Venue: Shaw Lane Stadium (Saturday 3rd May 2015, 3.00pm)
With the season drawing to a close and options becoming ever more limited by the day, it was time to open the net wider and search for new places to visit whilst the weather is supposedly at one of its better times. Well, the latter didn’t play ball as I visited a Manchopper Draw decided Barnsley, and the Northern Counties East Champions, Shaw Lane Aquaforce.
After discovering that the Football Spoon had too randomly drawn out a Barnsley area club, Athersley Recreation, in his own “die of destiny”, we met up on Urmston Station at just before half-eleven on the first weekend of May, in drizzly and not too pleasant weather. After a short journey into Manchester and onwards to Piccadilly Station, we met Dan who was again joining me on another Venture, with the lure of a new ground clearly being too much to resist.
So, after travelling into Sheffield on a packed train that was surely giving First some decent profits, we alighted at the South Yorkshire City fir our connection onwards to Barnsley. It was on the Northern Rail service that we had the (mis)fortune to sit alongside a group of women drinking from plastic penises. At one in the afternoon. Now, if that wasn’t worrying enough, the fact that two of the women were easily into their fifties was very much an eye opener….
After this off-putting sight, I was quite happy to disembark as soon as Barnsley came into sight. Surprise, surprise, it was still raining as Dan and I bid a temporary farewell to Football Spoon as we headed off in opposite directions in the town. Within 30 minutes, even with a longer detour, we had arrived at Shaw Lane and after being informed that Barnsley Cricket Club, who play next door, was where Sir Geoffrey Boycott was picked up by Yorkshire we decided to watch a bit of red ball action. No prima donna cricketers here, they were still out in the rain. No injuries sustained.
After watching about 12 overs of willow and leather, and seeing a first ever Yorkshire League wicket, we left the damp stand and headed for the football stadium just around the corner of the Social Club-type building that stands within the sports club. The ground itself also hosts Barnsley RUFC and as such, the pitch wasn’t in the best of nick. It wasn’t awful by any means, but it was suffering the effects. We noted this after we’d handed over just £4 for entry, plus £1.50 for the attractive-looking programme. The Shaw Lane Stadium (I wonder why it isn’t the Aquaforce Stadium) is a tidy little ground, hosting two stands, with one being assigned, colour coded, to each club. The main stand is decked out in red seats, in homage to the rugby club with the smaller terrace behind the left hand goal being home to blue/white seats, reflecting the Sheffield Wednesday-like kit of the Force. (Their founder was an Owls fan). The side from which you enter is open, bar the overhanging roof, which provides a small amount of cover. The right hand end is non-existent as Shaw Lane is still a three-sided ground.
As I alluded to earlier, their kit is based upon Sheffield Wednesday’s kit and has been the case from their formation. Here is a little more history of the Aquaforce…
The club was, effectively, only founded in 2012, but has been in existence in junior football since 1991, playing at Shaw Lane. In the next decade, the club continued to grow, eventually becoming part of the larger Shaw Lane Community Sports Group. The club merged with Worsborough Common in 2011 to become Aquaforce Barnsley FC (Aquaforce being a business name). The club took Worsborough’s place in the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League Division 1, where promotion was immediately achieved, before merging with Barugh FC in the summer of 2012, to form Shaw Lane Aquaforce.
In their first season under the guise, the club won the S&H League Premier Division at the first attempt, thus achieving promotion to the Northern Counties East League Division 1. Their first season at this level again ended in success, with the club finishing runners-up and again being promoted to the NCEL Premier Division. Again, after just one season in the Prem, the club have just been promoted to the Northern Premier League, winning this season’s championship deservedly by all accounts. It’s likely they will compete in the Division 1 South, where they will face the likes of a local clash with Sheffield, the world’s oldest club. The club also reached the Quarter Final of the FA Vase, where they were vanquished, in a replay, by eventual finalists (as I write), Glossop North End.
As the visitors, Glasshoughton, entered the pitch, they lined up to give the champions a guard of honour, which was a nice touch by the bottom club, who required a 21-0 win to stay up. Needless to say, the odds on them achieving this feat were probably less than putting a man on the Sun. As the cringey strains of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” blared out over the speakers (never bettered since Jenson Button’s version), the teams took their places on the field of play and we were soon, mercifully, underway.
