Monday, 9 May 2011

H'way the Bay

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Sunday 8 May 2011 at Wembley Stadium
Whitley Bay 3 Coalville Town 2
FA Vase Final
Not a new venue, but my 15th visit to the refurbished national stadium – sadly I have no reliable record of how many times I had been there in its “Twin Towers” days.
This match in one sentence
Bay’s Paul Chow got two goals meaning that he has scored in every round this year but the man-of-the-match was goalkeeper Terry Burke as Coalville Town went down fighting to the end.
So what?
Whitley Bay win the Vase for the third consecutive year and a record fourth time altogether.
The drama unfolds
As a spectacle, this was probably the best game of football I have seen all season.  My brief summary is followed by a series of clips, and hopefully the clip titles tell the story in a self-explanatory way.  I decided to sit with the Coalville supporters simply because my ancestors on my dad’s side have some Leicestershire connections.  It's the old "nearest-team-to-where-you-were-born" test of my generation.

Any thoughts that Coalville might be overawed and Bay’s experience would see them home were dispelled in the first moments, when a goal-line clearance was required.  Coalville forced a number of early corners and had much the better of the first fifteen minutes.  With the hindsight that is always perfect, their failure to find the net at this point probably cost them the game.

Whitley Bay gradually settled and got into the game.  A short backpass from Stewart gave them a chance, but fortunately ‘keeper Bowles got there first and his clearance rebounded wide off Chow.  They took the lead after a piece of brilliance from W2, who set up an unmissable opportunity for Chow to score his 26th goal of the competition.  1-0

Coalville had a goal disallowed after 33 minutes and hit the post on 38 minutes, the ball rebounding fortunately straight into the arms of Burke.  1-0 at half-time

The well-deserved equaliser from Moore came after 58 minutes (sorry I did not react quickly enough at the key moment!)  1-1  However, Bay restored their lead only three minutes later with a glancing header from Kerr.  This meant that Kerr and Chow had both scored in all three Bay finals.  2-1

When Coalville hit the bar, you began to wonder whether the footballing gods were against them, but Goodby’s goal came with ten minutes to go and we licked our lips at the thought of extra-time.  2-2  However, a free-kick from Kerr gave a poacher’s opportunity for Chow and he took it.  3-2  Coalville threw substitutes, goalkeeper and kitchen sink at the Bay goal in the final few minutes, but this was a stunningly resilient performance from the cup holders.  H’way the Bay, as they say.  Final score 3-2

The Coalville fans applauded both teams (as I am sure the Bay’s did too) and they stayed to watch the trophy lifted by their opponents.  There was no anger, recrimination or nastiness from those around me – it was old-school sportsmanship and appreciation of their side’s fantastic effort.  I am sure that most people who really cared about this result were actually here today to see it, so I am writing this for an audience of potential non-league fans.  It really is a different experience, and look back over some previous posts on this and other blogs if you still need convincing.

Here are my clips, in chronological order.  Watch as many or as few as you like.  I am sure that this match will get plenty of coverage from the non-league blogging fraternity, and quite right too.  Sorry that Coalville's first goal is slightly out-of-shot.

A snippet from the programme
"Aficionados of the Vase competition tend to rate the 1992 Final between Wimborne Town and Guiseley as the best.  Wessex League Wimborne had never been beyond the Third Round before, but they embarked on a spectacular Vase journey that took them all the way from the First Round to the Final.  A goal down after 14 minutes at Wembley, the Dorset side fought back to win 5-3."

For the record, Whitley Bay's route to the final this year was:
Round 2: Thackley 0 Whitley Bay 1
Round 3: Whitley Bay 7 AFC Liverpool 1
Round 4: Herne Bay 1 Whitley Bay 2
Round 5: Whitley Bay 5 Dunstable Town 1
Round 6: Dunston UTS 1 Whitley Bay 2
Semi-Final (2 legs): Poole Town 1 Whitley Bay 2 & Whitley Bay 3 Poole Town 1
Something random
Whitley Bay finished 3rd in the Northern League Division One (step 5) and will be able to defend the Vase next year and try for an amazing fourth win in a row.  Coalville Town, as Midland Alliance champions, will be heading for step 4 and therefore will be ineligible for this particular competition.

I saw Bay’s victory over Glossop North End two years ago and don’t remember the crowd being herded on to one side of the stadium.  (I didn’t see last year’s win over Wroxham.)  Today’s crowd was around 7,800 which must be on the margins for creating “atmosphere” at Wembley and I am among those who wonder whether this game should be played as a one-day double-header celebration of the non-league game with the FA Trophy final.

I’m not one of those complaining too loudly about the £25 match ticket, but I thought £22.50 for the “official” carpark was nothing short of extortion, so I handed £10 over to a random bloke in one of the side streets instead.  I have done this many times at Wembley and never had any problems.

As an aside, who misses the Twin Towers of the old Wembley any more?  Foster's arch has really become as iconic as it was meant to be, and it gives the stadium a brand that is instantly recognisable.  I have yet to be convinced that the London 2012 logo is going to do the same for the Olympics.
What Next?
If work commitments allow, something from step 7 or 8 on Tuesday evening.

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