Newton Aycliffe vs Guisborough Town – 17/12/2016

Newton Aycliffe: 1 – Pentoney, 2 – Marley, 3 – Harrison, 4 – Brown, 5 – Hitton, 6 – James Oliver, 7 – Nicholson, 8 – Trotter, 9 – Boagey, 10 – Owens, 11 – Gray, 12 – Brassel, 14 – Jack Oliver, 15 Mellanby, 16 – Wood, 17 – Wilson.

Guisborough Town: 1 – Dawson, 2 – Bligh, 3 – McAvoy, 4 – Roddam, 5 – McPhillips, 6 – Bythway, 7 – Orritt, 8 – Wood, 9 – Onions, 10 – McNeill, 11 – Blake, 12 – Livingstone, 14 – Roberts, 15 – Scott, 16 – Lovatt, 17 – Goldsack.

Today’s game choice, as determined by a Twitter poll, was Newton Aycliffe at home to Guisborough. Encouraged to go to witness the ‘rebirth’ of Newton Aycliffe following recent events that lead to the dismissal of the previous manager and some of the playing staff, I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I turned up at Moore Lane.

On arrival to the ground, I was greeted with a mince pie, which I absolutely needed, and it went down a treat! I even managed to squeeze in a few chats with some of the club staff and supporters who were all looking forward to what we were hoping would be a cracking game.

Onto kick off, and Newton Aycliffe were in their dark blue home kit. Guisborough were in their purple kit. And it was Guisborough who started the livelier.

In just the second minute, Guisborough’s number 10, Mason McNeill, out battled Aycliffe’s Alan Harrison, getting himself 1 on 1 with the opposing keeper, Pentoney. After taking a few smart touches, McNeill coolly finished under the outrushing goalkeeper to put the away team 1-0 up very early on.

After the opening goal, Aycliffe started to get back into the game. Although Guisborough’s number 8, Gary Wood, continued to show great strength and power to push Guisborough into the attacking third, nothing materialised as Aycliffe managed to stand strong. At this point, the game became very even, with both teams counteracting any moves the other team attempted.

Aycliffe’s first chance fell to their number 7, Nicholson. Managing to use his strength to get round Guisborough’s number 3, Dylan McAvoy, Nicholson tamely shot at the Guisborough goalkeeper, James Dawson, who saved easily. The next chance of the game also fell to Aycliffe, but this time to their number 10 and new captain, Jamie Owens. A great solo run allowed him to get a shot away, although this was also straight at James Dawson, who held the shot at the second attempt.

Following a bit of attacking Aycliffe pressure, Guisborough’s number 5, Liam McPhillips, picked up the ball in his own half. McPhillips played a clever ball over the top to his attacking counterpart, McNeill, who managed to strike the crossbar with a side footed shot after a run past the Aycliffe defence.

In the 27th minute, Ayecliffe’s Jamie Owens again caused Guisborough more problems. After making a darting run leaving the Guisborough midfield standing, Owens cut inside and whistled a shot, from just outside the area, just past the far post. Aycliffe showing a lot more attacking intent at this point and, if it continued, it was only a matter of time before they scored.

And so, in the 30th minute, as Aycliffe sustained their attacking pressure, the ball, again, fell to Jamie Owens. As he had done previously, the Aycliffe captain very smartly cut inside, and beautifully shot with the outside of his boot into the bottom left corner of James Dawson’s goal. Just out of the reach of the goalkeeper, the ball nestled in the back of the net, equalising for the home team. The first goal of the Mellanby / Browne tenure, it definitely meant a lot to the players, staff and supporters alike.

Shortly afterwards, Aycliffe managed to make it 2-1. Aycliffe’s Marley received the ball just on the edge of the area, and brilliantly took a first time shot that looped over James Dawson and into the top right corner. A shot that looked unstoppable, it was jubilantly celebrated by all the Aycliffe players, who’d all managed to capitalise on some great, consistent attacking play.

After the Aycliffe turnaround, Guisborough had slowly started getting back into it, with some smart, passing play. That was until a miscommunication between the two Guisborough defenders, Liam McPhillips and Bythway. An innocent Aycliffe ball over the top was called for by both players, who both went for the ball, and clattered into each other in the process. A break in play followed as McPhillips received treatment for a cut and bleed received when he went for the ball.

Taking advantage of Guisborough’s number 5 not being on the pitch, Aycliffe’s Zak Boagey made a smart run into the area, and managed to get off a shot towards the Guisborough goal. Parried by James Dawson, the ball fell to the Aycliffe number 8, Trotter, who calmly side footed the saved shot into the goal, giving Aycliffe a 3-1 lead just before half time.

