Monday, 15 March 2010

The Main Event

Saturday 13th March - Yorkshire Main (away) Drew 1-1

Doesn't look a day over 50

So as we headed back up the M18 from Edlington and I reflected on a hard-earned point against a very useful Yorkshire Main side, while also enjoying the pleasures of a second can of Scrumpy Jack from the recent stock purchased from an offy in Thorne, I thought to myself, "It hasn't been a bad 44th birthday really, all things considered." 
Then Bendtner scored at the KC...

The start of my 45th year on this earth began quietly enough. With Mrs Slush in Sheffield and the Elder Slushette on a sleepover, there was just my youngest to help me welcome another sunny morning in through the windows of Slush Towers.
Unfortunately, the three-year-old Younger Slushette isn’t big on protocol so instead of “Happy Birthday Daddy” I got “Can we have breakfast now?” at just after 6.25am.
In fairness, she did ask me if I was opening my cards and presents. Or rather she offered to open them for me. Amusingly the first one had a tender message in it along the lines of “Don’t talk shite all your life…have a day off!” Obviously not a Blog/Twitter follower then??!!

What every self-respecting man wants for his 44th birthday

With the return to 3pm kick-offs offering more time for “relaxation” on a Saturday morning, we took ourselves off for a stroll to the shop, calling in at the ground to pick up the balls and first aid bag ahead of the trip to Edlington.
Having arranged for Photographer Burt to ensure the kit was loaded on to the bus at The Granby, I decided to pop into the pub on the way back just to check all was present and correct. It’s a good job I did. For had we stuck to the original plan the lads would have been treated to a kit coming out of the bag at Yorkshire Main in much the same state as it had gone into it on conclusion of the previous week’s game against Hutton Cranswick!
“Well, what’s happened there?” said dear old Dora our long-serving laundry lady.
“Erm, I’d guess it’s not been washed” I suggested, helpfully.
Not to worry. One thing we’re blessed with at Easington is an abundance of kits. I’d take the Reserve team strip and they could play in one of the blue numbers. Sorted…
Well, not quite. When I say abundance of kits the emphasis is very much on the “s”. For in that particular second-team strip there was a distinct lack of “kit”. Indeed only 12 shirts and 11 shorts were present. And we had a squad of fourteen. Time for kit change number two…
By this time it was nearing the point where I had to deposit my youngest with her grandparents (so much for the “relaxing” morning). But there was more to come…
“Katie, where’s your other trainer?”
“Don’t know”
“What do you mean ‘don’t know’? You’ve been out with two on and now there’s only one here. Where did you take it off?"
“Don’t know”
Count to ten time.
“Right, where have you been since we got home?” Kitchen – checked, Play Room – checked, upstairs – checked…I’m starting to lose it now. “Katie, I’m not getting mad sweetheart but WHERE’S YOUR OTHER TRAINER?”
I did well to refrain from swearing. The heart rate was getting faster. The blood pressure was rising.
No answer was forthcoming. It was now half-past eleven and we were going at twelve. Then I looked at the Reserve team kit back sat waiting to be returned to the pub. No, she couldn’t have…she could. Phew. Kids, don’t you just love ‘em?!

A photographer, a supporter & a dangerous driver

If boarding the minibus was supposed to bring a return to normality it didn’t; mainly thanks to Driver Pete’s attempts to emulate the feats being performed by Messrs. Schumacher and co in Bahrain. One particular manoeuvre coming out of Ottringham had all of us checking to see whether cloth had been touched around the rear end!

"You can't leave that wheel there?"

Thankfully there were no other such incidents en route to the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire and it was a happy crew that made its way down the motorway.  Well, that is except goalkeeper Charlie Holden (whose latest real-life trauma prompted the usual sympathy from those on board i.e. "F___ off Chaz") and those unfortunate enough to be sitting within five yards of Farny ("Sorry lads, it's the Mexican chicken and garlic potatoes I had last night"). Still such things serve to pass the time and at ten to two we passed the old wheel that forms part of the entrance to the Yorkshire Main Miners Welfare Ground.

The relief at getting there in one piece is shown by Gav's urgent need for nicotine, Farny checking his balls are intact and the fact that apart from Mozzer, everybody's trainers have turned white with fear!

In olden days they'd whistle dahn t'pit for Yorkshire & England's next fast bowler

Similar to its fellow former Colliery grounds, there was a certain air of neglect around the venue, particularly as you first stride out from the back of the Welfare Club and across the cricket pitch to the football ground beyond.

The remains of the old machine gun turret can still be seen

This is reinforced by the need for barbed wire fencing around the changing rooms complex and the amount of litter left strewn around the pitch boundary, which today included a supermarket shopping trolley.

However, despite the unflattering exterior, the aforementioned complex itself is tidy enough and has recently benefited from a new Officials’ Changing Area & Disabled/Ladies Toilet (courtesy of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust according to the programme). The internal walls of the main foyer are bedecked with team photos from the past, illustrating the changing trends in football fashion, along with a framed list of the Club’s recent Honours.
Formed in the 1920s as Edlington Rangers the Club changed to Yorkshire Main FC in the Fifties but like its predecessor continued to ply its trade in the local leagues.

However, in 1980 a forward-thinking committee decided on a move into regional football, culminating in membership of the Northern Counties East League in 1983/84.  Unfortunately the Miners Strike and closure of the pit in 1985 prompted an exodus of players and after struggling on for a few years Main were forced out in 1991.
Entering the Central Midlands League in 1998 Main gained promotion to the Supreme Division ten years later only to come straight back down due to lack of working floodlights.  If they can finally succeed in overcoming this perennial off-the-field problem this season, on it they look well placed for another tilt at the top-flight. 

