Almere City vs Granada CF

After England Women vs Scotland Women, we stayed the night in Utrecht. We had tickets for Sweden Women vs Russia Women in Deventer on Friday night but we didn’t know if we would be going as train tickets cost 40 euros. I was just looking on my phone on Wednesday night when we got back to our hotel when I found out that Almere City were playing Granada on Thursday night. Our hotel was booked in Amsterdam (right next to Vondelpark) for the Thursday and Friday night. I did a quick bit of research and found where they play and how we could get there. It turned out that it was their club “open day” with activities all day. Just before this game, Jong Almere City were playing a game against Almere hockey club in a game of 45 minutes of hockey and 45 minutes of football! There were activities throughout the day with this game as the climax. For this game, two fans of each side teamed up with the manager to pick the first half team! It was free entry and they seemed to be a very nice club. They had no programme, but they did give me a teamsheet, a club newspaper, a clapper and a little poster/advert free of charge. I felt as though I had to pay for something and in the end, all I paid for was a can of coke! Almere City play in the second tier of the Dutch game and finished eighth last season. Their opponents were Granada CF from Spain who have been playing in La Liga (top flight in Spain) for the past six years before relegation in the season just finished. They seem to have had quite a few changes at the club but they’ll be looking to bounce straight back up to a league which is highly regarded by many. After all, they only lost 1-0 to Barcelona last season so they can’t be bad!

Our hotel in Amsterdam was a 30 minute walk from the train station and we ended up having to run for the train. It was then another 30 minute walk to the ground from Almere Parkwijk train station. In total, we walked 12 miles on Thursday! If there was one negative thing about the trip to Almere, it was that they watered the crowd! They were watering the 3G pitch but the wind was just blowing it straight into the crowd and soaking everyone!

Match report:

Almere and Granada share the spoils in six goal thriller

Almere City and Granada CF played out a 3-3 draw at the Yanmar Stadion on Thursday night.

With two fans of each club helping the managers pick the sides, Granada’s side included the likes of Adrián Ramos who has recently completed a 12 million euros move from Borussia Dortmund to Chongqing Dangdai Lifan before being loaned out to Granada.

Rúben Sánchez opened the scoring in only the seventh minute before Almere pulled level 20 minutes in through Sven Braken. And, Almere took the lead only a minute later through Soufyan Ahannach. Ramos equalised for Granada in the 25th minute but Almere regained their lead through Achille Vaarnolt before the break. Germán Sánchez had the final say though as he ensured a draw for Granada in the 85th minute.

Granada started well and could have taken the lead inside five minutes when Sánchez was played in but he could only poke over while off balance.

However, Sánchez was soon in the thick of things again as he opened the scoring two minutes later. It was a fine goal two as one touch football saw five quick passes play the ball out wide to Pedro and his low cross found Sánchez who slotted home. Sánchez hurt himself in the process and was unable to continue.

With their first real chance, Almere City pulled level. It was a sharp break courtesy of Ahannach who drove all the way through before his perfectly weighted ball played in Braken and his composed finish picked out the far bottom corner.

And, Almere took the lead only a minute later. It was more good, patient build up play as Calvin Mac-Intosch found Braken and his short ball found Ahannach who finished well from a tight angle.

In an action-packed first half, Granada pulled level within three minutes. Pedro’s deep cross found the towering Ramos whose bullet header gave Chiel Kramer absolutely no chance.

Granada started to build on their play from this point and were knocking the ball around with confidence. They looked assured on the ball and gave Almere very few opportunities. Just after the half hour mark, the Spaniards worked the ball round to Pedro who cut in before firing just wide while Tom Overtoom’s effort at the other end forced a comfortable save from Rui Silva.

With nine minutes of the first half remaining, Almere regained their lead. Ahannach crossed to find Vaarnolt and he managed to volley home on the stretch to send Almere into a half-time lead.

A host of changes came at the break and the second half wasn’t as lively as the first. Granada once again were looking the better side and playing some attractive football.

Despite being on top, Granada failed to create any real chances as Almere looked happy to allow Granada to have the majority of possession.

