Friday, 21 March 2014

January 2014

It's perhaps fitting that the start of a New Year is accompanied by a new direction for this blog.  Due to my ongoing commitments with A Hull Of A Time, I can no longer commit to producing lengthy accounts on here of individual matches seen or any other tosh I used to decide was worthy of my input.  However, in not wishing to see A Game In Four Quarters die completely, I intend to run it as a monthly log that still charts the progress of 'The Pride Of Holderness' along with any other games I get to see.  So here goes for a round-up of month one...

Saturday 4th January
CML Challenge Cup Round 3
Easington United 1 Belper United 4
My match report (with pictures) can be read here.
Further pictures can be found on our Facebook page here.
The Belper report can be found here.

Saturday 11th January
CML North Division
Brodsworth Welfare 3 Easington United 0
My match report can be read here.
Further pictures can be found here.

Saturday 18th January
CML North Division
Easington United v Clay Cross Town - match postponed

Saturday 25th January
ERCFL Premier Division
Easington United Reserves v Sculcoates Amateurs Reserves - match postponed
ERCFL Division 4
Easington United Casuals v Holme Rovers Reserves - match postponed

Saturday, 8 February 2014

A master-class

Saturday 28th December
FA Premier League
Hull City 6 Fulham 0
 

Although frustrated by postponement of our Festive meeting with Bentley Colliery (at our opponents’ behest – the pitch would have been perfect), the ensuing blank Saturday allowed me my first trip this season to the KC Stadium.  It could not have been a better one! 
In fairness I should have known it was going to be good when the Younger Slushette agreed to accompany me – her last visit to the ground had been to see the Tigers rip the arris out of Neil Warnock’s Leeds United almost a year to the day.  Today she would see a different type of master-class, although how much of this fact she actually appreciated is difficult to gauge!
As we left the KC following the aforementioned Leeds game, I told my youngest, “You’ll probably not remember this in later life but you’ve just witnessed probably the finest performance I can recall by a Hull City team”.
As we left the KC following this latest visit, I told my youngest, “You’ll probably not remember this in later life but you’ve just witnessed probably the finest performance I can recall by an individual Hull City player”.  Tom Huddlestone was the man in question.
Okay, so looking back I may find that statement to be slightly exaggerated.  And it should also be stated now that Fulham were bloody awful and looked every bit a side bound for relegation.  On this evidence City could be aiming for Europe and Huddlestone for inclusion in Roy’s England squad for Brazil 2014...okay, maybe not.
 
A far more informed report of the match can be found here courtesy of those jolly nice chaps at Amber Nectar.
Suffice to say, a family tea at Home Farm (the Slushettes’ venue of choice) and top billing on that night’s Match of the Day capped off a Saturday that just about meets the definition of “perfect”.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Casual Christmas Present

Saturday 21st December
ER County League Division 4
Easington Utd Casuals 4 Cottingham Rangers 1 

It has been a long time coming.  Twelve league games in fact; fourteen matches if you throw in the two first-time cup exits along the way.  But now, as we approach Christmas the Casuals have finally got their season up and running…and in some style too.
Having witnessed the First Team continue their recent improved run the previous weekend, courtesy of a 3-1 home win over Brodsworth Welfare, I approached Low Farm for this one hoping that the “feel good factor” at the ground may just help give DC’s boys the lift they so desperately required.
Not that the signs were good.  The previous weekend a 7-0 drubbing at leaders Blue Bell Nafferton had left them rooted at the foot of the Division 4 table and seemingly already consigned to a return whence they came two years’ earlier.
In addition the player-base continued to get smaller and this weekend was the last full working one for most before the Yuletide Break…which meant the added complications thrown up by ‘Mad Friday’ the day before the game.
As it turned out the lack of Reserves fixture meant DC could just about scrape a full 14-man squad – although the manager didn’t help things by himself succumbing to the aforementioned Friday’s festivities.  A place on the subs bench was all he could commit to.
Elsewhere, the availability of Wicks brought much-needed guidance to an inexperienced midfield, while at the heart of the defence was a McNaught brothers partnership first forged in the late 1980s!
 