"I might not get as close to him as this during the game!"
Hard to imagine they've ever had a winter here
"Charlie, I'm telling you, she won't have finished with you.
Now can you please get your mind back on the game?!"

The route from the changing rooms to the pitch is a somewhat tight and unusual one but the playing surface itself looked in remarkably good nick. Unlike many of its contemporaries, Edlington Lane doesn’t have a main stand running along one side (I remember Main’s affable chairman, Matthew Wynne, telling me on his last visit to Easington that it is one of the few grounds where the local colliery didn’t build one).

Instead there are two brick built shelters, which sit astride the halfway line on both sides of the pitch. The nearest one to the changing rooms also houses the dugouts.
The ground also boasts brand new floodlights.  Okay so they're not working yet but they look pretty impressive when casting their shadow across the pitch.

Mack knew that anything gained against a team which had already beaten us twice this season would be hard-earned. So he must have been delighted when, on a perfect afternoon for football, we made a similar start – Farny stooping to head home Gav’s corner on 11mins.

Gav has a sneaky drag in the corner before delivering for Farny to head home
The home defence stand off him on account of the over-powering smell of garlic

Along with three other members of the regular travelling “Green Arrrrrmy” I’d positioned myself on the opposite side of the ground to watch proceedings, where we were joined by what constituted the Main Ultras – a dozen or so young lads of varying ages whose observations on the game may well have been influenced by the strange herbal aroma that appeared to emanate from within their section of the Shelter!    

View from t'other side

It was all harmless banter (enjoyed particularly by Mozzer Snr.) and our enjoyment of it was helped by a first half in which we appeared comfortable in coping with the home side’s attack.
In particular our centre half pairing of skipper AG – making his 400th Easington appearance – and new boy Danny Blount were exceptional in their control at the back. Just how good their performance was didn’t really become apparent until the difficulties of coping with the second half sun were later highlighted by those around them.

Andrew Graham - 400 not out

Getting to the break a goal up, I ventured in for my half-time cuppa to the accompanying sounds of Main manager Dave Twigg giving his team a right going-over…which was nice. Unfortunately I then phoned the Farm to be told of further defeats for both our County League sides in the 2pm kick-offs…which wasn’t so nice.

Chaz takes his mind off his domestic issues long enough to hold on to this one

The aforementioned roasting during the interval obviously worked for the hosts who tore into us from the start of the second period. And it was therefore no surprise when lanky skipper Dan Jarvis lashed home the equaliser on the hour.
What was probably more surprising was that the seemingly inevitable second goal never came. Ryan White – sent off the last time these two teams met – passed up two glorious chances while Michael Sides was denied by the post.
Then, as we entered the final few minutes we had our first real sniff of the second half, sub Karl H fleetingly finding himself in space on the left side of the box but choosing to shoot (tamely) from an acute angle when a pull back to “Torres” might have been the better option.

Sometimes the chance of glory is gone before you know it!

There would be time for one more chance and it came via the third of three corners in injury time. Unfortunately AG failed to cap his milestone appearance with a winning goal, his header flying over the bar.
The final whistle was greeted with disappointment on both sides – the hosts’ for failing to back-up the previous week’s fine win at leaders Church Warsop, ours for letting the half-time advantage slip. But as Mack was keen to point out, we again proved what a hard team to beat we are and with three of the next four games to come at home, the lads should take heart from the display.

Not open to players of Yorkshire Main FC...apparently

Retiring to the nearby Welfare Club it quickly became apparent that (a) this was not the place to watch the Tigers take on The Arse in the day's late kick-off and (b) not many home players would be joining us.
The aforementioned Main Chairman, Matthew, wasn’t surprised by this fact and looked totally and utterly p____d off with the whole day’s proceedings. With not the best pint of Theakston’s I’d ever tasted and little evidence to back-up the benefit of staying put, I asked if it would add to his woes if we were to shoot off after this drink and find a pub showing the footy.  Thankfully, no offence was taken and offered advice on a possible venue.
He directed us to the Graceholme up the road and so, some five minutes later, we were parked in said establishment just in time to see Arshavin fire the Gunners ahead.

Live toneet - 'Ull Citeh v some Cockney Tw_ts

Despite another cask-less selection (I opted for the John Smith Smooth) there a great atmosphere in the place, boosted by Jimmy Bullard’s equalising penalty – the celebrations at which prompted a few raised eyebrows among the regulars!

Gav struggles with modern technology while Chaz takes advice from "three wise men"
"There's Adam who? on the phone..."
(sorry, that's the next Blog Post!)
Man Mountain & the new boy Blount show concern over Chaz's current status
Meanwhile Mozzer wonders if there was a hole in that toilet paper...
...and (far left) Gavin's still struggling to come to terms with the phone!

With several of our party having prior engagements in town, we re-boarded in the immediate wake of Boateng’s injury-time dismissal and headed for home (via the obligatory stock-up of ale of course).

All aboard the Fun Bus
A Leeds fan enjoys the result from the KC Stadium

The banter was again first-class (in spite of Charlie's "problems") and I was just beginning to think what a good day I’d had when Blounty tapped me on the shoulder.
“Bendtner, 93rd minute.” 
I hate birthdays.

(FOOTNOTE: You'll all no doubt be pleased to know that immediately following this trip it was announced that Chaz is all loved up again.  Tosser.  But Farny still stinks of garlic!)

Thanks to Burt for most of the camera work 

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