Saturday, 10 August 2013

Caygill and Macca rescue a point to end Town's opening day blues

By Ricky Butler at Peterlee Newtown

TWO goals in six second half minutes from Northern League debutantes Graham Caygill and Danny McLachlan saw Town come from behind to grab an opening day point at South Shields on Saturday.

After a disastrous start to both halves, which saw Barrie Smith and Paul Kane give Shields a 2-0 lead, Town showed great character and determination to leave Peterlee Newtown with a point.

"It is a little frustrating," said captain Gav Parkin at the whistle. "We were slow getting out of the blocks at the start of both halves and gifted them two really soft goals but we fought back well and are happy with a point."

With manager Peter Mulcaster away, assistant Steve Cooke picked the side but there were no real surprises. With Grant Hickman and Ian Smurthwaite both suspended, Cooke's defensive options were limited so he went with a new-look central partnership of Lee Newby and Paul Johnson with new signing Sean Davies on the bench.

In midfield, Christian Holliday returned on the left in the only change from Tuesday's defeat at Spennymoor, while in the absence of Jamie Clarke, McLachlan partnered Caygill up front.

But Cooke's first pre-match team talk did not appear to have had the desired affect as Town started slowly and they found themselves behind inside two minutes. Shields captain Smith was allowed to burst into the penalty area unchecked and he rounded goalkeeper Dean Hudson to slot into the empty net.

And it could have been a whole lot worse too as both Kane and Stephen Ramsey missed presentable opportunities to increase the hosts advantage before ten minutes had elapsed.

However, Town slowly began to settle and were slightly unfortunate not to be level by the break. McLachlan twice went close from distance while Holliday and Caygill both had chances to equalise as half time approached.

But all that momentum was lost within 30 seconds of the restart when a mix up on the edge of their own penalty area between McLachlan and Darren Kokes gifted an opportunity that Kane never looked like missing.

At this stage it appeared Town's opening day jinx, which has seen them fail to win their first fixture since 2001, was about to continue as Kane, Smith and Chris Feasy all come close to putting the result beyond any doubt. But Town weathered the storm and driven on by the outstanding Jason Brazauskas, scored twice in six minutes to draw level.

It was a great run from Brazuaskas down the right in the 53rd minute that paved the way for Parkin to stand up a cross to the far post. Holliday perhaps could have scored himself but instead chose to head the ball back into the six yard box where Caygill showed all his natural goal-scoring instincts to smash into the roof of the net - his first Northern League goal. Having scored five times in six pre-season games, including two at Spennymoor on Tuesday evening, it is unlikely to be his last.

Town were now well on top and they grabbed the equaliser just before the hour-mark. Brazauskas again opened up the home defence with some powerful running down the right and Steve Banks' cross was headed home by McLachlan via a slight deflection to send the Town fans behind the goal into ecstasy.

It was real end-to-end stuff now as both sides went all out for the winner. Shields best chance appeared to lie with the long throws of Colin White which led to a few heart-in-mouth moments for the Town defence, but the best opportunities were at the other end, particularly following the introduction of Col Anderson from the bench fifteen minutes from time.

Caygill saw an effort blocked at the far post after an inviting left-wing cross from Andrew Porritt, while Anderson then flicked the ball into the path of Brazauskas who drilled over the top.

But Town had a golden opportunity to snatch all three points in the first minute of stoppage time. Brazauskas cut in from the right and fed Anderson on the edge of the penalty area who touched the ball out to McLachlan on the left. But with only goalkeeper Jak Wells to beat, the 24 year-old smashed the ball just the wrong side of the post and it finished with honours even.

When asked about the performance of Brazauskas, Parkin said: "Jason is a great player and also a real character. He does not bring a bag with him to the games, he just turns up carrying his boots and with his shin pads in his pocket. But give him the ball and he can make things happen.

"We have to keep talking to him on the pitch and encouraging him but you saw in the second half what he can do.

Back to the game itself and Parkin was delighted with the character shown by his team. "We had 4-5 players out today and they are players who you would expect to be in the team. So to come back from 2-0 down and get a point shows the strength we have.

"We had some quality on the bench and it shows what we can do when we have everyone fit and available.

"It is always difficult at this time of the year with players on holiday and other things so it is never easy to get your best team out there.

"We wanted to start the second half well but everything we said in the changing room went out the window as we gave away a really poor goal. But credit to the lads for the showing the character to come back.

"Yes we could have nicked it at the end but I think a draw was probably about right.

"We face another tough match on Wednesday night (at home to Tow Law) but if we can pick up three points it will be make it a really good start.

"It is important to build up some momentum early in the season so we need to push on from this and get a result on Wednesday."

SOUTH SHIELDS - Wells, Clarke, Locke, Brown, White, Smith, Feasy, Sharp, Ramsey, Kane, Pickering. Subs - Sweeney, Courtney, Marshall, Edwards, Foster.

TOWN - Hudson, Banks, Porritt, Johnson, Newby, Parkin, Brazauskas, Kokes, McLachlan, Caygill, Holliday. Subs - Anderson, Colman, Toman, Davies.



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