The huge machinery of global sport has come clattering to a halt. In England, professional football is on sudden and dramatic lockdown. In Appleby on Saturday, the Westmorland Senior Cup continued with a semi-final match between the home town team and Milnthorpe Corinthians.

It was at places like King George’s Field where the true national game – amateur, grassroots – held its own on an unusual, slightly eerie weekend. Coronavirus may have closed gates and pulled shutters down at stadiums, but on parks and municipal pitches there remained the usual sights, sounds, slides and studs.

A few dozen people of various ages gathered by the wall on Chapel Street or, on the opposite side of the pitch, by the river, to watch. Some dog-walkers paused to spectate, some did not. There was, of course, talk of the virus, its effect on sport, business and life. The match went on.

Even at a time of countrywide anxiety it is easy to locate those places of inbuilt resilience. The sandbags piled up in the town centre, and the flood barriers still protecting certain household doorways, reminded you of what Storm Ciara recently brought to Appleby.

A place which, through accident of geography, must be on its guard more readily than most, is not about to take its ball home before time. It was a perfectly normal scene as the mild afternoon brought drizzle and both teams went about their warm-ups on the green grass.

Yet it was, in another way entirely removed from Covid-19, still a remarkable enough sight given that this field had been under water only a few weeks ago. A sandy area behind one of the goals was an echo of efforts to patch the ground up, but to look at the pitch itself you would not have known it had been so heavily submerged. It was perfectly playable, flatter and truer than it probably had any right to be.

Games like these do not to any degree constitute “mass gatherings” and there were no medical grounds – no symptoms, no self-isolations – to prevent players taking part. The Westmorland League had, that morning, advised that all games were going ahead, weather permitting, “but just be aware, wash hands as advised and discuss hand shaking before the game”.

There were, between the Appleby and Milnthorpe contingents, a few hands shaken and a few not. As people looked on in their hats and coats, a few clearances and tackles endangered nearby cars and windows. The game was contested keenly and, as it developed, Milnthorpe emerged as the prevailing force.

Their more polished attacking play brought the first goal in the 25th minute, when Peter Baxendale cut in from the right, evaded defenders and eventually placed a neat shot into the bottom corner. Shortly before half-time, No5 Andy Todd beat the home keeper to a free-kick to volley in number two.

There was a vocal Corinthians following who enjoyed this, just as they raucously admonished some of the frustrated Appleby tackles that came in late. In a more biting breeze, the second half underlined their superiority; Elliot Bousfield scoring at the second attempt after 47 minutes and Simon Wearing dispatching an impressive fourth.

Steven Yawson had also, at times, been an elusive runner for the visitors, and he deserved the goal he got when attacking a weak clearance and dispatching a first-time return into the net.

Other things you would not normally notice, you did. A while after the fifth goal, a couple of players collided. One reached out to the other by way of apology; they slapped hands. More did the same at full-time, when Milnthorpe’s march to the final was complete. The rain was coming down steadily now as the Appleby players took down the nets and headed to the changing rooms.

How much longer will even these levels of football be allowed to persist? How much is fine, how much is safe, how much is scaremongering? Nobody yet knows. The game, the country, is in a strange state of suspension right now and with all this in mind it did feel like a couple of hours of positive distraction, in the fresh air, by the gently flowing River Eden.

Steve Wharton, the Appleby manager, laughed ruefully as he was approached by the News & Star for a few words. What, after all, can you say about a 5-0 defeat? But he gave generously of his time and conceded that, even here, the match itself was but one concern.

“We were beaten by a better side,” he firstly said. “They obviously did their homework after we played at their place a month ago and won quite comfortably. They had a game plan, came down here and totally outplayed us. I wish them luck in the final.

“We’re disappointed; a semi-final, and we didn’t turn up.” The surface, despite its recent deluge, offered no excuses. “We can’t complain about the pitch – I have to pay credit to Eden District Council, they’ve done well with it since the floods, it’s recovered pretty rapidly and played well.”

What, though, happens next? Steve shrugged his shoulders.

“We’ve got no idea whether it’s a one-off today,” he said. “Given the score I wish they’d cancelled it to be honest! But in seriousness, I don’t know what the future leaves us with.

“It might be a similar scenario to foot and mouth [in 2001], when the league was suspended but they still continued with finals at the beginning of the following season. Whether they do that or not…I hope so, because we’re sitting pretty in a couple of other cups and are up there in the league. But there are a lot of games still to be played and I have my doubts.

“The league has to take advice from the county FA, and their guidelines are that it is business as normal until we hear differently. We’ll abide by those rules and play accordingly.”

In terms of advice to players amid the virus outbreak, he added that it had been a case of observing a Facebook post and tweets from the league. “There were guys today that did have handshakes, and guys that didn’t. We shook the linesmen’s hands, and the referee declined, simply because that was his wish. It’s how you see it on a personal level.”

Everyone then went home, or to the pub. The game, in this strange time, goes on. For now.