Manchopper in….Knaresborough

Result: Knaresborough Town 2-1 Washington (FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round)

Venue: Manse Lane (Saturday 31st August 2019, 3pm)

Att: 106

The FA Vase quest began for many clubs and I reckoned it’d only be right to join them on the first stop along the “Road to Wembley”. As I mulled over the rather extensive fixture list and narrowed it down, there was one venue that continually stood out; a long-time target of both a ground and town that I’d been looking at visiting. That ground and town was Manse Lane, home of Knaresborough Town and a day out and about in the scenic, historic town centre was all the encouragement I needed. After heading up through Manchester and Leeds, an earlier than planned train looked as though I could arrive into Knaresborough a good half-hour than expected – too good to be true, I thought to myself.

I awaited for things to unravel, which they then did, as the train from Leeds ‘broke down’ due to, and I kid you not, lighting failure. As a result, I was forced onto the service as far as Harrogate, but avoided a fairly lengthy wait for the next train along by grabbing a regular bus service from the neighbouring bus station up to the entrance of Mother Shipton’s Cave at the foot of Knaresborough itself. However, the various No.1’s did cause some confusion later in the day, as only one stops at the ground entrance – the others following the main road. Anyway, having disembarked after a twenty-minute journey, I made my way to the first pub stop of many during the day, that being The World’s End, just the other side of the bridge over the River Nidd. The clock had just passed midday, and as I sat down with a pint of Poretti(which I learned is Carlsberg’s £4.50 effort at a Moretti clone), I decided to check on the progress of the train I’d have otherwise been on. Delayed by at least 7 minutes? Good decision.

Arriving at Mother Shipton’s & the World’s End

Incline or flat-line?

The Mitre

The rain began to fall just as I exited the pub and began to get rather heavy as I reached the foot of a steep incline that led up to the station and the town centre area of Knaresborough. I had to take this route anyway, but with the weather going on as it was and me not exactly in conducive clothing for it (a t-shirt and jeans alone) meant I decided to take up the option of popping into one of my planned post-match pubs – The Mitre. Upon entering, the bar staff there fairly easily saw my predicament and just why I’d made haste in getting there – I needed some cover! A pint of Black Sheep Pale Ale (£3.50) kept me company here until the rain abated and I could continue onwards into the centre itself; whereupon I discovered another public house I’d not known about prior to that point. Good job the rain had come in when it had!

Anyway, I continued to walk towards the castle area, which itself had been recommended by numerous persons for the views out over the town below, stopping off in The Groves as I did so, as the rain returned once more. I opted for a pint of the REAL Moretti (somewhere around £4) in this slightly modernised, yet still old-looking hostelry, before exiting out into bright sunshine and blue skies rolling in as the clouds dispersed. A cross and a number of statue characters populate the centre, along with many a-pub to choose from. I began with the nearby Blind Jack’s, where I opted for a pint of one of my fave beers, Erdinger (£4.85), before taking a seat in a small room alongside a Union flag – in a new role as a curtain. Really.

The Groves, ft. wet lens

Knaresboroughs Market Square….ft. wet lens

Blind Jack’s ‘different’ curtain….ft. wet lens

Knaresborough is a market and spa town, as well as a civil parish within the Borough of Harrogate in North Yorkshire. It lies upon the River Nidd and was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Chenaresburg, meaning “Cenheard’s fortress” within the ‘wapentike’ of Burghshire which would be renamed the more New Zealand-sounding Claro Wapentake in the 12th century. Knaresborough’s castle dates back to the Normans and around this, through the 11 and 1200’s, the town grew up to include the market (from around 1206) with traders being attracted to service the castle and those within, although the royal market charter wasn’t actually awarded until 1310 by Edward II, with the market continuing to take place today. The parish church of St. John was also built around this period whilst a Lord of Knaresborough was first identified around 1115, with the Honour of Knaresborough being bestowed upon Serlo de Bergh, by the King.  However, it would be the 1158 Lord who would go down in infamy, as the constable of Knaresborough, Hugh de Morville, was leader of the four knights who murdered Archbishop Thomas Beckett within Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The knights would later return to the town’s castle and enter hiding. Rather cowardly?!

Hugh de Morville would be forced to forfeit his lands three years after the murder, but not because of that deed, but instead due to his involvement in the plot of rebellion against Henry the Young King, according to Early Yorkshire Charters. King John would later take on the mantle of Lord of Knaresborough for himself during the 1200’s, with Knaresborough Forest to the south of the town reputedly one of his favoured hunting grounds. He also distributed the first ‘Maundy Money’ in the town as part of the wider Christian celebration. The castle was later occupied by rebels against Edward II during his 14th century reign, and the invading Scots also burned much of the town during their 1328 raid. Since the death of Queen Philippa, Edward III’s wife, the town has belonged to the Duchy of Lancaster beginning with the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, though the castle lost national importance soon after, though remained strong regionally. After the Civil War’s 1644 Battle of Marston Moor, the castle was besieged by Parliamentarian forces and fell with the Roundheads ordering its destruction in 1646, though this was delayed for two years, with much of the stone being looted and re-used in the town’s buildings.

To the castle….

…and from the castle

A commuter town nowadays, the railways arrived in Knaresborough in 1848, and the current station replaced to the original one at Hay Park Lane after just three years. The town did link-up with Boroughbridge until the line’s closure in 1950 and its subsequent dismantling during the 1960’s. In 1974, the re-organisation of the counties saw Knaresborough move from its historic placing in the West Riding of Yorkshire and into the newly-created area of North Yorkshire, and hosts an annual bed race, because why not?! The town is also home to the “Oldest Chemists in England”, dating from 1720 and has landmark caves like the aforementioned Mother Shipton (an early ‘seer’) and St. Robert’s (from the Middle Ages). Incidentally, both the Mother Shipton and the earlier mentioned ‘Blind Jack’ names don’t even appear in the people in question’s names, with the former being named Ursula Southeil and the latter John Metcalfe, whilst other alumni include ex-Simply Red member Tim Kellett, ‘Allo ‘Allo’s René Artois, the late Gordon Kaye, and my personal favourite due to the description – ’18th century scholar and murderer’ Eugene Aram. Not a usual combination!

Around the corner from Blind Jack’s were two neighbouring pubs by the names of Six Poor Følk and the Castle Arms. Whilst the former looked like its beer options may be the more wide-ranging, I decided to go traditional and, of course, I was going to the castle as it was. So the latter it was for a pint of Amstel (£3.90) whilst a black dog near the bar decided it fancied a bit of someone’s drink at one point, though was unsuccessful in its efforts! From one castle to another I went and a brief visit to the former stronghold’s exterior lands, whilst the aforementioned views out over Knaresborough really were quite something. Anyway, with time beginning to run down into the last hour before kick-off, I returned back into the town centre and continued on with the royal theme by stopping off in the Old Royal Oak for my designated “refresher” pint of a Dark Fruits, this setting me back £4.

In The Castle. The pub, that is

Old Royal Oak

Arriving at Manse Lane

As I finished off, it was high time to grab the bus up to Manse Lane. However, this would be easier said than done, as the No.1 confusion set in. I first popped onto the first one (no pun intended) and was genuinely unsure if this was the one I needed, as the bus I was due to catch was due out in a couple of minutes time and there was no other in sight. The driver said it wasn’t his variant I was after and told me to try the one alongside which had just pulled in. I was pretty sure it wasn’t this one, and was soon proven right, as I was directed towards the 1C, which was just pulling in. Finally and safely on board, a short journey down to the ground followed, the stop being pretty much directly outside the gates. Speaking of the gates, I handed over my £6 entry fee, bought a programme (£1.50) from the table at pitchside and turned my attentions to the clubhouse; well, the food bar to be more exact – for pie, peas and gravy. Lovely stuff.

I was just finishing up the last of the pre-match feast as the side’s assembled and began to make their way out onto the field. I joined the exodus from the clubhouse too and exited out into Manse Lane once more. The ground is tidy enough, but without too much to blow you away in truth. It is home to a pair of stands, both of the more modern, kind of at-cost variety, with a covered standing area (and some benches) behind the near-end goal and just next to the turnstiles, whilst a small seating stand is located on the far side, around the half-way line. The remaining facilities are all located in the corner on the other side of the turnstiles to the stand, whilst the near-side is open, hard standing for the two-thirds that are accessible, whilst the far-end should be also, though is rather overgrown at this point, to put it kindly! That’s Manse Lane in quick form and this is the story of ‘the Boro’ from Knaresborough….

