Monday, 12 August 2013

Mixed feelings after opening day draw for Town

A POINT gained or two points lost? That was the question being asked by Town fans following the opening day 2-2 draw at South Shields.

Having fallen two-goals behind early in the second half at Peterlee, a draw seemed the best that Town could have hoped for, but in the end the stirring comeback could, and perhaps should, have brought a first opening day victory since 2001.

Inspired by Jason Brazauskas, or Biscuit as he is known, Town scored twice in six minutes to level it up - a crumb of comfort for the fans who had made the journey north - and with over half an hour still to play they were in the perfect position to go on and win it.

But it was not to be. The momentum, which had been building towards the end of the first half, was somehow lost after that and in the end it was the hosts' aerial bombardment that almost brought them the winner.

So is a point gained or two dropped? I like to think I am an optimistic type of person. The glass is always half full. But I feel this was a missed opportunity to start the new season with all three points.

Lets be honest, Shields are not a great side. Having been relegated at the end of last season and having to play at Peterlee, or Peters & Lee as it was dubbed by some of the visiting Town fans - Leaving on a Jet Plane and all that - they looked like a club in crisis.

Many teams will go there this season, possibly not on a jet plane but in cars and coaches, and win comfortably, so in that respect it is two points dropped.

However, when you bare in mind the players missing - Grant Hickman, Ian Smurthwaite, Dale Elgie, Jamie Clarke for example - and Col Anderson only fit enough for the bench - to fight back in the way in which they did shows the strength of the group.

The young lads in particular look ready to make the step up this season. The more he plays, the more Graham Caygill looks like a Northern League centre forward. It was a difficult game for him on Saturday but he has that natural goal-scorers instinct of being in the right place at the right time and his hold up play has come on in leaps and bounds since the start of pre-season.

Alongside him, Danny McLachlan is also improving with every match. Stepping up from the Wearside League, Macca has shown an energy and work rate that compliments Caygill perfectly. In fact I doubt there will be two harder working forwards anywhere in the league this season, especially when you consider that most forwards are notoriously lazy anyway...

Of course questions remain over whether or not their inexperience at this level will tell over the course of  a long season, and the return of Clarke will no doubt benefit them both, but they have certainly shown enough already to suggest they will score goals this season.

Other players who have impressed are Darren Kokes and Christian Holliday. Kokes has been forced to play in an unfamiliar central midfield role in recent weeks but has been magnificent. It may have prevented him scoring as many goals as he would normally have expected to have done, but he has worked tirelessly for the team and must have covered every blade of grass at Peterlee on Saturday.

Holliday, known as Bisto, has returned to the club this summer and has shown great pace to match his work-rate. He also produced some quality deliveies from the left on Saturday and I can see him playing a vital role as the season progresses.

But concerns remain over the defence. 22 goals conceded in six pre-season games was followed by some kamikaze defending at South Shields. The new-look central partnership of Lee Newby and Paul Johnson took time to settle, although they did improve as the match went on.

Sean Davies, who came off the bench for his club debut, added some much needed experience and physical presence in the closing stages as the hosts threw everything at Town, quite literally at times thanks to the Rory Delap-like delivery of Colin White. But lets remember Town did keep them out.

So in the end it was a draw. The best way to look at it is that it represents an unbeaten start. After 50 minutes yesterday, I am sure everyone connected with the club would have taken that so lets look at the positives and move on.

Tow Law Town, 4-2 winners over Thornaby on Saturday, are the visitors for the opening home match on Wednesday night where Hickman, Smurthwaite and Clarke could all return to the squad.

But forget all that, the thing you should really be looking forward to on Wednesday is the opportunity to get your hands on a copy of the new-look match programme. Completely redesigned this season, the programme will have a fresher look to it - and still for the great price of just £1 - although most of the content will unfortunately remain as drab as last season.

Still, you can't have everything can you?


  1. 2 points lost for me, south shields no better than a teeside league team i'm sorry to say.

  2. I thought South Shields were a poor side. I thought we started both halves really slow and that allowed shields to get their tails up and end up scoring there 2 goals. We were really quiet throughout the games but done superbley to come back from 2 goals down, showing great character. Hopefully a better result wed night, which will be another tough game. Hickers