So that’s that for the season of minority sports, or summer as it is sometimes known. The annual two week tennis season produced an epic final between two of the old stagers in Djokovic and Federer, which unfortunately clashed with an equally epic cricket world cup final. I didn’t see either as I was on my travels, but it seemed a daft bit of scheduling to me. Still, at least England won the cricket, principally thanks to the New Zealand boy they had playing for them as it happens.
View from the cemetery
All done and dusted by five tonight, and you can all enjoy a few months of summer, while the groundstaff of Graham, Dave and George graft on the pitch. No doubt it will look a picture come August. They love it really, and where would we be without them? They can be a bit grumpy at times, but they are priceless. Anyway, been a cracking season, with a lot of ups and a few downs, so for this final View of 2018/19 I thought I would give you the benefit of my review of the highlights and lowlights of the year.
Best games for me? Well, the trips in the FA Cup and Vase to Clitheroe and Garstang will not be forgotten in a while, great fun and plenty of goals, not to mention a decent pub or two, and that last five minutes down at Clitheroe was something else. And the win in the mist at Shildon, which has been a long time coming, or so it seems it to me. It was fantastic to finally break our Shildon hoodoo with good wins in both the Vase and League, and both away as well. We continued our habit of often being better away from home than at Meadow Park, or it seemed that way to me. Just one of those things I think, but it is striking how often it has been the case over the past few years, and this season was no exception. Good wins as well against Consett, Bishops and Hebburn, with that first twenty minutes against Hebburn at Meadow Park maybe the best we played all year. All three clubs have had great seasons, which makes the wins special, and of course there was the memorable win over Sunderland AFC in the County Cup, which always looks good on the CV.
Well, I didn’t expect us to lose at Guisborough! By my reckoning that makes it ten points dropped this season against the sides that are likely to make up the bottom three at the finish. As inexplicable as you can get, especially when contrasted with our good form against the top sides. It’s a funny game alright. Still, it’s a good season whatever happens now, and hopefully next year we will have fewer injuries to contend with. I think that has been a big factor, just seems like it’s been hard to get settled very often.
Congratulations to Dunston on winning the league and heading up to the Evostik East for next season. They have been clearly the best team, and they have the structure to progress further through the divisions. And they are good lads as well, so the very best of luck to them. I am tempted to add congratulations on winning their League next season as well, because I reckon they will be well deserved red hot favourites to follow Morpeth and Shields straight through to the Evostik Premier. Maybe it will be us next!
I’m sorry to bring this up, but this recent run of wins in the league, Hebburn excepted, and by all accounts that was very unlucky, has had me looking at the whereabouts of clubs who ply their trade in the Northern Premier East Division. Just starting to worry a bit that’s all, as we rise relentlessly up the league. I don’t know if the lads’ noses are starting to bleed but mine certainly is. Anyway, there are some interesting clubs amongst the denizens and likely denizens of the Evo-Stik East, to give them their official title. It’s still a bit of a long shot, and God knows how we would manage if we end up elevated to glory, but it does no harm to have a bit of a look see has always been my policy. A few we know well, and a few we know by reputation. Nowt to worry about in football terms I don’t think, and Morpeth, Marske, Shields and others prove that in recent seasons, as does our own trips out and about in the Cup and Vase. But still, some are a bit of a trip, and no mistake. Interesting times we live in. We, though not specifically me, would certainly get to know the way up and down the A1. We shall have to wait and see if Consett and Bishops can revive or Hebburn or Stockton push past us on the run in. Fingers crossed, but I’m not sure which way.
Back on track last week with a comprehensive win over Consett, we played well and won well. That means that we have beaten the two sides who will probably finish second and third in the league home and away with an aggregate score of 10-3, and yet are a good eight to nine points behind them at the moment. Frustrating isn’t the word. I think we are better than either Bishops or Consett all things being equal, but a combination of bad luck with injuries and some inexplicable results against sides near the bottom means we most likely can’t prove it this season. Annoying. Still we are on a great run at present, five wins out of six and a fairly full squad to pick from at present. Another strong end to the season looks on, let’s go for it. Been good as well to see Dylan Elliott back in the last few weeks after a few knocks and setbacks this season, and I have also noticed Stevie Callen taking part in the warm ups recently. Be great to see Steve get a few runs before the end of term, having missed most of the season, with a sportsman’s injury, not alcohol related. On we go.
Are the famous old neighbouring townships of Ryhope and Seaham rapidly becoming a proverbial football hotbed? It is starting to look like it. Modesty prevents me from waxing too lyrical about ourselves, for a bit anyway, but the CW and Red Star are certainly starting to attract some notice. Tuesday night’s comprehensive win for the Colliery over at Dunston must be on paper one of their best results for a long time. Very well done indeed. And the Red Star boys are not doing so dusty of late either, with five league wins since Christmas compared to three before then. All three of us looking good to go for another season in the top flight next year, FA shenanigans notwithstanding, and now the only thing we need to do is get more people to come and watch. Lots of good competitive derbies with three sides fighting to be local top dogs can only help. We have Red Star to play in April and so do the CW, so lets hope the interest is good for both of those games, it certainly should be.
Good, good stuff down at Shildon. Very solid, despite Kyle Davis’s unlucky sending off. The video wasn’t clear enough to help him with an appeal, especially as the ref was very well placed and its his view that counts, but there is little doubt it was accidental and that the Shildon player made a meal of it, which leaves a bad taste. Thankfully thereafter he had a stinker of a game, Shildon would probably have been better off if he had seen the red rather than Kyle. Good goals by Kyle and Sparky and for the vast majority of the match little to worry about at the back, with all of the defenders playing well, although a bit of a late panic made things interesting, and a cracking save by Scott Pocklington secured the points. On we go, with Bishops today, another balloon to burst? I hope so, but they will clearly be tough opponents, their form is excellent. Still, we need to push up this table, the three or four ahead of us are well in range so plenty to look forward to before the early end of the season.
So, that’s it for the Vase for another season. Just never quite felt that it was likely this year, we haven’t been able to settle into a run, too many injuries, too many niggling knocks and too many times the ball didn’t quite run for us. Never mind, always next year. No surprise either that the only Northern League teams left in have been drawn together. I don’t think it’s fiddled as so many think, or at least only in the sense that the regionalisation is drawn so tight and goes on through so many rounds that we are bound to be thrown together with fellow Northern League sides more times than anybody wants. Either West or Hebburn have every chance of making it to Wembley, and every good luck to them. No doubt we couldn’t have afforded the new suits anyway.
Still a lot of games to play, even if it is a short season this year. Plenty of league games and one cup competition left, against the modern might of South Shields; must feel like a long way from Peterlee. But from our point of view a County Cup and fourth in the league sounds alright to me, silverware and safely out of trouble at both ends of the table. So there you go boys, crack on.