Category Archives: playing away

Zen, Zenith, Zenica; Losing and Winning with Wales in Bosnia

Sunday 11 October, 10:30pm

Your eyes blink open to dull equidistant yellow flashes of street lamps dancing across the steamed up window. You wipe away the condensation and peer through the raindrops to see the familiar stark brutalist tower-blocks of New Belgrade. You’ve been here before. Continue reading Zen, Zenith, Zenica; Losing and Winning with Wales in Bosnia

Haifa a High; Wales in Israel

‘Oh shit! I’ve forgotten my lucky envelope as well’.

Those words are mine. They left my mouth on the morning of the game. You need not know why the envelope is deemed lucky, nor how I’d come to forget it, but for context do consider this. I am 32 years old. I’m educated. But for the duration of a morning’s exploration of Haifa I genuinely feared I had jeopardised the hopes of my nation’s football team through the act of leaving a torn dog-eared envelope in a South London flat. This is what following Wales does to you. It suspends all notions of rationality or belief and replaces them instead with a clouded fug of paranoia, superstition, melancholy, and blind, desperate, stupid hope. Continue reading Haifa a High; Wales in Israel

Playing Away #2 Whitby Town vs Blyth Spartans

Continuing our series of sneaking off whilst Rovers’ back is turned for a bit on the side popular STAND Editor Glen Wilson hops up the North Yorkshire coast to the Turnbull Ground for Whitby Town vs Blyth Spartans.

Whitby Town 1-3 Blyth Spartans
Evo-Stick Northern Premier League

Attendance: 407

Just along from the station, there’s a board on the harbour wall encouraging people to enjoy The Captain Cook Experience. Must be some boat trip. No wonder the next one doesn’t leave until Tuesday. Cook isn’t the only great traveller synonymous with Whitby, the explorer William Scoresby discovered his sea-legs here too. Perhaps due to the fact that it’s most famous residents earned their notoriety by trying to get as far away from the place as possible, Whitby retains a somewhat modest, humble air to this day.

Along the harbour holiday makers and day-trippers are queuing down the street for fish and chips from the Magpie cafe. There isn’t a Yorkshire saying about never trusting a chippy with a wine list, but you feel there should be. As if spoiling for a fight a seagull swoops down takes a chip right out of the hand of a particularly large guy and drops it to the floor whilst looking straight at him. Perhaps seagulls are the answer to the nation’s obesity crisis. Perhaps they’re just vicious flying bastards. Its Bank Holiday Monday and the many Blyth fans dotted around the town are already confusing the tourists. Enough for folk to determine a pattern, but not quite enough to cause alarm. “What’s with the old guys in green all over town?” I hear a Canadian ask whilst I’m sat having a coffee in a cafe window. In hindsight my response of “Spartans are in town,” probably raised more questions than it answered.

The weather has already plotted a course for Autumn, and its been spattering with rain since lunchtime. The West Cliff is full of holidaying families who did all they came to do in the morning – went up the Abbey, counted the steps, embarrassed their kids with a Transylvanian accent – and are now just killing time. They’re staring out at the sea. Hacking pitch and put balls wildly through the drizzle. And in the case of one family standing defiantly in the paddling pool. No such meaningless pursuits for me; I have a first date with the Evo-Stick Northern Premier, and as I walk up the North Promenade I can already hear the pre-match tannoy announcements being carried out to sea on the breeze, and spy the floodlight pylons above the rooftops.

At the turnstile there’s a bit of a hold up. Two Blyth fans wearing Ant and Dec masks are asking the old fella on the gate to choose between red and black. Blyth fans have travelled in numbers for this game, and understandably so. As their only league away game which requires less than a 200 mile round trip this is their big derby day out. And so they arrive here in good spirits with flag, and Roman helmet, and mask in hand.

Once inside, with no programme seller in sight I spy the club shop, or rather the proprietor locking it up for the first half. “Any idea where I can find a programme?” I ask. “In there at half time,” he replies, then after a quick look round he grabs my arm and says quieter, “be here early mind, I’ve only a few left.” I’m not sure whether I’ve just been given advice or a coded message. “Sure,” I reply, trying to gage if he’ll be disappointed if I return without reinforcements.

