Saturday, October 20, 2012

Whitley edge close encounter

Guisborough Town 1 -3 Whitley Bay  

Whitley bay is famous for many things – its former status as a seaside resort and current tag as a Stag and Hen Party hotspot perhaps chief amongst them.  Less well established is Whitley Bay’s rather impressive record for producing footballers and bass guitarists. Current Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor heralds from the town and his namesake - Andy Taylor - was quite literally instrumental in Duran Duran’s 1980s dominance. It is rather apt that Duran Duran’s biggest international hit – The Reflex -  was exactly what turned the game in Whitley Bay’s favour today. Those reflexes belonged to visiting goalkeeper Kyle Hayes. With the game approaching half-time, Guisborough enjoyed a spell of dominance which saw them equalise and carve out a number of good chances. They looked to have taken a half-time lead, but for Hayes’ outstanding low stop. The ball was turned away and the game turned in the visitors’ favour. From this point onwards Whitley Bay never truly looked like surrendering their lead again. Or, as Duran Duran may have put it, they were not about to let themselves Come Undone for a second time.
Whitley Bay have some rather impressive pedigree, though last season (by their own exacting standards) represented a disappointment. Having won the FA Vase in three consecutive seasons, it must become rather difficult to fulfil expectations. Also, as with all great sides, key performers begin to age or players move on to pastures new. Manager Ian Chandler has been working hard to blend new talent with the old formula and in recent weeks Bay’s results suggest that he is nearing the perfect recipe. For the first twenty minutes today they looked slick. Movement was good from front to back and with Paul Chow spearheading the attack, they will always be dangerous. Chow did not have his most influential game today, but a measure of his worth was that when he was presented with a chance, he finished it with aplomb. It rather reminded me of Gary Lineker; not in looks – Chow is more reminiscent of Gary McAllister in this respect. Nor is he like Lineker in style. But he seemed to similarly come alive in the box and have the same predatory instinct. With the twenty minute mark approaching, Chow slipped free of his marker as the ball was played into the box. Home ‘keeper Escritt narrowed the angle as he left his line. Chow knew just how long to wait before dinking the ball over the onrushing keeper. It was a goal that smacked of quality and experience. Chow has scored hundreds of them and there is no reason to think that the tank has run dry yet.

With the opportunity to take the game by the scruff of the neck, the visitors seemed to get sucked back towards their own goal, defending ever more deeply and surrendering midfield possession. Guisborough have an excellent balance in midfield at present. Adam Gell and Lewis Wood add subtlety and look to unlock defences, whilst the other Wood (Gary) and his fellow midfield general Austin Johnston are the engine of the midfield. Johnston undoubtedly benefits from Wood’s presence, being able to thunder forwards when given the opportunity, safe in the knowledge that Gary Wood will often do the less desirable but equally important task of snuffing out attacking threats and breaking up play. Yet Wood is more than that, as proven in recent weeks. His range of passing has widened, as has his ability to control the tempo of the game. What appeared to be a temporary move into midfield has proven to be a masterstroke.
As the half hour approached, the home side enjoyed a spell of dominance. They moved the ball at pace and every time the ball was played into wider areas, resultant crosses caused panic in the visiting defence. Guisborough eventually got the goal their play deserved when Luke Bythway picked up a loose ball in the penalty area, before turning and picking his spot in the bottom corner. Had Guisborough scored another goal at this point, the outcome of the game could have been very different. Hayes’ excellent stop put paid to that. His handling and general awareness were excellent throughout and it was not difficult to see why he had been chosen as the Northern League’s young player of the year last season.

Perhaps warmed by Ian Chandler’s words as well as their half time cuppa, Whitley Bay looked far more organised in the second half. They had strengthened their wider defensive areas and whilst the home side enjoyed spells of extended possession, they found it ever more difficult to unlock the visiting defence. This was a conundrum made all the more testing when Bay retained their lead from the penalty spot. Whilst the award of a spot kick was a touch dubious, the manner in which forward Ashley Davis dispatched the penalty could not have been more clinical. Guisborough continued to push hard for an equaliser, but were thwarted by an organised and committed visiting side, made all the more tenacious in midfield with the introduction of Lee Paul Scroggins. Whilst Scroggins helped to break up play, the introduction of Bay forward Denver Morris gave the home side a tremendous attacking option. Morris – who terrorised our defence whilst playing for South Shields last January with his pace and trickery – is a bigger outlet than the A19’s Dalton Retail Park. With twenty minutes remaining, Bay turned defence into attack in two passes. Morris surged forward at blistering pace and would have finished the game but for an excellent low save from Escritt in the Guisborough goal. When a side pushes hard to equalise, there is an obvious double edged sword. With bodies committed to attack, Bay finished the game when Robinson wriggled past his marker and shot low into the bottom corner. On balance, Whitley Bay probably merited their victory, but the two goal margin perhaps leant the score a sense of comfort which never truly existed.

Whitley Bay are closely associated with Wembley. But long before the club was even conceived, Whitley bay resident Captain Gladstone Adams travelled down to London to see Newcastle United take on Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 1908 FA Cup Final. A car in those days was something of a novelty, to the point where his 1904 Daracq-Caron motorcar was stored in the safety of a car showroom whilst he was at the game. On the way home, heavy snow resulted in Adams having to stop regularly to clear the screen so that he could see where he was going. His experience led to his subsequent invention  - the windscreen wiper.  Today’s game was terrific with some top quality passing football from both sides. Whilst this may well live on in the memory, Guisborough will be keen to wipe clear today’s result from their consciousness. They have a midweek trip to Carlisle to occupy their thoughts as they travel to Celtic Nation, formerly known as Gillford Park. Hopefully this all goes smoothly and windscreen wipers or not, let’s hope it doesn’t snow.

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