HEDNESFORD CUP DEFEAT
Depths of despair
The 1990s was a long procession of debasement and debilitation for those of a Tiger persuasion. Humiliations jostle with one another for supremacy in our scarred memories, with no clear winner, no definitive top ten possible, just an unending slurry of dismay. However, while we may never be able to select for certain our lowest point, few have a more vigorous claim than an afternoon of shame that’ll be forever known simply as “Hednesford”.
They were our opponents in the First Round of the FA Cup in 1997/98, a match played one chilly November day, a rancid affair replete with squalid cheating, loathsome officiating and a City side more mind-meltingly hopeless than anyone new to the support nowadays could believe ever turned out in amber and black. Those who do remember need only consider that Gage and Rioch were our full-backs that day, or wing-backs, as manager Mark Hateley attempted to mould them. Match of the Day were there too, featuring the Tigers on that evening’s show and fervently hoping for a “giant-killing”. They got one.
City started poorly, as was their wont. Hednesford now ply their trade in the Southern League, but at the time were a progressive Conference team, only a handful of places below the Tigers in the football pyramid. They probably had the better of the first half as a cold, sullen Boothferry Park crowd of 6,091 sighed with displeasure. Mick Norbury, veteran striker of virtually every crap northern team in existence, scored with a penalty shortly before half-time, comically awarded by Mr D Laws, a name not easily forgotten – for he turned in one of the worst refereeing displays ever witnessed.
The Pitmen led at the break, and City’s attempts to rescue the game in the second half were pitifully inept. Memories include Gregor Rioch (described as ‘barrel chested’ by Mark Lawrenson on MOTD) shooting from about fifty yards, as he did almost every game, Hateley bringing on the attacking duo of Ellington and Fewings (seriously) in bid to level matters, and Rioch tumbling in the area and Mr Laws waving it away before being almost jubilant as Hednesford scored again in injury time. The 1,000 Hednesford fans celebrated their cup final victory, their cretinous fat oaf of a manager pranced on our pitch, and we slunk away into the night in utter disgrace, wondering if we’d ever see the sun again.