At this point, it was very hard to believe that Aycliffe had gone through such a dramatic change in the last week, having appointed a new management duo, and signing 11 new players. The team had taken a commanding lead, and one they didn’t look like they’d let slip in the second half, but did it by playing some very smart Football.

And it was Aycliffe who continued to attack as the second half got underway. It was the main man again, Jamie Owens, who forced the first save of the half. Another solo run, jinking past the defence, forced a simple enough save from James Dawson, who’d definitely been the busier of the two goalkeepers thus far.

Obviously being woken up by the amount of defending they’d done so far, Guisborough started to come to life with long periods of attacking play, but never managing to get any clear cut chances. Aycliffe continued to dig in, and cleared anything that came their way to maintain their two goal advantage.

That was until the 72nd minute. A rather aimless overhead kick / pass was misjudged by the Aycliffe defence and fell kindly to Guisborough substitute, number 14 Steve Roberts, who finished smartly into the bottom right corner, out of the reach of the goalkeeper, Pentoney, making it 3-2 and sparking an exciting end to the game.

In the closing of the game, Guisborough definitely had more of the possession, but Aycliffe continued to have as many bodies back as possible, and created an unbreakable wall to maintain their one goal lead.

Frustrating for the Guisborough players as Aycliffe held the ball whenever they received it, a late tackle from Guisborough’s Dave Onions sparked a mass surrounding of the referee, as his line running colleagues also joined him on the pitch. I didn’t quite see anything after the tackle, but both Dave Onions and the Aycliffe left back were dismissed. In my opinion, it wasn’t a red card offence, but I can’t say what happened when the players surrounded the referee, so the red card offence may have been committed then.

All in all, a great game. Maybe not for the travelling Guisborough supporters, but for everyone connected to Newton Aycliffe FC and the neutrals that’d gone along to see a totally new Newton Aycliffe side.

As always, continued good luck to Guisborough Town, who I continue to keep an eye on and always enjoy watching. And good luck to this new Newton Aycliffe side, who’s ‘rebirth’ has started with a bang!

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Stockton Town vs Team Northumbria – 14/12/2016

Stockton Town: 1 – Michael Arthur, 2 – Matthew Garbutt, 3 – Jimmy Ward, 4 – Alan Cossavella, 5 – Adam Nicholson (C), 6 – Tom Coulthard, 7 – Fred Woodhouse, 8 – Max Craggs, 9 – Joe Carter, 10 – Kallum Hannah, 11 – Kevin Hayes, 12 – Tony Johnson, 14 – Joe Scaife Wheatley, 15 – Sonni Coleman, 16 – Chris Dunwell, 17 – Steven Roberts.

Team Northumbria: 1 – Steven Mundy (C), 2 – Nick Green, 3 – Aiden Haywood, 4 – Harry Jewett, 5 – Liam McNamara, 6 – Robert Grainley, 7 – Kevin Carr, 8 – Robert Spence, 9 – Daniel Taggart, 10 – Joel Bradley, 11 – Nathan Evans, 12 – Ben Dieb-Fuller, 14 – Michael Saver, 15 – Alex Barnes, 16 – Scott Gunn, 17 – Gerrard Richardson.

 

After missing last night’s cup fixture between Thornaby and Billingham Synthonia due to work commitments, I chose Stockton’s home league fixture against Team Northumbia as my Football fix. 2nd placed Stockton Town hosted a Team Northumbria side sitting pretty at the top of the Northern League Division 2 with two games in hand.

Team Northumbria’s starting line up boasted a mix of youthful energy and physical experience, as did Stockton’s, so we were definitely in for a great game!

On to kick off, and it was Team Northumbria who started the better of the two teams. Looking calmer on the ball, and knocking the ball around more confidently. The first shot of the game also came to Team Northumbria. Northumbria’s number 11, Nathan Evans, picked the ball up just outside the area and drove a shot towards Stockton’s keeper Michael Arthur, who parried the shot and collected the rebound comfortably.

As Stockton started to settle into the game a bit more, they also started creating some promising chances. Number 8, Max Craggs, fired a low shot at Northumbria’s keeper and Captain Steven Mundy, who parried his shot out for a corner. From the resulting corner, Stockton’s Captain Adam Nicholson headed just over and out for a goal kick.