Meanwhile, out on the field the game has begun. Whitby’s blue kit is flush with a red, black and white Sampdoria-esque stripe down one side, although any aspirations for continental flair are suitably reigned in by the sponsor; The Hart Inn, a local pub. The entire Whitby outfield also appear to have the same haircut; shaved back and sides, slick on top, it’s like an ambush marketing campaign for Brylcream. Blyth wear yellow, a choice presumably dictated by the kitman having the Bank Holiday weekend off rather than any fear of a kit clash.

It’s the home side who have the first shot on goal, a speculative effort from distance that rebounds with a satisfying thud off first the roof, and secondly the conservatory of the house behind the goal. Had it been a bungalow a club official would have been tasked with commandeering a trawler for it’s retrieval. Barely have I managed to climb the steep Main Stand steps and pick out a seat not covered in seagull shit, when the visitors take a sixth minute lead. A through-ball finds Whitby’s back-line to be less a bank of four, more a market place of two and a bit, as it releases Phil Airey in on goal to slot home in front of the more boisterous of the travelling support..

Any doom this set-back had laden on the home fans in the Main Stand is quickly lifted as to the amusement of all bar one in the ground Blyth’s Lee Mason takes a ball from close range right in his Spartans. The merriment increases as Blyth’s female physio comes on to treat him. “The ricochet got me in the same place pet if you want to check me next,” being perhaps the most repeatable of the calls from the stand. Whilst Mason receives much treatment and little sympathy the Blyth fans behind the goal entertain themselves by releasing inflatable bananas onto the field and then serenading the steward who comes to retrieve them with the Laurel & Hardy theme. Deflated bananas suitably removed, and in Mason’s case treated, its back on with the game

Whitby’s Nathan Mulligan looks a tidy player, and holds the ball up well in attack killing the often interminable wait for support with some neat close control. When Whitby finally get some support in Mulligan’s vicinity they have their first telling chance; Shane Henry getting to the byline on the left before delivering a low cross for Graeme Armstrong who connects well, but is denied by a great save by Conor Grant.

A pair of older gentlemen in fading blue club caps enter the stand. “Raffle tickets” announces the first, “Ahhh no” replies a pensioner along the row from me, attempting to slide into his chair. Others choose to stare fixedly out at the field, hoping the sellers won’t notice the ball hasn’t been in play for the best part of a minute. “Pound a strip,” calls out the second seller, despite the fact his tickets are wound on one continuous strip. A lad heading down the steps buys £2 worth and leaves with a streamer of tickets trailing behind him like a cartoon dog stealing sausages.

On 19 minutes Whitby get the chance to draw level as former Blyth man Armstrong turns in the area and is clumsily bundled over for a penalty. As the players get to their feet a flock of seagulls on the stand roof kick up an almighty din. “The birds are letting the ref know what they thought of that decision at least” observes the Spartans fan behind me, but its a clear spot-kick. Mulligan tucks it home and Baby Give It Up blasts out through the PA to fairly non-plussed locals. A minute later the Blyth fans perform their own acapella version to much more positive acclaim.

The Blyth support have been good value, filling the game’s emptier spaces, the midfield slogs when I’ve found myself looking out between the houses to the sea. Whitby’s support, though out of sight and out of mind beneath the roof of the terrace opposite, give as good as they get, and as a gust of wind has Blyth banners whipping free of their tethering they chant “Shall we tie your flags for you?” toward their visitors.

Like their support Whitby have grown in confidence since their equaliser and are now offering more support to Mulligan. The result is some impressive neat football, a lot of short passes, the odd back-heel, but chances remain fleeting. Tom Portas fires a shot into the catch-fencing behind the goal. David McTiernan comes closer having been released in the right channel; his low drive across goal well saved by Grant down to his right. The effort brings applause from the home faithful, but there’s a bigger cheer to follow as a wayward clearance hits the roof of the terrace opposite sending a sheet of water out of the guttering and down onto the poor couple leaning on the wall below.

