Friday, 11 December 2009

Mild & Bitter

Saturday 28 November - South Normanton Athletic (away) Won 3-1
Saturday 5 December - Welbeck Welfare (away) Drew 1-1

I have for some time been of the opinion that I'm getting old and last night - or rather this morning - further reinforced this view. This follows the annual 'Curry Night' enjoyed in Hull with the lads from work (past & present).
The signs weren't good as I sat in the Hackney carriage that cost over a fiver to simply transfer me from the city centre to Pave bar on Princes Ave. That was on top of the bus from Hedon at £1.75, a cost that would have been considerably more had I not benefited from a lift that far in the first place. The best part of an hour and a half, plus almost a tenner in cash, and I'd not yet tasted my first pint. And to think I used to mount this military style logistics operation every weekend back in my dim and increasingly distant past.Four pints set me up nicely for the main event of the evening - a meal in that finest of restaurants, Raj Pavilion on Beverley Road. Unfortunately, by the time the Cobra and a Chef's Special Mixed Balti were doing their business my body was already beginning to warn me that Friday would be anything other than a day to TFI for.
At least when the first pint arrived it was a decent one. Pave stocks up to five cask choices among its array of ales and the two I sampled - Deuchars IPA and Great Newsome Sleck Dust - were both on exceedingly good form.

Why am I telling you all this? Well mainly because as a result of my lethargy throughout most of today's waking hours, the Club web site has been sadly neglected and none of this week's blog has been put together. My only part of the day that wasn't a complete write-off was the printing off of 40 match programmes for tomorrow's game against Bentley Colliery. Even that was 20 less than the normal run - that's how bad I felt!

We go into tomorrow's game on the back of two away matches that yielded 4pts. The trips to South Normanton Athletic and Welbeck Welfare also proved hugely contrasting in terms of the quality of grounds visited.

Lees Lane, home of South Normanton Athletic, is easily the best ground seen thus far on my Central Midlands League “journey”. This is perhaps not surprising given the Derbyshire club’s pedigree but it's still a very useful reminder of the reasons why we opted to leave the Humber Premier League.

South Normanton have attracted a lot of praise on the CML Message Board from teams for their approach to the game. I would certainly endorse this given the two games we enjoyed against them (thankfully this time around there could be no complaints about the result).

The trip typified everything behind our reasons for wishing to join the CML and Lees Lane is the type of ground that cannot fail to whet players’ appetites for more of the same.

It’s not only a smashing venue at this level but it provides everything you could wish for as part of the match day experience…well, perhaps with the exception of a good cask ale (I mean, John Smiths Extra Cold smooth on a bloody freezing afternoon in November!!).

A decent game played in good spirit by two teams wanting to knock the ball about was eventually won by us, despite having gone a goal down inside the opening minute. Thommo, Jamie and Moz scored in a 3-1 win that kept us in touch with those at the top. And despite their disappointment at the defeat, Normanton manager Phil Bailey and co. proved the most convivial of hosts.

The excursion to Derbyshire was the first bus trip of the season so far without our regular driver, Pete, who had prior commitments. Thus the legendary Burt-on-Bus emerged from retirement along with son Andy (“Trotter”) to ensure the Ezzie Fun Bus was ready to roll. There were also new faces among the passengers with a later departure time allowing Chav a rare car-free day and even ‘The Stumo’ managing to arrange himself a pick-up near Goole.

We had the by-now obligatory music to accompany our journey and pre-match banter; although this week’s choice ('The Best of Rod Stewart' courtesy of Smalls) didn’t prove universally popular. The strains of “If you want my body and you think I’m sexy…” provided something of a rather surreal backdrop to the sight of fourteen blokes getting changed!

The floodlights at Lees Lane that permitted a return to 3pm kick-offs were not in evidence at the following week's Elkesley Road Sports Ground home of Welbeck Welfare. Unfortunately the contrast between the two venues - and trips - didn't end there.

In fairness, the Nottinghamshire club proved no less welcoming than their neighbours from across the borders. Sadly, however, the aforementioned Elkesley Road defines the term “run down”. It no longer boasts even a stand – only the concrete base remains – nor even a dugout, while the pitch was in desperate need of a roll. And as for the showers…

The disappointment in the surroundings (save for the evocative view of a working pit as backdrop to the venue) was matched by our performance in a 1-1 draw.

It should be said that had Thommo bagged either of two very presentable early chances or Jamie's effort not come back off the bar, we may well have had things wrapped up long before the hosts scored with their first meaningful attempt on 32mins.

Second half we survived the sending-off of Mozzer and belied our numeric deficiency to dominate proceedings, eventually salvaging a point thanks to another confidently taken Chav penalty.

During half-time I enjoyed a cuppa in the company of a couple of Welbeck's "backroom staff" and it was hard not to sympathise with them as they listed a catalogue of woes to have affected the club including loss of players, constant vandalism at the ground and no support from the local community, business or otherwise. Another blow will come in March when the Colliery from which the club takes its name closes.
Apparently the local authority has decided to rebrand everything “Meden Vale” (after the nearby river) in an attempt to attract new investment. A glance across the “man-made mound” between the football ground and the home of Meden Vale RUFC shows where any local sponsorship currently goes. Despite this and all the adversity currently being faced, the football club and those nearest the pit are determined that Welbeck Colliery Village will not disappear from the map. I for one hope they succeed.

As a final aside, the Meden Vale “rugger” lads get first choice of room in the post-match Welfare Club, enjoy a better offering of post-match fare and provide the only chance of having a decent cask ale on...even this little bonus was denied me on my visit. Faced with either Worthington or John Smiths smoothflow, much to the amusement of the barman I opted for a pint of Mitchell & Butler Mild...which was interesting!

Thanks to Burt Graham for some of the photography used above.

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