Before kick-off the younger McNaught, Andrew – aka ‘Biff’ – was presented with a memento of him having recently become the third player to make 700 appearances for Easington.  His smile as he received the gift from Vice-Chairman Mickey Bo would be matched by that at the end of a very enjoyable ninety minutes.
Cottingham Rangers AFC was founded in September 1972 following a conversation between two dads, namely Mr Ron Brown and Mr Brian Metcalf.  This came about because Westfield School in Cottingham did not run a football team. The two agreed that all the boys in Cottingham Rangers would come from Cottingham and Skidby area, and would attend Cottingham High School.  It was decided between them to form two teams, the younger team being managed by Mr Brown, with Mr Metcalf managing the older team.
From this humble beginning Cottingham Rangers has grown in stature not only on the playing field front, but off it as well with significant community links formed with Swift Caravans (the main sponsor) and partnerships with local schools through the FA's School- Club Link programme and the University of Hull Sports & Leisure department.
The club now runs teams from U8's through to open-age, as well as catering for younger children within the community at the club's mini soccer school for children from 5 upwards.
Currently, Cottingham Rangers boasts 17 teams, with members in the East Riding county League, Hull Sunday Boys League and the East Riding Girls League.  At this moment in time the Club has in the region of 400 children associated with Cottingham Rangers AFC.
Players now come to the club from all over the East Riding of Yorkshire as well as from the City of Hull.
Of more relevance to today’s game, Cottingham arrived at Low Farm comfortably situated in mid-table and already having been one of the Casuals’ conquerors.  This came via a 4-2 win at King George VI Playing Fields earlier in the season.  However, today the roles would be reversed.
I arrived at the game just after kick-off but it was immediately apparent that we’d got the bit between our teeth.  And, following the first of umpteen missed chances, we scored; Ben Akam linking well with one of this season’s new boys Andy Dawson before strolling on and beating the Rangers keeper with a coolness that bordered on arrogance.
For a side that came into the game in such low spirits, the goal suddenly inspired a wave of confidence through the ranks and Tom Emerson added a second after more fine work by Dawson.  Two up at the break, the only concern for the hardy Farm Faithful was that chances continued to be missed.
At the other end Brettles – the latest of this season’s numerous stand-in keepers – carried an air of authority sadly lacking for much of the season.  And on the few occasions he was extended he was – largely – up to the task.
However, when he was beaten by Paul Shipley’s second half header further missed chances had prompted a feeling of anxiety among players and spectators.  Emerson’s second – a superb strike from 25 yards – soon settled this.  

An official match report (with pics courtesy of Craig Stephenson) can be found here
Pictures of the game can also be found on our Facebook page

The Perfect Slush Away Day

Saturday 7th December
Central Midlands League Challenge Cup Round 2
Holbrook St Michaels 1 Easington United 3

