Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The Perfect Slush Away Day

Saturday 7th December
Central Midlands League Challenge Cup Round 2
Holbrook St Michaels 1 Easington United 3

A new ground, a win and a fine post-match hostelry.  These are the basic ingredients of a successful 'Slush Away Day' and all were supplied at Holbrook as we began this season’s CML Cup adventure.
Readers will not be surprised to read of my excitement when first learning that the second round draw had handed us an away game in Derbyshire at the south end of the Pennines.  Even allowing for the required early start (in order to accommodate the 1.30pm kick-off) this was a tie that ticked all the boxes – including the one marked “winnable”.
Even Sumo might fit in that dugout!
Situated six miles north of Derby, Holbrook is “one of the last hill villages of the Pennines with Derbyshire grit stone cottages at its heart and commuter-style developments on its fringes”.  It currently boasts a population of approximately 1,700.
Steeped in history, the Saxon name for the village was ‘Hale Broc’ meaning Badger Hill.  The ancient British trading route The Portway runs through Holbrook and is thought to have been used as a route for moving lead from the mines at Wirksworth to Nottinghamshire.  In Norman times the village was laid waste in retribution for the rebellion of Siward Barn, the local Anglo-Saxon thegn.  It became part of the royal hunting forest, the Duffield Firth and remained a royal estate until Charles I sold his holdings to the Bradshaw family in the 17th Century.
Three hundred years ago Holbrook was “a busy little industrial village earning a living by framework knitting”.  The quality of the work must have been high, as silk stockings were made here for royalty in both England and Spain.
The church from which today’s opponents takes its name was originally constructed in 1761 before being rebuilt and enlarged eighty years later.  It has twice survived major fires, in 1891 and 1907.
Along with the church, Holbrook also has three prominent houses – Holbrook Hall, Southwood House and Brook House – and two football teams. 
Holbrook Sports, formed in 1996 out of the ashes of the former Holbrook Miners Welfare club (which had been founded in 1931) have already progressed through the Central Midlands League and currently play their football at Step 6 level in the East Midlands Counties League.
Following in the footsteps of their neighbours, Holbrook St Michaels are descendants of the former Holbrook Swifts who, according to local newspaper records were successful in cup and league competitions around 1910-1912.  It was in 1912 that the club is believed to have changed its name to Holbrook St Michaels.
Records are sketchy but what is known for certain is that in early 1932 the Reverend Sides formed a team named after the village church of Saint Michael to play in the Belper Sunday School League.
Over the years the club has “had many successes” including becoming the only club to win both the Northern Section (1975 & 1983) and Southern Section (2006) of the Derbyshire Divisional Cup.
In addition ‘The Saints’ have progressed through the leagues – the Belper Amateur League, the Derbyshire Welfare League, the Derby Senior League, the Central Alliance and latterly the Midland Regional Alliance of which it was the longest serving member prior to joining the CML in 2012/13. 
The Holbrook Kop after being "stormed"
Their ground since 1936 has been Holbrook Park, where it has played continually with the obvious exception of the Second World War years. 
The venue has a certain rustic feel, not dissimilar to ours.  It is neatly railed off on all four sides but with minimum shelter.  A small seated area astride the halfway line that could be confused as being for spectators is in fact the two teams’ technical area.  Further along the touchline are two small banks of uncovered seats, one of which became “home” to the travelling support...well, The Pistol, Shotgun Burt and me (although Burt tended to wander up and down the pitch with his new extended lens in search of the perfect pic).
There should have been a small covered standing area, situated to the right of the “home” end goal near the changing rooms.  Unfortunately, as one of the friendly officials informed us beforehand, “’The Kop’ blew over during Thursday’s storms!”
Evidence of Thursday’s weather, including the tidal surge that had hit the east coast, had been seen on our journey down from the Humber Riviera.  Large areas of flooded farmland could be seen between Easington and Patrington, while the aftermath of the flooding in Hull city centre was still apparent when driving past the Kingston Retail Park on the A63 heading west.
Thankfully, conditions for this game were near perfect.  A fine, if cloudy, afternoon and not much wind offered decent conditions for both playing and watching.
We kicked off with the noticeable slope in our favour and were immediately on the front foot.  In fact we could really have had the game put to bed inside the opening ten minutes.
Despite numbering just a starting eleven and reluctant sub Biggie Smalls (looking not too bad considering he’d enjoyed a Friday night out that had included “six pints of Guinness in an hour” as part of the assorted drinking games) the lads appeared supremely confident.
Sam H was denied by the hosts’ keeper inside the first minute, Jammer rolled a great chance wide of the post, while neither AG nor Hutch could apply the necessary touch to an inviting Lew free-kick.
When we eventually broke the deadlock just past the half-hour, courtesy of a Lew tap-in after Gav’s shot had been saved, there was much relief in the celebration.
We spent half-time with our convivial hosts in the kitchen area of the changing rooms.  While enjoying a warm cuppa and with Five Live’s commentary on yet another defeat for Man Utd in the background, we discussed one of my fave topics, the current state of grassroots football – we did well to get back for the second half! 
Evidence of our hosts’ recent successes was provided by numerous framed pictures on the wall.  Our hope as we re-started proceedings was that any hopes of adding the CML Challenge Cup to this list would be ended at the second round stage...
And they were, thanks to a very impressive second half performance which saw us produce some excellent attacking football.
Lew’s second goal capped a terrific flowing move before Sam H settled matters, following another run that the home side simply couldn’t deal with.
To their credit Holbrook didn’t throw the towel in and after Fenwick Butcher had narrowly missed one chance, the youngster headed home neatly to provide some consolation for their afternoon’s efforts. 
Two for Lew
The post-match hospitality was provided by The Tavern, “a delightful 18th Century free house” in nearby Belper, “enjoying a commanding position on the main A6 trunk road from Derby to Matlock”. 
What a gem of a place; four cask ales on offer, a choice of live sport on the box, lovely intimate atmosphere and some great fodder (in particular the chilli sausage!).
Of the ales on offer I opted for one of the guests, Full Mash ESP (the other was Jennings Cumberland) and one of the regulars, Fuller’s London Pride (as opposed to Marstons Pedigree).  Both were nice.  No, correction, the ESP was nice, the London Pride was perhaps the finest beer I’d tasted in a long while – yes, it really was that good!
Stocking up at a nearby “offy” for the return trip, it was no surprise that by the time we’d got back to the East Riding I’d completely forgotten about the arsey text received from Mrs Slush moments after my departure...some nine hours earlier.  Hmm, discretion may be the better part of valour this evening I thought, as I took me and my kebab off upstairs for a double dose of Borgen.  Alone.
Still, what’s a bit of marital unrest when we’re in the hat for the third round draw!? 

My "official" match report can be found here along with a full set of Burt's pictures.
The photos can also be viewed on our Facebook page.
The official Holbrook St Michaels website can be viewed here.

No comments: