Sunday, 21 February 2010

Bilsthorpe Blues

Saturday 20th February - FC 05 (away) Lost 0-1

It's snowing outside, Steve Wright is playing Hall & Oates' "She's Gone" on the radio and I'm preparing beef bourguignon for Sunday lunch while reflecting on the worst performance by Easington United thus far in the Central Midlands League.  The bottle of claret that forms part of the recipe is getting some hammer.
Yes, for the first time in our brief CML history we are nursing our wounds after suffering back-to-back defeats. And deservedly so.
There are no excuses. It was a perfect pitch in an ideal setting amid favourable conditions. We simply didn’t perform.

The Bilsthorpe Miners Welfare Ground on Eakring Road, home of opponents FC 05, is a picturesque setting. It is railed off on three sides (with rope and stakes on the fourth), it has a smart pavilion adjoining it and the car park is adorned by trees that come close to encroaching on the playing area, giving the venue a slight feel of Canterbury’s St Lawrence cricket ground.

Indeed it was the fault of these trees – or one in particular – that any doubt at all existed about this game going ahead; the shade caused by the overhang meaning that the sun couldn’t get to work in clearing another keen overnight frost from what is one of the finest playing surfaces in the league. Not that we were to use it much.

We arrived at the ground in good spirits following a hassle-free journey aboard the “Riding School Express”. Pete the Driver had made excellent time from Hull and only a minor glitch by the navigator (yours truly) spoilt an otherwise error-free run.

The mood on board was made all the more jovial by the latest batch of “Judy’s Hats”. Now part of official EUAFC merchandise, these hand-knitted bob-hats are enjoying something of a renaissance having first risen to prominence in the mid- to late-Nineties.
They were originally produced by my “Auntie Mon” (Monica Stabler) in the colours of the three Easington teams at the time – green/yellow (Firsts), sky/navy (Reserves) & red/white (Casuals).
Sadly Monica is no longer with us but the hats live on thanks to her daughter, and our long-serving Club Secretary, Judy.

Such is the current demand that Judy is struggling to meet orders (“I’m out o’ wool!”) as another group of players discover the delights of a good hat; even if some of them subsequently resemble characters from “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”! Aside from Owen (The Man) Mountain who prefers his own “About A Boy” headgear, the lads have taken the hats on board as part of their match day uniform.
And many may have wished Thommo had kept his hat on when it came to unveiling his new post-ski holiday hair-do for the first time in the changing room...
...As for Chav's "Man In Tights" routine.  Well, I suppose he is a Leeds Utd/Hull FC fan!

Shortly after arriving at the ground I was met by Rob Hornby, CML Registrar and one of the driving forces behind the forthcoming Bonanza. By kick-off he’d been joined by several fellow “Hoppers” including Rambler 77, author of “All Roads Lead To Somewhere”, whose honest account of the afternoon’s events would depress me even more when reading them later on that evening.
I’m pretty poor at recording names so I must apologise to the other “Hoppers” who I encountered. Such as the York City director who, with The Minstermen game-less, had come to Bilsthorpe to watch some decent footy. A shame that.
As he took down our team sheet details he had some kind words to say about us, having been “made most welcome” when visiting Low Farm a couple of years back.
Then there was the gentleman wearing the black & amber scarf, which he acknowledged was representative of his support of The Tigers of Hull and not the nearer-by Worksop as I’d first imagined. Now “exiled” in the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire, his trips to the KC are limited and, at any rate, “I prefer my non-league football these days”.
During a pleasant pre-match conversation he also informed me that he’d be attending the up-coming Bonanza as, despite coming from Hull originally, “I’ve never been to Easington”. He had been to Withernsea and admitted to having “loved it there” as a youngster.
Had he been there recently?
Yes, he’d taken his wife a few years back.
“It’s a shithole”.
I smiled.
Another most amicable bloke is FC 05’s manager/secretary Neil Whitten. Along with making a very nice pre-match brew, he also took time out to apologise for the “other game”, which was shortly to kick off on the pitch situated to the far side of the cricket square.
Strictly speaking, this is in contravention of CML rules but had come about due to the frozen pitch which had earlier forced postponement of this Chad Mansfield Youth League U16 Division encounter from the morning to a 1.30pm kick-off. As it happened, to those who jumped at the chance of having an extra bit of football to watch, it proved an entertaining affair with hosts Bilsthorpe Welfare Youth edging out visitors Skegby Colts in a nine-goal thriller. Ours wasn’t to be even half as entertaining.
Having lost Smalls, Stumo and Hutch through the week and with Frosty still not recovered from the injury suffered at Kiveton, Mack and Nige had made three changes from the starting line-up against Church Warsop.