Blyth have been on the back foot for some time but they get a rare chance from a throw in the final third; Shaun Litterson chipping a cross to the far post that finds Craig Farrell in space, but the striker opts for ambitious over control and scissor kicks the ball straight into the turf. In Robert Dale Spartans have one of the tallest wingers I’ve ever seen, and its he who gives the visitors another chance as his long limbs intercept in midfield before feeding Farrell, but again the forward is off target.

As I make my way for Operation Programme’s 15:45 rendezvous at Club Shop Point, Blyth’s Shaun Vipond clatters through his man with a challenge that, thankfully, sounds much more horrific than its effects. “Get him back to Blyth, and bloody quickly” yells a woman in the disabled section as the referee calles Vipond over, but it’s just a caution. “Which way’s the bar?” asks a Blyth fan of a home club official. He gives them directions and then turns to the fella next to him “Not very good drinkers them lads if they haven’t already sussed the bar… I can sniff one out anywhere”.

I’m first in the club shop, after the proprietor, enabling me to purchase both the penultimate programme and the penultimate team-sheet to hefty sighs from those who follow me in. I stay in the shop, effectively a windowed cupboard beneath the stand for a nose around. It boasts three times as much stock as it capacity should allow, including an array of replica shirts for £7.95. Not Whitby replica shirts, but a range of oddities on a rack, from Derry City away, Newtown, Hertha Berlin, Anderlecht, Loughborough Students. They’re all here, and you sense they always will be.

The Main Stand is a high perch with a roof at an obtuse angle that only really offers protection from wind and rain coming in one direction. As it’s not coming from that direction today I choose to watch the second half from the more resolute cover of the terrace. The terrace is less a piece of architecture, more a living organism adapting to its surroundings. It has two rows of seating at its front, an inexplicable window in its back wall, the floodlights go up through holes cut in its roof, and it is shaped in a dogleg to allow for the gardens behind. It’s perfect.

The second half begins as the first ended with a Blyth player cautioned for a daft challenge, this time a wrestling hold to stop Henry from breaking. The resulting free-kick is lifted perfectly into the corridor of uncertainty between the 6 yard box and the penalty spot, but amongst a crowd of heads it’s an acrobatic boot from Jordan Mellish that hooks it clear. In a sign of things to come play shifts swiftly to the other end where Mason makes the byline before cutting a low cross which reaches Airey at the far-post, but his shot is blocked on the line by player-manager Darren Williams.

What the terrace lacks in architectural aesthetics it makes up for in token oddballs. One of the old guys in front of me has just one shout, “Spread out!” which he bellows the moment any two Whitby players get within a couple of yards of each other. The person who invented parking sensors was probably stood in my exact spot when he came up with the idea. The guy next to him also has just a solitary call; “They’re playing with you ref!” which he shouts whenever Blyth earn a free-kick. It’s all a bit Pavlovian.

Out on the field Blyth are in the midst of a mini injury crisis. Mellish is already down with a head injury, when the bald Farrell hits the turf holding his head too, much to the chagrin of the crowd;
“What’s up with you nine? Hair in your eyes?”
“Ahh, they’re all tired, bless”
“What are you going to do now ref?”
shouts one voice, which comes across as a genuine enquiry more than a heckle, to the extent that the referee turns as if to answer, only to think better of it and restart with a drop ball on halfway.

Having alternated between bright sunshine and sideways rain thus far, the sky gives up trying to decide and presents the Turnbull with both for the remainder of the match. The game too remains in the balance. Blyth have a decent chance as Vipond picks out Airey, but his low shot is turned away by Liversedge in goal. Mulligan, still working tirelessly, earns Whitby a corner, and his near-post delivery is met by the flying Alex White, the centre-half meeting it horizontally five feet off the ground. The cheers from the Main Stand are in vain, it’s flashed the wrong side of the post.

Entering the final ten minutes and things are starting to get tense. “Every time ref!” yells the Blyth manager as Whitby commit a clumsy foul on halfway. “Aye, they’ve picked up bad habits from your lot” responds an old guy down the front. Blyth are starting to have the better of things and have a great chance as Airey gets in between the Town defence, but his shot flies wide. He comes closer a minute later from a much tougher chance; neatly cushioning a bouncing through ball, before volleying just the wrong side of the post to scatter the away following behind the goal.

