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SPECIAL FEATURE: Knaresborough edge hotly-contested Maltby fixture

Proud, determined and welcoming South Yorkshire people, the folk from Maltby Main. The Colliery was, famously, the last pit to return to work after the bitter miners’ strike of 1984-85, and the Miners Welfare Institute sits on Lansbury Avenue just off Muglet Lane.

There’s plenty going on. The X1 Steel link bus travels along Lansbury Avenue and as its name suggests links Maltby with Rotherham and Sheffield, and the beautiful ruins of the Cistercian Monastery, Roche Abbey, are just a few minutes’ drive down the A634. Every now and again, a passenger aircraft passes overhead from Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, headed to Jersey, Portugal or Romania.

Further evidence of Maltby’s fascinating mix of industrial heritage and wry sense of humour comes with the knowledge that The Chuckle Brothers (only Paul survives) hail from the town, and Fred Truman not only went to school there, but worked at the Colliery. A number of your favourite soap stars are also associated with the town.   

The mine may have closed in 2013, and the headgear long pulled down, but the town was busy with Saturday shoppers as I made my way to the ground, writes Colin Muncie for the Bootiful Game.

As you turn onto Outgang Lane and the car park, the well-known sign stands proudly on the corner welcoming you to the home of football in Maltby. This was my first visit to Muglet since a losing trip with Parkgate back in mid–February, and it was good to see what the fantastic group of volunteers have done with the place. There’s a new turnstile and the usual cheery greeting. You buy the excellent match day programme, which is a tremendous read. There’s plenty in it for everyone associated with the NCEL – I should have finished reading my copy by next Thursday – and is highly recommended. The half-time raffle draw guy strategically positions himself right next to the turnstile offering you no time to put your purse away. He promises you it’s the winning ticket – but you both know it isn’t!

The volunteers have done a fantastic job in upgrading the ground over the summer and the facilities looked great in the club’s red colour. Even the dugouts sported the Maltby crest too.

I bought my smashing cuppa – and a beautiful crocheted Remembrance poppy – and considered the line-ups which were displayed on a white board directly underneath the sign which proclaims ‘A clava minus in magna cordis’ or ‘the little club with the big heart.’ Everyone has a smile – or something like one – so it’s impossible to argue with the sentiment.

Media Officer David Watts introduced himself and we had a chat about the club’s season so far. If you follow Maltby on Twitter, David is responsible for the excellent updates on game days. International jet-setting Chairman, Wilf Race, is enjoying his 60thbirthday – Many Happy returns Wilf from all at the Bootiful Game – with a trip to North America.  He’s currently in Las Vegas, and David and I speculated that given his uncanny ability to win raffles at football matches, Wilf’s luck at the Casinos was likely to see him returning to the UK even wealthier than he already is. David dashed off to grab a photo of Ross Duggan making his fiftieth start for Main and home Manager, Scott Mason, laid out the cones for the final pre-match sprints.

Knaresborough’s Adam Baker keeps a close eye on the ball.

I’d come to Muglet to watch the home side tackle Knaresborough Town, who have made such an impressive start to life in the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division and sit second, four points above Main as the sides prepared to face off in South Yorkshire. A few supporters had travelled from North Yorkshire for the game and they chatted with the Knaresborough substitutes as kick off approached.

During the early exchanges, it wasn’t hard to see why both these sides are at the business end of the Premier Division. Every ball was fought for, every decision contested, with visiting manager Paul Stansfield in his usual animated mood, even finding time for exchanges with the home support and the opposition technical area. Paul didn’t seem to feel that his side had started well enough, but all that changed in the sixth minute when Maltby failed to clear on the edge of their own area. This allowed Knaresborough’s Adam Baker a stunning left foot half volley to find the crossbar; the ball rebounded to Brad Walker who finished coolly from close range.

With Robbie Youhill a constant threat down the right, Knaresborough continued to threaten, but gradually the home side gained a foothold in the contest, with Ross Duggan and Danny Frost probing the Knaresborough defence, and Jonathan Hill involved in pretty much everything. But Gregg Anderson and skipper, Will Lenehan were immense and superbly organised; and with half-time approaching, it looked as though Knaresborough would enjoy their cuppa a bit more than the hosts. However, Baker turned from hero to villain with an inexplicable kick-out at a Maltby player leaving referee, Martyn Fryer, no option but to send him off.

Half time then, as the 62-strong crowd reflected on the first half. As the loudspeakers blasted out the Rag’n’Bone Man’s ‘I’m only human’ at the break, there was just time for me to catch up on the state of the nation with a former colleague from Aldwarke Melting Shop and grab a quick cuppa before the game restarted.

