Result: Handsworth 2-2 Worksop Town (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: Sandy Lane (Saturday 20th July 2019, 3pm)
Having already visited Sandy Lane in the past for a Worksop Town match against Trafford back in t’day, I’d always harboured a hope to get back at some point to see Handsworth Parramore, the current landlords, play there and if there was any luck, play against Worksop too. Unfortunately this wouldn’t ever come to fruition….but only because Parramore has been dropped from the Handsworth name! The rest of the criteria was ticked for this pre-season derby clash and I was there for it.
A trouble-free trip across via Manchester and Sheffield had me arriving into the Nottinghamshire – but Sheffield-postcoded – town at just over two hours after setting off. With a few showers here and there around the area, I thought I’d play safe upon arrival and so dived into the Vine Inn a short walk away from the station and heading towards the town centre. Upon entering and throughout the majority of my stay, I was given a warm and highly chatty welcome by a young lad and even younger sibling who, despite not being truly able to string sentences together as yet, was showing signs of following the same path!
Finishing off my pint of Amstel (£3) here, I headed on out just as a shower hit, though luckily it was only a quick one and, regardless, my next few stops were all around each other too. First, I opted for the Queens Arms which was very….blue inside and had a low selection of drinks (Carlsberg was opted for over Carling, of course at £2.30) before heading on over the way to get the usual ‘Spoons tick via a bottle of Baltika Russian beer (£2.85); a true favourite of mine, for sure. From there, I back-tracked a little and popped into the Unicorn where a second pint of Amstel (£2.75) was had prior to me discovering an old castle mound was located a couple of minutes away, and I always like to indulge in a bit of history here and there. Indeed, with hardly anything interesting occurring in the pubs here (I guess it has to happen now and again), I need something to flesh out the early part of the blog!
The castle site revealed a graffiti-covered stone and a grassy mound and not much else and, as a result, I popped on over the road to the first of two pubs that are set out of the way somewhat – the Greendale Oak, where I was offered a paper to read during my stay, which was a nice touch. Finishing off my Dark Fruits (£3.65) pint here, I hopped (not literally) over to the next street and the Shire Oak where I indulged in a pint of Grolsch (£3~) before deciding I best get on with returning back ground-wards a little. This idea soon got me down a bit, as I came upon the Dukeries Brewery Tap – a place that had completely gone out of my mind in the meantime and now I, pushed for time, thought it best to give it a miss for the moment and instead stop off at the Waterfront pub instead, as this was a fair bit nearer the ground. As it would turn out, I could’ve fit them both in quite nicely, but I wasn’t to know. At least I have an excuse to come back to Worksop now!
Worksop is the largest town within the Bassettlaw district of the county of Nottinghamshire and lies upon the River Ryton. Located at the northern edge of the famous Sherwood Forest, it has grown into a commuter town in recent years due to its closeness to motorway and rail links, as well as its overall geographic location near to Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham. It is known as the “Gateway to the Dukeries, due to the four former ducal principal sites that were located just to the south of the town, these being: Clumber House, Thoresby Hall, Welbeck Abbey and Worksop Manor itself, whilst Rufford Abbey and Hadsock Priory also lie a few miles further afield. Worksop itself pre-dates the Norman Conquest of 1066 onwards and evidence is provided of this by the Domesday Book, published twenty years later. Around the year 1103, William de Lovetot established a castle and Augustinian Priory at Worksop )of which the majority of the latter still stands) and the town duly grew up around these features to become a market town – whilst also seeing a skirmish within the Wars of the Roses in 1460, which would become known, imaginatively, as the Battle of Worksop.
A little more into the recent past, the Chesterfield Canal was introduced to Worksop in 1777 and this allowed the growth of coal mining in the area, upon the discovery of numerous coal seams in the area and, subsequently, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway was linked to Worksop in 1849 to enable quicker and more efficient transportation to the cities with jobs in the mines etc. leading to further growth for the area in terms of both size and population, though the closing of these by the 1990’s led to mass unemployment and the issues that come with it. The additions of the motorways and major arteries within the 20th century allowed for ease of travel too, with links to the A1 and M1 introduced. Nowadays, the manufacturing, distribution and retail industries are the major employers there, as well as pubic services; i.e. the NHS.
