Thursday, 3 February 2011

Back on the bus!

Saturday 15th January - FC 05 Bilsthorpe (away) 
Drew 2-2

It had been twelve long weeks since I'd last stood at the corner of Westfield Close and Hull Road, awaiting the customary late arrival of the "Riding School Express". 
And as said vehicle, complete with  Pistol Pete & Shotgun Burt's beaming faces, came looming large into view just past 10.35am (official departure time was 10.30am of course) I admit to a feeling similar to that experienced when meeting up with a long lost friend.
That Burt was beaming at all was testament to the character of the man given that he'd lost his dad only the day before.  Tom Graham, "transport pioneer", former Chairman of Easington Parish Council, indeed one-time Mayor of the old Holderness Borough Council and, prior to his move to a residential home in Withernsea, the oldest living resident of Easington, had passed away peacefully at the age of 94.
But there was to be nothing overtly maudlin going on today.  The question was asked, "How are you?"
The answer given, "Not as rough as last night thanks".
And with that, the hip-flask was opened, the first gulps of some fine 2009 Vintage Damson Gin were taken (not by The Pistol I hasten to add) and no more needed saying on the subject.
I quickly changed the topic of conversation.
"D'you have a good Christmas Pete?"
"Well, Christmas at our house was for the two hours in the afternoon that I was out sorting the 'osses out.  It was all laughter and frivolity when I left and as soon as I got back everybody was bloody miserable again."
"Right".  It was reassuring to find that the 2011 version of The Pistol is set to be just as entertaining as its 2010 predecessor.
Fully laden with passengers following the various pick-up points through Hull, we were on our way down the M18 just after midday and it was also good to see that despite a lengthy lay-off, The Pistol's self-effacing humour and consideration for fellow road-users weren't the only remaining consistencies from pre-Christmas:
1) Mozzer's kitbag is still the most unfeasibly large for such a confined space
2) Brett's arse still stinks
3) Charlie still leaves himself open to ridicule almost every time he opens his mouth.

Like a bowling green
Our destination, Eakring Road in Bilsthorpe is home to one of the finest pitches in the Central Midlands League Premier Division.  Indeed it may be better than many at the level above.  Hence I had few doubts about the game going ahead, despite the wet weather during the previous week that had put paid to both games scheduled for Low Farm that afternoon.
Eakring Road was also scene to one of our worst away performances of 2009/10 and hosts FC 05 (the Bilsthorpe bit having been added over the summer in order to forge a local identity) have proved something of a bogey team already in our short CML history.  Their victory on their own patch has been accompanied by two 1-1 draws up at the Farm.  So, in short, we owed them.
The news about the North/South set-up for 2010/11 has in effect made this season's league placings somewhat academic in terms of achieving promotion.  But such thoughts don't wash with Mack who was as keen as ever to get things back on track following the loss of points due to the pre-Christmas resignations of Moorlands and FC Brimington.
His plans weren't helped by Blounty finally starting the 3-match suspension imposed back in November and Fitzy's absence due to further East Riding County Juniors rep duty.  Thus we lined up with a new-look central defensive duo of Smalls and AG, with the returning Farny, Frosty and assistant-boss Mr T comprising the bench.
Affable host manager Neil Whitten ensured that on arrival those of us accompanying the team were treated to a welcome hot drink in the tidy pavilion that was obviously designed more with the ground's summer creekit activities in mind.

Eh, it's more than fecking Arsenal won last year!
We'd barely sat down before bounding through the door, like a big bundle of post-Christmas cheer (!) came one Rob Hornby. 
Within minutes the CML Registrar was in full swing, holding court over us, our hosts and a gaggle of groundhoppers, one of whom was greeted by Rob's booming welcome: "Fucking 'ell it's Jesus!"
Unfortunately Rob was only gracing us with his presence briefly (no, honestly) before heading off to nearby Ollerton for a Supreme Division match.  The purpose of his visit was so we could return the CML Hospitality Award for Best Host Club at the Bonanza, the Tony Baugh Trophy.  I was sad to see it go...especially when noticing that Doug had only had "Easington" engraved on it, omitting the "United".  Grrr.

