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Monday, April 9, 2012

Superstitions and a super Derby day win

Marske United 1 – 3 Guisborough Town

“We should win this today” said a fellow Guisborough fan as we walked through the turnstiles and into Marske’s GER stadium at 10.55. “I hope so - Touch wood” I replied. In the absence of any wood, I found myself patting my head. In hindsight, as I was holding a Marske programme, this may well have counted too, given the thickness of Moss Holtby’s excellent weekly offering.

Superstitions are a funny thing. Touching wood might well be one of the most common, but some people in football take their superstitions to the extreme. Bobby Moore would insist on being the last player in the dressing room to put on his shorts and during pre-match warm ups Gary Lineker would not shoot at goal for fear of using up all of his good shots. Neither of these two players’ antics quite compares to the former Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea, though. Prior to a penalty shootout, Goyochea would urinate on the pitch. Now I’ve heard of superstitions, but that one really is called taking the...

Both Marske and their visitors entered the game in a position of safety and with First Division football secured for next season. But derby days – regardless of a team’s league standing – put an extra spring in players’ steps, bolster the crowd and add additional decibels to the noise emanating from the terraces.

After just a few minutes today, there was only one set of supporters celebrating. As Liam O’Sullivan speared his long throw towards the Marske penalty area, the ball broke kindly for Jamie Poole who prodded the ball past home keeper Willey. Buoyed by his goal, Poole looked energetic and dangerous each time he received the ball. Before the half hour was up, he had doubled his own tally and given Guisborough a cushion as he sidestepped his marker before placing the ball coolly into the corner. Jamie Poole has been an excellent acquisition. In many ways, he is a victim of his own success. Being a utility player, Poole can occupy the left flank, sit in a holding role and even play up front. For me, he is at his most impressive when afforded the opportunity to break from midfield. Gary Wood’s inclusion in midfield enabled Poole to break more freely and at 2-0, Marske had an uphill task.

There is something strange that seems to happen to sides when they go two goals down. They are often more obviously galvanised than when only a solitary goal behind. Perhaps implicitly they feel they have license to throw men forward and caution to the wind. Newton Aycliffe provided a comeback masterclass on Saturday and this thought lingered in my mind as Marske sought a goal to keep them in the game. They almost got one straight away as the impressive McGill squirmed his way past Roddam but saw his effort from an acute angle strike the upright. When a Marske goal did arrive, it did so in slightly unusual circumstances. Craig Skelton hit a low free-kick which deflected off the Guisborough wall, hit the post and ran along the goal-line before nestling in the corner.

On Saturday, Newton Aycliffe had gone in a the break 2-1 down and arrived in the second half galvanised from their team talk. When they equalised they carried their momentum forward to go on and win the game. Marske’s intentions were no doubt very similar, but they shot themselves in the foot when they were caught napping in the early stages of the second period as Guisborough took a quick free-kick to catch everyone out and restore the visitors’ two goal advantage. Whilst I was still touching wood superstitiously, Marske were left to curse the woodwork as substitute Owen Dixon rattled the crossbar from distance. Stand-in keeper Gill was called upon to make two saves – one a superb effort low down – to maintain Guisborough’s advantage. But had another goal been scored, it was just as likely that it would have gone Guisborough’s way. The pace and trickery of Stewart and Roberts on the flanks pinned the Marske fullbacks in their own half and several times excellent balls were played across the box that were not quite converted. Had Guisborough’s injured forward Chris I’Anson been watching, he would have salivated at the prospect of being on the end of some excellent deliveries.

This was a good game of football played on an impressive Marske surface. In all of the years I have been to Marske’s GER stadium, there is no doubt that the pitch this year looked at its finest. For the home side, Skelton and McGill stood out. McGill is a pacy, tricky player with good close control and a clear eye for goal. When he moved inside from his wide right position he was at his most threatening and at times he appeared isolated and wasted in a peripheral role on the right when he could have fed off the flick-ons from central positions.

Guisborough had the edge over their local rivals because of their extra energy, pace and vigour throughout the side. An away win at Marske has been a long time coming.
Marske had gone to a great effort to make the day a success; an Easter egg hunt for children, a half-time penalty shoot-out between the two sides’ Junior sections and a bouncy castle behind one goal. Whilst some of the home supporters left the ground feeling a touch deflated, this was impressive stuff. Even more so when you consider that Under 16s were admitted for free. I’ll look forward to visiting the GER stadium again next season when both sides will be looking to build on a solid campaign.

Driving home from a game is always more pleasant with a win under your belt. I’m thankful that on our journey home we didn’t encounter Neil Warnock. Apparently, when his side have won a game he stops at every traffic light on his way home, even if the lights are on green. Warnock has endured a pretty miserable start to his reign as Leeds manager. At least residents of the city can console themselves that the roads are safer as a consequence. At least, I hope they are. Touch wood.

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