South Shields FC boss’s frantic battle after lights failed at club’s special match

Gary Crutwell with manager Jon King.
Gary Crutwell with manager Jon King.

A football official scored a dramatic late winner when he made sure the lights did not go out on his club’s title party.

There were fears that South Shields FC’s game against Willington on Tuesday would be abandoned after the floodlights failed during the first half.

It was the Mariners’ final home match of the season - and they were due to lift the league championship trophy in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 afterwards.

When the lights went out, they faced a race against time to get them working again before the referee abandoned the game.

The floodlight failure happened at about 8pm and, as there was still sufficient natural light, the referee allowed the match to continue to half-time at 8.15pm.

He then gave Shields until 9pm to get them back on and, after frantic work from, in particular, club vice- chairman Gary Crutwell, the lights flashed back to life with six minutes to spare.

Mr Crutwell – who was chairman of the club until Geoff Thompson joined last summer – was helped by, among others, Shaun Mulholland, of contractor Samco. Their efforts were rewarded as Shields went on to win 5-1 and then lift the trophy.

Mr Crutwell said: “There was a fuel fault and I had to take the filters off and bleed all the system through. The batteries were also flat as a result of that, so I had to use the back-up.

“It wasn’t a major issue, but it was a race against time because we knew we only had until 9pm.

“It’s stuff I have done numerous times in the past, but it is a bit different when it’s a pressure situation like that.”

He added: “Credit to the referee for giving us the time to get it sorted, but it was a bit touch and go and there were a few nerves.

“Fortunately, we managed to get the lights back on again and we were able to have a great celebration.”

Mr Crutwell was one of the major figures who kept Shields alive during their two-year exile from Mariners Park, and now carries out a number of roles at the club.

His efforts were praised by Mariners right-back Barrie Smith, who scored the stunning fourth goal in the win.

He said: “I was dreading having to have a rematch! We all thought it was going to be off because the time was ticking towards 9pm.

“Credit to Gary and everyone who went straight out the back and spent a lot of time getting them back on, so thank you to them.”

“It must have been nerve-racking and tense for them on such a big day for the club.”