Saturday, April 21, 2012
Visitors and April showers dampen Guisborough’s spirits.
Guisborough Town 0 – 2 Billingham Town Formed in 1967, Billingham Town Football Club’s rather regal looking club badge has the single word ‘ FAITH’ – at its base. Had they chosen a Latin phrase it might have read Numquam Reside! – translated as ‘never give in!’ It seems that despite their various trials and tribulations over the last eighteen months, the last thing Billingham Town appear likely to do is roll over and accept defeat. They certainly relish a local derby. Despite only recently securing enough points to ensure First Division survival, they are top of the Teesside table in terms of the points they have gained from clashes with their local rivals. In the ten local clashes they have played, Billingham Town have picked up 23 points. For a side that sits in the bottom third of the table, this is astonishing. Had they carried this record of 2.3 points per game across a forty two match season, Billingham Town would in all likelihood have been crowned Northern League champions. Of course, the fact that Spennymoor, West Auckland, Whitley Bay and Dunston are not in Teesside might somewhat weaken my argument. But Billingham Town’s record is still undeniably impressive. When we think of Battlefields, we so often think of mud and men sliding around. Twelve months ago the pitches were baked hard and the ball was more likely to bounce fifteen feet in the air than skip off a skiddy surface. But tonight the rain lashed down on the King George V ground and conditions were more akin to a late October evening, with players losing their footing and passes being overhit or underplayed. Shorn of Luke Bythway (suspended) and Austin Johnson (unavailable), it was always going to be difficult for the home side. In recent weeks Bythway has excelled in his role as lone striker. With good close control and awareness, he has dragged defenders out of position and his link up play has been particularly impressive. With no Austin Johnson, the bite that is required in a local derby in muddy conditions was somewhat lacking and it has to be said that Billingham Town appeared to have more attacking guile in the final third. The evergreen Michael Dunwell shot them into a first half lead with a sharp turn on the edge of the box and the impressive James Cronesbury doubled the visitors’ advantage on the stroke of half-time. The second goal deserves proper description, rather than merely a passing mention. Cronesbury received the ball on the edge of the box and turned inside on to his favoured left foot. There were plenty of options on – a ball across the six yard box for onrushing forwards or a driven shot across a skiddy surface, perhaps. Cronesbury chose neither option and in a moment of skill that perhaps underlined why Middlesbrough thought highly of him as a youngster, he dinked the ball perfectly over ‘keeper Dixon’s head and into the top corner. It was difficult to deny that Billingham Town deserved their second goal. Home fans still felt hopeful that there would be a second half revival and it was certainly the case that the Guisborough enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the second period. But just as the Priorymen got into promising positions, their moves broke down more often than Michael Owen. It was an evening of frustration and there was a feeling that had Guisborough scored one goal, another may have followed. Unfortunately, the London bus theory never materialised. Twelve months ago, Newton Aycliffe, Guisborough and Marske were all (in that order) promoted. They have all survived (in that order) in the First Division. It seems that three Premier League sides (Swansea, Norwich and QPR) may follow suit and maintain their Premier League survival. Life may be tough at the top, but not impossible. In one week (barring further Monsoons), the Northern league season will be over for Guisborough. They have the small matter of entertaining FA Vase finalists Dunston, before a last-day trip to Bishop Auckland. Playing against sides of this calibre is what makes being in the top division of the Northern league so special. I can hardly believe that the season is almost at an end. It appears to have quickened at every step, like a mazy Gareth Bale run. Time flies, they say, when you’re having fun. Or to borrow another Latin phrase – Tempus Fugit.