History Lesson:

Knaresborough Town Association Football Club was founded in 1902, going on to join the York League and becoming champions at the end of their first season and then retaining it on both of the next two seasons. A fourth title in 1908 led to Knaresborough taking the step up to the Northern League in 1909, before becoming a founder member of the Yorkshire Combination the next year, whilst still competing in the Northern League too. However, these two stints would be short lived, and after finishing bottom of the Northern League in 1911, the club returned to the York League Division One before pulling their side out of the Yorkshire Combination two years later. Things didn’t improve and after a bottom finish in 1913, the Boro were suspended from the league for the following campaign. Harsh!!

After WWI had ended, Knaresborough were readmitted to the league and won it again in 1925, retaining it the next season and lifting it once more in 1929, but success fell away quickly, leading to the club resigning from the league at the end of the 1930-31 season after a second-bottom finish; but their sojourn would be brief and they returned for 1932 whereupon they again lifted back to back titles in 1934 & ’35. However, they would again leave in 1938, not re-emerging again until the 1950’s, with the club taking a place in the York League Division 3B for 1951. This and the Division 2B were both immediately won at the respective first attempts and the Boro were back in the Division One for 1953-54, spending three more seasons there prior to a move to the West Yorkshire League in 1958.

KTAFC

Teamboard

Benched

Their start was a bit yo-yo, with promotion from Division 2 being attained straight off the bat alongside the Division 2 League Cup, but the drop was suffered come the end of their first WYL Division 1 adventure. This was repeated again soon after when, after achieving promotion & the Division 2 League Cup again in 1961, their Division One stay lasted just the solo campaign once more. This time, rather than return back to Division 2, the club took the drop into the Harrogate & District League and in 1965 won the Premier Division which was then successfully defended the next year and was joined in the trophy cabinet by the Harrogate & District League Cup. A hat-trick of title wins was secured the next year and after a second League Cup triumph in 1968, Knaresborough returned to the West Yorkshire League, winning its Division 2 in 1970 and its own League Cup the next year.

But, despite these successes, a return to the Harrogate & District League was just around the corner and this time the Boro remained there for a good while, only in 1993 would they eventually depart once more. They again joined the West Yorkshire League, winning the League Cup in their first year back, though it took some time for further success to return to Manse Lane,  with the Premier Division title being won in 2009, and a runners up placing in 2011 was also secured, with cup successes in the West Riding Challenge Cup and West Yorkshire League Trophy in 2010 being followed by the lifting of the West Riding Challenge Trophy in 2011. However, it would be 2012’s 3rd placed finish that would see Knaresborough finally promoted to the Northern Counties East Leaguen’s Division One, where the club remained until 2018 when they won title and were duly promoted to the NCEL Premier Division and Step 5 for the first time. As an aside, the club have also won the Whitworth Cup on no less than 21 occasions – the first in 1907-’08, and the last of these coming in season 2009-’10.

The game got underway and, if I’m totally honest, it had to be one of the more one-sided, yet close games I’ve seen quite some time. Knaresborough dominated the majority of the contest, but never could fully shake off their Northern League visitors. Their first real chance came from a corner, when the cross was punched wide when under pressure by the away ‘keeper, Ryan Lumsden. However, the Boro really should have gone ahead when Steve Bromley was released, but he proceeded to produce a quite awful finish in putting his shot wide.

Lumsden with the punch

Match Action

Match Action

The Washington’ keeper remained the busier of the two glovemen and he had be sharp in tipping a low shot from Andy Cooper wide, before he then made another good stop to deny Luke Harrop, with Harrop then setting up Dan Thirkell, but the defender could only fire over. Then, just before the break, Cooper was desperately unlucky when his fine chip hit the underside of the bar and bounced out, with the rebound directed goal wards by Brad Walker, though the Washy stopper was again equal to the task. Half-time arrived in a rather cagey first half, though Knaresborough would surely have been wondering just how they had failed to take a lead with them.

An uneventful 15 minutes came and went and we were soon back playing once again. Knaresborough maintained their dominance early doors, with centre-half Gregg Anderson heading over unchallenged from a corner and Harrop firing a long-range drive straight at the visiting ‘keeper. It really did appear as though it was going to one of those days for the hosts as both Bromley and Cooper again saw chances come and go, but finally, just before the hour, the deadlock was finally broken when a ball through found its way to Bromley and he slotted home to give his side, finally, a richly deserved lead. But this still didn’t seem to rouse Washington from their long-time slumber, and after I’d made the acquaintance of Dylan the dog and his dad, they went down to ten-men – Alex Ramshaw was given his marching orders due to something happening off the ball.

From the seats

Match Action

It then got even worse for the visitors when Knaresborough made it two; Harrop got clear down the left, cut inside and coolly finished. By this time, Washy really looked even more out of it than for the previous 60+ minutes and this was almost shown in footballing terms as a try from his own half by dangerman Harrop fell just wide of the post whilst the Lumsden again pulled off a good save to keep his side in with shout, even if it was more akin to one of someone losing their voice. A number of Knaresborough chances to seal the tie would follow each of Ben Cohen (not the ex-rugby player as far as I’m aware), Gregg Kidd, Thirkell & Luke Stewart all went close but they would then be given a setback that would set their nerves rattling.

Both teams would end with ten men when Bromley was sent from the field for, apparently, a challenge on the ‘keeper (though my initial Chris Kamara impression of not even seeing the red was bettered by me then seeing the player walking off and thinking he’d been subbed; the new Anthony van den Borre is now in Knaresborough) and this would then allow Washington a way back into the tie as some good work by Chris Pattinson allowed him to set up fellow substitute Lewis McGeoch, who calmly finished to set up a grandstand last 5-10 minutes.

They then almost grabbed a late, late equaliser but Boro ‘keeper Dom Smith, who’d largely been a spectator throughout, pulled off a great save to tip the ball behind and a counter from the resultant corner saw his side to swiftly head right up the other end, where Cooper had the chance to confirm Knaresborough’s place in the next round, but placed his shot against the post. However this would prove to matter little, as the referee blew up (not literally, of course) to signal to close of a rather strange game which could have been a hammering, but ended with nerves jangling.

Match Action

Manse Action

Post-match, I made haste back up to the main road and the Marquis of Granby pub that is located pretty much halfway between the ground and the town. Upon entering, I discovered the place was a Sam Smith’s place which used to mean only one thing – CHEAP PINT!!!! But no longer, dear reader, oh no! Now it means three: cheap beer and, at the other end of the spectrum completely, no mobile devices or swearing. Honestly. Or, as I was to be informed, the place can be shut down if someone from the brewery was to walk in and see someone breaking this rule. Bloody hell – how pathetic….yet worryingly dystopian at the same time. Oh, the Taddy Lager was £2.80.

From there, I exited into a less dictatorial atmosphere and returned to the town centre square and the Market Tavern for another Dark Fruits (£4 again) before continuing on station-wards and back to the Commercial that I’d only discovered existed when setting eyes upon it. I entered what I later found out is the oldest pub in the town and….oh for God’s sake, it’s a bloody Sam Smith’s. How quick your viewpoint on something can change eh?! Just to show how outrageous the rules are, I actually got my camera out to have a quick check of the pics I’d taken today and was challenged to ensure it wasn’t a mobile device. Really. I do feel for these publicans who have to put up with this shit. Luckily for Samuel, the pint of Arctic Lager was just £1.49….you have another chance Smith; though you’re about as popular with me as your Aussie namesake at this point (not really, I prefer Steve)!

Market Tavern (excuse the blur)

The Commercial & The Crown ‘Spoons

With my train’s arrival getting ever closer, I popped into the town’s ‘Spoons – The Crown Hotel – for a bottle of Hooch to keep me company on the first leg of the journey back home. It did just that and I finished off the last of it as the train pulled into Leeds, whilst the connection over for the service back to the Manchester was comfortable. Unfortunately, a slight delay on the way back cost a half-hour, but on the whole, this was only a small set-back on a fine day out. Knaresborough is a fine town and I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. The ground was fine too, despite being generally unspectacular, with the food and programme therein both being decent offerings too, for their respective prices. It’s back onto the FA Cup circuit once again next week and I reckon I’ve got a venue ‘nailed’ on….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 6

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Harrogate (Harrogate Railway Athletic FC)

Result: Harrogate Railway Athletic 1-10 (Ten) Whickham (FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Round)

Venue: Station View (Saturday 10th August 2019, 3pm)

Att: 102

My competitive campaign was to get underway back on the FA Cup trail once more, having missed out the World’s oldest cup competition’s opening round last season on the quest to “tick” a few of the south coast league clubs ahead of uncertainty over railcard availability – something that is highly similar to that surrounding the Brexit farce. Anyway, with little overall attractiveness in a tie, I left my fate in the hands of the twitterati via the voting method that has become something of a regular occurrence recently, with my fine followers (it’s ManchopperBlog if you’re interested, btw) coming up with Harrogate Railway vs Whickham, a Northern Counties East vs Northern League clash, and so a return to Station View was pencilled in – my first under a neutral banner, having visited many a-time with Trafford in a past life! I got out of that in the nick of time, but that’s a story for another time and place….

