So, tickets in hand, I headed off to Kirkby Malzeard. A proper little Emmerdale village it turns out, hidden in amongst snow-covered peaks (I'm not sure if these were still snow-covered or freshly snow-covered) And could I find the ground? Could I chuff! And I'll give 8p to the first person who can...
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But it's alright, I have a back up, remember. With Kirkby kicking off at two, I still had plenty of time to get Harrogate Railway. And I got to there in plenty of time too. Stopping off at Elite Meat for a sausage roll (they do award-winnign sausages apparently, and I would have loved to have tried them. Another day....) I was desperate for the loo. It was still horribly early, early enough that the turnstiles weren't open, and the ground was deserted. I found a stewardy-looking chap, but had to near-enough beg him to use the loo. Not exactly friendly would be the best way to describe him. A leering, gormless loon would be more accurate however. So as I was "relaxing", I revisited my plan. The clubhouse appeared little more than a portacabin, and HRA isn't in the most salubrious of areas, so the prospect of sitting in one of the local pubs wasn't too appealing. I ran away. Safely back in my car, I searched the web for somewhere else to be. And finally, I found Thackley.
Nestled on the outskirts of the city, you could easily drive past Thackley if you were desperate to get out of Bradford. Many are, so many do. Attendances would certainly suggest a signpost or two wouldn't go amiss. From reading the programme, Thackley are on of about 7 or 8 clubs to have applied for promotion out of the NCEL at the end of the season. The way the table lies currently, it's a long shot. And the ground would still need some work. But their Secretary was ebuliant enugh in his notes. Probably because he knows it's such a long shot.
In a previous guise, I have watched Shirebrook once or twice this season, and the harsh truth is they aren't very good. The ideas are limited, and the personnel on the whole ill-equipped to carry out any form of a game plan. For this reason, they sit near the foot of the table, and all the indicators were that this was set to be a home banker. And so it proved...
Not, perhaps, the image they are looking for
From the kick off, the visitors were keen to be seen to be attacking, but didn't really know why they were doing it. Balls went forward at every opportunity, but the front pair, though occassionally willing runners, were in for a frustrating day. Thackley soon realised this, and started to push forwards. As toothless as Shirebrook were upfront, they were veritably gummy at the back, and it was only 10 minutes until Matthew Mathers bundled through a paper-thin last gasp tackle, and calmly slotted the ball past the hapless keeper.
At this point, I have to point out that Shirebrook's keeper is called Simon Smith. Which obviously means I have to post this video.
I have nothing to add to this video, and I should apologise to Mr Smith if he ever happens upon this post, as I am sure he is sick to the back teeth of the reference.
Shortly afterwards, Thackley were flagged for offside. Somehow Shirebrook contrived to put themselves under pressure within two passes of the freekick, resulting in the left back hoofing the ball out for a corner.Or so we thought. It appeared the ref was equally appaled by Shirebrook's defensive frailties, and elected instead to award them a goal kick. No one could fathom how it came to decision, least of all the assessor siting next to me. And they say Uriah Rennie is dodgy!
After half an hour, following more hopeful hoofing from Shirebrook (it would be unfair to call it aimless, the passes did sometimes come off, and they weren't backwards in coming forwards, so to speak), Thackley found themselves fannying around with it down by Shirebrook's left hand corner. The impressive Luke Hudson eventually tired of humilating the defense, and curled in an inviting cross which Nicky Matthews rose to meet on the edge of the six yard box, an the game was pretty much over.
As half time approached, and two goals down, the visitors were forced to attack. And as luck would have it, the fates conspired to see them awarded a penalty. The mouthy, but otherwise unimpressive number 10 was felled unfairly, and up stepped Martin Rowbottom, a full back with a passing resemblance to Dennis Irwin (if you happen to be passing in a speeding car).
Hmm... the less said about that, the better...
Thank you, my ruddy-faced chum
Over the course of half time, an awful lot of perfume decided to sit next to me. The smell was so pungent that I struggled to focus on the game. I don't think much worthy of note happened. Shirebrook tried, but Thackley repelled them without much effort. At the other end, they knew the game was won, and attacked with increasingly less enthusiasm. Captain Stuart Waite provided a handy diversion however, as his banter with both his own team mates and the oppostion marked him out as something of a "character" He reminded me of Mick Godber in this respect, although I should point out that there was absolutely no physical resemblance. Those of you who know Mr Godber will vouch for this being a good thing if you are Mr Waite!
As time ticked down, Thackley got a third after a neat passing move across the edge of the box culminated with Adam Hill shooting across Smith and into the corner. Three nil didn't flatter either side.
As mentioned somewhere near the rambling start, I doubt Thackley will go up, but I would expect Hudson at the very least to move to a higher level. Shirebrook have a struggle ahead of them however. They are crying out for a target man, and some cohesive defense.
Kind regards, Alan Hansen