Saturday, 4 March 2017

Maltby Main 1 v Pickering Town 1 - NCELPrem

Saturday 4th March 2017
Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
at Muglet Lane
Maltby Main (1) 1
Ryan Carroll 23
Pickering Town (0) 1
Sam Denton 89
Amission £5. Programme £1.50. Attendance 105
Maltby Main:
Danny Rusling, Reece Wesley, Joe Austin, Dean Smith, Richard Adams, Shawn Mitchell, Nicky Darker, Josh Nodder (Ollie Lawrence 88), Steve Hopewell (Sam Forster 86), Ryan Carroll (Cameron Rigby 81), Danny Patterson
Unused subs - Lloyd Henerson, Jack Greeves
Pickering Town:
Toby Wells, Denny Ingram (Joe Dale 67), Joe Danby (Alex Rbinson 73), Rob Chipps (Russ Parker 85), George Blissett, Sam Denton, Nick Thompson, Eddie Birch, Ryan Blott, Lewis Taylor, Ryan Cooper
Unused sub - Joe Dunnett
A few months ago, drawing against a team of Pickering Town's stature, would have been considered as an outstanding result for Maltby Main.
But this afternoon, the second placed Pikes could actually consider themselves fortunate to have salvaged a point, very late in the day and avoided defeat at 'the Wembley of the North'.
Of course, anybody who has seen the marked improvement in home sides play in recent times, or who has been taking notice of the quality of the squad that they've been assembling, wouldn't have been in the least bit surprised that they took the game to title chasing Pickering and had them on the back foot for long spells.
A win for Paul Marshall's side would have seen them move to within five points of Cleethorpes Town, but such an outcome never looked on the cards and any aspirations that the North Yorkshire side had of bouncing back after their 4-1 reversal against the league leaders and champions elect, were well and truly nipped in the bud today.
Cleethorpes are scheduled to visit Muglet Lane themselves on Wednesday 29th March... and I expect to see you all there!
Ash Davies will be there ladies!
Only four NCEL Premier Division games survived morning pitch inspections today, after heavy overnight rain had severely tested the saturation level of the water table, across the swaithe of this Sceptered Isle that encompasses Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire
AFC Mansfield lost 1-0 at home against Barton Town Old Boys, Albion Sports were beaten 4-3 by Clipstone, Rainworth Miners Welfare won 2-0 on their travels at Staveley... and of course, Pickering scraped a 1-1 draw today, here on the 'Pitch of a thousand bobbles'.
One of the key battles in this gripping contest, was the one between the two club captain's: Maltby's Nicky Darker, who resembled a baby faced assassin today since he got rid of his facial hair, and Nick Thompson, Pickering's uncompromising leader.
With numerous people harping on about tonight's boxing match between David Haye and Tony Bellew (remind me to turn my Twitter deed off later, to avoid the OTT coverage of the fight and 'expert' analogies posted by numerous people who actually know eff all about the 'noble art'), this head to head between the respective number seven's of these two sides, was one bout I was definitely looking forward to... and though Thompson stood up to be counted, my score card had Darker down as winning each and every round. 
In fact the Miners skipper even withstood a knockout blow later on in the game when, with around fifteen minutes to go, he took an arm across the face, from a.n.other, as he was guarding the right hand post from a Pickering corner.
But the referee's view of things may have been slightly obscured by the crowd of players vying for the ball, because that is definitely not the sort of thing that Kenwyn Hughes would usually allow to go (relatively) unpunished, when he showed a yellow card and not a red for the transgression.
Of course, for purposes of objectivity and balance, it might have been a purely accidental contact, because I don't know of any footballer who makes any sort of challenge in the midst of a melee, with their arms tucked in, down by their sides. But by the same token, Darker isn't the sort of player to react the way he did if it had been unintentional, so draw your own conclusion.
The incident definitely added a touch of edginess to the closing stages of the game, with both Darker and Pickering's Ryan Blott finding their way into Mr Hughes' notebook a few minutes later, as the official sensibly took action to take the sting out of a potentially escalating situation.
The home side showed their attacking intentions during the opening exchanges, with Josh Nodder, Steve Hopewell and Shawn Mitchell combining to forge an opening through the centre of the Pikes rearguard, before the latter played the ball out wide to Darker, whose right wing cross cleared the bar and landed on the roof of the net.
The visitors tried to make some in roads into Maltby territory, with Eddie Birch appearing to be their main threat and outlet for any sort of forward movement, but he was kept in check by Dean Smith, an unsung hero of the Miners recent change in fortunes whose consistency must mark him out as one of the first names on Spencer Fearn's team sheet. And after today I would've thought that Shawn Mitchell can't be far behind; his link up play and desire to muck in and do just about anything that needed doing, to keep the Miners ticking over, along with his work ethic, shone like a beacon to those around him. 
