Saturday, 5 May 2018

05/05/18 Review: Holbrook St.Michael's vs Linby Colliery Welfare

Holbrook St.Michael's 5-2 Linby Colliery Welfare (Central Midlands League South Division)
Holbrook Park

A bit of a last minute effort this one and in what was completely my own fault I'd overlooked the fact that GroundHopUK and the gang had organised one of their regular weekends which just so happened to be fairly nearby to me. With no plans and a lack of company for the Bank Holiday Weekend, football was always on the cards and where better to start than in the central Derbyshire town of Belper?

Delightful morning for a kick about
My last outing had taken place on Tuesday and it was in flu-inducing conditions down at Bristol where I joined Partizan Bristle to go and watch an eight-goal marathon of a match between Cadbury Heath and Chipping Sodbury Town in the Western League match, the league whom also coincidentally hosted the last GroundHopUk weekend I attended. Tom and I bravely took on all seven matches of that three day escapade, but this morning I was riding solo and would only be there as a one-off, due to having prior commitments with Stone Dominoes, the team that I volunteer for in the Staffs County League. Thankfully with an 11am kick-off, I could ride out to Belper, enjoy the match and then race back to Hanley for the game in the Potteries- meaning it was game on in this sun-lathered ground and time for my first Black Dragon Badges South Division match. Excited barely even covered it.

Put the crossword down, old timer. It's game time!
I left Stoke nice and early and when I made it to the ground it was only 10:30, so I had plenty of time to do a bit of on the job research into what sort of game I could expect this morning. I parked up, grabbed an early pint and sat on the grass verge looking at how St.Michael's and Linby were doing so far in the season. The answer, unfortunately, was not too well. Before this morning's match, Holbrook St.Michael's were sitting in thirteenth of the fifteen teams in the league and just two points off bottom side Aslockton & Orston, whilst Linby Colliery Welfare of Nottinghamshire were only four points and one place better off, having played two more games than today's hosts. Whenever I've been down in the West Country watching football I've always found the names of the obscure surrounding towns and villages to be a little quirky and it's safe to say that I was finding the names of the teams in this division to be up there- with Swanwick Pentrich Road in particular stifling me. Holbrook had won two of their last five and Linby just one, meaning that with home advantage and also form on their side, I predicted a win for the yellows- 4-3 was my guess.
Not long til kick-off, the fans piling in
The ground was nice enough as I walked around, but certainly made nicer by the weather. With no floodlight facilities nor much in the way of seating structure, Holbrook Park is basically a glorified field with a few random mini stands plonked in, which for the seventh tier of non-league is all that is needed. My favourite couple of stands were on opposite ends of the scale and also the pitch, with a concrete block hut that reminded me of a Yorkshire coast village bus shelter housing six old wooden seats behind the goal next to the clubhouse and upon the corner of pitch nearest the gate that I entered from was a stonewall masterpiece of a stand. In two blocks of three, with one broken, a hugely weather-worn old knackered plastic seat beauty stood before everybody who visited the ground and as most people avoided this classic in the corner, I marched over with my beer as the teams emerged to sit proudly upon it and soak in some of the rays beating down on us.

All the best grounds have a corner stand
But before I could perch my rear cautiously on the back row, I continued around the ground and said hi to a couple of familiar folk from the last groundhopping event. I had a quick natter with a chap from Mansfield who had remembered my ugly mug from October and also rekindled my friendship with Terry the badge man, whilst also buying a Stone Dominoes badge to add to my vintage Macc Town one. Three quid well spent, indeed. Kick-off now loomed and as I carried on walking around I noticed an old man, surely in his 70's, trotting about on the pitch. Intrigue got the better of me and on closer inspection I was shocked to see that the senior citizen was actually the Linesman for the morning, which got me thinking if there is a record for oldest Lino in the country. Apparently AFC Croydon Athletic once called upon an 83 year old, but I'd say this chap might be a challenger. Anyway, enough of that, on with the match.

I can't really knock him though, still fitter than me
Holbrook took the game by the scruff of the neck to start with and in just the third minute it was Paul "Fish" Fisher who missed a glaring header and ultimately began his long pursuit of a goal for the day- the crafty carp got himself into a good position but he should have at least hit the target. Next up to miss a big chance was Chris Hall and the Linby midfielder would rue the miss as just a minute later Chris Saunders nipped in to beat an on-rushing Colliery keeper to the ball and his shot found the net to open the scoring in front of a record breaking Holbrook Park of 212, beating the previous effort of 147. Holbrook 1-0 Linby. The massive crowd that these groundhopping weekends bring can make a big difference for clubs at this level and as I spoke to a very proud Saints club official, he told me of how he would never see a crowd like this at his club again- which again shows just how important these events are. Back on the pitch half an hour had gone already and it was Joe Brumby who would get the next goal of the game from a free-kick, which in truth a couple of players were queuing up to slot away against a statuesque Linby defence. Holbrook 2-0 Linby. The visiting side in red were in self-destruct mode by this point and they were struggling to deal with Fisher, the slippery salmon, up front. Just before the break the home side won a penalty, which was weakly taken by Dom Hayes and easily saved by Connor Richardson.

2-0 at HT, could have been more though
The second-half saw Holbrook come out fighting again and with a bit of skill and luck they soon found themselves three up. Fisher, the crafty cod, was the man to send a teasing ball across the six-yard area and Marshall Collingwood walked the ball in, taking the bait and getting an own goal in the process. Holbrook 3-0 Linby. The visitors weren't to give up though and in a match very similar to Tuesday's there were to be many more goals still to come. Linby pushed forward and Harry Gill would make the dart forward from left-back to take the ball down well from a cross-field pass before applying a nice finish in what I'd describe as Colliery's best play of the match. Holbrook 3-1 Linby. St.Michael's had now squandered a chance of a clean sheet in front of their record crowd, so the aim would have to be the three points and a comprehensive win, which seemed to be the case as Saunders was released again to apply a deft touch over the keeper. Holbrook 4-1 Linby. With just 15 minutes left now the home side continued to go close, with Ashley Hayes and Fisher, the hassling haddock, both shooting into the blue skies around the ground. In the 80th minute it was eventually Fisher, the pesky pike, who got his goal when he had a chance handed to him on a plate that he simply couldn't let off the hook. Holbrook 5-1 Linby. Fish puns aside, the hosts number 9 had been tenacious all day and despite taking a lot of chances to get his goal, he'd made all the right moves throughout and it was totally deserved against a Linby side who seemed to have mentally finished their season already. This was personified late on as Ryan Butler was played in one-on-one only for the sub to fall over the ball and see it swept up by the Saints defence.

Surely the reds will have one more chance to score?
Indeed the visitors would get a final goal to take home on their twenty mile ride, as Liam Cartledge waltzed his way into the box, teed up a shot and then watched as a Colliery man slotted it home after a decent initial save from the Holbrook skipper. Holbrook 5-2 Linby. With that final seventh goal, the game ended and I quickly departed to make my drive over to Hanley for round two. As I sit here writing this with my sunburnt arms, all that's left to say is well played to the hosts who now will ensure they cannot finish bottom. My next fixture will come on Monday as I head to see Whitchurch Alport versus Oswestry Town in the final game of the North West Counties First Division.

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