Having moved onto these greener pastures, Harrogate had previously adorned these pages with my visit to Railway’s ever improving neighbours Town (which you can read here if you fancy) for their 1-0 last-gasp win over Brackley Town, a day which ensured Paul Thirlwell’s place in the “Manchopper Hall of Fame” – for which you get…well, nothing but pride and I’m sure that suffices!! Anyhow, back onto Railway and I was on said tracks during the early-ish morning, and having transited through Manchester and Leeds in good time, was able to catch a slightly earlier service up to Harrogate. I arrived before midday and so was allowed a nice walk around the town in a strong, but not overly so, North Yorkshire wind prior to diving into the town’s fine Wetherspoon’s offering, the Winter Gardens, where the staff were, almost literally, falling over themselves to serve those punters waiting. Good stuff, guys and gals.

Arriving in Harrogate

Harrogate

The name of Harrogate derives from its titles around the 1300’s, when the area was known as Hawregate, Harrowgate and (my personal favourite as it kind of sounds like Hadouken, I’d imagine) Harougat. The origin of the name itself isn’t certain, however, though may come from the Old Norse horgr (‘a heap of stones’) cairn + ‘gata’ (street), in which case the name meant ‘road to the cairn’. Another theory is that it means, more simply, ‘the way to Harlow’ – the form Harlowgate dates from the early-16th century and, apparently, the court rolls of King Edward II. Medieval times saw Harrogate situated on the borders the township of Bilston with Harrogate in the ancient parish of Knaresborough and the parish of Pannal – known in places as Beckwith with Rossett.

The area in Bilston would become known as High Harrogate and Pannal, Low Harrogate and both were in the (since 1372 and Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt) Duchy of Lancaster-ruled Royal Forest of Knaresborough. From then, the town’s development is largely down to the chalybeate and sulphur-rich spring water as found in 1571 by William Slingsby, who found the area’s water was akin to that of the Belgian town of Spa (also famed for the great racetrack Spa-Francorchamps, the most famous corner at which is spa-derived and named Eau Rouge – literally red water), which gives its name to Spa Towns. Further springs of both kinds were found throughout both High (chalybeate only) and Low communities during the 16 and 1700’s and many inns were thus opened for the increased tourism boom.

More gardens

‘Spoons

Old Bell

The Royal Forest was enclosed under the Enclosure Act in 1770 and areas became more clearly owned and some communal, such as the open expanse of The Stray, and developments continued to arise around this area of the town, with the mile-wide area between High and Low Harrogate was also developed through the 19th century. The current town centre was created to link the two – whilst water gas technology and the effects of adrenaline on circulation was first used here during this time. Harrogate began to decline in popularity with the elite by the end of the First World War and the Second World War saw many hotels etc. being repurposed as homes for the many government offices evacuated out of London and thus Harrogate became an important commercial, conference and exhibition centre. The town hosts four rail stations (Harrogate, Hornbeam Park, Pannal and Starbeck) and has links to London, York and Leeds, and had former lines to Wetherby and Ripon that no longer exist – though the Ripon line apparently stands a good chance of coming back in the future.

I settled in for a while over a Punk IPA (£3.49) whilst trying to come up with some kind of linear route around a few hostelries that would allow me to return to the station in good time for the short hop over to the ground-neighbouring Starbeck station – which Railway’s home used to look out onto before the creation of some flats in between. Alas, such is the way and, for now, let’s get back onto Harrogate’s watering holes for now and I returned off down the steep-ish decline of Montpellier Hill towards the pairing of the Fat Boar and the Old Bell. Upon arrival at the former, I spotted a few wedding guests outside and, having crashed one wedding celebration in the White Rose county previously (see Ossett for that!), I didn’t fancy risking it on this occasion and so gave best to my experience. In the latter, I opted for a pint of Stars & Stripes Pale Ale, which was decent enough at £3.50), before undertaking the short walk to the slightly hidden entrance of the Corner Hause located, as it is, below a hotel and in a corner down some steps.

Corner Hause

Down to Hales

Little Ale House

It was worth seeking out as, despite it being pretty empty at this time in the day, it had a fine selection of Belgian (and the like) beers – I opted for a Flensburger (£4) and ales on and also provided a timely cover from the steady rain that had begun to fall from the leaden skies above. The dullness wouldn’t really relent for the remainder of the day, and so I then tried to miss the heavier bursts that fell whilst making my way from door-to-door and was successful at the first time of asking in getting to ‘Harrogate’s Oldest Pub’, Hales’ Bar. It didn’t seem that it had anything to do with the England opener Alex, who seems to enjoy a tipple about as much as I do, however, and instead was decked out with many a stuffed animal and maritime paraphernalia which I didn’t immediately understand being, you know, quite some way from the sea. Amstel (£4.60) in and swiftly dispatched, I continued on my trip, heading back uphill whilst trying to seek out the whereabouts of the Little Ale House. It’s name was a fairly accurate description in this regard, though I eventually got there for a half of Weihenstephan (£2.75). I can be sensible on occasion!

Wheeling back around on myself a little, I continued on uphill station-wards along the road but only a short way before popping into the Harrogate Arms and watching a bit of one of the early kick-offs over another Amstel (at the more recognisable price of £4) and finished up my pre-match lap of Harrogate with a visit to the Alexandra Hotel, which I’d earmarked to be my final stop during my pre-drinks walk earlier. I don’t do regular, actual pre-drinks, you see, because what’s the fun in that….when you’re alone *whimpers*! With the match on in here as well, this gave a welcome distraction as I sipped at a bottle of Corona whilst the Leeds fans near me got a little worked up with their side’s display. Eventually though, the time had come to get over to Starbeck and Station View itself; and this time I wouldn’t quite avoid the rain.

Harrogate Arms

Alexandra

Arriving at Station View

The short journey takes just a handful of minutes and I was soon making the five-minute walk from station to ground, arriving with around fifteen minutes to kick-off. Paying my £6 entry (plus £1 for a programme) I paid a swift visit to the smart clubhouse, which unsurprisingly hadn’t changed too much since my previous visits, since it replaced the former one which stood about a half-mile away across the fairly large expanse of open grass pitches. You can see the pitch from up high in the bar too, if you so fancy but, for me, it was down to pitchside as the side’s were making their way out onto the hallowed Station View surface. The ground is a pleasant one, with a covered seating/terrace behind the far end goal, and another smaller seating stand on the far side, around the halfway line. This is flanked by a fair amount of uncovered standing steps which run around the corner from the turnstiles to said stand, whilst the near side is flat, open, hard standing. That’s Station View in a nutshell and this is the story of ‘The Rail’.

History Lesson:

Harrogate Railway Athletic Association Football Club was founded in 1935 by workers of the Starbeck depot arm of the London and North Eastern Railway and the club initially rented out Station View from the LNER for £1,500 before paying this off and buying the ground outright thanks to workers ‘donating’ One old penny a week. On the pitch, HRA went on to join the local Harrogate & District League and, as a rail works outfit, took part in the British Railways National Cup – which the Rail won in 1945-’46. Soon after, Harrogate Railway took the step up to the West Yorkshire League and ended up as 1952 runners-up before winning the league title two years later. A year later saw a third-placed finish attained, with Railway again looking to progress up the levels and so joined the Yorkshire League, taking a spot in Division Two and achieving promotion to Division One in 1958 after finishing up 3rd by the end of that campaign.

Incidentally, 1953 had seen Railway reach the FA Amateur Cup Second Round, where a “special train” was run for supporters down to Harwich & Parkstone for a 3-2 loss and another train was run, this time northwards, in 1961 for a First Round Amateur Cup tie at Whitley Bay, but this too, unfortunately from a Rail perspective, ended up in defeat.

HRA

However, their first foray into the Yorkshire League’s top division would be brief, with Railway relegated after just the one season and they mirrored this upon their return in 1964 after another 3rd placed Division 2 finish gave up just another sole season in Division One. The year had seen cup disappointment, though, with Railway losing out in the 1964 Yorkshire League Cup final to Farsley Celtic. Things didn’t improve for the Rail in all facets and after they were relegated to the newly created Division Three in 1970, the Rail found themselves taking the step back down into the Harrogate & District League once more in 1973. They would return to the Yorkshire League’s bottom division after seven years away and spent two years there before the league merged with the Midland League in 1982 to form the Northern Counties East League. Harrogate Railway were duly placed in the Division Two North, which they won in 1984 and so were promoted to the Northern section’s Division One.

