Result: Stocksbridge Park Steels 1-3 Trafford (Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division)
Venue: Bracken Moor Stadium (Saturday 22nd March 2014, 3.00pm)
After the decent weather surrounding this fixture, the threat of snow nonetheless in the area was something of a worry as I set off on the journey to just outside of Sheffield, and the small town of Stocksbridge. The town is usually accessed via the snake pass, and is a little over an hour’s drive from Manchester, and from Trafford’s ground, from which I was setting off today, due to a lack of public transport options, the nearest station to Stocksbridge being in Sheffield itself!
Arriving in the now pretty steady rain, I set off up towards the small village of Bolsterstone, which is around a 15 minute walk from Stocksbridge’s ground, reached in most part by a footpath through some fields and amateur rugby grounds. I’d been told that Stocksbridge’s inns have a somewhat rough reputation and as such another destination was looked for and that destination was the Castle Inn. Joining Trafford fan Mike Capp along the way (he knows about these places beforehand you see), we spent about an hour in the pub, although to say he was underwhelmed with the quality of his Black Sheep pint would be an understatement! After finishing up the game of darts, which I won I hasten to add(!), we were soon heading back towards the ground, but not before stopping off at the neighbouring ‘Miner’s Arms’, which is a more family orientated pub, housing both a dart board and a pool table as well, so may well be a better destination for anyone preparing a venture up this way. The pub had been derelict almost the last time I had made the trip to Stocksbridge, and now it has a comfortable atmosphere and a better pint, I’ve been assured. I stick to bottled cider for the most part, so I’m not the person to ask about the local ales really.
Anyway, I left “Cappy” with his pint at around five minutes to kick-off, as I was on match report duties, and headed towards the ground, where I headed through the stone turnstiles, which add character immediately, and parted with £8 admission and a further £1.50 for a programme, which was rather sparse in articles however. Bracken Moor is a tidy ground with an abundance of character. Doubling up as a cricket field in the summer months (there is another next door to this as well), it houses two stands. The Main Stand is a rather large structure which is all seated, and there is another small covered terrace stand a fair way back from the pitch behind the goal which you enter from. This appears to be because of the oval shaped nature of the grass, so to allow a full field of play for those with willow in whites. Separating this is the large clubhouse building, which also has a small amount of terracing around it, and houses the refreshment area too. The opposite touchline side is open, bar a fence (which was erected to allow the club to meet NPL ground grading) and behind the far end goal is nothing but grass mounds and houses. It has a current capacity of 3,500, with 450 of those able to be seated in the main stand.
The club is relatively new, formed only in 1986, as a result of the merger of Oxley Park Sports F.C. and Stocksbridge Works (the works team of the large British Steel plant which the town is home to, and which greets you on arrival). The new entity was immediately admitted to the Northern Counties East League Division 2 (the works club had played in the Division 3, which was discontinued at the start of the ’86-’87 season).
Steels spent five seasons in Division 2, before being placed in Division 1 for 1991 when the lower division was also discontinued in league reorganisation. This proved a good thing for Steels, as they won that years title and promotion to the Premier Division of the NCEL. In the club’s second season at that level in ’93-’94, Steels became champions of the NCEL, but failed to gain promotion to the Northern Premier League (NPL) due to ground grading. Two seasons later, the club finished as runners-up on goal difference (to Hatfield Main), and on this occasion were admitted to the NPL Division One.
In August 2002, they set a club record with a 17-1 defeat of Oldham Town in the FA Cup Preliminary Round. Despite being mostly involved in mid or at the bottom of the table, the club reached the ’05-’06 play-offs via a sixth place finish, but lost out to Kendal Town in a penalty shoot-out. The following season, the club won the Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup, beating Worksop Town, before the club were placed in the new Division One South after the regionalisation of 2007-’08. They immediately qualified for the play-offs, but again lost out this time to Sheffield FC. ’08-’09 saw Steels again qualify for the play-offs, but this time they achieved promotion via a defeat of Belper Town in the final, where they’ve remained ever since. Last season, the club narrowly avoided relegation thanks to a 20th place finish in the Evo-Stik League Premier Division.
