Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Maltby Main 1 Bridlington Town 5
It’s the summer of 1988. I’m propping up the bar of the Salutation Inn in Keyworth with The Architect; we’re both hanging. England have made an early exit from the European Championship in West Germany. I gaze across the bar, in my drunken haze, and catch the eye of a gorgeous young girl. I make a remark about her to The Architect. He pipes up that it is his cousin. Bingo.
We’ve been together for twenty one years since that day – that’s me and Mrs P, not me and The Architect. She’s enjoyed trips to Chesterfield’s Saltergate, Doncaster’s Belle Vue and Walsall’s Bescot Stadium. I’ve had to endure episode after episode of EastEnders, Casualty and Holby City. We have nothing in common.
Tomorrow, that young, drop-dead- gorgeous girl is forty years old. I’ve been racking my brains where to take her out on the night before her birthday: “Fancy Maltby Main v Bridlington Town darling?” “Ouch!!” I invite The Taxman instead.
The most heart-warming story in the last few weeks caught my eye on Paul Fletcher’s BBC blog. Stockport striker Carl Baker took the brave decision to play in their League One fixture against Yeovil, despite days earlier being told by his manager Gary Ablet that his elder brother Michael has lost his battle with leukaemia.
At the end of the game, and after having scored a goal, he was ushered over to the 200 visiting supporters, who presented him with a card that everyone in the away end had signed. This is what football’s all about. Bringing one another together and showing our depth of feeling.
Last Saturday was the first weekend for the junior football calendar. I’d already made a conscious decision to go out scouting all day and give the groundhopping the thumbs down. Apart from watching ‘The Skipper’ bag a brace it was a waste of a day for the Notts County Talent Identification Officer. I returned home to the X-Factor on TV empty-handed.
Sunday brought success in Leicester and Nottingham though. Mrs P and I celebrated with a Hardy’s Crest Chardonnay on offer at £4.99. Chin chin.
The Taxman has been convalescing over the spring and summer. He’s been itching to get back on the groundhop. After a couple of false starts, we finally agree to travel up to Maltby in South Yorkshire. Sticky’s favourite team, Bridlington Town are in town.
There’s a bad start to the evening when on starting the car up I find that Mrs P has deliberately left the dreadful Radio Trent on, to wind me up – it has the desired effect.
I pick The Taxman up at 6pm. White Van Man will be slumped in his reclining chair watching the Champions League. We drive past The Rocking Horse Nursery in Plumtree. There has been a major police investigation into an allegation of ‘unexplained injuries’ at the crèche. It has made the national news.
I’m always amused by The Taxman’s moaning and groaning but he’s strangely chipper this evening. We travel up the A614 and turn off at the delightful village of Blyth. They play in the Bassetlaw Cricket League. I remember scoring a well crafted three not out at this ground over twenty years ago. A textbook tickle down to fine leg for an easy single sticks in the mind.
We pass the historic ruin called Roche Abbey. Sticky Palms is excited but The Taxman remains unmoved. The evening hits dusk as we rock up at Muglet Lane.
The car park is full; we turn into the overspill area. We pay £5 entrance and £1 for an excellently produced programme. The Taxman immediately heads for a scruffy looking tea hut which is part of the dressing room complex.
When I think of Yorkshire I visualise that useless tosspot of an excuse for a copper – PC Ventriss off Hearbeat – brewing a pot of tea for three in the Aidensfield Police Station kitchen. Then retreating to a room with a roaring coal fire and a tin of digestives. Unfortunately Maltby Main FC fail to master the art of the brew. A teabag is hurled into the cup, with hot water fired into it. The Auctioneer would be ashamed of the actions of the Republic of South Yorkshire.
Maltby is near Rotherham and has a population of 18,000. Maltby Main Colliery is one of three collieries operating in the area. The original owner of the mine built an estate to house the colliery workers. It was called Maltby Model Village. The original shafts for the coal mine were sunk back in 1907.