Almere had a couple of half chances through Khalid Tadmine and Ahannach while Darwin Machis and Antonio Puertas both had chances for Granada.

Eventually, after 40 minutes of the second half, Granada did pull level. A deep free-kick wasn’t dealt with and it dropped in the penalty area where Germán Sánchez eventually finished with a clever backheel.

Full-time: Almere City 3-3 Granada CF

Next up for me is a game midweek.

Almere City: Kramer, van Buuren (van Hilten, 62′), Mac-Intosh (Blackson, 62′), Mirani (Hammouti, 46′), Owusu (Tamata, 46′), Vaarnolt (Valpoort, 62′), Overtoom (c) (Krant, 76′), Salasiwa (Vet’ 46′) (van der Water, 75′), Soufyan Ahannach, Braken, Quekel (Anass Ahannach, 62′)

Unused sub: Grim

Granada CF: Silva, Díaz, Menosse (Germán, 46′), Saunier (l’Anson, 46′), Iriondo (Martínez, 46′), Martín (Krhin, 46′), Baena (Hongla, 46′), Pedro (Machís, 46′), Peña (Montoro, 46′), Sánchez (Joselu, 14′), Ramos (Puertas, 46′)

I think these are correct!

Programme: No

Admission: Free

Attendance: 650

Monthly newspaper: Free

FanClub clapper: Free

Teamsheet: Free

England Women vs Scotland Women (At FC Utrecht)

After going to the men’s European Championship last year in France, we quickly decided to have another trip to Holland for the Women’s EURO’s We were originally looking at going to Breda and Tilburg and watching England play Spain tonight. But, in the end, we decided to book tickets for England vs Scotland and Sweden vs Russia. We were to stay in Utrecht for the first night and then move onto two nights in Amsterdam. We travelled by ferry, leaving the DFDS terminal at North Shields at 17:00 and arrived into Ijmuiden at 9am on Wednesday morning. A bus took us to Amsterdam and then a train took us to Utrecht. We were staying in the Stayokay in the city centre and it was literally right next to the fanzone. We walked out of the hotel door and you were there. We had a look about and bumped into David James in the fanzone. It was around a half an hour walk up to the ground but we stopped off at a couple of bars on the way. For me, people were totally underestimating Scotland. They’ve some top quality players in their squad and I expected the game to be a tight affair. Little did I know it would finish 6-0 to England!

Match report:

Lionesses sit Scotland for six in EURO’s opener

England Women kicked off their 2017 European Championship campaign in impressive style with a 6-0 win over Scotland Women at Utrecht on Wednesday night.

Jodie Taylor bagged a hat-trick, while Ellen White, Jordan Nobbs and Toni Duggan all extended the lead further.

Playing in their first major tournament, the Scottish fans came out in force and a strong starting XI saw the likes of Jane Ross and Caroline Weir go up against the Lionesses.

Both sides were looking to settle into the game early on and England took the lead with the first real chance in the 10th minute. A through ball from the centre of the park was cleverly left by Fran Kirby to play Taylor in and the Arsenal forward calmly slotted a composed effort into the net.

A second England goal came in the 26th minute. Once again, Taylor provided the finishing touch as a Jordan Nobbs free-kick caused havoc in the penalty area and Taylor was on hand to eventually poke home.

England’s rampant performance continued and White managed to get her name on the score-sheet in the 32nd minute. Jill Scott tried her luck from range only for her effort to bounce back off the crossbar. White was quickest to react and slid in to stab the ball into the bottom corner.

Gemma Fay was helpless for England’s first three goals, and there little the Scotland stopper could do about the fourth. White’s glancing header flicked the ball through to play Taylor in and Fay raced off her line to tighten the gap. But, a cool Taylor lobbed Fay to collect her hat-trick and put England 4-0 up.

Scotland’s defensive performance improved in the second half but they never looked a threat going forward. A fifth was eventually to follow in the 87th minute. Karen Carney whipped a cross into the penalty area which was only partially cleared and it dropped to Nobbs 18 yards from goal whose fine volley had Fay rooted to the spot as England had a fifth.