“Let’s have some wingers!” yells a Whitby fan. “Winners?” inquires his mate. “No, I said wingers” he replies , still at full volume. Despite his appeal it’s Spartans who are finding the space out wide, working the ball over to Mason, all alone on the right side of the area. He takes a touch then shoots, but his effort is brilliantly saved. Mason wins the race to the rebound to cut the ball back across goal but Farrell can only slice it wide. An inflatable banana is whacked on the fence in frustration.

“Stand up, for the special one,” sing the Whitby supporters as the veteran Williams takes himself off. Into the last few minutes and the pace remains frenetic. Farrell drives over at one end. At the other a chipped cross picks out Armstrong, but he heads over. “Don’t let him score, of all people,” cries a Blyth fan. The visitors make a late change of their own. “New record that Lee,” calls out a supporter, earning a wry grin from Mason as he’s withdrawn.

Into the final minute and Whitby work it down the left; Mulligan skips past his man, makes it to the byline, but his low ball back across goal rolls agonisingly between the blur of blue shirts arriving in the box and hands go to heads in the Main Stand like a groaning Mexican Wave. Time then, for one last push from the visitors. Dale collects the ball on the left flank and as he enters the area a blue-socked leg fells one of his long trunks and he falls to the turf like a chimney demolition. The whole ground collectively pauses and turns to the referee. A split second of silence punctured by a shrill whistle and an outstretched arm pointing to the penalty spot.

Blyth’s manager can’t watch. He leans on the wall by the dugout facing into the terrace as the game’s final act plays out over his shoulder. His superstition pays off. The penalty is despatched and the scorer disappears into a scrum behind the goal; half yellow shirted players, half supporters decked in green, inflatable bananas bobbing up and down from somewhere in the middle. On the other side of the goal a man in a Dec mask dances on the fence.

Incredibly there’s still time for an epilogue. Whitby look dumbfounded as Dale nicks the ball and dribbles off to the corner. “Where’s he taking that? Staithes?” asks the bloke to my right. Instead, via a couple of passes, he’s back in the area and hitting a low drive that cannons off the man on the line and into the roof of the net for 3-1. Cue green white and yellow Geordie pandemonium all over again as a second bouncing buoyant scrum forms at the side of the goal.

Whitby’s players look crestfallen, and understandably so, the better side for long periods they never looked like traipsing off the field with nowt. As the supporters file out of the ground they get to hear Whitby’s players getting a bollocking via an open changing room window. The two old fellas in front chat as they file out.
“Are you here next Sunday Bill?”
“Is there a game on like?”
“Aye, the Lifeboat crew against an Emmerdale XI”

Bill stops walking. Turns and looks closely and quizzically at his companion. Then shakes his head and walks off down the hill in the direction of the town centre without saying so much as a goodbye.

Playing Away #1 Bridlington Town vs Whitley Bay

We’re men of the world here at popular STAND, and so we realise that on occasion, there comes a time when you feel the need to seek alternate pleasure. Football sadly is not solely a game played by men (or women) in red and white hoops and so sometimes circumstances dictate that we must watch other people play. Rather than see this practice go underground we’ve taken steps to ensure it can be controlled and so have come up with a feature in which it can exist in small doses. In Playing Away we recount our tales of watching others play, starting with Editor Glen Wilson‘s trip to the seaside.

Bridlington Town 1-2 Whitley Bay
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Attendance: 206

Do we have to go back to Hull dad?” asks a child at Bridlington station, “Why can’t everybody live at the seaside?” It’s summer on the Yorkshire coast, at least that’s what we’ve been told. After a week of cloud the sun has outwitted the sea breeze long enough to pack out the beach. Dads battling with windbreaks, ice-cream stained toddlers, and unnecessary amounts of ochre-coloured middle-age cleavage as far as the eye can see. It’s hardly paradise, but you can sense its appeal over Hull.

If the beach is to be believed then London 2012’s legacy is already in full effect. A mass game of volleyball takes place near the Spa, badminton, football and cricket fill the other spaces on the sand; young boys smashing their little brothers through the covers for 17. On the promenade two Goths are playing crazy golf. The feel-good holiday vibe continues through the old town, passing a pub I get a hit of an entire bar belting out House of Fun on the karaoke. Its 2:15pm.