In the early exchanges, it was Nathan Evans who continued to be the stand out player. In the sixth minute, Evans decided to go alone, taking on four Stockton players, before losing the ball in the area. His desire to run at Stockton Town’s defence was already causing problems, and his teammates were always in position to support him, giving Town a lot of worries early on.

On to the 20th minute, and Stockton got their first real chance of the game. The Team Northumbria defence gave away a soft free kick just outside the area; a perfect position for Max Craggs. Craggs’ shot at goal went just wide. From some angles, it looked like it’d nestled the back of the net. And this was evident as Adam Nicholson prematurely celebrated, only to quickly work out that his teammate hadn’t scored.

And so, in the 28th minute, during a period where both teams were continually attacking but struggling to find a quality shooting opportunity, Northumbria’s Nick Green squeezed a low cross into the area. Controversially, however, as from where we were standing, it looked like the ball had gone out for a throw in. From the cross, Northumbria’s number 9, Daniel Taggart, shot low and hard through the legs of the helpless Michael Arthur, giving the away team the advantage.

Nothing noticeable happened in the remainder of the half, as both teams started to play direct Football, with numerous aerial battles being fought, but not much quality football on show.

As the second half kicked off, it was Stockton Town who started the stronger. After receiving the ball out wide, Stockton’s number 11 Kevin Hayes smartly cut inside and played a very clever through ball to Matthew Garbutt. Garbutt managed to drill a low cross into the area, but was unable to reach any of his teammates. His cross was cleared in front of goal, but probably the best sight of goal Stockton had created thus far.

The game had become very end to end around the 60th minute mark, with both teams looking like they could grab the next goal and, with the score at 1-0, any goal could manipulate the game in either team’s favour. Stockton continued to pile pressure on the Team Northumbria defence, who stood strong and stayed resilient for a long period of the game.

In the 82nd minute, Stockton’s continuous pressure forced a tame back pass from Alex Barnes that was pounced on by Sonni Coleman, who managed to control the ball and finish under Northumbria’s Mundy, levelling the game late on. Maybe a bit unfair on Northumbria, who had played exceptionally well up to this point, but were punished for a momentary lapse in concentration.

Even this late on, it was the type of game that wouldn’t have been right if it ended in a draw. And, from Northumbria’s kick off, it was Stockton who were straight on the attack. A high ball into the area was met by Sonni Coleman, again, who very smartly shot over his head, and over Steven Mundy, giving Stockton a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute, having been losing the game just 5 minutes previously.

The next 10 minutes were all about Stockton who were brilliantly controlling the play, leading the Team Northumbria players to become exceptionally frustrated, but this played into Stockton’s hands even more.

So the game finished 2-1, with Stockton just about edging a relatively tight game, but there were always going to be a few twists in a game between two teams filled with such quality. Good luck to both teams this season, not that you’ll need it if you both keep playing Football like some of the play on show tonight!

Easington Colliery vs Tow Law Town – 08/12/2016

Easington Colliery: Donaldson, Bell, Goodey, Pearson (c), Martin, Atkinson, Hodgson, Kenney, Adamson (Norton, 60′), Renton, Jones – Unused subs: Thompson, Doyle, Freeman, Kerridge.

Tow Law Town: Allan, Collinson, Oldfield, Soulsby, Dixon, Caygill (c), Lee, Whitworth, Dixon, Thear (Mordue, 62′), Barker – Unused subs: Ward, Blades, Shields, Gibson.

My choice of games this week was the 25 or so mile journey up to Easington Colliery. A team I’d never seen play at a ground I’d never been to. Upon arrival, and after purchasing a programme, we went into the club house for a drink, seeing as we’d manage to arrive an hour before kick off!

Flicking through their exceptionally well presented programme, I noticed that three of their last eight games had finished 0-0, a scoreline I hadn’t seen all season. Ever the optimist, I continued to hope for a few goals.

Easington, currently 5th in the league, were playing a Tow Law team sitting in 15th, having struggled to find any sort of form at home. Easington knew that a win would take them joint first in the league, but it was always going to be a struggle against a determined Tow Law side. Easington would be spurred on by the fact they hadn’t lost at home in their last 8 encounters.

Onto the kick off, and Tow Law started the slightly brighter team. The first shot on goal fell to Tow Law’s number 11, Kieran Baker, who managed to shoot high and wide, losing the first Football of the game. As the playing surface had taken a battering from the recent weather, it was clear both teams would struggle to play on the ground, and this was apparent as both teams attempted numerous high balls.

