Guisborough Town 1 - 1 Marske United
Queues and Boxing Day have become synonymous when discussing the fortunes of High street Retailers. Queues and the Northern league are perhaps less closely associated, so it was heartening to see a crowd just short of 400 for this local derby between Guisborough and Marske. This is the first time in four years that the two clubs have clashed in the traditional Boxing Day fixture and the first time for even more that the two clubs have shared First Division status. These factors, combined with expected temperatures of an unseasonable ten degrees, drew locals for the late morning clash. Although there was only one place separating the two sides in the league table, the form table told a different story. Marske have hit a purple patch and came into the game on the back of a six game unbeaten run. Guisborough's performances of late have been impressive, even if results suggest otherwise. Profligacy in front of goal and festive generosity towards opposition forwards has cost the side points when conceivably they too could have hit the thirty point mark. As supporters funneled into the ground, a strong wind funneled the length of the ground. It made good football difficult and much of the first forty five minutes was attritional, with Marske pressing hard to maximise the advantage of the wind at their backs and Guisborough largely content to contain the visitors and spring at them on the break with the pace of Johnson, Roberts and McPhillips. The best chances of the first half fell to Marske and undoubtedly the clearest opportunity came to Karl Charlton. Playing against a former side seems to have different effects on different players. There is no doubting the fact that Charlton is a good player at this level, as his record demonstrates both this season and last in the yellow of Marske. But the King George V ground does not appear to be a happy hunting ground for Charlton. On several occasions he carved out openings only to be thwarted by good saves. He had the chance to set the tone in the sixth minute but having beaten Jack Norton his underhit shot allowed Wood to clear superbly off the line.
A few eyebrows were raised when the in-form Decosemo made way for Willie Boland in the starting line up. But the Irishman enjoyed an excellent hour on the pitch as he used every ounce of experience to control the pace and tempo of midfield and to bring other men into play. As Boland was replaced by Decosomo, this signalled a clear intent from Chris Hardy to take the game to the visitors. Yet it was Marske who should have gone ahead as Bradley burst clear. As he flicked the ball past the onrushing Norton the crowd expectantly waited for the ball to nestle in the corner of the net. Yet somehow, the ball dribbled past the post. Sport is all about chances taken and chances missed. Having been given a reprieve at one end of the pitch Guisborough surged forwards and Wood fired a shot/cross into the box. Austin Johnson, as tenacious, mobile and aware as ever, met the ball and cleverly flicked it over the visiting keeper to give the home side the lead. A goal so often gives a side momentum and when momentum is created, sides must capitalise upon it. Decosomo showed great vision to put McPhillips in the clear but with the home supporters expecting the lead to be doubled, he rashly blazed the ball over the bar. Following Decosomo's example, Roberts cut infield towards the centre circle and played a replica ball to McPhillips. Sadly for Guisborough supporters and to the relief of traveling fans, the outcome was the same as McPhillips failed to properly test the goalkeeper.
When Marske equalised it was perhaps inevitable but undoubtedly merited. Substitute Jones proved his credentials as a goal poacher as he tapped home from close range. There were chances at either end and Marske always looked dangerous from set plays, but a draw seemed fair as both sides were left to reflect on chances not taken.
As 2011 comes to a close, both sides will leave the year with fond memories of what has gone. Both sides promoted, both teams drawing good crowds and both sides making decent strides in a tough new division. By Easter we will know a lot more about how the two teams have fared in Division One. For now, they can look back on a year of fulfilled hopes and the realisation of a lot of hard work, both on and of the field.
This is what derby days should be about. A good crowd, a positive atmosphere, a lively but sensible local rivalry and an evenly contested and even tempered contest on the field. May 2012 bring more of the same.