Thursday, 4 November 2010

Up then down again

Saturday 23rd October - Kiveton Park (away) Won 2-0
Saturday 30th October - Thoresby CW (home) Lost 1-2

Happy bloody Halloween!

At 4.30pm on Saturday the picture surrounding Easington United Association Football Club was beginning to look a whole lot brighter.
Following a morale-restoring win at Kiveton Park, we were looking likely to record back-to-back successes thanks to Mozzer's 45th minute strike at Low Farm.
But then lively looking Thoresby striker Gavin King went down in the box - albeit a tad too easily for my liking - and referee Stephen Hall from New Ollerton pointed to the spot.  King duly stepped up to equalise.
That came with ten minutes remaining.  King was off the field seven minutes later, dispatched for two yellow cards in double-quick time, but his would be the team that went on to win it thanks to Matt Worthington's strike, following a horrendous last minute error from Eastenders skipper Andy G.
Cue another bout of navel gazing from this Blog perhaps?  Not really.  Life's too short.  Despite protests to the contrary, football is just a game and many more important things will happen in the days between 4.41pm last Saturday afternoon and 2pm this. 
But it's still so BLOODY FRUSTRATING!

I'd spent the days immediately after the South Normanton debacle talking with our chairman, vice-chairman and reserve team manager to gauge opinion on what was currently going wrong in terms of the season as a whole and, more specifically, the shortfall in players for the First Team.  
There were some very honest and quite forthright opinions being aired, with plenty of topics for discussion for the Team Managers' meeting, which had had to be postponed for another week (but should have taken place by the time you read this).
As previously described, hopes of lightening my mood by taking in Hull City's midweek game against Sheffield United proved shortlived.  But at least by Thursday, it appeared that Dave would have a full 14-man squad available for the trip to Kiveton Park.  What's more it looked a strong one.
Therefore I was far more upbeat that evening as I ventured to the local Primary school to pick up Mrs Slush and the Slushettes from the Half-Term disco.  This was the younger Slushette's first such soiree but as a veteran now of Butlins, she's no longer a shrinking violet when it comes to the dancefloor.  Thus I arrived to find her "giving it large" to Tommy Sparks.  Ah, just like her Dad I it large that is, not necessarily to Tommy Sparks you understand. 
For a moment I was transported back to Easington Youth Club circa 1977-79, and everbody "boogying" along to the gorgeous Baccara before Big Al Douglas, spinning the wax, interjects: "Now one for you punk rockers, it's Darts and 'Daddy Cool'..." (you must remember this was a rural village in the back of beyond where the height of fashion was a denim waistcoat with Status Quo emblazoned across the back). 
The Elder Slushette also fancies herself as a bit of a mover & shaker (it's all these dance classes she's going to).  And both girls were still going strong when the call came to "Evacuate The Dancefloor".  Of course being primary school age there was  no end of night smoochie - they'll have plenty of chance for these in later years.  
Not that I made the most of mine in those halcyon days of the late-70s/early-80s.  I can still feel the pain of Bryan and co. crooning away  with me sat alone in a darkened corner thinking of what might have been...but now's not the time to expand on this.   I digress.    

Thursday became Friday, Friday became Saturday and almost amazingly we still had the same 14 names fully accounted for as I joined The Pistol and Burt in the front of the Riding School Express.  We were only seven minutes late setting off - things were looking up.
I knew it was going too well. 
The phone rang. 
Manager Mack: "Just to keep you up to speed, Frosty's rung me.  He's pissed - says someone spiked his drinks last night.  He's asked me what to do, I've told him still to come but to drink lots of water."
As we pulled up outside The Hildyard Arms in Patrington, sure enough there was the player in question, looking decidedly ropey.  But Mack had asked me not to make a big thing of it. So I said nothing.
The Pistol made his usual good time in getting through the various pick-up points and we were on our way out of Hull at just past half-twelve.  At a quarter to two we were heading down Hard Lane, home of Kiveton Park AFC.