Re-organisation of the NCEL in 1985 meant the club were placed in the non-regionalised Division One and a fourth-placed finish in 1987 saw promotion to the Premier Division attained and the NCEL League Cup was added to this success too via a dominant 5-0 win over Woolley Miners Welfare in the final. They would remain in the Premier Division through to their relegation in 1993, their absence totalling five seasons, with the Rail returning to the Prem in 1999 after taking the Division One title and this time the club would go on to greater strengths, including fine FA Cup runs which peaked in 2002-’03, which saw them finally make the “proper rounds” – reaching the Second Round after a triumph over Slough Town in Round One. Their Second Round tie took place at Station View (which I remember watching and found it interesting a club had ‘Railway’ in the name – ah, the ignorance of youth and lack of non-league knowledge!) where the club battled, but eventually fell to, Bristol City in a 3-1 reverse in front of a club-record crowd of 3,500.

The Rail

They did see cup success in a more regular fashion that year though in winning the NCEL President’s Cup, defeating Bridlington Town 7-2 on aggregate over two-legs, and a third-placed finish in the 2005-’06 Premier Division campaign saw the club secure a promotion spot to the Northern Premier League Division One for the first time. They would be placed in the Division One North in 2007 upon restructuring of the pyramid and 2008 again saw Railway go on a fine Cup run, defeating Droylsden 2-0 in Round One and, as a result, reached the Second Round once more. Again, and this time on live TV, welcoming Football League opposition to Station View in the shape of Mansfield Town, Railway would go out to a narrow 3-2 defeat. The club remained as a NPL Division One North side through to 2015-’16, when their declining on-field form over most of the preceding years ended with the drop back to the NCEL Premier Division being suffered and they again were victims of the drop last season, as Railway returned to the NCEL Division One after two decades away.

After visiting the food bar for a fine portion of chips, peas and gravy, the game got underway in quick fashion and Whickham quickly asserted themselves as the dominant force, with Carl Finnigan forcing a good early stop out of the Railway ‘keeper Joe Wilton. However, he would be beaten shortly afterwards as the Northern League side went ahead via left-back Sam Hedley’s cross drifting over his head and into the far corner. The lead was then doubled as Finnigan squared for his strike-partner, former Newcastle United, Norwich City and South African international striker Matty Pattison, to fire home and give the visitors the dream start to this season’s opening Cup foray.

Winger Kelvin Thear then fired wide as Whickham continued on all guns blazing, but they would be pegged back by a game Railway side when a ball through split the defence and James Healey coolly lifted an effort over the ‘keeper to half the deficit. Healey then headed over as Harrogate looked to level things up in their first, and only true, spell on top as Whickham again seized the initiative around the half-hour, but couldn’t quite manage to get the goal to re-instate their two-goal advantage. They did see a shot fly wide and Conor Newton made the home stopper work once again to tip his shot wide, before Harrogate caught Whickham on the break, only for the attack to just about be cleared before they could get an attempt on goal away.

Fans, food & footy

Match Action

Watching from the sideline

Harrogate’s Healey nets

That seemed to awaken Whickham well and truly and, soon afterwards, they had an effort cleared away off the line by a Rail defender, but they would re-instate the two-goal lead when Pattison tapped home from close range after an initial headed try by Dale Burrell had come back off the bar. This seemed to take the sting out of Railway and they suffered the fatal blow just before the break when, having just seen Wilton pull off a brilliant double save to deny both Pattison and Burrell to keep his side in the tie, Pattison was played in on the left and fed Finnigan to slot home – returning the favour from earlier in the half. Half-time; 1-4.

An uneventful break came and went before I was back out of the clubhouse for the beginning of the second half, as the rain began to fall. Whickham again came out on the attack and after Pattison had twice gone close, the Lang Jacks netted their fifth through Finnigan’s header, before another attack down the flank just moments later saw success and the ball in was finished off by Finnigan for his third of the afternoon. Harrogate tried to respond with a rare foray forward, but the shot went awry, whilst Whickham continued to make regular chances, but Finnigan, for once, had his targets set wrong in firing wide. The rain began to throw down ever heavier, quite akin to the weather during Railway’s famed 2008 Cup foray match at home to the Stags of Mansfield Town.

Here comes the rain!

Eyes on the prize

Late on….

This wouldn’t be as close of a contest though and Thear would add a seventh minutes later, sliding across the GK after another slick build-up move by the North-East outfit, before Finnigan then grabbed his fourth by unleashing a crashing drive into the top-corner for goal number eight. Sub Max Cowburn tried unsuccessfully to add to Railway’s woes, firing over twice in quick succession before the rout was completed, firstly, through Dale Burrell who tapped home after being played through and Pattison, who netted the rebound after Cowburn’s initial shot was denied by the rather unlucky Harrogate GK Wilton who, it has to be said, had a decent game in conceding double-figures. Only in football, eh?! The full-time whistle arrived through the deluge; the weather reflecting the feelings of the hosts come the end.

Post-match, I headed back through the rain and under the small underpass under the railway and to Starbeck’s one and only pub, the Prince of Wales, for a pint of Strongbow (£2.50) where I took the decision to walk on back to Harrogate via a couple of stops en route – namely Bertie’s, which was far better than expected by its name (half of Estrella £2ish) and The Empress, the latter being on the large, open area the town plays host to – The Stray. Unfortunately, after finishing a Dark Fruits (£4.30) in the planned event of squeezing the nearby Swan in too, the wetness had took its toll and I didn’t feel overly like it, with me instead opting to head back to the station. I eventually made it, despite a couple of faux pas; with these including passing the same restaurant twice. Nope, no idea how either, but I bet you aren’t too surprised knowing my history in this area!

Starbeck- The Star is no longer, sadly.

The Prince of Wales is though!

The Empress

Anyway, that would be the last drama of the day as the rest of the journey back passed without issue and in good time, and I was back indoors for around 9pm. It had been a decent day and, having waited to see a team net ten in a game for years, I had now seen it twice in a month. Nuts. The game, therefore, meant a bit more than usual thrashes, which tend to bore me silly and it still was watchable, to Railway’s credit. Aside from that, the ground is always a good one to pay a visit to and the people there are all nice, friendly peeps too. Food and programme good and it’s always decent to visit Harrogate, despite the weather! Onto another week we go and a local game somewhere before continuing on the cup trail once more….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Worksop (Handsworth FC)

 

Result: Handsworth 2-2 Worksop Town (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Sandy Lane (Saturday 20th July 2019, 3pm)

Att: 207

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!

Arriving in Worksop

The Vine

Worksop

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!

Queen’s Head

‘Spoons

Unicorn

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.

Worksop Town Centre

Castle remnants

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.

Greendale Oak

Shire Oak

Waterfront

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….

History Lesson:

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.

Handshakes

Clubhouse building (and executive balcony!)

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.

Match Action

From the terracing

Match Action

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.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

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!!!!

Station Hotel

Mallard to round off with.

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….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 8

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Hallam

Result: Hallam 2-2 Campion (NCEL Division 1)

Venue: Sandygate (Saturday 3rd February 2018, 3pm)

Att: 85

For the first of my two designated birthday weekends (yes, I’ve given myself two), it just so happened that the Northern Counties East League’s fixture lists fell very kindly with regard to one specific long-term target. With Hallam F.C. playing at their home, Sandygate, on both given Saturday’s, this meant that the chance to tick off the world’s oldest ground (as officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records) had finally come around. As such, myself and Dan reckoned that the first of the two games would work out best, and so our sights were set on the outskirts of Sheffield for the first weekend in February.

Eventually the day came around and after meeting up in Piccadilly station, we grabbed our booked train over into the White Rose county and arrived into the drizzly South Yorkshire city at shortly after midday. A short walk later saw us at the Interchange where we would be grabbing the bus service over to the Crosspool area. Handily, the bus also passed right outside of Sandygate and so there was little rush in getting there. Or so we thought at the time…

After getting slightly lost with regard to what stop we required, the bus rocked up in front of us and we were soon being whisked out of the city centre. Arriving into a sleety Crosspool at around the stroke of 1pm, I made good use of my pre-journey research and pointed out the way to our first stop of the day, the Sportsman. It was a fairly pleasant foody pub within and whilst I opted for the £4~ Hop House Lager, Dan opted for one of his more faithful companions (I have a less than positive opinion on the beer myself), Carling.

