Monday 3rd August 2009

Mayfield 4 Rose & Crown 2
Summer League
At: Recreational Ground, Conygree Lane
Kick-off: 7-00 pm
No admission or programme
Attendance: 15 (headcount)
Weather: cloudy, dry
Duration: first half: 41:09; second half: 41:08

August is the final month of the Summer League season, which began in April, and I was back on familiar territory this evening following Saturday’s trip to Partick Thistle.

Both Mayfield (third from bottom) and Rose & Crown (second from bottom) have found themselves at the wrong end of the Summer League. But they had the common aim of securing a rare victory.

The Recreational Ground was located just inside Staffordshire close to the River Dove which formed the boundary with Derbyshire. A couple of weeks ago, with time on my hands en-route to Mappleton, I had a look for the entrance along Conygree Lane without success.

It turned out that I was right about Conygree Lane and the ground turned out to be an easy find tonight, thanks to the aerial photo on Google maps. From the top of the hill in Mayfield village next to Motor Movers Limited, turn into Conygree Lane from the B5032 and the ground entrance was 400 yards on the left just past a short row of terraced houses.

Down the drive, the pitch (orientated north-south) ran widthways with the River Dove a few yards over the other side of the trees along the far touchline. The pitch was unroped though there was a small area of cover incorporating a bench, unfortunately at a right-angle to the pitch.

Mayfield (13 points from 23 games in 13th position) got off to a great start in April with back-to-back wins over Wheel Inn and Rose & Crown from their opening two fixtures. Since then, they have suffered with injuries and won just one of their next 21 league games.

Boylestone-based visitors Rose & Crown (7 points from 23 games in 14th position) have won just one league game all season (3-1 at home to Hilton at the end of April) and have lost all of their last 18 league games. The league table does show two wins though one of them was awarded after Wheel Inn’s 3-1 victory over Rose & Crown was declared void and replaced with a ‘1-0 win’ to Rose & Crown instead.

The referee was a familiar figure in Jim Conway and I was indepted to Mark the Rose & Crown manager and a couple of people from Mayfield for the line-ups.

Interestingly, neither keeper wore ‘number 1’ – Mayfield’s Mark Swinson wore ‘2’ while Rose & Crown’s Phil Walker had ‘19’ on his back.

Rose & Crown (wearing all blue) got the game underway attacking the left-hand goal in the first half. I was stood on the near side with the changing rooms and bowls club behind my left shoulder. Before the game I got chatting to a man who turned out to be the father of one of the Mayfield players who was able to provide names to most of the players. We continued chatting once the game got underway.

The visitors, looking to end their long losing run, created the game’s first chance. Ben Smith delivered a long throw into the area from the left. It fell to Steve Wright who launched an acrobatic overhead kick which Mayfield keeper Mark Swinson initially stopped and then pounced on the loose ball.

“C’mon lads,” said one of the Mayfield defenders to encourage his team and added: “we haven’t got started.” The home side responded with Steve Tarr firing a 20-yard shot wide of the right-hand post.

It did get better for Mayfield (wearing all maroon) as they soon took the lead in the 10th minute. Ashley Wildsmith sent a low right-foot flick past keeper Phil Walker from the edge of the area.

The home side continued to press. Dave Dowgall created some space and was urged to “have a go.” The striker, and skipper, did just that with a right-foot shot that flew wide of the right-hand post. Tarr tried his luck from 25-yards with a left-foot drive which again flashed past the right-hand post.

Wildsmith looked for another goal in the 23rd minute. In space on the left, he fired towards goal straight at the well-positioned Phil Walker.

After that save by Walker, Rose & Crown started to enjoy a good spell of pressure as they searched for an equaliser but found the home defence difficult to break down. Good work by Tom Hall on the left created a shooting chance for Smith who drove over from fully 30 yards out.

Richard Harrison latched on to a measured pass through the Mayfield defence only for last defender Stuart Asbury to stretch out a leg to make a superb saving tackle. The visitors went agonisingly close to an equaliser in the 27th minute. Wright, inside the area on the right, got in a shot which Swinston turned round at the expense of a corner.

Swinson excelled again just before the half-hour. He stretched out his right arm to turn round a well-struck 35-yarder from Smith that looked destined for the net. There was further danger for Mayfield though the visitors couldn’t get in a shot during a frantic scramble inside the area before the ball was eventually cleared.

