Saturday, November 10, 2012

A rare draw as Town net late goal

Team Northumbria 1 – 1 Guisborough Town

It’s sometimes stressful, can be exciting, occasionally frustrating but never boring watching Guisborough. By 10th November you would expect that after twenty three games a side might have drawn a game. Not Guisborough. There have been many wins, several defeats and nothing at all in between. Breaking their acquired convention of all or nothing, today Guisborough snatched a late equalizer against Team Northumbria. It might have been a draw, but it was most definitely a point gained. Travelling up to Team Northumbria’s Coach Lane ground is never easy. It becomes a touch more difficult when you have to make a repeat journey for a League Cup game in two days time. The visitors will hope to finish where they left off. In a rousing final twenty minutes Guisborough snatched a goal from the spot and could have sneaked a winner. But a draw was as much as they deserved, for having dominated the beginning and end of the game, the home side controlled the middle stages and should have been more than a goal up before Town equalized.

Last season Chris Hardy listed Team Northumbria as one of his favourite grounds. Whilst the ground hardly bursts with atmosphere, it is modern, well kept and the pitch is perfect for passing. It is the latter characteristic which is most likely to appeal to Hardy, whose teams play football that is easy on the eye. As Brian Clough once noted, if God wanted football to be played in the sky he would have put goalposts in the clouds. On a clear day, there were few clouds and few balls lumped forward in an airborne fashion. Both sides looked to maintain possession and patient build up was the name of the game. For the first half an hour Guisborough controlled possession but moves frequently broke down in the final third and goalmouth action was as rare as a Neville Southall diet regime. As the half wore on, Team Northumbria began to look more threatening. In Peter Watling they have a centre forward that only needs the slightest sniff of goal to remain interested. A controversial free kick was awarded to the home side twenty five yards out. Watling – economical in his run up – clipped the ball into the top corner. The ball zipped in, kissing the back of the net and rippling in the corner. It was a moment of quality you might expect from a man that scored 39 league goals in last year’s promotion winning season.

Whilst Guisborough began the second half with positive intent, they struggled to break down the home defence. If anything, Team Northumbria looked the more likely to score again. A change was needed and Chris Hardy threw on Steel and McPhillips as a double substitution. After his midweek hat-trick, Steel was brimming with confidence. His physical presence up front caused panic in the home defence and as is so often the case when a side is defending a slender advantage, they fell into the trap of defending too deeply and inviting pressure. Another factor in Guisborough’s late showing was Lewis Wood. Despite playing for the whole game, Wood was starved of possession for much of the time. When he was finally given the chance to run with the ball, his quick feet and direct running caused problems. The late pressure eventually yielded a result. McPhillips calmly slotted home from the spot as a visiting attacker was scythed down. There were more shots wide, more scrambles and more hoofed clearances. But if Guisborough had half an eye on grabbing a winner, they were left relieved in the final seconds when the home side spurned a chance to win it as the ball slid narrowly wide of Ben Escritt’s goal. Sherlock’s hands went to his head as he watched his effort go wide. On a different day he may have passed the ball to his strike partner, for whom it would have been a lot easier - a genuine case of elementary, my dear Watling.  

Both sides trudged off, perhaps considering what might have been. As Guisborough headed down the A19 they may have been contemplating whether or not to even bother going home. With two games in three days at the same location, there was the threat of more repeats than Channel 4’s Come Dine with me. Both sides will reflect that with better service, they too may have been celebrating victory. There’s plenty to chew on before Monday’s next encounter. 

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