A new ground, a win and a fine post-match hostelry.  These are the basic ingredients of a successful 'Slush Away Day' and all were supplied at Holbrook as we began this season’s CML Cup adventure.
Readers will not be surprised to read of my excitement when first learning that the second round draw had handed us an away game in Derbyshire at the south end of the Pennines.  Even allowing for the required early start (in order to accommodate the 1.30pm kick-off) this was a tie that ticked all the boxes – including the one marked “winnable”.
Even Sumo might fit in that dugout!
Situated six miles north of Derby, Holbrook is “one of the last hill villages of the Pennines with Derbyshire grit stone cottages at its heart and commuter-style developments on its fringes”.  It currently boasts a population of approximately 1,700.
Steeped in history, the Saxon name for the village was ‘Hale Broc’ meaning Badger Hill.  The ancient British trading route The Portway runs through Holbrook and is thought to have been used as a route for moving lead from the mines at Wirksworth to Nottinghamshire.  In Norman times the village was laid waste in retribution for the rebellion of Siward Barn, the local Anglo-Saxon thegn.  It became part of the royal hunting forest, the Duffield Firth and remained a royal estate until Charles I sold his holdings to the Bradshaw family in the 17th Century.
Three hundred years ago Holbrook was “a busy little industrial village earning a living by framework knitting”.  The quality of the work must have been high, as silk stockings were made here for royalty in both England and Spain.
The church from which today’s opponents takes its name was originally constructed in 1761 before being rebuilt and enlarged eighty years later.  It has twice survived major fires, in 1891 and 1907.
Along with the church, Holbrook also has three prominent houses – Holbrook Hall, Southwood House and Brook House – and two football teams. 
Holbrook Sports, formed in 1996 out of the ashes of the former Holbrook Miners Welfare club (which had been founded in 1931) have already progressed through the Central Midlands League and currently play their football at Step 6 level in the East Midlands Counties League.
Following in the footsteps of their neighbours, Holbrook St Michaels are descendants of the former Holbrook Swifts who, according to local newspaper records were successful in cup and league competitions around 1910-1912.  It was in 1912 that the club is believed to have changed its name to Holbrook St Michaels.
Records are sketchy but what is known for certain is that in early 1932 the Reverend Sides formed a team named after the village church of Saint Michael to play in the Belper Sunday School League.
Over the years the club has “had many successes” including becoming the only club to win both the Northern Section (1975 & 1983) and Southern Section (2006) of the Derbyshire Divisional Cup.
In addition ‘The Saints’ have progressed through the leagues – the Belper Amateur League, the Derbyshire Welfare League, the Derby Senior League, the Central Alliance and latterly the Midland Regional Alliance of which it was the longest serving member prior to joining the CML in 2012/13. 
The Holbrook Kop after being "stormed"
Their ground since 1936 has been Holbrook Park, where it has played continually with the obvious exception of the Second World War years. 
The venue has a certain rustic feel, not dissimilar to ours.  It is neatly railed off on all four sides but with minimum shelter.  A small seated area astride the halfway line that could be confused as being for spectators is in fact the two teams’ technical area.  Further along the touchline are two small banks of uncovered seats, one of which became “home” to the travelling support...well, The Pistol, Shotgun Burt and me (although Burt tended to wander up and down the pitch with his new extended lens in search of the perfect pic).
There should have been a small covered standing area, situated to the right of the “home” end goal near the changing rooms.  Unfortunately, as one of the friendly officials informed us beforehand, “’The Kop’ blew over during Thursday’s storms!”
Evidence of Thursday’s weather, including the tidal surge that had hit the east coast, had been seen on our journey down from the Humber Riviera.  Large areas of flooded farmland could be seen between Easington and Patrington, while the aftermath of the flooding in Hull city centre was still apparent when driving past the Kingston Retail Park on the A63 heading west.
Thankfully, conditions for this game were near perfect.  A fine, if cloudy, afternoon and not much wind offered decent conditions for both playing and watching.
"Yan-Nil"
We kicked off with the noticeable slope in our favour and were immediately on the front foot.  In fact we could really have had the game put to bed inside the opening ten minutes.
Despite numbering just a starting eleven and reluctant sub Biggie Smalls (looking not too bad considering he’d enjoyed a Friday night out that had included “six pints of Guinness in an hour” as part of the assorted drinking games) the lads appeared supremely confident.
Sam H was denied by the hosts’ keeper inside the first minute, Jammer rolled a great chance wide of the post, while neither AG nor Hutch could apply the necessary touch to an inviting Lew free-kick.
When we eventually broke the deadlock just past the half-hour, courtesy of a Lew tap-in after Gav’s shot had been saved, there was much relief in the celebration.
We spent half-time with our convivial hosts in the kitchen area of the changing rooms.  While enjoying a warm cuppa and with Five Live’s commentary on yet another defeat for Man Utd in the background, we discussed one of my fave topics, the current state of grassroots football – we did well to get back for the second half! 
Evidence of our hosts’ recent successes was provided by numerous framed pictures on the wall.  Our hope as we re-started proceedings was that any hopes of adding the CML Challenge Cup to this list would be ended at the second round stage...
And they were, thanks to a very impressive second half performance which saw us produce some excellent attacking football.
Lew’s second goal capped a terrific flowing move before Sam H settled matters, following another run that the home side simply couldn’t deal with.
To their credit Holbrook didn’t throw the towel in and after Fenwick Butcher had narrowly missed one chance, the youngster headed home neatly to provide some consolation for their afternoon’s efforts. 
Two for Lew
The post-match hospitality was provided by The Tavern, “a delightful 18th Century free house” in nearby Belper, “enjoying a commanding position on the main A6 trunk road from Derby to Matlock”. 
What a gem of a place; four cask ales on offer, a choice of live sport on the box, lovely intimate atmosphere and some great fodder (in particular the chilli sausage!).
Of the ales on offer I opted for one of the guests, Full Mash ESP (the other was Jennings Cumberland) and one of the regulars, Fuller’s London Pride (as opposed to Marstons Pedigree).  Both were nice.  No, correction, the ESP was nice, the London Pride was perhaps the finest beer I’d tasted in a long while – yes, it really was that good!
Stocking up at a nearby “offy” for the return trip, it was no surprise that by the time we’d got back to the East Riding I’d completely forgotten about the arsey text received from Mrs Slush moments after my departure...some nine hours earlier.  Hmm, discretion may be the better part of valour this evening I thought, as I took me and my kebab off upstairs for a double dose of Borgen.  Alone.
Still, what’s a bit of marital unrest when we’re in the hat for the third round draw!? 

