Saturday, 17 September 2016

17/09/16 Review: Market Drayton Town vs Spalding United

Market Drayton Town 2-3 Spalding United (Evo-Stik First Division South)
Greenfields Sports Ground

I would like to start today's entry with a quick look-ahead to some news that I announced on Twitter earlier on in the week. After much talk with Partizan Bristle about a joint ground-hopping venture to outdo our 3-day bonanza in the Western League back in May, we settled on a 4-day trip to 4 countries in the UK. If you follow me on Twitter, look out for the tour at the end of October- it's going to be a good 'en!

Roll on October!
But in the meantime, I was taking advantage of my weekend off to travel to a more local ground in Market Drayton Town's Greenfields Ground. With another chance to catch some Evo-Stik action on my doorstep, I grabbed my sunglasses and headed out with the sun scorching down on me as I drove from Stoke-on-Trent to the Shropshire town. With this weekend also being allocated for another bout of FA Cup Qualifiers, Market Drayton had already fallen in the early stages to Evesham United and Spalding had been defeated away at Mickleover Sports. With both sides having been dumped from the Cup, it would be a League fixture for this afternoon. Despite never having seen Drayton play until today, I had witnessed today's away side play before and it was a real cracker! My trip to Lyme Valley last October is the highest-scoring game I've ever reported on and with the memory of that, I was hoping to witness something as entertaining today. When I arrived at the Sat Nav destination for the big match, I was led down a slim back-road into a parking area which was excitingly busy. Once I got parked up, I quickly found out that the parking was not just for the footy- with a large amount of fans pouring in for the rugby ground and a few heading off to the tennis courts that were adjacent to the area I was in search of. After eventually leading myself to the wooden shack where I purchased a ticket and programme, I walked out to pitch-side where I was hit by more glorious rays of sun which glistened on to a very appetising pitch. I was here!

Time for a pint I reckon
As I sipped a much needed can of Carling in the Clubhouse, I took a minute to check the latest League Standings and check that I was up to date with the teams before the game starts. At start of play MDTFC were sitting in 11th and they were facing an unbeaten Tulips side who were sitting pretty joint at the top of the pile with Witton Albion and Romulus. Expecting the away sides would be the favourites, I'd stuck my neck out and predicted 2-1 for the visitors today, hoping that Drayton would give them a good game.

Up the Drayton!
With the nickname of "the Gingerbread men", Markey Drayton started life as "Little Drayton Rangers" back in the late 1960's and it was only in 2003 when the club changed it's name to the current one. Since this change, the club had been on the up and Drayton have managed to climb from Step 6 to Step 4 in the non-league pyramid, which is where they have been for the past 7 seasons. The Tulips on the other hand are fairly new to the division, having been promoted in the 2013-2014 Season and are looking to emulate the success that they had in the 1980's where they made it to Step 3, just two leagues away from the Conference.

From Manchester United to Spalding United...
As 3pm arrived, there was a one-minute silence observed for the memory of Shaw Lane Aquaforce's Dan Wilkinson who tragically died on Monday night. Following this, we were up and running with the match.
A minute of respect after a tragic incident
The game itself started off in a fairly strong manner from Spalding, who went close in the opening 5 minutes. A cross from the right-hand side was met my the head on the end of an outstretched Tulips neck, but his header lifted just over the bar. This was a sign of things to come though and the ball would prove to be in the net soon enough. Firstly, Kevin Buxton was dispossessed in a dangerous area and, at the cost of a corner, Drayton keeper Ash Rawlins saved the day temporarily. The resulting corner was headed goalwards by a Spalding player and then prodded home by Sam Downey to give the travellers an early advantage. Drayton 0-1 Spalding. After an initial mistaken announcement by the man behind the scenes at Greenfields that said the goal was scored by Matt Varley, he tuned back in a couple of minutes after to admit he'd got it wrong. Fair enough.

Not the start the home fans wanted
At this level, a defensive error is not exactly a rare sight, but even so Market Drayton had started in an uncomfortable fashion today and my only hope at this stage would be that the defence would firm up a bit. They didn't, and on 18 minutes they would fall into meltdown again. The culprit this time was Josh Green who tried too hard to give the ball back to the keeper and as a result hit a short pass a bit too short, meaning that Andrew Wright could swoop in to knock the ball around the keeper and tap in an easy second goal. Drayton 0-2 Spalding. Already I was starting to get flashbacks of my last outing at Hanley Town and the similar signs of defensive frailty were settling in.
The ball was spending far too much time in the Reds final-third
With time still to salvage, the Gingerbread men did eventually grab a half-chance of their own in the first-half. Just before the 30 minute mark, the first of many free-kicks were awarded against a very physical Spalding side and a header was met well by Duggan in the away net, but it did at least so some sign of Market Drayton looking for a way back in. One fan had already turned to me at this point and said that the only way his side would get a goal today is from set-pieces. Back at the other end, Spalding had sliced through the defending Reds again and the league's top-scorer, Bradley Wells, was one-on-one with Rawlins. After rounding the keeper though, he was met by a last-ditched hand from the floored keeper who managed to slap the ball away from underneath his feet before he could pull the trigger. This would prove to be the last big chance of the half and the last 10 minutes mainly consisted of rough tackles, shirt tugging and all sorts of physical play- it was a proper game of football! Not that Martyn Davies, the meaty Scotsman who was managing Market Drayton, would agree as he rose from the bench several times to vent his anger at the over-physical approach from some of the Spalding defenders. Some would argue it was solid, unnerving defensive play, some would say it was a touch too far. Either way, the cards would remain firmly tucked away in the opening 45 and the closest they came to coming out was when today's referee Andrew Dallison ran over to the dugout to ask one of the Drayton team to stop being so vocal about his officiating. Feisty!

