Once again by the miracle of post terminal travel, your intrepid commentator reports from around the globe. The very far side of the globe to be precise, Deep South Island of New Zealand in a little place called Hokitika. Seaside place, good beach, great beach sculptures from the masses of driftwood, spectacular sunsets, and much more importantly, a couple of half decent bars, although the price of beer is something disgraceful over here. They fancy the quality is good, but I am not convinced CAMRA would be impressed. Anyway enough of the sightseeing, this is a sporting column; which in New Zealand means Rugby Union. Well yes and no. Turns out the West Coast is a bit of a bastion of Rugby League as well.
View from the cemetery
A fun packed day out to Cheshire, enjoyed by all on Saturday I am told, with a good game, lots of red and yellow cards, some deserved, some maybe not so deserved, extra time, some nervous moments and a replay to look forward to after all was said and done. My spies tell me that we seem to have misplaced our shooting boots a little bit of late and that maybe cost us, with enough chances to have won the game, although to be fair Runcorn won the woodwork hitting competition 2-1 so they will be feeling aggrieved a bit. We started like trains I hear, then faded a bit, had more long spells on top as the game went on, but always had to be careful of the Linnets on the break. Good wide men and very much a shoot-on-sight policy are their trademarks by all accounts. A nice flat pitch as well, be a bit different tonight methinks.
A very good and game mascot as well, though not so good in his stint as goalkeeper when the subs were shooting in, and anyway it was not clear what exactly he was supposed to be. Pobably a Linnet we all assumed, a small finch with a very melodious song as I’m sure you all know, but Linnets don’t come in lurid shades of green and yellow as I recall, more brown with a dash of red. Still we nitpick here. I have always been a fan of the football mascot and the Runcorn chap seemed well behaved, unlike some of his colleagues over the years. Who can forget Cyril the Swansea Swan pulling the head off Millwall’s Zampa the Lion, or Robbie the Bobby of Bury removing the lugs from the Peterborough Bunny? And most famously of all that lupine lunatic, Wolfie of Wolves and his fight with the Three Little Pigs at Bristol City? All over a penalty competition. Which he won of course. Only a town like Hartlepool though could take their club’s mascot, the infamous H’Angus the Monkey, put him in a suit and tie and elect him as mayor, and keep him in office so long the authorities had to abolish the post to get rid of him. But can you remember his name?
Banana skin time down at Red Star last Saturday. My reporter tells me that most of the time we looked to have the game under control, even after we missed a penalty and they then got one back, all in the last minute of the first half. And another injury, this time to Charlo, looks like a hamstring so likely won’t be a quick return. Still, Red Star are a decent side and came at us hard in a harum scarum last half hour when there were chances at both ends and the Seaham lads took theirs. A good one for the neutrals I guess. Overall though we seem to be clocking along nicely at the minute. Which is more than can be said for the boys at the SoL. Manager sacked, followed by instant improvement in results. Err, hang on bit, that doesn’t sound right.
I watched the last couple of Sunderland games on the telly and my opinion, which you are welcome to, is that the players are alright by and large, although no more than that, and the tactics and formation were much better down at Boro, but when you are down at the bottom you need bit more than just basics to get out of it. Inspiration, luck and the run of things don’t seem to be with those boys at the moment. The statistical probabilities get worse by the game, and they need something more than just playing OK now.
Well, will we win another game this season? Come to that, will we be able to get a team on the pitch? Been an interesting few games, you have to admit. Close run thing against an excellent Shildon side, then the night of the fog against Morpeth followed by the antics of the North Shields Ultras on our annual much anticipated visit to the Meadow Well. Shildon second time round fair enough. They were the better side on the day, but we pushed them hard and I for one was quite impressed by the effort the lads put in, especially in the difficult injury circumstances. So, what was your view of Morpeth? Could you see them at all? I thought the referee got it right in the end, but he didn’t half cause himself some grief with the long delay. It was clearly, or not, marginally playable as the game began and nothing much changed between then and the eventual call off, except of course Morpeth scored two goals so felt not a little annoyed to head back to Northumberland with nothing to show for their trip. But as I say I think he got it right in the end. Although as always happens with these sea fogs as the night draws on it was lifting nicely as people left the ground. Hopefully we can make it even worse for them next time.
So the double header against Shildon yielded no goals and no points. Disappointing, but not too surprising, given we are suffering a major injury crisis at present. It happens to everybody so no complaints, but it isn’t half frustrating. Having said that the general view was that over both games we did pretty well, except maybe in terms of taking the chances we had, and we did have a few in both games. It's funny how it works, but sometimes a bit of adversity can help in the long run. By all accounts nobody watching Luke Richardson hurling himself about with joyous abandon up front last Wednesday could have been less than impressed with this confirmed defender doing a turn as a striker. Apart from putting the ball in the net obviously. I jest, he did great. And on Saturday, among a lot of good performances, the cameo at left back from goalkeeper Jack Patton was a joy to watch, particular when he started telling his fellow defenders to get themselves out and sharpish! No, overall the spirit is great, but it looks like we might need some reinforcements, maybe including tonight. Will the boss have been on the case? Who knows.
So the romance of the Cup is over, at least until November when the Vase kicks in for us, and it was down to earth with a bang at Shildon on Wednesday night; always a tough trip, made harder by our injury and other problems I understand, and lo and behold we play them again today. I know the fixture secretary’s job is hard, but this is frankly ridiculous and worse, makes the league look ridiculous, in your humble correspondent's opinion. There is a very long way to go with this season, surely this return fixture could have waited, even if it meant a blank Saturday for us? This kind of thing much strengthens the move to reduce the size of leagues to 20 or even 18. Never mind we must crack on. I hear Mr Larkin put in his normal cracking effort at centre back on Wednesday, while more surprising was the performance of Luke Richardson up front for more than 80 minutes. Very good stuff, and a sign that the attitude around the squad remains top class. Versatility, a great quality in a player.