Friday, 30 April 2010

Taking Stock

Tuesday 20th  April – Long Riston Reserves 1 Easington Utd Reserves 5
Wednesday 21st April – Hull City 0 Aston Villa 2
Saturday 24th April – Dronfield Town (home) Won 3-0
Tuesday 27th April – Highland Laddie FC 0 Easington Utd Reserves 4

Sometimes things come along that make you ask yourself if all the effort is worth it.  
Last week, in the wake of the “Battle of Bulwell” (as some of our party have already begun to refer to it) was one of those occasions.

I’ve had such moments before.  Certainly in recent years, since the Slushettes arrived on the scene, there are times when it would seem that life itself is playing second-fiddle to football in general and Easington United in particular.
Prior to the Bulwell game I’d already decided – reluctantly – to relinquish my position as the East Riding County League’s Development Officer, knowing that the logical next step would be to end my 14-year-long membership of the Management Committee altogether.
After the events at Goosedale, and particularly in relation to the specific allegations made against members of our club, there was an overwhelming feeling to pull the plug on my football commitments completely.

Where's it gonna drop?

To counter these feelings, I decided on a trip to see the Reserves in action at Long Riston in the quarter-finals of the H. E. Dean Cup.  Against a side some two divisions lower in league stature the game should provide the ideal opportunity to regain my appetite…hmm.
All went well first half as the Stiffs raced into a three-goal lead, courtesy of a hat-trick from Frosty – unable to regain his first team place since sustaining an injury at Kiveton Park back in January.
The pace of Frost and “Fitzy Torres” allied to Fozzy’s experience was proving too much for the Riston defence and as the game entered the second half you could sense the frustration growing in the home ranks.

 The Fitzy & Frosty Show

When “Nige” headed home the locals’ fourth before the hour mark the tie was won…but the hosts weren’t suppressed.  A couple of “late ones” had Committee man Hodgy predicting, “This’ll tonn into a kicking match if ref dunt gerra grip”.  He was right.
Luke Jeffery’s foul allowed Riston a reply from the spot before a handball in the opposite box saw Fozzy score from similar circumstances to restore the four goal cushion.  Then the hosts imploded.

 The calm before the implosion

The fuse was lit when young Danny Cundill was fouled as he shepherded the ball safely into touch near the corner flag.  The perpetrator then took it upon himself to decide to pick a fight with almost anyone and everyone.  After he’d been shown red, his skipper took up the mantle as did several of the management and subs.  The net result: another Riston red as well as one to Frosty – for “self defence in the face of extreme provocation”.  Still 35 days son!
As we travelled home, courtesy of South Stand regular (& Volunteer Groundsman) Tom, with driver and Hodgy recounting days of old when all games carried a bit of edge, I found myself more dismayed than when I’d set off.  Still, I was bound for the KC Stadium the next night.  That would lift the spirits…

 A rather unfortunate choice of front cover as it turned out

Due to there being no midweek games at the time that Adam Pearson introduced the new match day prices for the remainder of the current season, I’d declined his invitation to pay a fiver then to minimise the increase later.  Indeed, I’d almost forgotten all about the new prices…until my ticket source at work reminded me, “It’s £32.50 to get in now y’know?”  I could’ve wept.
I won’t go into details about the game.  Along with the subsequent defeat by Sun’lan that sees The Tigers facing up to Championship football again next season, it’s been covered far more expertly elsewhere.
All I would add is that if Temporary Football Management Consultant Iain Dowie thinks we dominated “sixty minutes” of that game, I’ve turned into Ray Milland in the 1945 classic “The Lost Weekend” for at least forty of them.
Whilst in the ground I noticed Hull KR coach “Justinho” Morgan taking up his seat some six rows in front.  For a moment I wondered if his FC counterpart Rich Agar might also be there – but then I thought, no, the KC couldn’t cope with having two unpopular home coaches in the ground at the same time!

Thursday brought my first football-free night of the week.  “Great” exclaimed Mrs Slush, “I might actually see you tonight!”  Yes I replied, we can watch the second of the Leaders Debates together.  I’ve still got the bruise.

