Non-League drama, Premieship chips!
From what should have been a rare break from the thrills and spills of the football season, unfolded a typically action-packed Saturday afternoon which served up a non-league feast to sink my teeth into.
On the day reserved for the Brewers to hopefully throw their name in with the big boys for the FA Cup third round draw, I took up the rather less glamorous proposition of braving the bitter weather in a desperate bid for a game to watch.
Of course, Albion were dumped out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle and as it was the cup weekend, had some time off. Add to that the fact Derby’s game was moved (again) by Sky to the Friday night and I was left in an unwanted predicament. There were two options: 1) stay at home, twiddle my thumbs and maybe send the odd tweet bemoaning my boredom. Or 2) stand outside shivering for two hours in a football ground that looks as if it could crumble if the wind changed direction. Oh, this is all whilst two almost amateur sides battle it out in a competition so prestigious, its final attracts a colossal near-9,000 spectators. If I’ve lost you, it’s the FA Vase (google it).
Now, the untrained eye may suspect I’d plump for choice number one. But no. My football orientated brain told me otherwise. The destination was the Moat Ground, for Gresley FC v Gornal Athletic in the FA Vase third round.
Basically, I can’t go a Saturday without a footie match!
This is what it’s all about. The real football, the game at its roots. The away contingent that counted about six! It is everything the hardcore non-league fan describes. As I witnessed 22 courageous men fight tooth and nail on a mountainous ‘pitch’, many compare to Everest, I couldn’t help but grin when I heard a squeaky voice from behind me bellow “Come on Gresley!”. But, there was no one anywhere near me?! OH. Wait. Nestled above me on top of a fence was the head of a young lad! Just casually peaking over his from his garden to catch a glimpse of the action! Perfect vantage-point.
I was in true non-league spirit, which was further enhanced with Gresley’s marvellous chips and curry. WOW. Heaven on Earth, on a tray. Christmas came early. Use any clichés you like. They’ll be fully-justified, I assure you. The prospect of Gresley’s grub offerings just about outweighed the indulgence of Mickleover Sports’ bacon butties – and I didn’t regret my decision.
Gornal – who are a league below their opponents – saw any hopes of an unlikely upset swept away in a tide of goals that flowed freely from the outset. The Moatmen romped to a 4-1 lead in less than half an hour which all but sealed their passage to the next round. To their credit, Gornal hit back and went down fighting, but it finished 4-2. Fantastic game! I couldn’t ask for any more in terms of entertainment.
In fact, seeing such an end-to-end encounter reminded me of a Burton Albion goal fest!
I must confess, I did appreciate the Gresley supporters’ humour. Their selection of anti-Burton songs was staggering. Let’s just say, with Albion battling for promotion to League One, and meanwhile, the Moatmen fight for Midland Alliance league success… I think we had the last laugh!