The first real chance fell to Tow Law, and their number 3, Scott Oldfield. Following a pass from his teammate, Liam Whitworth, he shot straight at Easington’s Kyle Donaldson, who parried high and caught well.

In a game that was slowly becoming more bogged down in the midfield, some of the best attacking play came from Easington’s number 2, Chris Bell. Some very strong and clever play from Bell meant Easington could try and get a sight of goal. Something that had previously been elusive, Bell’s hold up play allowed Easington to get into the right positions, although nothing really materialised for the boys in green.

Easington’s only real chance of the half came in the 39th minute. A pacey ball across the face of goal from Easington’s number 3, Aidan Goodey, avoided all Easington attackers, who knew the slightest of touches would have put their team ahead just before half time, and would have definitely changed the way Tow Law approached the game, who continued to defend stubbornly.

The best chance of the half fell to Tow Law in the 44th minute. 16 year old striker Kelvin Thear took advantage of some weak Easington defending, and managed to get 1 on 1 with Kyle Donaldson. Completely out pacing the Easington defence, Thear shot exceptionally high over the bar, losing another ball. Definitely not an easy chance with the defenders chasing him down, Thear may believe the playing surface played a big part in his chance missing by such a distance.

As the teams went in at half time, with the score 0-0, both teams will acknowledge that they’re lacking a final ball, and will be looking to change that for the second half.

 

Although the second half started similarly to the first, with Tow Law showing a bit more intent, the first chance of the half fell to Easington. Some very smart play, something we didn’t see in the first half in its entirety, got Easington’s James Atkinson a chance at goal. Atkinson’s shot was dragged across goal, narrowly missing the left hand post and going out for a goal kick.

Tow Law’s number 7, Jordan Lee, had one of his team’s only meaningful shots of the half, but his long range shot was comfortably held by Kyle Donaldson.

With time ticking down, another long ball from the Easington defence was cleverly flicked on and ended up at the feet of Easington’s substitute, Bryan Norton, who attempted a very cheeky chip which was saved and went out for a corner.

At this point, it looked like the game would finish goalless, and a few wide headed efforts from Easington’s Norton and Nathan Renton, cemented that.

So the game finished 0-0, something I’d predicted before the game, so I wasn’t too disappointed.  I very much enjoyed my time at the Welfare Ground, and I’m genuinely excited to return for a 3pm kick off so I can see the views from their hilltop ground!

 

Good luck to both teams for the rest of the season.

Guisborough Town vs Whitley Bay

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!

Billingham Town vs Washington FC (15/11/2016) – League Cup

Billingham Town team – 1. Tom Dawson, 2. Lee Moore, 3. Mark Dixon (C), 4. Clayton McDonald, 5. Daniel Rowbotham, 6. Matthew Crossen,7. Aaron Foley, 8. Chris Dickinson, 9. Craig Hutchinson, 10. Gary Redman, 11. Connor Dunlavey, 12. Jamie Davis, 14. Elliott Beddow, 15. Scott Close, 16. Carl O’Sullivan, 17. Carl Morris

Washington FC team – 1. Daniel Mullen, 2. Reece Noble, 3. Gary Shaw, 4. Andrew Jennings, 5. Paul Weldon, 6. Jake Fowler, 7. Jordan Jewson, 8. (C) Marc Costello, 9. Callum Hassan, 10. Matthew Waters, 11. George McCain, 12. Scott Brassell, 14. Adam Cocks, 15. Jonathan Wightmam, 16. Charlie Raby, 17. Dale Connor

So, tonight was my first Billingham Town game of the season. A little belatedly, I admit, as my house is within sight of the ground. I’d described the night as ‘mild’ previously, but that soon deteriorated, and it definitely got a lot cooler as the game progressed. That being said, it was a proper Non-League night, and I was really looking forward to the potential of an excellent game.

 

The hosts, Billingham Town, welcomed a Washington team sat 18th in the Northern League First Division. A team I’ve never seen play before, but I have seen a few of their players when they plied their trade for Whitby Town. Striker Matty Waters was a long term feature in Whitby Town’s first team. Jordan Jewson had previously featured for the Seasiders. As had Callum Hassan, relative to Ibby Hassan – a Whitby Town legend.

 

As the teams lined up, it was quite evident that both teams had completely different game plans. Washington’s players towered over Billingham’s, showing much more physical stature. As I’d seen in their warm-up, Billingham looked as though they would be playing fast paced, passing Football. And that’s how the first half played out in its entirety.

