It was the game, the tie, the match, that nobody wanted. Win, and it’s only the black and white bairns. Lose, and it’s the end of the world as we know it. They’re all Daniel Blake and we’re all the system. So the most important thing was to win – not by loads, not with quality or in style, but just win.
Which we did, more than comfortably - after an error-strewn and patchy first half by both sides, quality showed through. It should also be noted that Bali Mumba was one of the youngest players on show, that he was joined by other bairns, and that this was far from Ross the Boss’s first eleven… but we won 4-0, and any win over them up the road is a win worth celebrating, so up yours, Rafa.
After passing the magpie hordes disembarking the train at St Peters – with a remarkable lack of club colours on show - there was no getting served in the Wheatsheaf, as too many others had decided to refresh themselves there, so I just gave up early and discussed the possible line-up in the Roker End Café. How many “real” first teamers would Ross put out, and how many mags would we recognise? That’s being snide, but just a realistic question about who would be on show, as we knew that we’d know none of them and all of us – ‘cos we’re knowledgeable folks who look at the world away from the first team.
There was a slight drizzle (mizzle?) drifting about as we entered the stadium and found our seats (or rather the space in front of them in which to stand for ninety minutes). I was in the Roker End, in the company of a dozen youths with very skinny jeans and dazzling white trainers the size of oil tankers, giving them the look of so many Mickey Mouses/Mice. There was a fair amount of displeasure dispensed at the away end, as you’d expect, creating a decent atmosphere, as they kicked off heading North, having been too ashamed to wear the traditional stripes and instead opting a pale blue option, and we attacked the Roker End… raaahh!
O’Nien Flanagan Ozturk James
Maguire Wyke Sinclair Watmore
OK, so mebbe Maguire and Watmore sat a little deeper, allowing Wyke and Sinclair to work up front, but the first half wasn’t much to write home about, even if home is Tyneside, and things there are pretty crap. Their starting eleven’s shirt numbers added up to 519, beginning at 29 and ending at 60, which sort of says it all –their most irritating player was the number 60, who was a bit of a pest out wide, with his gloves and his hairdo, but who had Luke to contend with. The closest we got was when Wyke got his head to a dink into the box but it saw the keeper do his job and keep it out. Ruiter didn’t have a great deal to do, but collected what he had to despite a couple of unnecessarily loose back-passes, and both James and O’Nien stood up well to their opposing wide men.
Let’s cut to the chase - the first half was best forgotten about, even though the mags didn’t look like scoring. We tried some stuff that didn’t work, almost got some shots away, but didn’t, with Sinclair showing plenty of muscle but electing not to shoot or cross when the opportunity arose. Patience is better than wild optimism, I suppose, but if you don’t shoot, guess what doesn’t happen? Thankfully, our inability to string together good, flowing, football was matched by the visitors, whose youthful exuberance was...well, youthful exuberance, and nowhere near as exuberant as O’Nien and Mumba. Mind, Mumba’s exuberance got the better of him late on in the half, earning him a yellow, Bugger all yer England-style control, layoff, and move – watch those two Lads and see how football should be played.
Kimpioka replaced Watmore for the second half (did I mention the added two minutes? Probably not, as they weren’t that good) and his introduction had an immediate effect. Wyke won a header, as that’s what he’s supposed to do, Sinclair picked it up and smashed as shot against the post, then Maguire, who’d taken a bit of stick from the Lads next to me in the first half for being lazy, despite moving from side to side and dealing with all of the dead balls, took the resultant corner from our right. In it swung, and some unfortunate mag (aren’t they all unfortunate by default?) go the vital touch to send us a goal ahead with only a minute or so played in the second half. As an ice-breaker, that did very nicely indeed. There followed a lovely move, cutting in from the left, and involving McGeouch, Kimpioka, and Wyke, that ended with Maguire’s shot being blocked. Five minutes later, another Maguire corner from the right found Big Chas, and he made it two. Smashing, straightforward, goal. Their heads went down, although a couple did keep trying to make a game of it – unsuccessfully. When Maguire picked up the ball outside the box, we all knew what was likely to happen. It did, with our favourite workie-ticket smashing a shot across the goal and beyond their keeper’s outstretched fingers into the north-west side of the goal for 3-0. A beaut, and that was the game dead and buried as far as the magpie bairns were concerned.
With fifteen to go, Wyke, who’d given his young opponents an object lesson in getting battered about, made way for Luke Molyneux, and a few minute later McGeouch did likewise for Jake Hackett – meaning that South West Durham was well represented. Kimpioka, who can possibly be described as Bambi on acid, was a real handful as he twisted and turned beyond and between the visiting defenders and basically created merry Hell in their box. With five to go and following good contributions from fellow subs Molyneux and Hackett (neither of whom are scared of a tackle), and ball was lobbed into the box, and he somehow got in front of their keeper and knocked the ball in for the fourth.
Yee’ll dee for me, Bonny Lad!
There were three added minutes, in which most of the visiting players showed their desire to be somewhere else, but the result and the statistics prove the point. They hadn’t mustered a shot on target all game against our five (not counting a couple of blocks) although they did have us worried with a bouncing ball a couple of times. All in all, it was about the best we could have asked from a no-win situation.
Man of the Match? Again, O’Nien was all over his winger, and let him get away with nothing, while on the left, James had a fine game both defensively and going forward. Kimpioka was something else – no opponent will have a clue what he’s going to do next, as we can’t work it out, so he’s a real option up front – and Maguire, despite his first-half (unjustified) knockings, set up two and scored one. Ruiter did nowt wrong apart from a silly short throw to Flanagan that allowed a magpie incursion into our area – thankfully it was two for sorrow this time. For me, though, it has to be Mumba. He was everywhere, showed some great touches and, despite getting a tad overexcited at times, still managed to shine through while being one of the youngest players on show. Big future for this Lad, and one I reckon we can rely on this season to have a significant contribution if and when needed.
Cheesy chips on Wembley Way? Bring ‘em on!