Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Two Funerals And A Wedding Anniversary

Saturday 13th February – Church Warsop Miners Welfare (home) Lost 2-4

All through the week leading up to this game against the leaders I’d had a feeling things weren’t going to go according to plan – and this wasn’t just because the Programme was Issue No.13!

Quite why the downer I don’t know, as the previous weekend had proved highly enjoyable.
As already recalled the trip to Kiveton Park had been one of the better ones and had yielded three more points. City had managed a priceless win at the KC and England had accounted for Wales in the Six Nations. I’d even managed to avoid incurring the wrath of Mrs Slush by not falling into my usual Saturday evening drunken slumber…well, almost.
The following day provided one of those seemingly all-too-rare family occasions, unspoilt even by the continuing inclement weather. It had begun with Elder Slushette and me accompanying Grandad on his morning constitutional, in which I managed to direct my daughter’s attention to points of interest such as the swan family that has made its home just off the Kilnsea road…
…and South End Farm (below), the former home of our beloved Eastenders in the 1940s and early 50s before their move to the Easington Rec. & Sports Ground (aka Low Farm). 
You can guess which she was more taken with.
Suitably invigorated after our jaunt, we enjoyed the highlight of any proper Sunday – a good old fashioned roast dinner with far too much of everything on offer. Fortified by a couple of glasses of Hardy’s, the washing-up and clearing away was made bearable by the accompanying commentary of Rovers’ opening day win over Salford in Super League XV.
By rights it was an occasion I should have witnessed in the flesh and indeed at one point it appeared that there may even be a Slush Family Outing, with the missus quite keen on seeing that Olly Murs chap in person. In the event, even this “coup” on the part of the HKR marketing people didn’t quite warrant the cost of over fifty quid for the four of us to sit out in the open on a cold, damp February afternoon (get that North Stand sorted Rovers).
Still, it was pleasing to hear afterwards that the X-Factor runner-up had done himself no harm at all with a performance that in addition to the song-and-dance stuff also included rugby tackling Rufus and slotting over several successful goal-kicks (can’t imagine sloppy Joe McElderry doing any of that!).

It all set the tone for what should have been an enjoyable week ahead. Monday marked eight years since Mrs Slush and I said the Sinhalese for “I do” on the back of a Sri Lankan elephant – and I’d remembered, which is always a bonus.
Although not matching the soaring temperatures of that day in Ahungalla, 8 Feb 2010 in Easington dawned dry with a strong easterly wind that usually raises hopes of recovery in the Low Farm pitch. The blog was attracting favourable comments from those whose own offerings I’ve long admired, the club was set to make another new signing and I’d just had official confirmation of my place on a well-respected writers’ course. Oh, and Mrs Slush and I had received an invitation to a wedding bash, which doesn’t happen very often these days. Things were looking up…
Perhaps it was my attendance at a second funeral inside a week that signalled the change in mood. Or possibly the slight shock to the system I had a couple of days later, one that triggered the joyless task of trying to book an appointment at my local surgery: “I’m thinking of being ill a week on Tuesday at about 3.40pm if that’s okay?” Although this slight interruption to my normal well-being was subsequently deemed not serious it was enough to ensure I now have my own choice of songs recorded for the time they’re eventually required – there’s no way I want someone playing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” or similar footy-related shite for my day of dispatch (it’s The Lotus Eaters’ First Picture of You and Danny Wilson’s Mary’s Prayer in case you’re wondering).

This growing mood of melancholy wasn’t helped by listening to 10-men City’s midweek reverse at Blackburn and Rovers’ Friday night thumping at Wigan. Especially so when these setbacks book-ended news of the possible cancellation of the forthcoming Bonanza event, continuing problems with my garage door and those constant bloody trailers for Gordon’s “sob fest” interview with his old mucker Piers Morgan. Meanwhile the weather kept throwing up just enough wet stuff to leave the Church Warsop match in doubt and the prospect of having another batch of redundant programmes on my hands.
Thankfully the skies remained clear overnight Friday and into Saturday morning, with breeze enough to just about dry up the problem areas. This allowed our 8.30am pitch inspection to declare “game on”. My mood lightened. Briefly.

Our opponents Church Warsop Miners Welfare came to Low Farm as leaders of the Premier Division table by 5pts from Dronfield Town, albeit having played a game more. Since our fine win at ‘The Alley’ back in September they had gone eleven league matches unbeaten and, what’s more, they arrived on the back of a 9-0 rout of local rivals Welbeck Welfare – a side we’d struggled to take a point off before Christmas.
Their visit also coincided with a “first” for Low Farm during our CML membership in that we were allowed to stage two games simultaneously. This proved a blessing as two late no-shows for the Reserves on the (in)famous “Pitch Across The Ditch” meant one of our number, the unlucky Hodgy, was asked to swap his first team subs slot for a Stiffs start…which, to be fair, he did with good grace.

