Thursday, 7 June 2012

Neighbourhood Watch

The 2012 South Holderness Cup
Part 1 - The Route to the Final

Wednesday 30th May - the day before the South Holderness Cup Final, the climax to the annual struggle among Saturday clubs for the much-heralded local bragging rights.
Thankfully, the name of Easington United will again be represented.  However, no doubt to many people's surprise, it is not by the First Team.  Instead the honour goes to the Reserves, or the 'B'-squad as they're referred to in this competition.  It's a fine achievement by caretaker boss Danny Campbell ("DC") and his side and one that could ultimately provide just a tad of consolation after a season that has seen the Stiffs finish bottom of the County League Premier Division.
The reason it is not an all-Easington final is because, after 20 meetings and 13 years, The Seasiders of Withernsea are finally celebrating success over their local rivals again, thanks to a deserved 1-0 win in the semi-final.  
In addition to ridding themselves of that particular millstone, Withernsea have also put themselves in pole position to end a 19-year wait to add to their fourteen previous South Holderness Cup wins.  
Some think it is a mere formality that they will do so.  I'm not so sure.  And the South Holderness Cup has a marvellous way of throwing up the odd upset now and again.

Opening shots

This season's competition kicked-off with the draw on Friday, 13th April (we're not superstitious).  It was conducted in The Holderness Inn at Patrington, home to five cask ales and one rather disconsolate driver - me.  Still, the pint of York Brewery Guzzler (3.6%) I allowed myself certainly hit the spot.
Not for the first time the outcome had a slightly lop-sided look, with CML side Easington accompanied by HPL teams Withernsea and Hedon Rangers in one-half while the other was comprised of those clubs' junior sides and fellow members of the lower leagues.
Hedon Rangers kicked off proceedings just over a week later, edging past Amateur League opponents AFC Preston by two goals to one.  They would now travel to Low Farm in the quarter-finals, our 'A' team being one of four teams to receive a bye.
Skirlaugh were last year's surprise finalists and cruised through round one this time around thanks to a 6-0 win over newcomers Bilton Athletic.  They would face a repeat of last year's tie against Withernsea 'A' to determine the other semi-finalists from this section.
In the bottom half of the draw, our Reserves (aka Easington United 'B') opened up proceedings with an entertaining 7-3 win at County League side Hedon Town (like Bilton, newcomers to the competition).  I didn't get to see the game nor did I get to see Easington United 'C' (our Casuals) make an encouraging debut, courtesy of a win over Hedon Rangers 'B', 4-2 at Eastside Sports Ground.
So far so good, Easington had three representatives in the last eight.  And I was about to see one of them make it to the semis...

Friday, 11th May
South Holderness Cup Round 2
Easington United 'B' 3 Withernsea 'B' 2
After several days' fine weather - a rarity for the spring of 2012 - it was almost pre-ordained that my first taste of South Holderness Cup action would be accompanied by heavy rainfall.  At least it restricted itself to several hefty showers and not a ninety-minute downpour.
The game itself attracted a fair-size crowd to the Farm, though nothing comparable to the days of yore when crowd in excess of a hundred would line the perimeter at most local grounds whatever the round.
At least the keenness of the Easington-Withernsea rivalry helped make this the sort of cup-tie the competition is renowned for.  It has to be said that the atmosphere was helped by Seasiders' boss Andy Beedham's constant haranguing of referee Paul Poucher: "He only sees purple" maintained Beeds, oblivious to his own apparent colour-blindness ("Er, it's maroon actually Andrew!").
Goals from Andy Milbank (pictured above) and Paul Wilkinson established a two-goal cushion for the Stiffs but this was halved before the break by a delicious free-kick from Withernsea skipper Mark Clubley.
The aforementioned 'Wilks' then popped up with the decisive third goal midway through a scrappy but absorbing second period and that looked to be that...only for Clubley (pictured, No.4) to convert another set-piece just five minutes from time.
Thankfully, the remaining time was played out without due alarm.  The Stiffs were in the semi's.
The following Wednesday the Casuals went in search of a semi-final meeting with their club-mates.  Unfortunately, it wasn't to happen as Hedon Rangers 'C' (who were actually the Reserves; the 'C' squad having become the 'B' squad for the tournament on account of outstanding league commitments that had prevented them being able to play in the first round) eased past Maccer's men 3-1, with the Casuals player-manager suffering the ignominy of seeing red in his final game for the club!
In the top half of the draw, Withernsea 'A' had clinched their place in the last four by avenging their defeat the previous year at the hands of Skirlaugh.  The Seasiders won 3-0 at Hull Road to set up a home tie against either our First Team or Hedon Rangers.

Saturday, 19th May
South Holderness Cup Round 2
Easington United 'A'6 Hedon Rangers 'A' 0
I was slightly uneasy about our senior squad's belated entry into this year's affair.  And for good reason...or reasons.  Prior to us regaining the trophy last year, Hedon had been responsible for ending our interest in the three previous competitions, all of which they'd gone on to win.  In addition, we came into the match without some of those who'd seen the league season to its conclusion and with several lads making their South Holderness Cup debut - you always wonder just how they'll adapt to a competition far removed from the Central Midlands League.
Hedon have had an awful season, finishing bottom of the Humber Premier League Premier Division, and they have also seen several players departing Eastside.  Certainly, on this evidence, their squad bore a youthful look, built around those who'd progressed from the club's excellent junior set-up.  Just to spice things up they also had two former Eastenders - Farny and Jamie Hartley - in their ranks, eager to put one over their former team-mates.
And for the opening ten minutes it appeared they'd be in with a pretty good chance of doing just that.  Hedon swarmed all over the locals, with Carl Darbyshire rattling the post inside a minute and Charlie called upon to produce a handful of fine saves.
But their achilles heel proved to be a square defence that was prised open on 2mins, for Jimmy D to net the first of an impressive four-goal haul.  They were then ripped apart five times in 13 first half minutes as Mack's men simply ran riot.
In addition to Jimmy, Gav (above) and Eli also netted and by half-time the game was as good as won at 6-0.  You can read the full club match report here.  We were in the semi-finals.  Next stop - Withernsea away.

