Friday, 9 September 2011

A busmans (Bank) Holiday

Saturday 27th August
CML North
Glapwell 1 Easington United 1
Monday 29th August
CML North
Kinsley Boys 1 Easington United 1

When you've just about survived a hectic pre-season of meetings, training sessions and matches the one thing you hope for is that the fixture schedule is kind to you once the "serious stuff" gets underway.  Two away games over the Bank Holiday weekend is NOT what was required for peace and harmony in the Slush family household.
To compound things, The Pistol's usually reliable Riding School Express was off the road, we had a distinct lack of willing drivers and, even more worryingly, for the second of the two games we were also faced with a chronic player shortage!
But we came through it all unscathed.  I think.

Our first destination was Glapwell, the Derbyshire village of some 1,500 residents situated between Chesterfield and Mansfield.
It’s a place I’ve visited previously in order to attend Central Midlands League general meetings, held in the local Community Centre, also home to Glapwell Parish Council – more of which later.
Up until the end of last season, the local football club were proud members of the Northern Premier League.  Not anymore.
According to the club website, football in the village originally came on the back of the local colliery.  When this closed in 1974, the community had to wait until 1985 for its first taste of the game at a senior level, with the formation of Glapwell FC, thanks largely to the “infectious ambition of local businessman Roger Caton and his wife Ellen”.
Success, first in the now-defunct Sutton & Skegby League then the Central Midlands League eventually brought promotion to the Northern Counties East League in 1996/97.
The Derbyshire CFA Senior Cup was lifted in 1997/98 and was followed two years later by promotion to the NCEL Premier Division.  Glapwell finished runners-up to Goole and were also beaten in the final of the NCEL Cup.

"Dear Mrs Slush, I know you think it cruel that I've abandoned you this Bank Holiday..."
Several ups and downs were experienced in the NCEL top-flight before 2007/08 yielded a runners-up spot and with it promotion to the Unibond (Northern Premier) League South.  The second season therein saw Glapwell narrowly miss out on promotion to the Premier Division when they were beaten 0-1 by Staffordshire club Chasetown in the Play-offs.
It was then that off-the-field events took precedence.  An agreement to share Mansfield Town’s Field Mill ground for 2010/11 was curtailed when the Stags were locked out of their home at Christmas.  The subsequent return to Hall Corner was not without its own problems, however, and at the end of the season, an ongoing dispute over the licence of the ground prompted Glapwell to resign from the League and drop down to Step 7 for the current campaign.
Despite the fallout from such a move – wholesale changes at management and playing level being just one of them – it was a fairly upbeat welcome that greeted our arrival on a sunny August afternoon.  Perhaps the hosts felt they were in for a repeat of their most recent outing against East Riding opposition - a 6-3 win over Hutton Cranswick in which the hosts had led 6-1 at the break!
Hopes of a smooth operation were hampered by warning from our hosts that the ground faced an 11am pitch inspection following heavy overnight rain.  Pitch inspection. In August. Someone was having a laugh...weren't they?
Thankfully, on arrival in Patrington I was informed by phone that all was now well and the game was on.
Considering we were without The Pistol (or perhaps because of this?!) our journey down was near flawless; our fleet of five cars arriving more or less in convoy a good hour and a half prior to kick-off.
"One day son, this will all be yours..."
Ushering the players out onto the pitch for a first feel (although only where the rather officious groundsman would allow them to go) I embarked on the task of laying out the day’s kit.  Today this involved unveiling the new First Team home shirts, as sponsored by Holderness Tyre Services Ltd following their success in the first ever Eastenders kit sponsorship raffle.
Unfortunately, Glapwell’s black and white home colours meant no airing for the full strip and instead I’d been forced to dip into the old green shorts and socks to avoid clashing.  It actually didn’t look a bad combo when put together.  Kit porn indeed.  
The kit sorted and team sheet written, the smell from the nearby barbecue hut determined where I headed next.  Two and a half squid bought me the tastiest of burgers, although there was a considerable feeling of guilt moments later when the very affable Glapwell club sec, Debbie, pointed Burt and me in the direction of the “Boardroom” where a decent hospitality spread had been provided for us.  Oops.  Still, we did our best to make inroads into it.
Unfortunately printer problems (what are they?!) meant no match programme although I was assured that one could follow on by post…er, I'm still waiting Debbie!?

Skip & Frosty (left) look on as Brett (right) perfects his "Thractor Dance"
Hall Corner is a neat little ground although without the sort of small main stand one would perhaps expect at this level.  All the amenities are situated at one end, with both sides offering a limited amount of covered seating and/or terracing.
The pitch itself seemed to slope down from both goalmouths towards the centre-circle, giving it an almost bowl-like air.
From casting my eye around the place just prior to kick-off, it was safe to assume that Glapwell versus Easington hadn’t caught the local public’s imagination.  A conversation at half-time with a member of the club’s backroom staff convinced me that Manchester United could have been at Hall Corner that afternoon and the club would still have struggled to pull a crowd in.  “Nobody in the village supports us” was the complaint; most of the twenty-strong crowd “come up from Bolsover or Shirebrook”.  A sad state of affairs indeed when there is this facility in which to watch a decent standard of football.
Nobody appeared too keen to go into details regarding the current impasse between the club and the Parish Council, owners of Hall Corner, but it’s clear that those involved with Glapwell FC feel very let down by those they feel should be supporting one of the village’s major assets.  Hmm, rings a few bells that.