On his Twitter page, Martyn describes himself as a Clooney lookalike- what a guy!
Half-time brough the game to a brief stop and it was time to go and enjoy another luxury can of Carling before checking out the half-time scores. With most fans taking shock at West Brom being 3-0 at the break against the Hammers, the ringleader of the conversation in the Clubhouse was a Man United fan- with his topic of conversation being, surprise surprise, the hardworking nature of Wayne Rooney. At this point, I decided to evacuate the bar and go back into the sun.

It's good to see that people are still using 1980's kitchen colour-schemes
to decorate the restrooms
Unfortunately the second-half started far too similarly for the home-side, and it wasn't long before the keeper uttered these words- "I am not conceding again today!" This came after yet another Spalding Corner wasn't dealt with, and on this occasion it was the in-form Wells who would clinically volley in the crucial third goal. Drayton 0-3 Spalding. With the game sealed, the tempo undoubtedly dropped for United and the players began to switch in to battery saver mode. Within the Market Drayton attempts to get back into the game, there was the odd counter from Spalding but these all seemed to lack the urgency now that the game seemed won. Star player Andrew Wright even found time to have a laugh with one of the chaps writing notes on the game, as he turned to him and said "that's two assists now, don't forget to put that on your website."

Is that shadow me, or one of the Spalding wingers taking a quick break?
Whilst there was a five minute drop of tempo on the pitch, the announcer decided to take this time to appeal to the good nature of the fans. At least 3 minutes of a man reading out car registration numbers was heard over the speaker, as he asked for several car owners to vacate the ground to move cars that were blocking exits/entrances from the car park. Safe to say that even with no chances being created, nobody moved from their seat to attend this particular call. It's a good job too, because they would've missed the next goal! Around the hour-mark in the game, Drayton produced the best bit of play we'd seen all afternoon and the conclusion was a decent clip into the box which was met by a bullet header from Daniel Beddows to spark a cheer amongst the main stand. Drayton 1-3 Spalding. At this point I got chatting to one fan, who turned out to be the club's Twitter guy (special mention, must be worth a retweet!) and he was telling me about how he had attended the club for many years having explained that he is officially a Plymouth Argyle fan. Spotting my Macclesfield shirt, we had a quick discussion about the beautiful game before sharing a gasp at the next Drayton chance. This time it was Kev Buxton, who had so far been in shocking form, and he struck a John Arne Riise style shot that powered just wide of the mark.

The Gingerbread men goal was looking much quieter than any other part of the game
The funny thing about football is that a player can go from almost scoring a wonder-goal, to doing something rash within minutes. This was the case in the 73rd minute as all hell broke loose by the corner-flag. With Spalding taking the game to the wings to try and stretch the opponents, Kev Buxton reached boiling point and flew in on Wells with a lunge. As players surrounded the down-and-out striker, the Ref jogged over with his red card in prime position. Repeating the phrase "Go, appalling!" to Buxton, it was game over for him after a pretty poor display. In an attempt to defend what was a first foul for the player, Lyndon Campbell wound the man in black up even more by asking him "if he was out on the piss last night", which led to him picking up a booking also. Being in prime location to see the incident, I'd probably have gone for the red too, but then again I also think that a few of the away team's challenges could've being worthy of a yellow.

Who'd be a referee?!
As with many teams, the sending off some how managed to make Market Drayton play better and they spent the last 10 minutes or so in full command of the match. With shots coming thick and fast, the 92 in attendance could sense another goal in this truly entertaining game. And deep into injury time there was to be one final chance for the home team. A good shot from the left-wing looked to have been deflected wide by a defending player's arm, and in fact a penalty was awarded to Drayton. Knowing it was likely to be the last kick of the game, Josh Green stepped up to rectify his poor pass that led to the second goal and firmly converted the spot kick straight down the centre. Drayton 2-3 Spalding. And as expected, from the kick-off the ball was kicked away and the final whistle blew in the 96th minute. With goals, fouls, a red card and a penalty to report on, today was a fine game to be a neutral for. The ground itself wasn't the best I'd been to at this level, but this has to go down as a real classic in the Pint of Football books.

The ground may have been largely wooden, but the game certainly wasn't
As I swiftly departed Greenfields with a smile on my face, I made a mental note to myself- watch Spalding United, there's bound to be goals. My next game is likely to be another local tie before I fly off to Dublin in search of a night out at Dundalk's Oriel Park, so for now I'll say farewell and thanks to Market Drayton and Spalding for a cracking match.

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