The newly formed Stars were proud to welcome their more illustrious opponents, Pontefract Collieries (the 'Colls') to Stocking Lane for their opening league fixture of the 2019/20 season.
Pontefract is the closest recognised town to the small village of Monk Fryston. Heaped in history, its castle was widely regarded as the most fearsome in modern England and was quoted as such by the great Bard himself. It was also the spot of Richard the II's infamous murder and also played a significant part in the War of the Roses.
Pontefract was also one of the main centres of the once thriving liquorice industry boasting at its peak 13 separate factories. Pontefract Cakes are known all around the world. It's sweets heritage continues courtesy of Haribo and I'm sure I needn't explain further exactly what they produce.
Finally, as if to prove the point that our opponents are 'illustrious', was anyone aware that on the same date as our match the Colls open age team were taking part in the F. A. Cup away at Glossop North End. Yes the early rounds of that cup competition have started already! Whereas the Colls youngsters might be dreaming of playing for the 1st team in ten years time I'm sure the Stars will have their hearts set on playing for the likes of Manchester United or Liverpool or if they don't make it, Leeds United ! (Reporters privilege)
The beginning of Autumn, the beginning of a new season. A newly marked pitch blessed with some strong sunshine in dry conditions. It was perfect footballing conditions in a perfect footballing environment. Optimism was high for good reason.
The right to kickoff was contested at the Colls players request with a game of Stone, Paper, Scissors. Cartwright held his nerve in this dramatic opening crushing the scissors with his stone after two earlier draws. Momentum was with the Stags.
The game proper then kicked off. After a few minutes the momentum, that precious commodity in sport, was with the Colls and sadly that is where it stayed for the remainder of the game.
Goals were scored at regular intervals by the visitors throughout the match and even the most biased of Stags supporters would have to accept that they were on the whole well deserved. Top corner, bottom corner, overheads and precise passing assists. The Colls created a great highlights reel for any neutral lover of the beatiful game. But the Stags also had their moments.
Williamson showed glimpses of his form from last season in his preferred sweeper role but the onslaught was overwhelming for just one defender.He was prepared to put his foot in even with adverse consequences and he should be applauded for that.
Cartwright was able to get a shot away and also contributed with a few well time tackles.
Brewster played half the match in the nets and saved everything that was savable. He was his bustling self in the outfield.
Shacklady had his stint in goal and couldn't be criticised but was effective as usual outside and got his reward at the end with a deserved goal.
Wilson one of the league debutants should be pleased with his first game using his presence to great effect when called upon.
Parish, likewise, making his opening bow, never looked out of place and was always eager to see some action.
Marchand tried his best, as you would expect, but the opposition surppressed his fabulous ability to carry a ball at pace a terrorise an opponent.
Haigh was good throughout and didn't shirk a challenge. He also bravely took the gloves in the final quarter.
Lee grew in stature as the game went on and will have been buoyed by his richly deserved goal when he followed up a Shacklady shot with a cool finish.
Despite the fact that this was an admittedly one sided affair there were no tantrums or downing of tools. Heads were held high to the end and as if by reward the friendly match afterwards went the way of the Stags in dramatic fashion.
'Not in my Parish!' This was the mantra from the debutant of the same name. He was at his best in this part of the game. A prominent figure. Haigh was good in goal. Merchant had a shot save after a Parish through ball. Lee was lively an tested the keeper. Despite this the Stags found themselves 2 v 0 down at the end.
Parish had a shot saved. Shacklady, in the nets, had another of those "was it over the line?" saves when he was given the benefit. At the end the Stags were further behind at 3 v 0.
Wilson started his tenure in the nets with a fine save. A further goal could have put this match out of sight. It proved more crucial that was thought at the time because as said in 'P J Masks' "Its time to be a hero" and onto the scene came Brewster. The blond bruiser had been strangely subdued up to this point but all that was to change in dramatic fashion. Within the space of five minutes the three goal lead had been wiped out courtesy of a Brewster hat trick. With the help of a Marchant assist with one goal the rest was all Brewster. The best one coming after he collected the ball in his own half skinning the Colls players down the left, cutting inside and finishing. The Colls then went 5 v 3 up but the introduction of Shacklady cut that back to one, scoring with just two touches after coming on less than a minute before.
Cartwright fed Shacklady for the first chance but when the ball fell to Haigh he levelled the contest. Haigh then had the opportunity to win it but his shot was saved. Fittingly it was Shacklady who scored the winning goal at the end showing great composure with a precision finish.
This was a great learning experience for the Stags. There may well be tougher opponents out there in this difficult division but there are likely to be more beatable teams as well. The Stags will regroup and go again.
Up the Stags
The Stars always Shine.