Today will go down in history as the day non-league Easterby Athletic beat Second Division Sheffield Wednesday 1-0.
Most of the day went mediocrely enough, with me doing my football leagues for a while and usually just sitting. Robert had rung up at about ten o’clock to say that they’d be coming up. Robert asked to speak to me so I had to get up out of bed – he asked me about Athletic’s match last Saturday – and I told him how crummy I thought it was.
Him and Carol are coming up from London after four years down there – Robert has a job at Copley Comprehensive but Carol still hasn’t found one.
By 5.45 they still hadn’t arrived – I was getting quite desperate by this time because K.O. was at 7.30 p.m. and it would be best if we could get there early (4000 were expected).
Soon though I heard their Renault van clank into Mr Tillotson’s driveway and at about 6.45, after we had some tea (Andrew had arrived), we set off.
On the way there I sat in the back of the van with Carol. There were hundreds of Athletic fans flooding on towards Cardigan Park and waiting at bus stops – it seemed as if the whole of Easterby was going there. We parked down Wintersett Crescent – I had a look at the old house; it was hard to imagine living there again – and we joined the huge flood of people moving on towards the ground.
There were massive queues to get in – amazing when compared to last weeks game – and inside the Easterby End was packed. It quite annoyed me seeing all the once-a-year brigade down there, all the little kids with their new scarves, and the middle class types, who never go near the place normally. The whole atmosphere was different completely to normal league matches – the whole place was alive and buzzing with excitement.
I had butterflies in my stomach just before the whistle. I think above all I was worried in case Athletic made a total cock-up of things and got thrashed. Athletic started quite well but Sheffield dominated completely. They just seemed to have that extra something, the extra speed and skill. Soon after the start Athletic’s attacks fizzled out and the ball was rarely out of our half. Several horrendous moments when shots just went over the bar or wide but at half-time it was 0-0. They’d done well to last so long.
Sheffield really piled it on when the second half started and things looked pretty grim. I felt desperate. But Athletic held on, with desperate clearances by Scarborough and Hughes and Hudson saving a few. Then when Sheffield started to look a bit hasty, we got a free kick just outside their area. Garside blasted a 20 yarder at Bolder who knocked it down and Newlands blasted it home. The ball actually in the Sheffield net!!!
The next 30 seconds I’ll always remember. Everyone leapt up, arms in the air and bellowed their heads off, and I just could not believe it. The next ten minutes were agony, my knees were trembling and I felt all light-headed and each Sheffield attack brought a pain to my chest. To say Sheffield are a Second division side they don’t look all that impressive.
When the whistle went everyone leapt around again and the Athletic team rushed around with their arms in the air. I cannot describe how we felt as we walked back to the car – pride, delight, but for me, frustration that we’re in the N. Alliance. What is such a good team doing there?!
The “Soccer Special” on ITV had a match report on it, and tomorrow the papers will be full of it I bet. “Sheffield Lions Tamed” . . etc. Best day in the history of the club, and I was there!