A both excited & nervous Stan Army of over 200 travelled to the Durham coast on league title decision day. Despite a spirited & dramatic last few minutes, the Stan could not get the win required & missed winning the league on goal difference. The play-offs now await. There was no changes from the win against Newcastle University two weeks ago other than Esdaille returning to the bench in place of Stoddart.
There was a stop start beginning to the match due to 2 Easington injuries, so the 1st real action was not until 8 minutes when Regan made a great save direct from a home corner. In 11 minutes, after good build up, a Stephenson cross into the box was caught by the home keeper. In 14 minutes, Easington had a speculative effort from the edge of the box saved by Regan. Hopper then shot over under pressure from a tight angle. Hopper then got into the box again & passed to Proctor who was brought down but nothing was given. A sustained period of Stan pressure saw Stephenson, Hopper & McBryde have efforts but all came to nothing. Easington then put on some pressure before the Stan had their best chance so far to score in 27 minutes but wasted it. Proctor supplied Holmes who advanced into the box & had a great chance to shoot but instead passed to McBryde who was blocked. 3 minutes later & Proctor shot over. The rest of the half saw plenty of action in both halves with the pattern mainly being the Stan attacking followed by Easington counter attacks. McAndrew was working hard at the back & Hopper was trying to create chances as often as possible. The Stan put lots of pressure on the home goal in injury time, especially through Hopper & Carr, which included McBryde heading just wide.
The second half saw the Stan kicking down hill & with a breeze, but increasingly blustery one, behind them. News that a win was required, as Carlisle were also winning, appeared to spur on the Stan who dominated the opening period but were thwarted by the home defence. In 54 minutes, a good build up by Holmes saw Hopper shoot straight at the keeper & 2 minutes later McBryde was brought down in the box but nothing was given. Burn them sent a long shot wide. Easington’s 1st clear attack of the 2nd half saw Proctor make contact with a home player just inside the box. Easington’s Elliot scored the resulting penalty to go 1-0 up in 58 minutes against the run of play. In 62 minutes, Walsh replaced Proctor & started by passing to Holmes in the box who under pressure shot over. Apart from this, the goal appeared to have a negative effect on the Stan & this was reinforced in 65 minutes when Easington scored again. A home attack initially saw Regan clear with his feet then Hall cleared again but the ball went back to Guy whose long-range effort was sent into the back of the net.
The Stan’s heads went up again in 70 minutes when they sent a ball into the box & McBryde put it away under pressure from a defender & the keeper. Holmes & McBryde were now working hard although Hopper was having a quieter 2nd half. In 74 minutes, McBryde headed at the keeper who dropped the ball for a corner which was waisted by the wind. In 78 minutes, there was a good opportunity when a long ball to Walsh saw him move into the box & shoot wide under pressure. In 78 minutes, centre half Esdaille came on up front as the Stan sought the 2 required goals although it was McBryde who then had an effort cleared by the keeper. It was mainly all Stan for the remainder of the match, with continuous attempts by them to score, but with Easington trying to slow things down. Many of the efforts were through Regan long balls but with Walsh also trying to cross into the box when he could & in in 86 minutes his cross to Esdaille was put wide. Easington did hit the side netting in 88 minutes before the home keeper had to catch from a Walsh effort. The deserved equaliser came in 90 minutes when a ball into the home box was cleared but was sent into the box & a hand ball saw a penalty awarded which was put away by Hopper. In the 5 minutes of added time, Easington started with 2 attacks that came to nothing before the Stan pressurised for the elusive winning goal. Everyone, including Regan, went up for a Stan corner which unfortunately Walsh put into the side netting. Easington then had to clear twice but with the atmosphere electric but also tense the final whistle was blown.
As Carlisle won at Ryton, they booked the only automatic promotion spot. To get promoted to division 1, the Stan will now have to beat Easington at Grounsell Park on Wednesday night in the promotion play off semi-final. They would then be at home again on Saturday in the play-off final and would play Boldon or Tow Law. Whatever happens, congratulations must go to the management & squad for a great season. Particular mention also needs to be given to today’s man of the match Stephenson & to close 2nd Carr and Luke. Come on the Stan!
Credit: Joe Street