The question she posed 'Is there a game somewhere that we haven't been, where we could have a little day out as well as you taking in a match?'. As it happened, a perfect fixture leapt off the pages of the NLP. Ely City v Framlingham Town.
You couldn't really find a better one. A new ground for me, a team playing it's first ever Step 5 game (Framlingham). A cathedral (since a recent trip to Wells, my daughter likes visiting cathedrals), it is an historic city with plenty to keep the family occupied and the ground is within walking distance of the city centre. So it was that we found ourselves heading 81 miles East on Saturday lunchtime, towards The Fens and new ground number 159.
Framligham Town, The Castlemen, were promoted from the Ipswich & Suffolk League three season ago, entering the Eastern Counties structure for the first time since their formation in 1887.
Framlingham started really well. They looked sharper and far more threatening than Ely. However, despite having a lot of the ball, they couldn't make the home keeper work. Star striker, Danny Smith looked very dangerous. Quick, and incisive, but he couldn't find that final ball. He seemed to be the one making the chances, whereas Framlingham would probably have preferred him to have been on the end of them.
Most of Ely's play focused on number Jamie Thurlbourne, who was working hard to gain a grip on the midfield and was, certainly in the first half, involved in almost every Ely move.
25 minutes in, and with the score still 0-0, the referee, very wisely, called for a drinks break. I knw that some people feel that this little bit 'nanny state, but, I can tell you, it was hard work just standing, watching in the sun. I really did not envy these players and they must have been getting seriously dehydrated after 25 minutes of running in this weather.
As the half wore on, Thurlbourne was starting to pull more strings and his team-mates were also getting more into their stride. Ely were definitely coming into the game more as the half progressed.
HT Ely City 0 Framlingham Town 0. A good start from the visitors but Ely looking more dangerous as the half progressed. Not a classic but good entertainment for neutrals.
Framlingham heads didn't drop but you sensed they needed to get an equaliser quickly if they were to stay in the game. They were getting noticeably less of the ball than the first half, possibly more because Ely had upped their game rather then Framlingham had dropped their standards. As the clocked ticked past the hour and headed towards the 70th minute mark, an equaliser was starting to look more unlikely. Suddenly, however, The Castlemen sprang into life. A little bit of pressure on the home goal was half cleared to the left flank, Max Willett swung over a lovely cross and there was Anthony Johnson to power home a header. 1-1 after 69 minutes and a perfect time for a second-half drinks break.
It looked as if we were heading for a stalemate until, in the 86 minute, the referee had no option but to award a home penalty as Hook (my view was slightly obscured, so it may not have been) was bundled over in the box. Up stepped Lee Reed to send the keeper the wrong way to make it 2-1.
Then on the stroke 90 minutes, with Framlingham somehow finding the energy to press for a second equaliser, Ely hit them on the break down the left, before pulling the ball back for Reed to expertly stroke home his second and Ely's third. 3-1.
There was still enough time for a little bit of 'handbags' before the end, but it only led to a yellow card and was soon calmed down.
FT Ely City 3 Framlingham Town 1. Ely ultimately deserved their win. After Weathering Framlingham's blistering start, they played their way into the game and scored a couple of very nice goals. Both sides worked incredibly hard in what must have been very tough conditions to play football in. This was only my second Eastern Counties League game and, I have to say, I have enjoyed both immensely (the other was Godmanchester v Felixstowe a couple of seasons back). It a shame that the majority of sides in this league are just that little bit too far, especially as I watch most of my football in midweek. I must, however, make an effort see a few more games.
Best wishes to both sides for the rest of the season.
Ely City (All Red): Jeckells, Dalby, Alsop, Walter, Williams, Lee Reed, Napier, Hook, Thulborn, Jeffrey, Thurlbourne. Subs: Brannan, Sam Reed, Heap, Griffin
Framlingham Town (Green & White hoops): Chivers, Poacher, Willett, Thorpe, Johnson, Mayhew, Boardley, Matt Aldis, Smith, Kerridge, Driver. Subs: Evans-Hendrick, Abraham, Borg, Brooks
Ground Number: 159