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Tuesday 13th May 2014 ko 18.30

Northants Combination Division 3

IRTHLINGBOROUGH RANGERS 1 (Potts 17) Potts sent off (violent conduct) 72, J Martin sent off (violent conduct) 86

KETTERING PL UNITED 7 (Ablewski 26secs Chojak 26 62 83 89 Leskowski 60 Augusciak 77) Putyrski sent off (violent conduct) 72

Att 12

Entry FREE

No Programme

It must be odd playing for an Irthlingborough side at the moment, knowing that the most well-appiointed ground in the town is the mothballed Nene Park, the former home of Rushden & Diamonds and Kettering Town. The advantage of visiting another team here is that unlike trips to the large ground you do actually see the town! For my southern eyes, it has elements of both north and south, I do like a border town, and the Church of St Peter, with its lantern tower is a wonderfully evocative landmark. The football ground, the Rec’ is found at the end of Scarborough Street. Be forewarned the street is narrow, and there’s no parking so a bright move is to park in town and take the 5 minute walk up the hill. I did, and was surprised at the obvious tension for an end of season game with absolutely nothing riding on it.

A quick look at the league’s FA Full-time page shows the visitors to be Polish team, and the home team to be enduring a dreadful season, marooned at the base of the bottom division with just three points from 27 games and a goal difference of -140. So a banker of an away win you would have thought, even more so with Rangers only being able to name eleven men. But neither I or respected hopper Brian Buck, could understand the tension. I was half-asked, half accused of why I wanted to take pictures, and the referee Andrew Row, both looked and sounded distracted. The reasons did become apparent, but not immediately.

As a neutral, I hoped that Rangers would make a decent fist of the game, but conceding after 27 seconds put paid to that notion. They fought valiantly, and equalised through Josh Potts’ left hand for a goal that had if there been an appointed linesman, it would have surely been disallowed. The United bench went mad, in a preview of future antics, but soon regained the lead and in footballing terms never looked back. And dear reader this would have been an utterly straightforward local league drubbing had the visitors restricted their activities to simply knocking in goals past a hapless Rangers defence.

I have no idea why United felt the need to kick their opponents, or why they laboured under the impression that no one other than them and their supporters understood the Polish phrase for, “English (expletive)”  The Rangers bench did, and so did Mr Row, who by the way is the sole reason this game was completed. He was superb, and conducted himself with great dignity, which is more than can be said for many others.

As Irthlingborough tired,  the United goals came thick and fast, but so did the heavy challenges with them. It became a case of Brian and I wincing as another challenge went, with another dose of intimidation, and forlornly hoping that the hosts could keep their reactions within the laws of the game. It was a case of the Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke, and when the dam burst, it did so in spectacular fashion.

Mateusz Putyrski’s challenge on Potts was dreadful, and once there was a clash of heads in the aftermath, Row had no option to send both off, that cleared the benches, and once peace had been restored and the game restarted it was clear that the simmering undercurrent was going to explode. Another bad challenge, another reaction, and this time it was Rangers Jay Martin heading for an early bath. Except this time the visiting bench were not about to let things lie, the insults flew, and sadly the home club linesmen responded with “You —- Polish —-,” making a bad situation worse. That Andrew Row didn’t hear, if he had he would have probably abandoned the game there and then. The home bench threatened to call the police, and only common sense refereeing calmed matters down sufficiently to continue.

As it was the game limped the through to its conclusion, with Rangers scoring once more, but afterwards I went and had a quiet chat to the brave referee. It turned out that the visitors are known for being a handful, which made me wonder why the league hadn’t supported their man with appointed linesmen. It also transpires that United are transferring to the Peterborough & District League and changing their name to Peterborough PL United. With my connections to that league, I will need to be convinced to offer them any part in that league’s groundhop. What I saw here should have no place anywhere, let alone a football field.