Worksop also has a pretty impressive list of alumni, its sons and daughters including golfer Lee Westwood (who helped out Worksop Town a few years back), Iron Maiden singer and airline captain Bruce Dickinson, ex-England manager, the late Graham Taylor, Mary Williams (wife of the founder of Rhode Island), WWI Victoria Cross recipient William Johnson, 1900 Olympic Gold Medallist Henry Haslam and current England Women forward, Jade Moore…..as well as George Best (the ex-Blackpool ‘keeper, no strange new-found happenings with his namesake there) amongst numerous other ex and current footballers.
Finishing off the swift dark-fruity-goodness (£3.70) in the Waterfront that stands right upon the Chesterfield Canal, I set off on the ten-minute-or-so walk over to Sandy Lane itself and decided to take advantage of the small gate that has “WTFC” still emblazoned upon it before arriving at the turnstiles. No programmes on for this, so just the £5 was taken from me before I was into the amber-coloured ground for a second time and a visit to the food hut for a lovely chips, peas and gravy (£3) was much welcomed. The ground itself is a smart one but it also has its fair share of rustic charm too. The Main seating stand runs the majority of the left-hand side of the pitch as you enter, whilst a few rows of open terracing adorn the side opposite. There’s a covered standing area at the far end in behind the goal, whilst the clubhouse/dressing room end you enter from houses all amenities, including a shop (closed today) and another small covered standing area. That’s the ground in a nutshell, and this is the story of Handsworth (nee Parramore) FC….
The current Handsworth FC were formed in 2014 after a merger of Worksop Parramore and the older incarnation of Handsworth. The latter of the two clubs had played in the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League since their own formation in 2003, where they had some success – being promoted from Division 2 in 2005 as runners-up and then winning Division One in 2008. They would be promoted upon this latter success to the Premier Division and they finished third there in 2010, being promoted into the Northern Counties East for the following campaign, whereupon the club won the NCEL Division One title in 2012, but could not be promoted to the Premier Division due to ground-grading issues at the club’s spiritual Oliver’s Mount home in Sheffield, and instead moved back down into the County Senior League ranks.
Winning the County Senior League title for the first (and only) time in 2014, the club merged with Worksop Parramore Sports weeks later to become Handsworth Parramore F.C. and thus returned back to the NCEL under their new name, taking the place of the former Parramore outfit in the process and remaining in the Premier Division through to this season. They won the 2014-’15 NCEL League Cup by overcoming Cleethorpes Town 4-3 in the final, overturning a 3-1 deficit they faced with six minutes left on the clock. The club have inherited the lease on Sandy Lane that was taken by Parramore Sports back in 2008 upon original tenants Worksop Town’s eviction.
Parramore Sports, meanwhile, have a longer history and date back to 1936 as the works outfit of F. Parramore & Sons and thus competed in local works leagues for the majority of their existence before finally switching into the Sheffield & Hallamshire County League themselves in 1985. Here, they flitted between the Division One and Premier Division for most of their time, before joining the Central Midlands Football League in 2008 and moving into the former Football League (and sadly no-longer existing) venue of the Don Valley Stadium. After a sole season in Division One of the CMFL, Parramore were promoted in 2009 to the prestigiously named Supreme Division and changed their name to Sheffield Parramore a year later, with this change proving a lucky one – Sheffield Parramore winning the Supreme Division in 2011 and thus achieving promotion to the NCEL Division One.
Upon their promotion, Parramore boss Peter Whitehead bought the Sandy Lane ground and thus the club became Worksop Parramore, with the ground being leased to its former (and intended) inhabitants, Worksop Town. Again, the newly-titled club achieved immediate success and were promoted from Division One at the end of their first season in the NCEL and thus took a spot in the Premier Division for 2012-’13, a promotion which earned the club debuts in both the FA Cup and FA Vase ahead of the aforementioned merger with Handsworth F.C. and after finishing 8th in the Premier Division last time out, the club retook the Handsworth name for this season, perhaps (playing devils advocate somewhat) with a sight on returning to a revamped Oliver’s Mount in the future.