Rose & Crown continued to search for an equaliser. Smith played a great ball forward to Wright who fired a first-time shot wide of the near right post. Despite the close attention of Steve Millward, Dave Walker worked another opportunity and shot over the bar.

Mayfield were finding it difficult to get forward until Nick Pinfold set up Tarr who fired straight at Phil Walker.

As the interval approached, Rose & Crown continued to go close. Swinson blocked a good effort by Harrison and Steve Hodges cleared the ball out for a corner. The visitors were awarded a free-kick outside the area on the right which Craig Palmer played forward into the area. Wright got in a header which agonisingly rebounded off the bar and the ball was scrambled clear.

Football ‘can be a cruel game’ and that comment was apt from a Rose & Crown point of view in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half. Tarr whipped in a cross from the right into the Rose & Crown area where Wildsmith stayed onside to hammer a shot past Phil Walker to double Mayfield’s lead.

During the latter stages of the first half, I’d sampled a number of vantage points along the near touchline and decided it was time to get out my fold-up chair for the second half. Rain was also threatening so I also retrieved my cagoule as well.

The visitors made a double change for the start of the second half with the introduction of both Gav Astbury (wearing 10 like the player he replaced) and George Brandrick.

Wildsmith looked to find the net again within 45 seconds of the restart, bursting through the middle and shooting wide of the right-hand post from the edge of the area. Drizzle briefly fell as Dowgall tried his luck from out of the right with a rising effort that didn’t miss the far top corner by much.

However, the half-time substitution quickly paid dividends as Rose & Crown got back into the game with a goal in the 50th minute, much to the delight of their bench and the five WAGS. Astbury pulled the ball back from the right into a populated area where Brandrick, in his red boots, sent a low shot into the bottom left corner. Rose & Crown needed at least one goal and a clean sheet to end their winless run. Could they do it?

But hope for Rose & Crown soon turned into joy for Wildsmith when he completed his hat-trick four minutes later. The visitors appeals for offside as Wildsmith powered down the right into the area before shooting low across the face of goal into the opposite bottom corner of the net.

Rose & Crown threw on midfielder Carl Jeffrey in place of Dan Avery and set about trying to salvage a point. Just before the hour mark, a well struck shot from Wright rebounded off keeper Swinston’s boot and in the next attack Brandrick got into the area only to head wide at close range.

“Lads, loads of time,” felt the visitors still needing to score twice and they halved that deficit in the 68th minute with a neat move. Palmer passed to Jeffrey who in turn fed Brandrick inside the area who fired low into the bottom right corner.

“One to go!” and Rose & Crown demanded a penalty when Wright went down inside the area. Me Conway said ‘”no”.

However, just as happened after Rose & Crown pulled a goal back before to make it 3-1, Mayfield scored again in the 72nd minute to made restore a two-goal lead. Pinfold was fouled by Tom Hall 28 yards out and Gavin Ratcliffe hit an unstoppable free-kick that beat Walker on its way into the net via the inside of the left-hand post.

It was game over for Rose & Crown’s gallant bid to end their long run without a point. The last act of the game was for Archer to play a free-kick forward into the Mayfield half and out of play. Mr Conway blew for full-time before the resulting goal kick could be taken.

Mayfield (maroon/maroon/maroon): 2. Mark Swinston (gk), 5. Steve Hodges, 6. Mark Burford, 4. Steve Asbury, 2. Richard Elliott, 18. Nick Pinfold, 16. Gavin Ratcliffe, 7. Steve Tarr, 11. Steve Millward, 9. Dave Dowgall (capt), 11. Ashley Wildsmith. Subs: –.

Rose & Crown (blue/blue/blue): 19. Phil Walker (gk), 2. Craig Palmer, 7. James Archer, 4. Dan Avery, 5. Tom Hall, 15. George Yates, 8. Ben Smith, 9. James Rowbotham, 11. Richard Harrison, 16. Steve Wright, 10. Dave Walker (capt). Subs: 10. Gav Astbury (for Walker, ht), 14. George Brandrick (for Yates, ht), 3. Carl Jefrey (for Palmer, 59).

Referee: Jim Conway.

1-0 Ashley Wildsmith (10)
2-0 Ashley Wildsmith (40+1)
2-1 George Brandrick (50)
3-1 Ashley Wildsmith (54)
3-2 George Brandrick (68)
4-2 Gavin Ratcliffe (72)