I can't believe the pitch slopes that much!
As to the game itself, well, the major details are recorded here.  Suffice to say it was entertaining fare with Gav’s early goal being quickly cancelled out by Yogi Depasse’s equaliser following an awful Chav error.
Both sides went on to have good opportunities to win the game, especially when things really opened up after home defender Jamie Goodacre saw red for a foul on Frosty.  But it was Charlie who was called upon most in the dying moments.  At the final whistle the view was that this had been a good point, well earned.
Whilst appreciative of having a clubhouse within the confines of the ground, one usual drawback is that such places seldom stock real ale.  There was to be no pleasant surprise at Hall Corner.  No matter; I settled for a shandy before we bade our farewells at just before six o’clock.  I was back in Easington before eight.  Part one of the weekend had been a success.  

For you Mr Goodacre, the game is over...
My "Brownie Points" quota was bolstered by Sunday's participation in the annual East End Bogie Race, which formed part of the local Youth Club's Fun Day held to mark its 50th anniversary. 
I formed part of the "Grumpy Awd Men" quartet, along with two other Ezzie Committee men and "man for a day" Carol, wife of the Groundsman.  Age ensured we were never going to win the race but a first prize in the seniors best costumes category cushioned that particular blow.
As I returned home that evening, following an enjoyable session in The Neptune's beer garden (only Tetley Cask but on decent form) I picked up several messages from the Mack which suggested we would not be at full strength for the trip to Kinsley Boys.  Indeed, we'd be some way from it.  Not what I wanted to hear.

Having arranged the logistics around a lift to Hedon and a hop-in with the Chavmobile from there (accompanied by the Elder Slushette - a Bank Holiday bargaining tool) I arrived at the Embassy rendezous on Hedon Road to find I was the only one who had the faintest idea of where exactly we were heading.  A second worrying development to accompany that of lack of players...
I must confess I made a bit of a pig's ear of getting the four cars to the Wakefield Road venue but at least our 12 noon departure ensured we were still there in good time despite a tour of most of the amateur rugby league grounds of West Yorkshire!
Kinsley Village football club began life in 1962 in the Fitzwilliam U18s League.  Exactly when the name changed to Kinsley Boys isn't apparent from the otherwise informative history section of the club's website.  However, it is apparent that they are a club with a proud tradition and no shortage of honours.
An afternoon away with the Boys
Their ground is affectionately known as the "Cabbage Patch".  That term was not the first to spring to mind when the lads ventured onto a bone-hard, bobbly playing surface just before two o'clock that Monday afternoon.  This was going to be a game in which you couldn't trust your first touch (I had a career of those).
In Mack's absence, Nicho promoted youngster Jordan Hart from the Reserves to making his full debut.  He informed the teenager as part of a fairly rousing talk delivered shortly after arrival.  Lord only knows what his pre-match pep talk was going to be like if that was just his "quiet word before you get changed"!
But we needed to be psyched up.  Kinsley are among the favourites for honours in CML North although they would have to improve on Saturday's 4-4 home draw against struggling Harworth if they're to stake a realistic claim for the title.
From a chat over a cuppa with genial home secretary Andrew, I soon learned that the hosts were also depleted for today's clash.  But how depleted?  And how would our relatively inexperienced line-up cope with (a) big, uncompromising opposition; (b) the pitch and (c) a sizeable home crowd that didn't give the impression of being anything but totally partisan?  I needn't have worried.

Ah. Not the start we were hoping for!
Things didn't look great when skip for the day Blounty gifted Kinsley an early opener but gradually we came more into things and Frosty deservedly levelled matters right on half-time. 
With a strengthening wind in our faces, the second half soon became Alamo-esque with Charlie being called upon for a second game in succession to preserve parity.  Further details can be found here.
A decent crowd seemd to be engrossed in the game as much as I was.  Or at least that's what I thought until one bespectacled spectator came by me to return a match ball recently hoofed into the adjoining car park: "Two poor teams these", he said, "Makes me want to get my boots back aht an' ahm 40. Reet set o'wankers aht 'ere!"  The fact that he looked like he'd never kicked a ball in his life made the quote even more amusing.  Perhaps you had to be there...
The final whistle brought a huge sigh of relief from Nicho, and no doubt pride at a job well done.  Two points from two away games in three days is not to be sniffed at at this level.  I was happy - I'd had a good Bank Holiday!

Pictures courtesy of Burt Graham (Glapwell) & Paul Kingston (Kinsley Boys)

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