Wednesday, 4 December 2019

30/11/19 Review: Pickering Town vs Dunston UTS

Pickering Town 4-1 Dunston UTS (BetVictor Northern Premier League, North West Division)
Mill Lane

With the chances of me reaching my aim of making it to 200 grounds by the end of the 2019/20 season fading away quicker than Man City's title credentials, my only hope now is to crack on with "bulk hops", a phrase that I made up to describe my groundhopping method lately. At the start of November I was fortunate enough to get down to Bristol for a quadruple-bill that included trips to some cracking new grounds, leaving me at 177 and still with time to get to my target. The month passed with no real opportunity to get to a new ground, but with a weekend back home in Flamborough scheduled in I was optimistic of knocking off a couple of grounds. Strangely, I managed to seek out a Friday afternoon game between Leeds and Sheff United under 23's and then on Saturday I managed to resist the temptation to revisit my hometown team Brid Town and the even bigger draw that was a second trip to The Flamingoland Stadium in search of the seaside derby between Scarborough and Whitby, meaning that my best option for a local game would come in the shape of Pickering Town versus Dunston UTS in an early season basement battle between the bottom two clubs in the BetVictor North West Division.

Howay the Dunston boys!
Being a local lad, people are always astonished at the lack of Yorkshire grounds I've frequented, but the simple fact of the matter is that until moving to Staffordshire I was always just a general football fanatic, but when I went to my first ever game between Macc Town and Burton Albion I truly fell in love with the match day experience- meaning that when I visit the east coast to see my family, I have to make up for lost time. The great thing about my trip on this occasion is that it was to a town that already has great memories for me, which could surely only be added to with this trip to Mill Lane. As a youth, my parents used to take me camping in Pickering and we also visited the delightful log cabins that border the North Yorkshire Moors, whilst other reminders of the town include a fishing trip, rides on the legendary steam train to Goathland, and even the carboot sales that my family used to force us to visit every so often!

Looking at the pitch, the carboot may well have been here
For today, though, it was all about the footy and I arrived at Mill Lane with plenty of time to spare- which meant that I'd have the chance to have a skeg around the ground and check out the local beer situation. Foolishly, I parked up outside the sign for the park, which was actually a good few minutes walk away from the entrance into the ground. I continued to walk around the edges until I eventually came to the sign that pointed me towards the actual car park, passing by the fancy Dunston coach and then eventually arriving at the turnstile. First impressions were good- I love an old wreck of a ground and this one certainly had some character to it. As my old Grandad would say, there have been some balls kicked around here over the years!

That sub's bench is sublime
Yes, the 1888 local ground is a bit of a classic to say the least and although the generic footy fan would not appreciate the huge efforts that go into keeping a place like this going, I certainly do. As I walked in past a team of club locals, I was impressed to see the three stands surrounding me all of different size and type. The one furthest away from the entrance, behind the goal, looks to be the newest and comes in the typical "tin shed" style that is very common up and down the country. Although there is nothing across one side of the pitch, the main stand sits at the opposite and is a meaty piece of work, showing off a similar metal roof to that of the others, but also with a substantial risen seating area that had plenty of seats for the fans attending on this frosty afternoon. Finally, along the length of the other goal, is the stand only terrace which led me to my original point of interest- the clubhouse in the corner.

I wondered where everyone was hiding...
The day's visitors, who had made a near two hour journey down from Gateshead, have had a frustrating start to their first campaign in the North West Division and even at this early stage they have an unprecedented EIGHT games in hand on the side they faced this afternoon, which is madness when you consider we haven't approached winter yet. The start of this afternoon saw UTS, who won the Northern Football League by a whopping seventeen points last season, sitting just three points above the Pikes and although they feel confident in catching the likes of Ossett United and Widnes who sit just above them having played six and four games more, they will need to start picking up wins sooner rather than later and there is surely no better time to do so than against the side propping up the table.... right?

Not too many stood behind the Pikes attacking end. More fool them
Meanwhile for the hosts, who were struggling to build on the 16th place finish they fought for in last season's Division One East, they would need to improve massively on the 1-8 drubbing they suffered last time out at Trafford, but with home field advantage I backed them to avoid defeat this time- making my pre-match prediction of 2-2. Not knowing at the time how wrong I would be, I sat with my pint in the bar and engaged in something that the kids are calling "banter" as a tipsy travelling fan approached me, struggled to balance his empty glass on the bar mat, then looked at me and said "wobbly". I replied with "what? The glass, or you?"- oh yes, the bantz brigade was well and truly present.

Is it match time yet?
On a more serious note, it was almost time for the big kickoff here in Pickering and with the Gents toilet being out of commission I got to spend a lengthy time outside the one disabled toilet available to the clubhouse users, which was appearing to cause one away fan issues as he eventually emerged and worryingly expressed to us in the queue, "whatever you do, don't pull the red cord!". Point taken- and with that, it was time to head outside and watch the game. The Pikes had managed to make a decent start to the game and in this battle between blue and red, there was instantly an open match underway. Although there was attacking intent from both sides, in truth the quality in the final third was not up to scratch and the question would be which team could show a bit of grit to get the ball in the net. Half an hour in and the Pikes grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and a bobbling through-ball bounced into the path of Flynn McNaughton, giving the number 11 the chance to run in and firmly place the ball into the Dunston goal, sparking a relieved celebration from the home fans. Pickering 1-0 Dunston. UTS saw this opening goal as a wake-up call and no later than five minutes later their own number 11 had a chance to equalise. The big lad used his strength and control to his advantage to steady himself before rifling home- meaning that there would be all to play for in the second forty-five. Pickering 1-1 Dunston.

My prediction had been spot on.... so far
Although the first-half had been well-fought and end-to-end, the home team clearly came out in the second ready to rumble and with the remains of the match to be played in darkness and in near-frozen conditions, the Pikes had managed to find an inspiring half of football in their lockers, which would be unleashed upon Dunston. The second-half Pickering perfection began just a few minutes in when Danny Earl glanced home. Pickering 2-1 Dunston. But unlike the first goal, the hosts did not sit back and wait for the Fed to response and instead continued to rally forward. McNaughton, scorer of that opener, should've got the third as he rounded Karl Dryden, but his lacklustre shot was blocked on the line and instead led to a scrappy scramble that eventually saw Earl receive the ball with an unmissable chance setting up his second goal and the home side's third. Pickering 3-1 Dunston.

The fans may be freezing, but the players were scorching on the field
The quickfire double had set the side in good stead by this point and on the hour mark the points would be sealed with another McLaughlin strike. Some would argue it should've been his hat-trick, but either way he will have been chuffed as the Pike player cut in from the left and struck on his right boot, watching as the ball landed in the bottom corner and put the blues on course for a second league win of the campaign. Pickering 4-1 Dunston. There wouldn't be much that could ruin the fun for Town now but into the final twenty minutes Dunston were handed a lifeline as Jackson Jowett was sent off, which I can only surmise was Matthew East's attempt to make the remains of the match a little more entertaining for the neutral! Obviously, it didn't really have much bearing and although Dunston did carve a few half-chances and the odd strike on goal, it was fairly comfortable in the end for Pickering and they saw out the game with a three goal triumph courtesy of a wonderful fifteen minutes from the home side. The next game for Pickering will be a biggy, as they travel west to face Prescot Cables, a mid-table side who've not won a league game in six. The two sides have already played twice in the FA Trophy this season, with a 0-0 draw in Merseyside being followed up with a 0-3 Cables win at Mill Lane. Should make for a fascinating game as the Pikes look to leapfrog Dunston, who will also travel to a bottom-half side in Mossley.

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