Tuesday, 13 October 2009

"Told You So"

Saturday 26 September - South Normanton Athletic (home) Won 2-1
Saturday 3 October - Phoenix Sports & Social Club (away) Drew 2-2
Saturday 10 October - Reckitts AFC, ER Senior Cup Round 1 (away) Lost 1-4
Reserves revival; Casuals crash!

Ah, it was to be expected I suppose. As soon as we went head-to-head for the first time with a team from the Humber Premier League it was perhaps predictable that those wishing to seize on the result as some sort of statement regarding the respective merits of both competitions would do just that.
And so, having been convincingly beaten at Reckitts on Saturday in the East Riding Senior Cup, to some "observers" the result is a clear indicator that the Humber Prem MUST be superior to the Central Midlands League; or at least to the CML Premier Division (given Westella & Willerby's 5-1 win over HPL Hedon Rangers in the same competition?).
Of course drawing any such conclusions from a couple of one-off games is absolute tosh. For a start Reckitts currently head the HPL table and on their day are capable of dishing out a good hiding to most if not all their fellow member clubs. But such comparisons serve no purpose anyway. Indeed they completely miss the point of exactly why we left the HPL in the first place.
The main reason clubs like Westella, Hutton Cranswick and Easington "jumped ship", as HPL Committee member and Reckitts boss Dave Start agreed on Saturday, was to play our football in what we see as being a better environment for "progressive clubs". And so far I think our move has been more than vindicated.
Facilities-wise we have had no complaints. All four grounds so far visited have been above or on a par with all but a very few of those available in the HPL. Ditto the set-up in terms of the actual clubs, while overall the standard of football has just about been equal to the HPL Premier Division. Indeed, on the evidence of our matches against the likes of Parkhouse, Church Warsop and Phoenix, all three would give any of the HPL's established "big three" (Reckitts, Chalk Lane and Sculcoates) a game.
Phoenix Sports & Social Club provided the opponents for one of the two Central Midlands League matches completed since my last post; the other was at home to South Normanton Athletic.

Fellow newcomers South Normanton came to us on 26th September in conditions more akin to pre-season. It was an absolute belter of a day. The Derbyshire side arrived on team coach and kitted out in white shirt and club tie; very smart and befitting a club resurrected from the ashes of one that played Northern Counties East League football as recently as 2007/08.
We won the game 2-1, although most of those present in the 51-strong crowd (including "Hopper" Harvey Harris whose current projects also include setting up a database of all players to have featured in the Northern League since the late-Sixties!) agreed we "got out of gaol".

Trailing 0-1 and having been second-best for most of the game, we turned things round with two goals inside a minute, the first from the most unlikely source - goalkeeper Charlie Holden's punt (pictured above). And with the visitors still reeling from this bizarre effort, Frosty nipped in to score number two (below) and win us the game.

The result proved extra significant given that it completed a long-overdue "East End Hat-trick". For the first time since October 2003, all three Easington teams playing on the same day managed to secure victories. I was particularly pleased for the Stiffs who had gone to reigning champions Howden on the back of a 10-0 drubbing in Goole the week before. Their 3-2 win at Ashes Park was therefore as needed as it was impressive. And the Casuals too were in need of a pick-me-up after a poor start - they got it via a win in Eastrington.
Unfortunately, despite a decent looking curry on offer in The Neptune afterwards and a more than satisfying couple of pints of Tetley Cask, the rest of the day brought only disappointment sporting-wise; courtesy of City's 6-1 thumping at Anfield and Rovers' exit from the Super League Play-Offs at the hands of Wigan. Ah well, there was always Ola's latest "non-costume" to ogle at on "Strictly..."
The following week we boarded the Riding School Fun Bus bound for Brinsworth, near Rotherham, home to unbeaten second-placed club Phoenix Sports. Conditions this day were very "Autumnal", with the strong and blustery wind threatening to make a mockery of proceedings on the exposed Pavilion Lane pitch.
The football pitch is tagged onto the side of what I imagine on a nice summer's afternoon would be a very picturesque cricket ground. The pavilion nestles nicely alongside the Sports & Social Club from which the team takes it name - a Cask Marque home, more of which later!
As for the football part of the ground, a homely tea hut sits yards away (but facing the opposite direction) from the spectators' shelter (above). Not the most luxurious football stand you'll ever come across but on a day like today when the wind's blowing a hooey it certainly does the job!
With Burt away negotiating the canals of north Wales on his narrow boat, camera duties were left in the hands of me and my trusty little Nikon Coolpix. Thankfully, on entering the ground I bumped into a very pleasant young lady from the Rotherham Advertiser who was there to take a team shot of our hosts. As she was intent on hanging around a bit to get some action pics, I boldly suggested she may like to send me a couple for "use at our end". And "Voila", below are the results (and better than Burt would have done I might say!!??)...

