Thursday, 28 April 2011

Phoenix Uprisings

Tuesday 12th April - Easington Utd Reserves 5 Priory Athletic3
Saturday 16th April - Phoenix FC (home)Drew 1-1

I didn't take the South Normanton defeat very well.  And after a few days dwelling on some of the things that had occurred during the afternoon, I vented my spleen in the following week's programme notes, for the game against Phoenix...
Frustration is certainly a word that sums up the current mood among those involved with our management.
Our recent performances have left Dave almost speechless.  To go from the high of the Yorkshire Main result to the low of Thorne and then last week’s below-par display against South Normanton almost defies any worthwhile analysis.
It’s therefore almost a blessing for Mack that the pressures of a new day job have prevented him from being able to pen his notes this weekend.  And with assistant Ian also snowed under with work commitments, it’s left to me to try and put across some thoughts on the current situation.
Having witnessed the debacle at Thorne Colliery first-hand, like everyone else I expected some sort of reaction last week; which is why I found the performance against South Normanton extremely frustrating.
On the face of it, 3-0 is an emphatic scoreline and probably underlines the visitors’ superiority on the day.  However, the fact that – individually and collectively - we didn’t help our cause leaves me really disappointed.
By this I don’t just mean the habit we’ve developed of conceding goals in batches.  This in itself is worrying enough but I think the current problems run much deeper than simple mistakes on the pitch.  Many are becoming apparent even before a ball has been kicked.
As opponents, South Normanton were no better than Yorkshire Main.  But whereas everybody was really “up” for the latter game, I got the feeling last week that there was a certain “end of season air” about the place.  Perhaps inspired by the Thorne defeat, I don’t know.  But I do know that if the same attitude is adopted today and at Hutton Cranswick on Wednesday, we’ll be on the end of further defeats.
At our level of football, the Committee and Management cannot govern what players do in their private lives.  We rely on their own self-discipline to ensure they arrive on match days in the best frame, physically and mentally, to play football.  It’s been apparent for some time that this is not happening.
Add the fact that we are no longer able to hold regular training sessions and it’s easy to see why we are now slipping below the standards we set ourselves at the end of last season.
Confirmation of our status at Step 7 for 2011/12 means only four clubs in the East Riding are now able to offer a higher level of football than is available at Low Farm.  All are semi-professional, with three of them representing sizeable urban areas.
For a village the size of Easington to have progressed to this status is testament to the hard work of a significant number of people over several years.  Many of those who have put this work in did so in the knowledge that they wouldn’t directly benefit from it.  And this is why it galls me to see the current “lax” attitude being adopted by some of those who will get a chance to test themselves against quality opponents week-in, week-out.
It’s also disappointing for our loyal supporters, especially that hardy band who follow us across the “Central Midlands” region. 
Away from match day, the fact that we were forced to give up one of the best training facilities in the area due simply to not being able to justify the cost also still rankles me and again prompts the question: do the players at this club really have the same appetite as the Committee to continue taking things forward?
The win over Yorkshire Main and that at Hucknall earlier this season would suggest they do; the attitude on show at Thorne, again last week and in truth on several other occasions this season tells a very different story. 
So it’s time for the players to make up their minds as to where they want to ply their trade on a Saturday afternoon.  Do they want to continue to try and better themselves or are they content to drop back into the Saturday afternoon equivalent of “pub football”?  These are the questions I’ll be asking of them today.
Make no mistake about it; we have let ourselves down this season and especially in recent weeks – but we still have time to rectify the situation by finishing strongly, beginning here today.
You know when the minute something appears in print and you immediately wish you hadn't said it?  Well, this was one of those moments.  But only for a split-second.  And after re-reading my own words a couple of times, I felt satisfied that if nothing else, I'd got a load off my chest.
Plus the fact that, given I'd had these typed and printed up early in the week, I had a few days in which to reconsider any points where I felt I may have stepped a little too far over the mark before the players themselves read them.

Away from events at Low Farm, good wins for City (at Watford), Rovers (over the Whinos) and an opening-match success for Yorkshire in the County Championship had ensured all was far from doom and gloom in my own "world of sport".  But of course, our First Team result shapes my weekend...
Another thing dominating the weekend was the injury sustained by the Younger Slushette at her sister's birthday party on the Saturday night.  This resulted in a trip to A & E at Hull Royal and a subsequent appointment at the Fracture Clinic!  Indirectly it  also allowed the Elder Slushette a "sleepover" at one of her at least somebody was happy about things!
Monday night brought a meeting of the Easington Recreation & Sports Association, the organisation set up back in the early-90s to "secure and develop a piece of land for the purposes of sport & recreation in the village".
I was on the original Committee but stood down after a difference of opinion with the then Chairman.  I've been back on it, so to speak, for two years now (since the aforementioned Chairman himself resigned).  During my absence, a piece of land was secured (i.e. bought) but trying to develop it has proved difficult given the scale of the plans proposed and the cost these entail.
But this meeting promised a sort of "rebirth" for the ERSA, with several budding new members and a proposal to in effect scale down the existing plans to something more attainable.  Wearing my Football Club hat alongside my ERSA one, I could see nothing but benefits from the acceptance of such proposals and as such I went home that night a contented soul.