The final one of the season

And so to the weekend.  With the Message Boards still carrying plenty of content relating to the previous weekend, I was a touch apprehensive as we approached the visit of third-placed Dronfield Town.
I wasn’t the only one.  Dave was getting concerned that his players were still focussing on events past rather than present; this was a massive game for both clubs.  Victory for us retained our hopes of a top three finish, a win for Dronfield and allied to anything other than 3pts for Church Warsop v Hutton Cranswick kept the title alive for another week.

 "Just 'od on ref, me dad takes a picture of this moment every week!"

A decent day weather-wise and no fixtures for the County League squads helped attract a decent crowd to The Farm (with the pre-planned “Ezzie Bevy Bus Round The Back of Beyond” planned for that evening also encouraging those who wanted to make an early start!).

 One, Two and should have been Three

We certainly made an early start, Chav volleying home Mozzer’s pass inside 6mins.  On twenty we went two up courtesy of a great finish from Thommo.  And had AG found the power and accuracy on a free header, it would have been three points in the bag by the break.
As it was we were (again) indebted to a fine save from “fans favourite” Chaz just before the interval.
Early in the second half, smallest player on the pitch Gav headed us into a 3-0 lead.  There was no way back for the Derbyshire side.

 "We're the Farm Shed, we're the Farm Shed, the Farm Shed Easington..."
 "...We're the South Stand, we're the South Stand, the South Stand Easington!"

Low Farm was a great place to be on Saturday (even as news of City's relegation filtered through).  The decent weather and lack of County League action ensured we had a good atmosphere down there, especially among the other squad players.  This manifested itself in some good banter with referee’s assistant Kevin Blackburn – running the line in front of “The Farm Shed” – and Dronfield number 11 Ian Parkes.

Hutch makes a mess of the game's last chance

The scenes in the changing rooms afterwards were chaotic as players jostled for position in order to be showered (and sometimes even shaved – Farny), changed and out for the night’s serious business…leaving muggings here to try and clear away as best I could, get locked up and round to the Neppy in time to pay the match officials (and slide down a very welcome pint of Black Sheep) before getting myself home and spruced up for the evening’s joviality.

Three not so wise men!

Nights like the “Ezzie Bevy Bus Round The Back Of Beyond” come along all too rarely.  But when they work as well as this one did, they serve to remind people just what it is that makes Easington United such a cracking club to be part of.
Our route took us through Welwick (Coach & Horses), Patrington (Holderness Inn, Hildyard Arms), Keyingham (Ship Inn), Ryehill (Crooked Billet) and Thorngumbald (Barn Farm) before finishing at The Haven Arms in Hedon.  From there the bus deposited the hardy nighthawks in Hull for further consumption before taking the rest of us home to our beds.

  The taste of the Lakes can be found in Ryehill

Beer-wise, I’d chosen the pubs well: Great Newsome Sleck Dust, Marston Pedigree, Sharp Doom Bar, Jennings Stickle Pike, Caledonian 80/-, Yorkshire Terrier and Spitfire were all enjoyed immensely with the only let-down of the evening being a rather tepid Tetley Cask in Keyingham.  
The feel-good factor created at the weekend was maintained on Tuesday night when the Stiffs confirmed their place in the final of the league's H. E. Dean Cup - the first time the Club has ever been represented in this prestigious event.

 An elevated view of a Stiffs semi-final

 Given what had gone beforehand, it was almost predictable that the passage wouldn't be straightforward.  And so, after Frosty (2), Fozzy and Fitzy had established a 4-0 lead just past the hour against Division 3 strugglers Highland Laddie, the East Hull side's goalkeeper decided to take his protest at the fourth that step too far.  His attempted assault on the referee prompted abandonment of the game.
Thankfully - or not depending on your point of view - a precedent had already been set for such an incident in an earlier round.  And by Wednesday morning it was confirmed, the Stiffs were off to Brid on 22nd May.
Their opponents will be fellow Premier Division side Viking Raiders.  Ironically the two teams meet tomorrow in the league at Low Farm.  I'll be there - a wedding party prevents my participation in the day's events at Clipstone Welfare's ground where Mack's men will look to beat "hosts" Thoresby Colliery and gain the first of three wins that will ensure a runners-up spot in the CML.
Now THAT would make all the hassle of the past week or so worth it...

Thanks to Burt G & Dooley Cousins for the shots

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