Thursday, 1 March 2012

Empire days

Saturday 25th February
CML North Division
Ollerton Town 2 Easington United 0

On Monday night Jeremy Paxman's new 'Empire' series began on BBC1.  In it, the Newsnight presenter takes a look at the legacy of the days when the term 'Rule Britannia' really did apply.  In the first episode we were treated to shots of some of the magnificent palaces of India, built by the British to give the local tribal leaders a sense of importance.  
Some still look magnificent to this day, others serve as a decaying reminder of the forgotten days of the Raj.  As I watched I couldn't help but be reminded of the cricket pavilion at Ollerton Town's Walesby Lane Sports Ground!

A nice touch

It seemed a bit daft driving past signs for Ollerton on the way home from nearby Center Parcs knowing that in just over eighteen hours time I’d be returning to the same neck of the woods.  Might as well have booked an extra night!
The anomaly that led to the East Riding of Yorkshire schools taking their half-term break a week later than seemingly the rest of the country, had opened up a whole host of holiday opportunities.  Hence we found a multitude of Hull City shirts roaming around their Sherwood Forest site.  And apparently the same could be said of the ones in Cambridgeshire and Cumbria.  As I commented to one well-known City fan who I bumped into over the course of the week, “the gate for the Brighton game will be down by a couple of thousand!”

"Don't warm-up on the pitch" (Why?!)
With no access to DAB radio, I followed the game courtesy of live text, which didn’t really tell the full story of how good a game it was.  And how frustrating for the Tigers.
The City match aside, I managed to remove myself from football for five whole days.  Impressive or what?  Instead, I could allow myself time to enjoy a place I’d always been reluctant to go to.  “Not my sort of holiday” I used to moan, “I like to get out and about, not be stuck in one place blah, blah.”  How wrong I was.  Helped by the fact that the Slushettes and the Rutter offspring got on famously, the week turned into a hugely enjoyable affair.
I was also boosted by the availability of real ale at several venues – Marston Pedigree, Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen all being available on cask; though at four quid a pint, I was also glad we’d taken plenty of our own booze! 
Some Ezzie fullbacks of the past would've seen those houses as a challenge!
Allowing myself first contact with Manager Mack on the Friday to check everything was okay for the following day’s game at in-form Ollerton, I was informed we were two down with Bezza working and Jordan away.  However, with the Stiffs shorn of seven players (again!) and the Casuals fielding only thirteen, Dave was happy to go with twelve plus himself.
Pistol Pete hadn’t been expected to do this trip.  It was only three weeks or so since he’d had a knee replacement.  You wouldn’t have guessed.  He through in as many emergency stops, dodgy manoeuvres and bits of road rage as usual…and this was just in getting to the Embassy pick-up point in Hull.  “Ooh, it’s like you’ve never been away”, I said.

Their 'End'
According to the notes sent ahead of their visit to us back in October, football in Ollerton can be traced back to the 1800’s.  The most successful period for the former Ollerton Colliery club came before the Second World War.  The Notts Senior Cup was won in 1937/38, a year after their Reserves had lifted the Intermediate trophy.
Ollerton Colliery ceased to be as a football club in the early 1980’s but was reformed in 1988 as Ollerton & Bevercotes Miners Welfare FC, where it began life in the Mansfield Bitter League before progressing to the Notts Football Alliance in 1991.  They were crowned Division 2 champions in 1992/93.
The closure of the Colliery in 1994 prompted a change of name for the club and Ollerton Town FC came into being.
 In season 1995/96 Town were winners of the Notts Alliance First Division and four years later finished runners up in the Senior Division.

A splash of colour on a grey afternoon
In 2000/01, Town entered the Central Midlands Football League to get onto the pyramid of football, playing in the Premier Division.  They were crowned Premier Division champions in 2007/08 and were promoted to the Supreme Division where they remained up until the formation of Divisions North and South over the close season.
A difficult start to this season had seen them part company with their manager and much of the team.  However, new boss Dave Winter's replacements were in fine form and had lost just two in ten since their 4-1 defeat at Low Farm. 
Town’s home ground, Walesby Lane Sports Ground, is also home to Ollerton Cricket Club.  According to Chris Rooney’s excellent site on Nottinghamshire football grounds, it was also previously shared by Ollerton Rugby Club until “a resident of Main road complained about rugby balls going into his garden”!
When you enter ‘The Lane’ (as the locals call it) the first thing – sadly – you notice is the dilapidated looking cricket pavilion that doubles up as changing rooms.  However, get past the view from outside and there’s a cosy little refreshments venue awaiting you inside.
On the walls are various pictures of times past, including three individually framed shirts in memory of a trio of young players - Craig Charlton, Wayne Brewin and Peter Abram - tragically no longer with us.  The names of the three are also engraved in the brickwork of the impressive Spectator Stand, dedicated to them, that runs behind the nearside goal.

The popular side
The Stand was built in 2001 and was officially opened by former England star Des Walker in front of a then record crowd of over 200.  A factor which helped finance the building work was the supporters’ generosity in buying commemorative bricks bearing their own names, which have then been set into the rear of the stand.  Not one to miss an opportunity, the Club can still arrange for inscribed bricks to added. The stand can accommodate 200 spectators, and has an interesting roof that is raised at the front, in keeping with the Club's dugouts.
The ground itself is impressive for this level, barriered off in neat white painted post and rail, with spacious, eye-catching dugouts and impressive floodlights.
The pitch, on the other hand, is not so good.  Today found it at its liveliest and while it didn’t noticeably contribute to our defeat, the undulations and dry, hard surface certainly didn’t induce good football.
As such, Ollerton’s rather more direct approach would pay dividends – as you can read here.

Up, up and away...
A rather vocal, partisan crowd certainly sounded louder than a head count figure of 42 spectators would suggest.  Unfortunately, Town is another club that doesn’t record its attendances in its match programme but I can imagine The Lane to be a fairly intimidating place for visitors, should the ground ever hold a gate approaching three figures.
Post-match Nicho expressed his frustration at our second half display.  Too many players went hiding being his main gripe.  Given how impressively we’d held our own in the first 45 minutes, I could see his point.  More pertinently, so could the players.
Patty doesn't have to move...which is as well!
Still, as always, the mood had improved slightly by the time we were tucking into post-match sausage casserole along with a lovely pint of Ringwood ‘Fortyniner’.  Another lively bus ride home helped round things off nicely.  Defeat sometimes isn’t that hard to swallow.

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