The Lionesses weren’t quite satisfied with five though. In injury time, Nobbs’ corner found Steph Houghton and the England skipper headed the ball towards goal where Duggan flicked it on to beat Fay.

It was a rampant performance from the Lionesses who have certainly put a statement of intent out to the rest of the tournament.

Full-time: England Women 6-0 Scotland Women

Next up for me will be a game midweek.

England Women: Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton (c), Bright, Stokes, Jill Scott, Moore, Nobbs, Kirby (Parris, 65′), White (Carney, 74′), Taylor (Duggan, 59′)

Unused subs: Chamberlain, Telford, Potter, Christiansen, Williams, Bassett, Greenwood, Alex Scott

Scotland Women: Fay (c), Brown (Clelland, 46′), Dieke, Barsley, Arthur, Corsie (Love, 76′), Evans, Crichton, Weir, Brown, Jane Ross (Cuthbert, 63′)

Unused subs: Lynn, Alexander, Murray, Leanne Ross, Lauder, Howard, Murray, McLaughlan, Smith

Admission: 10/20 euros

Tournament programme: 6 euros

Attendance: 5,578

Referee: Esther Staubli

Silksworth CW vs Easington Colliery

Colliers draw in pre-season opener

An experimental Easington Colliery side drew 2-2 in their opening pre-season game against Silksworth CW on Friday night at Silksworth Sports Complex.

Keen to look at several possible young players for the 2017-2018 season, the management named two different sides for each half with Kyle Donaldson being the only player to complete 90 minutes.

Reece Kenney and Jack Pounder were missing through holiday, but Donaldson, Brennan Ball, Chris Bell, Liam Adamson, Luke Page and David Paul all featured in the first half with a side mixed with experience from last season and debutants.

The second half team consisted of the likes of Chris Pearson, Chris Freeman, Aidan Goodey, Brian Norton and Michael Bulmer.

The Colliers started brightly and created a chance within the opening minute when Jay Redman’s cross picked out Paul but he could only head wide.

And, Easington would be made to pay as Silksworth took the lead with only 90 seconds played. The Easington back line was cut open too easily giving their forward time and space to slot the ball past Donaldson and into the net.

Silksworth, much deeper into their pre-season campaign than Easington, pressed in the opening 10 minutes but couldn’t carve out any further real chances.

With nine minutes on the clock, Page’s gutsy run for the Green Army eventually saw the midfielder find Redman but his powerful effort darted narrowly over the crossbar.

Paul, always looking to be ‘flamboyant’, flicked the ball up a couple of times to tee up the bicycle kick from 25 yards soon after but totally missed his acrobatic effort to the amusement of the Easington bench.

Paul was in the thick of things once again five minutes later. With the defence not applying pressure and the goalkeeper off his line, the former Seaham Red Star striker attempted a 30 yard lob but his effort drifted wide.

Page then went close for the Colliers but they couldn’t find the decisive move.

Donaldson had very little to do throughout, with the few efforts Silksworth did create failing to find the target.

Adamson and Page both had further half chances before Paul almost found the net in impressive style with a curling free-kick that bounced back off the crossbar.

Despite some impressive football from the Colliers, they went into the break a goal down.

And, with the host of changes at the break, Silksworth doubled their lead early in the second period. Easington were pushing and had a chance through Norton but a sharp Silksworth break caught the Green Army out and a composed finished doubled the Wearside League outfits advantage.

Easington were well on top in terms of possession in the second half with the ball being worked around nicely. It was evident that match fitness wasn’t quite there, but that’ll come in time. Some of the play was very positive but the Colliers lacked a cutting edge for much of the second half.

It took until the 84th minute for Easington to eventually half the deficit. A low ball across the face of goal found James Connor who blasted home from close-range at the second time of asking.

And, an equaliser came in rather comical fashion soon after. Under very little pressure, a Silksworth defender played a rather heavy pass back to his goalkeeper who wasn’t actually between the posts. A rather embarrassing own goal followed.

