Match Details: Retford United 7 Hall Road Rangers 0 (NCEL Prem)
Pre-Match Build-Up: At start of play today, Retford sat level on points with current NCEL leaders Bridlington Town, trailing them only by virtue of goal difference. However, the club’s main problems were the off-pitch turmoil which had recently come to light – with players not getting paid their promised travelling expenses since November, a situation which had meant manager Brett Marshall having to fund the team out of his own pocket and with so many broken promises, announcing his intention to resign at the end of the season. Would Retford be able to take promotion financially then, should the team achieve the league title on the pitch? No one really seems to be able to answer that at the moment, but the team spirit at the club seems 100% intact still, and the players determined to push all the way during these last few games, regardless of whether they have a future here or not.
Destination: Cannon Park, Leverton Road, Retford, Notts, DN22 6QF.
Competition: Northern Counties East League, Premier Division
K/O: 3.15 pm [delayed by 15mins due to the late arrival of the away team]
Weather: Sunny ‘n’ calm
Directions: Cannon Park is about a mile outside Retford Town centre. As no buses run directly to the ground (though there is one which stops off about halfway), if you’re on public transport then you’re faced with either jumping in a taxi or a 2o-minute walk for the final stretch. Easiest route on foot IMO is to head out of the town centre down Chapel Gate and Churchgate (by St.Swithin’s Church), which then becomes Leverton Road as you pass over the main East Coast Railway bridge. Cannon Park is then on your right and easy to spot. The ‘Getting To Football’ website which I normally recommend for directions gives a different route, which includes more back/roads country lanes, and personally I feel is less straightforward if you’re new to the area (plus would also be a bit bleak if returning in darkness).
Off The Pitch: First visit to Cannon Park for yours truly, but what a nice set-up it is. Aside from the slight inconvenience of having to walk the last few hundred yards down a main road with no pavement, once you get there the rural setting makes a welcome change, and the ground itself has a very homely feel to it – plenty of space round the pitch; small seated and covered standing areas to watch the game from; and a right big bobby dazzler of a clubhouse an’ all.
To save wear ‘n’ tear on the main pitch, the players warm up on the back field (as pictured above) which is situated just behind the stand behind the goal pictured below.
A decent amount of terracing/hard-standing surrounds the full area of the pitch, with an additional stand sitting across the halfway line at the far side of the ground. This contains four rows of plastic tip-up style seating, with around 150 seats in total. Either side of this is a small amount of grass banking. There is also normally a club shop open selling various bits & bobs of merchandise, however it was shut this afternoon due to the shopkeeper being on holiday.
Due to traffic congestion on the way down, by 2.30pm Hall Road still only had around 4 or 5 players present, so the kick-off was delayed by quarter of an hour to give the rest of the players time to arrive. Missing from the Hall Road line-up this afternoon was regular captain Steve Gawthorpe, who had been ommitted on account of his sister having passed away the previous day. A minute’s silence was also held in her memory, while Neil Towler took the captain’s armband temporarily.
On The Pitch: Hall Road started out okay, matching Retford for possession for the first ten minutes or so, but once Karl Slack had beaten the visiting offside trap and bagged his and the home side’s first goal of the day on 15 minutes, it was very much one-way traffic thereafter. Hall Road seemed to be employing the tactic of trying to pass the ball the length of the pitch, starting from their goalkeeper and gradually working forwards. However, it was failing almost every time – goal kicks followed the pattern of right-back Jamie Heard receiving the ball short from the keeper, but with no real quick movement in front of him in midfield, he was left repeatedly with the only option of either going sqare to his nearest centre-half, or backwards to the keeper. Retford sussed this was working in their favour, and were happy to let Hall Road have the ball in defence, then put pressure on them as quickly as possible. The second goal was not long in coming, with Hall Road getting caught in possession by Carl Haslam who then slotted easily past their keeper. And within a couple of minutes it was 3-0 and pretty much game over – Karl Slack beating two defenders then executing another good finish for his second of the game. By now the Retford crowd were urging the home side to go for broke and try to make up the goal average which separated them and Bridligton at the top of the table. Slack obliged just before half-time with his hat-trick via a close-range finish. 4-0 at the break then, and Hall Road in disarray and with some thinking to do.
Unsurprisingly, half-time saw Hall Road make a double substitution in order to try and change the game’s pattern and try to salvage something. Though they did put up more of a fight in the second half, there was no stopping the Retford juggernaut which was by now in full flow. At the hour mark it was 5-0, with Carl Haslam this time teeing up Adam Scott for an easy tap-in. Retford then made some changes themselves, but any hopes Hall Road might have had about this altering proceedings were immediately dashed when debutant Carl Snowden hit home with his first kick of the game (and first touch in a Retford shirt), and a further substitute, Jamie Brown, got Retford’s seventh after 71 minutes. Retford then let their foot off the gas somewhat and didn’t add to the scoring – though Hall Road’s misery was completed when aforementioned right-back Jamie Heard, who’d been given a torrid time by the Retford attack, got his second yellow card of the afternoon and received the opportunity for an early bath. A great overall performance then by Retford, who also shaved the woodwork a couple of times and could have had double figures. As usual, Retford’s attackers all caught the eye, however The Dribbling Code’s ‘Man Of The Match’ award goes to midfielder Lee Mellon, who was here, there and everywhere today and typified the Badgers’ team spirit and work ethic.
Before the game, a minute’s silence was held in memory of Jess Gawthorpe, the sister of Hall Road captain Steve Gawthorpe, who had sadly passed away the previous night