Result: Farsley Celtic 4-2 Ossett Town (AET) (Northern Premier League First Division North Play-Off Final)
Venue: Throstle Nest (Saturday 29th April 2017, 3pm)
With the majority of the Step Four leagues in the books, attentions turned to those clubs who’d earned the right to extend their seasons for a late shot at success. Yes, the play-offs had been in full swing over the last week and, for me, it was to the Northern Premier League’s Division 1 North’s Yorkshire derby promotion clash between Farsley Celtic and Ossett Town.
With both clubs overcoming stern opposition in midweek (Farsley defeating Colne; Ossett ousting Scarborough), all roads pointed to Farsley’s Throstle Nest ground, with the Celts having finished as runners-up and therefore securing home advantage throughout their short play-off campaign. Ossett Town had come through an away trip to Scarborough, having secured their place after avoiding defeat to Trafford in the final day’s showdown clash. So who was to take the glory? If you’ve somehow missed the result spoiler, allow me to leave you in suspense!
After heading into Manchester, a quick connection over to Victoria station was undertaken before grabbing the train onwards to New Pudsey, the stop around a fifteen/twenty minute walk from the ground. I’d originally planned to meet with blog regular Paul on this very train, however delays from Liverpool saw him unable to make it and therefore he was stuck on a shiny Transpennine service up to Leeds, rather than his preferred, bone-shaking pacer option.
Heading up and through West Yorkshire, I arrived into New Pudsey station at just after midday, Paul arriving around ten minutes after myself. Of course, all eyes were set on Farsley’s small centre and so we made haste for there and started off the usual crawl through the pubs, beginning with the one at the far end, namely the Bay Horse.
Upon entering, I was pretty surprised to find it devoid of punters, what with it being fairly full on my last visit here last season to view Albion Sports in their cup game against Bradford Park Avenue. Anyway, in we headed and after getting the beers in, were allowed to have the big York City vs Forest Green match on TV. Well the first half anyway, as we soon bored and headed onwards up the high street to the New Inn for a couple of games of pool which I definitely didn’t fluke wins in…
Following my second dominating victory, the walk back towards Throstle Nest continued, punctuated by stops at the brilliant Village Wine Bar, complete with rocky alcoves and the Old Hall hotel at the foot of the small lane which spits you out within view of the ground. This is probably a slightly longer walk, but does allow you to cut off the uphill walk back up the high street you’d face otherwise. Anyway, we soon came within sight of the Throstle Nest floodlights and, before long, were arriving at the ground.
After heading past the numerous signs leaving you in no doubt this is Farsley Celtic’s ground, we headed through the turnstile, handing over a fair £7 entrance fee, before paying a further £2 for the decent programme. With a good half-hour to kick-off, Paul and I headed for the clubhouse for a final pre-game drink, though the plastic glasses you do get allow you to take them out with you, so there’s no need to rush. However, I did drink the vast majority of mine before heading out and was soon happy I’d done so, as my finger got stuck within the rims of the doubled-up glasses and pulled it to the floor. Hmmmm…
Anyway. Throstle Nest is a nice enough ground, featuring just the two stands. The all-seater Main Stand sits on the near touch-line and directly in front of you as you enter and offers a slightly raised view of the action on the field. The second stand is a covered terrace which is located to the left of the turnstile as you come into the ground (the clubhouse/food bar on the right). This stand does offer a few seats too, but with these not in use today, it seems these are only for when segregation is in use at the ground. Otherwise, the rest of the ground is open terracing, bar the far end goal which is just hard standing. With loose ground description out of the way, here’s the story of Farsley Celtic…
The current incarnation of Farsley Celtic FC was formed in 2010, however the club traces itself back to the original Farsley Celtic side of 1908. After playing in the local leagues around Leeds, the club eventually joined the West Riding County Amateur League in 1926, their best showing here being a runners-up placing in 1937.
Post-WWII, 1949 saw Farsley join the Yorkshire League’s Division 2, which they won in 1952, being promoted to Division 1 as a result. Following two consecutive runners-up placings in 1958 & ’59, the club won the Yorkshire League title in 1960, winning a second title in 1969 after establishing themselves as a force around the top of the table. Further runners-up spots in 1971 & ’72 followed and 1975 saw Celtic reach the FA Cup First Round for the first time, the club losing at “home” to Third Division side Tranmere Rovers, the game played at Elland Road in front of 11,000 fans.
However, a swift slump followed with the club relegated to Division 2 the following season, but they were immediately promoted after just the one season back in the second tier of the Yorkshire League, but their yo-yo-ing between the divisions continued as they again suffered the drop after just one year back in the First Division. They would go on to remain in the Division 2 for a further three seasons, before achieving promotion back to Division 1 in 1981.
1982 saw the Yorkshire League merge with the Midland League to create the Northern Counties East League, Farsley being placed in the Division One North. They would remain here through until 1985, when they lifted the title and were promoted to the Premier Division. Just two seasons later, the Villagers were promoted as runners-up in Division 1 to the newly formed Northern Premier League Division 1, where the club would stay for the next seventeen seasons.
Eventually finishing in third place in 2004, Farsley finally departed the NPL’s First Division in the right direction. Taking a spot in the Premier Division, their first season ended in controversy, with Spennymoor United folding and leaving Celtic as champions. But, the FA would go on to overrule the league, awarding each team who had yet to play Spennymoor three points for each non-played game, meaning both Hyde United and Workington moved ahead of Farsley in the table, thus denying the Villagers promotion, never mind the title. Rubbing salt in the wounds, Celtic would have their appeal denied and would go on to lose in the play-off final to the Cumbrian outfit.
