North Ferriby United suffered a fourth straight defeat as goals from Liam Enver-Marum and Alex Flisher earned fellow newly-promoted side Maidstone United victory in my first ever match at Grange Lane.
A free Saturday with our groundhopping friend Bill meant an opportunity for me to reach the three-quarters of a century grounds milestone.
North Ferriby United’s Grange Lane, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, was our selected location as the Villagers hosted ex-league club Maidstone United in the National League.
As recently as 2000, the club were playing in the Northern Counties East League alongside the likes of Hallam and Maltby Main. However, four promotions on and they are now just one step away from the football league for the first time in their history, having gained promotion from the National North by beating AFC Fylde 2-1 in May’s play-off final.
It was always going to be a massive step up, going toe to toe with the likes of Tranmere Rovers and Lincoln City, as a club from a village with a population below 4,000. But Ferriby had defied the odds plenty of times before – even lifting the 2014/15 FA Trophy at Wembley with a victory over Wrexham.
And their season could’ve started much worse, even earning a surprise win at Torquay United on the way to picking up seven points from eight games and, as a result, sitting outside the relegation places heading into this afternoon’s contest.
Today’s opponents were Maidstone United, who were returning to step five of the football pyramid for the first time since 1989 and first time since the club re-formed in 1992 after the original Maidstone club’s demise following relegation from the football league.
Despite the long journey from Kent, ‘the Stones’ fans had travelled in numbers and, having packed out the clubhouse pre-match to watch the Manchester derby, now took up position behind the goal to cheer on their side throughout the afternoon.
And they were quickly given something to cheer about as their side dominated the early stages of the contest before deservedly breaking the deadlock in the eleventh minute when Enver-Marum hammered a first time effort into the bottom corner.
The game settled down following the goal but the visitors remained comfortable and Enver-Marum looked to double his tally with a powerful strike that stung the goalkeeper’s gloves.
But Ferriby were handed a massive lifeline on the stroke of half time.
Charging away on the counter attack, Reece Thompson looked to be through on goal with the hosts’ best chance of the half before being stopped in his tracks by the final defender, Jack Evans.
There was little doubt around the ground as to what the decision would be, and the referee quickly produced a red card to reduce Maidstone to ten men for the remainder of the afternoon.
However, any hopes of a second half turnaround was quickly dashed when Flisher found the net for the away side with a low strike just four minutes after the restart.
From here, the outcome never looked in any real doubt. The hosts battled on in the hope of getting something from the game, even finding the net in the 75th minute only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
But with their fans in fine voice, Maidstone looked relatively comfortable on the field and ultimately ran out 2-0 winners – a result that lifts then to 12th in the National League.
Meanwhile, despite a fourth straight league defeat for North Ferriby, they remain one place above the drop zone at this early stage of the season and now look ahead to a midweek trip to seventh-placed Gateshead.
On a personal note, the game (only the third I have ever seen at this level!) brought my ‘grounds-for-games’ total to 75 and I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at North Ferriby, a friendly club who I wish well for the remainder of the season.
North Ferriby United (0)
Line-up: Watson, Middleton, Hare, Emerton, Skelton, Gray, Oliver (Fallowfield ’75), Russell, Clarke, Mukendi (Kendall ’65), Thompson
Unused Subs: Topliss, Fosu-Mensah
Maidstone United (2)
Line-up: Worgan, Mills, Coyle, Paxman (Mavilla ’80), Evans, Lokko, Sweeney, Flisher, Murphy (Hall-Johnson ’46), Taylor, Enver-Marum (Rogers ’75)
Unused subs: Greenhalgh, Richards
Scorers: Liam Enver-Marum ’11, Alex Flisher ’49
Date: 10th September 2016
Competition: National League
Gallery (click to view larger images):