Back on 10 November 2013 , Poppleton Tigers visited The Balk and went home with three points having won 2-1 against the Predators. Back then, manager Joe Cooney was still working with his new squad and embedding an understanding.
Since then, Tigers have taken 34 points and remained undefeated, sitting perilously close to the title, 12 points ahead of Pocklington, having played two games more.
But Malcolm Forbes, the creator of Forbes Magazine, once said: “Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat” and Sunday brought the opportunity for Predators to savour that sweet taste.
Poppleton Tigers are a very good side playing patterns of play at a high quality level and it was clear to see how lesser sides have fallen by the wayside.
Predators were more of a match though, with a point to prove, and it was a credit to both sides that they managed to play any quality football on an area which more resembled a recently ploughed farmer’s field than a football pitch.
There were barely four minutes on the clock when Predators took the lead.
Huw Jones was quick and alert in finding Elliott Russell and his perfectly floated cross found Sez Altin at the far post and he headed in.
The home support went silent.
Poppleton immediately came back and knew their main threat would come though the pace of their left winger; his first dangerous cross being superbly intercepted by Stuart Wright who headed clear.
Harry Crusher was next to thwart the danger, reading well the cut inside and deflecting the shot wide for a corner.
Tigers sent the resulting cross just over the bar and focused thereon on seeking to free two players around the back with their forward play.
George Pilkington, alongside Eric Hogan, Crusher and Wright dealt admirably with the persistent pressure, whilst Ben Potter, Jones, Jefferson and Russell battled the middle ground.
The midpoint of the first half gave Predators a chance to double their lead.
An agricultural tackle gave Joe Milner the chance from distance with a free kick and his attempt was only parried by the keeper; the ball falling to Sam Jefferson who volleyed just wide.
Shortly afterwards, Wright came forward from left back and tried from long range; his effort saved.
Step forward Sam Flinton in the Pocklington goal who has been consistently excellent all season and listen to the gasps of appreciation that followed his fantastic double save; the second from point blank range.
He was needed again two minutes later with a further outstanding save and the referee’s half-time whistle gave Pocklington some respite and time to refocus before their turn downhill amongst the ridge and furrows.
Predators started the second half strongly, Jones and Milner linking neatly with Jones’ effort slipping just wide.
Fraser Hansen and Matthew Terry came off the bench and delivered outstanding contributions where holding position became so critical as Tigers sought an equaliser.
The tempo increased and the tackling hardened as Predators stood taller; their resilience firm.
Ed Borrie released much of the pressure with his tireless running down the right wing; reading the bounce well, he twice went close with efforts which were cleared off the line.
Milner saw his effort saved and his own acrobatic rebound sail over.
At the other end, Crusher and Hogan looked calm and collected as the balls become longer and more direct; Crusher on hand with tremendous covering midway through the second half.
Hansen saw his effort from Pilkington’s layoff fumbled by the keeper, but trickle wide and Milner fired narrowly over just after.
Predators played with much intelligence in the final 10 minutes, nullifying Tigers forays forward and cleverly using the channels and holding the ball with skill in the corner areas; the clock ticking down before the ref signalled the end of the match and a deserved Predators victory.