Defences On Top
Gainsborough Trinity 5-3 Matlock Town (Northern Premier League)
Auntie Julie’s on her way around with cakes. It’s laddo’s nineteenth birthday tomorrow and she’s dropping his pressie off but the wife’s out for a dog walk and I need to be out the house for 6pm as I aim to make my way up to Gainsborough.
Time’s ticking as she tells me she’s off to Albufeira this weekend whilst I’m putting my shoes on ready to hop out the door and make the trip to Lincolnshire to watch my regular needed Northern Premier League football fix, suns out after a quick rain shower I’m rushing to get in the car as Julie hops in hers behind me, I’m down the A52 listening to Capital Dance with some Tuesday evening bangers playing loudly.
Gainsborough got beat at bottom of the table Basford 3-0 at the weekend, Matlock who I watched last Tuesday, actually beat Marske 3-0 on Saturday… Something says they’ll be goals tonight… Last time I was at the Northolme in Feb, Trinity won 6-2 ironically against Marske.
I’m doing ok for time as I hit the Newark bypass and the A46 over the A1 and onto the A113 signposted for Collingham, passing through the East Notts village as I head up towards Newton on Trent and Torksey Lock.
There’s something about Gainsborough which I strangely like. After the single-track country roads of very little action you soon come to a town, of terraced houses and sparse supermarkets, an Aldi, a Tesco, a McDonalds and KFC with a very similar bout of nothing… There’s no people here, the streets are isolated like a city centre quarantining for COVID… I park at Roseway car park opposite the Gainsborough Methodist Church and Horse and Jockey Pub, after 6pm Mon to Sat it’s free so no need to opt for Ringo… I'm walking up North Street to the stadium where you can hear music playing through the tannoys behind the turnstiles on the street.
Still no people on the road I’m standing outside the ground thinking to myself ‘there is a game tonight isn’t there’ but I see the lights, which tells a tale, finally a man on the gate points me to one of three turnstiles, “the one on the far right takes card”.
I’m greeted by a friendly woman who prints off a receipt for my £13 as I walk into the stadium and am asked by a woman in a high vis who my player of the month for September is… Luckily she’s got her pad in her hand and there looks to be one winner… Bailey Conway has around nine votes to everyone else's two or three… “It’s got to be Bailey” I say.
The players are already out warming up the sky darkening as the lights brighten the green pitch with a hint of yellow. The blue painted pillows propping up the grey roofed stands… It’s a proper football venue is this. I once had a children’s book which I nicked from junior school titled ‘Stanley Bagshaw And The Short Sighted Football Trainer’… The ground in that which was the home of Huddersgate Albion (who ‘spoiler alert’ went on to beat the much fancied Stockwich Hotspur) reminds me of this place. Old and slightly decrepit, historical and unknowingly architecturally sublime, a proper football place, made of metal with the odd bit of rust and lights out here and there.
I can’t be bothered to queue for a brew but spot a sign which says Gents Toilets and I venture to the back of the stand where I’m greeted with nothing more than a corridor which stinks of piss with man-made urinals each side. It’s something to behold, something I’ll probably never forget. It felt too dirty to even use the sink.
I’m up to the top of the seated stand where the press places are parked which I remember from my last visit has a post directly in the middle of my view of one of the goals. The Gainsborough social media man is here as is Matlock’s, who used to work for Ilkeston Town before falling out with the chairman over his Twitter feed.
Mark tells me he was associated for 18 years with Ilkeston and it’s all left with a bitter taste, but he’s now unleashed a new lease of life at Matlock and is enjoying the club, if not always the football, the team is a little thin on the ground tonight with just three named substitutes.
I’m chatting away to Mark as Gainsborough in a purple shade of blue start out like an express train. They got badly beaten at the weekend and their new Manager Russ Wilcox seems to have fired a rocket up their arse to get them started… After a couple of sniffs already, suddenly Javelle Clarke is racing clear and away from a ropey looking Matlock offside trap. He’s rounded the goalkeeper Saul Deeney and calmly slots home an opener inside just six minutes.
