Friar Lane & Epworth play at Franklin Park in the Aylestone Park district of Leicester. It's less than 2 miles to Aylestone Park FC and less than a mile from Grace Road, Leicestershire County Cricket HQ. The ground is wedged in a triangle of land between the railway lines and Whittier Road. There's a good sized car park which sits between the football ground and the clubhouse. The entrance is through a single gate/turnstile that brings you in behind the car park end goal and adjacent to the snack bar. There's some great graffiti on both the entrance and on a wall behind the goal which gives the ground a feeling of urban culture and immediately made me think of FC St Pauli.
Although these two teams reside in the same league, the Leicestershire Senior League, this encounter was actually a Leicestershire & Rutland Senior Cup tie, a competition that both teams, in their various guises, had featured heavily in over the years. In fact, Friar Lane Old Boys won this trophy in 1974, 1992 and 1993 as well as being beaten finalists in 1973, 1977, 1997 and 2001. Under their current name, Friar Lane & Epworth the club appeared in consecutive finals, winning the comptetition in 2005 and then losing out to Thurnby Rangers the following season. Ellistown have not appeared in the final under thir current name, but if you look back at their history you will see two wins, 1994 as Ibstock Welfare and 2012 as Ibstock United. Welfare also lost in the 1998 final whilst United were beaten by Kirby Muxloe in the 2007 final. Of course, this is a tenuous link because both Ibstock clubs were separate to Ellistown and only became connected when Ibstock United merged with Ellistown to form Ellistown & Ibstock United in 2013. The current incarnation of Ellistown did not join the Leicestershire Senior League until four years after the merger. So, draw your own conclusions about whether there is a valid conenction or not.
Meanwhile, back to this season, and the current clubs do share a division. Ellistown have started well, just on defeat in their first nine, to Allexton & New Park last time out, and sit in third spot. Friar Lane have not started so well. However, after last season's grand total of 3 points, you have to get things into perspective. Two wins and a draw from their opening nine has seen them more than double last season's haul, and lifted them to third from bottom above Ashby Ivanhoe Knights and Barrow Town.
The teams have already met in the league, back on the opening day. That also took place at Franklin Park with the visitors coming out on top by a 3-1 scoreline. Hashim Bakar hit a brace with Daniel Yadav getting the other goal. Christian Smith replied for Friar Lane. In the previous four league meetings prior to this year, Ellsitown have won two, Friar Lane one and one has ended in a draw.
Both teams were fielding changed starting line-ups from their last league game. Although Lane were fielding one of their joint top scorers, Gary Warren. The other, Christian Smith, was on the bench. Ellistown made four changes to their starting eleven and top scorer Hashim Bakar was not even in the matchday squad.
With the visitors looking the livelier from the start, it was little surprise that they had the first on-target attempt. However, Christian Nguesseu's seventh minute header caused little consternation to Kade Smith in the home goal. Ellistown continued to have the lion's share of the play, especially in the midfield area. However, they never managed to really find a final ball or stretch Smith in between the Lane sticks. This inability to score when on top came back to bite them in the 17th minute. A rare attack from the home team resulted in a shot being superbly parried by Tyler Weeks. The keeper was a little unfortunate that the ball ran to Cole Witherington on the edge of the area, and the Friar Lane midfielder returned the ball on the volley, straight into the top corner. It was an excellent, controlled finish but certainly against the general run of play. 1-0.
Following the goal the transformation in the confidence and general play of the home side was very plain to see. Suddenly they were playing the football. They were on the front foot and Ellistown, for ten minutes or so, were struggling to respond. Halfway through the half Dan Gallagher burst through the centre for Friar Lane, releasing the ball into the path of Edu De Oliviera but the winger could only shoot wide of the mark. However, the home side's tactic of leaving three up front, whatever was going on at the other end, was working. Ellistown were forced to leave players back to cover or risk leaving themselves exposed to the break.
Aside from a 25th minute penalty shout that left the referee unmoved, Ellistown were not able to mount any concerted effort to get the goal back. In fact, on 35 minutes they could easily have been two down when Gary Warren put a delightful ball into the Ellistown six-yard box. Unfortunately for the home side, it was an inch or two too far in front of De Oliviera and, although he made contact, he wasn't able to get enough on it to beat Weeks.
That proved to be a pivotal moment because five minutes before half-time the hosts presented Ellistown with a way back. Nguesseu broke down the right for 'Town and got the better of Pavel Kisiel, tempting the defender into an ill-judged tackle from behind. There was no real decision for the referee to make. It was a clear penalty.
Luke Higgins took the responsibility and calmly slotted home the spot-kick. 1-1.
The goal revitalised Ellistown and two minutes later they came within a whisker of going in front when a cross from the right fizzed across the face of the home goal with two visiting players throwing themselves at the ball but not quite making contact.
HT Friar Lane & Epworth 1 Ellistown 1. A entertaining half of football that swung back and forth. Two teams who clearly want to score goals. A very adventurous line-up from the home side, playing three up front, was making for an open contest.
Three minutes later, not content with scoring one "worldie", Yadav was at it again when Smith came out of his area on the right to clatter a ball clear. Yadav, some 30 yards out, controlled the loose ball well before lofting an effort back towards goal with Smith retreating at pace. The ball beat the keeper's efforts but crashed off the bar and away to safety. So close to a spectacular hat-trick.
It looked as if the game was up at this point but the home side were having none of it. With 84 minutes gone Gaz Warren rose well at the back post to get his head to a right-wing cross, placing it back over Weeks into the far corner. 2-3 and game on.
Friar Lane began to throw everyone forward, so much so that they almost got caught on the break when Jake Robertson latched onto a through ball but was prevented from sealing it by a superb save from Kade Smith. That was a minute into added time. Four minutes later came what could easily have turned into a very ugly incident. A scramble in the Ellistown box concluded with Weeks grabbing the ball on the line. There seemed to be some claims that it had gone in before home keeper Smith, who had gone up for a corner, waded in. What followed involved all 22 players, both benches and coaches. A mass melee inside the Ellistown six yard box. It was very hard to see exactly what went on. To be honest, from where I was, it looked like a bit of pushing and shoving and nothing more. When it all calmed down the referee issued a yellow to Tyler Weeks and play restarted, only for the referee to blow for time immediately after the ball was kicked.
FT Friar Lane & Epworth 2 Ellistown 3. A thoroughly absorbing cup tie that at differnt points swung in favour of both teams. Ultimately, it was decided by a fifteen minute period where one player took the game by the scruff of the neck. It was good to meet the gent from the Ellistown gate who got the team sheets for me at that game. Once again I was indebted to him for sharing the Ellistown team with me before kick-off. Nice to have a chatr at half-time. I hope they also noticed that, when I walked arouf to where they were standing in the second half, they scored almost immediately. Must be a good omen.
If you want to catch either of these sides in action, they both have league games this coming Saturday. Friar Lane & Epworth ar eat home again, this time facing 10th placed Thurnby Rangers who are jsut three piints above them. Ellsitown are back in Aylestone as the face fourth placed Aylestone Park Reserves.
Friar Lane & Epworth: Kade Smith, Rowley(c), Materia, Wheat, Kisiel, Witherington, De Oliviera, Gallagher, Warren, Leacock, Faical. Subs: Kieran Smith, Matope, Avossa, Hastings, C.Smith
Ellistown: Weeks, Cotter, Brooker, Beaumont, Stylianou, Collins, Higgins, Green, Walker, Ngueusseu, Yadav. Subs:Taylor, Robertson, Bates, Lewis, Varnam
Ground Number: 381