Saturday, 12 March 2011

Mountain high

Saturday 12th March - AFC Hucknall (home) Lost 3-4

Reserves manager Kevin Appleyard set off for a well-deserved family break at Center Parcs shortly after the Forum debacle, allowing him to cool down and me to do some digging as to whether there was now a serious rift in our ranks.
After a Monday spent talking to as many of the central characters as I could, plus liaising with both the Club Chairman and Vice-Chair, I arranged a Development Group Meeting for the following week.  We may have to get through the forthcoming weekend on a wing and a prayer but at least something was now set in place to get round the table and resolve certain matters.
That sorted, I now had the prospect of City v Burnley on Tuesday to provide a welcome, albeit brief, distraction.  Hmm, there's a saying "you should never go back" in football and, as described previously, my return to the East Stand served only to reinforce it!

This may constitute sexual assault in some parts?
Checking the late night Twitter traffic on my return home from the KC, one result in particular caught my eye.  This being Bridlington Town's 5-0 thrashing of local rivals (& ground tenants) Scarborough Athletic in the NCEL Premier Division.  Wow!
I have a lot of time for 'The Seasiders', born mainly out of some tremendous past encounters with them, including a particularly memorable East Riding County FA Senior Cup semi-final at Dene Park back in 2002.  Town eventually beat us 2-1 in "Golden Goal" extra-time but only after we'd taken the lead, played almost half the game with ten men and kept them out almost entirely thanks to what local author Craig Ellyard described in his Now Then! book (on East Yorkshire football) as "the sort of game which only ever happens in the more far fetched comic books" from "incredible" Kevin Appleyard!
On a personal front my current links with Brid also extend to regular communication with Town's website/programme guru Dom Taylor (whose roots are down the old East End of Holderness) and Club Chairman (indeed "Saviour") Pete Smurthwaite, with who I share membership of the ER County League Management Committee and whose regular guest presenter appearances on BBC Radio Humberside's nightly Sports Talk programme are always worth a listen.
The Seasiders won the Premier Division title last term but declined promotion on financial grounds.  The win over 'Boro left them handily placed to challenge for the championship again.  I for one hope they can do it.

Colin (above) & Burt (below) catch this better than Chaz
As we approached the weekend - and my 45th birthday - my optimism about things was returning.
Jeremy Vine was playing "The Closest Thing To Heaven" by The Kane Gang  on the radio, the sun was shining and I had the first instalment of Andrew Davies' new adaptation of South Riding to catch up on from the weekend.
This latest version of Winifred Holtby's classic story was filmed on location in various areas not too far from home, in particular Sunk Island.  And although panned by some critics, I found it extremely watchable - and not only because I'd been tipped off to look out for former Hull City fanzine-meister and current Eastenders programme designer Andy Medcalf's younger brother popping up as an extra!
I was even more delighted to find the 1974 ITV version is now available on DVD.  This, if I recall correctly, was filmed even closer to home with the shacks that ran adjacent to the Withernsea-Holmpton road near the Hollym turn-off playing a prominent part.  I'll put it on my "Wish For" list...
Eve-of-match day brought with it the usual late panic over numbers, with returning Reserves boss Kev stating he'd just about cobbled enough men together to face Park Athletic on the 3G at South Hunsley without having to dip into Maccer's Casuals ranks as they looked to continue their promotion push at nearby Withernsea.
I passed the day listening to yet another Cricket World Cup match involving "The Entertainers" - or England as they're officially known.  The latest instalment of their topsy-turvy campaign saw them snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Bangladesh.  They had now lost to two of the supposed minnows in the competition, survived a scare against Holland, beaten the choking Safas and tied against favourites India.  A win over West Indies would now be required next week if they were to have any hope of reaching the quarter-finals.

