Result: Chasetown 3-0 Coleshill Town (FA Trophy Preliminary Round)
Venue: The Scholars Ground (Saturday 12th October 2019, 3pm)
A first FA Trophy trip of the season saw a few options thrown up; these including a few revisits and new grounds too. But there was one long-term target of mine that kept on creeping to the forefront of my thinking each time I had a scan of the fixture list – that fixture being at The Scholars Ground, home of Chasetown. I’d wanted to visit since watching their live FA Cup games a decade (Jesus!) ago and so it was a long time in coming around, that’s for sure. As such, come the morning of the tie, I was heading through Manchester and onwards to Crewe, where I was due to catch a connection onwards to Lichfield.
However, I arrived a little later than advertised and ought to have duly missed said train. But, luckily for me, it was still in and disaster (not really a disaster but, you know….) was averted. It soon became apparent that this was due to someone being hit around the Euston area and we were informed that the delay was indefinite. I began to consider what my alternatives would be, only for the train to depart moments later, so clearly not affected too much by whatever was going on down the line. Pulling into Lichfield around a half-hour later, I made my way across the road and to the bus station where I’d catch a service over to the Chasetown area that borders on Cannock Chase.
The 10A would be my carriage for the day and a twenty minute journey took me to just outside my first stop of the day – the Wych Elm – due to it seeming to be the only local place open anywhere near the route I was taking during the morning. On entering, I found the place to be decently busy considering it was only just striking midday, and I settled in with a pint of Budweiser (£3.10) whilst planning out the remainder of my pre-match trip around Chasetown. This saw me target the nearby Sankeys Tap just the other side of the nearby roundabout but, on arrival, I found it still closed despite its 12pm opening time and so instead made haste to the bus stop where, luckily, a bus was due that would drop me in the centre itself.
I passed on through the trio of watering holes within metres of each other in the high street, instead continuing on just around the corner to the Miners Arms, a Joules’ pub. A pint of the brewery’s fine Indian Pale (£3.60) was had in here, whilst I made the acquaintance of the pub’s ‘guard cat’, before I cut back on myself a little and headed up to the out-of-the-way Cottage of Content. Whilst it may not look the most attractive from a distance, the people within were superb and in Roxy the dog, I made a friend for life….well for the 20 minutes I was there anyway, until she abandoned me when I waved goodbye. I was also kind of ID’d too, which is what shaving does for me! Coors (£3.25) polished off, I returned back towards the central three pubs.
Chasetown is a village within the wider town of Burntwood in Staffordshire and is split into the civil parishes of Burntwood and Hammerwich. It grew up during the 19th century around the mines of the area and was known as Cannock Chase, due to its proximity to said area. It became Chasetown in 1867 and houses, churches, pubs and businesses all began to be added to the area as the years went by and more mines were sunk. Incidentally, St. Anne’s Church within the village was the first church in England to receive electric lights – quite something when you consider its location in the wider scheme of things. Around World War II, Chasetown was added to with the addition of the Oakdene estate and continued to expand despite the last mine closing in 1959, as it became an overspill area for those in the Black Country. Thus, the green spaces that existed between Burntwood and Chasetown were gradually reclaimed and developed, virtually merging the two areas.
The area shows little sign of its mining past, with the Cannock Chase Collieries covered by recent developments such as the Burntwood Rugby Club, though the Chasetown reservoir still remains, harking back to the times it was required to syphon its waters to the surrounding canals. These were essential to enabling the movement of coal to Birmingham and the Black Country, whilst the Chasewater Light Railway has been restored for heritage/leisure use. The likes of Dalian Atkinson, Gary Cahill, former ref Alan Wiley, 1980 Olympic bronze-winning athlete Sonia Lannerman and road/track cyclist Paul Manning MBE, all hail from the wider Burntwood area.
The first of these three pubs, found just across the way from the Memorial Park, is named of the Junction (it’s on a road junction, crazy, huh?), but first I continued on just beyond it and to the Crown – where I imbibed on a pint of Marston’s 61 Deep (£3.15) before returning a few doors back to the Junction and a second pint of Bud (£3.65) for the day. The ground sits just up the road to the right from here and it just so happened that the Uxbridge Arms sits on the corner of this road and so provided a final pre-match stop. The Uxbridge is a fairly oldie-worldy kind of place inside and a pint of Aspall’s (£3.70~) in the smaller bar area (which also has a bell for service) was enjoyed before I made my way up the aforementioned street and towards the Scholars Ground, where Coleshill Town would be providing the opposition for the Scholars themselves.
