Friday, 20 April 2007

Dissolution in the Dales

Matlock Town vs Whitby Town

19 April 2007

Causeway Lane

Small-town charm springs from the Dales at Causeway Lane, home of Matlock Town Football Club. Insofar, that is, as charm can spring from a motley collection of 'grand' stands and brieze-blocks-for steps. But that's not bad at all, is it?

Loftily surveyed from the heights of Riber Castle's lofty but crumbling crenallations (do all of Derbyshire's buses look like this?) and soundscaped for 90 minutes by the tireless campanologists of St. Giles (which is illuminated into the night), this place oozes 'modest provincial sport' and 'corinthian spirit' like almost no other.

Those who've been to the Gay Meadow, Tunstall Road or Feethams (rest in peace) may pciture the scene, however, and it's a small but vocal crowd that doubtless enjoys it that way - a gaggle of well-lubricated patrons who can visit the Gladiators' Social for a plastic pint of Mansfield Best, then perch themselves contentedly on the steps outside. From here, they can watch the game as it bobbles back and forth against a backdrop of church bells and blossom.

The to-ing ands fro-ing of drinkers elicits spirited resistance and no little defamatory mirth from the bar staff, who have left their realm unattended to hang lazily over a couple of crush barriers (though I hesitate to use the term in the context of Causeway Lane) with little intent to return to their posts.

Every now and again, a squadron of ducks strafes the arena, picked out in the halogen glare as the skies darken. A handful of spectators have taken cover in their cars, with Thermos flasks and a brace of marmite-'n'-mighty-white, no doubt. These drive-in die-hards evoke TUTD's magical mystery tour to Prestatyn two weeks ago (an occasion I probably won't blog about, save to say that Sammy was born in Stoke and therefore It Is Done: he must embrace Rhyl and Prestatyn).

The effect doesn't last long, but it's a nice sunny evening, and there's a similarly refreshing breeze skipping down from the hills. None the less, the occupants of the vehicle in question continue to monitor the Matlock goal mouth as if they're daydreaming a path towards the distant horizon, trying to visualise landfall in the soft-focus of their mind's eyes.

In all, 263 souls witness the razing of Whitby's resistance, and the dissolution ends 5-1 to the home team. The visitors are managed by former Quaker legend Lee "Nogoals" Nogan, who spends an appropriately ascetic evening agitating the gravel on the edge of his dug-out.

Nogan was a sturdy enough centre-forward in his day, but spent so much time running sideways that you suspected he was mounted on an invisible fussball axle. He is joined by fellow former Feethams men Alex Janes, Phil Brumwell, and Matty Appleby, who have amassed league games aplenty between them.

It all leaves me reflecting on how utterly naff Darlo must have been in the last few seasons. Perhaps - despite the introduction of two up, two down a few years back - it remains fair to say that the Football League is all but a closed shop, with the door to the Conference still only slightly ajar. Most of the clubs in the fourth tier really are much of a muchness, I guess, and our seasons tend simply to wilt as spring approaches.

"Whitby were away so Whitby lost again" surmised the Seasiders' webmaster cheerily. I'd imagine he didn't feel much like appending a fulsome report, but, hey, it may have seen the light by the time you read this.

Causeway Lane

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