Away from the front things are a little more leisurely, but it remains unmistakably summer as I find myself fielding a boundary during a shortcut across Duke’s Park. Beyond the cricket square, above the pavilion I can see the floodlights of my destination; Bridlington Town’s Queensgate Stadium, and their FA Cup Extra Preliminary round tie with Whitley Bay. The FA Cup is synonymous with upsets and surprises, and as I cut through the Park I sense I’m set to witness the biggest shock of the opening round; Bridlington has a Pétanque Club.

Bridlington Town experienced their highest and lowest ebbs in the 1990s, and as a Doncaster Rovers supporter I’m well versed on the main protagonist in their rise and fall. Prior to setting fire to the Main Stand at Doncaster Ken Richardson took Bridlington on two adventures within the space of a year, firstly to Wembley in the FA Vase and then to the wall in a huff. Thanks to Uncle Ken’s bungling presidency Town briefly ceased to exist in 1994, reforming from scratch that September. Thankfully Queensgate was spared by Ken’s fondness for matches and it survives as a neatly kept non-league ground capable of handling much greater attendances than it currently entertains in the North Counties East League Premier Division.

Next to the turnstile there’s a large sign stating No Alcohol Taken Into the Ground, beneath it a Whitley Bay fan is reluctantly battling through a pint he’s just carried from The Seasiders Bar. To his relief the friendly committee man on the gate beckons him through anyway, before greeting the following home fans by name; “Hello Mr Hopkins, how are you? …Good to see you Bill”. Having won the FA Vase in three of the last four seasons visitors Whitley Bay arrive here with a strong reputation and a sizable support. A large number of those down from the North East are posing for a picture just inside the gate; a clutch of blue shirts and half drunk pints, chanting “Howay the Bay!” to the amusement of the kids sitting outside the Snack Bar.

Are you local?” asks the programme seller from his hut as I purchase one. “I’m neutral” I reply, unnecessarily cryptically. As I turn away, leaving him to wonder why a bloke would come from Switzerland for this, a vintage Match of the Day theme crackles through the PA, the Bay fans break from their photo shoot to join in, and the teams take to the field. Bridlington are in bright red, Whitley Bay an equally vibrant blue, the pitch is unrelentingly green; it’s a child’s painting of a football match.

Lets meek it ooer dee!” yells a Whitley Bay centre-half, clapping his hands, as the sides line-up for kick-off. A home substitute, somewhat less pumped for the occasion, takes his place in the dugout whilst sipping tea from a club mug. There appears to be as many Bay fans present as home supporters with the noisiest of their bunch taking up position behind the far goal, complete with a bell and, perhaps pre-empting the judgement of the home fans, a flag daubed with the words The Bell End Choir.

Five minutes in the Town manager is already painfully hoarse, yet still audible from the far end of the ground. You get the sense that if his voice were not worn down he’d be simultaneously bollocking his left-back and warding ships from the rocks at Flamborough Head. Bay appear likely to find joy down the home side’s right, with the quick feet of winger Denver Morris catching the eye, though it’s defender Chris Fawcett who has the first effort, cutting inside to fire off a shot, but to groans from the Bay fans it trundles well wide.

Bridlington are struggling to get a foothold. Their outlet of choice is a ball over the top for Josh Greening. Something they’re struggling to execute, “That’s three now. Do it bigger!” yells Greening as another hopeful punt in his general direction is intercepted. The home full-back looks as perplexed as I am as to how he can make a pass ‘bigger’ rather than say longer, higher or firmer. Despite their failings it is Town who are the first to force a save, a low effort from Billy Logan in the left channel smothered at the second attempt by Bay keeper Kyle Hayes. “Ooooh”theatrically shout a group of kids watching through a gap in the wall behind me, before asking “That was Brid right?”

Bay though look much the stronger team and after seventeen minutes take a deserved lead. Town fail to deal with a long throw from their right and the ball is worked over to Chris Moore on the other flank. Receiving on the corner of the box he grapples with his marker, eventually shrugging him off before jinking past two more Town players and slotting into the far corner to the delight of the travelling fans behind the goal; arms raised, bell ringing. As the sides reconvene for the restart a chorus of “We are Whitley… from the Bay”, to the tune of We Are Sailing, drifts from the self-proclaimed Bell End.