Every team needs a player like Mitchell, putting a foot in here and there, and doing all of the donkey work, for want of a better expression.
Blott, Pickering's centre forward, wasn't get much change out of Reece Wesley, who cleverly kept the big target man in check, using several well executed tricks of the trade to establish exactly who was gaffering that particular one against one tussle.
Despite Richard Adams weighing in with an assured performance and Joe Austin playing the best ninety minutes I have seen him put in since his return to the Muglet Lane fold, from Clipstone, Maltby were proving to be very difficult to break down. 
But Pickering aren't title challengers for nothing and Blott found himself in space and throug,h one on one, against Danny Rusling, who had to be alert as the ball bounced up awkwardly off of the every so slightly uneven pitch surface.
A Pickering fan sat nearby grumbled that Blott was beaten by the pitch, perhaps he should have given the Maltby keeper more credit, he has to deal with the ball sitting up in all manner of ways every other week and you don't hear him making any excuses about the infamous home turf.
Danny Patterson was making a real nuisance of himself, causing the visitors numerous problems and he almost set up the opening goal for Darker with a great delivery from out on the left ,but the Miners skipper headed narrowly wide of the right hand post.
But in the twenty third minute, Maltby were deservedly in front, when the ball fell perfectly for Ryan Carroll on the edge of the Pikes area, from a headed clearance, and without hesitation, he cracked a first time volley past Toby Wells that left the visitors keeper rooted to the spot.
Carroll can certainly be relied on to score goals... but only spectacular and never ordinary ones.
He'll definitely play at a higher level, but for now, Maltby's gain is everybody else in the NCEL's considerable loss. And if you think that I am exaggerating, get down and have a look for yourself.
Here are some forthcoming fixture details:
And if anybody could put one of these tastefully laid out posters up in their pub, club, library, place of work, shop, garage, probation office, police station, prison visitors waiting room or whorehouse, then please don't hesitate to ask the club for one. Thank you in anticipation.
Wells found himself under pressure again, when Hopewell picked up a forward pass from Patterson, turned on the spot and drilled a shot inches over the bar.
Birch ran forward towards Wesley and must've thought he'd found a way through, when the Miners defender appeared to stand with his feet apart and allow himself to be the victim of a nutmeg; but with the ball rolling safely towards Rusling, Birch realised that he'd been suckered as Wesley stood between him and the Maltby keeper, blocking his route to goal with a look of satisfaction on his face that he'd conned the Pikes number eight into giving the ball away in a dangerous position.
Moments like that win games just as much as goals.
Sam Denton, looked solid in the air for the visitors whenever Maltby resorted to playing the ball long, as the underfoot conditions dictate that they have to at times.
But Denton, who has recently signed for Pickering from Harrogate Railway Athletic, saw his defence split twice in quick succession, with forward knocks from both Mitchell and Nodder, that both had Wells racing from his line to rescue his team mates.
As half time approached, the Pikes made one last push to get on level terms as Joe Danby launched a long free kick from out on the left flank towards Birch at the back post, but Rusling read the flight of the ball well and plucked the ball off the visitors number eight's head.
HT: Maltby Main 1 v Pickering Town 0
Maltby hadn't so much as parked the bus to prevent Pickering getting a foothold in the final third, it was more as if they had hijacked it (you Pickering fans ought to check how you're getting home), crashed it across their eighteen yard box and set the bloody thing alight.
And while they were as tight as a gnat's chuff piece in defence and continuing to frustrate their high flying visitors, Spencer Fearn's vastly improved side went hunting for a second goal to consolidate their lead.
Nodder, who was ripping up trees on his return to the Miners, let fly with a well struck effort from long range, that Wells kept out with a great save.
And moments later, Hopewell drilled a dipping shot from eighteen yards out, that dipped just wide of the right hand post.
Wells denied Nodder again, as the home side piled on the pressure and it looked for all the world as if it was only a matter of time until they scored another goal. Pickering certainly knew that they were in a game today and no mistake.
Maltby were playing with such confidence that when Rusling beat Ryan Cooper to the ball on the edge of the area, he actually dribbled round him before playing the ball up the park.
The Pikes nearly found a way through, when Danby played a diagonal pass through to Birch, ten yards from Rusling's goal, but Wesley stepped him and took the ball off him with an assured interception, as a comedian in the crowd shouted out: "That's Mister Wesley to you son!"
