By – Sour
Australian soft rockers Crowded House have released (at least) two weather related singles – “Weather With You” and “Four Seasons in One Day”, neither of which were particularly relevant on Saturday as we left Jesmond in wintery sunshine only for this to disappear as we dropped down the western side of the pennines into Lancashire on the M62, and the only season we experienced was Winter.
Saturday 8 January 2011 was a day to forget for Newcastle teams in various sports, and the less said about it the better. So, in that spirit, here’s a lengthy look back at the weekend’s Lancashire Cup Pool B game against Oldham
Coming 8 weeks since the previous game, which was incidentally against Oldham, a squad of 11 made the trip from various locations around the North, County Durham and Midlands (Greater Manchester) to an Oldham that was bathed in dark grey cloud with spots of drizzle/sleet/snow (delete as desired).
There was confidence in the changing room as ten of the squad recalled their 14-4 win there last time out. But changes in goal with Davenport stepping up for his debut performance between the pipes, and a short midfield line featuring only 6 short sticks to go with the 4 longpoles saw both Webbé and Stewart swapping between long and short stick, and saw Pigeon in an unfamiliar LSM role. Warwick and Ellwood provided the meat in the defensive sandwhich while Ford, Wheeldon and Webb had their hands full with an aggressive Oldham Defensive unit. Higginbottom and Lacey rounded out the squad contributing face-offs, swearing and beards in equal measure.
The first quarter started cagily and the first whistle saw the start of what was to be an intriguing battle at the face-off X as Higginbottom and Oldham LSM (#2) tussled, fought, cheated and generally annoyed each other for the full 80 minutes.
Neither side took control of the opening phases with several changes of possession without any telling contribution until Oldham defender and captain Matt Taylor (#8) intercepted a loose pass and took off up the field. He streaked in from the right and fired a low shot across Davenport into the far corner. The sight and sound of the jubilation was sickening – but not as sickening as Webbé’s celebration of his fourth quarter tally.
The Knights responded quickly with a trademark underhand effort from Lacey as he drove north-south and half rolled his defender to stick a worm burner past the goalie. Unfortunately it was downhill from there in the first quarter. Oldham took over and punished some weak, late slides to tally a further 6 goals before the interval.
The second quarter was a different story, with the men in Silver and Black controlling the pace of the game and maintaining extended period of possession. Tallies from Ford and Lacey to a single from Oldham’s #6 saw the score come back to 8-3.
The second half saw a different story Oldham came out strongly scoring 3 unanswered goals to start, but frustrations were running high. Stewart has his clock cleaned high and late after he’d inadvertently tripped a clearing middy which saw an impressively large pile of handbags thrown to the floor, that was only defused by Webbé shouting irately “I’M ONLY TRYING TO CALM THINGS DOWN” which caused a degree of giggling. I’m no expert on how tonal intonation relate to moods, but I’d wager a hefty sum that if he’d talked to a hungry lion like that he’d be a goner and the lion would have been using his longstick for a toothpick.
Some very sensible refereeing saw the knights down 1 man in a 5 v 4 situation for 2 minutes. A save from Davenport after about 45 seconds created a clearing opportunity and as Ellwood broke to the bench he became entangled with an riding attackman leading to another penalty. The tale of “The Invincible 3 Man Zone” of Stewart, Warwick and Pigeon would have lived on through the ages, if only a clearing pass hadn’t been intercepted and stuck in for the 4th goal of the quarter.
The fourth quarter was a shocker and with the tiredness of a short squad after a length lay-off now affecting all of the Knights, Oldham’s crisp fast-breaks took their toll. A goal on the break from Webbé and an overdue dip from Wheeldon rounded out the scoring.
This game wouldn’t have been out of place in the 2008/09 or 09/10 seasons – or, even more cruelly perhaps, if we were playing Leeds. It also represented a step back from where the Knights have progressed to this season. Although a touch short on numbers, there was enough quality amongst the 11 men who made the trip to come away with a substantially better result. Chances and patience were missed as one-on-ones were buried in the keeper’s body or stick, and the pressure of being behind lead to run-and-gun tendencies that really didn’t help. The league title last year was won by controlling games and making possession tell, a return to those philosophies would have made this game a very different spectacle.
Wheeldon took home the goon award for profligate finishing, with Webbé taking home his favourite accoutrement, and Warwick picked up a debut Man for an imperious performance at the back.
One sincerely hopes this isn’t the start of another post-Christmas slump in form that put paid to the promotion push in 08/09 and nearly derailed last year’s title challenge.
2011 still holds the prospect of having a goalie between the pipes, and with the signing of Dave Bryant from Stockport being confirmed late last month adding some considerable firepower and leadership to an offence that has at times this season looked a little short of inspiration and discipline, things are still moving in the right direction.
Season Scorers to date
Andy Ford 13
Mark Webb 8
John Wheeldon 7
Nick Lacey 7
Kyle Standiford 3
Andy Higginbottom 2
Robin Webb 2
Sam Ridgeway 1
Liam Thomas 1
Previews, match reports and general musings from the Toon and beyond.