Guisborough Town: Dawson, Roddam (capt), Ferguson, Wood, Bythway, Poole, Orritt, Blake, Onions (sub Bath 73 mins), Youldon, Smith (sub Roberts 59 mins).
Whitley Bay: Flynn, Munro, McDonald, Allen, Keltie, Anderson, Potter, Haley, Robertson, Kemptster, Fryatt, Patton. C, Patton K, Shanks, Moore.
Today I was at the home of Guisborough Town, The King George V Stadium, to watch their league encounter against high flying Whitley Bay. Separated by 18 places in the league, Whitley definitely looked the favourites to bag the three points. Managerless Guisborough, who hadn’t won a game in their last 13 attempts, would seriously have to dig in to get anything out of this.
Definitely not an undercover Whitby Town scout, Jamie Poole and James Dawson were definitely on my list of players to watch. Jamie made a huge difference in the Seasider’s relegation battle last season, sitting right in the centre of defence. Former Hartlepool youth player James Dawson was signed by Whitby after he impressed at an open session at Northfield School in Billingham. A session I managed to get to, he was by far the biggest talent on show, and former Guisborough Manager Chris Hardy wasted no time in snapping him up.
As the game started, both teams showed real attacking intent. In the 2nd minute, great play from Guisborough’s number 11, Connor Smith, forced a courageous block from the Whitley defence. After that came 3 minutes of exceptionally poor attempted through balls from both teams, all easily cleared by the respective defences.
On the 5th minute, a seemingly innocent cross field ball was smartly intercepted by Whitley Bay. The ball fell to their number 10, Alex Kempster, who’s darting run left the Guisborough defence stranded. Kempster then finished smartly under James Dawson to make it 1-0 to the visitors. At this point, Whitley looked a real force to be reckoned with and I was a bit pessimistic about Guisborough’s chances.
Following the goal, Whitley continued to pile on the pressure, forcing a succession of defensive clearances from Guisborough, all resulting in corners that were easily dealt with. James Dawson did take a knock to the head during this little spell, but seemed to be alright after a few minutes.
Whilst Whitley Bay were firmly in the driving seat, they did seem vulnerable to the counter attack. At some points, all 10 of their outfield players were in the Guisborough half, as they tried to capitalise on their dominance. Some composed defending, including some very intelligent play from Whitley’s number 6, Callum Anderson, meant Guisborough’s attack would rarely get a sight of goal.
26 minutes had passed, and Whitley Bay had done everything but score a second. Attack after attack, the Priorymen were kept in the game from some luck, and the bravery of James Dawson, who was throwing himself in the way of everything that came his way. Following a simple save from a tame Whitley shot, the ball was played out smartly, and ended up at the feet of Gary Wood, Guisborough’s number 4. Wood had spotted the run of his darting teammate, Smith, and played through a ball I described at the time as ‘unbelievable’. With his left foot, he perfectly curled a ball through to Smith’s feet, leaving the Whitley defence helpless. Smith was now 1 on 1 with the keeper, Tom Flynn, and managed to finish smartly from the edge of the area, with the ball nestling in the bottom right corner. Definitely against the run of play, you could see the jubilation on the player’s faces.
As Whitley kicked off, they continued as they started, looking defensively sound and a real threat going forward, although few chances were made. Guisborough did get into it after a few minutes, and did manage to finish the half the stronger of the two teams. As the referee blew his whistle, the Whitley Bay players were discussing what’d gone wrong, and the Guisborough players were all congratulating each other on a good first half performance. It seemed an impossible game to call, as I’d discussed with a few of the away supporters, but we were all excited for the second half to begin.
At the beginning of the second half, very little in terms of clear goal scoring opportunities were made. A headed chance for Whitley’s Kempster was cleared off the line, although it seemed to be going wide, but that was it for the first 5 minutes. Guisborough were definitely knocking it round more confidently, having taken motivation from their first half display.
Both teams soon started to get in the rhythm of things. A swift counter attack was brought back by the referee, in the 63rd minute, for a shirt pull from Paul Blake, nephew of former Leeds United player Robbie Blake, resulting in a yellow card. From the resulting freekick, Whitley’s Robertson found himself in a promising position in the Guisborough area, but managed to fall over the ball, watching the ball get cleared as he remained on the floor.
The game became a bit bogged down in midfield after this, with both teams misplacing passes. In the 66th minute, the ball fell to the ever reliable feet of Guisborough’s Gary Wood, who again managed to thread a ball through, this time to Dave Onions. Onions controlled the ball well, and managed to get the ball to the by-line, where he beautifully dummied his marker, leaving him for dead. Onions then cut inside and passed the ball into the net, from a very tight angle, giving Guisborough the lead, and prompting huge celebrations from the players and supporters alike. Dave Onions was substituted later in the game, but kept himself on the touchline in order to talk to his teammates, offering constructive advice and motivation, including a shout of ‘when you save, go down’ to his goalkeeper, James Dawson, who heeded his advice.
Guisborough managed to keep the ball well in the 5 minutes of added time the referee had somehow come up with. Keeping the ball in the corner, it was clear just how much the 3 points meant to the team. As the final whistle sounded, all the players were ecstatic, and rightly so. Such a hard fought game against formidable opposition, the players outdid all expectations I and a few others had, lifting themselves off the bottom of the table, at the expense of Chester-Le-Street.
Good luck to Guisborough for the rest of the season – with a team of passionate players on display, like today, I’m sure the rest of the season will keep progressing in a positive fashion, compared to the forgettable start. And commiserations to Whitley Bay. I think you came to Guisborough at the wrong time, but I’m sure you’ll get yourselves back on track!