Saturday, 18 January 2014

Whickham 1 West Auckland 3 (aet)

FA Vase, fourth round
Attendance: 341
I'd wanted to visit Whickham FC (in a small town near Gateshead) ever since seeing a pic of a rainbow over their stand in When Saturday Comes. Their big Vase tie today was a golden opportunity. They’ve passed this way before, though, and well beyond. Whickham won the competition in 1981 and were twice semi-finalists in the same era. It's always a bit disappointing when a Vase draw pairs teams from the same League but, in West Auckland - bookies’ favourites for the Vase, 2012 finalists and beaten once only in the League this season - I was guaranteed a passionate contest and a relatively big crowd.

I was a bit confused on arrival at what looked like a municipal sports ground. Furthermore, a sign referred to Hebburn, “FA Vase QR” and “6/9” which, on subsequent investigation, proved to refer to the qualifying round when this cup run started four months ago. Spotting some gold and black West Auckland scarves, I confidentally strode to the garden shed that it is the entry to the ground. The fella within called pounds “punds”. I love the north-east accent. Later, when the linesman called out to the players to explain a decision, the man next to me said: “Can tell he’s not from round here”. I felt foreign.

First impressions of The Glebe? Ah. Well. It’s essentially  a railed pitch, open on three sides, one of them bordering a cricket pitch (see above). There is, of course, that one stand, sited curiously behind a goal, but the quaint home-made sign on the fascia has been upgraded since the pic I’d seen was taken and there was about as much chance of a rainbow today as the two teams about to play in black and white stripes and all white representing Newcastle and Real Madrid.  Cold, grey and drizzly too. I was so glad I hadn’t brought my young son with me. The programme revealed that extra-time would follow if the teams were level at 90 mins and, even before kick-off, I had a feeling what fate had in store …

The first major chance of the match didn’t come until 30 mins. Campbell of West Auckland beat the offside trip but blasted wide despite having plenty of time. A similar burst through by the same player just before half-time gave the visitors the lead. Whickham, one division below West Auckland, battled on valiantly, though, very much stayed in the match and got a deserved equaliser on 75 mins when a cross from the right was jabbed in from close range.

Full time: 1-1. I wasn’t the only neutral in the ground not wanting extra-time. The fourth official wanted to pee. Amazing what you find out standing between the dugouts. Too much information, in some respects. It was a family affair for the Whickham manager. His wife and kids stood right behind him and the barrier, one of them asking why “that man has a flag”. A Whickham player appeared to be elbowed in the face and all sorts of remonstrations followed from the bench. In the professional leagues all you get is a sanitised, media trained account of the game from the manager after the final whistle; at this level, providing you’re standing in the right place, you get it as a live stream.

By now darkness had long descended, the drizzle had stopped and spectators had ventured from the stand and were strung out pitchside. The atmosphere was building. West Auckland restored their lead when a cross cruelly bobbled below a Whickham defender’s foot and, one pass later, the ball was in the net.
Soon afterwards the home defence was sliced open down the right and it was game over. Whickham did get a penalty when one of their lads was upended but it was blasted over the bar. No upset then but worth staying until the end.

Programme notes: Whickham’s Liam Barnett “made his debut against Brandon and took four minutes to open his account”. Remarkable how efficient online banking is these days.

Photographic notes: I always feel a dreadful nerd taking pics at football matches. My camera goes straight back into my pocket after each pic. Clearly this geezer isn't so self-conscious.

 Son of Whickham: The Whickham club crests includes a bust of Lang Jack, a giant (more Geordie speak: “lang” as in long) 19th century local character renowned for humping boulders for long distances. A monument to him which used to stand next to his (demolished) house is today positioned on the town’s high street.

Not a son of Whickham: The club cheekily expressed interest in signing Pierre van Hooijdonk on loan from Nottingham Forest in 1998. Dave Bassett, Forest manager, sent back a fax saying that the ‘want away’ striker would “prefer a move to Eastbourne Town where it would be a little warmer for him”.

Making a stand: Nice story on BBC Online about the purchase of a stand through eBay by Vase fourth rounders and wonderfully named Brightlingsea Regent. Fairly humble affair, as you'd imagine.
My video highlights are here but, for the goals, view below.


Mitchel Kelly said...

Thanks for that comment about being the nerd with the camera on your picture but my son was mascot for the day and it was an iPad actually!

Shaun said...

Great stuff Paul.