As expected Maltby came out swinging.

Nick Black Is Shown A Straight Red Card For Retaliation After Being Elbowed In The Face By A Maltby

Oh, and I didn’t win the raffle or the half time 50/50. Perhaps someone in Las Vegas is contemplating that bottle of red….

Muglet Lane isn’t the best surface in the NCEL, but it’s by no means the worst, and the home side, kicking downhill, started to put passes together and pressure the visitors. It was noticeable that tricky wide player Cameron Rigby was getting much more joy down the right hand side. Miners Manager, Scott Mason, threw on club legend Steve Hopewell to augment his attacking options, but Knaresborough stood strong, with keeper Jack Rushworth in fine and brave form.

The referee had done a fine job in challenging circumstances, but reduced the home side to ten men not long into the second period after he deemed a challenge from Danny Frost on Gregg Anderson to be dangerous and sent him off. Needless to say, the locals weren’t tremendously impressed by this decision, and the referee had to issue a lengthy lecture to the home bench before things calmed down.

Although the visitors remained dangerous on the break, Maltby continued to knock on the door. Jonathan Hill went close several times, including hitting the post; Ross Duggan rounded the keeper but Anderson headed off the line and Hopewell headed narrowly over as the game went into six added minutes. A late Maltby free kick hit the wall, and that was that – the referee blew for full time to trigger delighted celebrations from the visitors. It had been a high-octane encounter and it had been great to watch.

Maltby Manager, Scott Mason, didn’t dwell on the officiating, choosing instead to concentrate on his side’s wastefulness. “I’ve had time to reflect on another frustrating result at home,” he told TBG, “but if I’m been honest it’s probably again the missed chances. You can talk about the referees as much as you like and maybe we have been on the end of a few dodgy decisions recently and especially so today. When you concede a goal, after again limiting the opposition to only a couple of chances, and lose its hard to take. But it’s not the refs fault if we ain’t scoring.

Maltby Main Manager Scott Mason

Scott feels that it won’t be long before his players start to cash in on the chances they are carving out. “We keep creating chances every game – but when it’s not happening in front of goal that’s got to be a problem,” he admitted. “I can’t fault the lads on the pitch so far as work rate is concerned however sometimes we need a little more quality, which we have in this squad; and after the game you can see the frustration and I feel for them. We have an honest good set of lads who have our full backing and I’m sure it will come. We are still in a great position and the season will be full of ups and downs for every team.”

“Congratulations to Knaresborough – who celebrated like Pontefract did after collecting the League title at ours last season.”

Knaresborough Town player-coach Colin Heath

Winning player/coach Colin Heath was thrilled by his side’s resilience in that second half. He told TBG “It was a really hard-fought battling performance and we are delighted to come away with three points. I thought the lads were magnificent in the second half in terms of their will to defend the lead and not concede a goal. Players throwing themselves in front of shots and our ‘keeper making the right decisions when required. After going down to 10 men, only being 1-0 up with Maltby going down the slope we knew the second half was going to be a test; but we have a group of players who aren’t afraid to dig in and fight for each other when you’re up against it. We know there be will times when you don’t play as well as you want to but then it becomes about the result – and yesterday we came away with the win.”

“The game didn’t have a lot of quality,” Colin suggested, “but I think any neutral spectator watching it would have been very entertained with lots of action at both ends. We move into next week with a run of home games, which we need to focus on and we will need to be right at it.”

Knaresborough Town Assistant Manager Gregg Anderson

Knaresborough’s player/Assistant Manager, Gregg Anderson, had a superb game. He told TBG that it had been a tough afternoon. “Today’s game was just a battle from start to finish. We all know what the playing surface is like at Maltby and how they play, a long throw and diagonal balls aiming for your full backs. They do it well but not well enough against us. Our players today were fantastic – they put everything on the line! We made a few changes to be compact and solid and the team selection worked, we came away with a clean sheet and the three points. The squad is looking very strong at the moment!”

Gregg felt that the playing conditions weren’t conducive to pretty football. ”There was very little quality in the game because it was impossible to run with the ball or try to get the ball down and play on that pitch,” he explained. “We started the game well and scored early on, however in the second half going up the hill Maltby did put us under a lot of pressure but at times we got lucky and we defended so well. Jack didn’t have an actual save to make but he did defend well against a lot of balls into our box.”

“That’s another game ticked off, ”Gregg told us. “We keep on going and are over-achieving at the moment, and we all know football can be cruel at times – so enjoy the good days while you can.”

The Bootiful Game would like to thank everyone at Maltby Main Football Club – and especially David Watts – for their kind welcome yesterday.

Photographs by Colin Muncie and Craig Dinsdale.

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