My "official" match report can be found here along with a full set of Burt's pictures.
The photos can also be viewed on our Facebook page.
The official Holbrook St Michaels website can be viewed here.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A sign of the times

My recent piece for the Holderness Gazette regarding the current state of local grassroots 11-a-side football...

An endangered pastime?
Last week’s news that Withernsea AFC had folded their first team with immediate effect was perhaps the most serious sign yet that grassroots football in this area is experiencing real problems.
Having been involved with the local game for 25 years and a member of the South Holderness Cup committee for the past decade, I have witnessed an ongoing decline in both the number of teams and available players. 
The loss of the “traditional” village team has accelerated in recent years, ironically partly as a result of the FA’s Charter Standard programme, which was devised in order to strengthen the game at grassroots level. 
By asking clubs to raise standards, the FA were effectively signalling a move away from the familiar “one man band” to more multi-team operations, with qualified personnel at all levels.
The positive knock-on effect was that players wanting to try and progress were encouraged to join clubs offering such opportunities, along with better facilities for their use.  Unfortunately, to those just wanting a kick-about every Saturday, the options were suddenly more limited. 
It would now appear that there is a shortage of players in both categories. 
No matter how good the facilities on offer or the standard of football open to them, you cannot force today’s generation to actually want to play the game.  And when a town the size of Withernsea, with a thriving junior section acting as an in-built production line, feels it can no longer field three open-age teams on a Saturday afternoon, the alarm bells ring for all of us.
For me, Saturday afternoon has always been the focal point of the weekend, whether that be when following Hull City up and down the country in the 1980s or playing for Easington during the following decade.  “Match day” was something to be looked forward to and whatever the result we would ensure that it was re-examined over a few pints that night.
So, why is there such apparent apathy to grassroots football?
Some blame the amount of Saturday counter-attractions.  Certainly, Hull City’s recent success can be seen to have had some effect, as can wall-to-wall TV coverage, which now incorporates foreign broadcasts on a Saturday afternoon along with Sky’s successful Soccer Saturday format.  People are more inclined to watch football, be it live, at home or down the pub rather than don the boots to play themselves.
Then there are the current licensing laws, which often result in the weekend becoming one long party with a game of football relegated low down on the list of priorities.  
The growth of midweek five-a-side leagues has also had an effect as this gives would-be players their “fix” without impinging on their weekend. 
Finally, throw in the rise of the play-station generation with their reported aversion to outdoor activities and you can perhaps see why we now appear to have a dwindling number of lads actually playing “the beautiful game” on a Saturday afternoon.   
Withernsea are not the first to take drastic action as a result of the above issues.  Sadly it’s likely they’ll not be the last.  Hornsea Town were reported to have issues pre-season, Roos have struggled to field a full complement on a weekly basis and at Easington we had a well-documented summer beset by problems.  Indeed it is still by no means a certainty that we will see the season out in our current three-team format; although there is definitely a determination on the part of the committee to do so.
It all comes down to personal choice – and at the moment it would appear that many of the potential footballers of Holderness would rather be anywhere else than lining up to kick-off at two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.


   

So that was November...

