Saturday, 10 April 2010

A Happy Easter

Saturday 3 April – Dronfield Town (away) Match postponed
Easington Utd Reserves 1 Sculcoates Amateurs Reserves 0
Easington Utd Casuals 3 Withernsea Thirds 1
Monday 5 April – Parkhouse FC (home) Won 2-0

During the last full day of our pre-Easter break at Butlins, I received a text from one of our players (Mozzer) telling me not to be surprised if Saturday’s game was called off, a delivery driver had informed him of snow at Dronfield. I put it down as an April Fools joke, although the leaden skies over Skegness all week had already got me wondering.

"Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside!"

It was only on arrival back home on Friday that I read of planned pitch inspections at our opponents’ Stonelow Road ground; one scheduled for 5pm, the other for early Saturday morning. It would be this second inspection that resulted in the postponement of the first part of our planned Easter Double-Header.
Whilst obviously frustrated and disappointed by the enforced alteration to my plans, consolation was to be found in the County League football on offer at the Farm.
And with one game being a relegation six-pointer and the other a tasty local derby, it didn’t sound like the worst way to spend a bright but breezy afternoon.

The Casuals work their revolutionary throw-in routine of actually finding a team-mate

Due to a slightly late kick-off on the main pitch, I ventured across the Ditch for the first quarter of the Casuals’ Division 5 game against Withernsea Thirds.
Both teams came into the match on the back of 9-1 hidings, with the Casuals’ performance at home to Gilberdyke having manager Maccer for once refusing to find any positives in his weekly match report.
Suitably chastened by the experience and still smarting from defeat to their nearest neighbours back in September (not to mention some rather unflattering post-match observations from the Seasiders) our third-string began brightly.

This local derby packed 'em in at Low Farm

Indeed as I and the Elder Slushette crossed the bridge Withernsea had it all on to repel a couple of early Easington set-pieces.
However, soon after joining the larger-than-usual hardy following on the “Wather Works” side, The Seasiders began to force the pace, albeit without really testing Casuals keeper Langfield.
As both sides strove for the breakthrough, tempers rose and the odd feisty exchange ensued – that between “Passionate” Dan and ex-Casual Vinny O’Hara being particularly entertaining.

Lean on me, Ted Hankey!

Although there wasn’t the same edge as would have been present in a meeting of the two clubs’ first teams, it was still obvious that neither side would take defeat well.
Still goalless as we approached the half-hour I ventured back to the main pitch where a similar state of affairs existed between our Reserves and their counterparts from Sculcoates Amateurs.

Action from "Thommo's Corner" as it became known after Monday

The teams had met a week earlier at Hull & ER Sports Ground, with a patched-up Stiffs outfit delivering the first decisive blow in this double-header thanks to a 4-1 win. Today’s meeting was proving much tighter.
On enquiring what I’d missed I was being regaled with the tale of Stu Campbell’s audacious “40-yarder” that had hit the bar when Scully’s pinged the post themselves. That would have changed Kev Appleyard’s team talk somewhat had that gone in!
Not this time Stumo
Half-time on the main pitch prompted my return to the Casuals. My timing was perfect. Just as we crossed the Ditch for the third time Rich Clubley, a “bustling centre forrad” of the type they love in these parts (i.e. clumsy) went on a surging run that took him past three Withernsea defenders. He then unleashed a daisy-cutter from 20 yards that should have proved no problem for Seasiders keeper Moore. Unfortunately the newsagent’s son had left his legs ajar and through the ball went – to the delight of the “Wather Works” side.
It prompted memories of that famous cricketing anecdote involving the late, great Fred Trueman and Raman Subba Row as recalled on The Googlie: Fearsome fast bowler Trueman extracted an edge from the batsman, which went right between team-mate Subba Row's legs to the third man boundary. Fred didn't say a word. At the end of the over, Row ambled past Trueman and apologised sheepishly. "Sorry Fred. I should've kept my legs together". Trueman retorted in classic fashion "Not you, son. Your mother should've!"

'The Passionate One' hits the bar
Within minutes it’s 2-0, a throw from the right being helped on to t’other Clubley, Dave, who swivels and finishes neatly past the hapless Moore. Passionate Dan then rattles the bar with a header. The Casuals scent victory.
Withernsea aren’t happy. They don’t like losing to the “upstarts” from down the coast – even though they’ve pretty much had to get used to doing so in recent times…

