"I don't mind seeing any player depart the club to better himself...But this triggered something of an exodus and I really struggle to see the thinking behind the decision of other players to leave. Throw in rumours of a couple of lads who are "not feeling football" at the moment and I start to despair about not only our fortunes but the future of local football in general."
The above is an extract of my programme notes for the opening league game of the season against Thoresby Colliery Welfare. they were written in a week that had seen it confirmed that Sam Huteson, Lewis Andrew and Jordan Hart were not intending on committing to the club for the new season. They followed Paul Morrill, Danny Blount (both Hall Road Rangers), Charlie Dixon (Beverley Town via Selby Town) and James Robinson out of the club. Thankfully Jordy would reconsider a few weeks later but his return would be offset by the loss of Stef Radley. With Tom McLaughlin injured and Jamie Cousins absent, it meant only six members of the South Holderness Cup Final squad from three months earlier would be in the squad that began the following season. Making this all the more unacceptable to me was that we'd based our decision to stay in the CML largely on the pledges those same lads had made to remain at the club. Ah well...
Saturday 2nd August
Easington United 0 Sculcoates Amateurs 5
Due to a well-earned, pre-planned weekend break, AG wasn't at Low Farm to watch his side's final warm-up game. It was probably as well. This was embarrassing. A young Sculcoates side showed how a team should perform after several weeks' training and playing together. We on the other hand looked a rabble, which perhaps wasn't surprising given the fact that (a) attendances at training at had been p!ss-poor therefore fitness levels were way below expectation; (b) the squad again included a number of new or guest faces; and (c) any pre-season optimism among the regulars had already been tested to the full by news of the summer departures. It promised to be a long, hard season.
Thursday, 7th August
UEFA Europa League
Third Qualifying Round, Second Leg
Hull City 2 FK AS Trencin 1
What would turn out to be a fine weekend on the sporting front began in exciting fashion courtesy of City's first ever home competitive European tie. Helped by a superb ticket price (£10/£5 concessions, which included a free match programme) and glorious weather, a 21,000 crowd (the capacity affected by extra segregation required for unreserved seating games) provided a superb atmosphere.
However, within minutes of the start it was the 100 or so Slovakian supporters making all the noise after they'd taken a shock lead. I wasn't worried at that point. Even less so when Elmo headed City level. But as the second half wore on and it started to dawn on many that the away goal was now looking good to end City's first foray into Europe ridiculously early, that awful feeling in the pit of the stomach began to be experienced. Then up stepped Sone and all was right with the world again.
Aside from the result, the biggest plus of the night was the atmosphere, which has undoubtedly been helped by the movement of City fans to the North Stand. The singing joust between this new vocal area and their former partners in the East Stand was excellent, while even elements of the Upper West (where Brim and I sat) got caught up in the "Come On City" chants that reverberated round the stadium in an increasingly tense second half.
|Reaching new heights? #CityinEurope|
As mentioned in July's blog, hopes of seeing either part of City's first tie in the Europa League had been threatened by a pre-planned family trip to the Corrie studios and Liverpool (a birthday treat for the Younger Slushette).
Thus I'd begun the day of the home leg on a coach that took us from the Ramada hotel in Haydock to Liverpool where the delights of Albert Dock awaited. My pre-match preparation began outside The Pumphouse with a lovely pint of Liverpool Organic Brewery Best Bitter (though not quite as impressive as the previous night's Moorhouse's Blond Witch), while the night ended with me dreaming of drinking several more continental beers al fresco in far-off places over the coming months...
Picture courtesy of the BBC whose report can be found here.
Friday, 8th August
Barney Moverley Memorial Trophy
Easington United Reserves 1 Roos AFC 1
(Easington won 3-2 on pens)
This was perhaps the first sign that once again I had failed to take into account this club's willingness to thrive in adversity. Despite Roos manager (Gazette sports editor) Les Sennett's attempts to pin this result on the the inclusion of "first teamers", it was instead a cracking performance by a predominantly inexperienced Stiffs side against opponents who would appear to be signing everyone and anyone locally (including one of our departing dirty dozen ;-) ).
True the likes of AG, Smalls and Wilks (via the bench) all figured but this was because none could play in the league opener and therefore they had to plug gaps left by those called up to take their place the following day. And anyway, Graham in centre-mid and Smalley as a flying winger? It was hardly playing "ringers"!
In the event the Stiffs showed excellent resolve to withstand an early onslaught from Roos before cancelling out Tony Everett's opener via Tom Emerson's close-range finish.
After a second 45 minutes had brought no further goals, the tie went to penalties wherein Stiffs keeper Pagey proved the star. Smalls stroked home the decisive fifth kick to ensure the trophy remained at the Farm.
Saturday 9th August
Easington United 2 Thoresby Colliery Welfare 0
Lee Tryner, manager of highly-fancied visitors Thoresby, later described this as the "kick up the backside" his players required. He was right - they've gone on to win all their subsequent games!
But for us, this opening day win was almost immeasurable in terms of its effect on morale. As reported by groundhopper 'Cod of the North' on the Tony Kempster forum, one of our players was even heard to mention "We're going to get hammered" as the sides lined up for the 'Respect' handshake. And it's very true that on seeing the list of names selected for this opener, several lads had expressed doubts about an ability to compete. But once again, they didn't allow for that East End ability to defy the odds.
And so after a gritty rearguard action for much of the game, two goals in four second half minutes eventually proved crucial and gave everyone the lift required to take into a difficult first month's fixture list.
Along with the previous evening, this win had to be seen in the wider context of another bloody awful summer.
Oh, and I want it placing on record that I stood by my pre-match prediction: Thoresby will finish this season in the top two.
A detailed match report and pics can be found here. There are also pics on the club's Facebook page. The Thoresby account of events can be found here.
Wednesday 13th August
Easington United 0 Westella VIP 6
The one thing you don't need to do when playing a free-scoring side like title favourites Westella is concede within the first two minutes. Then concede again within the first ten. A third before the break meant this game was as good as done with over 45 minutes still to play. What annoyed Andy even more was that five of the six goals originated from our mistakes. You could say Saturday's opening day lift had been consigned to memory in double-quick time.
For a full match report read here. Pics can also be viewed on the club's Facebook page. Westella's account can be found here.
Saturday 16th August
Glapwell 3 Easington United 0
Glapwell is one of the tidiest grounds in the Central Midlands League North Division. It's also one where - apart from an opening day win back in 2012 - we haven't done particularly well. And this was to be the case again as another side stretched by absences managed just two shots on target in a gruelling ninety minutes. We didn't help ourselves by again conceding early and it has to be said the effort was there for all to see. But effort will only get you so far in this league.
So, one win and two defeats as the Bank Holiday weekend approached. We had two scheduled games, Saturday and Monday. Perhaps crucially, both were at home. However, of more concern was the fact that we were again set to be without a host of players...