Pre-Match Build Up: The writing was on the wall as soon as I stepped onto the first bit of grass outside the ground and fell flat on me arse. I blame adidas for no longer employing the adjustable peg system in the soles of its trainers these days. From then on, I predicted that today’s game was going to be more about who coped best with the soft-to-very soft conditions than owt else; that there was about as much danger of a nil-nil result as Ken Bates publicly thanking all Leeds fans for constantly improving the club’s image; and that there would be at least one sending off for a mis-timed tackle. The choice of game itself was a bit of a last minute decison, based on not going too far and seeing what looked like a good bet for the leading game on imaginary ‘Non League Match Of The Day’. With Scarborough hitting good form of late, this seemed like an interesting one to head to, and would give me a chance to see how their pre-season billing as many people’s favourites for the title was shaping up in reality. So armed with a tactics board, a marker pen, and some Ray Wilkins’ Cheese Traingles, it was off to….
Destination: Muglet Lane, Maltby, Rotherham, South Yorks, S66 7JQ.
Competition: Northern Counties East League, Premier Division
Programme: sold out well before kick-off
Weather: Tonking it down all day, with a steady drizzle throughout most of the game.
Off The Pitch: Unsurprisingly, Maltby’s ground hasn’t changed much in appearance since, and is still in the same location as when I last went a month ago. So for directions and ground info/pics, click the linky below:
The only difference today was that those pesky Scarborough fans had already snaffled all the programmes by 2.30, and were busy doing a stand-in-a-line protest at the tea hut which continued all throughout the half-time interval as well. Hmph. All of a sudden, the ‘match flask’ concept seemed like a good idea. I may even get myself a tupperware box too.
On The Pitch: Last time out, I reported on Armthorpe Welfare’s ten-nil drubbing of Kinsley Boys, which I described as a puzzling result and definitely ‘not a ten-nil game’ in terms of its content and contest. Today, however, had a feeling of inevitability about it from the word go. Just before kick-off, Maltby went into a huddle, and were warned by the referee for timewasting even before the match had kicked off! Surely what might follow couldn’t be that bad, could it? The game then got underway, and within two minutes Scarborough were in front. Five minutes later, they had the ball in the back of the net again, but it was ruled out for offside. Scarborough then hit a post. It was that bad. It was becoming clear that Maltby were on borrowed time and needed to take some decisive action to change their game plan. They’d won a few balls in midfield, but only seemed to have one plan of attack from thereon: high balls to the edge of the opposing penalty area a.s.a.p. It wasn’t working. Scarborough’s defenders were picking these off with ease, and no doubt glad they weren’t having to deal with anything skidding along the deck or being run at down the channels. Meanwhile, Scarborough’s aim when going forward was keeping the ball low, using their wide players whenever possible, and it was causing havoc for the home defence in the slippy conditions. You could sense the growing anxiety as Maltby gave away a succession of free-kicks. It became too late for that decisive action and change of gameplan when Maltby’s Gary Middleton came flying in with a challenge on Boro’s Joe Naylor, and was promtly given a straight red card. There were no real complaints from the home fans, apart from the prospect of having to stick around for what might follow.
Although effectively the game was now over as a contest, for a brief few minutes, Maltby had their best period of the game. Rather than running round like headless chickens and being determined to get a quick tackle in at all costs, the penny seemed to drop that collective work with each other, and showing more restraint, was a better option than what they’d tried so far. Sadly though, with ten men against a very competent Scarborough side, matching them for anything other than brief periods was always going to be too big an ask. Two well taken goals in ten minutes ensured Boro went into the break 3-0 up, and though the cricket season may have been over, there was a fear that its scoreborad may be pressed into use by the end of the second half.
Scarbrough could have, and probably should have, notched up double figures today. Instead, they had to be content with three further goals after the break, and a couple of additional woodwork shavers. You couldn’t fault their work ethic, and desire to keep attacking though, and the lack of cricket scoreline wasn’t through lack of trying. Maltby themselves had two really good chances to score from close range, but neither occasion saw the visiting keeper have to make anything more than a routine block-save. Overall though, the Boro fans were delighted with their afternoon out, and their club’s performance which suggests they are now starting to live up to the billing of title contenders. It’s always hard to judge when the opposition is a team in the lower reaches of the table, but I was hugely impressed today both with what Boro have in their locker, and the way their team is being organised behind the scenes by their management team.