Match Details: Bridlington Town 2 – Retford United 2 (NCEL Prem)
Pre-Match Build Up: The NCEL fixture fairy was in top form this season, producing final day matches in each division which saw the top two clubs pitted against each other in a ‘Winner Takes All’ style scenario. In Division One, this meant that second placed Worksop Parramore entertained leaders Handsworth, while in the Premier Division, leaders Bridlington Town were visited by second placed Retford United. Unfortunately the fixture fairy cannot control the midweek weather, which meant that Retford’s penultimate game was postponed due to waterlogging, and that after today they would still have one game left to play. Nevertheless, with Brid two points ahead of Retford, it meant that if either team won today, they would immediately be crowned champions.
Destination: Queensgate, Bridlington
Competition: Northern Counties East League, Premier Division
Directions: Queensgate is around a mile, or perhaps a bit less, from Brid railway station. On exiting the station turn left onto the main road, then follow this as it curves round to the right, and a few hundred yards further is a right turn onto Queensgate. The footy ground is then a little way down here on yer right.
Off The Pitch: Queensgate is a decent and well-equipped ground for this level of football, with covered accommodation along almost the entire length of one side of the pitch. This is separated near the halfway line, with seating at one side and banked terracing at the other.
Behind the far goal is some more covered standing (on one level this time), and then along the dugout side is a further amount of covered standing – this being the ‘bus shelter’ enclosure pictured below. The near end is uncovered, containing some terracing as well as the social club and tea bar / shop portacabins. Today, all these were doing a roaring trade well in advance of kick-off, with programmes all sold out by 2.45 and long winding queues for the tea hut.
On The Pitch: The first half saw a very physical encounter in the main, as each side sussed the other one out and tried to get a foothold. Then as the game wore on, both sides began to play more of what you would term ‘pure football’, with a great contest taking place as things reached a climax. Brid drew first blood, with Craig Hogg heading home from close range following a corner, but Retford fought back and went into the break on level terms thanks to a shot from Carl Snowden, which I was sure was going wide till it nestled in the bottom corner of the net. Things really started to liven up from hereonin, with Retford starting to take control of proceedings in typical fashion. One of their manager Brett Marshall’s best bits of jiggery pokery this season has been the addition of Karl Slack up top, and it was he who put Retford 2-1 up midway through the second half, running onto a through-all and then poking it past the Brid keeper.
By this time, Retford had also brought on Lee Mellon and Carl Haslam, with Mellon battling for every loose ball, and Haslam starting to terrorise the home defence and looking dangerous evertime he received the ball out wide on the left. Going for the killer punch, Retford soon had the ball in the back of the Brid net once more through Warren Hatfield – except it was ruled out for some reason I didn’t spot at the time. With Brid now entering the last chance saloon, they started piling players forward at every opportunity. To their credit, they also managed not to panic, and in the final minute of normal time, substitute Billy Logan hooked in a shot from close range. Retford were now the ones hanging on by a thread as Brid came forward yet again during stoppage time. At times it seemd like every player on the pitch was in the Retford six yard box (inlcuding the Brid keeper at one stage), however despite a couple of close calls Retford held out, meaning that their destiny is still in their own hands.
This afternoon’s 2-2 draw means that Retford must now beat Thackley at home on Tuesday in order to snatch the title away from Bridlington. Given that Retford have only lost three league games this season, you’d have to put them as favourites. However, with one of the three teams to have beaten them being their remaining opponents Thackley, you never know what might happen. This season has been a fantastic one to watch football in both divisions of the NCEL, and it’s a shame that there is only one potential promotion place out of the Premier Division, as both Brid and Retford have been equally top notch this season.