To his credit, Birch tried to get his side going with a number of crosses from out on the left, but Adams, Wesley and Austin took turns to head them away.
Paul Marshall, the Pickering manager and all round top bloke in my experience, replaced both of his full backs in quick succession, as he tweaked his formation, but probably wished he hadn't, as it now meant that he had the hyperactive, vociferous, 'shouty man' assistant player manager stood beside him for the remainder of the game.
That'll teach you in future Marsh!
Blott tried to free Birch with a ball into the six yard box, but Austin moved in as quickly as his bionic uncle Steve and hooked the ball away from danger.
The Pikes thought that they had pulled level when Lewis Taylor scored directly from a corner kick, but fortunately the referee had now located which pocket he'd put his contact lenses in and clearly saw Blott pushing Rusling into the back of the net as he rose to take a catch. Well done Mr Hughes, I'm glad that you final decided to turn up pal ;-)
Pickering had decided to go for it, crap or bust in the closing stages, by which time Maltby had hot wired several more vehicles out of the car park, to bolster the effectiveness of the blazing coach.
Once again Blott picked out Birch, who made himself enough space to shoot but cleared the bar with a hurried effort as Adams closed him down.
That man Birch tried to dribble his way past Patterson, but won't be trying that again in a hurry, as the Maltby number eleven, firmly but just about fairly stopped him in full flight.
The Maltby Youth Casuals prepare to leg the
Pickering fans back to their transport home.
Maltby ran the clock down, defending effectively, while still posing a threat on the counter as the visitors had to commit men forward and they were seemingly well on their way to winning all three points... and probably the freedom of the Borough of Cleethorpes into the bargain.
But in the final minute of the scheduled ninety, Sam Denton scored from just outside the Miners goal area to level things up, after the ball had broken loose to him from a goalmouth scramble, that the home side had appeared to have cleared their lines from, after a cross from the right had caused panic among their ranks. 
With players from both sides kicking the ball against each other in an attempt to get control of the situation, it had fallen to Adams, who in spite of being on the ground, managed to stick his foot out and divert it out of the area, but having put in a great shift this afternoon, he saw his very last touch punished cruelly, as Denton arrived right on time to slot the ball through all of the bodies into the area, while Rusling ran over to offer a few 'friendly words of advice' to Adams.
Was Denton lucky to still be on the pitch? Hmm, he certainly was now; but in the heat of the moment, sometimes fortune favours you and other times it certainly bloody well doesn't. As a rule, Lady Luck usually flirts with the higher placed teams in the league table... and leaves the others alone  to struggle on. She's a bit of a slag in that respect.
Pickering didn't get a foothold in the Maltby half again in stoppage time, Dean Smith kept his focus, despite the understandable feeling of disappointment that must've been hurting like hell throughout the collective ranks of the home side, and he made it his mission to put a up a 'they shall not pass' ferocious guard dog like barrier across the middle of the pitch.
The full time whistle sounded and dropping two points right at the death, felt distinctly like suffering a defeat to a late sucker punch, when in truth, Maltby had just earned a very credible point, and almost claimed all three, against the team who are currently second in the league. And that is testament to how far the team and the club as a whole have stepped up the ante in recent times, both on and off the pitch.
There's still a lot more to come from Maltby Main... you can count on that.
FT: Maltby Main 1 v Pickering Town 1
The Miners now need to put the put the disappointment of only drawing against a very good side behind them and put in a similar, hard working display on the road against my good friends at Rainworth next weekend.
Pickering have three games to play before Cleethorpes are in league action again, because the Owls are involved in a two legged FA Vase semi final over the next two weekends. Good luck to them in their quest to reach Wembley. With Bottesfrord Town at home and Albion Sports and Retford United away, the Pikes will have to make maximum use of Cleethorpes break from the championship race and hope that the east coast club falter when they are faced with a run of games in hand to deal with.
I don't think Marcus Newell's team will slip up now that their fate is squarely in their own hands, but only time will tell.
One of those games is at Muglet Lane of course... and on that subject, as I walked back to my car a Pickering fan commented: "I hope Maltby try that hard against bloody Cleethorpes when they come here!"
I'm damn sure that they will, but I resisted the temptation to say: 'It's a shame that your lot didn't try a bit harder last Saturday' and cheerily wished him a safe journey home instead. 
I still have friends in Pickering after all... although I might not have, once they have read this report.
Hopefully they're all enjoying having a fantastic season and will sustain their title challenge right until the bitter end. 
But they got lucky today and can count their blessings that they are heading home with a point, in my humble (but 100% correct... as always) opinion. 
He's happy because he's watching Maltby Main