Still goalless in the basement battle
Back to the main pitch where things were getting tight. Although having more possession after the break, we are struggling to make inroads through a solid Scully’s defence. That changes slightly when subs “Torres” and Thommo come on. Both create – and miss – chances before the visitors pass up a great opening of their own inside the last five minutes.
News from the other pitch where veteran Clarke has sealed a 3-1 win for the Casuals.  There’s nil-nil written all over this one here when Fozzy puts the ball down for a free-kick just inside his own half.
“How long ref?”
A minute is the reply.
The ball is launched high into the visitors box and finds its way left to where Stumo retrieves it, skips past a challenge and delivers a cross just begging to be met. It isn’t. The ball goes right where this time Browny is the collector. He delivers low across the six yard box and there to meet it this time is said Stumo. Can’t miss. Doesn’t. 1-0; cue pandemonium among the…well…half-dozen or so in The Farm Shed!
A minute or so of stoppage time later, the referee blows for time. The Stiffs are 6pts clear of their opponents at the foot of the table, albeit from two games more.
A couple of pints of Mann’s Chestnut Mild are sunk in celebration at The Granby before a pleasant Easter Sunday spent at the in-laws bridges the gap to the next live football.
Monday dawns wet and for a time gets wetter. I’m up to work for 7.30 to copy off fifty 12-page wrap-around “flyers” to accompany the programme printed ahead of the postponed fixture on 27 February. The photos have come out poorly but there’s no time to do anything about them now – this is when I hate quick turnarounds.
Thankfully by lunchtime the rain has stopped and clearer skies are approaching from the south-west. The game’s in no danger but it would be nice to have a decent afternoon in which to watch!
By time I get to the ground, just before 12.45pm, Parkhouse have already arrived and their squad have headed for the nearby White Horse “to kill time”. I’m tempted to ring the landlord Barry and offer them anything from the top shelf on club expenses!
The wind’s already picking up by two o’clock and as our players assemble I’m already fearing this could put a right downer on a mouth-watering fixture.
Parkhouse’s manager Paul Murtagh and secretary Nobby Clark are both very personable and we have a good chat about the state of the league and future direction of the CML. I also fit in a brief catch-up on events from The Stoop where Rovers are putting their derby day blues behind them and giving ‘Quins a right walloping.
A half-decent crowd is starting to assemble and before I know it it’s five to three.
"It's all in hand lads!" - a confident Skip has a grip of things
Parkhouse had arrived on the back of six straight wins, a run that had put them back in the title race – although they could afford no slip-ups. They had also thumped us 7-0 at their tidy Mill Lane home back in August, giving us enough incentive other than that of wanting to maintain our push for a top four place.

Relaxed - any more laid back they'd be horizontal!

"Did you ever play then liner?" "Oh ye-a-a-h, I was once on Leeds
United's books, 'fore I got into reffing like..."
With only long-term victim Lenny and the absent Hutch unavailable, Mack had a near-full squad to pick from. Beforehand he asked for them to prove once again how much they’ve learnt from their experiences in the CML and to go and prove another point. They did.

Get in there!
Only 4 minutes had elapsed when Moz picked up a ball on halfway, advanced and struck a swerving shot from 25 yards that completely deceived goalkeeper Gough.

"How the f___ did you get up that high Thommo?!"
The lead would be doubled by the break and again the hapless Gough proved the fall-guy. Receiving a backpass on the edge of his box his attempted clearance spooned up into the swirling wind and when it dropped Thommo got up highest to nod into the unguarded net.
Not for the first time this season we were indebted to Chaz for preservation of a two-goal cushion. Twice in the minutes leading up to half-time he denied Parkhouse top scorer Clay (netter of four in the August drubbing) with brilliant reflex stops.
Another quiet day for Chaz & his defenders!
The half-time talk among the visiting supporters at half-time concerned the wind’s adverse effect on the game. Among the home contingent the in-phrase was the need to “baton down the hatches” with Parkhouse set to have the wind in their favour second half.

The watching groundstaff admire a typical Farny "launch"
In the event a combination of disappointing approach play and finishing (Clay in particular passing up several more chances), excellent goalkeeping and solid defending ensured United saw the game through at 2-0.
The final whistle brought huge grins to the hosts, especially those who’d experienced the battering at Mill Lane. Revenge had tasted sweet. Meanwhile, for his non-stop efforts up top the scorer of our second goal not only received the man of the match award but a portion of the ground near the Car Park to be christened “Thommo’s Corner” by groundsman Dave Hodgson!

No-one there Chav!
To their credit Parkhouse were magnanimous in defeat, despite this setback almost certainly quashing their lingering title hopes – even before this weekend’s head-to-head with leaders Church Warsop.
A perfect scene for Easter...or any other time
A lovely pint of Black Sheep was enjoyed in The Neptune before we retired to The Granby for tea, where we were joined by the Rutters, Grahams and Biglins in a meeting of the “old skool”. And as I bade farewell to Inspector Frost on the box later that night I couldn’t help feeling this had been a pretty good Easter. And there was another Easington-Withernsea clash coming up the following night…

Thanks to Burt Graham and Dom Taylor for many of the photos used here

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