Match Report Monday 31st August 2015
Hebburn Town 0 South Shields 1
I’ve never seen the sitcom ‘Hebburn’, tending to shy away from anything that smacks of Tyneside pastiche, a reinforcement of the southern prejudice which tends to view life in this region as an amusing hybrid of Viz comic and ‘When The Boat Comes In’. Nevertheless, the good folk of the town seem quite proud of their recent celebrity, and I suppose it’s better to be immortalised in the national psyche for something more positive than grinding poverty and desperation, the fate of the settlement a couple of miles downriver. However you dress it up, it still didn’t seem the obvious Bank Holiday destination. But it did have one significant attraction in its favour on a morning of relentless Stygian gloom.
Public holidays were traditionally associated with local rivalries, but since the days of rampant hooliganism were followed by Sky’s cynical manipulation of the fixture list for its own selfish ends, that convention has been lost higher up the football pyramid. In the Northern League though, this pleasing ritual persists, meaning a cornucopia of derbies to choose from on this late August date which to many, laughably, heralds the end of summer.
I had been planning a trip to North Shields to see if Benfield could upset the Vase holders, but the home side’s commitments in the more senior FA competition scuppered those plans. Last year I chose to sample the delights of the parochial dust-up on the Wansbeck, and Ashington versus Bedlington again came under close consideration as an alternative. Yet it was beaten this time around by its South Tyneside equivalent, particularly as the visit of South Shields to their near neighbours allowed me to catch a Metro several stops up the line afterwards to take in the Gateshead game at the International Stadium. Bingo.
As expected, a healthy crowd had braved the conditions at the Reyrolle Sports Ground. Too many it seems for the dark forces of officialdom, if the police notices to several attendees to move their inappropriately parked vehicles were to be believed. Actually the loudspeaker announcements were not all quite so grave. Indeed, from the pithy humour of the presence of chips as the vegetarian option at the refreshments kiosk, to the playing of Belinda Carlisle’s semi-classic ‘Hebburn (sic) Is A Place On Earth’ as the walk-on music for the teams, it was an integral part of the overall experience.
As far as the match was concerned, perspiration gave inspiration one hell of a beating. This was my first foray this season to the murky depths of the second division, although I had spent Saturday at Hillheads watching Heaton Stannington’s gallant attempts to usurp higher tier opponents. The Mariners are rejuvenated following their move back (almost) home, after a two year soujourn at not very nearby Peterlee, and have invested determinedly in a bid for promotion. On this evidence, they shouldn’t be overly troubled in their quest, with the proviso that their failure to ever really put this game to bed must count as the sole black mark.
If you’d taken a newspaper and only glanced up between paragraphs, I guarantee you would have found Shields in possession. Jonny Wightman, who I last saw on the cricket field in his other sporting guise, was particularly impressive, even if wearing the number nineteen shirt throughout was an oddity that went unexplained. His crosses were a source of consternation to the Hebburn defence, while he was arguably more threatening when he dribbled inside. He went close to troubling the scorers on several occasions, as did the experienced Warren Byrne. Galpin and substitute Guerin-Lokonga narrowly failed with headers.
The only strike, as early as the twentieth minute, came from a set piece. Briggs launched a free kick from just inside the opposition half into the danger zone, goalkeeper Holgate misjudged it, allowing Stephen Ramsey to head beyond him into the vacated goal. A second never came, and the fragility of the lead was amply demonstrated as the Hornets, hitherto becalmed as an attacking force, twice nearly mugged their visitors at the death, firstly as Morris nodded wide, before McIntosh’s low shot went the same way.
For their part Hebburn relied on balls punted up to Channon North, whose physique is more that of a basketball player, but could never quite muster the runners off him to take advantage of his height. You couldn’t fault their work rate, and there were plenty examples that tackling is still very much a welcome facet of the game. Despite those endeavours, Shields were winners far more comfortably than the scoreline would suggest.
After a brief stop at the Wheatsheaf in Felling for shelter and sustinence, my appointment with Malcolm Crosby’s Heed revoution produced similarly attritional fare. A headed goal from a free kick, in the interests of neat symmetry, and another from a corner. So one hundred and eighty minutes of football with no-one able to pick the lock from open play. I could have stayed in and watched Jim White spontaneously combust as the impending transfer deadline epitomised the Premier League’s descent into the abyss. But do you know what? I’m jolly glad I didn’t.
Hebburn Town: Holgate, Summers, Toward, Pegram, C.Smith, Scott, Talbot (Feasey), Malley, Reay (McIntosh), North, Hargrave (Morris) Subs Not Used: Bickerstaff, Henderson
South Shields: Young, B.Smith, Curry, Galpin, Riding, Chapim, Wightman, Scroggins, Ramsey (Melvin), Byrne (Guerin-Lokonga), Briggs Subs Not Used: Connor, Turner, Heptinstall