View from a stand...of sorts
I would suspect that there aren't many grounds in the Central Midlands League that don't have a problem with vandals.  Certainly the three clubs we visited in October (Bentley Colliery, South Normanton and Kiveton) had all previously told us of their ongoing struggles.  But within this trio, Kiveton's challenge would appear to be the stiffest.
Avid readers of this blog (as if?!) will already know I enjoyed last season's trip to the aptly named Hard Lane immensely.  You will also know how much I respect any club that has to fight as hard as they do to keep things going.
A measure of how tough the current Kivo committee are finding things was immediately evident when Pistol Pete brought the Riding School Express to a halt at the ground just over an hour before kick-off.  The first sight to confront us was one of several sheets of anti-vandal spike-topped steel fencing laying in a pile awaiting erection.  After years of trying every other method to beat the mindless idiots intent on destroying what still remains of a once proud football ground, it had come to this.
In the eight months since our last visit, the dugouts have disappeared (demolished before they fell down according to their chairman), the toilets remain far from inviting and the amount of rubbish strewn around the whole site is enough to almost warrant an episode of Grimebusters.  It's certainly a far cry from the other Lane visited the previous week.  The problems that Kiveton are currently experiencing go some way to putting ours into context. But personnel-wise they remain one of the most hospitable clubs in the competition.
And thankfully, on the field this was to be a day when things just about went without a hitch.

Is it?
It is you know!
Andy Martin volleyed us into a 14th minute lead which we held up to half-time - though not without an alarm or two!
"Caveman" Fisk came to the rescue with one excellent diving block, Chaz saved a couple, they missed a couple and when they did get the ball in the net it was thanks to the use of a hand.
Meanwhile, on the counter Farny passed up the two best opportuinties to extend our lead.  Still, any advantage at  half-time is welcome at the moment.

Farny gets it wrong again!
I couldn't be arsed to make the long walk across to the Tea Hut at half-time, opting instead to await news from Low Farm where I'd previously been informed the Reserves had come from two down to lead 4-3 with "about ten minutes to go".  No news had been received since and it was surely all over.  Was that a good sign?  I took the plunge and dialled the number marked "Bo Mob".
Those familiar Gillingham-edged tones answered: "'Ellow".  There then followed the sort of conversation that could have formed part of any sketch by "legendary" Hull comedian Norman Collier.  I eventually ended the conversation not knowing whether we'd won 4-3 or drawn four all...or was it five apiece?!


Unfortunately, thanks to Man Mountain's grandad's somewhat clearer phone reception, there was no doubting the score from the KC where Pompey - supposedly on the road to immediate winding-up - were a goal to the good courtesy of Dave Nugent.  And as we restarted at Hard Lane, news filtered through of a second.  There' was going to be an even darker mood among the Tiger faithful than there was on Tuesday.
Back in our game we began positively and Farny passed up his third - and clearest - chance following fine work by Andy M.  We hoped it wouldn't prove crucial.
Clarification was finally received that the Stiffs had drawn 5-5 at The Farm, while the Casuals had bowed out of the league cup on pens following an epic tie against a team a division higher.  Glorious failure is the way we do things down the old East End of Holderness!

One Man & His Dog watch us go close again
Midway through the half Mack began making changes.  The away contingent (numbering 11 among a crowd of 18) were keenly awaiting Frosty's introduction given that he'd spent most of the game strapping adhesive bandage to his socks ("there's no tape") and across the top of his shirt, the latter spelling his name.  By now his rather inebriated state was an open secret!
In the event he was called up second, replacing Chav on 69mins.  Two minutes later he left the full-back for dead as he broke down the right wing.  There was only one option for the defender.  While the foul may or may not have occurred in or outside the box, the defender must have known the risk.  Penalty.
"F____g hell" exclaimed regular spot-taker Chav to his manager, "Why couldn't you have left me on for five more minutes?"
"Cos you wouldn't have won us that penalty" came the latter's quickfire response.
In Havercroft's absence up stepped Mozzer.  Goalkeeper Parker made things easy for him by virtually walking to his right hand post as Moz ran up to drill the ball in the opposite direction.  Two-nil and worse to follow for the hosts as centre half Rob Jones saw red for his continued protests.