The game got underway with the young Handsworth side coming out of the blocks with some gusto and they struck early to break the deadlock too. Just three minutes-or-so into the contest, a pull back was latched onto by Jamie Austin and he finished with aplomb to give the “hosts” a fine start to proceedings. However, Worksop weren’t going to take that lying down, especially so after their promotion back to the NPL last term and it didn’t take them all too long to draw level. A corner wasn’t fully cleared by the Handsworth defence and Craig Mitchell took full advantage to plant the loose ball home to level-up the scores once more.
To be fair, chances were fairly few and far between after the quick start and it took until around the half-hour mark for either side to come close again. It would be the Ambers of Handsworth who would do so though, and they really ought to have retook the lead as Luke Francis’ header was well kept out by the “visiting” Tigers ‘keeper when the attacker ought to have done a little better, having gone close before too in firing over. However, it would be Worksop who would go closer to going ahead just before the break when another corner caused problems for the young defensive line of Handsworth and Steve Woolley’s header had to be cleared off the line to ensure the sides went in at the break still level-pegging.
An uneventful half-time came and went and we were soon back under way as I set off on a reverse lap of the pitch, safe in the knowledge I could take refuge in the stand for much of the second half! Andy Gascoigne went close early on, his volleyed effort flying over the bar, before Handsworth again came close as the dangerous Austin forced his way forwards and cut in before unleashing a drive which unluckily came back off the upright with me in close attendance just behind the goal. Another close call came along down the other end, as #18’s goal-bound shot was deflected wide and #2 curled wide for Handsworth as they returned the favour before Worksop’s #9 the forced the Handsworth stopper into a good stop, after being played in. A bit of handbags was another highlight of this period, when the usual, regular sub breaks come to the fore and the game settled down somewhat for a ten minute period as I settled back into a seat in the stand.
But, with ten minutes remaining on the clock, the youthful, impressive Handsworth side again went ahead when Leon Howarth’s effort from just outside the area beat the sub Worksop gloveman and nestled into the bottom corner. It looked as though the “home side” had done enough to gain an impressive win (albeit in a friendly, of course) against their newly-promoted hosts but, as time ticked down into stoppage-time, Worksop’s Matt Sykes was released and he calmly finished across the Handsworth ‘keeper to ensure both sides got a share of the spoils at the ground they each call home. Full-time, 2-2, and back off to the WTFC gate which I strangely took a liking to….but not in one of those “marrying the Statue of Liberty” types of things – but each to their own, I suppose.
Post-match, I had to convince myself to put off a visit to the Dukeries and instead play it safe. This took some doing, but my somewhat sane part of the brain came out on top and I instead made my way station-bound…. the Station pub, I mean….you should have got the hang of this by now. A pint of Kronenbourg was supped at in here and I also got talking to a couple of well, er….couples in here too before I made my way to the station proper as this just so happens to have its own bar too. Named the Mallard, the pub looks out onto the Sheffield-bound platform and so allows for late, last-minute departures from the bar area, with the toilets handily placed on the way out too! I had a good forty-five minutes in hand and so could actually sit in and relax for once safe in the knowledge that only the Great British railway system could ruin the day from here. Of course, the very thought of this then got me panicking!!!!
As it was, the train and connections all went nicely and I again made a rather tight connection in the nick of time – allowing me to jump on my train home around a minute before it was due out – though it would then be delayed five minutes anyway, meaning my successful feelings began to be muted a little. As it was, it proved the end to another good pre-season trip out. The game had been a good one to watch, the ground is one I like and the town was pretty cheap on the whole too – so can’t really have too many complaints on this side. Travel, food and beer were fine, though I do still wish the Dukeries could have been popped in. Ah well, onto next week and the penultimate weekend of friendlies with just an unknown to go ahead of a trip down to Cardiff and the Millennium Stadium. Compared to other friendlies I’ve been to, United vs AC Milan sounds rather normal now….
Value For Money: 7