The Sportsman

Crosspool Tavern

Crosspool

Soon enough, we’d finished up in here and rolled onwards just down the main road and to the only other pub in the immediate area, the appropriately named Crosspool Tavern. With the selection a little more run-of-the-mill in here, I decided on Heineken, which came in at the lower end of the £3 spectrum. Not too bad and it proved a decent enough drinking hole once again, with the TV match of Burnley vs Man City providing the entertainment. We would miss the equaliser though…

With the sleet now some fairly persistent rain, we made our way over to the bus stop for the short ride up the hill for the due carriage up to the ground. We waited….and waited…and waited some more. Eventually, we had to ask Hallam to reserve us each a programme just in case we were any later before a bus finally rocked up around 12 minutes late. Brilliant stuff. As it was, it didn’t matter too much and we arrived at the gates of Sandygate with around five minutes to kick-off. After discovering that there was a copious amount of programmes remaining, I reckoned I ought to tell the guy on the gate that he could let the reservation slide, you know, just in case of a late influx of fans. I don’t think it was required though sadly, with a few seemingly (and fairly understandably), put off by the less than pleasant conditions in this part of Yorkshire.

Arriving at the ground

Yep, this is the right place!

Sandygate, home to Hallam throughout their existence and venue for the first ever inter-club match (Hallam vs Sheffield on Boxing Day 1860), is a pleasant ground (as most that I’ve visited that share a cricket outfield are, interestingly enough) and plays host to of a pair of stands beyond the boundaries. Located around the half-way mark, the Main Stand is all-seater and offers a raised view of the action beyond the dugouts. This is joined towards the entrance by the smart clubhouse and food bar, both of which you pass to get to said stand, with us having already ticked off the latter pre-match, the chilli being rather decent for £3 (with rice). Behind the near end goal and on the other side of the entrance pathway is a small covered terracing area which consists of around three levels and runs around half the width of the pitch. The opposite end of the ground is open, hard standing and is also home to the cricket nets, with the Hallam C.C. pavilion being at the far side of the field compared to the football club. Meanwhile, the side that straddles the cricket square is off-limits to spectators, with only a pair of youngsters braving the elements in playing the role of ball-boys. So, that’s Sandygate, the oldest ground in the world, and this is Hallam, the World’s second oldest club….

History Lesson:

Hallam F.C. dates from 1860 and was formed as a less exclusive alternative club to the already existing Hallam Cricket Club. The football club joined the latter in playing at Sandygate and was intended to be an opponent to the recently created Sheffield FC (whom we visited a couple of years back), who had been formed three years earlier than the Countrymen. The clubs first clashed – at Sandygate – on Boxing Day of 1860, the sides being comprised of 16 players from both Hallam and the nearby hamlet of Stumperlowe, and a further 16 who would represent Sheffield. Hallam’s founder and captain, John Charles Shaw, would go on to play an instrumental part in the acceptance of the nationally adopted rules of association football along with Charles Alcock of the London-based Football Association, and the two would later face off as respective captains as a Sheffield XI took on a London XI, in the first trial of the newly preferred rules.

In 1867, Hallam won the first ever football competition, the Youdan Cup and the trophy still stands proudly in Hallam’s clubhouse. However, it hasn’t always been there. After being misplaced by the club a long while ago, the trophy resurfaced in 1997 when a Scottish collector, who’d come to be in possession of the Cup, sold it back to the club.

The famed Youdan Cup and more!

Despite the ever-growing prevalence of professionalism throughout the 1870’s and ’80’s, Hallam opted to remain as an amateur outfit but the club was dissolved in 1886, though would resurface after just one year away from the game. In 1892, Hallam would enter their first league competition, the newly formed Hallamshire League. After a season in the Hallamshire League, they would join the Sheffield Minor Cup League in 1894 and also entered the Hatchard League in 1895, competing on both fronts and winning the league but not the title, losing out in the end of season play-offs.

After leaving both leagues in 1896 to join the Sheffield Alliance League, the club spent two seasons here, finishing runners-up in 1898 prior to re-joining the Hatchard League at the end of that season. The Hatchard League for the first time in 1903 and won the league part of the competition again the next two years but, on account of losing in the top-four team play-offs at the end of both seasons, lost out on both titles. 1905 would see the Countrymen spend a season in the Sheffield Association League before they returned back to the familiar surroundings of the Hatchard where they remained through to 1914 and the outbreak of WWI.

Hallam continued playing throughout the majority of WWI, competing in the Sheffield Amateur & Minor Leagues, in which their reserve side had previously plied their trade. Eventually, the club had to quit playing in 1917 but re-joined the Sheffield Amateur League in 1919, upon the end of hostilities the previous year. 1922 saw the Amateur League title won for the first time, before 1927 saw the Countrymen enter the FA Cup for the first time and this year also saw the club lift their second Sheffield Amateur League title and, as a result, were accepted back into the Sheffield Association League which was then won at the first attempt.

Classical Hallam FC

However, things were to take a sharp downward turn when, at the end of the 1932-’33 season, the club were effectively evicted from Sandygate by the then owner of the Plough Inn (who also owned the ground) due to “poor bar takings”, with two other clubs latterly taking their place in calling Sandygate home. This would precede a spell of 15 years in which Hallam were again lost to the footballing world as a playing entity, though this would also include the WWII years which, of course, ended the vast majority of competitive football in the country. Upon the end of the Second World War, Hallam returned to the field once more in 1947 and returned to the Sheffield Amateur League and to their spiritual home on Sandygate Lane.

After a sole season, the club returned to the Hatchet League and the side would win the league upon the end of their first season back before the club then joined the Sheffield Association League, once again, in 1949. This became another league to be won at the end of the club’s return season (1949-’50). 1951 saw the club go on to win the Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup for the first time, defeating the Stocksbridge Works in front of over 7,000 fans at Hillsborough before joining the Yorkshire League in 1952. The club also saw another major occurrence happen at Hillsborough, when their 1952 FA Amateur Cup tie with Dulwich Hamlet was moved to Sheffield Wednesday’s home to house an eventual crowd of 13,000 which remains the club’s record attendance.

Shirts in the toilet. Think this is a first!

After achieving promotion from the Yorkshire League Division 2 in 1957, the club were relegated back three seasons later before being promoted back to the Yorkshire League’s top-flight, after one season away, as Division 2 champions in 1961. The club remained at that level for the next 20 years, winning three further Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cups (1962, ’65 & ’68) before 1983 eventually saw the end of the League with Hallam joining the newly created Northern Counties East League. Originally playing in the Division 1 South, the League saw a split into four wider-ranging divisions, with Hallam taking a spot in Division 2 in 1985. They were immediately promoted to Division 1 at the end of that season and the Premier Division at the end of the next, Season 1986-’87. 1990 saw them drop back into Division 1 after a three season stay and a further four years were spent in the second-tier ahead of a return to the top-flight of the NCEL in 1994, which would herald the start of a 17 season spell.

During this time, Hallam won one NCEL honour, the League Cup in 2004, but were relegated in 2011 to Division 1 where they have remained ever since, despite reaching the play-offs in both of the last two seasons, a 5th placed finish last year being enough to see them secure a spot in the season-ending competition.

The players had gotten the game underway whilst we were busy getting some much-needed lunch and it quickly became apparent just how soft the pitch was, though this did little to hamper the entertainment value offered up by both the Countrymen and the visitors from Bradford, Campion. The first quarter-hour of the game was fairly even, with both sides sharing long-range efforts, but the first real chance of the game fell to the visitors and it ended with them taking the lead. A long ball forward into the area was chested down and Devonte Morton was in place to smartly finish into the top corner.

Match Action

Close Call

Morton should have doubled both his and his side’s tally not too long after, when a cross from the left was met by the head of the striker but, from the centre of goal, his header flew comfortably wide of the mark. Another cross narrowly avoided Morton when a better ball would have surely ended with him nodding home on that occasion, before the home side responded, Micah Bishop firing into the side netting, prior to Ben Thornton somehow managing to side-foot a shot wide of the upright from around nine yards, perhaps slightly rushed by the pull-back.

Hallam were growing into the game as the half went on and it looked only a matter of time before they’d level the contest up. A dangerous ball across the six-yard box managed to avoid being touched home, before the hosts got the equaliser they were after, Micah Bishop firing into the bottom corner from long-range, with the ‘keeper seeming to go down far later than he ought to have. There were no complaints from the home side though and it got even better for the Countrymen just before the break, Patrick Carrig being upended just inside the area and up stepped Jake Currie to bury the spot-kick into the same corner that Bishop had found minutes earlier.

The Hallam Rules?!

