James makes it honours even over two days of the historic Shrovetide battle in town's streets
After the Up'ards took a late lead on Tuesday, the Down'ards wanted retribution as the snow came down hard on the second day of Shrovetide. Chris Jones reports.
IN their quest to pull things level, the Down'ards could not have made a better start yesterday.
The team from the south of Ashbourne's Henmore Brook had conceded a goal late on Tuesday evening, ending the first day's play of this year's Royal Shrovetide football match 1-0 down.
But only seconds after local butcher Nigel Brown yesterday "turned up" the ball into the waiting crunch of players at 2pm, the white sphere was smashed backwards towards the town centre.
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It was a deliberate strike in the right direction for the Down'ards, who needed to get the ball to their scoring point, Clifton Mill, three miles from the Up'ards goal at Sturston.
And at about 7.45pm their hard work paid off with the scoring of a goal, bringing Royal Shrovetide 2013 to a close with a draw.
The goal was being credited to Down'ards player James Carter.
Despite driving snow coating the players and thousands of spectators gathered in Shawcross car park, there was a warm glow of anticipation in the air.
Tuesday's play had been slow and boggy, most of it taking place well into the Down'ards territory.
The hug roamed into the overspill car park and then off down Park Road and Park Avenue; players locked in a bitter battle for every inch of ground.
Then, at just after 9pm, veteran Up'ard David Spencer, who has been playing with his team for 22 years, finally goaled the ball at Sturston.
It was a moment of mixed emotion, since David had scored a controversial, disallowed goal back in 2010.
But there was no such uncertainty on Tuesday and his efforts gave his team the overnight lead.
In Shrovetide goal scorers are often chosen by committee, with so many players near the goal.
They go into a huddle and then elect a member to be named as scorer based on their performance throughout the game.
There was a philosophical feeling among the Down'ards before yesterday's play.
Darren Waring, 44, and Brendan Harwood, 36, met in The Wheel Inn (Down'ard HQ during Shrovetide) and said they felt they knew why their side was a goal down.
Darren, of Ashbourne, said: "For a Down'ard, yesterday was bad. The Up'ards had a good day and they really brought it to us.
"The trouble is that when you get past a certain line, heads start to drop and spirit starts to go. That line is somewhere near Belper Road and Park Road and they got there pretty quickly, so we were struggling from then on."
He did not have long to wait. At just before 2pm, the fresh Shrovetide football was brought along the streets of Ashbourne. By this time, Shawcroft car park was crammed full of people, wrapped up thickly in the bitter cold and lashing snow.
But after a sing-through of Auld Lang Syne and the national anthem, Mr Brown hurled the ball towards the masses.
The ball was batted backwards, towards the brick planters where press photographers were perched. But soon they were getting more than just pictures, as the vast scrum of hardened Shrovetide players swarmed towards them.
For the next 20 minutes, the hug could not keep the ball down and it pinged high into the air before dipping into Henmore Brook. Retrieving it took some time and watching this was Jenny Cragg, of Brailsford, with her family.
She said: "It's just so exciting. I've been bringing my children since they were eight; they're 23 now, so 15 years. We always come down.
"There's nothing like it really. I do worry about my children getting in the centre but there is a community spirit at the heart of it."
After 15 years of dominance by the Up'ards, the tide has begun to turn in recent years, with the Down'ards securing three draws and a win in the past four clashes.
Up'ard Dan Naylor, of Yeaveley, was sporting big black stitches above his shiny red eye – an injury he picked up during Tuesday's clash.
He said: "Yeah, I had a connection with a gentleman's fist at one point, put it that way.
"There's five stitches in there, had to be done on Tuesday night after the game at a local doctor's.
"We have no plans to be defensive today, we just want to go out and trounce them."