Situated on the edge of this attractive market town with its wide main street, excellent independent shops and proper pubs, the King George V was opened in 1954 to commemorate “the old king” as we who were born his ‘umble subjects are wont to call him. It houses Guisborough Town’s ground, a bowls club, a tennis club, a fitness and leisure centre incorporating a swimming pool (the old king would have called them baaarths) and an adjacent second pitch plus a children’s playground.
Town’s ground is as good as any in the Northern League. The social club is friendly, the pork pies are warm and the standing areas offer good protection from the rain that sometimes sweeps in from the nearby North Yorkshire coast.
But what makes it stand out are the trees. On three sides of the ground there large, mature trees which give the ground an almost rural feel. When the sun is going down and the trees are thrown into silhouette, it is as attractive a ground as you will find ‘twixt Tweed and Tees (geographical licence applied for).
For Shildon, who arrived on the back of a home draw with Stockton Town, it was a good place to get off the mark; for The Priorymen, who lost their opener at Consett by the odd goal in 5, it was a disappointing start to their home programme. For skipper Matthew Crust, it was much more than disappointing.
The crowd of 225 contained a decent following from Shildon and it was, as ever, a pleasure to bump into the Pirate of Penzance, Alan Birkbeck, fresh back from Braga and Mousehole. I also met up with an old school chum who is eking out his ICI pension by working in a hardware shop in Stokesley, which sounds like the kind of place where you can buy four candles……
Both teams started well and it was the Railwaymen who took the lead when Jack Blackford got ahead of the aforementioned Matthew Crust and, with a little help from the Guisborough skipper, poked the ball home.
The lead lasted a mere seven minutes as the Shildon defence, mesmerised by the arboreal splendour on show, stood back and allowed Nathan Steel to level with a strong shot.
Both sides had chances to stick their noses in front but good saves from Guisborough’s Ryan Catterick and Shaun Newbrook for Shildon meant that the equilibrium was not disturbed – although Crust had gone into referee James Bancroft’s book for a foul in the 44th minute.
After the break, Shildon started well and put pressure on the Guisborough defence. Marshalled by Crust and his fellow central defender Matthew Lovett, the Priorymen held firm until the 67th minute when Crust, annoyed at a corner being awarded, kicked the ball away.
Mr Bancroft looked at the Guisborough skipper, rubbed his eyes in disbelief, went over to his assistant to presumably confirm that he had just done what he had thought he had done, came back, and issued a second yellow followed by a red. The armband was passed on and a disconsolate Crust slunk off to the dressing rooms.
From the resultant corner, Shildon eventually took the lead when Matthew Waters netted with a Ronaldo style overhead kick and the game was won. The impressive Blackford, signed after his release from Hartlepool United, scored two more for his hat trick and showed that a return to the full-time ranks may well come sooner rather than later.
There were other players who caught the eye. Guisborough’s Dylan McEvoy is a young full back who has caught the eye before. Up against the vastly experienced Jamie Harwood, he stuck in and turned in a highly competent performance, while both keepers impressed. Lee Bythway did as Lee Bythway does and did his best to keep Town in the game, while his opposite number, Mark Ellison grafted away for Shildon.
The company was good, the programme highly readable and the football enjoyable. Throw in some of the finest trees this side of Kew Gardens and it was a grand night and all for the princely sum of £3.00 – although I suspect that Matthew Crust may not agree. The North Riding FA will extract more than that for his misdemeanour.
Guisborough Town 1 Shildon 4 – Ebac Northern League Division One