Hallam FC

Currie nets from the spot

The hosts saw out the remainder of the half to go in ahead, whilst Dan and I headed to the bar. A San Miguel was purchased for myself whilst it was yet another Carling for Dan (no, I’ve no idea why either!), before disaster struck during the early stages of the second half when, distracted by goings on out on the pitch, my pint slowly slid off the edge of the slanted table, spilling a good half pint all over the nice blue carpet. This was replaced with no issue, so thanks for that. Keep a close eye on them glasses though, or yours too may make a bid for freedom!

Anyway, beer issues sorted and the resultant half finished up, it was time to venture back out into the ever chillier late afternoon South Yorkshire dusk. A diving header from Currie went fairly close to extending Hallam’s lead, before the blue-and-white-clad hosts were pegged back around ten minutes into the second half, when Tom Robinson found the net from near the edge of the area. Two apiece and all to play for once again, with the slope now seemingly favouring the visitors’ cause.

However, it appeared to be that playing uphill was more advantageous as the hosts continued to press on and only a pair of fine blocks by the Campion defenders kept the scores level. Their best chance came along shortly afterwards when Bishop got clear of the last defender and looked set to add to his tally, only to be denied by the onrushing Campion stopper, Danny Armitage.

Match Action

Stand Action

(View from the) Terrace Action

A header by Carrig then clipped the top of the crossbar before Campion had a great chance to get themselves ahead when a fine surging run forward ended with the ball being played to Robinson, but his effort was pretty tame in the end and easily kept out by Hallam ‘keeper Dave Darwent. Then, late drama. Sub Matt Ord was in and poised to round the ‘keeper and seal the points, only for him to be taken out by Armitage and seemingly, from our viewpoint, concede a penalty. But the officials disagreed and decided that it was only a free-kick and that a yellow would suffice. Connor Chapell hit the resultant kick narrowly over the bar, much to his own disappointment, and thus the game came to its end with the sides, probably rightly, sharing the spoils. Full-Time, 2-2.

We’d just exited the ground when I spied the bus heading down the road towards us. Now, having scouted out another pub at the far side of the ground (around 2 minutes ride away) and with the Plough opposite still sadly being shut, I decided it was worth running to catch it. Getting there in the nick of time, I managed to keep the driver from driving off and, in doing so, allowed Dan and another chap the chance to get on too. I doubt I was too popular with the rest of the bus though, but it was only 20 seconds or so….

The finely named Shiny Sheff was another decent establishment and was a welcome place to head into as the rain began to turn to sleet once more. An easy half-hour was spent here until we headed out into what was now snow and the fog that had swiftly descended and shrouded the area. Unfortunately we were again struck by minor bus issues as the intended one didn’t appear and, thusly, we were left shivering for a further fifteen minutes longer than expected. Scenes.

Departing Sandygate

Shiny Sheff

(Sheffield) Tap On The Back

Once aboard though, we headed back into Sheffield, disembarking just around the corner from the Wetherspoon’s known as the Benjamin Huntsman – which is a pretty cool name – and isn’t that a coincidence eh?! A swift Hooch was had in here (Dan was still staunchly sticking to Carling) before we had to return towards the station. Of course, we had a little time in hand and, by chance, there was the Sheffield Tap. Again, you couldn’t make it up, could you? What were the chances….?

A pint of Aspall for me was in as I rekindled memories of my visit here the previous year with Anders the “VikingHopper”, after we’d met earlier that day at a game at the Millmoor ground, before it was time to catch our train back to Manchester. No issues here and we were swiftly back which meant I had time for a final one in the second Tap of the evening, the Piccadilly one. Dan decided he’d join me for a final half whilst I settled on a pint of one of Orchard Pig varieties of cider before leaving Dan to enjoy the remainder of his drink in peace, whilst I raced off to make my connection and end the day off nice and easily, which was made all the better by the news of the arrival of our tickets for the game next week North of the border.

So the oldest ground is finally in the books and it was well worth the visit. The ground’s tidy enough and the people at Hallam are a friendly bunch too. The new-style programme is a fine read for the £1.50 tag and the game was a decent one considering the conditions. Plus the drinks outside of Sheffield’s centre were far cheaper than my last visit over this way at the end of last year, when I visited the Blades at Bramall Lane which is, incidentally,  a ground which has hosted a clash of the “World’s Oldest Derby” between Sheffield FC & Hallam back in the day. So, all in all, a very enjoyable trip. As for the coming week, and as I alluded to earlier, it’s off to Scotland for the biggest ground in that very country….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Athersley

Result: Athersley Recreation 0-5 West Didsbury & Chorlton (FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Round)

Venue: Sheerien Park (Saturday 5th August 2017, 3pm)

Att: 113

For the second straight year, my season would get underway on the way to Wembley. Yes the FA Cup was again getting a number of non-league sides’ campaigns underway and I would be watching one clash that pit the two old Roses together, namely Barnsley’s Athersley Recreation & Manchester’s West Didsbury & Chorlton, if you’re willing to put the current county boundaries aside!

Hitching a ride upon West’s coach (for a £10 charge), I was joined by Cappy who has featured a few times on these pages now – none-more-so than in the Berwick trip a couple of seasons back – and his son Oliver. Also present were a number of the travelling West supporters including one “Barca Jim”, an exiled Scotsman with Celtic tendencies. Under his guidance, we were dropped off by the coach within central Barnsley, not far from a fine row of outlets that offered Taco Bell and KFC alongside a British Heart Foundation charity shop. Ah, the subtle warnings.

Barnsley

Old No.7

As the team headed onwards to the ground, so we headed for the pub, with Barnsley native Josh being designated guide. First up was the Old No.7 and what a place this was! Unfortunately, I was still suffering some effects from the Test Match day out the day before (at least that’s what I’m putting it down to) and so decided to be somewhat sensible and have just the one Yorkshire Cider in here. Whilst in here, Cappy also got into an interesting conversation with a guy (whose name escapes me sadly), who regaled us with tales from the miners’ strikes, through his times watching Barnsley and playing, albeit briefly, for Emley. A real interesting fella to talk to and a fine way to pass the time here.

Upon the close of his story about the Dickie Bird statue and the numerous things presented upon his erected finger, it was time to head out and over to the Wetherspoons. The other members of the crew (bar Bolton fan Elliot, who remained behind with us) left just before us as Cappy finished up his 3 1/3rd pints, before we too joined them next door. It was a good job he had too as he was soon to be royally disappointed by the lack of real ale within the ‘Spoons, whilst I settled upon a Punk IPA (shocker), I know, courtesy of Elliot’s cash.

‘Spoons

Myself, Oliver & Cappy with the Cup (not real)

After a short spell outside in the small beer garden, with West fan Matt trying desperately to frame Barca Jim with his tin-foil FA Cup, time was quickly approaching kick-off and so taxis were ordered to take us up. Three of them, no less. After finishing up (though Elliot was told he couldn’t drink outside as we waited, despite a table and chairs being readily available there) and getting in ours, it soon became apparent the driver had no idea what an Athersley was, nor where it is, despite driving a cab in Barnsley. Having pointed him in the right direction via the medium of technology, we were soon en route and arrived at the ground with minutes to spare. It’s not a cheap do at £9 for a fifteen minute journey though!

Hmmmm…

After heading down the sign-posted access lane towards Sheerien Park, we were greeted with a handshake by a Liverpudlian welcoming us to “The Rec”. Cappy commented how this was the first time he’d ever been welcomed to a ground in such a way and, after a quick check in my remaining memory, I concurred. A nice touch and it seems this happens for everyone, so god knows how he’d cope if Athersley ever get a fair way!

Anyway, after paying my £5 entrance fee, it was into Sheerien Park, though sadly programme-less at this point due to lack of numbers/too many in attendance (though we were given an e-mailed copy during the week). Programmes aren’t a huge be-all and end-all to me, but I do like to get one where possible and definitely at my opening game, so thanks to Athersley for doing this.

Arriving at the Rec

Aquaforce lives on!

Sheerien Park is a smart little ground, hosting three stands. The stand behind the goal is covered seating, with the near touch-line hosting a covered standing area (which I term the Ryan White stand due to the 1,000-game veteran having a nice “mural” at the rear, along with a small stand combining both seating and standing, which proudly states it houses the “Rec-in Crew”. By the way, they love that pun here. The rest of the ground is open, hard standing and there is affair amount of space at the far end for possible further extensions. There is also a further barred off pitch at the far side of the ground from which you enter, but I don’t know to which level it’s used. All facilities stand behind the near-end goal, alongside the seating stand, with the tea hut and bar located through a gate in the fence. There is also a press box, though this is a shed.