Saturday 23rd November
Central Midlands League North Division
Easington United 4 Ollerton Town 1

There are times when even I have to accept that football is not headline news.  There are times when “The Beautiful Game” must take a back seat to other events going on in the world.  And I hold up my hands and acknowledge that this is one of them...
Just what did one of this country’s biggest sporting icons of the Eighties, Steve ‘The Nugget’ Davis – six times World Professional Snooker champion, soul music aficionado and saviour of ‘Voices From The Shadows’ magazine – think he was doing parachuting into the Australian jungle with the likes of Joey Essex?  How has it come to this?  In what times we live.  Cuh.
But I digress.
Against Ollerton Town we gained only our second win of the season.  Admittedly there was a touch of fortune involved, the visitors’ losing defender Bowler for the foul on Gav from which Lewis levelled matters via the penalty spot just before the break.
For a time afterwards we struggled to make the extra man count but when Sam H was felled by keeper Sprigg and Lew doubled up from twelve yards, the old swagger returned.
Sam himself got in on the act late on before Lew capped things with a fine solo effort that completed his hat-trick and a 4-1 win.
As I’ve suggested before, home games aren’t necessarily the most interesting topics blog-wise – they can easily just turn into a re-hash of the “official” match report.  This one did have its moments though, not least when objections were raised to the Ollerton goalkeeper’s refusal to retrieve a ball from just yards behind the Seaside End goal.
“Gerron you lazy b@stard!”
“Why?  You don’t see Robin Van Persie going for balls...”
“’Robin Van Persie’?  When did he play for Ollerton?”
As the game wore on and the visitors’ frustration with the performance of the referee grew, such light-hearted exchanges between both sets of supporters became few and far between.
No matter, we had finally completed a second win of the season, now to go on an unbeaten run...

Match report & excellent pics by Burt can be found here and on our club Facebook page.
Ollerton's report - if any ever appears - will be found on their club website.

Saturday 30th November
Central Midlands League North Division
Thorne Colliery 1 Easington United 0


It would be easy to say that the feel-good factor inspired by the win over Ollerton was ended just one week later, courtesy of the defeat at Thorne Colliery.  But it would be quite wrong to do so.
For despite a poor first half display that ultimately proved our downfall, there were plenty of signs in the game that the current campaign could yet turn out to be a positive one.
Thorne are this season’s surprise package.  They came into this game in fourth place and with only two defeats in 13 league games.  Their ten wins have been built on a solid defence, the best in the competition, having conceded only 12 goals thus far.
At the other end they’ve only scored 31 goals, 10 of which have come from leading scorer Ross Ebbage.  He took this tally to 11 in the game’s decisive moment, which came on 35mins when we were yet again punished for coughing up possession in our own half.
We were much improved after the break, without really creating anything clear-cut; that is until 12 minutes from time when Hutch – employed as Sam Mc’s latest central defensive partner – picked out Stef Radley with a great diagonal but “Lenny” could only steer his shot wide of the far post.
At the other end Thornse struck the woodwork twice more as we were constantly caught out pushing for the equaliser.  But further goals would have been harsh on the lads, their improvement second half being deemed worthy of a point by several observers post-match.
The fine old stand at Moorends Welfare, a tasty half-time burger and some cracking post-match nosh in the Moorends Hotel contributed to another away day that was to be enjoyed...despite no return in terms of points.

My official match report & Burt's pics can be found here and on our Facebook page.
The home report that appeared in the Thorne Times can be read here.


Lost in Kinsley

Saturday 16th November
Central Midlands League North Division
Kinsley Boys 5 Easington United 1


