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Sunday, September 9, 2012

A week to savour as Priorymen dig in for all three points

Guisborough Town 1 – 0 Newcastle Benfield

Normal service has resumed. I was able to park my car within 200 metres of the ground, the stewards in high-vis jackets were now gone and it was possible to see play over the barriers without having to crane your neck or having conducted a pre-match elbow sharpening exercise to jostle more effectively for position. After the midweek drama that saw Guisborough stroke four goals past Darlington, there was always the danger that this could be a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show.  The reality was that today’s game was just as important as the one on Wednesday evening. Three points were up for grabs and a win would take Chris Hardy’s men into the top half of the table with games in hand.
Whilst it could not be quite claimed that Guisborough carried on from where they left off, they certainly dictated the early tempo. Benfield manager Perry Briggs has been busy in the summer, bringing in experience in the form of FA Vase winning (Whitley Bay) centre half Darren Timmons and midfielders David Pounder and Ritchie Slaughter. With midfielders called Pounder and Slaughter, Benfield should be a physical side. Briggs himself was a no-nonsense centre half who took no prisoners and his committed side are almost cast in his image.

Luke Bythway quite possibly had his best game in a Guisborough shirt on Wednesday evening. His link up play was a central feature of Guisborough’s dominant performance. Today, he was equally as involved. Whereas two days ago Bythway was so often the provider, today he found himself on the end of a through ball with the half-hour mark approaching. With just visiting ‘keeper Grainger to beat, Bythway looked to have opened the scoring. His low shot hurtled past the goalkeeper but fell the wrong side of the post.

The day was arguably as warm as any this summer, but this must be tempered with the fact that the summer has been unseasonably cool and wet. The referee, evidently concerned about dehydration, ordered a drinks break half way through the half.
“Ridiculous!” shouted one home supporter. “Does that mean that in December they have a Bovril break as well?”

Perhaps the extra fluids did the trick. With half-time approaching, Austin Johnson latched onto a high ball from Luke Bythway. With evidently still plenty left in the tank, he brought the ball down with one foot prior to smashing the ball in with his other foot. A half-time lead felt about right; Guisborough had edged the game, but it would always the case that Benfield would come out for the second half fighting.
As the second period got underway, play became more stretched. Benfield played with a higher line and committed more bodies forward. On occasions they played some intricate balls into feet, but having failed to unlock the home defence, clearly decided a change of tack was required. They began to launch the ball forward. On Wednesday, the raffle prizes included wine, beer and a breakfast. Today, Benfield’s long ball tactic was meat and drink to Guisborough’s defence. They soaked up all that was thrown at them and I couldn’t help but think that with greater perseverance, Benfield’s tactic of playing the ball into feet may have yielded greater results. In particular, summer signing Craig Bishop again excelled. A growing understanding has developed with his central defensive partner Lee Bythway. Today's clean sheet was testimony to a settled back four.

In the final fifteen minutes, with visitors committing men forward, Guisborough looked as likely to score again. Lively second-half substitute Evans was a menace, closing down and worrying the opposition. He went close to opening his Guisborough account when he shot narrowly wide. In the final moments, Joel Guy burst forward and appeared to have scored as his well driven effort headed goal ward. Grainger flung himself to his left to pull off a smart save, pushing the ball past the post.
What a difference a week makes. Three wins, seven goals for, two goals against. When you’re playing like that, the next game can’t come soon enough. As for Darlington – well, they vanquished any lingering thoughts of disappointment by thumping five goals against Consett. The first goal was scored after fifteen seconds.  Martin Gray probably told his side that they needed to set the tone. He was given an emphatic response.

The sun continued to shine and Man of the Match Gary Wood’s grin was as wide as the sun drenched panoramic view of the Cleveland Hills that could be seen in the background.
On Tuesday, Town travel to Penrith – a club whose motto – ‘Res non verba’ – translates as ‘actions speak louder than words’. This seems a rather apt point for me to stop. Hopefully the Guisborough players will carry on from where they left off and let their feet do the talking.

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