Take your eyes off Thommo playing with his balls and can you see who I can see?
Thought so. I'd recognise that green shirt anywhere. Still, at least the liner looks pleased Rob Hornby's turned up!
A strong wind blowing down-field greeted skipper Andy G as he led his troops out for their first run of 2011.  I had slight concerns as to how he would react following his grandad's passing the day before but needn't have worried.  As Smalls lost his footing inside the opening minute, allowing the home number 10 Steve Walker a seemingly clear run on goal, AG stepped in to avert the danger with a perfectly timed challenge.  Good man.
The howling wind, which appeared to get stronger as the game went on, made it quite apt that I'd chosen this game as the one to abandon pen & paper in favour of my new reporting toy - a Sony Walkman MP3 complete with "dictaphone".  Ooh, get me.
And the first entry thereon was quite momentous: "Fucking good job he got a foot in there. AG, I think, with a great challenge to deny their number ten following a Smalls slip. First minute. At least I think it was a Graham challenge. Burt?...Yeah, it was. But then his dad would say that".

Gav stoops to conquer...almost
As the game settled down, gradually we took control and eventually capped this dominance with a goal of some quality, scored by Andy Martin, on 36mins.
Other chances came and went, while the homesters offered little by way of reply.  Half-time arrived and I was feeling confident.

That'll be one-nil then
This confidence disappeared just five minutes into the second half.  Poor marking at a throw-in allowed Walker ample time to pick his spot past Chaz.  And despite the customary tantrum by our keeper in the immediate wake of the goal, it was general consensus that the assistant-referee had been correct in keeping his flag down.
We took a little time to regain our composure but we were back in front on 64mins, some stylish footwork and a quality finish from Andy M for his and our second.
And the game should really have been put to bed.  Mozzer and Gav both went close before Farny - on for his first run since October - passed up a glorious opening just nine minutes from time; rounding the keeper only to snatch at the shot and allowing the wind to take it off course.

Thommo's twanged it (in front of the Riding School Express)
Moments later, the hosts' number 33 (I jest ye not!) Wes O'Rourke disputed an offside call and in the debate that followed, informed referee Mark Eyre exactly what he thought.  A yellow was produced.  Old sage that I am, I turned to Burt and said, "You watch that bastard score the equaliser now!"
My fears should have been dispelled in the 88th minute when another Farny run into the box was halted illegally.  Penalty. Chav against Milnes...and the wind.
"This won't be easy", said Burt.
It was...for Milnes, who remained rooted to the spot as he watched Chav's spot kick take off on the wind and sail high, wide and not very handsome.
Suddenly that all-too-familiar feeling grabbed the pit of my stomach.  And not even Burt's finest Damson Gin was going to help alleviate the discomfort as the aforementioned O'Rourke stole into apply a fine far post finish in injury time.   2-2.
Moments later Mr Eyre blew for time.  Another dose of the Bilsthorpe Blues.
Post-match destination Bilsthorpe Welfare lived up to its previous season's reputation - fine food (curry, chilli, rice, chips) of which there was plenty but nothing by way of a decent cask.  An entertaining Man City-Wolves game on the big screen helped turn thoughts away from the frustration we were all feeling, while news of the Tigers' 2-0 win over Barnsley set us up nicely for the beer-fuelled return journey.
Ah, it was good to be back in the likes of Doncaster North Services with Mozzer up to his usual tricks and it was even better to be back on the 'Magic Roundabout' that is The Pistol's  customary wacky return into Hull.  In short, it was good to be back on the bus.

Possibly the worst pen Darren Milnes has ever faced

As I transcripted my voice recording the following morning in order to compile the report for the Holderness Gazette, I allowed myself a chuckle when I came to my closing comments on the game:  
"Last minute and a fucking equaliser from the bastard who should've been sent off five minutes earlier. Number bastard thirty-three. Two all."
Somehow I don't think Sky will be coming-a-calling.  Having said that, they employ Dean Windass...

Thanks to Burt for the camera work

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