Sunday, 18 December 2011

By the time I get to Phoenix...

Saturday 3rd December
CML North Division
Phoenix FC 5  Easington United 2

Take out one potentially match-winning midfielder, add an unsettled goalkeeper, a confused skipper and a youngster with a chip on his shoulder before finally throwing in a pinch of pissed-up goalkeeper and you have the perfect recipe for a first ever defeat at Pavilion Lane.
And that's what happened.
It had been shaping up to be a decent week, given my participation in the East Riding County FA Cup draw and the prospect of several cask ales awaiting my attention in the Phoenix Sports & Social Club post-match at the upcoming trip to Rotherham.
Then events conspired to put the mockers on things.
First up came the news that goalkeeper Charlie Holden was on the verge of finally completing a move to Hall Road Rangers, something that had been touted for several weeks.
Then, on Wednesday morning (date of the aforementioned cup draw and a day I'd set aside for a football-free Christmas shopping day in Beverley) I was informed that both Mozzer and Blounty had trained the previous night with Bottesford Town and were set to join the NCEL Division 1 strugglers.
Hmm, the Christmas spirit was suddenly sadly lacking.
By Friday things were looking slightly better.  Although Moz had decided to make the move to the South Bank, both Blounty and Charlie had both pledged their immediate future to us and Fitzy had been tempted back into the fold.  It was a fairly strong-looking 12 for the game at one of my favourite CML venues. 
But it was only tea-time...
By the time we departed Easington on match day, we weren't looking so strong.  Conduct by Charlie and Fitzy the previous night that was deemed "completely unacceptable" by Mack left him no option but to inform both that their services were not required that day.
A frantic search for a replacement keeper proved fruitless but at least Jammo was roped in to give us a "doughty dozen" players in total.  Charlie actually arrived at the meeting point to try and ensure we took thirteen but, backed by his players, Mack stood firm and the somewhat worse-for-wear looking netminder was prevented from getting on the bus.
As we headed off down the M18 I did wonder what else this season could throw at us?

Smalls - our very own Little Boy Blue

In the event it threw us a chastening 5-2 defeat.  A pre-match discussion resulted in Smalls being the one to don the gloves in Charlie's absence.  He would be largely inactive save for picking the ball out of the net.
The first half was particularly dire - although things may well have been different had  Jamie Hartley not stayed on his feet when tugged at by the "last man".  No penalty, no red card.
"So I'll tell him to go down next time shall I?" asked Mack.
"You telling me you'll get your lads to cheat?" came the asst-referee's reply. FFS!
Nicho's pre-match talk had been spread over four sheets of A4 paper.  It was a commendable effort, packed with calls for pride, passion, belief - "I'm firty-free an' I still think I'm gonna be the nexct Stevie Gerrard" - that sort of thing.  It also included a rather high quota of expletives, particularly the 'F'-word.  As Jamie Cousins observed later, "Y'know if Nicho had deleted all the "fucking"'s from that speech it would've fitted on a post-it!"
Coming in two down at half-time prompted another Mike Bassett-like performance from the asst-boss.  Frosty stuck his head in the tea hut on his way back to the pitch: "He's got Tourette's that lad".  We knew immediately who he was referring to.
In a way, however, it worked.  For despite shipping three second half goals we were actually the better team.  No, honestly; Nicho from the spot and Frosty late on giving a slight air of respectability to proceedings.
The usually extensive range of real ales in the Clubhouse was limited to Bombardier, Black Sheep and my choice, Jem's Stout, from back home at Great Newsome Brewery.  and very nice too, its taste enhanced by news of Robert Koren's dramatic late winner for the Tigers against the returning Pearson's Leicester.
On the way home it was heartening to receive several texts, all very supportive of the day's stance.  This was further in evidence when I slipped in for a sneaky post-trip pint at The Granby on our return to Easington.
Sometimes you've simply got to make a stand for what you believe to be right...even if the short-term result is a bloody good hiding!

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