Rather than sit on their lead Bay kick on. Paul Chow, their balding number 10 prolific in the Northern League, is giving the Town centre-halves a particularly torrid time. He comes close to doubling the lead as he picks the ball up in the right channel and drives a shot against the post with a nostalgic clunk. Minutes later he’s back in the thick of it, robbing a Town centre half before dinking a cross for Lee Kerr who’s hooked over-the-shoulder volley goes inches wide of the far post.

Watching the first half you sense Whitley Bay’s reputation has preceded them. Though clearly strong going forward, their midfield and defence are not without gaps which could, and should, be exploited. Yet Bridlington seem nervous on the ball and chances to counter attack disappear as they hesitate or fumble in midfield, and then Bay nab the ball back, the bell rings out from the travelling support, and another chance dissolves into the sea air.

I take a perch in the terraced section of the impressive pitch-length Main Stand for the remainder of the half, a move undertaken not for a better vantage point, but to avoid the token visiting ‘character’; a Bay fan clutching a stack of programmes circling the ground giving unnecessary updates from other games to anyone who happens to meet his glance. Even up here I’m not safe, “Spennymoor are one up… Morpeth are losing” he calls up to me on his twelfth lap, before pausing to admonish the linesman for a supposedly missed handball.

He’s not alone in pursuing spurious miscarriages of justice. The Bell End Choir are adamant Bay have been denied two penalties for handball, though stood at the same end I’ve seen nothing to back up their argument. Oddly, aside from the human vidiprinter, their criticisms of the officials are voiced in a manner I previously thought the sole preserve of speech-bubbles of football comics; “Have they abolished the handball rule referee?” “I believe he’s offside as well linesman”. They’re only an Up for the Cup banner short of full-on Roy of the Rovers.

Back on the field Town have made a rare foray downfield and come close to an unlikely equaliser with a Scott Phillips half-volley from the top of the box flying just beyond what Americans call the upper 90. Reminded that they lead by only a single goal, Bay step up the pressure once again, whipping in a cross from the right which is air-kicked so spectacularly by a home defender he actually shoulders it out for a corner. His embarrassment is heightened by having performed his wild slice right in front of the Bell End Choir and he’s serenaded back to his post by Fucik’s Entry of the Gladiators, aka that Circus tune. Lucky for him the corner comes to nothing but a Town free-kick though; “How can you see that but miss those three handballs ref… you numpty?” yells a Bay fan, the perceived missed handball count continuing to rise steadily.

Throughout the first half the Town back-line has possessed all the aerial capability of Rod Hull and they’re made to pay for it five minutes before the break as Bay find their inevitable second goal. A deep cross from the left finds Lee-Paul Scoggins who doesn’t need to jump to nod it back across goal for Chow to turn home. “Feed the Chow and he will score” sing the Choir.

Bridlington already look like a team resigned to a defeat, so much so that when they have chances to counter, they seem unwilling to take them, treading warily forwards as if fearful the space afforded them on the flanks is part of a cunning trap. Their best opportunity comes a couple of minutes before the break as Phillips slides a presumably big enough pass in for Fleming, but Hayes slides out to save with his feet.

At half-time I head to the snack-bar, the anticipated queue diminished by the number of Bay fans heading instead for the bar. “Coffee Nan, don’t spill it” instructs the young lad operating the till as I order my drink; Nan duly produces a drink for me and a clip round the ear for him as he hands me my change. I get talking to a couple of Sheffield United fans. They’re “in the static up at Filey” and popped along out of interest“because it’s the FA Cup isn’t it”. They say they’re surprised by how quiet it is, which is a shock to me having scribbled the words ‘raucous’ and ‘vociferous’ in my notebook thus far. “I thought there’d be more singing,” says the wife. She ought to get herself down the town; they’ll be high-kicking to New York New York by now.

The teams re-emerge and just as I’m telling the holidaying Blades “I can’t see Brid finding a way back into this” they have a golden chance to reduce the deficit. Nathan Cook, played in one-on-one, but he somehow slices his shot wide of the post. Someone screams. It’s that sort of miss.

