Thursday, 2 September 2010

Hucknall high and Low Farm low

Saturday 28th August - AFC Hucknall (away) Won 3-1
Monday 30th August - Hutton Cranswick United (home) Lost 0-2

  "Tell me why I don't like Mondays!"

Nothing should surprise me anymore when watching football.  Especially so when it involves Easington United.  But given the manner in which the lads dug deep to become the first CMFL side this season to beat new boys (and "pantomime villains") AFC Hucknall, even I wasn't prepared for the sorry capitulation to our East Riding rivals Hutton Cranswick two days later.  It was enough to make me wish I'd stayed in Fuller's garage!
Saturday's trip to Watnall Road, home of AFC Hucknall (or Hucknall Town Reserves as I believe almost everybody now knows them to be) was our first league away jaunt of the new season.  As such it was good to see that Pistol Pete was starting as he means to go being late.

Are we at the right ground? Stop it!

Ten minutes past the 11am departure time, the trusty old "Riding School Express" turned up Hull Road and proceeded to trundle towards me with horn blaring and the "Old Gits" (Pistol Pete & Shotgun Burt) a picture of mischief in the front.
Given that I was accompanied by Mrs Slush whilst awaiting the arrival of the charabanc, perhaps, "Eh up, he'll be home by eleven!" wasn't Pete's wisest opening line; especially as the York pre-season trip had previously prompted the question from my beloved of, "Why does a ninety minute football match last nine hours?"
Once aboard the conversation soon plummeted to the depths we became used to last season, courtesy of Pistol Pete's recollections of a somewhat nasty incident involving his cess-pit, mongrel collie and a "bossy" German Shepherd.  Trust me, you don't need to know anymore.
I'll say one thing for our driver though.  We're rarely behind schedule for long and despite a trip to Hull that included late drop-outs, forgotten shinpads and a need to fill the tank, we were accompanying the Doncaster-bound Tiger Nation out of Hull along the A63 just after midday.

Opponents Hucknall have quickly become the most talked about "new" club in the CMFL.  This is probably due to the aforementioned reference to the fact that they are indeed anything but new.  Although the name is AFC Hucknall, the club is to all intents and purposes the reserve side of Evo-Stik (Northern Premier) League side Hucknall Town, a fact that isn't even denied on their club website.
Why this should create such a furore stems from the League rules regarding Reserve team membership i.e. they should compete in the designated Reserve Divisions (Supreme & Premier Reserve) and not alongside supposed "first" teams.
Hucknall's case hasn't been helped by a storming start to the season.  Three wins out of three and seventeen goals therein, including back to back victories of 7-2 against Thorne Colliery away and a fancied South Normanton Athletic side at home in midweek.  It had perhaps gone to some people's heads for in the programme Chairman Daniel Pheasant wrote: "15 points before September is an exciting prospect".  Hmm.

 Nice place

Therefore we travelled very much as underdogs; which is how we like it.  And on arrival at Watnall Road I was glad "The Yellows" are in our league - the chance to play against clubs like this on grounds like this was the main reason for joining the CMFL in the first place.  But I still had a sense of foreboding about the possible result!

Here they come, the next lambs for the slaughter...

This was only temporarily lifted when home keeper Rob Searcey inadvertently palmed Chav's 7th minute corner into his own net to gift us the lead.
And as wave after wave of yellow attacks came forward, my only enjoyment of the game came courtesy of the frustration voiced by a somewhat impatient home crowd as we managed to continually repel all boarders.

Chav informs the home dugout that they've no divine right to score!

That we did was down partly to a resolute defensive quartet (of which central duo Blounty and returning skip AG were prominent) and especially thanks to a superb display by keeper Chaz.
I can remember at least four top drawer saves, with my favourite being the reflex one that thwarted Danwell Francis's 32nd minute volley.
Alongside Chaz, I also thought Smalls did a sterling job in trying to snuff out the threat of highly-rated left winger Terry Hawkridge.  He didn't always succeed but he stuck to his task and it was the Hucknall lad who got frustrated the longer the game went on.
This frustration would've been doubled had Frosty put away a great chance that came his way as part of a rare foray into Hucknall territory.

  And Frost must score...
...but doesn't

The half-time interval allowed me further chance to peruse the (recently passed) plans for Hucknall's new ground - some hundred or so yards up from the current one!  And mighty impressive they are too.  We did ask if the old ground could be dismantled and shipped for use at Low Farm but...

