It was just a coincidence that I had been reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness before making the trip into the depths of Sunderland although a Simpsons comic would have been more appropriate. On away trips, you often expect the referee to be a Homer but not usually literally. According to Ryhope fans, the referee today was actually an ex-player and it showed in his decision making which directly cost the Stan at least a point. There were four changes from last Saturday including a good debut for Ryan Bailey. Newly signed Jack McDougal also made his debut from the subs bench. Lee Johnson was also back from suspension on the bench. Thanks must go to the Ryhope fan who showed part of the travelling Stan Army where the ground was in exchange for a lift to a pub to watch the Sunderland cup match as he decided on this choice of viewing due to the cold weather.
There was a relatively quiet start before the ball started to get blasted about and the tackling got hard, especially by the home team. The first chance came in the seventh minute for Ryhope when Backhouse easily picked the ball up and this was followed by a Stan chance that was shot over. A minute later and a Stan free kick into the box was cleared. It was pretty even until the twenty first minute when a good ball from Bailey went down the middle to Hoggins who was tackled for a throw in. There was then a brief period of Ryhope pressure until the twenty sixth minute when a Stan attack ended in a Blackett shot being saved. There was another good move two minutes later involving Hoggins, Blackett and a shot by Carr. There was a cross in for Ryhope in the thirtieth minute but the resulting header went wide. A minute later and the Stan had another attack although the resulting corner was caught by the keeper. This was followed by a ball in from Ryhope which Shaun cleared. Two minutes later and a Dodsworth cross into the box saw Bailey get his foot to it but it was put just wide for a corner. In the thirty seventh minute a Ryhope forward broke free which resulted in Stoddart sliding in to bring the attacker down. The referee, who had missed the hand ball in the build-up, awarded a penalty which was put away to make it 1-0 to Ryhope. In the forty first minute Telford shot just wide and three minutes later the Stan had the best opportunity so far when a tight shot by Blackett saw the Ryhope keeper just get his finger tips to it and put it out for a corner. It remained 1-0 to Ryhope at half time but with the Stan still having everything to play for.
Ryhope continued in the second half with some heavy tackling as well as the pulling of jerseys (nothing to do with any local pastime involving bulls) and the odd elbow. Nothing much happened for the first five minutes and in fact both keepers were troubled less in this half. A Stan corner in the fifty second minute was followed by a Ryhope player getting in on goal but Backhouse got down for the ball. The referee missed a chance to play advantage for the Stan in the fifty seventh minute. A minute later and Telford had a good solo run into a crowded box but found his shot eventually blocked. Most of the pressure was now coming from the Stan with Telford playing well on the right. Two minutes later Dodsworth was brought down on the edge of the Ryhope box although his attempt from the free kick went just wide. Ryhope then had a couple of chances before Dodsworth shot wide again in the seventy third minute.
In the seventy sixth minute the referee outdid his already poor performance when, after a mix up between two Stan defenders near the half way line, a Ryhope forward got the ball while in an off side position but he waved play on. Backhouse ran out to get the accelerating ball and although he got down to it first, the Ryhope player kept going and fell over him. To the surprise of the crowd, and the linesman who was on line with play, the ref awarded a penalty and got his red card out. After talking to the linesman, and surrounded by protesting Stan players, he showed Backhouse a yellow card. Ryhope scored from the penalty to give them an undeserving 2-0 lead. The last fifteen minutes saw mainly Stan pressure and Ryhope time wasting although it was too little too late thanks to the penalty and to the referee not adding on all the required extra time. Substitute Yates got forward when he could and shot just over from a corner in the eighty second minute. Bailey then shot just wide but was offside. Yates did get a goal back for the Stan in the eighty ninth minute when he scored from the left with a diagonal ball across the box from Hoggins. With Ryhope keeping hoofing the ball out of play, the game ended 2-1. The disgruntled fans, players and management all left the scene of the ref’s crime with a feeling that they had just witnessed an injustice taking place.
Stan Team: Backhouse; Telford; Stoddart; Ray; Pearson; Bailey; Campania; Dodsworth; Hoggins (Yates); Blackett (Johnson, L); Carr (McDougal). Subs unused: Rule; Wear.