Saturday 2nd May 2009

Graham Street Prims 1 Kirby Muxloe 3
East Midlands Counties League
At: Asterdale Sports Club, Borrowash Road, Spondon
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 76
Weather: warm. sunny spells
Duration: first half: 46:11; second half 45:17

At the end of the season, I like to find a game with something at stake and this one at the Asterdale Sports Ground fell nicely into that category.

Going into the final round of fixtures, visitors Kirby Muxloe (72 points from 33 games) needed to avoid defeat to capture the inaugural East Midlands Counties League title, regardless of what second-placed Borrowash Victoria, three points behind, did in their last game at Dunkirk. Defeat for Kirby and a win for Borrowash would see Vics top the final table. Ironically, Borrowash’s ground is just a 100 or so yards away from Prims’ on the south side of the sports ground.

With Mrs 'iwf' out with the church’s walking group, I had junior 'iwf' with me for her first complete game of the season.

Graham Street Prims were a lovely welcoming club who play at the Asterdale Sports Ground on Borrowash Road. The narrowish gated entrance is on the right 400 yards south of the exit off the A52 Derby-bound carriageway. We approached via the A6005 heading away from Derby in direction of Long Eaton. Borrowash Road was on the left after passing the Skoda garage.

The car park was next to the large boarded-up Asterdale club with Prims on the left and Vics’ ground visible to the right. Through the entrance, in the corner of the ground, where the programme (£1) was available, the pitch (orientated west-east) ran lengthways to the right. The ground was fully enclosed with a wooden fence. Behind the near goal close to the near corner was the covered stand containing two rows of black individual tip-up seats – I wonder if they came from the Baseball Ground? The dugouts were on halfway on the far touchline and there was no spectator access down the near touchline. To the right of the entrance was the Refreshment Room and I presume Josie and Gill were the two ladies providing a superb service.

Prims were originally founded in 1904, being formed from a primitive Methodist Church from which they derived the name ‘Prims’. According to the club history on the website, Graham Street is located near Derby County’s old Baseball Ground. They moved to their present home a few years ago, having previously played at the Railway Ground in Longbridge Lane.

Fairplay was in evidence again as the two teams came out side-by-side behind the three match officials. The teams turned round after the toss so Kirby Muxloe (wearing blue shirts with yellow sleeves, blue shorts and socks) got the game underway defending the stand end in the first half. Despite being behind the goal, we opted for a seat on the front row - mine was numbered ‘204’. “Get switched on and get it right,” urged the vociferous Kirby keeper.

Even though Graham Street Prims (39 points from 33 games, wearing red and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks) were playing for pride with no chance what so ever of being relegated, they tried to do their neighbours a favour by taking the lead in the 7th minute. Charlie Holman’s long throw from the right fell to Phil Carson fired home at close range. The diving Elliott Shillman got his hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it out of the bottom left corner of the net.

Kirby quickly got a chance to level. Dan Green fouled Danny Gibbons just outside the area and Jamie Mason saw his free-kick deflect off the wall over the bar for a corner.

The raffle ticket seller came round and I decided to have a go as the prizes were good. I felt this was my lucky day.

The equaliser came in the 27th minute. Matt Melbourne crossed from the left to Stuart Verrall inside the area who flicked a first time volley past the helpless Steve Smith.

Two minutes later there was real drama when Tom Widdowson handled a shot from Melbourne on the line and was ordered off with a straight red card. Once the Prims central defender had left the field, Verrall stepped up to send Smith the wrong way with the resulting penalty. After the early set back it was now going the way of Kirby.

Chances were few up to the interval. Gavin Whitehead fired wide from 25 yards out and, at the other end, Smith held a header from Melbourne.

At the interval, it was back to the Refreshment Room for another mug of tea, then back to seat ‘204’ for the second half. Kirby Muxloe were now attacking the goal nearest to us.

No joy with the raffle and our ticket was just two away from the strip that took second prize.

Two minutes after the restart, the visitors won a corner on the right which was delivered by Andy Harrison and Verrall powered a header just wide of the right-hand post.

Prims were awarded a free-kick, which was curled around the four-man wall and narrowly wide of the top right corner.

Just before the hour mark, Gareth King took full advantage of a quickly taken free-kick and dribbled into the area before seeing his resulting shot held by Smith.

News came through that Borrowash were losing 1-0 at Dunkirk – it would need both Borrowash and Graham Street Prims scoring two goals without reply during the final half hour of the season to prevent Kirby from winning the league.

Mike Greaves sent me a text. He was Wrockwardine Wood v FC Hodnet, the second game of the three-game Shropshire County League hop.

Prims had a good penalty appeal waived away by the referee when Dave Cole dribbled forward and went down inside the area. And it was the same outcome for Kirby as well when Danny Taylor went down under Cole’s challenge.

Further news came through the Borrowash had equalised but that goal at Dunkirk. That didn’t matter as Kirby added a vital third goal in the 83rd minute. Mason cut into the area from the left and crossed low towards the far post where the unfortunate Whitehead turned the ball into his own net.

There was almost a fourth goal. Mason burst into the area and pulled the ball back to Verrall who was denied a hat-trick by Smith’s diving save.

The full-time whistle signalled the start of celebrations in both the Kirby technical area and on the pitch. The League Chairman was on hand to present mementos to each of the champions’ players and the trophy to Kirby skipper Danny Gibbons.

Borrowash ended up doing what they needed to do with a 2-1 win at Dunkirk. They finished in second place, three points adrift. Kirby's 1-0 win over Borrowash two weeks ago proved crucial in the end.

This was Kirby Muxloe's second title in as many seasons as they topped the 2007/08 Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division table, having finished runners-up the season before.

Graham Street Prims (red and white stripes / black / black): 1. Steve Smith, 2. Charlie Holman, 3. Dave Cole, 4. Chris Green, 5. Ross Matthews (capt), 6. Tom Widdowson, 7. Chris Davis, 8. Liam Brady, 9. Phil Carson, 10. Gavin Whitehead, 11. Dan Green. Subs: 12. David Hind (for Brady, 32), 14. Adam Sheehan (not used), 15. Jason Lake (not used), 16. Tom Carter (not used), 17. Dale Sheehan (not used).

Kirby Muxloe (blue with yellow sleeves / blue / blue): 1. Elliott Shillman, 2. John Grady, 3. Gareth King, 4. Craig Pietrzyk, 5. Chris McAthie, 6. Jamie Mason, 7. Andy Harrison, 8. Danny Gibbons (capt), 9. Stuart Verrall, 10. Danny Taylor, 11. Matt Melbourne. Subs: 12. Marc Aston (not used), 14. Richard Darlison (not used), 15. Rob Pitman (not used), 16. Josh Pitsilidies (not used).

Referee: S Moore.

A year ago on the first Saturday in May, I saw New Mills pick up the North West Counties Division Two championship trophy. Twelve months later it was again a pleasure to see another side celebrate the success of winning the league.