A few minutes later, I was arriving at the gates of the ground and, having paid my £8 entry, I headed on through and secured a programme (£2) before making my way down to the far end to visit the ground’s food outlet – a portable trailer – for some chips and gravy which, to be fair, were highly decent. I also made use of the chairs laid out on the grassy area just in front as the sun broke through on a regular basis as this part of the Midlands continued to avoid the rain showers that seemed to be lashing down all over the country. From there, I took in the ground and it’s certainly one unto itself.
An open terrace runs the length of the far side, with a bit of it covered by a roof around the half-way mark, whilst running for most of the length of the field, whilst another seated stand – to which the clubhouse backs onto – is located to the right of the turnstiles opposite, and fills up the final third of that side. A block of blue portakabins take up the other side of the turnstile towards the far end, complete with covered terrace and a small, uncovered seating stand, and the in-situ food trailer, whilst a kind of tented, covered seated stand, almost akin to those at the Memorial Ground in Bristol, is located behind the near end. That’s a very brief description of the Scholars Ground, and this is the story of the side that shares its name….
Chasetown Football Club was founded in 1954 as, the rather long winded, Chase Terrace Old Scholars Youth Club and initially began life as a youth side in the Cannock Youth League prior to moving into adult football in 1958, joining the Lichfield & District League. They would finish as runners-up in one of their three years here prior to switching into the Staffordshire County League in 1962, prior to another move in 1972 – this time into the West Midlands (Regional) League – which also saw the name change to their current title. The club would go on to spend eleven seasons here and, despite the rather impressive feat of never finishing outside of the division’s top four, would only secure the one title – this coming in the 1977-’78 campaign. This title win wouldn’t see promotion achieved, as the club’s ground (a park pitch) would fail the required grading.
The move to the Scholars Ground from the Burntwood Recreation Ground came around in 1983, with entry secured for a move into the Premier Division along with it. Struggling for the most part during the remainder of the decade, in the league, the 1990’s would begin with that year’s WML League Cup, which was successfully defended the next year, and they followed this up with the Walsall Senior Cup title, with this success being repeated in 1993. 1994 saw Chasetown become a founding member of the Midland Football Alliance, though this brought little in the way of silverware the club’s way and 2001 saw the club avoid the drop only on the account that no club was promoted from the division below. Fortunes changed soon after and 2005 saw a third Walsall Senior Cup lifted and a runners-up league placing secured, before Chasetown would begin to achieve national recognition, via the FA Cup.
Starting the season with (I assume) defeating previous year’s double winners Rushall Olympic in the league vs cup winners Joe McGorian Cup, 2005-’06 saw the Scholars reach the First Round for the first time and it was a successful debut, the club defeating Blyth Spartans to secure a meeting with Oldham Athletic in the 2nd Round. They secured a replay against the Football League’s Latics, though would eventually succumb to a 4-0 defeat at Boundary Park. However, they would be back once again in 2007-’08 and once again they would attract the cameras to the Scholars Ground. Before that, though, in the same year as their initial cup run, Chasetown would stage an amazing rally to reel in the Alliance Championship leaders Malvern Town’s 20-point advantage over themselves and take the title – thus gaining entry to the Southern League Division One Midlands.
2007-’08 saw Chasetown return to the “proper” rounds of the Cup, as they again defeated higher non-league opposition in Team Bath to advance to Round 2, and an away meeting with local ‘rivals’ Port Vale. The club recorded a 1-1 draw at Vale Park, before taking the scalp of Vale 1-0 at home to reach the Third Round and the prospects of getting one of the country’s big boys. Alas, this wouldn’t come to fruition, although Cardiff City weren’t too bad a result and this proved to be on the pitch as well as off, as Chasetown battled hard to lose out 3-1, the lowest-ranked side to go that far in the competition had certainly not disgraced themselves and gave the Bluebirds a slight scare in going one-up early in the tie. This game resulted in Chasetown being invited to be the first opposition Cardiff would face at their new home upon its 2009 opening.
