by Richard Lusmore
In a season that has so far proved largely underwhelming, there’s genuine excitement surrounding Easington United’s fixture this Saturday.
The Eastenders travel to Leeds to try to clinch a place in the final of the historic Yorkshire Old Boys Shield competition. To do so they will have to overcome hosts Leeds City Reserves from the Yorkshire Amateur League Premier Division.
The locals will be well backed at the Adel War Memorial Ground, with both the Reserves and Third teams having closed the date off in order that players can travel to support the senior squad.
Personnel-wise, manager Craig Smalley has the rare luxury of virtually a full squad to choose from, with the only doubts surrounding youngsters Harvey Clarke (ankle) and Freddie Wright (hamstring). The quartet of players who missed Saturday’s game at Beverley Town Reserves – Brad Bowden, Charlie Clark, Dan Fincham and skipper Liam Murrey ¬ are all available for selection, leaving Smalley with something of a headache given that competition rules allow only for a 14-man squad with the use of three repeat (or rolling) substitutes.
It’s already the furthest the locals have got in the competition since first entering in 2017. On that occasion they bowed out in the first round, on the back of a chastening 9-0 loss at Redcar Newmarket.
Last season saw the Eastenders edged out in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Wortley.
This term, victories over AAK Sports and Wortley Reserves have brought them to the last four, while their opponents have beaten two teams from the north of the region in Stokesley Sports and St Mary’s 1947 of Middlesbrough.
The other semi-final sees last year’s beaten finalists Redcar Newmarket hosting Huddersfield side Ealandians.
Leeds City were formed in 2006, following a merger of Abbey Grange Old Boys, Adel FC and Leeds City Vixens. They operate four Saturday teams, with their first team currently riding high in the Yorkshire Amateur League Supreme Division.
The Reserves were Division 1 champions in 2020/21 and last season combined success in the league’s Hancock Trophy with promotion from the Championship. They are a side that is accustomed to success and they come into the game on the back of an excellent 0-2 league win at high-flying Greetland, one that club secretary Mark McFarlane hopes will kick-start his side’s campaign again after what by their standards has been a faltering start.
Now in its 58th season, the Yorkshire Old Boys Shield takes its name from the League of which it was part. The name “Old Boys” was used because, initially, all clubs were formed from Old Boys Associations (players from High Schools) primarily ex-pupils of those schools.
The Shield is an invitation competition that first commenced in the 1950s, bringing together clubs from within leagues of a similar standard around the old Yorkshire boundaries. For a long time, Holderness was represented therein by Withernsea AFC, while the competition’s “most successful club of the last 20 years” also came from the East Riding in the form of Malet Lambert YC.
In a season that has again brought more than its fair of disappointment so far, the Eastenders head along the M62 on Saturday determined not only to give a good account of themselves but, hopefully, earn themselves another trip west in May.
Among all the disappointment of last Saturday’s games, which yielded three defeats, there was one moment to celebrate. This came at Low Farm where the players of the Eastenders Reserves and opponents Bridlington Rovers Millau formed a guard of honour ahead of kick-off in recognition of Andy Graham’s 700 appearances for the club; this being the veteran defender’s first game at home since clocking up this impressive milestone.
Suitably humbled (and a tad embarrassed) AG then went on to produce a man of the match display for the Stiffs, albeit not one good enough to prevent defeat.
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