Monday, 31 August 2015

Frickley Athletic 2 v Whitby Town 2 - EvoStik NPL Prem

Monday 31st August 2015
EvoStik Northern Premier League, Premier Division
at the SW Jackson Utilities Stadium
Westfield Lane, South Elmsall
Frickley Athletic (1) 2
Jacob Hazel 35. Zephaniah Thomas 66
Whitby Town (0) 2
Lee Mason 52, Michael Roberts 84 (Pen)
Admission £9. Programme £2. Attendance 264
Frickley Athletic:
Seb Malkowski, Louis Bruce, Macaulay Parkinson (Luke Jeffs 58), Luke Hinsley, John Cyrus, Jameel Ible (C), Luke Hornsey (Lee Stratford 78), Simon Lenighan, Jacob Hazel (Royale Johnson 58), Zeph Thomas, Tyler Williams
Unused subs - Chris Wood, Peter Fotko
Whitby Town:
Joe Fryer, Hibrahim Hassan, Mark Robinson (C) (Ross Gardiner 21), Richard Pell, Keiran Neledji, Liam Shepherd, David McTiernan, Lee Mason (James Brown 85), Adam Gell, Michael Roberts, Scott McCarthy
Unused subs - Lee Bullock, Matt Waters, Connor Gardiner
You have to prove yourself as competent over a lengthy period of time and be rigorously assessed on a regular basis, to acquire the requisite level of qualifications to become a match referee at this sort of level. 
No match official ever deliberately goes out onto a football pitch to make errors in judgement, or give favours to one team or the other. 
And it is a fact that all players make more genuine mistakes over the course of a game than any referee ever did.
However, it is fairly obvious where all of this cliche riddled introduction is heading... 
Yes, you have probably already guessed that Matthew McGrath, the man in the middle at this afternoon's game, dropped a bollock of monumental proportions... and his misjudgement influenced the final result.
The Frickley crowd can, at times, be an outspoken, uncompromising and volatile lot; after all's said and done, they haven't got a cage around the players tunnel to protect the crowd from hostile match officials.
But today their ire, protestations and vulgar verbosity, were not forthcoming without a certain amount of justification, provocation and wholly warranted disbelief, that their team had been done out of a couple of points.
Because, with just six minutes of the game remaining, the referee got things horribly wrong today.
The game that had started forty plus minutes late, due to the delayed arrival of most of the away team because of Bank Holiday traffic, who'd had to play in Frickley's all yellow away kit, because their own strip was on the supporters bus that was still someway behind them and still stuck in a traffic jam (in the event the bulk of the Whitby fans turned up shortly after the half time break), on an inevitably grey and bloody miserable final public holiday before Christmas, but the sting in the tail/tale, right at the end, pushed the credibility of the plot, beyond the breaking point of a section of the Frickley fan's tolerance levels.
However all was well in the Westfield Lane garden of tranquility during the first half as the Blues cult hero, their Polish goalie, Sebastian Malkowski, kept the lively visitors at bay with a string of saves while Frickley, a side who look capable of finishing much higher up the table (i.e. away from their usual relegation scrap zone) than their long suffering fans have become accustomed to, for the last few years or so, put together a few decent passages of play and created a couple of good goalscoring opportunities along the way too.
The mood around the ground improved even more when Jacob Hazel tucked the ball into the right hand corner of the Seasiders goal on 35 minutes, when Luke Hinsley nodded the ball down into his path from Tyler Williams cross.
Three points today would've seen the South Elmsall based home side climb up the table to joint sixth in the NPL... the club first aider prepared in readiness for a bout of dizzy spells and nosebleeds all around
Half time arrived 1-0 to Frickley, so far so good for the Blues.
Though it must be said that Whitby had also played their part an entertaining game as well.
And in spite of the obvious faux pas on the part of Mr McGrath right at the end, on the balance of things, although Frickley were denied a win in controversial circumstances, the visitors hadn't deserved to lose either and the draw was probably a fair result.
As the teams came out after the interval, one of the 'tunnel siders' shouted out to Matthew McGrath and said "You're having a good game today referee", he smiled and replied "Ha ha, you don't usually say that!", prophetic words indeed.
