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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shildon de-railed as Town approach forty points

Guisborough 2 - 1 Shildon

The BBC's big Christmas hit two months ago was undoubtedly the adaptation of Dickens' Great Expectations. A star studded cast was led by Ray Winston, in the role of escaped convict Abel Magwich. In the early scenes Magwich is seen devouring a pork pie, whilst trying desperately to remove the clamps and chains from his feet using a Blacksmith's file. Whilst the pork pie - suitably large and fleshy - brought to mind the most common Northern league culinary delight, the desperate attempts to move an unwanted item also reminded me of our early season clash with Shildon in the FA Cup. In a bizarre incident, which caught the crowd's attention almost as much as the actual play itself, a Shildon substitute who had entered play was called over by the referee and told to remove an ear stud which was covered over by tape. Whilst the instruction from the referee was a simple one, the process of removal was far more problematic as short of using a chainsaw, every item imaginable was used in a desperate attempt to free the player from his appendage. After bling-gate came another incident filled encounter at Dean Street in November. In a bad tempered affair, Guisborough lost a man to a red card and the game to the odd goal in three as they failed to convert their chances. With two wins in two against their hosts,
Shildon will have no doubt arrived with great expectations.

Shildon’s first-half goal must have exceeded all their expectations. After an even start, they were
gifted the opener when Casey, facing his own goalkeeper, contrived to lob his own man to put Shildon in the lead. Shildon are a big, physical and well–organised side and Guisborough found it difficult to break them down. It appeared that the visitors would sit down for their half-time cuppa a goal ahead. Yet deep into stoppage time, a goal was conjured from nothing. Roberts, always on the shoulder of the defender and pressing and harrying with his pace and skill, robbed the Shildon defence of the ball. With the visiting keeper stranded, Roberts had little option but to his try his luck from distance, despite all of the angles being against him. His right foot strike arrowed into the far corner to lift Guisborough spirits and in all probability change Chris Hardy’s team talk.

The second-half was much more open. Shildon continued to look dangerous when breaking from deep and any side that has Brian Stewart making darting runs down the left will cause problems. Guisborough ‘keeper Norton was three times called into action to make good saves as the County Durham outfit pressed to restore their early advantage. But the chances were not restricted to one end of the field. On the hour, Austin Johnson won the ball on the centre circle before laying the ball wide. Johnson then made a typical run forward, bursting into the box and almost doing enough to prod the ball home. His effort was agonisingly close, not unlike Paul Gascoigne’s desperate attempts to reach the ball in extra time against Germany in Euro ’96 where he was an extra set of studs away from glory. The game became increasingly difficult to call; Shildon maintained their threat going forwards, but their central defence looked tired and leggy and the game became stretched. When the goal came, it was from a familiar source. From a driven cross from Lee Bythway, Roberts nodded the ball across the face of goal and Jamie Poole was first to react to force the ball home. Of Guisborough’s last five goals, Poole has scored four of them.

There was still time for Shildon to test Norton and Guisborough’s nerves, but the home side
collected all three points and avenged their early season losses against the same side. Football never fails to surprise; Shildon fans may have left the game feeling a touch aggrieved that they went home with nothing having carved out a number of chances. This is precisely the emotion of Guisborough fans as they left Dean Street earlier in the season having also carved out chances that were not taken.

The win takes Guisborough to thirty eight points and a step closer to retaining their First Division status. Saturday brings Tow Law to town. Our visitors will be desperate for three points in their bid for First Division survival. They have never been relegated from Northern League Division One before. Whilst that remain the case beyond this year, it is becoming an uphill struggle. Of course, anyone who has been to Tow Law will know that hills characterise the place. Saturday will be another tough game, but one that Guisborough will go into confidence after two wins on the bounce.