Malcolm Dawson writes….the day started off OK for Pete Sixsmith. He sat and shivered at the Riverside whilst the rain stayed away long enough for Durham to win their second County Championship match against a Sussex side who probably hold out title hopes of their own. He then made his tortuous way up the A1 into Northumberland in the hope of seeing a title winning performance from the other SAFC. It wasn’t to be. A healthy crowd which included most of the Northern League Irregulars turned up to see if The Railwaymen would clinch the title. I’m not sure whose nerves would have suffered more – the Shildon supporters or the Officials and followers of Marske United who could only stand back and watch heart in mouth, knowing any sort of result for Bedlington would see them crowned Champions. It wasn’t a classic game. Shildon had chances but ultimately a sloppy piece of defending and an understandable nervousness in front of goal sent the title across the Tees to North Yorkshire. What follows is Pete’s take on the proceedings with the added bits in italics my own.
As a Sunderland supporter of 50 years standing, I should be immune to football disappointment by now. Chelsea 1963, Liverpool 1969, Everton 1977, Wrexham 1979, Gillingham 1987, Manchester City 1991, Wimbledon 1997, Wembley 1998 and Palace 2004 have all led to a trail of tears back to Shildon and an overwhelming sense of sadness and frustration which has taken a while to dissipate. Now we can add Bedlington 2015 to that sad litany.
Shildon, my home town club who I have supported for even longer than Sunderland, went into the last game of the season needing to win against a Bedlington Terriers side who had taken but one point from the last 33. They had been walloped 6-2 at home on the Saturday by a side who had been relegated and who were folding at the end of the season. They had released six of their senior players and had a crop of youngsters playing for them. Surely a shoo-in for The Railwaymen.
You know what is coming next. It ended up 1-1 and the title ended up at Mount Pleasant, Marske-on-Sea rather than Dean Street, DL4. A team that had lost seven on the bounce took a deserved point off a Shildon team that just failed to stagger over that finishing line to the shock of the 200+ fans that had made the tortuous journey through road works of Albanian proportions from South West Durham to South East Northumberland.
The Terriers were once big hitters in the Northern League but have fallen on hard times recently. The appearance of an American benefactor was welcomed but he disappeared, leaving a scoreboard that was impressive but incredibly expensive to operate.
But, like terriers, they came out with an attitude that made it clear that they would not give up without a fight and they took a shock lead in the 28th minute through Lee Scott. (As a through ball was played out to the right wing the Shildon defence stepped up appealing for offside. The linesman got it right – it wasn’t and Scott was left one on one with the keeper and kept his head to finish confidently. MD)
Shildon hit the bar, put umpteen balls across the goal and into the box but all they got was a headed equaliser from Billy Greulich-Smith in the 66th minute. (In a remarkable 5 second spell Shildon had a shot cleared off the line, hit the bar with the follow up and had a third goal bound shot blocked before Bedlington finally cleared the danger. MD)
Despite constant pressure, that all important second goal would not come and when the referee blew the final whistle, there was an overwhelming sense of disappointment over the Dr Pit Welfare Ground.
So that’s the Northern League season over, apart from a couple of cup finals. Shildon play Newton Aycliffe in the League Cup on Tuesday night and, should they win, would give them a cup double, having won the Durham Challenge Cup over Easter. But I am sure that they would trade any knockout trophy for the league championship, a trophy that has eluded them since 1937 – although they did win a truncated competition in 1940.
On the way home, I listened to the closing stages of Leicester’s game against Chelsea and raised a feeble cheer when Terry and Ramirez finished off the Foxes. It gives us a chance of avoiding the drop but to do that we have to win at least two games and possibly pick up a couple of draws. Saturday is yet another crucial game – but I think that we have supped at the well of relegation avoidance too many times.
Come back at the weekend for Pete’s seven word summing up and in depth match report of the goings on at the Stadium of Light.
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