Famous folk from the Maltby area include: former England fast bowler, the pipe-smoking ‘Fiery’ Fred Trueman, and Coronation Street actress Lynn Perrie (Ivy Tilsley). She could knock them back. Bill Waddington, who played the character Percy Sugden, died in a retirement home in the town centre back in 2000. Thanks to Mrs P for the Coronation Street references .
Maltby Main were formed in 1916. All players were employed at the nearby colliery. The ground is rugged and rustic. It’s exactly as it says on the tin. The pit estate borders the Muglet Road ground. A local tells me that plod don’t bother policing it. It’s that rough on the estate, even the dogs go round in pairs.
The Maltby Main under 8s have just finished a training session. There’s some whimpering and crying going off. Mums and dads console the walking wounded. I bet they tackle hard up here.
We walk past a rickety, battered old stand. There’s some top totty sat with a guy. Maybe it’s one of the famous Bridlington Town WAGS who I saw perform so impressively at Shirebrook and Dinnington last season. The team didn’t play too badly either.
Bridlington are ‘on it’ from the off. They play a beautiful game of football with pace and purpose. The Bridlington Seaside Mafia are holed up in the rickety old stand. Their amusing ditties are loud and original.
The Whistler is under pressure tonight; rumour has it that the referees’ assessor is hidden away in the stand.
Brid’s attacks are lightning fast, whether it’s down the right with Nathan Hotte or on the left with Danny Buttle. Brid open up the home defence. They’ve already seen one effort come off the woodwork, following a four man move, when they finally take the lead through Danny Burdick, who bundles the ball home after another header had come off the upright.
One becomes two on 28 minutes when Danny Buttle pounces onto a goal kick, scurries towards the Maltby goal and blasts a dipping shot under the despairing Maltby ‘keeper.
The Maltby five jacket has become a frustrated figure. He’s spent a majority of the evening squaring up to folk or kicking ale house balls into orbit. He goes straight through the back of a Brid forward and is shown an instant red. It’s Groundhopper’s first dismissal of the season.
I chat to a couple at the break who come from Underwood and Mapperley, close to where I live. The guy knows his onions and fills me in on a few of the new players I don’t recognise. His other half looks like she would have preferred to have stayed home and watched River Cottage or Property Ladder.
I also bump into ‘Paul NFFC’ from Bridlington. He is everything a non league supporter should be. I’d grow back the goatee beard though son.
The Taxman is enthralled by Bridlington Town. They are living up to their star billing. Ashley Dexter nods home a corner on 48 minutes to end the game as a serious contest. Maltby pull one back when the visitors momentarily switch off at a set piece.
The game has been on simmer since the opening moments. It all boils over on 67 minutes .Craig Burdick lunges in with a two footed tackle in the middle of the park. The challenge is a shocker. All hell breaks loose and a 22 man handbag brawl takes place for the first time ever in the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire. The referee blows his whistle for the entire one minute, like a school dinner lady does when there’s a playground scrap. The referee correctly dismisses Burdick and a Maltby player.
The referee, under the watchful eye of the assessor, is dishing out more cards than Mrs P will get for her 40th birthday tomorrow. The slightest ankle tap, foul or moan or groan is greeted with a yellow. He misses fouls after the ball has gone, blatant shirt pulls and doesn’t like to play advantage. He’ll be reffing Maltby Main under 8s on Saturday, at this rate.
Maltby captain, Lee Mellon gives the referee little option but to dismiss him from the field of play for dissent. It’s a straight red. One more sending off for Maltby will see the game abandoned by the referee.
Jack Wilkinson had already made it 4-1 on the hour. Bridlington Town have been peppering the Maltby goal since the melee. Right on time Town’s best player on the night, Frankie Belt, strikes the ball from distance. It can only be helped into the net by the Maltby ‘keeper, who on this evidence, would struggle to catch a cold tonight.
We talk about the match on our 50 mile drive home. We chew the crud over a pint in the Rose and Crown in Cotgave. In forty years of watching football, I’ve never seen events unfold like this. Standard Liege versus Arsenal – you are having a laugh!!
Man of the Match: Frankie B
Attendance: 63 (26 Seaside Mafia)