 0 – 1 Guisborough Town
With green rolling hills framing the ground and the sight of a Buzzard soaring across the picturesque landscape, Penrith’s World Group Stadium is a genuine pleasure to behold. We were warmly welcomed by both the hospitable home officials and the sun which coated the ground in an amber, early Autumn glow. It would be fair to say that Guisborough supporters were made to feel at home and a quirk of the fixtures meant that this was our second visit to the ground in the space of four days. Having won a tight League Cup encounter 4-3 in extra time on the Tuesday, Penrith’s team talk would have been an easy one and the opportunity for revenge in this FA Vase clash was presented to them in super quick time. Yet it was Guisborough who were the fastest out of the blocks and only last-gasp defending and profligate finishing prevented early goals for the visitors.
At all levels of the game, pace frightens defenders and can force errors of both body and mind. Guisborough’s Michael Roberts – who looked as though he would not play this season until the New Year after a badly broken collarbone – demonstrated just what we have missed in the early weeks of the season as he pressured and harried the home defence. It was Roberts’ trickery as he cut inside from the right which opened up and stretched Penrith’s back four. As they moved out to close him down, Roberts played in Shane Henry on the left and his well struck effort nestled in the corner, despite a good effort from the home keeper. With his marker now unaware of just which way he would twist and turn next, Roberts posed further problems and delivered a series of threatening balls into the box.
All football supporters are biased to some degree and I would not exclude myself from these descriptions. Some supporters are totally blinkered and can only see their own strengths and failings and never recognise the good things their opposition have done. With the half-time score at 1-0, several home fans complained at their side’s poor showing. “We’re making them look good” said one elderly spectator as I passed him. “We’re not even doing a good job of that” said his companion. Amused at this exchange, it made me reflect on the previous week’s game against Billingham Synthonia when we had been two goals down at the interval and all of the talk in the clubhouse had revolved around our own mistakes and never the clinical nature of Synthonia’s forward play or finishing.
As last week’s rousing comeback against Synners demonstrated, half-time offers a chance to regroup when you are losing and to refocus any remaining energy. Penrith certainly did this and within ten minutes of the second half they had carved out more chances than in the whole of the first period. Visiting keeper Jack Norton saved well low-down to his left and as the half wore on, Guisborough’s defence and midfield found themselves sucked backwards like the receding tides under the influence of the moon’s gravitational pull. Clearances were finding Penrith players and the ball for long stages was like a proverbial hot potato as nobody could hold onto it for any period of time.
Penrith enjoyed a spell of pressure and had they scored, may well have had the momentum to go on and win the game. Credit must go to the visiting defence who drew the sting from the home attack and the midfield harrying of Johnson, Henry and Luke Bythway forced Penrith into longer balls into the box which either ran into touch or were well dealt with. It increasingly felt as though Penrith’s spell of pressure had come to nothing and the ever-willing Onions, Roberts and Decosemo looked as likely to sneak a second goal on the break as Penrith committed more men forward in search of a goal that would take the two teams into another extra-time period.
This was far from a classic game, but was it was a classic example of how to defend a lead in the cup away from home having scored relatively early on. The margins between the two teams was small, but I reckon that we just about deserved it. But as I said, I am biased…
Of the two cup games, had I been offered one win and asked which one to choose, naturally the FA Vase tie took on greater significance. To win not once but twice was a tremendous effort and sets up a home tie against Consett in a few weeks. For Penrith, to lose twice to the same team in a matter of days is a kick in the teeth. But they need not fret; they have two more opportunities to gain revenge against us in the league. Having thoroughly enjoyed this visit to Penrith’s sleek and professional set up on the edge of the town, I’d be more than happy to return again later in the year.
Like the A66 journey back to Teesside, there is a long road to travel within the competition. Consett, as they themselves have demonstrated already at the King George V ground, will prove to be a stiff challenge.