Sunday, 19 February 2012

Hawayday at the Bay

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 18 February 2012 at Hillheads
Whitley Bay 1 West Auckland Town 2
FA Vase Round 5 – a tie between two teams from the step 5 Northern League Division One
I am here because I rolled a six.  See last post.  This is within the bounds of normal behaviour for a human being if you ask me.  Venue #451 on the lifetime list.
This match in one sentence
The holders go out in a game that had drama at each end and tension in between, as a late equaliser was wiped out by an even later winner.
So what?
West Auckland go into the last eight, where they will be at home to either Billingham Synthonia or Bournemouth.  Whitley Bay will be, as they say, concentrating on the league
Something random

Far and away the best random notice I have ever seen at a football ground, anywhere.
The drama unfolds
This is a game that has already been well covered, so I am sticking to the spirit and form of this blog and writing from my original notes and impressions, before reading others’ accounts.  Honest.

As I headed north on Saturday morning, the Twittersphere spluttered into operation and the locals were warned of my impending arrival.  And so it was that I was welcomed by @HuddoHudson, @NewcastleDavey and @sheeshkebab among others for some pre-match prattle in The Last Orders, across the road from the ground.  They filled in some of the gaps in my northern league knowledge and were splendid hosts for the day as I embedded myself in the Bell-Enders.  Loved the old-school bell and rattles of the long-standing Bay supporters.

As usual, I recorded a “scene-setter” clip after about ten minutes or so, standing in the bright but cold sunshine behind the goal.  Bay are in blue.  The clip ended with the referee’s whistle for a foul, and I pressed stop before the implications became clear.  The game was not to restart until 3.50pm, some thirty-five minutes later, and from a purely selfish point of view after such a long drive I was relieved that it restarted at all.

All I can say is that my immediate impression was that the Whitley Bay player was over-stretching for a ball that the wind was taking away from him, and the wind was a factor in his mistiming.  It didn’t look like malicious intent, and the reactions of the other players were horror at the injury more than anger towards the perpetrator.  I now know that the tackler was Lee Paul Scroggins, and the injured party was Alex Francis.  It was clear within seconds even to us behind the goal that this was a serious injury.  The ambulance came on to the pitch and it took some time to stabilise Francis before moving him.

It gradually became clear that the game would continue, and at 3.50pm the red card was shown to Scroggins, over half an hour after the event, which was astonishing in itself.  Whitley Bay made a substitution, either tactical or because the player concerned was too distressed to continue, and the rest of the half was played out in a surreal atmosphere – the police arrived as tensions were mounting.

Kyle Hayes, the Bay keeper, saved superbly from Adam Nichols as Town really should have taken the lead.  Then Mark Bell in the other goal went down, rolling in agony after being caught by Paul Chow, but no card was shown.  Within seconds, Bay’s Chris Fawcett was also needing treatment – in that instance I thought I saw a deliberate kick that the officials missed, but I’m not certain who did it.  It was all getting rather niggly.  There was time for Nichols to send in one dangerous cross for Town, and for Bay to go close (McFarlane, I think) with a shot just over.  0-0 at half-time

Whitley Bay started the second half on the front foot and here is the first of several decent saves from Bell, after 48 minutes.

Both goalkeepers were busy, in fact.  Bay certainly looked dangerous as they came forward but there was also palpable anxiety whenever Town got the ball.  Their wide players were finding plenty of space against ten men and there was one other occasion when a shot went straight at Hayes rather than into the net.  It remained tense and we checked the programme to see whether extra time was playable today.  Scores of phone calls were made to the Wives of Whitley Bay making apologies for lateness.  Here’s another clip.

Town had another chance, with the ball being cleared off the line, it appeared, after a moment of goalmouth chaos, but we resigned ourselves to extra time until … well, Wow, what an ending.  That is, if you are a neutral or from West Auckland.

With one minute of normal time to go, Matthew Moffat connected with a corner and he headed in.  0-1

Then this …

Great work by Robbie Dale to fashion the chance for Paul Robinson to score.  1-1

My final clip is the “if only” moment for the Bay...

… because, at 5.26pm, in the 6th minute of stoppage time, a cross-shot at the other end was knocked back and it fell to Michael Rae who smacked it into the roof of the net.  Final Score 1-2

There was a stunned silence, a moment of anger and frustration, and then the home supporters cheered their team, who had lost an FA Vase tie for the first time in four seasons.  For this hopper, it was both a sadness and a privilege to see the run end – I’ve seen them win on the road and twice at Wembley – but now West Auckland fly the Northern League flag for at least one more round, and I hope more supporters will turn up to see it.  They are a resilient side and all eyes will now be on them.  They won both league fixtures too, and should not be underestimated.  The Northern League supplied five of the last sixteen and will have two or three of the last eight in this year’s competition.
One day it would have to end like this.  It's nature's way.
Robbie Dale (Bay) and Adam Nichols (Town) caught the eye in midfield, and both keepers did well – and on balance I am giving the nod to Mark Bell as I am a lapsed part-time associate member of the goalkeepers’ union.
A snippet from the programme
Bay Watch (Love it!) is a very professionally-produced programme which, for those in the know, clearly shows @damon_th of therealfacup celebrating wildly at Wembley during the Bay’s last win.  There is a whole page devoted to “Whitley’s 5th round drama” which prophetically concludes:

“Today is the seventh time that Whitley have reached this stage of the competition.  On three previous occasions, extra time has been required and twice the tie has gone to a replay.  There have been penalties, sendings-off and last-gasp equalisers.  What drama will today’s game bring?”

The article covers, among others, the home draw against Brigg Town in 2001-2.  “It looked all over for Whitley until Ian Chandler (now Bay manager) sent the fans wild when he scored a dramatic 119th minute equaliser.”  They went on to win the replay and the trophy.  Lee Paul Scroggins had a happier day to some extent in 2002-3 where he scored Bay’s goal in a 5th round home defeat by Oadby Town.   
What I learned today
On a bright sunny day, it is possible to remove one layer of clothing at Hillheads and attend the match with nine rather than the recommended ten.

STOP PRESS: Michael (see below) and others have pointed out to me that I have used the Sunderland pronounciation of "Haway" and therefore I am like that secret agent in 'Allo 'Allo who has irritable vowel syndrome.  So, listen, and I will say this only once, it should indeed have been "Howay" for the authentic Tyneside feel and I mode a mustook.  I feel so sully, but I have lawned something useful!
What Next?
As readers will know by now, forward planning is not a strength but I am certainly eyeing up the Bournemouth v Billingham Synthonia replay next Saturday.


  1. Great report. Sorry I didn't meet you myself but I was braving the snow in Penrith. You would definitely have needed the full ten layers there - and proper Bovril.
    Only one small point: Haway is the Sunderland spelling. Us more cultured types from the Tyne use an 'o' for the initial vowel. Books - literally: - have been written on less.

  2. That is brilliant ... I am going to amend the "What I Learned Today" section. It's all about the Vowels, innit? GY