There are 12 games left for most teams in the division; there are some contrary beggars who have more or less than 12 to play, but as we take our mandate from the masses, let’s go with 12 games left. Twelve divides neatly into four groups of three, or at least it used to before we all had smart phones, so I thought I would have an in depth probe about into what’s what for the first of those quarters – which provides the next three games we will squeeze in before the Six Nations is upon us.
If I haven’t given up all hope and throw myself in the cut, I shall revisit the position to the review the next block of three in early February. Before anyone has a hissy-fit or writes to their MP, please bear in mind the scribble you are being force fed here is from the quill of a dawg wearing Bees coloured glasses, underpants and socks; I am not Miss Impartiality, that was a film with Sandra Bullock, wasn’t it?
Looking at the league table it clearly has divided into a top six and a bottom six, with two sides, Cleckheaton and Huddersfield shuffling about in the middle, like a pair of liberal democrats, neither siding with the upper deck or joining the ranks of the downtrodden – Northern, Dinnington, West Hartlepool, The Bees, Malton and Norton and Percy Park. For the purposes of this investigation, I will cast aside the high flyers and just look at the fixtures concerning the Lib Dems and the proletariat.
Before I completely ignore the top six in the division, a few observations have been made by the eagle eyed in the tap room of the Fox and Gynaecologist, which I thought I should share.
I am sure you have noticed that only three sides in the division are undefeated at home – Morpeth, Alnwick and Penrith. Is it possible that this success on their own small patch of this sceptred isle has anything to do with the fact that these three are the most geographically remote in North One East? Is living off-world such an advantage? Should Alnwick and Penrith win their games in hand, the men from the castle would go top and Penrith would slide into fourth, placing the sides from the pseudo-Scotland in first, second and fourth in the division, with only Driffield bravely putting up a fight to hold on to third spot.
We know from our own experience that raising our own weary little soldiers from under the covers on a Saturday morning for the schlepp northwards has proven difficult; the Bees side you play on the road can sometimes bear no relation to the Bees side which trots out at Wagon Lane – (although to be fair we have won as many after a run out on the charabanc as we have from the comfort of our own front lawn!). I am sure this problem of raising a consistent side due to travelling is true for most other clubs in the division. Indeed perhaps the reverse applies to an extent as Morpeth, Alnwick and Penrith are not pulling up trees away from home, either. But that’s enough talk about the clever clogs at the top of the class. Let’s get back down to earth.
Anyway looking at the Lib Dems and the bottom feeders in alphabetical order (with the exception of the Bees, who I will shove to the back):
Cleckhuddersfax. Currently in seventh with 36 points from 13 games. Winning that game in hand would certainly have the Cleck spy glass looking up the skirts of West Leeds, not into the depths of Mordor below. However, before Cleck get a chance to play that game in hand their three opponents are Driffield (H), West Leeds (A) and Alnwick (A). Not an easy slate given that Driffield have won five on the bounce and Alnwick are undefeated at home.
Dinnington. Currently 13th in the table, with 23 points from their 14 games and also perhaps crucially, they have already played 8 games at home with a ninth to come on Saturday versus The Bees. They follow this up with a tough run out up to the East Coast to face Brid and the following week entertain the form side in the division, Driffield.
Huddersfield YMCA. “Out on the wild and windy moors, we would roll and fall in green…” From memory those are the opening lines to the Kate Bush song Wuthering Heights. I wonder if she was inspired to write that after eighty minutes watching a game from the Withering Height of the YMCA ground on the M62? This must be one of the toughest places to play if the weather closes in, and should help the Young Men see off Percy Park this Saturday. With 32 points from their 14 games, the YM are in the bracket of the smug middle classes in the division, but after they have pulled Percy’s pants down they have a run up to Morpeth and then have to entertain Penrith. Ouch.
Malton and Norton. I may not have seen ships on fire off the shoulders of Orion, but I have seen a car up on bricks in a pub car park. This seems to be how Eminem’s season has gone over the last five games. Just like the Bees, it seems the men from the Gannock cannot currently hit an elephant with a banjo. After 9 games played, with 25 points in the bag, M+N looked reasonably comfortable, but have picked up only 4 points since. Their home fixture against West Leeds this Saturday is no guarantee of turning things round and a trip up to a possibly re-vitalised Percy the week after is not a sitter either. Just to finalise the scene in our little triptych here, their third game sees Morpeth coming to town.
Northern. Currently performing on the pole with the most grease, it’s a hard knock life for Northern at the mo. Interestingly, I noticed the club motto for the club is “Non usque ad quosdam alios Septentrionalis” which when I asked Google translate what this meant , turns out to be “Not as far north as some others”. Currently plying their trade in the Deep South of this Division, it’s not looking pretty for the boys. With 19 points from their 14 games, they are obviously far from dead in the water as they are only 6 points off the non-relegation spots, but I don’t want to do this to them – next up its Penrith, which might smart a bit. They then have a real ten-pointer when they travel to play the Bees, but then they host Bridlington who won’t roll over and have their tummies tickled, that easily.
Percy Park. Having pulled a surprising win out of the knicker drawer last time out, beating West Hartlepool convincingly, 29-12, perhaps there is something stirring deep within Percy? This week they travel to see Kate Bush’s favourites up on the big hill at Huddersfield and then what looks like it could be a close old tussle with Malton and Norton at the Gannock. Percy then travel south to take in the green fields of Bramley when they visit West Leeds, which is never an easy run out. PP currently have 26 points from 13 games, so a couple of wins over the next three weeks and some points from the game in hand could see them breathing easier…but equally, it might all go pear shaped.
West Hartlepool. After taking a bit of a beating from Percy and his Merry Men last week, Wests need to rally quickly as they have two gruesome looking fixtures coming up, with Morpeth then Penrith next up on the slate. With 24 points from their 14 games played so far, they are 2 points off the low hanging fruit being offered by the Bees, who will be their home opposition after they have fought two rounds with the two heavy weights over the coming fortnight. That should be a cracker.
Finally the Bees. After a run which is the worst in the division with only three points taken from the last five league games, I’d hope I can report a fair degree of optimism in the Wagon Lane ranks. The last five games- v Morpeth (H) 20-27, v Penrith (A) 43-5, v West Leeds (A) 33-5, Bridlington 24-29 (H) and Alnwick (H) 19-36 have undoubtedly been tough, but in three of those games the Bees gave themselves a mountain to climb, and in each one almost pulled it back. Against Morpeth it was 27-3 just after half time, against Brid it was 26-5 at half time and against Alnwick it was 17-0 after 17 minutes.
In all three of those defeats, there were periods of play where the Bees achieved some dominance and which give grounds for optimism for the fixtures coming up. The next three are Dinnington this week, Northern at home on January 20th and West Hartlepool away on the 27th. With all three of the sides we must face in a similar canoe in a similar kind of creek, it is all to play for and in that strange sporting parlance we like to use, all three are “ten pointers”.
For Saturday’s fixture at Dinnington, we very much hope to have Harry Jeffrey, Ali MacDonald and Benny Greaves available for duty and back in the horse collar. Ali is hoping to make it past the warm up this week after he managed to do himself a severe mischief warming up in week 1 of the season. Tanner Lightfoot has been shopping for the longest studs available in this hemisphere, so we should at least see him upright for 80 minutes and not doing his best Torvill and Dean in and around the 22. 6.6 for his Bolero last week.
I will see you there, cuddling a large egg nog, I would imagine.
Updated 18:19 - 14 Jan 2018 by Benji Pickin