Belper Town 3 Kidsgrove Athletic 1 (15th April 2017)
It’s not just about the football. If all I wanted to do was watch “a” match, I could pick one of the multitude of local games in the Berkshire area and save myself a lot of time. One of the joys about getting out to towns like Belper, near enough to the Peak District to be all rolling hills and stone buildings, is that the difference in scenery makes it a mini day out. Add in an old mill building and a church looming over the ground, and the small but perfectly formed gardens behind the mill, and the prospect of a good game almost feels like a bonus.
For about half an hour that was just as well. Kicking off exactly on time with the church bells ringing out for 3 pm, the game had a distinct end of season feel to it. Both clubs were marooned deep in mid-table and playing like they’d rather have just played rock-paper-scissors before the game rather than having to run around for 90 minutes. The nearest thing to a bit of fight I’d seen was watching a couple of ducks chase another bird round the Belper River Gardens an hour earlier.
Ten minutes before half time, and the wonderfully-named Rubens Wiggins-Thomas seemed to decide enough was enough. Cutting back onto his right foot from the left edge of the Kidsgrove box, the cross was on, but he decided to go one better, perfectly curling the ball beyond everyone into the far corner. Even the Kidsgrove goalkeeper applauded.
Within 10 minutes of the 2nd half starting, it was 2-0. A more positive approach from the home side in particular was rewarded with a rebound from a shot hitting the post being turned back in from 15 yards.
With nothing of any importance to play for, I did wonder if Kidsgrove might cave in and spend the rest of the match admiring the scenery, but a 67th minute penalty, rather out of the blue, changed matters. Tucked away coolly by their rather hefty Jon Parkin physique-a-like No.10 to absolute silence, it offered them a chance to get back into the game.
Belper always looked more likely to get the game’s 4th goal though, which they duly did. With 6 minutes left Ruben Wiggins-Thomas got his second, this time threading a ball along the ground into the far corner, seeming to take the keeper by surprise. No applause this from him this time though.
That really was game over, and it was a case, even for a few of the players I suspect, of admiring the view over the hills, and trying to pretend it was a few degrees warmer than the cold breeze allowed it to be – before they could think about putting their feet up on the beach in few weeks for real.