Kinsley is a place I’ve now been to twice and have got lost on both occasions!  Unfortunately, whereas on the first occasion I was only in charge of navigation for one car out of five (and had allowed extra time for the Bank Holiday Monday trip) this time I was Navigator-in-Chief of the “Pistol Pete-less Express” driven today by Shotgun Burt. 
So as we completed what appeared to be our third circumnavigation of the “Pontefract Triangle” with less than an hour to go before kick-off I admit to feeling slightly anxious...especially as I looked at the AA Route Planner in front of me and the iPhone sat-nav passed my way by one of the players and both appeared to be telling me different things!
Two hours later I was thinking we may have been better off having never actually located the Kinsley Timber Stadium! 
In truth, this scoreline does not tell the whole story.  As affable home secretary Andrew Rollin said afterwards, “You’ve hammered us second half and we’ve won 5-1!”
The more I thought about this – and the game in general – on the way home, the more I started to feel reassured about this season.  Now that may sound daft given the well-publicised pre-season problems and a run of results that currently sees us sitting second-bottom of the table.
Certainly the mood among the squad would appear positive enough.  In the immediate aftermath of the game, Biggie Smalls took it upon himself to conduct a post-match discussion as to where we thought, collectively, we could improve things.  He also set about reassuring his team mates that they had not been as bad as the scoreline would suggest and that the margins between continued setbacks and an upturn in fortunes continue to get finer.  He made some valid points.
"GerratimSam" as he's now known
On a pitch that played better than it looked, we had gifted our hosts two of the three first half goals that effectively decided the game.
Poor Willow’s rushed clearance that cannoned back off Dave W to home striker Josh Stacy for the first set the tone on 8mins. 
Having lost just two games thus far, Kinsley are a side enjoying their return from a one-year switch to the Sheffield & Hallamshire League and they certainly didn’t need gifts like we were presenting.
Just past the half-hour Tom Mc pulled up with a hamstring injury as he chased a ball into touch.  Amid the confusion this loss created, we struggled to defend the ensuing throw-in ad the ball sat nicely for player/manager Craig Rouse whose well-struck shot took a slight deflection and flew over Mad John into the far corner.
Stella Cidre - reasonably priced - available HERE!
The third looked farcical – Joe Gorner’s in-swinging corner simply dropping directly in for 3-0 on the stroke of half-time.  Gorner direct from a corner – a headline writer’s dream!
Thankfully there was still time for Dave W to fire us back into things and, encouragingly, we had shown signs towards the end of the half of being capable of causing our hosts problems at the back.
As I accompanied the unfortunate Tom to the changing rooms, I overhead the aforementioned Rouse conducting his half-time team-talk.  He was telling his players that we were trying to spray the ball about but were not good enough to do so.
Hmm, I think the second half proved him wrong.  We produced some lovely football as we immediately put Kinsley on the back foot.  And with the only upshot of Tom’s departure being the welcome return to the fold of Hutchie, we suddenly looked a threat at set-pieces again.
The returning Hutch had already gone close twice when JC was felled in the box; penalty!  
Some pointed towards our new man but Sumo didn’t wish to see another mistake of the Sherwood type.  Up stepped Willow – our only successful taker at North Cave and regular spot-kick man at previous club Withernsea.  He went to Joburns’ left.  Unfortunately so did Joburns – penalty saved.

He'll miss this
Willow later said it was his first miss in ten years.  He also said Hutch had admitted that he’d have gone the same way.  I think it provided him with some small consolation!
Two minutes later Hutch’s header from Sam Mc’s free-kick crashed against the Kinsley bar.  As Biggie Smalls commented moments later: this is not going to be our day!
He was right.  We enjoyed more possession, more half-chances and a couple of other near-misses but the two-goal cushion remained...and was then extended.
Willow’s day was to be consigned to the box marked “One to forget” as his attempted flicked clearance from a Kinsley breakaway sat up nicely for sub Jack Owen to volley home.
In injury time he was then out-muscled by Rouse who proceeded to take his season’s tally past the twenty-mark and consign us to our joint-heaviest defeat of the season.
  
All a bit of a blur really (Burt's camera doesn't do floodlights)
Helped by reasonably priced cans of Stella Cidre in the hosts’ smart clubhouse and Smalley’s earlier words of wisdom, there was still an upbeat mood about the lads as we tucked into the post-match buffet.  And this continued on the way home where much of the conversation focused on the future (the average age of the current squad is only about 24).  The way that some of them spoke there would clearly appear to be plenty of scope for optimism.  Now, if only we could string a couple of wins together...

Match report and more blurred pictures can be found here and on our Facebook page.


