THE OLD adage that football is a funny old game was never truer than when a match had to be stopped after an ice cream van invaded the pitch.
Brow were leading Shaftesbury 02 Youth 2-0 in a crucial Birkenhead Sunday League relegation showdown recently when Mr Whippy decided to play on the left wing.
Apparently the driver had decided to take a short-cut over the pitch in Birkenhead Park because of cars parked on the road, but he quickly sank into the muddy playing surface, resisting all efforts to free him until another ice cream van towed him free.
Brow manager Albey Longmore said he has never seen anything like it in 20 years as a football player and manager.
"It was about 10 minutes into the second half and I was looking the other way, when someone said 'they'll have to abandon the game'.
"I thought there had been fighting or something, but when I turned around, there was an ice cream van - stuck in the pitch with his music going and everything," he laughed.
"I was just gobsmacked - I couldn't believe it and the referee couldn't either. We were looking at each other as if to say what do we do next, and in the end he said he'd have to stop the game while we moved the van."
However all efforts to free the van from the muddy pitch proved fruitless, a situation not helped by the driver hardly speaking a word of English.
Albey said: "He seemed to be frightened to death by all these lads crowding around his van, but eventually we got through to him what we wanted to do by hand signals.
"Around 20 of us tried to push the van, but we couldn't move it and then one of the lads tried towing it out with his car which didn't work.
"As a last resort, we all tried pushing it out again, but when we looked up there was no driver - he was selling ice creams to about 20 kids!"
Shaftes manager Geoff Griffiths said his players were buying ice creams as well.
"As we were losing we thought the longer the delay, the more chance of the game being abandoned," he explained.
"We formed an orderly queue to buy some ice creams and were looking for an official ruling, but I don't think there is one on ice cream van pitch invasions. It was just an amazing incident and I'll always remember it."
Eventually the van was towed clear by another ice cream van after 30 minutes delay, with Brow holding on for the remainder of the game to win 2-1.
Albey added: "It was certainly one for the record books and the news spread like wildfire. On the Sunday night in the pub, people were singing 'Just one Cornetto' at us - I'll never look at an ice cream in the same way again."
League secretary John Davies took the call about the incident and said he was totally amazed.
He added: "It was such a surprise and I never thought someone would ask me what to do about an ice cream van on the pitch.
"I just told them to get some 99s in and leave it up to the referee and thankfully it all worked out in the end."