Friday, 10 September 2010

Out with the Pistol in with the Piston

Saturday 4th September - Welbeck Welfare (away) 
Won 4-3

The Piston's at the wheel!

"Llandudno, what the bloody hell are you doing in Llandudno?"
"Line Dancing"
"Eh? Bloody line dancing?"
"Yeah, line dancing"
"Well, what about Welbeck Welfare?"
"Don't worry, I've sorted it." 
Eh, and true to his word, he had.  So, while "Pistol Pete & The Riding School Express" were otherwise engaged dancing to shit-kicking music amid the Victorian & Edwardian splendour of Wales's largest resort, newly recruited driver "Piston Pete" took the wheel of a replacement White Van for the trip to north Notts.

 Home from Home

There was a time not many weeks ago when this fixture was in grave danger of disappearing from the schedule.  Following a turbulent end to 2009/10, during which Welbeck Welfare had conceded their last three games due to a shortage of players, a similarly chaotic summer had seen the club tender its resignation shortly after the Central Midlands League AGM.
However, a last-minute rescue plan, which saw former Grantham Rangers boss Geoff Green appointed manager, the recruitment of a brand new squad and a groundshare arrangment with neighbours Church Warsop helped ensure that Welbeck took their place in the Premier Division for 2010/11...albeit a couple of weeks late.

"You lookin' at me?"

And so, with 'The Piston' at the wheel of the newly acquired Renault 14-seater, courtesy of the very accommodating Charlie "Would you like to see some puppies girls?" Johnson (don't ask!) of Welwick, we headed off in search of a second successive away win.
Now it doesn't take a genius to work out that a driver, navigator (erm, that's me then), manager & asst-manager plus full squad does not go into a 14-seater.  Thankfully it didn't have to.  With JC now ensconced back at Sheffield Uni and The Stumo, Chav and Man Mountain electing to travel by car due to a requirement to be back in Holderness early doors, there were enough seats to go round.
With the memories of Monday's setback still fresh in the memory (and made even more frustrating by talk that Cranny would be losing the points due to an indiscretion on the team sheet) Mack and new right-hand man Mr. T were determined to rectify things quickly.

"Don't recognise you, don't recognise you, don't recognise you..." 

Their task hadn't been made easier by a glut of absentees.  AG & Frosty were rendered absent by suspensions carried over from the previous season, Sam Mac was still injured, while Hutchie, Jim, Luke J and The Tank were all on holiday.  With Chaz nursing a  knuckle injury also, you could say that we hadn't been dealt the strongest hand.
Still, spirits were high as we arrived in good time at 'The Alley', scene of perhaps our finest away performance the previous season (despite, it should be pointed out, the AA Route Planner sending us hopelessly off course thanks to a miscalculation on the roundabouts?!).
While the players checked out the pitch and I laid the kit out, the first of the home contingent arrived; most prominent among whom was goalkeeper Chris Bennett.  I smiled on hearing him ask a team-mate, "How are these lot doing?" to be answered, "Geoff says they're favourites for the title".  Yeah, right!

Explain that one then Paul...

On venturing out I came across the extremely affable Graham Hall, whose official titles appear to include Chairman, Secretary & Programme Editor.  In short, 'Mr Welbeck'.  He described the various recent turns of events, which appear to have seen a veritable merry-go-round of players and management within the tight football community of north Notts; far too confusing to recount here. 
With the Tea Hut fired up, followed closely by our lads, it was kick-off time and I'd already enjoyed my day (particularly the moment when 'The Piston' returned from a fruitless trip to what he thought was a burger bar but instead turned out to be a place selling garden furniture - I offered him one of my Family Bag of Quavers by way of consolation!).
My only disappointment thus far was the lack of programme ("the printer's broken - I'll get one sent up to you later if you like?").  Very kind of you (PS: I'm still waiting).

 Love on the terraces

I was sincerely hoping that this setback wasn't to be mirrored on the pitch.  Welbeck had taken a point off us last season at their traditional Elkelsley Road ground (currently the site of much-needed redevelopment) another result that factored prominently in our eventual failure to clinch promotion.
We started as if we would ensure there was to be no repeat this time.  And after Fitzy had already had a "goal" controversially chalked off inside the first five minutes, Gav put us one up moments later with a cleverly executed free-kick.
Soon afterwards it should have been two; Gav sent tumbling to the deck inside the box and a penalty duly given.  But Chav proved that it's only at home where he doesn't miss penalties, the very vocal Mr. Bennett getting down well to save (although Smalls should really have done better when the ball rebounded up to give him a free header which he couldn't keep down).