Two Nil
To the hosts' credit they gave it a real go for the last twenty and Green hit the post when it really was easier to score.
On the counter Thommo should have put things beyond doubt but no matter; for the first time in four weeks we'd tasted victory.
Mozzer's pre-match pledge had been to streak round the Services on the way home should we win.  So that was something to look forward to then?  Not.
One of the highlights of the previous season's visit to Kiveton had been the cask ales on offer in the Jubilee Club in nearby Wales.  Apparently this place is no longer open and the new post-match retreat was the Lamp & Pony Bar situated inside the nearby  impressive looking Kiveton Park & Wales Village Hall.
Although the ales on offer were not of the "real" variety, the fodder was very tasty indeed, while on the telly we could watch Sheffield United getting beat by a team for who a Yorkshire derby actually meant something!
Several Strongbow were sunk on another excellent trip home with Mozzer downgrading his pledge to one of parading around the foyer of Doncaster North Services with a large "Caution - Cleaning In Progress" sign over his head, much to the amusement of the various bystanders, which included a dozen Grimsby Town fans on their way back from their FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round tie at Tamworth.
Who said anything about "Black October?"

So, it was a first attempt alright?

Half term.  Two words that send mothers across the country into fits of panic.  How many times would I hear the term, "It's easier going to work" over the next few days?  Plenty.
I'd arranged to do my bit by agreeing to take Friday off, thus ensuring we didn't have to rely on the grandparents for more than one of Mrs Slush's two days at work.
To achieve this meant I had to put in extra hours for the first four days, which at least kept me out of the house - not a bad move as every day appeared to throw up another reason for my better half to issue the aforementioned statement!
Unfortunately, my amusement at her "predicament" was balanced by a turn for the worse on the football front.  Sunday brought a text from our Tom Daley-lookalike Jamie C saying that owing to increased university commitments he would no longer be available for selection.  On Monday Farny fell off a ladder, breaking his hand.  With Frosty booked on DC's Stag Do at the weekend, we were already three down from Saturday's winning squad as we prepared to host Thoresby.
Due to Mack and son Cameron going away for half-term, it fell to Asst-Mgr Ian and me to try and make some light of the gloom.  And there was positive news.  Former skipper and asst-mgr Nige made himself available for the first time this season, Gav came out of retirement and Jim was persuaded to help out again.  Suddenly we had another decent-looking squad on board to host another of the league's inconsistent opponents.
With the above squad selection completed by Thursday, I awoke on Friday in good spirits ahead of my day with the kids.  Task one was pumpkin cutting.  Not as simple as it looks is it?  Indeed, despite the aid of a template, I took so long hacking away that the Slushettes got bored and disappeared into the play room to watch Black Beauty.  Charming.
Still, I was quite pleased with my first efforts at getting into the Halloween spirit (if there is such a thing).  I even tried my hand at pumpkin soup as a starter to Friday's tea and although it wasn't a roaring success I was quite pleased with how the day had gone. 
Orange is the most popular mobile phone provider in Easington as it's the only one that guarantees a signal.  Or rather it was prior to their merger with T-Mobile.  Now the signal is shite.  And so it was only when I was outside putting some rubbish in the bin that I received a text message sent at eleven that morning telling me that due to injury Jim wouldn't now be available for tomorrow.  Here we go again...
As it happened Mack was quite happy to name himself third sub although we did make an elventh hour attempt to get young Sam back in the frame.  To no avail.  Still, buoyed by the previous week's win and with popular faces Nige and Gav back on board, there was a mood of optimism in the camp as we approached our last home 3pm kick-off of 2010.

Having skipped through both last season's encounters with Thoresby Colliery Welfare, I'm overdue in providing a bit of background on them (courtesy of the notes sent for our match programme!).
The Club was formed in 1930, spending its early years  playing on a farmer's field in the small Nottinghamshire village of Edwinstowe before moving to their present home at Fourth Avenue, built for them by the Bolsover Coal Company, the owners of the local colliery.
They would appear to have spent much of their formative time in the Notts Alliance League, winning the Nottinghamshire Junior Cup in 1952/53 and the Notts Aliance Senior League Cup in the late 70s.  In 1980/81 they finished runners-up to Rainworth Miners Welfare in the League, missing out on the title by a solitary point.  Rainworth also prevented them from gaining consolation in the Nottinghamshire Senior Cup a solitary goal.
A period of decline saw the club relegated to Division 1 in 1999 and it was at this time that the Committee decided the best way forward was to apply for the Central Midlands League.  They were accepted in time for the 2001/02 season.  They have remained in the Premier Division ever since, a 6th place finish in 2007/08 their best to date.
Our opponents made good time up from Nottinghamshire and most were already parked up before I arrived at the ground.  It was a lovely bright, autumnal day, in direct contrast to the soggy afternoon which accompanied last season's corresponding fixture.
My main concern pre-match was that while the referee and one assistant had travelled together up from the Mansfield area, the other assistant was making his own way across the River from Scunthorpe.  "Gonna cost us a bob or two today" I thought.  I'd be proved right.
Club Sec. Judy had once again done us proud with her pre-match hospitality. I've got to say I am yet to find a ground in the CML - or any other league at  this level for that matter - where such a veritable feast of "nibbles" is laid on beforehand for visiting match and club officials.  And all home-made...well almost!
Suitably fed, watered and having enjoyed some conviviality with our opponents it was time for the action to begin on this our skipper's 350th first team appearance (and his 420th at all levels of the club) - a proud day.  For now.