Full-time: Silkworth CW 2-2 Easington Colliery

Easington Colliery (first half): Donaldson, Appleby, Hailes, Ball, Bell, Adamson, Page, Vincent, Mitchell ,Redman, Paul

Easington Colliery (second half): Donaldson, Pearson, Freeman, Metcalfe, Barrow, Goodey, Norton, Old, Graham, Bulmer, Connor

Admission: Free

Programme: No

Attendance: 56

Referee: Geoff Eltringham

Sunderland RCA vs Sunderland U23s

My pre-season schedule isn’t going to be as busy as it has been in previous years. It’ll probably work out at about three games a week watching as many different teams as possible. I’ll definitely be at games on Friday and Saturday this week as Easington are playing on both days and I may get to a game on Wednesday too. I’ll see how things go but if I do go to a game, it’ll probably be either Dunston UTS vs Hartlepool United or Coxhoe Athletic vs Brandon United. I definitely won’t be at a game tomorrow as we have a meeting at Easington and there isn’t a great lot of choice on Thursday. This game tonight was the first for both sides in pre-season. A few of last season’s under-23 squad at Sunderland have been playing in the first team friendlies this pre-season and so I knew there would be a few either new players or the under-18s in the squad. It was quite a strong squad to be fair. The likes of Tommy Robson and Luke Molyneux played for Sunderland in their friendly at Bury last week and the team as a whole looked reasonably strong. Sunderland RCA’s squad was much alike last season with a new or addition or two in the form of Dylan Elliott.

Match report:

Sunderland RCA kick off pre-season with victory over Sunderland Under-23s

Sunderland RCA came from behind to defeat a professional Sunderland Under-23 outfit at Meadow Park on Monday night.

Sunderland’s team included the likes of Tommy Robson and Luke Molyneux who both played in the first team’s friendly at Bury last week with under-23 regulars Josh Robson, Dan Wright and Denver Hume also in the starting XI.

New Zealand international Sam Brotherton took a spot on the bench.

Wright headed the Black Cats into a deserved 33rd minute lead but two goals within three minutes just after the break from Colin Larkin and Nathan O’Neill.

Sunderland’s youngsters couldn’t find a response and RCA claimed an impressive win in their first pre-season outing.

Sunderland started brightly and created a chance within the opening 10 minutes when Tommy Robson’s cross picked out Ben Mbunga-Kimpioka but the Sweden Under-17 international could only head wide.

Jack Diamond almost fired the young Black Cats into the lead in the 18th minute. A quick move resulted with the ball being at the feet of Diamond and his powerful drive deflected off an RCA man to loop and hit the post.

With Sunderland RCA’s first real chance, Tommy Robson fouled Stephen Callen when through on goal. Being a pre-season friendly, Robson wasn’t punished but had it been competitive, Sunderland could have been reduced to 10 men. Ross McNab took responsibility of the resulting free-kick but could only force a comfortable save from Michael Woud.

RCA were lucky not to concede an own goal just after the half hour mark when a dangerous corner was pushed narrowly wide by a defender.

Sunderland’s breakthrough did come only a minute later when a pinpoint cross picked out Wright in the penalty area and his header from six yards gave Neal Bussey no chance.

Callen could have pulled the Northern League outfit level only two minutes later when a corner dropped the way of forward but his effort bounced narrowly wide.

Sunderland RCA came out for the second half in determined fashion and were 2-1 up within the opening four minutes. Firstly, Larkin finished well after promising build up play and a fine strike from O’Neill fired the Ryhope outfit into the lead in the 49th minute.

Both sides made numerous substitutions as the game wore on and Sunderland plugged away in search of an equaliser.

Molyneux had a further chance, as did Jean-Yves Poame. Jake Hackett had a couple of slight glimpses at the RCA goal but couldn’t punish the hosts and his deflected effort late on looped over the crossbar.

Sunderland kept attacking but RCA defended well and claimed an impressive win in their first pre-season outing.

Full-time: Sunderland RCA 2-1 Sunderland U23s

Next up for me is potentially a game on Wednesday.