 

Straight away, from kick off, Billingham’s Connor Dunlavey received the ball and made a darting run towards the Washington defence, who stood strong and confidently removed any threat. For the next five minutes, the game was slowly moving in Washington’s favour. Some sloppy passing from Billingham lead to numerous long balls into their area, mainly aimed at their physical powerhouse, Callum Hassan. At this stage, apart from their long ball tactic, it didn’t look as though Washington showed much more of a threat. Any time they got close to the Billingham area, it was confidently cleared.

 

And, so, in the 6th minute, a long ball was played towards the Billingham area, that was, again, comfortably cleared. The Billingham players played it out fantastically well, and put a very pacey ball in towards their number 11, Connor Dunlavey. A slip from Washington’s number 6, Jake Fowler, leads to Dunlavey being in on goal. A cut inside and a smart, low shot under Washington’s goalkeeper, Daniel Mullens, gave Billingham a 1-0 lead. A goal that was seemingly gifted to them, but very confidently dispatched.

 

Knowing they had to step up their game, Washington attempted to pile on the pressure, to little avail. Keeping with their earlier plan, a long ball was aimed in towards Callum Hassan, who looked like he was being manhandled in the area. Little penalty shouts from the players, and the four away fans I was sat next to, but nothing given. From this moment, Billingham started playing excellent Football; Some of the best I’ve seen so far this season. Playing around the Washington players like a training session, it was clear just how frustrating this was for the away team.

 

With such pressure from Billingham Town, Washington’s only chance was to attempt a counter attack, as Town had so many players attacking. And this is how they approached it. In the 12th minute, a Washington attack lead to a dangerously placed free kick. The free kick was beautifully crossed into the area, presumably aimed at Callum Hassan, or the only slightly smaller frame of Matty Waters. After the ball was crossed in, it was pinballed around, eventually coming off the post and landing at Andy Jenning’s feet, who prodded the ball home to make the game 1-1. Both teams had started the game fairly well, having equal amounts of chances, despite Billingham having a little bit more ball possession. Talking to the away supporters, even they couldn’t see which way the game was going.

 

After kicking off, following the goal, Billingham went straight on the attack. A very smart ball was played into the area, aimed at Billingham’s number 9 Craig Hutchinson, forcing a save from Mullen, albeit with his face, but the game remained 1-1.  The Billingham pressure continued, keeping the Washington defenders firmly on their toes, dealing with any threat that came their way. That was until a very smart ball was played into Billingham’s number 8, Chris Dickinson, who smartly finished with his left foot to make it 2-1 to Billingham. Thoroughly deserved after all their recent pressure, the game was only in its 14th minute, so there was definitely much more to look forward to.

 

Billingham’s ground, Bedford Terrace, is surrounded by train tracks. So, in the 15th minute, as a Grand Central train flashed past, it gave the few Washington supporters something a little brighter to talk about, as they hadn’t yet seen too much to get them excited. Although the game looked pretty even, Billingham were doing much more when they had the ball. Washington’s Matty Waters regularly got the ball, but seemed to continuously run directly towards Billingham’s defence and regularly lost the ball, to the anger of his manager, Neil Hixon. A lot of Washington’s play continued to come from Matty Waters, but a final ball was really missing from his play. A not very characteristic performance from Matty so far, who I’ve seen single handily carry Whitby Town in previous seasons.

 

After the game became bogged down in midfield, in the 28th minute, a hit and hope ball was played out to the left side of Washington’s attack. The ball was played into the area, aimed at around the penalty spot. The ball was then played square to Callum Hassan, who finished with his right foot, only to be called offside. From where I was sat, it didn’t look offside as the ball was played slightly backwards, and that was the same feeling as the Washington bench and players. Washington’s players quickly surrounded the linesman who’d given the decision, who then called the referee over to talk about the incident. Following a 1 minute conversation, the referee awarded a free kick to Billingham for the offside, much to the Washington benches anguish.

 

This prompted a whole new approach from Washington, who made use of their very pacey number 7, Jordan Jewson, on the right side. Jewson continued to tease Billingham’s defence, but Billingham still gave him plenty of space, continuously allowing him to get crosses into the area, although these rarely caused many problems. Despite Washington’s height advantage, Billingham were still winning a large portion of 50/50s. The game continued this way for the next 10 minutes; Billingham allowing Jewson all the space he needed, but getting rid of any danger as it approached.

