A league game, on the 24th May. Put it this way. It is 3 weeks since the rest of the EMCL completed their campaign.
The original game was abandoned after 83 minutes after a horrific injury – surely that result should have stood rather than having to replay the fixture – it was interesting that no representative from the EMCL was at Wharf Lane tonight, they are obviously all on the beach by now.
The facilities at Radcliffe meet ground grading, but only just. Their surroundings don’t allow much further. The ground is hidden away, down the slop from a public play park and skate park that seemed to have a healthy gathering using the facilities. You could technically watch the whole game from the top of this grass bank – through the Heras fencing that is put up shortly before kick off, and taken down again right on the final whistle. The volunteer power at Radcliffe is amazing to see, plenty of people milling about doing various tasks.
South Normanton arrived tonight missing a few faces, but still close to full strength. The Shiners needing only a single point to claim 2nd place position, behind promoted West Bridgford FC.
As usual, with finishing work at 5.30pm, going home and then coming back out didn’t seem a viable option for timing. So I met Luke at Phoenix Park and off we went, straight to the chippy – Hake was the catch of the day at the chippy in Radcliffe… it turns out I hate Hake!
The game set off at lightning speed, Radcliffe taking a 9th minute advantage from what is an OG – I think the ball his Marc Strzyzewski on the line – but I’m not sure it was really an OG!
‘Normo’ didn’t get going. With players like Charlie Mansfield, ‘Strez’, Danny Roberts, Lee Fell and player-manager Tom Leighton in the side they certainly had the class, but on the night, the quality was lacking.
The group of us watching were shocked when Radcliffe doubled their lead shortly after half an hour. The ball forced home by Sam Adams from the spot. In fairness, we had all switched off by this point. The lack promised so much, but by this point, hadn’t delivered. Malc was catching up with new friend, Russell Cox, who spent more time faffing with a camera than observing – no doubt he saw the important bits, I’ll look forward to reading a decent blog entry later.
Normo then woke up. A penalty, however soft, was awarded by Scott Spering and Tom Leighton stepped up to put the ball in the bottom corner. Dragging his team back in to the contest. With just 37 minutes on the clock, it looked like the game was about to come to life – and it did!
Leighton went from goal scorer, to assist creator six minutes later. His whipped free kick landing on the head of Warren Hatfield about 8 inches from the goal line, you have to make sure don’t you Wiz! I’ve seen him score goals from 25 and 30 yards, I think this is the first header I’ve ever seen from the experienced attacker.
Half time came, and went. We didn’t move out the shelter of the stand. It was far too warm to be caught in the sun! 24 degrees isn’t football weather… not in Nottinghamshire anyway.
A goalmouth scramble that was created by Normo not putting their foot through the ball ended with Radcliffe taking the lead for the final time. Stabbing the ball home from eight yards through a sea of legs putting Radcliffe back in the lead on 59 minutes.
There it was. Game on. Normo trying to get back to a level score with half an hour to go. They would have had a chance of building some momentum if the Radcliffe manager hadn’t decided to scream at the linesman, then call someone a “faggot” repeatedly and then telling the referee to do his job. What an embarrassment to a fine club. I caught his theatrical, ridiculous behaviour on camera. If you’re friends with me on Facebook you’ll find the photo’s on there.
It was like a pressure cooker. Something had to give. Charlie Mansfield pumped the ball time and time again in to the Radcliffe half, free kick after free kick given away in the Normo half to slow the game down.
Tom Leighton is a class player who should be at a level or two above, it is fitting that he dragged his team back level on 83 minutes. A dipping volley from the edge of the box, leaving the manager with two goals and an assist in the last game of the season.
Cricket…. or Ashbourne Summer League Football… or neither!