While these eleventh hour shenanigans were taking place I was hopping between the various changing rooms and the Tea Hut, welcoming referees, opponents and sponsors (not forgetting 67-yr-old ‘hopper Ian who’d made the trip from Stafford to the East Riding “because Wolves haven’t got a game”!) while also finding time to enter into “debate” with the father of one of our Reserve team’s opponents over the respective merits of the CML and HPL (I won’t bore you with the details). I didn’t even have time to find out the winner of the “Worst ‘Tache Award” before it was five to two and both teams were being led out on to a lush looking Low Farm playing surface.

With Church Warsop and the Reserves’ peculiarly named opponents ( FC) both possessing a certain “edge” the suggestion had been made that we should allow the visiting teams to play each other while we all sloped off to the pub. Not a bad idea in hindsight!
We actually started both games brightly On the main pitch Gav and Hutchie had already gone close and Gav also had what appeared a strong penalty shout turned down by the time a handball in the visitors box did result in Referee Moffatt pointing to the spot. Up stepped Chav to deservedly fire us ahead (below).

That was on twelve minutes. After thirteen Warsop were level, Gavin Dobb hitting a spectacular overhead riposte from the edge of the box (albeit amid strong claims for a foul in the build-up).
It was entertaining stuff and on 17mins we were back in front. Another infringement close to the box and Mozza blasted the resulting free-kick around the wall and home (below).

Three minutes later came the incident which, ultimately, turned the game as Warsop were awarded a penalty when our keeper came racing off his line to meet striker Dean Rick. Rick went down, the nearby ref’s asst remained motionless but the referee – some twenty yards behind the incident – pointed to the spot. Not surprisingly our highly-strung keeper went apoplectic in his protests and his conviction would suggest he was being honest when he said he’d pulled his hands away (a view backed up by the spectators nearest the incident). However, in the interests of fairness, midfielder Mozza (running alongside the ref at the time) thought the man in the middle had got it right. No matter – Simon Johnson duly converted goal number 23 of the season and it was all square again.

During a rare lull in the action I’d looked across – through the gap provided by a slight break in the hedgerow - to see both teams lining up on the Pitch Across The Ditch following a goal for the Dodgers. A few minutes later I looked again, just in time to witness new Stiffs player-boss Kevin Appleyard make a flying save. The signs were that things weren’t going to plan on there either…
I had this confirmed just before the break when en route to the changing rooms to fire up the generator I met a bloodied Hodgy on his way to get some treatment following what looked a painful smack on the nose.
“Are you still a goal down?”
“It’s three”
Back on the main arena, both sides strove to no avail for an advantage and half-time arrived at 2-2.
During the interval I managed a catch-up with ERCFA Juniors Coach Andy Foster who was accompanying our match sponsor. I also had time for a few words with Pete, he of “Riding School Express” fame, who must surely have qualified for the "Worst dressed driver Ever" award (sadly no photos were taken).
The second half opened in pretty much the same fashion as the first had ended. Gradually, though, it was the visitors who appeared to take control in terms of dictating the pace of the game and forcing the issue.
Both teams made changes in an attempt to win the game and, after Simon Johnson (one of three Johnsons in the Warsop line-up) had passed up two opportunities from close range, striker partner Rick showed him how to do it – dancing through some rather woeful “tackles” before planting the ball past Chaz and racing off to enjoy a “splash” of a celebration with his team-mates.

Mack immediately introduced sub “Man Mountain” up top and the move almost paid immediate dividends when the youngster found himself in the clear. His shot beat Payne but as the crowd of 47 waited in anticipation the ball bounced back off the upright and across goal to safety.
Two further chances followed before sub Yoandry Depass capitalised on some tired Easington defending to put another goal on a plate for the aforementioned Rick. The away entourage again came rushing from their dugout in celebration – as asst-boss Micky Taylor acknowledged afterwards, this was a “massive” win for them in their title quest.
Our disappointment at the final whistle was compounded by news of the Stiffs 1-5 reverse across the ditch and another tonking for our third team the Casuals (0-8 at fellow strugglers Haltemprice). In the words of the classic movie, it was a Bad Day At Black Rock.

Thankfully, by the time I reached the Neptune, the banter among members of both Easington teams was as good as ever and already thoughts were being cast towards the following week’s fixtures (a trip to Bilsthorpe for the Firsts, a massive six-pointer against fellow Premier Division strugglers Scully Reserves for the Stiffs). T’was as it always has been during my involvement with Easington football – win or lose we’ll have a booze.
Ironically, with defeat actually confirmed, I felt something of a change in my prevailing mood; almost as if a great weight had been lifted. After a couple of pints of not the finest Tetley Cask I gathered up the Slushettes for the walk home. Tomorrow was Valentines Day, love would be in the air and Mrs Slush and I could cuddle up on the sofa to watch an England “Try Fest” in Rome…oh bugger!

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