Metres from the corner flag a white line painted on the wall marks the furthest point you’re allowed to take alcohol. To reiterate the point a steward stands in front of it, leaning against the fence supping a pint. The thoughts of the Bay fans next to him have already drifted towards the Northern League season.
“£250 a man they reckon. How can Bay compete with that?”
“And what about Darlo too?”
“There’ll be fun and games, they’re a mad lot that Darlo crowd, when they play West Auckland it’ll be chaos man”.

Their nonchalance to the game at hand seems merited as Town miss another great chance to get back in the game Fleming meeting a corner at the near-post, but his header is straight at the keeper.

The hour mark ushers in another decent spell for Bay; Moore cuts across the top of the box as Town’s back-line have five or six kicks at him, the referee finally bringing it back for the third of them. “Give us something man!” screams the Bay manager, despite the official having just done exactly that. “Have a go man, this keeper’s a dwarf!” encourages a Bay fan, but the free-kick comes to nothing. Refusing to pause for so much as a Strepsil the exasperated Town manager is still bellowing faint instructions from the sideline as Bay come within inches of a third goal; a high curling cross from the left just tipped onto the bar by Wilberforce the home keeper. “See, I told you he was a dwarf!” yells a voice from behind the net.

In comparison the home crowd is much less vocal save for one old woman in the Main Stand decked out in Bridlington cap and jacket. “Come on Brid! Come on Town! Come on Billy!” she yells at regular intervals, regardless of the pattern of play on the field. Even when the ball has been hoofed over the stand roof and play has stopped she shouts the same words. It’s a little haunting, as if she’s cheering for a long deceased husband. You can’t shake the feeling she’s here shouting it every Saturday afternoon, regardless of whether there’s a game on.

Midway through the half Town break into the box via the right channel. From my vantage point at the back of the Stand, two players run behind a floodlight pole and emerge horizontally on the other side. The Town supporters at that end appeal loudly for a penalty, but the referee signals for a corner. Home dismay proves short-lived as from the corner they find the net; Cook rising unmarked to head home the set-piece from eight yards. At 2-1 Bridlington are now back in a game they’ve shown little desire to be contesting. The goal brings hitherto unseen urgency and decency to their play, finally it seems the home side have realised there is a discernible gap between Bay’s reputation and their actual performance.

In the matchday programme there’s a page titled Five minutes with Craig Hogg in which the striker reveals his dream dinner guests would include “Gaz Shore to pull some whores”. Sadly for Town his forward play this afternoon is as classy as his answers, his only real contribution to the push for an equaliser being a slow meander in from the left to set up Phillips whose shot is turned round the post. As he did for the goal Cook meets the corner, but this time his header goes straight up in the air; he meets the descending ball too, but it is nodded off the line.

The excitement has proved too much for the old fella on the PA; he’s forgotten to turn his mic off following the last substitution and so as a Town attack ends with a misplaced pass a booming groan echoes through the Stand speakers. There’s a Skatepark behind the far goal, so the tension of a last minute Town corner is somewhat dissipated by the site of BMX bikes and skateboarding Yorkshire teens flying above the crossbar. The initial delivery is cleared and with time running out Town fail to take the opportunity to get the ball back into a crowded area, dallying in possession rather than testing Bay, it’s their game in a nutshell.

There’s one last chance for Bay to cement their victory in injury time as Chow tries to round Wilberforce, but the Bridlington ‘keeper manages to get a toe on the ball to clear to preserve the one goal margin. The final whistle sounds just a few seconds later with the referee who’s handled the game very well, letting it flow and not showing a single card is harangued by a section of the home support as he leaves the field.“Bloody biased!” “Rubbish!” It’s hard to see what they’re complaining about, even less so the home chairman who booms “You’ve just cost me £1000!” at the referee’s assessor. Even if that were true you suspect the Bay fans have balanced the books in The Seasiders Bar over the course of the afternoon.

As the players from these two resort towns leave the field a Hammond Organ version of I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside stutters fittingly through the PA system. Heading back into town barbecue smoke and laughter drift from the Rugby club, the clank of Pétanque balls carries on the breeze, the smell of salt and vinegar hangs over the town. Why can’t everybody live by the seaside?