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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Town must tune in again as Consett force a replay

FA Vase 1st Round Proper

Guisborough Town 4 - 4 Consett (AET)



Guisborough Town 4 – 4 Consett
Cup games are meant to provide goals, near misses, controversy and crowd involvement. This game ticked each of the above boxes and after 120 minutes of pulsating, end to end action, both teams were left to reflect on what might of being, before turning their attentions to a much anticipated midweek rematch.
Guisborough entered the game on the back of a 4-0 home reverse against Whitley Bay in midweek. This was no disgrace; Bay were sharp, incisive and supremely organised and at times they cut through our defence like a hot knife through butter. Despite that, Guisborough’s second half showing was promising. Chances were carved out and on another day the deficit may have been smaller. It was clear to see why Whitley Bay have won the FA Vase three years in a row. The basics are done so effectively and professionally and there was no obvious weakness anywhere on the pitch. When they could find the space, Bay looked to play the ball from the back, but were equally adept at playing the percentages when there was any risk of being dispossessed.

Consett are a good side, but for a number of reasons – not least some injuries to key players – their form going into this game was at best patchy, with just three wins in their last eleven games. It was Guisborough who started the brightest and with a strong wind in their favour, Town did the early pressing. Yet the first goal belonged to the visitors. The home defence dallied too long in possession and the mistake was punished clinically as Michael Mackay skipped past the home defence and the advancing Jack Norton before finishing smartly from an acute angle. In a pattern that was to be played out throughout the rest of the game, Consett’s lead was short-lived. Within just minutes of the restart, Onions clipped a perfect ball through for Shane Henry to slide past the visiting keeper. The game then settled into a pattern, with Guisborough good in possession and Consett looking threatening going forward. With half-time approaching, Consett broke clear down the left and a rasping twenty yard effort thundered into the underside of the crossbar and bounced down on the line. In the absence of a Russian linesman, the goal was not given but Guisborough were slow to react and Marc Walton restored Consett’s lead. Consett manager Kenny Lindoe was perhaps mentally preparing himself for a team talk which centred around preserving their lead in the second half and springing at Guisborough on the break. This all went out of the window when more loose marking allowed the persistent I’Anson to break clear and level the tie on the stroke of half-time.

I am usually extremely reticent to be openly critical about referees. It is a tough job and officials, like players, are bound to make mistakes. However, the referee ‘s performance and manner today put him centre stage. This was a keenly fought contest but there was barely a poor tackle. Despite this, six home players received cautions and both sets of supporters were left baffled at some of the decisions. That said, football is a game of angles. In the first period, Guisborough had a goal chalked off for a handball leading up to Joel Guy’s finish past the visiting keeper. From where I was stood, it looked quite feasible that the ball had struck his arm as he challenged the home goalkeeper. Yet a discussion with neutrals on the other side of the pitch provided an entirely different perspective. “He headed the ball” they said. “His arms were up but the ball never touched them” his friend added. Through a different set of eyes and from an alternative vantage point, the same event took on a totally different perspective. You can see a referee’s dilemma.

Both sides had chances to score in the second period before Michael MacKay restored Consett’s lead in the seventy-seventh minute. Aside from the goal, he was the visitors’ stand-out-player. His speed of movement, darting runs and general awareness posed regular problems. MacKay looked to have won it as he stroked his sixteenth goal of the season past Jack Norton. He took the goal with nonchalant ease.

At this point, Chris Hardy opted to take both Onions and I’Anson off and played McPhillips and Roberts up front. What the two players lack in inches they made up for in pace and against a tiring Consett defence, McPhllips found just enough space on the edge of the box late on and he turned and swivelled to place the ball into the corner and send the game into extra time.

McPhillips was proving to be difficult to live with; he burst clear of the visiting defence again in the first period of extra time to give Guisborough the lead for the first time in the match and had he managed to strike his shot to either side of the goalkeeper just moments later, the game would have been sewn up and McPhillips would have completed a twenty minute hat-trick.

There was an aching sense of inevitability about Consett’s equaliser. In fairness, despite Guisborough’s late surge, Consett merited a replay. Having led three times, Consett may have left thinking about what might have been. Equally, having carved out numerous late chances, it could have been Guisborough picking up a cheque for £900 and looking forward to next week’s draw. After eight goals in one hundred and twenty minutes, the crowd were royally entertained, even if Alan Hansen would not have eulogised about some of the defending on show. Wednesday will determine the fate of the two sides in a replay at Belle Vue Park. You can bet there will be goals and on this showing, quite possibly a lot of them.

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