Less than five later it’s two.. A Bobby Johnson left wing corner to the near post is headed home by Ashley Jackson and on 17 it’s three… This time a corner from the other side, Johnson again delivering to the near post, a carbon copy this time headed in by Dylan Cogill, the Gainsborough fans are singing “can we play you every week”.
Matlock do pull one back as Johnny Margetts gets away from a defender before being tumbled inside the area, he picks himself up to score and in fairness the away side finish the half as the better team, all be it in an open 45 where Gainsborough look most dangerous on the break.
At half time you feel Matlock boss Martin Carruthers will be fuming about the two goals his team conceded from corners but not as fuming as he would be just seven minutes into the second half when the same thing happens again… Johnson crossing his set play straight onto the head of young Hamish Douglas, three goals from corners, where is the marking from Matlock?
And on a sloppy defensive night for the away side it goes from bad to much worse as Saul Deeney lets a back pass slip over his foot and across his goal-line, Declan Howe slides in on the keeper and makes it five capitalising on the most calamitous and costly error on the night.
That calls Carruthers to make three instant changes and in fairness they to a degree pay off, as Josh Barnes pulls a goal back before one of the subs Reece Styche gets to the byline and crosses low where Cogill puts through his own net. Apparently the Trinity skipper had told the Gainsborough tweeter earlier in the evening he’s only ever scored three own goals.. Well make that four.
All this and still a good twenty plus minutes remaining and in an open game another goal could easily have came, for either side, Matlock defensively more open than a prostitutes legs… Gainsborough themselves not totally convincing that they could see out the game in style whilst looking like nicking something again on the break.
Eventually though, Matlock ran out of ideas, and time, whilst Gainsborough did have a little left in the tank, it wasn't needed, the better team won, but it certainly wasn’t one sided. I said to Mark "If Matlock could have defended set plays they would have won tonight."
Matlock had most of the ball and in midfield through Barnes, Wright and Johnston looked competent, in attack, particularly through Margetts on the break and Crofts out wide in spells, looked like they could cause trouble with pace, but defensively they were horrible and there wasn’t many bright sparks other than the fact they never gave up on a night where they only had themselves to blame for defeat.
For Gainsborough they had one stand out player who I really liked the look of. Javelle Clarke a young striker, slight in frame, only 21-years old, with a super burst of pace and some quick feet to go with it, he took his goal calmly and was a threat off the shoulder all be it Matlock’s offside trap often playing into his own hands.
Clarke looks a superb footballer and one that lit up the playing surface at times, whilst Bailey Conway and Jack Moore-Billam were decent in midfield. There defence like Matlock’s leaving a little to be desired.
It seems Gainsborough guarantees goals, my last visit here had eight, this match the same, and between the Holy Blues and the Gladiators this season alone (three games inc two in the FA Cup) we’ve had seventeen after a 1-1 draw earlier in the season was followed by a 5-2 Matlock win.
Because of these defensive frailties I see neither side doing better than a top six place (at best) this season, but because of these frailties and their expansive styles of attacking football, I feel both will be good to watch.. Their next meet up in January at the Causeway Stadium, may well be worth my visit again.
Gainsborough Trinity: Luke Jackson, George Hornshaw (Nat Wallace 80), Ashley Jackson, Bailey Conway, Hamish Douglas, Dylan Cogill, Jack Moore-Billam, Bobby Johnson, Dayle Southwell (Harrison Poulter 81), Declan Howe (Lewis Butroid 90), Javelle Clarke.
Matlock Town: Saul Deeney, Robbie McNicholas, Joe West, Andrew Wright, Ioan Evans (Jamie Sharman 60), George Wilkinson, John Johnston (Harry Wakefield 60), Josh Barnes, Oliver Clark, Jonathan Margetts, Nathaniel Crofts (Reece Styche 60).
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 3rd October 2023, The Northolme, Gainsborough (att 357).