ONE of Shrovetide’s biggest ever crowds have been treated to one of the game’s most exciting days of play as the Shrove Tuesday sunshine set the scene for an epic start by the Down’ards and then a dramatic equaliser by the Up’ards.
Blue skies provided a bright backdrop to Jim Boden’s 2pm turn-up, watched by thousands of spectators, and the Down’ards led the march from the word go, eventually taking the ball all the way to Clifton at 4.50pm.
The goal, by Adrian Webb, came minutes before the 5pm deadline and led to a second turn-up from the plinth by an elated Ernie Grant who sent the leather on its way for another exciting and turbulent short burst of play — ending in another early goal by Up’ard Richard Goodall less than an hour later.
A fairly slow hour of play followed the first turn-up and the ball made little movement in Shaw Croft Car Park, and around the nearby flats, but eventually the leather was heaved into the Civic Square culvert where the struggle became frantic to push it one way or the other.
A sudden break shortly after 3.20pm saw the ball sneaked up the White Hart yard and it again settled in Church Street but a break at around 4pm saw the ball run through the Tissington Trail tunnel.
After a frantic battle in the fields off Mappleton Lane the ball was forced back to the cycle hire car park where Up’ards desperately tried to grapple it into the fields to take it off towards Sturston.
But the Down’ards pulled it away and Adrian Webb and David Hollingsworth ran it through the Leisure Centre Car Park where they were joined by fellow runner Simon Betteridge who took the leather to Clifton Road.
An heroic relay race ensued as David Hollingsworth took over and ran the ball past the hospital and Simon Betteridge took over for a spell before handing over for Adrian to take it to glory at the mill.
Speaking exclusively to the News Telegraph shortly after the goal, Adrian’s wife Allison said: “I’m shocked, I’m really excited and I’m really pleased, he really deserves it. He’s waited long enough for this. His dad used to play Shrovetide and Adrian’s played for 20 years.” Adrian’s father John Webb was said to be “absolutely ecstatic” and 39-year-old Adrian, a self-employed joiner from Greenway, took the ball to his grandfather John Webb Senior - who was in tears when he saw the prized leather.
Ernie Grant turned up the second ball at 5.40pm as light was beginning to fade and the temperature was beginning to drop. After a steady start, fairly similar to the first hour of play, the ball found its way to Civic Square yet again.
Hopes of a Down’ard double soon faded, however, when the determined Up’ards instigated a break out into Compton and the frantic play returned.
Very quickly, taking the large crowd of staunch spectators unaware, the Up’ards were capitalising on the darkness and had run the ball up Old Hill and towards Springfield Avenue.
Practically unopposed, the Up’ards chased to the airfield, through Bradley Wood and were well on the way for a clear run to Sturston for a goal by Richard Goodall at 6.35pm.
As Richard was carried along St John Street to have the goal ratified at the Green Man, he roared with excitement, telling the News Telegraph he felt “brilliant.” One goal each and the promise of another epic day to follow.