It’s not all plain sailing at the top.

I drove 18 miles to Retford United and the contrasts were amazing, no snow and a temperature of 7.5 degrees whereas at home it was six inches of thawing snow and 2.5 degrees. There were Grey skies and a light wind but it felt almost tropical compared to the previous few days.

Retford was one of the games on that were near to me and I thought I would catch up with the Central Midlands North League leaders as they move towards a promotion to either the Northern Counties East Division 1 or the United Counties Division 1. There are a few overlapping anomalies at the border of these leagues which I’m sure the FA will sort in future seasons. Retford had been undefeated in the league until last time out and were playing a hard to beat Bentley side. I estimated about 100 were there to witness the outcome.

Retford’s ground is on the edge of town surrounded by fields and has a very large car park to the front of the stadium. The pitch slopes slightly from end to end, has a few undulations and a very good grass cover for the time of year. There is a covered seated stand on one side with the changing rooms, club house, administrative rooms and a food kiosk on the other. Behind one goal there is covered standing and open standing at the other.

Retford United have been going since 1987 and were formed to provide football in the town after the demise of Retford Town. They have had a meteoric rise to the Northern Premier League Premier Division and back down again to where they are today. After their fall they are now aiming to progress back up the pyramid and catch up neighbours Retford FC.

AFC Bentley are mere infants in the Non League world having been born out of Brodsworth Welfare FC and Bentley Colliery FC in around 2015. They have set up as a Community club and run teams at all levels. The club has consolidated its position in the league and is quickly updating it’s facilities to move up the leagues in the future.

Retford United 2 AFC Bentley 1

Saturday 11th March 15.00pm kick off.

Central Midlands Football League North

Cannon Park, Leverton Road, Retford, Nottinghamshire DN 22 0DR

1st v 8th

Retford, white shirt backs with vertical black and white fronts, black shorts: Bentley, green shirts and shorts.

The game was competitive from the start and the referee took some verbal chat from the away side. Retford looked quick when they went wide and on 13 minutes a ball through on the right to Mark West was clipped back along the ground for Charlie Baird to back heel it into the net for the lead. Retford seemed to relax after this and allowed Bentley to grow in confidence. Despite West hitting the post and Retford’s left back causing some good defending from his long throws Retford were unable to add to their tally by half time.

Bentley were the dominant team in the second half and with 18 minutes gone of the second half they swarmed forward overwhelming the Retford defense for them to be able to score by the left hand post.

For all of Retfords huff and puff they could not find a way past the resolute defence and some fine saves by the goalkeeper, Danial Lister, from West and Barlow.

Bentley had a player sin binned and one sent off both of which I believe were for dissent. Their trainer too was yellow carded and with all of the stoppages there was a long period of added time. A few minutes before this Max Pemberton rose to meet the ball from a corner and planted it downwards into the net for what had looked an improbable win.

Retford did not seem to have the swagger they had when I saw them demolish Dinnington on Christmas Eve. Perhaps it is the expectation of being champions that is weighing on them that has seen their first defeat and making hard work of this game. Mark West too, their prolific scorer, is stuck on 99 goals for the club and just can’t get over the line.

The chips were hot, skins on, crispy, tasty with no greasy after taste. A good score of 66.

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