All three came at the back. New boy Danny Blount and returning skipper AG formed a new-look central partnership (above) with the aforementioned “Man Mountain” coming in at right back.
Meanwhile on the bench were the aforementioned Thommo and Hodgy, deprived of his chance a week earlier by a late switch to the Stiffs.
So despite the changes, it was still a strong looking squad and one that should have been capable of getting a result against opponents we had “battered” when drawing 0-0 at Low Farm in September.
As their name suggests, our hosts were formed in 2005 and have enjoyed a rapid rise from Division 2 of the Midland Amateur Alliance.  Crowned Premier Division champions in 2008/09 they celebrated with admission to the CML and a move to their new home.
However, their form this season has been patchy with last week's defeat at Bulwell Town putting them down among a group of five clubs aiming to stave off re-election.
Initial signs that we could add to our hosts' discomfort were promising as a neat passing move, originating from Chaz’s quick distribution from goal, culminated in left back Bezza latching onto Mozzer’s fine pass but not quite finding the finish to beat goalkeeper Milnes. Good signs. Er, no.
Within a minute we were a goal down – speedy winger Whitten exploiting the space from whence Bezza had come to cross for Speed to head powerfully past Chaz via the underside of the bar; the referee’s assistant signalling correctly that the ball had crossed the line.
And that was almost that in terms of excitement. We had chances to level matters, though not half as many as we should have been able to forge. Farny and Gav both had efforts blocked or saved, Farny also found the top of the net with a header, Jamie Cousins couldn’t quite get on the end of Hodgy’s clever pass, while – in the best opening – Mozzer was denied by Milnes’ sprawling legs having made room in the box.
As we stood there thinking a goal must come eventually – without ever really believing it – one almost did at the other end when, twice, the hosts caught us on the counter. First sub Dodsworth couldn’t convert his first touch after coming on then Chaz did well to drive Whitten too wide.
Late drama should’ve followed when a home defender clearly handled in the box but referee Amadou Jallow was unsighted.  Tempers frayed and there were a couple of little niggling incidents that in truth worked to the advantage of the home team.

Mr Jallow then incurred the wrath of the visiting contingent in a 32-strong crowd when appearing to blow for time bang on 90 minutes – despite there having been several injuries that had required on-field attention, three substitutions and at least a couple of instances of the ref having to tell goalkeeper Milnes to “get on with it” at goal kicks. But this shouldn’t disguise the fact – we were pants.
The mood of many of us was further darkened by news of an early goal for the Hammers at Upton Park, with Craig Fagan’s dismissal following as we boarded the bus for the nearby Welfare Club. It was 2-0 shortly after entering the establishment and I was past caring by the time a third signalled another futile away day for The Tigers.
The post-match fare certainly looked tasty enough (curry & chips) but with another biryani on the menu for later on I declined, instead preferring to check out the available pumps. This completed my day’s disappointment. There was to be no repeat of the wonders that awaited us at Kiveton Park and so I plumped for the Mann’s Chestnut Mild. It was, erm, okay.
Two pints later and it was back aboard the “Riding School Express” and northward-bound. Enough out-takes were supplied to enable the exercising of the vocal chords on all the club favourites as well as ensuring the Asst-Mgr would not be a popular man in his own household the following morning (?!).
And as the night sky took just that little bit longer to come rolling in on our way home, I consoled myself with the thought that there are a lot worse ways to spend a Saturday evening. And there was still the last “Take Me Out” to go home to - “No likey, no lighty”. Don’t knock it; Ant ‘n’ Dec are back next week!

Thanks to Burt Graham again for much of the photography


オテモヤン said...
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Pete Waby said...

AAaup Rich

Just found this, whilst haying nowt t'do coso rain.

I am glad you found our local sports ground so appealing and the pitch was up to your expectations. Sorry the old Welfare dunt hay any Real ale, for yo real men up thear in God's County. Ya hata goo t'town for some o that stuff.

Found your blog very interesting and am going to read a bit more now. So thanks for the compliments about Robin Hood County and good luck next season