Sunderland RCA: Bussey, Noble, McNab, Hodgson, Swansbury (c), Davis, Charlton, Larkin, Callen, Elliott, Cassidy

Subs: O’Neill, Peccolo, Armstrong, McGuinness, Carmichael, Wilson, Watson

Sunderland U23s: Woud, Josh Robson, Tommy Robson, Wright, Taylor, Storey, Mbunga-Kimpioka, Allen, Molyneux, Diamond, Hume

Subs: Poame, Trialist, Bale, Hackett, Krusnell, Brotherton, Mensah

Admission: £5 adults, £3 concessions

Programme: £1

Attendance: About 300

Hot dog: £1.50

Referee: Mark Ryan


Gateshead vs Motherwell

Over the years, I’ve seen a few Scottish Premiership sides in friendlies in the north-east of England. It was just in January when I saw Kilmarnock play Gateshead and I’ve also seen Hamilton Accies and Partick Thistle in the not too recent future. An early kick-off today suited and with Motherwell being a side I’ve never seen before, this was always going to be my choice of games. Gateshead’s past couple of seasons have probably been frustrating for the Heed fans. Over the past two or three years, they seemed to have missed out by quite little. For me, they’ve got to be looking to get in the play-offs in the 2017-2018 season. Mind, the National League is bound to be a tough league next season with the likes of Tranmere Rovers, Dagenham & Redbridge, AFC Fylde, Aldershot and potentially the two relegated teams in the form of Hartlepool United and Leyton Orient all battling it out for one automatic promotion spot.

Match report:

Gateshead make it two wins from two in pre-season with victory over Motherwell

Gateshead maintained an unbeaten pre-season run with a 3-2 victory over Scottish top-flight outfit Motherwell on Saturday afternoon.

Macaulay Langstaff poked Gateshead into a 40th minute lead and Kieran Green doubled that lead in fine style in the 63rd minute.

Tom White added Gateshead’s third 15 minutes from time and despite two injury time goals from Ryan Bowman and Andy Rose, the Heed Army held out for a 3-2 win.

Gateshead manager Neil Aspin gave his whole squad a run out, with Theo Vassell being the only player to complete 90 minutes.

In a rather quiet start, both sides were looking to get a good feel of the ball and the first chance came when Motherwell’s Bowman was fouled on the edge of the penalty area. Alex Fisher took responsibility but his curling effort was just say too high.

Motherwell’s Richard Tait whipped a cross into Charles Dunne on the quarter of an hour mark but Dunne failed to find the target with his header.

Gateshead’s first real chance didn’t come until the 20th minute when Robbie Tinkler’s powerful drive was blocked and  Jordan Preston’s rebound failed to find the target.

After an opening 20 minutes where Motherwell were on top, Gateshead grew into the game but had their ‘keeper to thank for keeping them ahead in the 32nd minute.

Fisher’s clever play found Craig Tanner but Dan Hanford pulled off a fine save to prevent the former Plymouth Argyle man.

And, another fine save came only a minute later. Tait rose highest to meet Steven Hammell’s cross but Hanford saved at full stretch.

Gateshead’s Langstaff has an effort blocked while Scott Barrow fired wide seconds later.

The breakthrough eventually came five minutes before the break when Langstaff’s persistence gave him room to shoot and his effort from a tight angle took a deflection to trickle towards goal. Despite his best efforts, Tait was unable to keep it out and the National League outfit were ahead.

Motherwell could have pulled level within a minute of the restart when Carl McHugh rose to meet a cross but his header was palmed away by James Montgomery.

Gateshead could, and possibly should, have doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half. Neil Byrne’s clever ball played in Vassell but he could only blaze over from eight yards.

Fisher headed wide for Motherwell before Steve Robinson made a triple substitution as he looked to change things around.

However, Gateshead doubled their lead in the 63rd minute through a fine strike from Green. The former Hartlepool United man cut in before firing a rasping 25 yard drive into the far corner giving Russell Griffiths no chance.

Motherwell could have halved the deficit in the 63rd minute when Bowman was given a free header in the penalty area but the former Gateshead man could only glance his header wide.

Gateshead more or less secured the win quarter of an hour from time through White. The ball burst to White on the edge of the penalty area and his effort took a wicked deflection before nestling into the net.

