On Tuesday the pitch was under an inch of snow, so the groundsman tells me, today the temperature reached 18 degrees, I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that there are few finer places to watch football when the weather is so good, the back drop to West Terrace is incredible (Pictured)
Back to the football, the difference between the weather over the past week correlates to the improvement from what was possibly the worst performance of the season away at Synners to today.
Prior to the game there are two things to report, firstly on the way to the game one of the Synners players, Matthew Wyke, was involved in a car crash, meaning he missed out on the game today. I have been reliably informed that he is ok, just a little shaken, all at Esh want to wish him all the best! Secondly, a minutes silence for the recent terror attack in London was impeccably observed by all in attendance, thank you for this.
Within the first throws of the game came a major scare for Esh; following good work down the right wing the ball is drilled low and hard into the penalty area, and within a throng of players the ball is bundled home past the despairing Mark Fish from a yard out, I am told from Synners fans it was Robinson with the final touch. He wheels off to celebrate at the exact same moment as the Referee spots a raised flag for offside saving the Stags from an awful start.
The next ten minutes are uneventful, with both sides failing to dominate possession and a lot of long balls from Synners easily cut out by the impressive Kieran Day and Joe Wilkinson.
The next moment of note came from a Callum Boakes free kick from 40 yards out, Boakes lifts the ball into the area, Nicky Marley challenges Synners keeper McLaren, who gets caught under the ball and misses the ball completely with no touch from any player, as Marley challenges the defender to in front of an empty net. The referee blows his whistle, much to the amazement of both sets of players who did not appeal for the foul, for an adjudged infringement against the keeper.
On the 16th minute, following yet more good work on the right wing by Synners Joe Hillerby and a superb lay off by Langstaff, Synners captain Anthony Peacock hits a superb half volley from 20 yards out, superbly saved by Mark Fish, and James Huntley showing exceptional awareness to nip the ball away from the onrushing attackers.
Yet more long balls from Synthonia easily dealt with by the Esh defence was punctuated with some decent play by Esh, just a final ball letting the Stags down until, ironically, a long channel ball from Mordue sent Marley down the wing. He shows superb strength to hold off Matthew Robinson at left back, getting to the by line, dropping the ball into Mark Bailes feet 2 yards out with the keeper behind him; he plays a perfect return ball to Marley who fires a low shot from 6 yards out. This looked all the world to be flying into the bottom corner until Mclaren stuck out a right foot from nowhere and deflected it just wide of the goal. With Mclaren taking the adulation of his defenders and Marley for a superb save, the referee inexplicably gives a goal kick, his linesman claiming the sun was in his eyes so he could not call it. I feel obliged to report this as an excellent save had been taken off Mclaren, who has a laugh with the Esh supporters behind the goal asking if we had seen it at least!
The last two minutes of the half provided Synners best two efforts of the game, the first following a hopeful long ball, which Mordue missed in the air; Robinson hits a scuffed volley which beats Mark Fish, hitting the post; Kieran Day and Joe Wilkinson ensuring the follow up is routine for Fish. Shortly after this, Langstaff shows what he is capable of; finding the ball at his feet some 35 yards out, hitting an unstoppable effort which leaves Fish unable to get near it, luckily for Esh it hits the bar and goes to safety.
HT: Esh Winning 0 – 0 Billingham Synthonia
A slow start to the second half sees both teams resorting to a scrap for possession, neither gaining the upper hand, until the 49th minute following a long throw from Synners Nathan Mulligan being only partially cleared by the Esh defence; the ball falls on the corner of the 6 yard box to Jordan Wilson who attempts and acrobatic effort blocked by the Esh defender, rebounding across the Esh 6 yard box, until Alex Hird on at right back finds a way to hook the ball clear.
The following ten minutes a long ball match breaks out, both sets of defenders opting to bypass their midfielders, both then being seen off by their opposite numbers. Matty Soulsby for Esh dropping into a sweeper role and dominating. The only chance falling to the feet of Callum Boakes some 35 yards out, finding the netting behind the goal without troubling Mclaren.
On the 65th minute, Esh Captain Max Stoker finds himself on the right wing beating the Synners player, leaving him no choice but to foul him. Boakes whipping in the resulting free kick, finding Clarkson 12 yards out who heads just over.
From the resulting goal kick yet another long ball from Synners finds its way via a flick on to Langstaff on the edge of the area, but as throughout the game Wilkinson makes it incredibly difficult and forces Langstaff into a hopeful left footed shot which is straight at Fish.
Wilkinson having one of the leagues best strikers in his pocket throughout the game, the one clear opportunity Langstaff came following another long ball, racing clear one on one with the keeper, he slots the ball agonizingly wide of the post. For the rest of the game Langstaff visibly was getting more and more frustrated, picking fights with the linesman at any given opportunity; at one point even taking on one of the spectators with verbals.
The only chance in the last 15 minutes falling to Soulsby some 30 yards out, the ball drifting perhaps a foot wide of the Synners goal.
A point is a very fair point, both teams only having one clear chance each, defence very much on top of attack; and possibly both teams lacking a quality pass throughout the game. A very tough well fought game, may yet prove to be vital to both teams come the end of the season.
News filtered through of a defeat for Ryton and Crawcrook, leaving us just two points behind them. Northallerton are next up at West Terrace, if we have the defensive performance of today, we stand a chance of picking up some more points. Whisper it quietly but Esh are on a 6 match unbeaten home run, something that has not happened for a while!
Fish, Mordue, Huntley, Stoker (C), Day, Wilkinson, Soulsby, Bailes, Marley (Hird 46′), Clarkson, Boakes
Unused Substitutes: Stphenson, Arnott, Young, Chester,
Mclaren, Crust, Robinson, Huggins, Rowbotham, D. Mulligan, Hillerby, N. Mulligan, Langstaff, Peacock (C), Wilson
Substitutes: Steel, Poskett, McGurk
Referee: Reece Scott
Assistant Referees: Connor Kitson, Jonathan Schofield
All views expressed in this match report are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the club, or anyone involved in the club.