Friday, 6 December 2013

Cave In

Saturday 9th November
East Riding County FA Senior Cup R2
North Cave 2 Easington United 2
(At 90mins Cave won 4-1 on pens)



Once again our interest in the various East Riding County FA Cup competitions is over by the second round stage.
The second weekend in November is the traditional time for us to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.  In recent years it has also become the weekend in which we lament the end of our County cup hopes for another year!
Following the Reserves’ first round exit from the Senior Country Cup and last week’s defeat for the Casuals in the Qualifying version, the First Team made its by now customary exit against Humber Premier League opponents in the Senior competition.
And so yet again there’ll be no appearance for us on BBC Radio Humberside’s live quarter final draw.
But there should have been.  For despite travelling to Church Street with another depleted squad, sitting just a point clear of the bottom following our worst league result in recent times and facing a team riding high in their respective Step 7 competition, we should really be celebrating a place in the last eight for the first time since 2008.
Anybody actually at the game (and I acknowledge that this figure doesn’t stretch much beyond the players and management of both teams) may wonder how I come to this conclusion given the amount of possession and shots on target enjoyed by our hosts.
It is because with less than ten minutes left we were sitting as comfortably as one can when you’re holding a one goal lead and seeing little of the ball.
For all their possession and territorial advantage, Cave appeared to have virtually run out of ideas.  They were reduced to shots from all range and angles, few of which appeared to seriously trouble Mad John between the sticks.
Manager Sumo had used his depleted bench prudently, taking off veterans Gav and Wilky and tweaking the shape to accommodate Smalls and new boy Wicksy, and we appeared on course to close things out.  Then Cave equalised.  But I’m getting ahead of myself... 



Perhaps not presenting Church Street in quite its best light?

I have always liked North Cave as a venue – and this despite us having a pretty poor record there in all the time I’ve been involved with Easington. 
Admittedly, it’s a ground I hadn’t been too for many years prior to Saturday’s visit.  Our last game there at First Team level was back in October 2000, during the inaugural season of the Humber Premier League.
We’d arrived at Church Street winless after five games but proceeded to break our duck with a particularly gutsy 4-2 success.  Our goals were scored by Glenn Ratcliffe (2), Kenny Knott and Gavin Thurkettle, three residents of Patrington Haven – a fact I remember due to my use of the headline “First win is Haven sent” in that Thursday’s Gazette.  Eh, there’s a lot of thought goes into this sports reporting malarkey y’know!
Despite winning the inaugural League Cup, Cave resigned from the HPL at the end of that first season and were forced to make something of a circuitous route back in.  Benefitting from the demise of a team at nearby Brough, the current Cave team began as the Reserves string playing in the County League.
Returning to the HPL in Division 1 a few years later, the club eventually gained promotion to the Premier Division in 2010/11, as runners-up to Beverley side Hodgsons.
The following season they finished fourth in the top flight and after a seventh place last season look on course for another decent campaign this time round.  Despite an eye-catching 0-5 home defeat by Hedon Rangers the previous weekend, they currently occupy a top three position, behind evergreen heavyweights Reckitts and reigning champions Beverley Town. 


To be saved for later...or so I thought

When re-entering the ground over a decade on from that last visit, I was quite amused to see that the only change would appear to be the situating of a couple of dugouts.  So much for year-on-year progress as set out at the original meeting back in July 2000.
On the plus side, the ground boasts a very tidy clubhouse inside which can be found Sky TV (the Reading v QPR match was on live as we arrived).  Of more immediate interest to me was the sight of a hand-pump bearing the pin for Great Newsome Pricky Back Otchan.  Oh yes, that’ll do nicely for later thought I... 
All the times I recall playing against North Cave teams our opponents wore red.  Not anymore.  As they went through their pre-match routine within yards of the clubhouse it was in a rather natty all-orange affair.  According to the lad who seemed to be in charge of the bar, it was bought last season and he agreed it was a break with tradition.
“About time we broke with tradition too”, said Burt-on-Bus whilst admiring QPR’s bottle and gold affair.  “Summat like that would be nice”.
“Shut up you idiot” was my reply.
I was disappointed to hear that Cave no longer attract the crowds they used to.  Similar to us it would appear numbers have dwindled in tandem with the loss of local players, despite the quality of football improving. 
“There’s only three or four lads live in Cave now.  We’ve even had to move the training to South Hunsley”, our barman informed us.
I told him that was similar to us in terms of pulling players in from far and wide; and he wouldn’t believe me if I tried to explain the situation with our training at the moment! 



