UP’ARD David Spencer finally settled an old score by goaling a Shrovetide ball at Sturston three years after his late goal was disallowed.
The 39-year-old hit the headlines in 2010 for all the wrong reasons when his last minute run to Sturston Mill ended in devastation when he tapped the ball on the mill stone minutes after the 10pm deadline.
But this year his efforts were finally rewareded in a game that was dominated by the Up’ards from start to finish, with a goal scored comfortably within the deadline, at 9.12pm.
It was a day of Shrovetide that threatened to be one of the busiest and most crowded Shrove Tuesdays in the game’s history, but was surprisingly exciting.
Crowds seemed smaller than expected, despite the good weather forecast and the usual interest from national and international media and it allowed the opening minutes of play to gather pace quickly.
Sportsman and businessman John Tomkinson was given the honour of turning up his ball at 2pm and following the usual warnings from Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide chairman Brell Ewart, and songs led by Mick Betteridge and Barry Greenwood, he tossed the leather into the crowd.
It was a frenzied start, the hug swirling in its usual enthusiastic fashion around Shaw Croft but not making any asserted moves towards Civic Square and Compton, as has happened several times in the past few years under the sheer weight of the out-numbering Down’ards.
This year the Up’ards had it under control all through the game. Play was heaved fairly quickly away from Shaw Croft and in to Park Avenue.
The hug made it to the top of Park Avenue at one point, but plenty of time was spent in battles around the fire station and in Fish Pond Meadow.
Unable to heave it back in their direction, the Down’ards let the ball slip in to the Henmore at the bottom of the Memorial Gardens and the relentless Up’ard surge was able to continue.
It steamed ahead along the Henmore, stalling occasionally as the Down’ards fought hard to quell the onslaught but the Up’ards fought harder and, by nightfall, the hug had made it all the way to the fields below Brookside.
Dedicated followers stuck with the action as it headed along, field by field, toward the Up’ard goal - dipping occasionally in to the Henmore.
The Down’ards never gave up. It was a valiant effort but Up’ard tactics and sheer determination won the day because, by 8pm, it seemed inevitable that the only way was ‘up’.
Crowds had already gathered in their hundreds at Sturston under the pitch-black, moonless sky to watch the hug slowly make its way along the Henmore to the goal.
For Mr Spencer, who was carried jubilantly back to the Town Hall for his goal to be ratified, it appeared to be a pre-planned choice by the Up’ards, who had waited at the goal for him to catch up and hammer the ball three times on the mill stone.
In handing his ball back to turner-up John Harrison in 2010, he remained a true sportsman and, at the time, insisted there was no ill feeling at the committee’s decision.
Although he has had to wait three years for another chance at bringing home a ball, his success will, undoubtedly have never tasted sweeter.