Back onto today’s game, and the teams came out into the now dry Yorkshire air. Stocksbridge had to win to stave off an inevitable relegation for another week, whereas if Trafford won, they would all but secure their place in the Premier Division for next season. I had already seen Droylsden be relegated a few weeks earlier (2-1 to King’s Lynn), so was I to witness a second relegation this season?
The answer was yes, though Steels weren’t going down without a fight. Trafford were hampered with the absence of star man Nia Bayunu, and without him the defence looked rather shaky. The sides had traded chances early on with both Shelton Payne of Trafford and Jamie Smith of Steels both spurning good chances. Smith came closest when he rattled the bar after Hayden Buckley-Smith in the Trafford goal made a poor error, and gave him a sight of goal from 25 yards. Steve Mason and Simon Hackney both went close for Trafford, before they took the lead just before the break when Payne bamboozled Brett Bowden-Lovell and fired across Ben Scott and into the far corner. It wasn’t just Trafford fielding a winger with extensive Football League experience (Hackney), Stocksbridge had their own in Matt Hamshaw, and he almost found the net immediately following the goal, but shot tamely at Buckley Smith from the angle from 12 yards.
At half time, I went into the rather plush clubhouse, the walls adorned with shirts of Katherine Brunt (England fast-bowler) and Jamie Vardy, who played at the club prior to moving on to great things, and looking likely to be Premier League football next season. There are two rooms you can choose from, and both have views looking over the pitch, one to the left of the stairs, and one on the right. So take your pick, almost like Dungeons & Dragons I’m told. I don’t know though, I’m not geeky enough to have read one!
The second half began as the drizzle began to fall once more, and within two minutes, the home side were level when the dangerous Smith got a shot away that took a wicked deflection and despite Buckley-Smith’s efforts, his half namesake’s shot escaped his grasp and crawled in. The ‘keeper will feel he should’ve done better though. After a spell of Steels pressure, they gave away a penalty when Bowden-Lovell handled in the area and Payne stepped up to double his and his teams tally, by easily sending Scott the wrong way. And Payne completed his hat-trick three minutes later when he latched on to a long ball over the top by Mason and beat Scott to the ball to lob past him from 30 yards via the inside of the post. Smith then horribly sliced an easy chance wide from six-yards, before Payne could have netted a fourth late on but fired wastefully into the side netting. It mattered little as Trafford comfortably held on for the points, and to condemn Stocksbridge Park Steels to Division One (probably South) football next season.
On the journey back, it was interesting to see a slight dusting of snow on the Pennines, which just goes to show that now and again, on rare occasions, the Met Office do indeed get the forecast right. Just hope that there’s no hurricanes on the way now!
P.S. Oh, and Droylsden won on this day. Make a note!!
My Stocksbridge Park Steels M.o.M.- Jamie Smith
My Trafford M.o.M.- Shelton Payne
Game: 6- Not a great game, but four goals isn’t a bad return.
Ground: 8- Full of character, and a tidy place. Well worth a visit.
Programme: 4- Not great unfortunately.
Fans: 4- Not many turned up, and those who did were very quiet. Think there may have been a lot of neutrals on.
Value For Money: 7- One of the cheapest in the league, and one of the cheaper programmes (be it for a reason!)
Referee: 6- An average performance. A few mistakes, but nothing major.
STOCKSBRIDGE PARK STEELS: 1.Ben Scott, 2.Tom Cadzow, 3.Ben Turner, 4.Richard Haigh, 5.Brett Bowden-Lovell, 6.Matthew Telling(c), 7.Liam Royles, 8.James Knowles, 9.Danny South, 10.Jamie Smith(1), 11.Matt Hamshaw. SUBS 12.Joel Evans(p), 14.Janni Lipka(p), 15.Andy Ring(p) 16.-,17-.
TRAFFORD: 1.Hayden Buckley-Smith, 2.Rees Welsh, 3.Andy Smart, 4.Callum Jones, 5.Steve Mason, 6.Chris Palmer, 7.Simon Hackney, 8.Martyn Andrews(c), 9.Shelton Payne(3), 10.Rory Fallon, 11.Paul Ashton. SUBS: 12.James Moore(p), 14.Jamie Allen, 15.Luke Heron(p), 16.Clevon Beadle, 17.Jardel Depeiaza(p).