As to the game itself, the first half proved largely "formless" as I believe seasoned hacks term it. The main point of concern to us was a nasty looking injury to Thommo which forced him off after barely half an hour.

Above a happy, smiling bench...below a not-so-happy one. Nice swelling Thommo!

We had been advised beforehand that in dreadlocked striker Ebrima Mendy, the hosts possess possibly the best player in the division. And, true to form, having managed to contain him for the most part, he popped up on the hour to produce a piece of clinical finishing. Thankfully, by then we'd already got our noses in front courtesy of a stunning strike from Farny but when Phoenix were awarded a "soft" looking penalty just four minutes from time, duly converted, it appeared the turnaround was complete.
Not so as in the fifth minute of injury-time defender Dave Porter inexplicably elbowed the ball to safety (even though the shot looked to be going wide) giving "Chav" the chance to salvage us a point. "He takes a great penalty" said Manager Mack ahead of the kick. "Kiss of death that" thought I and the rest of the dugout. What little faith - almost the perfect penalty, high to the keeper's left right in the top corner.  2-2 and back to the clubhouse...

Ah what pleasures awaited me therein. Five (or was it six?) cask ales, including what appeared to be the resident beer, John Smiths Magnet. Of the guests, which numbered a couple of local Sheffield Brewery Co offerings, two (or was it three?) from Derby's Derventio Brewery and "Sharp's Own" (Cornwall) I opted for the latter as well as an unusual little gem, Sheffield's "Blanco Blonde". As the name suggests it was more of a lager but tasty nonetheless.
In truth I could easily have stayed for a live "Phoenix Nights" experience but driver Pete needed to be back for "X Factor" (??!!) so we boarded the Fun Bus and returned via the local "offy" with another satisfying away day behind us.
Obviously last Saturday provided no satisfaction. Even ex-East Ender Mike Nicho's view that "the only difference between the two sides was in the finishing" brought little consolation. And making it worse was the fact that the crowd at Inglemire Lane was predominantly comprised of Ezzie folk and/or supporters. Among those gathered was ex-Secretary Derek "Guv" Clubley ("I onny live round the corner") and former player Dave "Crazy Legs" Shaw accompanied by another compatriot from my old Hull City fanzine days, Finchy. I do hope when the pair make their way down to the revamped Farm for a game we'll put on a better show!
We now have four successive home games ahead of us, beginning with this week's second round tie in the League Cup, at home to Yorkshire Main, from Edlington near Doncaster. They're currently going well in the Premier Division, wherein they lie second after recovering from a recent dip in form with a 5-0 thumping of Hutton Cranswick. So it looks like being another difficult afternoon. We go into the game without our skipper - courtesy of the needless red card picked up in the last round (!!) and Owen who's again on County FA Juniors duty. Thommo and Lenny remain injured but hopefully Jamie should be back and there may well be chance for a couple of the Stiffs to shine following a welcome run of form at Reserve team level.

Last week's hard-fought cup win over Mill Lane, 3-2 from two goals down thanks to Stu Campbell's winner (above) followed victory the previous week against Beverley Town Reserves - the Stiffs' second in as many weeks against one of last season's top two. Long may the run continue.
As for the Casuals, their trip to York side Heslington in the cup showed up all that is good about Easington football. For although beaten 14-0 by a team almost four divisions above them, they never threw the towel in and then rounded off the trip with the time-honoured post-match "sesh" courtesy of the Fun Bus stop-off in Mkt Weighton.

"Win or lose we'll have a booze"!

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