“Are you going to Gateshead on Monday and can I come too?” It was a call from the elusive Trainspotter John. It’s my fault really. I told him, just in passing, back in December 2010 that we were off to Gigg Lane to watch the game against FC United. He’d never been to football match in his life but he tagged along. He’s now ready to tell anyone who will listen that he’s been to almost 150 different football grounds. You’ve got to chuckle, some poor Rochdale fan will be sitting next to him on the coach to Southend next Saturday as his continues his quest to complete the league 92, he’s bound to share a tale or two….
By 8:15 am we were off, all the usual suspects were up and raring to go for a Bank Holiday magical mystery tour. Just 12 miles north of Gateshead we’d spotted an early kick off in the Northern League Division 2, Blyth AFC (not to be confused with Blyth Spartans) v Bedlington Terriers. By 11.00 am we were in the ground, Trainspotter John had legged it to the local Wetherspoons as we spent time reading the prohibition notices on the new floodlights that had been erected without planning permission apparently. The free programme was great though, good enough for football league standards and it confirmed their ambition was to reach League 2 within 10 years. That’s some progression!
Eight seconds into the game and it’s a penalty. Train spotter John has just made it to the ground, his taxi driver had taken him on an unwanted detour to Spartans by mistake and his planned journey of just a mile back from the pub had cost him eight quid! By half time it was 2-1 to Blyth, and with no chips in the ground we opted for a decent take-away lunch rather than (what turned out to be) a goalless second half.
The Gateshead stewards were great, helpful and soon identified an area of the almost 12000 capacity stadia where we could put Tesco Pete’s giant flag. As usual the 232 travelling Shaymen were given the east stand, high up behind the running track and high jump facility with a panoramic view of Newcastle. On a clear day, you can almost see the corner flag on the far side of the ground! In truth, the ground is great for athletics and the club have plans for a move to a new purpose built 7000 capacity stadia in the centre of Gateshead, fantastic news.
At half time, it was goalless but perhaps the most exciting half of the season so far. Gateshead were on the ropes and having not conceded a goal at home all season the Shaymen were running riot at times. A shot from distance that rattled the post, a goal disallowed for offside, a free kick off the underside of the bar and what appeared to be the clearest of penalties you’ll ever see (from half a mile away) turned down by the ref. Sam Johnson made a good save to prevent Gateshead scoring with their only chance.
At full time, it was still goalless but another heroic point earned away from home. The referee reduced the Shaymen to 10 men midway through the second half but that made little difference to the spirit and commitment of the team. At times, the noise in the away end was bonkers bouncing off the canvas roof, it was a great atmosphere.
Driving back and Tesco Pete was delighted, he’d won the first correct score prediction of the season, a four-match roll over! The Greetland Shayman was quiet, he appeared to have nodded off, I wonder how far John got with his stories before he noticed? Next up we’re off on out first long-distance midweek adventure of the season with a visit to the famous Leyton Orient, we can’t wait. C’mon Shaymen!
Total miles on the road this season: 1000, total goals on the road: one.
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