Saturday, 8 September 2012

A not so funny old game (part 1)

Monday 27th August
 CML North
Easington United 2 Westella Hanson 0
On Saturday 19th May 2012, in the final game of the season, Westella & Willerby beat Glapwell 4-1 at Dene Park to clinch the Central Midlands League North Division championship.
It was probably the finest moment in this ambitious club’s long history and should have signalled the start of another new era.  It didn’t.
Instead ‘Ella’ were to suffer a triple-whammy: refusal of their application for promotion to the Northern Counties East League; loss of their manager and assistant-manager; and the subsequent departure of the bulk of the title-winning squad who decided to follow their departed boss to his new club.  Talk about winning coming at a cost.
Thankfully, Westella & Willerby AFC is a club built on sound foundations.  A club that operates 22 teams and boasts the coveted FA Charter Standard Community Club status is better prepared than most to take whatever blows come its way.
The club is also blessed with good people within its ranks.  One of these is Ian Gray, previously Director of Football and now – thanks in no small part to his own willingness to stand up and be counted – “caretaker” First Team manager.
Having agreed to “help out” just prior to a fortnight’s holiday, Ian returned to find a decimated squad and with little time to do anything about it.  Pre-season was, in his own words, “a non-event”.  Having seen eight players depart the squad, all but one for NCEL side Hall Road Rangers, the boss then lost striker Matt Fyvie down the same route on the eve of the season’s opener…at red hot title favourites AFC Mansfield.
The pedigree of players available at Hill Top (despite playing their first team games at Bishop Burton, their HQ remains the former De la Pole Hospital complex in Cottingham) showed itself in a battling performance that could have yielded more than the 3-1 defeat it got.
More signs that all is not lost for the season came the following week when Ella made a mockery of Clay Cross Town’s unblemished start to the season with a fine win at the aforementioned Bishop Burton College.

That was on the Saturday of Bank Holiday weekend.  We didn’t play that day due to Wilky Woo’s wedding to the lovely Megan, an event attended by several members of the club’s management and players.
The upside of this inactivity was that the lads came in fresh for the Monday meeting; the downside being that given the wedding day was followed by a holiday Sunday there was even greater scope for getting completely bladdered!
My bank holiday weekend had also included watching the Casuals wind up their pre-season schedule on the Saturday afternoon with a 5-3 win over Amateur League side Waterloo FC.  It was played on a cloudy but warm afternoon.  Meanwhile, not thirty miles away, Bransholme North Point shopping centre was reportedly being evacuated due to torrential rain.
Thankfully, such torrents didn’t affect Mr & Mrs Wilkinson’s big day…unless of course you include the tears of laughter at the best man’s speech?!
Sunday brought with it the annual Bogey Race at the Youth Club.  Ten teams lined up at the start, among them our “Easington 2012 Oldympics” quartet of Chairman, Head Groundsman (Rtd), First Team Manager and me.
Last year our “Grumpy Old Men” team had narrowly missed out on a podium finish (or so we like to think) but had come up trumps in the “Best Dressed Bogey” category.  This time we were hoping to score on both boards…
We finished outside the top three.  On both.  I was on the verge of requesting a Stewards’ Inquiry knowing we’d not only answered all the required questions on the sheet but had also collected en route everything required of us (okay, so we may have topped up the “sea water” with some from a tap but you’re not telling me the judges knew that). 
In addition, despite having considerable weight in our party as well as two members of limited mobility (steady!) we hadn’t done too badly time-wise.  Indeed I can only recall one team actually passing us (eventually evading our best attempts to prevent such a manoeuvre, which were straight out of Ben Hur). 
In short, we wuz robbed.
Built for comfort not speed

I didn’t have as bad a head as anticipated come match day morning.  This despite Sunday’s copious amounts of Tetley Cask and Old Speckled Hen in the village hostelries, followed by a fine pint or three of Timothy Taylor Landlord that accompanied tea at The Crown & Anchor in Kilnsea.  Oh, and a bottled Golden Pippin nightcap on our return home.
If Sunday's weather was almost perfect for such fun-filled activity, Bank Holiday Monday’s came as a blessing for the players.  It was cloudier and cooler but without the strong winds that can so often ruin games at the Farm.
Ahead of kick-off I managed a catch-up with David Bond, one-time Hull City reporter for the Hull Daily Mail and secretary of the Ex-Tigers Association.  He also has close links with today's opponents and was here in the capacity of "Asst-Mgr" - a role that would now appear to be filled on a week-to-week basis by whoever the caretaker boss can drag in!
Despite all that has gone on, one thing you can guarantee from a game against any Westella side is that they will be well-drilled and have a decent amount of footballing ability.  And in spite of the summer exodus, their team sheet still looked pretty useful.
It was perhaps a good thing then that we began like a train and during the first 45 minutes played some of our best football to date.
Our reward came via Fitzy's third goal of the season, a 20-yard effort that keeper Watson might perhaps have done better with (or am I being harsh?).

1-0. Well, should he have saved it?
If the first half showed off the "fluid" side of Sumo's new system, then the display after the break was full of the traditional backs-to-the wall Easington spirit that has accompanied the club's rise in recent times.
Ella enjoyed plenty of possession and plenty of territory but were unable to really make inroads into a stubborn home rearguard - save for one moment at a corner when Joe Clement cleverly made room for himself but lifted the ball over from six yards out.
As the visitors grew more desperate, we began to sense success on the counter. 
With two minutes to go Robbie should have killed the game but instead produced a miss of the season contender that is going to be hard to beat!
Thankfully it wasn't to matter.  some patient build-up culminated in Willo's excellent ball and Fitzy's fine finish to complete a 2-0 win.
Afterwards I sympathised with Ian's view that a second half equaliser was perhaps something they were deserving of; and that had it come they may well have gone on to win the game.  I didn't add that the consensus among our players was that Ella were easily the best team we've played this season.  Somehow, I get the feeling that sympathy and empty platitudes are not what the reigning champions require right now.  Try telling them "it's a funny old game".

2-0. Nowt he could have done about that one!
A full match report (with pictures) can be found here.
Thanks to Burt Graham for the majority of pics used with this piece.  Credit for the Bogey Race shot must go to The Ryvita Man - Voice of the NWRS Supporters Club.
For those wondering, the name Westella Hanson has come about following a sponsorship deal with a well known electrical firm.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it...

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