The decision to request a switch of fixture away from a sodden Low Farm last Sunday week proved a shrewd one as we returned home from Worksop with our second “double” of the season duly completed, courtesy of a hard-earned 2-1 win at FC Brimington.
By some sort of fitting coincidence, this return to action was against the same side we were due to meet on 19 December in the last fixture of 2009 – the first of five to have since fallen victim to this horrendous “cold snap”.
Opponents FC Brimington hail from a suburb of Chesterfield, came through a Sheffield Sunday League and now play in Worksop – confused? You’re not the only one.
Formed by chairman and team manager Cliff Thomas, “FCB” started life as a Sunday League side as recently as 2007 but with the promise from their manager that “within two years he would take the club to professional status as a nonleague club”. A successful negotiation to lease the former home of Worksop Town at Sandy Lane and membership of the Central Midlands League has enabled Thomas to go some way to meeting this pledge.
We’d already played Brimington at home, back in October, winning 3-1 in a game the visitors felt they should have had more reward from. Thus we knew we were in for a tough one in the return. And the players’ resolve had already been tested before we’d even got there!
Leaving snow-bound Easington aboard the “Riding School Express” at 10.45am (already 15mins late) we were delayed further when driver Pete realised the kit was still at The Granby pub. Thus when we arrived at the first pick-up point, Patrington, we were half-an-hour behind schedule.
As Viking Radio were giving us “a shout” on their mid-morning show, elsewhere Hutchie – our Manchester-based student – had been in touch to say his train was also running late and he would struggle to make Hull by the appointed rendezvous. A bit of thinking on the hoof suggested a Selby drop-off and subsequent pick-up by one of the cars making the trip.
This was followed by Andy G (Mack’s Number Two for the day due to Nige’s absence) receiving an eleventh hour call from home following an accident and the goalkeeper, travelling with dad and girlfriend by car, taking the bait of a hoax call that told him the game was off and deciding to turn back…before thankfully realising what complete t#@ts his team mates could be and carrying on!
Without either the AA route-finder printout (my fault) or a map (Driver Pete’s) we elected to go M1 rather than A1, only for Pete to further compound our misery by missing the M18 turn-off. It was rapidly turning into one of those days…
The aptly-termed “icing” on the cake was almost supplied by match referee Jim Sharp when we eventually arrived at Sandy Lane just before 1.30pm. Having walked over the pitch with his assistants, the referee declared that had he been asked to conduct a pitch inspection that morning, the game would have been off.
The main problem area was that under the shade of the main stand, which remained rock hard and bore the scars of Tuesday’s Floodlit Trophy encounter in which Brimington had beaten Supreme Division strugglers Nettleham 5-1. No amount of “warming-up” on it was going to soften that particular stretch.
Thankfully, the wishes of both teams prevailed and at 2.10pm, we resumed our first season in the Central Midlands League.
FCB’s reports of their midweek win and the previous Saturday’s 3-1 success against FC 05, had talked of “bigger crowds” at Sandy Lane. Now I don’t know what numbers they were referring to but at kick-off on this sunny, albeit bitterly cold, winter’s afternoon there were barely thirty souls inside the ground – and almost a third of that figure had travelled down from the East Riding. With their own beloved Tigers currently banished to Ilkeston, the good folk of Worksop don’t yet appear to have taken the new residents of Sandy Lane to their hearts.
Still, the hosts certainly look the part of a side with ambition. They have a Barcelona-style club badge, personalised kit for all 29 squad members and are rumoured to be each on a handy little sum to play football; which made our victory taste all the sweeter. They also have an attractive female Physio – a point not surprisingly picked-up on by each of our players…and our driver!
We began brightly enough only to fall behind to a good header from a corner on 16mins. Thankfully we levelled matters two minutes later when quick thinking by Chav at a throw-in and a clever run from Frosty allowed the latter to coolly lob the keeper for 1-1.
On the half-hour it was 2-1 thanks to a similarly deft finish by Gav after Mozzer had got his bonce on to Chaz’s long punt upfield. It was a lead we held fairly comfortably to the break.The second half proved a different story. Perhaps it was the effects of the long lay-off beginning to take their toll but whatever the reason, we allowed our hosts to dictate matters to such an extent that most of the action took place in and around Chaz’s goal.
Thankfully, after his slight fumble for their goal, the keeper redeemed himself and produced a string of fine saves to preserve our lead. Aided by some sterling defensive work from those in front and, it has to be said, some fairly average finishing by the opposition forwards our goal remained intact. Thus when Mr Sharp blew for time we had moved to within a point of our hosts and with three games in hand.
Post-match we retired to the Sandy Lane clubhouse where I wasn’t surprised to find the “selection” of ales on offer somewhat other than startling. Still, with 3pts locked safely away in the minibus, even the most mundane pint of John Smith’s Smooth can taste like a Timothy Taylor Landlord…okay, so I’m being silly now.
After unsuccessfully willing Paul Merson to report on another goal being scored in the Wolves net, we boarded the minibus for what proved to be a quicker, stress-free trip home, via a local beer-off, Blyth (our picturesque stop-off point ahead of Mark Hateley’s ill-fated first game in charge of our own Tigers at Mansfield in August 1997) and the A1.
Our homeward journey was made even more enjoyable by the news that three of the teams above us in the table had dropped points. The gap between us and the top four is still significant but this is a squad that believes anything is yet possible!