Muck or Nettleship
Tuesday was H. E. Dean Cup night again, with Division 4 side Priory Athletic the  3rd Round visitors to the Farm.
I arrived just in time to see the Stiffs take the lead - very much against the run of play - courtesy of Luke Nettleship's first goal for the club; a close-range volley after the keeper could only palm Stumo's header into his path.
Belying their lowly status, however, Priory were knocking the ball about confidently and they turned the game completely on its head...albeit aided by a couple of "clangers" from keeper Duggie!
By the break, order had been restored; Stumo heading home as did Lewis Green, although he was helped in no small part by a complete misjudgment from the Priory netminder.

The second half brought further goals for Stu and Frosty, with the visitors netting a third near the end - reward for their never-say-die spirit and no shortage of footballing ability.
A bonus on the night was the reappearance at Low Farm of Hutchie, back from  University.  Sadly, it appears it was only for one game before he departed on an overseas jolly - it's tough being a student these days!

A Hutch in the hutch
"Anymore messing around and you won't play in the quarters..."
With Club Sec Judy away for a couple of days (and taking in Bradford Park Avenue v Hucknall Town while at it!), it was left to the Dynamic Duo of Chairman Doug and Vice-Chair Mickey Bo to run the Tea Hut.  Cue plenty of abuse from the Farm Faithful and no shortage of "mickey-taking" from their fellow Committee members.  Still, despite at times looking like Chard & Bromhead in Zulu, overall they coped admirably and - if pushed to admit it - I think they probably enjoyed themselves!

No Feeding Please
The evening's feel-good factor was maintained on getting home to catch commentary of City's deserved draw at The Liberty Stadium.  "We are Hull City, we don't lose away!"  And had Robbie Koren shown just a little more composure in front of goal we could have even been celebrating a cracking win.  Still, the Play-offs remain in reach...
With Saturday's match programme safely put to bed, I tried to use the latter end of the week to catch up on this blog.  Along the way, my trawling of the net came up with a couple of real gems.
For a start the Retro To Go site was offering 1980s Adidas Samoa trainers at a penny shy of £57!  Jeez, I'm still wearing a pair I bought for less than half that some ten years ago...hip ahead of my time!  
And staying with the Eighties, I also stumbled upon this musical gem from the early part of that era.  Although the actual quality is sadly lacking, it served to immediately transport me back to the Friday rock 'n' roll nights at Hull's Goodfellowship Inn.  I was "only sixteen" when I first ventured through the doors - allowed in by special permission of the landlord - and can still remember the sight that confronted me.  Aside from the handful of middle-aged Teds, the vast majority of the 200-odd present were dressed straight out of a US High School Hop, all flat tops, peg pants and cat chains.
Wild nights at The Goodfellowship
Two gigs in particular stand out, The Blue Cats (whose 'Wild Night' was "Sounds Single of the Week" in 1981!) and The Jets (whose 'Love Makes The World Go Round 'received an airing on Q The 80s not so long back).  However, although they never played there, the reason why it's The Meteors footage that brings back memories of such times is on account of a character called "Gypsy Steve".  It's hard to describe how he looked - apart from pointing to the audience in this 1981 promo for "Graveyard Stomp" - but "manic" is about the nearest one-word summation!  I decided to adopt the same look...which probably accounts for my lack of success with the ladies for a large chunk of that time.  Ah, but they were great days all the same.
For much of Thursday it appeared that "great days" were also back on the agenda for Yorkshire County Cricket Club as they reduced Durham to 134-6 on day one of their latest County Championship match.  Unfortunately my "tweet" predicting a wagging of the visitors' tail was to prove somewhat prophetic; worse still, it would be followed by a Yorkshire collapse the following day.

My first "local"
As wickets continued to fall at Headingley, I decided to go and introduce myself to the new "Mine Hosts" at The White Horse (or "The Oss" as its known locally) on the Friday lunchtime.  I did so and was delighted to be informed that the new landlord "likes his ales".  Hand-pulled Black Sheep and Abbot's had me excited about the future.
Not sure about the short-term future for Hull KR though.  Unforced errors killed them in a 16-28 home defeat at the hands of Wigan and prompted several callers to Humberside demanding Coach Justin Morgan's resignation.  Cocks.
Mind you, I did amuse myself with the thought that defeat at home to Rotherham based strugglers Phoenix on Saturday afternoon might prompt similar calls for regime change from the Farm Faithful!
Knowing Mack as I do, it's in the knowledge that he too will be far from happy with current goings-on at first team level.  As such he'd asked the players to be there half-an-hour earlier for a pre-match "meeting".
Unwittingly I somewhat hijacked this to explain the views I'd outlined in the programme.  This seemed to knock Mack off his stride but he too then proceeded to get the message across that an improvement in all departments was needed.
Well, he certainly got that.  But he didn't get the three points.  And for this, Phoenix could thank "third choice" keeper James Wood who produced a string of fine saves.
The visitors were also helped by some good fortune and some poor Easington finishing.  Thankfully, Blounty came up with a goal on the stroke of half-time to cancel out Steven Parry's opener.

Wood proves a firm barrier...
...along with his defenders

But try as we might after the break - and especially in the last twenty minutes when we really did hammer at the Phoenix door - no winning goal was forthcoming.  "Frustration at the Farm" just about summed it up perfectly.  Still, Hull City won... 

Thanks to Burt Graham for (most of) the photography

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