Craig Tanner, while leaning backwards, fired just over as the game entered its final 10 minutes while McHugh efforts two minutes later was always curling away from goal.

Motherwell were to eventually make their presence known in injury time. Elliott Frear’s looping cross found Bowman at the back post and he headed home.

A second Motherwell goal followed a matter of 30 seconds later. Gateshead failed to clear a deep cross and the ball fell kindly to Rose who prodded home from three yards.

Gateshead were panicing in few seconds just kicking the ball out of play at every opportunity but they managed to hold out and claim the win.

Full-time: Gateshead 3-2 Motherwell

Next up for me is a game midweek.

Gateshead First Half: Hanford, Vassell, Bolton, Horsfall, Barrow, York, Tinkler, Penn, O’Donnell, Langstaff, Preston

Gateshead Second Half: Montgomery, Vassell, Byrne, Burns, Mellish, Hannant, Green, White, McLaughlin, Burrow, Peniket

Motherwell: Griffiths, Tait (Rose, 60′), Hammell, Heneghan, Bigirimana (Frear, 60′), McHugh, Fisher (MacLean, 60′), Dunne (McMillan, 76′), Kipre, Tanner (Turnbull, 76’), Bowman

Unused subs: Morrison, Cadden

Admission: £10 adults, £5 concessions, £2 under-16s

Programme: £1

Attendance: 553 (264 from Motherwell)

Referee: Marc Edwards


Billingham Town vs Hartlepool United

Billingham Town vs Hartlepool United has basically turned into a yearly fixture for me. They play it every year due to the links between the clubs and it is always a good way to look at the squads. After last season, Billingham Town will be looking for promotion next season but something I noticed tonight (or at least I think I did) is that Craig Hutchinson has left. He was a key part of their success last season and will be quite a miss if he has gone. I know they haven’t been back for pre-season long but I thought they were poor in the first half tonight. I know they were playing a team a good few divisions higher but they just seemed to let Hartlepool come at them. Their second half was much better and if they play like that, they should be up there competing for promotion. It’s difficult to tell what Hartlepool look like at this stage. Obviously, they’ve had a lot more pre-season training than Town and they have added a few new faces. Rhys Oates impressed for me but they’ll have to see how things are at the start of the season.

Match report:

Hartlepool cruise to pre-season win at Billingham Town

Hartlepool United cruised to a 6-0 win away at Billingham Town on Thursday night as new manager Craig Harrison got a first real look at his squad.

Josh Hawkes and Rhys Oates both collected first half braces and Padraig Amond added another two in the second half.

Billingham Town looked brighter in the second half but still failed to really trouble Scott Loach.

The game was only 90 seconds old when a Billingham Town man went down with a nasty-looking injury and he was stretchered off after five minutes of treatment.

Hartlepool quickly settled into the game following the injury and Billingham Town seemed a bit slow at closing the professionals down.

Clever work from Oates found Michael Woods early on but he could only skew wide.

The opener was soon to follow though. Trialist Junior Mondal, who was featuring for Middlesbrough’s under-23 side last season, intercepted a loose pass and played in Hawkes who confidently slotted home.

A second wasn’t too long in following. Woods and Oates combined once again, with the latter finishing the quick move.

The Billingham stopper denied Scott Harrison and Carl Magnay as the first half wore on but Hawkes collected his second and Hartlepool’s third in the 34th minute.

The forward weaved a way through before coolly slotting beyond the ‘keeper to make it 0-3.

There was still time for Oates to complete his first half brace. In the third minute of injury time, Lewis Hawkins’ pinpoint cross picked out Oates who headed home.

Billingham’s second half performance will have pleased the outnumbered home support. They seemed to press Hartlepool quicker, knock the ball about better and limit Hartlepool much more than they had in the first half.

Craig Harrison made 10 changes at half-time with Scott Loach being the only player to complete 90 minutes. Amond and Jake Cassidy led the line with Jack Munns and Nicky Deverdics supporting the front two.

Billingham created a half chance in the opening exchanges of the second half and forced a decent block from Loach.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Blair Adams, a former Sunderland youngster, whipped a deep cross into the Billingham Town penalty area to find Curtis Obeng but his header failed to find the target.

