Most Scots don’t bother much about International breaks these days. It’s almost fifty years since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and almost 52 since “Slim Jim” Baxter played keepy-uppy as the Scots humiliated World Champions England on their own hallowed Wembley Turf to claim the “Unofficial” World Crown. Gone are the days of tactical-genius Ally McLeod’s Argentina–bound heroes – King Kenny and Gordon McQueen and another memorable Wembley win in 1977 on the day the goalposts went missing; gone too the likes of Souness, Bremner, John White, Buchan, Jordan, Eddie and Andy Gray, John Grieg, John Robertson and Paul Sturrock, writes Colin Muncie.
They say that there are no longer any easy games in World football, so holding the ninth-largest geographical country with a population over three times that of Scotland – Kazakhstan – to a three-nil defeat on their own artificial turf doesn’t sound that bad to me. Others, however, chose to personalise it by joking about how the Tartan Army were put to the sword by a man in a lime green mankini. Hurtful. Painful. Humiliating. With San Marino up next. Anyway, when was the last time a Kazakh won Wimbledon?
So, as I say, most Scots don’t bother much about International breaks these days – and good luck to the people of Kazakhstan.
Any road up, it’s become tradition to cram at least two games into the Saturday of an International Break. Infuriated by another Borat joke, I asked my supposed mates to get out of the car in lay-by on the Dronfield by–pass and headed off to the Proact on my own to watch Chesterfield take another huge step towards National League safety with a fine 3-0 win over Sutton United. Over 150 Sutton fans had made the trip. Their side played some great football, and were maybe unlucky to go into half time a goal behind, but after the interval, John Sheridan’s men slipped up a gear, and added two decent goals to make the scoreline more comfortable.
By this time, my so-called buddies had dumped the fake moustaches in time to make the dash to a busy Rotherham Road for Swallownest’s home game with AFC Emley in Toolstation NCEL Division One.
If John Sheridan is upping the mood amongst Spirites these days, another JS – Jordan Stocks, along with Assistant Joel Evans – has been doing the same for even longer at Swallownest. The previous Tuesday, the guys had reached the semi-finals of the NCEL League Cup after a thrilling extra time and penalty shoot-out win at Selby Town; and were looking to reclaim tenth spot in the table with a win over the 12th-placed team from the Fantastic Media Welfare Ground who were seven points behind.
There was a good crowd, reinforced by the usual good following from Kirklees, and a cracking atmosphere on a sunny afternoon. Jordan had been forced into a late defensive change, with Dan White pulling up almost at the end of the warm up, so Lloyd Gelsthorpe took over – not a bad replacement.
The hosts made a bright start, and after Alex Lill had fired wide after Josh Statham’s header from a free kick brilliantly saved by George Clarke, he was set up by Richie Williams to open the scoring on 5 minutes. Under Marlon Adams and Darren Hepworth, though, the Pewits are a good side with attacking threat up top and a lightning fast and clever winger in Arnold Ndiweni, and went close on a few occasions, denied by solid defending and another great display in goal from Josh Lill. Ollie Grady went close twice and Emley‘s travelling support felt that their side were due a penalty, but referee Liam Marsh disagreed. Swallownest could have been two up at half-time, though; after a tremendous cross from Nathan Morritt on the right, Alex Lill sent a header crashing off the post, but the home side couldn’t force home the rebound.
Half-time then, with the 121 strong crowd enjoying the action, the sunshine, the tea bar and the Miners’ Welfare. You wondered if Tuesday night’s heroics might take their toll on Jordan’s players as the game went on, and as the second-half went on, Williams, Grady and Morritt were rested – replaced by Ward, Daughtrey and Short respectively – with Emley pushing forward dangerously.
The home side had the chance to kill the game off after Jay Short was taken down in the penalty area – with the away support screaming for handball in the build–up, but Mitch Ward dragged his spot-kick wide of Clarke’s right-hand post. Emley continued to test Josh Lill, and brother Alex went close with a header, but a seemingly endless four minutes of added time came to an end to see Swallownest battle their way over the line and cap a marvellous few days for the club.
Check out Mark Parson’s fantastic collection of photographs at www. afcemley.co.uk/picturesand our own collection of photos on www.swallownestfc.co.uk/pictures.
A delighted home Manager Jordan Stocks admitted that it had been a battle. “Today capped a fine week for the club,” he told TBG. “After securing our semi-final spot we knew Emley would be a tough test, and it was. The 120 mins took its toll on Tuesday but today we dug in and got the result we deserved. We played some great stuff in patches but the willingness to defend our lead was outstanding. I really can’t praise this bunch of lads enough.”
Looking forward to an international break of his own, Jordan added, “It’s a rest week coming up prior to Saturday’s local derby with Parkgate – where hopefully we get a good support.”
Assistant Manager Joel Evans agreed and gave credit to the visitors, “Yesterdays performance was a good one and I say that because we had some very tired legs out there from Tuesday,” Joel explained. “I thought the boys dug in and gave us everything. The game itself wasn’t pretty but again we created the better of the chances and should have wrapped the game up.”
“Fair play to Emley; they’re a big strong side who I know will pick up more points than they will lose,” Joel acknowledged.
“We just have to keep the momentum going now.”
You can catch next week’s local derby between Swallownest and Parkgate at Rotherham Road next Saturday at 3pm. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.