North Ferriby United 0 Marine 2 (5th January 2019)
There are problems with having been to a large number of grounds, but perhaps the biggest is the diminishing number of grounds within easy striking distance. Going to most of these games with a mate who has been to hundreds more grounds in England than me makes the problem worse. The impact of this is the emergence of suggestions which don’t seem an entirely logical way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
One of these was the option of North Ferriby United, currently plunging down the divisions like a torpedoed battleship, a good four hour drive away.
Oddly, it was the travel which made me a bit more keen on the game, offering not only the chance to go over the Humber Bridge (and see it from the ground) but also to travel up via Lincoln and the A46, where traffic is light enough to make the trip almost pleasant, seeing something different from the boring familiarity of the M6 and M1. Going back, I didn’t care about the route so much. It’d be dark and insanely boring whatever route we took – we could be driving past the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, with svelte gossamer-clad nymphs dancing evocatively just yards away, and it’d all be lost in the darkness and brakelights.
No nymphs or worldly wonders in North Ferriby though, just a village with a housing estate attached, a churchyard, a strange sand-coloured phone box, and a football ground at the end of a narrow lane.
Laziness had us not bothering with the fair-sized pub about a third of a mile away, on the grounds that it might not have had BT Sports, scuppering the chance to watch the 2nd half of Reading’s game at Old Trafford. There have been many occasions where not being able to watch Reading would have been a bonus, but with us sounding like we were playing OK, rather than the expected embarrassment, the North Ferriby club bar was a good option. Less good was the lack of warmth in there, partly due to sitting fairly near the door, but also because the heating hadn’t come for some reason. In every other respect the warmth came from the people keeping the club running. With the crowd being just 181, way below their 257 average, maybe it’s not surprising they make anyone who turns up feel welcome.
It’s fair to say North Ferriby are not having the best of times. Just a few years ago they were flush with backing from the family of the owners of Hull City, reaching the Conference National, and winning the FA Trophy. Sadly, the plug was pulled on the backing, and the club now looks doomed to a third consecutive relegation.
Potentially joining them were visitors Marine, only two places, but a huge 12 points ahead of their hosts, but even then still not averaging a point per game.
It’d be nice to report that despite the lowly position and prospects for both clubs, both tried to play neat entertaining football that was easy on the eye. The truth is that circumstances have clearly meant the both clubs, instead, have been forced into a great deal of pragmatism, getting the players that are available, rather than ones they’d ideally want.
Both sides had clearly had a great deal of confidence bashed out of them. North Ferriby, with just two wins to their name this season, simply cannot defend. The 69 goals in their “goals against” column, was by far the worst in the division. Marine’s paltry 23 goals for, was the 2nd worst, even behind North Ferriby’s tally – this game was a case of the stoppable object meeting the movable force.
The best compliment to pay to either team was that they were enthusiastic and committed. There wasn’t a huge amount of subtlety on show though, with both teams spending their time kicking to ball so hard that you thought it would end the game with corners. North Ferriby’s No.5 treated the ball like it had bullied him in childhood, kicking the ball as if on a mission to blast it at least 50 yards with every pass, regardless of direction. That he was North Ferriby’s choice as man of the match says a lot.
On an afternoon that felt far more cold than the 6 C forecast should have ever felt, Marine always had the upper hand. They had more of the play, got into more dangerous positions, had more shots. It’s just that most of the shots would have troubled the allotment owners behind the goal far more than the North Ferriby keeper. While not being a dull game by any means, the lack of quality meant the game reached half time as 0-0, with more than a whiff of threat that that’s how it could end.
I shouldn’t have worried. Within a couple of the minutes of the restart, the deadlock was broken. It was a bit harsh on one North Ferriby defender who performed a brilliant overhead goal-line clearance to keep it 0-0, only to see the ball launched straight back in and thumped in for the opening goal.
Despite plenty of effort, North Ferriby never really looked like equalising, but it took until the closing stages for the game to be made safe. A corner was swung in, and the home keeper could only flap at an attempted catch. The ball dropped into a ruck of players, and a Marine toe was there first to smash the ball into the roof of the net to seal the three points. It was just enough to left Marine out of the drop zone, but cemented North Ferriby’s place at the bottom. Fifteen points adrift of safety with sixteen games left, and only 10 points on the board so far, only the wildest of optimists would still believe the home side can avoid the drop. With their plight in recent times, it’s not going down this season that’s the worry, but probably more the thought that it could happen next season as well.