Friday, 8 November 2019

a derby of sorts

And then there was pie.

Considering that I named this website in the belief that I'd be sampling some of non-league's finest pastry-based produce while at the same time reigniting my flaccid footballing mojo, the rough-puff's been in regrettably scant supply. And while today’s sustenance wasn’t purchased at the ground itself, I’m allowing myself this small victory partly because the subject of pie makes good copy but primarily because it’s less faff then renaming the blog. 

There was a rumble of dissent when I posted this picture on Twitter, suggesting that my Victoria Tearoom swag is more canape than pie. All I can I say is that this is Saltaire: they do things quaintly here.

I’m not sure if there is any history between Salts FC and Ilkley Town AFC, but given that Saltaire - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - probably sees itself as a bit fancy, and Ilkley, up the road, definitely does, I’m classing today’s West Riding Challenge Cup fixture as a local-ish derby even if nobody else is. 

In dreich conditions it’s Ilkley, a tier above Salts in the West Yorkshire League, who set the pace; a thwack of a free-kick from the left-back putting them a goal up after ten minutes. Soon after, their Number 10, who if I was writing for a tabloid in the 1980s I might refer to as ‘leggy’, shimmies through the Salts rear-guard and dinks in to make it 0-2. 

This second galvanises Salts who nick one back, and although we’re not quite into the realms of Rocky versus Dolph, they dig in rather than roll over, and the next hour makes for an entertaining joust in the rain between a well-drilled Ilkley side and a dogged Salts unit. 

Half-time conversation turns to how Ilkley might get those shirts whiter than white again after this deluge of wet and muck. A handful of brave supporters scuttle round the pitch to the tea-bar. Most remain, wisely, huddles in the compact stand under the roof’s protection.

After the break, a keeper’s firm hand denies Ilkley’s ever-prowling Number 9, and there are similar scenes at the opposite end when the snappy Salts Number 9 is foiled by another display of determined ‘keeping.

Fightback very much still on, Salts make it 2-2 with a drilled finish from a committed Number 8 who’s in and amongst it all. “You’re killing yerself”, warns a team-mate, as he chases down another ball.

Legs get heavy. Rain gets heavier. Not too far away, trains trudge along the Airedale line but there’s little action on the canal running alongside the ground. Like I said: quaint.

The leggy one picks it up on the halfway line and lollops towards goal, shrugging off Salts attempts to nick it back, but pokes wide. Another Ilkley effort ends up closer to the Mill than the goal. But then that languid Number 9, who’s been well-managed up to now by a rugged Salts defence, is set up by two lively subs and finishes – I knew he could finish – to bag the winner and put his side into the next round of the Cup.

Salts FC 2

Ilkley Town AFC 3

Football in the rain, under a tin roof.

Admission: free.

Pie notes: good things come in small packages.

Here’s why I’m having a year watching non-league football.

And this is me on the Twitter.