Early in the second half, the visitors equalised when Lee Mason took advantage of a mix up among the Frickley back four and punished the home side for their lapse in concentration, when they failed to pick him up from a defence splitting pass from Adam Gell.
"What's ****ing Polish for 'catch it you ****' then?" chirped a 'cheerful' octanganrean Blues supporter, sat a few rows in front of me.
For the record, the slight on the Blues keeper was unfair, because Malkowski was actually having a good game. and Whitby had certainly been keeping him busy.
But it was only a short lived setback for Karl Rose's team, who were soon back in front when Zeph Thomas powered the ball home from 25 yards out after he was picked out with a pass from out wide on the left from, err... somebody who was obscured by a floodlight stanchions that was restricting my sightline from where I was sitting, right up in the back row, on one of those big new comfy main stand seats that have been installed this season.
Malkowski showed his agility when he got down to his left and turned a blistering strike from Richard Pell round the post. at the other end Chris Wood cut into the Whitby box through the left channel and squandered a great chance, when he had looked odds on to score the home side's third goal.
Dave Mctiernan hit the left hand upright with a deflected shot as Whitby pushed forward in pursuit of another equaliser and when the ball rebounded back to Scott McCarthy, he smashed it against the right post as well. I bet the pair of them couldn't couldn't do that again in a hurry!
Royale Johnson, who had come on in place of Jacob Hazel around the hour mark, was causing the visitors defence a few problems.
The weather was grim, but the game was certainly lively enough.
It's been way too long since my last visit to Frickley and I was thoroughly enjoying my afternoon, with some decent companions, but with just over five minutes to go, Mr McGrath changed the whole complexion of the game and destroyed the chilled vibe and ambience entirely.
Now, while I'm happy for the Whitby fans, who had endured a horrible journey to watch forty minutes of football this afternoon, that sentiment is offset by the feeling of complete injustice that my many friends at Westfield Lane must be feeling tonight.
Whitby slung a cross in from the right, that evaded everybody in the six yard box... and Jameel Ible, at full stretch, slid in and got his foot around the ball to hook it away, as he and opted for the safety first route of conceding a corner.
Ible reached the ball a fraction before McTiernan arrived, and the Whitby number 7 was unfortunate enough to be clipped by the Frickley captain's trailing foot, as their momentum brought the pair of them together.
But it was an accidental contact, the ball had already gone and any immediate danger had been averted (for the time being). While McTiernan cried out in obvious pain, the Blues fans breathed a collective sigh of relief, that they hadn't squandered three points so late in the game.
However... the Whitby fans cheered (somewhat ironically), as the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot.
What for?
Was he penalising Ible for kicking the ball away too hard?
Is there some new crazy ruling circular going around the EvoStik match officials that says captains aren't allowed to kick the ball in their own six yard box, or something equally daft?
Because, by anyone's understanding of the rules, no actual offence had been committed whatsoever.
While you could sympathise with McTiernan as he limped away behind the goal line to receive treatment, you could also feel an empathy towards everybody connected to Frickley, as they looked on with a mixture of persecuted desolation and melancholy disbelief etched across their collective faces, as Michael Roberts gratefully and gleefully smashed the ball past Malkowski... well, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth with just five minutes left on the clock do you? Roberts did really well to focus on the job in hand with all the finger pointing and shouting going on around him.
I spoke to a few visiting supporters on the way out and they didn't think McTiernan had been fouled either.
And I'm told that the match referee didn't make an appearance in the Blues clubhouse after the game. 
He got that decision right! ;-)
FT: Frickley Athletic 2 v Whitby Town 2
Frickley will have been disappointed that they let the tempo drop after scoring both of their goals, which allowed Whitby to come back at them twice.
But as a team they are obviously much improved on last season. The Westfield Lane faithful are nothing if not realistic after several seasons of struggle and I dare say they will be content with the progress their side are making this season, but they will probably be even happier if they don't see Matthew McGrath again this season (or possibly ever again).
Good luck to the Seasiders and their fans, I hope they have a safe and more speedy journey home than the horrible southbound trek they have endured this afternoon. 
When all is said and done, it wasn't anyone from Whitby's fault that the referee made a blatant mistake that created the opportunity for the visitors to deny Frickley a win.