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Two Towns in Cleethorpes
By: Chris Smith
IF you have a spare Saturday afternoon, try and get down to the Stamford Club next door to what I’ve often thought might be Town’s next ground, the King George Stadium.
Having passed on Salisbury away due to a family commitment, but keen to get a game in on a Saturday afternoon and with Grimsby Borough also playing away, a scan of the Lincolnshire League fixtures showed Cleethorpes Town were at home to Lincoln United Reserves.
If a club does a programme, I’ll always give it a spin and a text to the contact mobile number on the Friday night was answered with a yes at an unearthly hour the next morning. These are sold from the counter of the club bar and I was grateful to see there were plenty unsold when I arrived at the ground. It is a good issue and much better than I could have hoped for at this standard. No typos at first glance (not that I’m one to talk) and a well written match report from the previous game. Plenty of sponsorship as well and the league table published within showed Cleethorpes sitting proudly on top of the table with fourteen wins and three draws from their first seventeen games with them banging in an average of four goals a game and a goal difference of plus fifty five.
Skegness Town, who they haven’t played yet, were ten points behind with three games in hand. Grimsby Borough reserves sat in third. This league also includes the pleasing name of Swineshead Institute which lets the imagination run away with you.
The club doesn’t charge admission and a crowd of a few dozen or so were assembled plus a pitch invading dog but there was no Humberside Police presence to add to the number of local banning orders.
If the following account seems one sided, it certainly reflected the game. Town took the game to United from the off with a free kick before the ten minute mark clearing the bar. If this was just teasing United, a lovely ball from the right minutes later led to an easy slot into the goal for one nil. A few minutes after this a shot was banjoed wide when it would have been easier to score.
Despite dominating, Town were unable to add to their tally. A really good attempt to lob the United goalkeeper from distance just failed to pay off. In between, United had survived a pinball flurry and their keeper had also had to rush outside his penalty area to chest the ball down and clear to his right.
It was entertaining stuff and I was reliably informed via another spectator that the Mariners’ game at Salisbury was failing to reach such heights.
The only threat to the Cleethorpes goal came a few minutes before half time as the home keeper rushed out to block a rare United foray into their area. United’s shot was fortunately cleared on the line and I was left to reflect that not only was the standard of play was higher than I expected, but this team were battling for everything. This was shown by a retaliatory attack on the United goal after their impertinence at having a half chance a minute earlier.
Half Time: Town 1 United 0
I’d been talking to Ken and Louis who are local lads but actually followed Doncaster Rovers during their non-league sojourn. From what I could gather from them, Cleethorpes are looking to make the big step up to the North Counties East League where Grimsby Borough ply their trade. I understand that the Lincolnshire League tends to feed into the Central Midlands League but either way, it is an ambitious move up. As someone who doesn’t actually live in town, I’m not too au fait with the Grimsby area’s non league scene outside of the Mariners’ orbit, but I think it certainly benefits the local football lover given the cost of going to away games.
Ken and Louis understood that the local pitch might be developed and floodlights installed to bring the ground up to standard. It would also mean charging admission. If I remember correctly, Askern Villa (great name!) of Doncaster had to dispense with the table and tin in the field and put a fence around the playing area to ensure compliance with the admission requirement.
I’ve also heard that there has been consideration given to sharing the Bradley facility with Grimsby Borough but I like the idea of a Step 6 ground in Cleethorpes (not with Grimsby Town though!)
When the lads heard I lived in Thorne, they said they had sat with a Thornensian Donny Rovers season ticket holder who was extremely knowledgeable about the game. "Sounds like Steve" I said, whose eyesight would put an Andean condor to shame and who has passed players’ names to me when I’ve been doing write-ups at Armthorpe. When they said this bloke made an annual trip to Berwick and AFC Totton, I knew we were talking about the same person. Small world and one of the pleasures of football at this level.
The interval was spent inside the clubhouse due to the bitter wind outside and you could help yourself to a tea or coffee at the urn for 50p paid at the bar.
Whatever the manager said to Town at half time certainly worked and despite the flow of goals, he was heard berating players from the touchline in the second half with the same impatience accorded to the Marine recruits in Full Metal Jacket.
Just two minutes passed before Town scored a second after a ball into United’s area caused problems and after several miscues, the ball was finally bundled away. A few minutes later and it was game over with a well struck shot into the right of the net. This was another feature of the game-some quality finishing- and after the Mariners’ pasting of Stockport a few days earlier, I was feeling rather spoiled.
This was too much for a canine spectator that gambolled onto the pitch in the excitement.
The fourth goal not long after was an absolute beauty with the ball curled into the top corner from the left. A really well struck shot.
Just to provide some variety, a punch-up between rival players led to a double sending off and both sides reduced to ten men. I’m not sure what that was about. It’s always the same trying to take notes during a match when your hands are freezing. It takes more time to write and you end up missing something. Mind you, it wasn’t as bad as Bedfont Sports last year when I was stood under a light bulb under a canopy in the vain hope it might throw some heat out.
The United keeper was to be unlucky with about twenty minutes left when he made a double save from two different Town players only for the ball to be finally slotted in by a third at a tight angle. At the other end, in a rare United attack, the Town keeper gathered at the edge of his area.
The sixth Town goal came after United’s keeper was committed in blocking an attack for the ball to be put to one side of him and it was an easy tap in for another Town player. That said, he pulled off a good save minutes later after two Town forwards bore down on him. That really looked like it was going to be seven.
There was time for another goal to be ruled out for offside. The elusive seventh goal never arrived as United’s keeper beat another shot away for a corner with a resulting ball curved in gathered well by him.
As with the first half, there seemed to be a fair bit of extra time played, presumably also for the amount of time it took for the balls banjoed into touch to be collected because I wasn’t chasing after the bloody things.
Full time Town 6 United 0
This result was to put Town thirteen points clear and they have subsequently maintained this gap with a win at Hykeham. The club is really worth a visit and you will be pleasantly surprised by the standard of football. The programme is a polished effort and it was a shame to see most unsold on the bar at the end of the game unless the players pick them up later. I noticed that they sell Magners on pump for the discerning drinker who sees fit to dilute already weak cider with ice.
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