Birstall United 4 Teversal 0
East Midlands Counties League
It would be unfair to hold the wider area of Loughborough wholly responsible for a period in my football watching life that can at best be described as enlightening, at worst, disturbing!
You see, it was the early 2000’s and in my quest to crunch numbers of football grounds at an alarming rate I decided to dip my toe into the Leicestershire Senior League. It all started very nicely indeed, beginning with the gentile and pleasant surroundings that are Quorn, followed by the free flowing football produced by an excellent Loughborough Dynamo side containing the likes of Dave Garroway and Abi O’Thomas.
I moved on, Barrow Town came next and with Dynamo the opponents, it was a well supported and cracking derby fixture at another excellent and somewhat rural venue, I was thinking to myself that I could get used to this league, it was time to expand outwards.
Shortly after that it changed, it seems I’d on the whole, chosen the best first. By the time I’d been to Ellistown, seen a game abandoned after two minutes after a horror tackle broke a visiting players leg, which lead to players and supporters scuffling pitch side, I suddenly realised that the Leicestershire Senior League was a little bit more ‘brutal’ than I’d first anticipated.
Ellistown were special, very special indeed at the time, they were a good side that won things, but at all costs, and by any means they could get away with. I also remember seeing a team called FC Braunstone Victoria bludgeoning their way around, one player in particular appeared to be only allowed out to play football, very violently!
Thurnby Rangers, you didn’t mess with them, or the locals, whereas if you upset Highfield Rangers, make sure you had a mate with the engine running for a quick getaway. It got to a stage, and I’m not exaggerating, whereby every game I went to either had a sending off, a mass brawl, or both. It was an absolute battlefield. I commented as much on the Kempster football forum at the time, and in fairness, a lad called Rob Campion who is a huge font of Leicestershire football knowledge and someone I still speak to, jumped to its defence.
In the end we agreed to go to a game together, mainly to have a catch up, but also so Rob could finally find me a game in the aforementioned league that didn’t have an ‘18’ Rating on the match poster!
Melton Mowbray v Barlestone St Giles, it almost sounded middle class, and in fairness, for around 75 minutes it proved to be a very gentlemanly affair, I was beginning to think Rob was right, and I’d just been either very unfortunate or completely prejudicial. Then it happened, out of completely nowhere the home team centre half, for seemingly no apparent reason, landed a right hook on the chin of the visiting centre forward. His feet left the ground and he landed flat on his back, out cold.
Before the referee could reach for the red card and the irate opposition could get to him, he’d already left for his early bath. I looked at Rob, shrugged my shoulders, no words were exchanged.
I’ve only dipped into the league perhaps once or twice a season in recent years, typically to visit any
new grounds that come into the league, so I really couldn’t comment on what it’s like nowadays, but certainly back then it was lively to say the least.
The bulk of the better teams and better facilities in the league moved on a number of years ago now with the formation of the East Midlands Counties League, but it has taken tonight’s featured club, Birstall United, a little longer than most to get into Step 6 football.
They missed the cut in 2008-09, and had to wait until the 2015-16 when they finally won the league, to earn promotion. I first went to see them back in 2005 at their Meadow Lane ground, it was a game against Aylestone Park and they won it 2-1, and at the time I remember being impressed with the facilities and indeed the clubhouse. One abiding memory of the game was that Birstall’s goalkeeper was a giant of a lad who was nicknamed ‘Diesel’.
Last season they finished third in their inaugural East Midlands Counties League season, and while not at those heights this time around, they do sit inside the top six, but with tonight’s visitors being league leaders Teversal, it promised to be an interesting game.
The ground has changed quite a bit since I last went, a seated stand and some covered standing has been erected, while the clubhouse has had a refurb and looks just the job. The ground is now fully enclosed and has a very nice feel about, the club have done a really good job with it and deserve credit.
Diesel is still around, involved on the management side, which is great to see, while Sandra runs the club, she also runs the bar, the tea bar, puts the programme together, sorts out the committee area and keeps the officials happy amongst countless other things. Both are club stalwarts, Birstall would not be where they are today without them.
On a very good looking surface considering the recent weather, Birstall got out of the traps quickly and took the lead in the third minute when Ryan Foster bundled the ball over the line.
|A Great Surface|
It was 2-0 in the 26th minute when Sam Moore despatched a penalty after the Tevie goalkeeper skittled an onrushing striker, and then just before the hour mark the game was done and dusted. Lewis Dodd lobbed the Tevie goalie from the half way line (I think he either misjudged it badly or lost it in the lights) and then moments later an own goal made it 4-0.
Matters were further compounded moments after the fourth goal when Tevie’s Lewis Fisher got his marching orders for a challenge Hong Kong Fuey would have been proud of, and at this stage the league leaders simply wanted the game to end. It was not their night, there was no coming back, it was one to right off as a bad night at the office. Birstall had played very well indeed and thoroughly deserved the three points, no question about that.
I’m quite enjoying revisiting some of the old Leicestershire Senior League clubs in their new surroundings, it does seem promotion has tamed some of the wildness that went before. But then again, maybe it was also my naivety as well, bear in mind I then moved onto the Staffordshire Senior League, and that quite genuinely included two teams made up of prisoners!
But you know what, something kept making me go back week after week, perhaps they’d got the recipe right after all!
|The Business End|