Glasshoughton competed well for the first half of the game, threatening their hosts on occasion, even prompting me to comment “How are these bottom?”. Yes, they were poor at finishing, very poor, but apart from that, there was nothing to suggest you were watching the best versus the worst. Yet. After waiting for me to finish my cup of tea, the Aquaforce took a predictable lead, Lee Morris beating the onrushing ‘keeper to the loose ball and neatly finished into an unguarded net. Cue “Can You Feel The Force” from the speakers!
An unfortunate own goal put the hosts two up as we headed off for an “almost lap of the ground” and as I got to the tunnel, I was presented with a challenge. “What you after lads?”. “Just a picture of your scoreboard”, I answered. “Oh, that’s fine, here, you can go this way”, said the committee man, pointing to the pitch. So, on the grass I went, snapped my picture before making a hasty retreat before the action returned to the scoreboard end of the ground. It’s the little things that are remembered, and just doing that gives me a great view of the club.
Back in the main stand, I purchased a sausage roll for £1 from the refreshment area inside the stand itself. It was worth the £1 definitely, though there wasn’t a huge amount of variety in options, but I wasn’t too bothered in that. The second half was getting underway as we….goal! About 15 seconds into the second period and Shaw Lane had their third goal, Danny Frost lifting the ball over the ‘keeper. A lovely goal. This was followed by Glasshoughton having a couple of quick chances where they had the ball cleared off the line and hit the bar. This gave the young Ultras in the stand behind the goal no end of fun as they unleashed their banter and songs upon Glasshoughton’s number 9 who took it all in humour, which is definitely the best way to go! But, alas for Welfare, their heads went down and the Force was unleashed.
The fourth came via a quick free-kick from James Cotterill, who was allowed to take the kick whilst the ‘keeper was still arranging his wall. “Can You Feel The Force?!”. Five, Steve Instead firing home his first goal of the season. His excitement was clear, as he embarked on a half-lap of the pitch before swan diving on half way. Probably the best celebration I’ve seen this season! “Can You Feel The Force?!”.
The last 10 minutes featured no less than four goals. Number Six came via substitute Shane Kelsey, who chipped in from 25 yards after judging the distance to perfection. Goal of the game. “Can You Feel The Force?!”. By now, the announcer was fed up of feeling it, as his voice clearly showed. The seventh came via Chris White’s drive. White was also wearing #7, to the delight of OCD sufferers everywhere. “Can You Feel The Force?!” Jimmy Eyles headed in number 8, “Can You Feel The Force?!”, before Kelsey rounded off the scoring in stoppage time, firing in from the edge of the area past the beleaguered Welfare ‘keeper who was sure to have had a bad back in the morning as he once again had the pick the ball fro his net and “Can You Feel The Force?!” blared out for the last time. Mercifully, the ref blew his whistle to signal a 9-0 win for the Aquaforce. Amazingly, this wasn’t their biggest triumph over poor Glasshoughton this season. Aquaforce won 12-0 at Welfare earlier this campaign!
Dan and I soon left the ground and the very friendly club behind to head back to the station and meet back up with Football Spoon for the journey home, and we did spot a bride on the way out. After taking the shorter route back to the station, we met up with the aforementioned utensil and were soon back in Sheffield where, after a short wait, we boarded the train onwards to Manchester. Back in Piccadilly, me and Spoony bid goodbye to Dan and we headed back off to Oxford Road & Sainsbury’s. We even shared a romantic meal on the platform whilst waiting for the train Well, it was a chocolate cookie, but you know you’re jealous….
My Shaw Lane Aquaforce M.o.M.- Steve Instead
My Glasshoughton Welfare M.o.M.- Arran Horton
Game: 8- Entertaining, but one sided. Very one sided.
Ground: 7- Smart, I liked the roof too.
Food: 6- Nice, but only a snack really.
Programme: 8- A really good, professional looking effort.
Fans: 8- The young Aquaforce ultras gave some banter and noise. Glasshoughton’s striker took the brunt, but took it well! All in good humour
Value For Money: 9- Goals, good game, good club and some cricket as a bonus. Top day.