During years of exile from the North East,
Malcolm Dawsonhas developed, along with a duty to watch Sunderland at every opportunity, a fondness for games involving non-league visitors from the region. No Sunderland yesterday, for today’s obvious reason, but Whitley Bay were within striking distance …
My flirtation with this season’s FA Vase began with a trip to Gresley to see the South Derbyshire side’s clash with Spennymoor.
Then a trip to Roker Park, Stotfold to watch Shildon, at the behest of Salut! Sunderland‘s Mr Sixsmith appealed as much as the thought of forking out over forty quid to see us tonked by Chelsea didn’t.
But the weather put paid to that and the re-arranged fixture clashed with my already planned visit to Portsmouth to see us lose ignominiously to the current semi finalists. That still hurts. Pompey who only just scraped through the third round in the dying minutes against Coventry, put paid to my Wembley dreams (or rather the Sunderland defence’s ineptitude did) and lord forbid, they’ll be there to lose to Spurs and we won’t be.
Three weeks ago I met up with Sixer for the FA Vase quarter final tie between Barwell and Norton and Stockton Ancients, which was an enjoyable day, even if the Midland side won.
Being of East Durham heritage but ensconced in the Midlands for the past 31 years, I like to go along and support the North East non league sides plying their trade in the area whenever I can, so it was back to Barwell to see a cracking fixture, fit to feature in the pages of Roy of the Rovers.
It could have been one of those days. A trip to the vet so the cat could have a steroid injection (prior to her participation in the Tour de France) set me back fifty quid
Vets must earn as much per minute as Roy O’Donovan! Then a flurry of e-mails meant I left myself with just over half an hour to cover the fifteen or so miles to Barwell. Wouldn’t you know it?
As is always the case when you have a tight schedule, stuck behind a driver who stopped at every roundabout, even though they were all clear and did 35mph all the way when the limit was either 50 or 60.
To compound matters on the twisty bits where visibility was limited nothing came the other way and on all the straight bits overtaking was impossible because of the stream of oncoming traffic! But I knew where he was going and true to form, after eight miles he turned into the garden centre, to dine on poached egg on toast and pick up some bedding plants. Marigolds I expect.
Still I got there on time, but as expected had to park further away from the ground than I do from the SoL. Whereas around 380 had been at the Norton game there were nearer 1,400 there yesterday.
The football ground is adjacent to the cricket ground where I have played several times in the past and it holds good memories as it is one of the few (very few) grounds where I made a fifty.
With the start of the season only weeks away I’m not sure the cricket club would have enjoyed seeing their outfield churned up as the very soft ground hardly rendered it the ideal place to set up a temporary car park, but on days like this clubs have to seize every opportunity to maximise their revenue.
The first half was a cracker. Whitley Bay looked the technically better side but the Canaries were giving as good as they got. Now the FA site says Barwell scored first but in fact they went behind. A good jinking run by the right hand corner flag, a near post cross and a firm header from Phil Bell saw Bay take the lead.
The Barwell equaliser was a mirror image. A cross from the left and a near post header by the tall Adam Cunnington brought the scores level. Cunnington is one of those whingeing, whining players that gets my goat, but he is skilful for such a tall man and his second showed his ability to use his feet and keep the ball under close control before slamming the ball home to give the Canaries the lead.
The second half was much more scrappy until the third Barwell goal went in. Another twisting run by the right hand corner flag saw Bay’s full back done like a kipper, a low cross was easily side footed home by Barwell’s Kev Charley and the flat Midlands accents could be heard planning their day out at the seaside.
The Barwell keeper did his impression of the rejuvenated Craig Gordon making several top quality saves as the North East team pressed forward but it looked as if they would have to pin their hopes on the second leg.
But two goals in the last few minutes made it all square. Another header from Paul Chow with time ticking away made it 3-2 and just before the end the Canaries’ keeper failed to hold a shot that he should have, the loose ball fell to Chow who slotted it home from close range. It was harsh on the goalie, who played a blinder, but a fair result.
I shall be at the SOL next Saturday to see if our current good form can continue against the Spurs, so shan’t be at Whitley to bemoan the state of the Spanish City and see how they fair in the second leg, but I fancy they’ll be back at Wembley this year.
A good day out in the end. Here’s hoping we shall be as competitive in our tough games to come..
* With thanks to Steven Hadlow’s Flickr pages for a reminder of Whitley Bay in an earlier stage of the FA Vase.