Esh Winning v Bedlington Terriers, Saturday 31st October 2020, 3pm

I was temporarily back in the UK for a funeral and after a fortnight’s quarantine I had a little bit of freedom whilst I awaited the results of a covid test that would allow me to return to Russia. As you might expect, I had a look at my football options and the ninth tier game at Esh Winning in the Northern League Division Two seemed my best bet for an afternoon out in the fresh air.

Esh Winning’s West Terrace ground is known for the countryside that surrounds it and I drove up a track as far as I could to the car park and then walked alongside woodland to reach the entrance. I handed over a fiver and left my name and telephone number in case I needed to be traced.

Once inside, I bought a coffee in the clubhouse where the fella behind the counter seemed thrilled to be able to tell me that they had milk before finding a seat high behind one of the goals in a wooden shelter.

The view from the shelter was as picturesque as I’d anticipated and it gave me a decent vantage point of a heavily sloped pitch that cut up quickly. Esh Winning were in a Norwich-style kit with opponents Bedlington Terriers in blue.

On the side of the pitch to my left were what looked like old bus shelters which one of the Bedlington defenders managed to clear twice in the first five minutes when wellying clearances into the car park. Esh Winning took the lead around ten minutes into the game with a cracking shot from twenty-five yards that may well have taken a deflection.

A further ten minutes in and Esh Winning were two up when one of their centre-halves turned in a corner at the back post. On the half hour the hosts made it three with a right-footed shot across the keeper into the far corner.

I worried for Bedlington at this point as all the Esh Winning goals had come whilst playing up the slope and with the advantage of kicking downhill after the break I did wonder if we might be on for double figures.

The second half was better for Bedlington and they won a pen which was a clear error from the ref. The Esh Winning players appealed to the elderly lino for his help but he just kept repeating ‘I didn’t give it’ or when asked to intervene ‘only if he needs me’. The ref, who I suspect would be asked for ID in pubs for at least another twenty years or so, had incorrectly overruled the same lino on a throw in the first half and clearly was in no mood to seek a second opinion, especially a dissenting one.

The home keeper saved the initial spot kick but couldn’t keep out the rebound and Bedlington reduced the deficit to two. With twenty minutes remaining Bedlington gave the ball away out wide and the subsequent cross was easily tucked away to restore Esh Winning’s three goal advantage.

It finished four-one, with the only other incident of note being a Bedlington striker getting his marching orders in the final moments for something that he said to the ref. The miscreant, who should have seen red anyway for his man-bun, looked very much like one of the fellas who works in my local butchers. If he was the same bloke, or as equally handy with a meat cleaver, I think the ref may have made another error in not overlooking the late indiscretion.

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