Tuesday, 22nd May
South Holderness Cup Semi-Final
Withernsea 'A' 1 Easington United 'A' 0
I take little consolation from the fact that some two weeks prior to this game, in the wake of the initial draw, I predicted that our Reserves would probably have a better chance of beating Withernsea than we had.
As with the Hedon game, it was how our new players would react to a proper local derby that left me feeling uneasy when the chance of a meeting first became apparent.
But whereas Hedon Rangers always guarantee you, first and foremost, a game of football the same cannot be said of Withernsea-Easington matches.  Especially so when they're played on the tight confines of a Hull Road pitch that doesn't boast the best of playing surfaces.
In the past ten years, games between our two sides have tended to go one of two ways.  Should we score early and add another soon afterwards, the victory has come fairly comfortably.  However, on the occasions the Seasiders have remained in the game longer than the opening quarter, they have proved remarkably hard games to call.
And this was a Withernsea side not short of confidence.  Despite some self-proclaimed ambitions of winning the HPL Division 1 at the start of the campaign (it always pays to remember such rash statements as times like this) a finish of eighth was seen as a big improvement on what had gone before.  In addition the hosts had reached the semi-finals of the East Riding CFA Senior Country Cup, wherein they lost to eventual cup winners Dunnington.  They fancied their chances.
I'd had a bad feeling about things all day.  A feeling exacerbated when both Moz and Blounty (recalled to the SH Cup squad due to shortages elsewhere) were ruled out.  Our bench had Tom Mac as the only fully-fit occupant, with the gaffer himself the only other option.  
From the off two things became immediately apparent: 1) Withernsea were definitely "up" for it; 2) it wasn't going to be one for the purists!
In the event, Luke Smith - another former Easington man - netted the game's only goal four minutes into the second half.  And for all our huffing and puffing, there was to be no way back.  The Seasiders' long wait to repeat their 1999 win in the Withernsea Carnival was deservedly over.  They could also look forward to their first South Holderness Cup Final in six years.
An official version of the night's sorry events (with pictures) can be found here.  We would now have to rely on our Stiffs to ensure home representation in the following week's final.

Wednesday, 23rd May
South Holderness Cup Semi-Final
Hedon Rangers 'B' 1 Easington United 'B'3
Social networking sites can be pretty unforgiving places and Facebook certainly was on the night of our cup defeat at Hull Road.  While not begrudging our "friends" their moment of glory, it really did show how big a thing beating Easington has become for some in Holderness.  Quite a compliment really!
What was worse than the gloating of the vistors, however, was the apparent support for them from within our own camp.  This, coupled with a thinly veiled attack on Mack's management, left me feeling at the lowest point I had all season.  Suddenly, all the problems of the previous nine months could be encapsulated into a few post-match messages on a computer screen.  Since September, I sensed I'd been fighting against "the enemy within" in terms of trying to forge a "One Club" mentality among certain members of our three teams.  From what I'd read that night on Facebook - and indeed seen and heard on the touchline during the game - I knew it was a battle I'd lost.
I vented my frustration at all this as I drove Groundsman Hodgy to Eastside Sports Ground, venue for the following night's second semi-final.  Knowing some of those responsible would be wearing the green and yellow of the club that night made it even harder to take...not to mention prompting an umpteenth re-write of my speech for the forthcoming Presentation Evening!
However, once at the game, any such feelings of bitterness were swept aside by an overriding wish to see DC - who it must be added was in no way included in my earlier ill-thoughts - steer his troops to a cup final.
Having come in as caretaker boss for the departing Meddy at the end of March, he'd helped oversee a revival in form as well as a move towards adopting the practices required of a Reserves boss.  It might not have been enough to avert a bottom place finish in the league but it could yet yield the prosepct of some silverware.
It didn't look that way when we arrived.  Already five minutes in, Hedon Reserves were replicating their First Team's efforts at Low Farm by dominating the early stages.  Five corners I counted inside the first four or five minuts I saw.  Young Akam was called upon to take dangerous balls as well as keep out a couple of worthwhile efforts on goal.  In short we were under the cosh.  
Then we scored.
Old man Wilks linked with young boy Price before converting the return for a somewhat flattering 1-0 half-time lead.
DC was no doubt glad of the referee's whistle and whatever he said during the interval clearly worked.  The Stiffs were far more assured.  Fitzy (pictured top) curled home a delightful second goal (with his right foot no less) before Jordan smashed home the third to confirm his side's win, as can also be read on the club report.
Andy Harrison's slightly bizarre late riposte for Rangers proved mere consolation.  Easington would have a team in the final...but, as Facebook, email and the man in the street in Withernsea was quick to tell us - we were only there to make up the numbers.

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