Being switched into the Northern Premier League’s Division One South for that year, the club would finish runners-up, meaning they would have to settle for a place in the play-offs, where they progressed to the final and defeated now-defunct Glapwell 1-0, to go up to the NPL Premier Division. How different things could have been over 90 minutes of history for Glapwell and Chasetown?! 2010-’11 saw the club embark on another cup upset run, this time in the FA Trophy, as they saw off Kettering Town, Grimsby Town and Eastleigh to make the quarter-finals, where they would eventually fall to Mansfield Town after a replay at Field Mill, following an initial 2-2 draw.
But 2012 would see the Scholars relegated back to the Division One South, though they missed out on an immediate return, losing in the play-off final to Stamford. They have stayed at the same level through to today, though the last two seasons have seen the club compete in two differently titled divisions, due to the NPL’s ever changing boundaries. Last season’s one-year-wonder, the Division One West, saw Chasetown finish up in 13th, whilst they now compete in what is known as the Division One South East for this year.
The game got underway with little in the way of action during the early stages, aside from an early George Cater drive just drifting the wrong side of the upright, from his persuasion. But, when it did finally spark into life, it did so with the opening goal; Chasetown’s Cater receiving a square ball from striker Kieran Brown around 10 yards out, and placing the ball beyond Coleshill ‘keeper Paul Hathaway. Down the other end, Cater’s namesake George Washbourne then saw a low drive palmed behind by Curtis Pond.
Again, the game settled into a lengthy stage of sparring, with both sides not making much in the way of chances and it took until around ten minutes before the break for another to roll around and, once more, this ended up in a goal. This time, Cater would turn provider for Brown when, after a procession of corners, he delivered one for the Chasetown #9 to meet and drill a header past Hathaway, via a slight deflection off a Coleshill defender. 2-0 it would remain until the break, with Coleshill’s one real remaining chance of the half ending in Pond’s comfortable denying of Giovani Dainty.
A visit to the clubhouse took up the 15-minute off-period, before the sides re-entered the field. As in the first half, the play began rather turgidly and once again the first real chance ended with the ball in the back-of-the-net. On this occasion, it would be a free-kick on the hour mark that would provide the opportunity for the hosts – Lewis Riley-Stewart’s delivery not being cleared by the visiting defence, which duly allowed Brown to slam a volley home for number three, and his second of the day.
Coleshill responded and really ought to have got one back, but centre-back Keenan Meakin-Richards somehow guided his header wide at the back-post when he looked destined to score and Brown almost had his hat-trick all wrapped up just after the hour, but an eventual fine block made up for the initial poor Town defending. Luke Brown then forced Pond into a fine stop in order to keep his clean sheet intact whilst the final minutes of the game saw a flashpoint when a 50/50 saw a player from both sides end up booting each other, with one of the two involved instigating what would proceed to become a 20-man “brawl”….well, more of a congregation, but brawl sounds far more interesting, no?!
Both players received a yellow for their trouble and after a late chance came and went for the hosts to add further gloss to the score, the final whistle blew to confirm Chasetown’s Trophy progression. Post match, I made a quick exit and marched back up the road to ensure I caught the bus in time to allow for a visit back at the Sankeys Tap I’d tried earlier in the day. This went well and I was soon disembarking back near the TESCO whose car park it neighbours. Opting for a pint of the ABK Pilsner (£3.50), I supped away at that for the 25 minutes until the next service back to Lichfield was due and this safely returned me to the station and the train back to Crewe. Once there, I was able to catch a delayed Virgin Train to Manchester, which was a bonus, and took care of any possible misdemeanours that the railways might try and serve up.
The connection was duly caught and that was that for another fine day. Chasetown is a nice area that seems to fly under the radar somewhat. The ground is interesting, which is always good, and though the game itself wasn’t the most enthralling, it was decent enough, despite the fact it was over as a contest fairly early on. Pubs were decent too, so all in all a good trip. Next up, it’s back on the Cup trail for the final time prior to the “proper” rounds beginning. Let’s get to it….
Value For Money: 6