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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Are you Bayern in disguise?

Billingham Town 3 – 3 Guisborough Town

Sympathising with a German football team’s plight is not an emotional response that sits too comfortably with most English football fans. The scars from two semi-final shootout disasters still runs deep within the national psyche and so it was not altogether surprising that there was no emotional outpouring of sympathy for Bayern Munich when twelve years ago they let the Champions League trophy be wrenched from their grasp in the dying seconds of the final as Manchester United somehow contrived to win (or should that be Bayern contrived to lose?)

Bayern Munich and Billingham Town have little in common, so you would be forgiven for wondering why on Earth this article begins in this manner. Put simply, Bayern Munich were the words that were spat from my mouth as the full-time whistle blew at Bedford Terrace last night. Guisborough were leading 3-1 as the game neared its conclusion. I even tempted fate and suggested to some of the nearby Guisborough supporters that we move closer to the main stand where the players would leave the field to applaud off a dominant performance and three well earned points.

Then the seemingly impossible happened. A stupid defensive error allowed a sniff on goal for the home side’s Jamie Owens and he finished well. A ripple of nerves spread amongst the travelling support, but in truth this ripple didn’t have the opportunity to travel very far. Virtually from the
restart, another ball played in from the right this time was met by Nicky Martin who headed – ala Teddy Sheringham – into the corner to turn the game on its head.

How cruel, how unkind of Billingham Town to spoil the start of my weekend. They didn’t even have the good grace to do this to us on a Saturday afternoon. At least then it would have been half-way through the two-day break. Instead, this act was perpetrated on a Friday night leaving me with two whole days to mull over what might have been.

Of course, I jest. Credit has to go to the home side who plugged away and never gave in. They were never short on commitment and the biggest cheers of the night from the home crowd actually came from some of the tough tackling they demonstrated.

My bias is undoubted, but even with my rose tinted spectacles taken off and parked to one side, it was clear that Guisborough should have won. The pace of Roberts, McPhillips, Johnson and Decosemo was combined with the poise of Henry and I’Anson and at times Guisborough’s movements forward were so slick and so fast that every time we poured up the field we looked like scoring. Alas, therein lay the problem. The game should have been put to bed, done and dusted – use whatever cliché you like. But if you allow a hungry side a sniff – and let’s face it, Billingham Town had an appetite for points – expect them to feast. A quick glance at
the home side’s forward line also hints at the everpresent danger. Michael Dunwell, Nicky Martin, Jamie Owens – all good players, all good goalscorers and all clinical if given half a chance.

Twenty –four hours later - and with the shock of an unexpected outcome now firmly sinking in – I find myself being a little more philosophical. The last five games have seen this Guisborough team arrive in the First Division. Bedlington expected to come and conquer and only left with
a share of the spoils. Birtley were brushed to one side in the League cup and Newton Aycliffe – by their own admission – were fortunate to take the points away back to County Durham. Spennymoor – League champions, no less – were beaten 2-1 and Jarrow soon followed by a two goal winning margin. In midweek we travelled to Bridlington to face Scarborough Athletic and pace again caused havoc, with a 5-1 victory making the journey home psychologically far shorter.

There is still work to be done and last night’s conclusion demonstrated that this side remains a work in progress. Anyone present at the game last night was royally entertained. Billingham Town afforded us a warm welcome, which acted as a perfect contrast to the decidedly cold November night.

Sir Ridley Scott – director of Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator, no less - was brought up on Teesside and apparently based his dystopian image of the future world on his memories of industry at Billingham. Even he would have been hard-pressed to devise a conclusion as unexpected as this. But that’s football for you. I just hope I don’t have to say the words Bayern Munich again at the end of a football match. Unless of course it’s Bayern Munich that are playing.

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