 

As the half came to an end, I feel like both teams had settled to go in at 2-1. Billingham had almost parked the bus, and Washington were lacking any imagination in the final third, although they’d started knocking the ball around a lot more productively compared to the previous half hour. As Washington continued to attack, a loose ball prompted a very committed tackle from both Washington’s Reece Noble, and Billingham’s Captain Mark Dixon. Both jumping in with studs up, Noble definitely caught Dixon in the thigh, although he’d also won the ball. It looked like even commitment from both players, but the referee only punished Reece Noble, who was given a yellow card. From the resulting free kick, Billingham lost the ball, and Matty Waters smartly intercepted. Attempting to go on a run, Billingham’s Dixon then grappled with Waters, holding him back; Dixon was given a yellow card for the foul. Two yellow cards within 2 minutes of each other, the game was starting to get a bit heated.

 

As the referee blew for half time, he was quickly surrounded by players from both teams, although I thought he’d had a pretty solid half. A pretty underwhelming half from Washington, Billingham just about deserved to go in with a one goal advantage. 2-1.

 

The second half started off very similarly to the first with both teams pushing straight on to get another goal. Billingham continued their fast, pacey passing play, and Washington continued to aim at their tall players at the top of the field. Billingham started off the strongest, but it was Washington who had the first real chance. A great ball aimed at Waters by the number 3, Gary Shaw, forced a foul from the Billingham defence; A promising position for Jordan Jewson to float in an attacking ball. The ball in landed at Callum Hassan’s feet, who sliced the ball awkwardly wide, and out for a goal kick. This definitely prompted Washington to continue piling on the pressure having now adopted Billingham’s pacey passing. Each little mistake Billingham made, Washington capitalised on, and really started to take the game to them.

 

After 10 minutes, the game felt like it was all Washington. Any time they lost the ball, Billingham’s lack of attack gave them plenty of time to regroup and restart. In the 57th minute, a Washington throw-in was won by Callum Hassan, who managed to cleverly head the ball behind him and take a touch, before playing a perfect ball through to Matty Waters. Having looked like he’d taken a heavy touch, Waters chased the ball, getting in on the keeper. Shooting low to the keeper’s left, the ball rolled under Tom Dawson, and nestled in the bottom corner.  The game was now level, but Washington looked like momentum was definitely on their side.

 

Looking for a slightly different approach, Washington removed Jordan Jewson from the game, replacing him with number 15, Jonathan Wightman. Washington looking to capitalise on their dominance, having come out at halftime looking like a totally different team, they continued to firmly dominate the game. That being said, following their last goal, Washington rarely tested the Billingham goalkeeper, only forcing very simple saves from Tom Dawson. The closest Washington got in the following 5 minutes was a long range free kick from Matty Waters. Around 30 yards out, and with a 4 man wall, Waters forced a good save from Dawson, who managed to keep hold of the ball well.

 

Straight after the Washington chance, Billingham countered towards the Washington area, forcing a foul. Chris Dickinson took the freekick, aiming for a recently brought on Billingham substitute, Jamie Davis, who rattled the crossbar from a header, but his shot bounced out for a goalkick. As the game developed, it became very end to end. Washington brought on their number 16, Charlie Raby, in the 77th minute, to play a central role in the midfield. Both teams started to take the game to each other, with the dreaded penalty shoot out looming, as the game wouldn’t go to extra time in the off chance the game ended a draw.

 

Although both teams were keen to attack, both defences stood strong, barely allowing a shot at either goal. Apart from a very slim shout of handball from a Washington cross into the area towards the back end of the game, there were no real opportunities to find that final goal. As it was announced that the game wouldn’t go to extra time, the referee blew the final whistle; This very entertaining game would now finish in a penalty shoot out.

 

Following some very confidently taken penalties, both substitute Jonathan Wightman and the following Billingham penalty were saved, as the shootout score was 3-2. The next 7 penalties were confidently dispatched, including a beautiful penalty from Washington’s Charlie Raby. As Billingham’s number 2, Lee Moore, walked up to take his penalty, I overheard the Washington bench say he was taking ‘too long to place it’; He looked a bit fatigued, and that showed with the following penalty, that was saved by Daniel Mullen. The next penalty would ultimately win the game, and it was to be taken by another substitute, Adam Cocks. Cocks’ penalty was scored, giving Washington a 7-6 win after a 2-2 draw in normal time.

A game that was, in the end, quite even, although both teams had large spells of dominance that neither could capitalize on. Washington move onto the next round of the League Cup, but Billingham can take a lot of positives from this narrow loss. I wish both teams the best of the luck for the remainder of the season.