Billingham frustrated Hartlepool somewhat in the second half and it took Pools 25 minutes to find a fifth. The Billingham stopper had prevented Amond twice as well as Ryan Donaldson before Amond eventually carved his name into the scoresheet.

An inswinging corner found Amond whose strong header bypassed three defenders before nestling into the net.

A sixth came in similar fashion in the 77th minute. Billingham’s ‘keeper committed himself to a corner and was unable to collect giving Amond a simple header to collect his second.

It was a decent run out for Hartlepool in their first pre-season friendly and the second half performance suggests Billingham Town could be right up there again next season.

Full-time: Billingham Town 0-6 Hartlepool United

Next up for me is Gateshead vs Motherwell on Saturday.

Hartlepool United: Loach, Richardson (Obeng, 46′), Baynes (Adams, 46′), Magnay (Donnelly, 46′), Harrison (Nearney, 46′), George (Smith, 46′), Hawkes (Donaldson, 46′), Hawkins (Deverdics, 46′), Oates (Cassidy, 46′), Woods (Amond, 46′), Mondal (Munns, 46’)

Unused subs: Alex, Blackford, Travers

Admission: £5 adults, £3 concessions

Programme: No

Attendance: 500-ish

Can of Fanta Lemon: 80p

Sunderland West End vs Ryton & Crawcrook Albion (At Silksworth Sports Complex)

The close season hasn’t actually felt as long this season as it has in previous seasons. To be honest, I haven’t missed football as much. I’ve been concentrating on other sports during the close season. A few visits to the races (Redcar, Sedgefield and Ripon), a visit to the Super Weekend rugby at St James’ Park and even a bit of cricket last week. Well, I say cricket, I paid to watch Durham vs Worcestershire and didn’t even see a single bowl due to the rain. I waited a couple of hours but there was no chance of any play so I left.

There are a couple of interesting games in my pre-season. In a couple of weeks time, we’re going over to Holland and watching a couple of games in the women’s EURO’s. We’ll be at England vs Scotland and probably Sweden vs Russia. The rest of pre-season is quite boring really but there are plenty of games to go to. Today, us at Easington were meant to be playing Guisborough United away but they had to cancel last week due to a lack of players available. I would have liked to have been at Newcastle Races but that wasn’t to be and I was left with the choice of Esh Winning vs Birtley Town at North Durham Academy or Sunderland West End vs Ryton & Crawcrook Albion at Silksworth Sports Complex. I have seen a few games at Silksworth before and they’ve all been University of Sunderland matches.

This game today kicked off with Sunderland West End looking the brighter. Their passes seemed sharper and they seemed to have more match fitness. After a couple of half chances early on, West End broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when a perfectly weighted delicate ball over the top found Martin Thompson whose cool control was matched by a composed finish.

West End continued to look bright and while Ryton created a couple of half chances, they failed to really trouble Graeme Pickering. The  Northern League outfit grew into the game in the final 10 minutes of the first half but failed to find a breakthrough and West End went into the break with a narrow lead.

Sunderland West End’s lead could have been doubled within the opening two minutes of the second half when an effort from a tight angle bounced back off the post. Further hard work from the Wearsiders was rewarded in the 58th minute as their lead was doubled. Good work down the wing saw their man skip past numerous Ryton players before his pull back was easily slotted home by Alan Golightly.

Ryton rallied and managed to half the deficit with exactly 67 minutes played when a defensive slip played Martin Hepple in and he slotted home.

Both sides tired as the game wore on and Ryton & Crawcrook Albion missed a couple of glorious chances to level the scoreline. Five minutes from time, a Ryton forward found the West End defence sleeping and raced through to round the ‘keeper but he slipped over at the vital moment.

Further fitness is bound to come for both sides before the 2017-2018 kicks off but it was a good start to pre-season for both sides.

Full-time: Sunderland West End 2-1 Ryton & Crawcrook Albion

Next up for me will be a game midweek.

Admission: Free

Programme: No

Attendance: 25