Aiming to replicate their dominant performance from their previous encounter with this team earlier in the season where they ran out comfortable 7-0 winners. However, what ensued was a clash of contrasting styles, reminiscent of hockey versus hurling, with Redcar’s own admittance that only one team was going to be looking to play and the other would just be battling fiercely to limit the goals conceded.
From the opening whistle, it became apparent that this match would be defined by its physicality and contentious umpiring decisions rather than Newcastle's usual fluid passing game. Redcar, determined to avoid a repeat of their previous defeat, opted for a defensive strategy aimed at frustrating Newcastle's attacking prowess. Or in other words an aggressive park the bus approach, batten down the hatches and bring out the golf clubs with a clear aim to disrupt Newcastle’s goal machine, rhythm and flow and perhaps improve on their driver distance for their next round of golf.
Despite Newcastle's attempts to impose their possession-based style, that has seen them dominate many a team this season. They found themselves thwarted by Redcar's resolute defending and perhaps some questionable officiating. The battle between Newcastle's forwards and Redcar's defenders raged on, with chances at a premium. Despite the relentless pressure from Neil “00” Dale and the rest of the forwards carving out one opportunity after another.
However, it was Will "El Hombre" Tweddle who managed to break the deadlock, clinically finishing on his third attempt at a windmill to put Newcastle ahead 1-0. Would the flood gates now open?
Unfortunately the only thing to open up next was the umpires pocket of cards - with Will “El Hombre” Tweddle ushered to sit and take 2 mins to cool down. With Will off, Newcastle found themselves at a numerical disadvantage and not just in the age of the players still remaining on the pitch.
Nevertheless, Newcastle found solace in the presence of their secret weapon, who wielded his own axe, Sam "Here’s Johnny" Benherrou, whose unorthodox style of play injected energy and resilience into the team, akin to unleashing a force like Mike Tyson into a boxing ring. As the half finished it was clear however that a word in the umpires ears as well as a wipe of their glasses was needed to make sure this didn’t turn into a game of hurling.
As the game progressed into the second half, the intensity only heightened, with Newcastle still trying to play their quick brand of hockey and Redcar pulling out what seemed additional golf clubs and refusing to relent. Newcastle launched wave after wave of attacks, testing Redcar’s defensive resolve, repelling every shot and opportunity which even included a foray into the D from Alex “The Shuffle” Robinson - but the champagne moment passed as quickly as it appeared. But it did lead to controversial rumours and jokes around possible cramp on the way home for Alex as is usually the case.
It was finally Keith “Cool Hand” Baxter that doubled Newcastle’s advantage 10 mins into the half, courtesy of a well-worked move. Finding himself on the end of Neil's precise through ball at a penalty corner, calmly finishing past the Redcar goalkeeper to give us a crucial two-goal cushion. 1-0 no matter how far you are on top is always an accident waiting to happen.
The drama however finally reached its peak tho when one of the umpires made a baffling decision as he disallowed a brilliantly executed short corner routine. Brian “Not Fast But Furious” Coult, renowned for his expertise in such situations, was deemed to have committed an infringement by stopping the ball inside the D before setting up a golden opportunity for Alex “Hitman” Tompkins at the back post which he converted with ease. The decision left Brian seething with frustration, having executed this move flawlessly countless times throughout his illustrious career, not to mention the fantasy points he was about to lose with the assist and Alex's goal.
Nevertheless, Newcastle remained resolute and determined to preserve their hard fought and hard-earned lead.
As the final whistle blew, Newcastle emerged battered and bruised but victorious, having weathered Redcar's relentless golf swings. The 2-0 triumph may not have matched the emphatic scoreline of their previous encounter, but it was a testament to their resilience and character, against a a team clearly and verbally not looking to play an actual hockey match. To be fair they are a great bunch of lads off the pitch.
Final Score: Redcar 0 - Newcastle 2
Despite the physical toll exacted by the grueling contest, Newcastle emerged triumphant, laying down yet another marker for the remainder of the dual-header weekend. With Kevin "Brick Wall" Sorlie's heroics, Keith and Will's clinical finishing, and Neil's creative spark, they now turn their attention to the second leg of the weekend, a long awaited date with Darlington, eager to build on their hard-fought victory and secure another memorable result which could put the league title within touching distance.
Car pool DOD nominations it appears is a new thing for Newcastle - headed this week by Tom "Pastalavista" Hill backed up by his soprano sidekicks which is the reason im writing this match report. But the pesto's yet to come another week when the clear tactical voting is returned. Special mention to Laurence "No Nickname Yet" Budd who played his first game for the team and Calum "One Thing to Do" Stocks for having absolutely nothing to do all game.
MOM - Kevin “Brickwall” Sorlie
DOD - Brian “Not Fast But Furious” Coult