Nice plans

I also enjoyed an informative chat with the new CMFL Chairman, John Edwards, during the break  and was relieved that I was able to do so from a position of some strength on the field (it's always nice to put on a decent show in front of League officialdom!). 
As I ventured out for the second half, one of the locals asked me how much was in the brown envelope we'd obviously passed to the referee.  I didn't bother answering but instead just smiled.  We had rode our luck a little in the first 45 minutes, that much was true, but to lay the blame at the hands of the referee, well...

 "The Thin Blue Line"

The pattern of the game hadn't changed much and soon Chaz was called into action again, making a couple of fine stops to deny Jimmy Pheasant and Sam Sims in quick succession.
But as the home "crowd" (43 head-count) began to get more and more impatient with their team's often patient approach play, the equaliser came just 14 minutes from time; Francis this time making no mistake from six yards out, albeit after our defenders felt Richie Holmes had crossed the ball from beyond the byeline.
While the sense of relief around the ground was palpable, I slumped back in my seat now fearing the worst.  But what's this...

 A nippy little Frost

From the restart JC hit a somwhat ambitious angled pass intended for Frosty to run on to but much too close to left back Terry Henshaw.  However the ex-Burton Albion man steered his intended backpass wide of the onrushing Searcey and Frosty was allowed to run the ball into an empty net.
There would be no stopping us now.  And a third came when Stumo's flick set Frosty free again and he showed great strength before rifling into the top corner.  Burt and I jigged down the touchline - not pretty but quite frankly I didn't give a damn.
Gav almost gave us a fourth to celebrate in injury time when picking up the ball on halfway and advancing Geoff Hurst '66 style down the inside left channel.  Unfortunately his shot was inches too high.
No worries; 3-1 would do nicely.

Oh dear...

As the home management sat their players down in the centre-circle for a mixture of warm-down and inquest, our dressing room echoed to the sounds of "Gimme an 'E' and an 'A' and an 'S' 'I' 'N'..."
We enjoyed the obligatory post-match pint with our genial hosts before stocking up at the local Co-op for a boozy, noisy drive home enriched by Pistol Pete's choice of a more scenic route back.
All-in-all it was a somewhat more pleasant experience than the first away day of the previous season (despite the lack of a decent real ale).  At any rate my thirst for a "proper pint" was sated on return to the Granby where a couple of Great Newsome Ploughman's Pride (4.2%) capped off a superb day.
That was Saturday...
I enjoyed Sunday.
Then came Monday...
If I'm honest my only foreboding on the morning of the Bank Holiday meeting with local rivals (and good friends) Hutton Cranswick United was that the strong winds would spoil a game of football.  It never entered my head that we would fail to build on Saturday's stunning result.

"Cranny" themselves arrived in good spirits following their 2-0 home win over another of this season's newcomers, Nottingham United.  But they were without influential skipper Daz Parker and the reliable Paul Taylor, who injured himself pre-match.  Surely, despite us being without the suspended duo of AG and Frosty, we would have too much for them?

Lights, camera, action

If this sounds a little disrespectful it's certainly not meant to be.  We've enjoyed some titanic struggles with the Rotsea Lane side over the past decade and no game against them is ever easy.  But, given the performance at Hucknall and the confidence and belief that it brought, no team should have been able to touch us on Monday, on our own patch and in front of a decent crowd (84 h/c).
But they did.  And what's more they thoroughly deserved to.

 We should really have scored from this position - we didn't

As Mack would point out to his players afterwards, "What really disappointed me is that a team has come here and wanted it more than we did".  That hurts.
On what became a gloriously sunny afternoon, the game was settled by a goal in each half, from Steve Chapman on 24mins and the outstanding Danny Rookes on 62mins - the latter being celebrated by a triple back-flip of the sort never seen before at The Farm!

...and thrice close...
...but no cigar

We huffed and puffed and raised faint hopes of a comeback with a few bits of panic in and around their box but in truth we could still be playing now and Leon Sewell's goal would not be breached.
The disappointment of defeat was reflected in a few choice words among team "mates" afterwards; something I don't mind (as long as it stays within the changing room).  For me it shows that at least the lads care.  They now need to show it again by putting it right at Welbeck this weekend.

 You just know it's one of those days

The "elder statesmen" of the Hutton Cranswick club - Denis Cox and Jim Ezard - have become good friends of the Eastenders over the years and as such a very pleasant post-match session was enjoyed in their company (aided by the Granby's tremendous Pasties and the aforementioned Ploughman's Pride).  It was almost enough to make me forget the disappointment of what had gone before.  Then I got home to write the report, the result sheet...and this!
How quickly fortunes can change in football...

Thanks to Burt for the photos

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