Moz scores...

And it's captured by two photographers

Although we'd kicked off at three o'clock it was actually 3.45pm before we got started.  A pretty poor first half display had looked likely to yield half-time parity at 0-0 before Chav cut in from the left, beat his man to the byline and laid a goal on a plate for Mozzer.  Somehow we were one up.
The visitors could have felt somewhat aggreived to be behind.  But they couldn't have had many qualms had we then extended our lead afterwards.

No push there?

Man Mountain's in...

He must score...

And does...but look at the liner

Meanwhile from Burt's lens, Fitzy thinks he's been fouled...

Ref looks right as everyone goes up...

And it ain't gonna stand...oh, hello Colin!

Thommo should have done better when put one-on-one with the keeper and Man Mountain had the ball in the net only to be denied by a controversial late flag from the assistant, apparently for a foul by Fitzy on keeper Smith.
Mozzer headed over at a corner and we were suitably on top...or seemingly so.  Then it all went Pete Tong.
The aforementioned King had done little of note for eighty minutes aside from one glorious piece of trickery inside the box that created space for him to then smash a shot against the underside of Chaz's crossbar.  We'd survived that.  We wouldn't with ten to go.
When the striker raced into the box, pursued by Blounty as Chaz came racing out., the alarm bells were ringing.  Trouble here if Chaz timed it wrong.  He did - or so it seemed - as King went sprawling.  Penalty. 1-1.

Oooooooooooooooh, Mozzer!

Chaz protested that he'd actually made contact with Blounty but in truth, although King went down easily, there was always the likelihood of him doing so given any form of contact - real or imagined.
Some of the lads were not best pleased with the blonde frontman, especially as he threw himself to the deck again a few minutes later under pressure from the returning Nige.  This time referee Hall deemed his theatrics worthy of a yellow.
Moments later another race between Chaz and King resulted in the striker catching the keeper late - second yellow and off.
Three minutes left.  Was there a sting in the tail? Could we snatch it?  Er, yes there was and no we couldn't.

It's as if he knew!

You remember me telling you earlier about AG's milestone appearance?  Well, with just ninety seconds remaining, the skipper probably wished he could have been anywhere else than on the pitch as he was caught in possession from Chaz's short goal-kick and  Matt Worthington pounced to lash the ball in off the post from 25 yards.  Cue wild excitement among the visitors (King even proclaiming "that's worth paying a fine for" - I suspect he'll change his mind when it comes to it) and desloation for the skipper who lay prostrate with his head in his hands.
We restarted.  The final whistle blew. Defeat number five for the season was confirmed.

What every self-respecting couple in Easington are wearing this Halloween

A frsutrating day was completed with news of a first league defeat for the Casuals at bottom club Brandesburton and then a power cut that hit the village at just after 9pm, causing abandonment of the Halloween Dance in the Community Hall, arranged by the Recreation & Sports Association (of which I am a member) and which looked to have pulled a decent crowd in.  News of Kevin Kilbane's equaliser at Oakwell hardly constituted crumbs of comfort.

The Slushettes...but which one's witch?!

The following day brought a welcome respite from football troubles - if not any restoration of power until mid-afternoon - as we decamped to the Rutters' for a Halloween Party.  Nige had done us proud with a top-drawer selection of bottled ales including a superb Wonkey Donkey from Keighley's Goose Eye Brewery and some Batemans Triple XB.
And so, with the First of November it was time to say "Bye bye Black October" least for another year!
As for this post, I shall bid you farewell with some Halloween music from my younger years (can't imagine these ever getting played at a school disco)...


Thanks to Colin Brammer & Burt Graham for the pics

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