Saturday, 5 November 2011

Maroon Drive

Saturday 22nd October
CML North
Clipstone Welfare 2 Easington United 1

I must confess to being somewhat surprised by Clipstone Welfare's rise to the top of the CML North Division. But there's no arguing with the stats behind it. Ten wins and two draws in fourteen games, 51 goals scored and only 19 conceded. And when I looked back at my account of our 1-1 draw in early September, although we'd more than held our own, Chaz had had a blinder i'nets.
So, overall, a trip to the Lido Ground was just what was required after three straight defeats. Not.
The Westella defeated had really knocked the stuffing out of people. Partly as a result simply of its magnitude and partly because there was never three goals' difference in quality between the two sides.  It had certainly put me on a downer - and that was before I received the sad news about Betty Driver.

One of the finest sights in local football...
It's on the back of results like our 1-4 defeat that the working week can appear to be a very long one.  Especially when, as in this particular case, it also throws up several other challenges - an official approach from Withernsea for young Thom McGeachy, an unofficial approach from Hall Road Rangers for Charlie (in the wake of an official notice regarding Blounty) and a piss-poor turnout at training.
Thankfully, there was one bright light on the horizon, in the form of the return of Pistol Pete & The Riding School Express.  After what had seemed an eternity, The Pistol was back in the saddle and the wagon was ready to roll.
Destination Clipstone in north Nottinghamshire - "a small working-class ex-coal mining village built on an old army base" according to the font of all knowledge that is Wikipedia!  To The Pistol it's basically another place you reach by "heading for Clumber Park then guessing"!
Clipstone is split into "Kings (or "Old") Clipstone" and "New Clipstone".  The camp  referred to, on which the village was built, was erected in World War One to train the men of Kitchener's New Army.  It was closed shortly after the end of hostilities.

Big Buggers
The sight that immediately hits you on entry to Clipstone is that of the Grade 2 listed colliery Headstocks, "the tallest in Europe and more recently the third tallest in the world". The very definition of "evocative".  The colliery closed in 2003.
Clipstone Welfare FC was formed in 1928 as Clipstone Combine.  I found this from the excellent "History" section of their otherwise needs-to-be-updated club website.
Their Lido Ground home is a tidy affair and, as it turned out, a very welcoming home.  From the moment we arrived, those of us not directly involved with the action were really well looked after.  A pre-match cuppa and meat pie of decent (if not quite Bentley Colliery) quality was followed by a half-time welcome in the "VIP" lounge and some excellent banter with the locals.

Words of wisdom
This sort of banter was also to be found in the stand that runs the full length of the pitch.  A decent crowd of around sixty-odd was comprised mainly of local elders who in between shouting "Come on Clippo!" would constantly berate their favourites for "messing about at the back".
In fairness, this was down to the efforts of our lads who, particularly up to the break, hassled and harried every Clipstone move.
Maroon (High) Five
Whether it was a feeling that a season's low had been reached these past few weeks, or a nothing-to-lose approach, or Mack & Nicho's pre-match pep talk, or the return of The Pistol, or even the new Royal Mail Sports Foundation kit (!) but we really seemed up for this one.
And we deservedly took an early lead.  Only to concede shortly afterwards with another of the Skipper's OG's that one day would form part of a brilliant DVD for aspiring young centre halves!
It remained level up to the break and we retired for our aforementioned half-time hospitality.  My mood was further improved by news of a "magnificent seventh" win for the Casuals and a win of my own on the half-time raffle.  Oh yes!

We didn't all come home empty-handed
The game could've been won in the first few minutes of the second half but both Sam and Frosty were just off target.  No matter, we were the better team.  We were asking all the questions.  We were the more likely winners.  Then they scored.
They nearly added a third afterwards before we mounted a frantic spell of late pressure that saw Frosty come within a whisker of salvaging a point right at the death.  The players' reactions on Burt's photos say it all.

Afterwards, our hosts were magnanimous in victory and very complimentary (as they had been at half-time).  And in truth, they showed the mark of a good side by winning a game in which they were largely playing second fiddle.
The post-match watering hole was the local Welfare Club, which again was warm and welcoming.  I was beginning to like Clipstone Welfare FC and may well root for them to win the title once our chances become mathematically non-existant!

The Pistol's apprentice
It's on away days like these that The Pistol and his vehicle swing into action - literally in the case of his entry into the Welfare club car park!  For some of the new lads - Jordan and Sam - it was their first taste of a post-match bevvy bus ride home.  I think they enjoyed it...I know I did.

Thanks to Burt for the action pics.  Match report can be found here.

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