Not too long after our arrival, the players were making their way onto the field and we were all set to go in the 2017-’18 season and the FA Cup. But, before we get to the contest at hand, here’s a little back story about the Penguins of Athersley Recreation…

History Lesson:

Athersley Recreation FC was founded in 1979 as Athersley North Juniors, initially competing in the Barnsley Nelson League. After promotion in 1984 saw the club rise from Division 2 to Division 1, as runners-up placing in 1985 saw the club switch to the Barnsley Junior League for 1895-’86, finishing their first season here in Division 2 in third place and earning promotion to Division 1.

Ryan White. Longevity.

Renamed as Athersley Recreation in 1986, the club would go on to win the that season’s Barnsley Junior League Division 1 title and went on to join the Barnsley Association League’s Division 1, finishing runners-up and winning promotion at the close of their first season at that level. Back-to-back BAL Premier Division titles would follow in 1992 & ’93, followed by a further hat-trick of titles between ’95 &’97. After the latter of these title successes, the club would take a further step up to join the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League for the ’97-’98 season.

Winning the league’s Division 2 & League Cup in their first season, Athersley’s swift rise continued with a further promotion the next season as Division 1 runners-up and then a league title at the end of their first season in the Sheffield & Hallamshire’s Premier Division (2000). A second title would not arrive until 2004, but this would be a springboard for the Rec into more success, taking the title a further four times over the next eight seasons (’05, ’07, ’09, ’12), with the latter providing the club with a move into the pyramid system and the Northern Counties East League. They also added a further two League Cups during this period – these arriving in 2006 & 2009 respectively – and a Sheffield & Hallamshire Association Cup in 2008.

ARFC

Playing in Division 1 of the NCEL, the Penguins had yet another successful first season, ending the season as runners-up and earning an immediate promotion to the Premier Division. This also gave the club more chances to compete in FA competitions, making their Vase bow in 2013-’14 and the FA Cup a year later. The club also lifted their first Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup silverware in 2014, defeating Frickley Athletic of the NPL Premier Division at Hillsborough. Last season saw Athersley end up in a solid 10th place in the NCEL Prem.

Teams are out

The game got underway with both sides looking to steal on early march on their opponents. However, West soon got into their stride and deservedly took the lead. After forcing a corner, the resultant ball was headed against the upright, the rebound seeing the Athersley ‘keeper pull off a fine save, only to end up luckless as the ball fell to Kev McGrath at the back post, the centre-half sliding the ball home.

Athersley, though, could have levelled almost immediately. A poor ball in the midfield saw the home side gain possession and release Jack Briscoe, but the striker could only find the woodwork with only the ‘keeper to beat, the ball eventually finding its way into the visiting gloveman’s grateful hands. You felt that was a chance to grab the initiative, and this was soon to be taken, unquestionably, by the hummous-promoting visitors.

Manager’s view

View from the ‘Ryan White’ Stand

Match Action

With twenty minutes played, the Penguins were the architects of their own downfall, as a mix-up at the back between ‘keeper and centre-half just outside the area allowed Tom Bailey to nip-in and lift the ball over the stranded home custodian and into the net for 0-2 and what looked to be game over, even at that early stage. West’s passage into the next round was almost sealed a few minutes later, but the impressive winger Carlos Mendes-Gomez was denied by a fine save by Ellis Halpine.

Athersley did begin to come into the game a little more as the half wore on, a couple of flash points seeming to serve to fire them up a bit. But, there was little to threaten the West goal and the half-time whistle went to signal a trip for some chips which, for £1.50, weren’t too bad. A further bonus was to actually be able to use the park benches flanking the bar, with the sun now shining unabated in this part of Yorkshire.

Halpine continued to keep his side in the contest at the start of the first half, pulling off another great stop to deny Nic Evangelinos, but the winger wouldn’t be denied his goal and curled a fine effort into the corner a couple of minutes later. A fourth followed just before the hour, newly introduced sub Joe Shaw drifting an effort across Halpine and into the far corner and that was that in terms of the result. But it certainly wasn’t in terms of the action.

Match Action

Match Action

Down the line

To their credit, Athersley didn’t quit and Jason Paling’s rocket effort brought the best out of West’s Aaron Ashley who tipped the ball onto the crossbar whilst completely airborne. Then came the controversial moment in the tie as West skipper Mark Rogers saw a needless red following a pretty poor challenge. I didn’t see the actual incident that led to the red (nice Wenger), though I did hear a “headbutt” was the reason and this, via the grapevine, was confirmed!

A couple of further home chances came and went but, with 10 minutes left, it would still be the visitors who would add further gloss to the score-line, Bailey taking advantage of the Athersley defender’s misjudgment of a header to acrobatically fire beyond Halpine and into the net for five. Cappy was very pleased with himself for getting this goal on camera, though the score was very harsh on the ‘keeper who’d had a fine game, underlined by his late save to deny Evangelinos when one-on-one. Any fire was now out of Athersley and the time wound down to signal West’s progression to the Preliminary Round in an impressive display.

West celebrate their fifth

The triumphant West support

A quick drink from ‘The Rec Inn’ was had after the game before it was back to the coach for the journey back to Manchester and onwards home. The journey was sound-tracked by numerous karaoke renditions from the back of the bus, with Aaron Ashley’s version of James Blunt’s “Wise Men” going down extremely well, despite initial reservations and insults from those in attendance. A good day for him!

All in all then, it was a pretty decent day, if I ignore the first hour. A good game, a nice ground and a good atmosphere within the visiting clan. Next up is the beginning of the quest to add to the ’92’ before my railcard gives up the ghost. The spectre of time is forever looming….

RATINGS:

 

Game: 7

Ground: 6

Food: 5

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 7

 

Manchopper in….Garforth

GarforthTown Retford

Result: Garforth Town 1-4 Retford United (NCEL Premier Division)

Venue: Cedar Ridge (Saturday 30th January 2016, 3pm)

Att:91

A day which began with myself intending to head into Cheshire instead saw me, once again, travelling over the Pennines and almost immediately regretting the decision. No, not because of the place I stress but…well, we’ll come to it later. As it was, my initial choice of Poynton bit the dust and so it was to my back up game: Garforth Town vs Retford United.

The game was my reserve on the basis that Garforth had been involved in goal gluts of late and so were likely (I hoped) to serve up more. It also happened that LostBoyo’s Matt and Gibbo of his own blog persuasion were due to watch the same game and, of course, everything else that comes with it. So at around 10.20am I was heading through to Manchester and onwards from Oxford Road. Oxford Road did treat me and the other 50 or so people at the station to the show of someone being arrested and pinned down for well more than a three count. Classy.

Eventually, my train arrived and I was headed towards the White Rose county once more and for the second in what is seemingly odds on to become a hat-trick of visits to Yorkshire. An uneventful journey was lit up by the fact that we skirted around and above a small town near Huddersfield that was being doused in a rain shower, whilst we weren’t, despite being a matter of meters away. Quite incredible, I’m sure you’ll all agree. What do you mean no?! *mumbles*

Alas the rain did catch up with us as the rattler arrived into Huddersfield and stayed with us until we passed out of Dewsbury where it was plain sailing onwards to Garforth. Upon exiting the station, it was back over the footbridge and onwards down the street towards the town centre. First stop was the Lord Gascoigne, a Hungry Horse institution which shows just how highly Paul is regarded in these parts, never mind Socrates or even Lee Sharpe!

They love Paul here

They love Paul here

Town badge in the Horse

Town badge in the Horse

Upon arriving, I purchased a Kopparberg (of the mixed fruit variety of course) and contacted Matt to see when and how they’d be arriving in Garforth, only to discover they were already there and in a pub on the high street by the name of the Newmarket Inn. So, I quickly downed the genius Swedish cider and headed out into the fresh Garforth air. It was only now I was to experience the wintry conditions that were to plague the day as I looked down the road and saw rain heading straight towards me. This quickly became hail and I was relieved that it stopped pretty rapidly and allowed me to figure out where the Newmarket was.

Now located, I headed into the Newmarket (unsurprisingly, the sign has a racehorse on it) where I found Matt, Joe and Bolton fan Dan, who probably regretted joining the ranks for this one by the end of it. After a further five minutes and a downed Desperado, we headed back towards the station and to the Miners, in a precursor to the team we were to watch in a little over a couple of hours time. The Miners’ was probably trying to be the “upmarket” bar in the town, and thus I went all Champions’ League circa-early 2000’s and ordered an Amstel.