Lest We Forget

Both teams lined up pre-match to observe a minute’s silence.  It was impeccably observed save for the sound of a ball being kicked against a wooden hut near the pavilion by a youngster with his back to what was going on.
It reminded me of other unfortunate ‘silence breakers’ – like the ice cream van at Hessle Rangers on the corresponding afternoon last year or Pistol Pete whistling away to his heart’s content when stepping out of the tea hut at South Normanton a few years back – blissfully unaware that just a few yards away two teams, match officials and both sets of management and supporters were stood in silent memory of a player tragically killed in a recent road accident.  Ooh, it took him a while to live that one down! 



Wilky Woo!

At kick-off there were barely twenty spectators lining the near roped-off touchline, almost half of whom were supporting the Eastenders.
Initially it looked like we could be in for a long afternoon as the hosts, obviously chastened by their last result, started like men on a mission.
Crisp passing and good movement immediately opened us up and Chris Short struck the bar inside the first two minutes.
A goal looked on the cards and arrived on quarter of an hour; another decent move being capped by Ozzie Marsden’s low shot into the corner.
Thankfully we didn’t crumble and we enjoyed a decent spell of possession.  This in turn yielded a few corners and the odd half-chance, one of which Tom Mac headed powerfully but unfortunately straight at keeper Matt Johnson.
The unfortunate Johnson was then to take centre-stage.
First he made an awful hash of dealing with a backpass, which allowed Wilky to level with the simplest of goals.
The Cave keeper was then left floundering at his near post as JC’s thumping right foot strike took him totally by surprise.  Nearly half the game gone and we led 2-1.
The hosts threatened to level matters by the break.  Marsden headed over the top, while Short’s attempts to cap another flowing Cave move were thwarted by fine reactions from Mad John.  Half-time arrived with us having one foot in the quarter-finals...



JC celebrates what should've been the winner

Tempted as I was to sample the aforementioned Pricky Back Otchan during the break, I opted for a hot cuppa instead and settled down to watch some of the England v Fiji rugby league world cup encounter from the KC while, just a few yards away, Sumo and AG were no doubt urging their players to get tighter to their opponents in order to secure a morale-boosting win.
And this they did to some extent.  Although it was the hosts who made all the running, our back four coped admirably most of what came their way.  Meanwhile, we had numerous chances to make things happen on the counter – leaving most of us thinking what could have happened had the speedy Sam Huteson not been a morning withdrawal.
All around me the news was bad.  The Stiffs were losing at home to Wawne in the County Premier.  City had shipped three inside the opening half-hour at St Mary’s.  But at Church Street we continued to hold out.
With just eight minutes remaining we forced a throw-in up near the right corner flag in the Cave half of the field.  I distinctly remember shouting out for someone, anyone to squeeze up as the hosts were allowed to take it unopposed.
Within seconds the ball was launched upfield.  For almost the first time that afternoon Sam Mac was beaten to it and moments later sub Tom Moss had lifted the ball over John and into the net; 2-2.
I think we all knew then what the outcome of today was going to be.
A couple of promising positions came to nought in the dying moments and at the final whistle referee Chris Hitchcock called both captains to him to announce that due to the poor light the tie would be determined by penalties.  The feeling of foreboding went up another notch.
Up stepped Short, a standout player all game, and although John went the right way it was 1-0.
Willow strode forward and calmly tied things up.  Never doubted.
Damen McMahon emphatically restored the hosts’ lead before Biggy Smalls emphatically lifted his effort over the bar.  Advantage North Cave.
It was 3-1 thanks to Aaron Malton and when Johnson guessed correctly to deny Stef the hosts were nearly there.
No.16 Jason Crisp applied the coup de grace with the by now obligatory “Pirlo pen” and our County interest was at an end.
As I trudged back to the clubhouse I assured myself that solace would be found in a pint of Pricky Back.  The guy in front of me at the bar had the same idea...
“Sorry, we’ve none left.  We had a run on it on Bonfire Night”
It summed up the day – and our fortunes in the County cups perfectly: all gone!   

Match report and Burt’s pictures can be found here and on our Facebook page.