 "I like the cut of your jib Mr Porter"

Still, we were so dominant early on that it appeared only a matter of time before a second goal came.  And it did. To Welbeck on 23 minutes courtesy of their first attack.
We were caught out down our left and the ball was gleefully swept home by Asa Bartlett at the far post.
Two minutes later and it should have been 2-1 to the hosts.  Thankfully Smalls more than atoned for his earlier miss with a cracking last-ditch tackle.
Chav should then have restored our lead at the other end but half-time arrived with us all square.

A wealth of experience!

During the interval I phoned the Farm to find out how the Casuals were getting on in their latest (and final) pre-season friendly.  Previous results of 3-8 and 0-12 didn't inspire much hope so I was therefore heartened to hear from Vice Chairman Mickey Bo that not only were we "only" 4-2 down but that by rights we should be level.  Perhaps this season might carry more hope than usual from Maccer's Men.
Also during the break I managed to catch a snap of the  Pete Barnett Branch of the "Green Arrrrmmy", newly kitted-out in their fetching little Newton Heath scarves ("three for fifteen quid off the net, bargain").  Indeed, given the presence in the ground also of the Mountain Family, plus Dooley, 'The Piston' and me, it's fair to say we almost had the bulk of the support at the game.  We certainly had the loudest!
And our vocal chords were to be extended in a blistering twenty-minute spell at the start of the second half.  


Three minutes in Gav rattled the Welbeck bar.  
Four minutes later Farny met Chav's corner at the near post, 2-1.
Four minutes later Man Mountain couldn't find the finish to match his mazy run.
A minute later JC's shot was well saved by Bennett with  Blounty heading the resulting corner too high.
Two minutes later, just past the hour, it's 3-1.  A free-kick on halfway, quick thinking by The Stumo who angles a lovely low ball into the left side of the box where Gav provides the deftest of flicks to divert it into the path of Fitzy six or seven yards out.  He doesn't miss.


Within two more minutes the game is surely won.  Excellent approach play again culminates in Chav's pinpoint cross and Fitzy's powerful header from ten yards, which arcs over the powerless (and by now not-so-vocal) Bennett and into the roof of the net.  A corker. 4-1.

 And that'll be four

Andy Martin made his entrance in-between goals three and four and on this evidence would look to be a very astute signing.  And with him holding the ball up well before bringing others into play, we should really have gone on to score more.
As it was, an urge on the part of some to race "forrad" in an attempt to join the list of scorers saw us caught on the counter and Steve Rudge made it 2-4.
Cue panic.  Josh Murphy blasts over when he should really have scored.  How long left?  Not long...but possibly long enough as Charlie inexplicably picks up Fitzy's backpass in injury time.  The ball is driven across and Rudge slams home for 3-4. 
Thankfully, Farny puts his brawn and brains to use in equal measure near the opposition corner flag to run down the final anxious moments and the points are safe.  Just.

 Job done...just

Perhaps not surprisingly there's an air of disappointment in the changing room afterwards, which continues in the nearby Sports & Social Club (formerly the Miners Welfare).
Thankfully some excellent post-match fare (if not a decent cask ale!) helped revive spirits...although news of yet another defeat on the road for The Tigers did little for my overall demeanour.
The Piston had taken to the day like a duck to water and  was more than pleased to take on board the usual supply of ale for the return journey.  Our trip back north  was accompanied by Radio Humberside's commentary on defeats for both the Dullers and Rovers, the former meaning that both sides would now meet in a Play-Off Eliminator next weekend.

 "Whoever smelt it dealt it!"

With the bus safely returned to its Welwick home and the kit & equipment back at The Granby it would have been rude (but perhaps better for the state of my marriage) not to have taken the chance to sample a pint of Great Newsome Frothingham Best before returning home.  It was so nice I had to have two.
As I made my way home some ten hours since departing the house that morning, I thought to myself, I'm going to pay for this tomorrow.  And I did.  But that's not for public consumption and anyway, I can console myself that it's all in the very best of causes...isn't it?
Nottingham at home next - a real chance to put back-to-back wins together for the first time this season...

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