2006, however, did see Farsley take a place in the Conference North, defeating Marine and then North Ferriby in the play-offs to achieve promotion. After a second appearance in the FA Cup’s first round, a second consecutive promotion followed, with a fifth-placed finish at the close of their first season at Step 2 meaning a spot in the play-offs was secured. Again the play-offs were friendly to Farsley with Kettering Town and Hinckley United this time being vanquished, as Celtic found themselves in non-league’s top-flight.
Their stay at the top table was to last a single season, though, Farsley seeing themselves relegated come the end of the 2008-’09 season. However, worse was to follow, as Celtic were to fold mid-way through the following year, the club failing to see out the season, being expelled from the Conference North and disbanding in March of 2010, reforming for the following year as Farsley AFC and taking a place in the NCEL Premier Division.
After immediately achieving promotion, Farsley were back in the Division One of the NPL, where they would remain through until this day (perhaps?), despite achieving a place in 2012 play-offs. 2015 saw the club revert to using the Farsley Celtic name, with 2017 seeing the club finish runners-up after narrowly missing out on the title to Lancaster City, instead ending up in this season’s play-offs, where they defeated Colne 4-0 in the semis to reach the final.
Before too long it was time to head back out onto the terraces for the match and were greeted by the sight of both teams already lined up and ready to go. We were underway and it soon became apparent that the first half was going to be one of those cagey, tight affairs where neither side, understandably, wants to give any real sniff to their opponents, Ossett’s centre-back pairing of, the ever impressive, Tyrone Gay and Isaac Assenso being particularly solid.
So, with little to keep us entertained Paul and I headed off on a lap of Throstle Nest, encountering many, many friendly dogs as we went: TJ, Zak, Poppy and Pippa were just a few of those in attendance!
On the field, the turgid contest continued with only one real chance of note for both teams. For the hosts, James Walshaw fired off-target while it took until the stroke of half-time for Ossett Town to muster a chance, but they came close to breaking the deadlock with it. Ossett striker Danny Frost, who’d go on to have a major impact later in the game, took the ball on the turn before firing in a fine effort towards the top-corner that Farsley stopper Graeme McKibbin was equal to. So, half-time arrived with the game still goalless.
The whole of the break was spent in the queue for food and, unfortunately for us both, we arrived at the service hatch at the most inopportune time of the game at that point. Just a few minutes after the restart, Farsley forced a corner on the right. Lewis Nightingale, who is a firm non-league favourite of mine, drifted the ball in and his delivery was met by the head of Adam Clayton who powered the ball beyond the Ossett ‘keeper Leigh Overton. I have to thank Farsley’ report for that description, as I was in the process of putting in my order for chips, peas and gravy as Clayton found the net and Paul was also not invested at that very time!
So Farsley were ahead and the early goal meant the rest of the half was a far more open, entertaining affair. Both sides were looking for the crucial second goal, Ossett to get back to level terms and Farsley to attempt to kill off their opposition and secure a spot in the NPL Premier Division for next season.
However, it was Ossett who took the initiative and they equalised with around twenty minutes remaining, the aforementioned Frost evading the defence and firing a low shot beyond McKibbin to send the visiting support behind the goal into raptures. Of course, with the scores level and the visitors on the front foot, Paul recommended we accelerate our lap to join their ranks for the latter stages. It proved to be a shrewd idea.
Following an injury to the referee and his eventual replacement – in what would prove to be an unlikely key moment – just three minutes of normal time remained on the clock when that man Frost looked to have sent the team from near Wakefield into the Premier Division. Frost broke clear once more before delivering a delightful, chipped effort over the onrushing ‘keeper, which just dipped under the crossbar and we were joining in the celebrations with the visitors!
However, their joy was short-lived when, after two of the seven additional minutes had been played, Farsley again forced a corner-kick. This, again, proved the Reds’ downfall as a defender knocked the ball against his own post, but his relief didn’t last long as Richard Marshall pounced upon the pinball-ing football to fire home and this time it was the Villagers’ fans who were up and cheering. I also got excited by this happening, exclaiming “He’s done it, they’ve done it!”, receiving some dirty looks from the away support in the process!
So it would take extra-time to separate these Yorkshire rivals and it proved a bridge too far for the visitors. Farsley dominated the following half-hour and had the game sewn up within the first fifteen of the extra period. Clearly hampered by the forced withdrawal of Assenso, their defence looked far less secure and definitely more leggy then their opponents’ and it was little surprise when Ryan Watson sent Farsley back ahead, his 25-yard drive flying beyond the despairing Overton and into the top-corner, albeit via a deflection and Overton’s outstretched hand.
Farsley would go on to make it certain soon after when, following Ossett’s gamble by throwing Gay upfront, James Walshaw would take full advantage of the extra space afforded to him, cutting inside from the right and fizzing a low drive beyond Overton and into the far corner. The second period proved to be nothing more than the hosts protecting their lead in relative comfort, before the sub referee’s whistle signalled that Farsley Celtic would be back at Step 3 for next season!
After joining the controlled pitch invasion, Paul and I got some pics of the Villagers lifting their play-off silverware before beating a hasty retreat to New Pudsey station (via a swift stop at an off-licence en-route) before getting to the platform for the train back to Manchester with around a minute to spare. I call that good timing! The journey back passed without anything of note, before we went our separate ways back at Victoria and I headed over for my connection.
Upon reaching the station, I would be collared by Cappy, who’s featured here and there on these pages (especially the Berwick trip) and so I joined him for one back near us as he regaled me with stories about his trips to Ireland during his youth, with some interesting results! So, there ends the trip to Farsley. Always a nice place to visit and it’s good to see them a step close to the leagues they competed in before their demise a number of years ago now. As for Ossett, they must be proud of how far they’ve come within a year or so and they look good to continue on strong if they keep their side together. As for the rest of my Bank Holiday? More villages are to be visited…
Value For Money: 8