AFC Hucknall were the visitors to Low Farm on a match day that dawned quite bright.  I know because I was up and into work early to copy off that day's match programme.
Our visitors have somewhat gone off the boil following a blistering start to life in the CML.  Given the history of "Reserve" teams in the Humber Premier League this is perhaps not so surprising.  Players not getting a sniff of first team action decide to head off elsewhere and the "Reserves" (my use of speech marks intentional due to our opponents' name not actually immediately identifying them as the second-string of Evo-Stik League outfit Hucknall Town) suffer as a consequence.
A post-match conversation with Hucknall boss Danny Pheasant pretty much endorsed this view.  His team sheet for the game bore just one name from the team we'd beaten so memorably at Watnall Road back in August.  Several players had been promoted to a struggling first eleven, while many others had opted for other locally based semi-pro clubs.  Mind you, on this evidence, the Nottinghamshire side are building themselves another handy looking squad.
Lest we forget
The afternoon didn't begin too well when Hucknall arrived in their first choice colours of yellow and black; this despite my confirmation earlier in the week that they would come in all-white, cuh!  Thankfully, Chairman (& "Jack of all trades") Doug was on hand to race away from his primary task of fixing the referee's shower to pick up our second choice away strip.  And so the game could begin...though not before we'd observed a minute's silence in memory of one-time club record goalscorer Melvin Douglas and fellow former player Mike "Raggy" Hudson.  Both were definite "characters" during their time with the Club and both departed this earth at a tragically young age, on 9th March 1991 and 3rd March 1997, respectively.  We try to ensure they're never forgotten (a task enhanced by the Memorial Benches to both players now in situ at Low Farm)  and the twentieth anniversary of Melv's departure, in particular, demanded to be marked.
Unfortunately, most of our lads were seemingly still observing the silence when Charlie was forced into a blinding save inside the opening minute.  It set the tone for another sluggish start, similar to that made in recent home games against Bentley and Kiveton.  And as with the first of those, we were punished for it.
As someone who tried - and usually failed - to combine Friday night drinking with playing football the following afternoon, I have some sympathy for those among the current ranks who seem unable to defy temptation at the end of a working week.
However, for some - like right back Brett - this game cruelly exposed the error of his ways.  A product of the Under 15/16 team, from which several of our current senior squad have emerged, Brett has done really well since first forcing his way into the First Eleven.  Indeed, against Kiveton he'd been little short of immense in parts.  Today, however, he would have a shocker.
His wayward defensive header set up Hucknall's Zach Bartlett for the first of the Hucknall striker's hat-trick on 22 minutes.  Then poor marking at the front stick allowed a corner to be flicked on for Bartlett to convert his second just three minutes later.  And had Matt Wiklo's volley moments later being slightly better placed, the game would have been lost before the half-hour mark.
"Brettles" wasn't alone in having a nightmare first half.  As a team, defensively we were all over the place.  AG and Blounty were doing their best "Chuckle Brothers" routine in the middle, while Wiklo was giving Kempy and Bezza all sorts of problems down our left.

Mountain shoots...

...Mountain scores
Then, with half-time a few minutes away and most of the 48-strong crowd perhaps releived that we were only two down, out of the blue (literally!) we scored.  Blounty's pass finding Man Mountain who finished expertly.
A minute later Hucknall keeper Jack Harvey had to move smartly to preserve his team's lead into the break.  Second best for 40 minutes and we could still have come off at two apiece.  Football, eh, it's a funny old game.
Unfortunately, a repeat of our sluggish start in the second half quickly allowed Bartlett to complete his hat-trick and Hucknall to restore their two-goal cushion.  We were in dire need of some inspiration.
It came on the hour mark with the double-introduction of Frosty and Farny.  Suddenly there was a spring in the step and some bite in the challenge.

Up and over for Mountain's second
On 68mins Bezza released Man Mountain who again finished like a 20-goal striker.  2-3, game back on.
And ten minutes from time the escape looked complete when an excellent move down the right saw Frosty cross for Man Mountain to complete a stunning treble of his own.  3-3, and marked by a contender for "Goal Celebration of the Day"!

Three peaks!
We would now surely go on and win it.  Hucknall heads were down, we were on the front foot.  But, no, Bezza got caught in possession left side of midfield, a quick counter-attack, cross to the far post and Hucknall new boy Theo Ganderson planted a thumping header into the top corner.  No chance for Charlie.  And no more hope for us.  The final five minutes would see the visitors come closer to netting a fifth than we would to levelling again.
There's little consolation to be gleaned from defeats like this but en route to the Granby I tried to take what I could from the manner of our second half fightback.  But that only left me even more frustrated about our first half performance.  Indeed, the erratic nature of the overall display probably summed up our current season perfectly.
Saturday night's web updates were performed with less enthusiasm than usual - despite the positive reaction to the celebration pic and some accompanying audio quality from latest coolsters Frankie & The Heartstrings and fellow beat combo The Courteeners - but at least I had one thing to console myself with as I headed off up to bed; tomorrow was my birthday.  What's more, it was also "Big Willie Day"...

NOTE: Within hours of first appearing, the photograph at the top of this piece, showing Frosty lying on his back to illustrate the "quality of the balls I keep deliverin' to Owen" (get it?), had been distributed to nearly 1,500 people.  Ah, the powers of Twitter! 

Photos courtesy of Colin Brammer & Burt Graham

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