Garforth

Sunny Garforth

Town Centre signage

Town Centre signage

After a test of obscure Swansea and Bolton players that hardly anyone will remember outside of supporters of both respective clubs and now joined by Tom and Dan who’d also been present in the Swansea end of the United game, we headed back to the Paul and watched the remainder of the FA Cup tie between Colchester and Spurs. Now, this was all going well and good until the weather turned a touch nasty and started snowing sideways. Cue pessimistic me predicting “Match Off” to come over the airwaves in the not too distant future.

Luckily, no such message ever arrived (nor was it ever really in any danger of doing so) and we headed, en masse, back to the station where we got a cab to the ground for the pretty hefty price I thought, considering the journey, £4.50. Anyway, not to worry, we’d arrived at the Miners’ home at Cedar Ridge, with it’s one major stand looming over the rest of the ground like Godzilla over Tokyo.

With the wind still bracing, we headed into the clubhouse, where Tom and I decided to take full advantage of the 5 bottles of Kronenberg for £10. With these shared out amongst us (Matt exempt), we remained in here until it was time to brave the outside world once again for the Northern Counties East Premier Division clash. With programme already in hand, due to the seller coming around the clubhouse and selling his stash, it was straight through the turnstile (not for free, of course) and into Garforth Town’s home. For me, it was a fourth visit, don’t know if I mentioned that during the day, did I? Maybe once…

GTFC

GTFC

Clubhouse

Clubhouse

Info

Info

Upon seeing both sides, Gibbo was rather excited by the fact that both clubs were wearing the colours of the two Atherton sides and thus was supporting Retford, or “Colls” as they became for 5 minutes. For me, it was a fourth visit, don’t know if I mentioned that during the day, did I? Maybe once…

Anyway, Cedar Ridge is a strange ground in some ways. The other three parts of the ground, the far touchline and two ends, are pretty much all open, hard standing bar a little plastic roof suspended behind one of the goals, providing a little cover. Then comes the Main Stand which towers over all around it and offers raised seating, with a bit of terracing to the bottom of it, on either side of the tunnel and dugouts. Up here is where the club’s video-man (is that even a term?) braves all weather’s and today was no different. He must be mad! As for Garforth Town, well….

History Lesson:

Garforth Town FC was founded in 1964 as the Miners Arms. After initially playing outside the town, the club acquired land on Brierlands Lane in 1976 and began to compete in the West Yorkshire League. In 1978, the club had to change its name, choosing Garforth Miners and were elected to the Yorkshire League, with pub teams not being allowed in. The Miners won promotion from Division 3 in 1980 and joined the newly formed Northern Counties East League in 1982.

Placed in the Division 1 North, Garforth went on to change their name to their current title in 1985 and were placed in Division 2 after a league reshuffle and won promotion at the first attempt. In 1987, Garforth reached the FA Vase 6th Round, losing out to Collier Row (now Romford).

During the 1990’s, the club featured a number of ex-players from Leeds United and Andy Morrell also featured before going on to Wrexham. 1999 saw Town sell Andy Watson to Doncaster Rovers for a pricey £25,000! On the pitch, Garforth won the NCEL Trophy in 1997 & remained in Division 1 until 1998 when they won the title and were promoted to the Premier Division.

Cedar Ridge

Cedar Ridge

That same year saw the Miners move to their current ground at Cedar Ridge and the club won a pair of West Riding cups in the 1998 & ’99. 2000 saw Garforth win the NCEL Cup and 2002 saw the club finish bottom of the league, but they were reprieved as Denaby United folded. The next season, though, saw relegation suffered. Simon Clifford arrived and bought the club in 2003, becoming manager too in 2005 and bringing the likes of Socrates, Careca and Lee Sharpe to the club, the former in relation to the Brazilian themed businesses and footballing links Clifford had attained.

2007 saw the club reach the Northern Premier League via a fourth placed finish, as the Northern League (surprisingly!) refused promotion. Not long after his “Clean Sheet” team talk on the pitch at Trafford (that went down in infamy with me and my mate Dan), Clifford stepped down in 2009, but the club did win a third West Riding Cup, adding a fourth the next season, after Paul Gascoigne was to take over in 2010, but apparently decided against it with the team at Mossley.

The covered terrace was constructed in 2011 (known as the Strawberry End, as the field behind is used to grow the fruit) and in 2012, Town reached the NPL Division 1 North play-offs, but lost out to Curzon Ashton on penalties. After Rupert Lowe and Clifford came together to run the club on and off the pitch, through 2013, the club had a miserable season and dropped back to the NCEL. Last season saw the club finish in 14th place in the NCEL Premier Division and the current manager, Adie Costello, took over in October upon the former manager’s departure.

The Strawberry End (the field behind is a field of the fruit

The Strawberry End

Kick-off

Kick-off

The game got underway and may as well have had a half-hour first half, because we didn’t see the last 15 as a bloody arctic crosswind came through blowing snow sideways once more, straight into the face of the Retford ‘keeper who was determined to keep his cap on regardless of the fact there was no sun to blight his view and I doubt it helped much with the snow.

Match action wise, the deadlock was broken within the first five minutes, Retford skipper Adam Lee poking in from a few yards. After this, we went on a lap of the ground, where Matt gained the attention of the youth section of the Garforth support, who proceeded to serenade him with a “No Flat Cap, No Party” chant and a “sign him up” after a delicate chip. Not so complimentary to the other kick which bounced off the railing and down the far end though!

Apparently, according to a few of our contingent, a corner for Garforth appeared to cross the line before being cleared, though I have no recollection of this at all. None. Which is, in fact, just as much of a view we all had of Retford’s second. All sheltering from the storm behind the stand’s far side, we heard a small cheer through the wind’s roar, though no-one really cared about missing it, just avoiding being blown into the next field. For what it’s worth, it was an own-goal.

Braving the elements from the stand

Braving the elements from the stand

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

After a few of us had braved the stand, there was still time for Garforth to gain a foothold in the game, as the dangerous, powerful striker Spencer Lund received the ball on the edge of the area and placed his effort beyond the, still cap-wearing ‘keeper. Not too long afterwards, the ref allowed mass relief to flow over the 91 hardy souls in attendance, who all rushed for cover in the old “Bar Mineiros” a hark-back to the Brazilian Simon Clifford-themed days.

After a stop off at the food trailer, where the price of chips & curry was priced at £2.80, but ended up at £3.60 somehow (give it a miss is my tip if that’s going on) it was to the clubhouse to eat my massively overpriced dining extravaganza. It was ok, but it wasn’t bloody Michelin-starred cuisine! £3.60, tut, tut. Still in a bit of a huff, I left the guys to finish their drinks and headed back out on my lonesome to the sounds of cheers. Luckily, it wasn’t another missed goal. Well it was, but it was chalked off for offside and Retford had to wait for their third.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The fourth goes in

The fourth goes in

The cap's still on!

The cap’s still on!

During the second period, our numbers were swelled by the arrival of Paul Brockett too, as Garforth seemed to be the place to be on this afternoon. Paul had been at an early kick-off in a local league (at Aberford, if I remember right) and had headed to Cedar Ridge for the second period. With most of us back out at pitch side, bar Tom and Dan who’d remained inside and I think stayed there for the rest of the game, we witnessed the Badgers add two further goals to their tally. First, Gareth Campion managed to manoeuvre a flick into the net, before they were awarded a penalty late on and Lee added his second of the day.

There was to be no further addition to the score-line and so  the Badgers were left to celebrate an impressive win against a Garforth side who’ve shipped a large number of goals of late, though they weren’t three goals worse off than Retford in this game, performance wise. But still, the scoreboard doesn’t lie and it must be a concern. As for us, our only concern was getting back to the bar and after a quick final drink and a catch up of the scores, Matt, Joe, Dan and I headed back to the station, where I bid goodbye to the lads and headed back into Leeds for my train back to Manchester.

After boarding my train and travelling into Dewsbury, it struck me soon after that we hadn’t seemed to have stopped in Huddersfield. I figured, though, we must be near Stalybridge as I noted that we were passing by Guide Bridge, 10 minutes from Piccadilly. Fell asleep for the second week in succession on the train home. I feel a Matt-inspired faux pas coming at some point. Keep me away from Cammell Laird!

Unfortunately, my luck of late with connections deserted me on this night and I was left with the best part of an hour to waste in Manchester. Not wanting to drink any more on the night, I headed straight over to Oxford Road and waited out the 40 minutes in the waiting room, taking advantage of the plug holes and reading up on the programme, which is a pretty decent issue for £1.50. Some good articles in there. Eventually, I was on the train back home and was back in time to watch Take Me Out with a ready meal. This is life!!…

DSC01489

RATINGS:

Game: 7- An extra point for the teams considering the conditions!

Ground: 6- It’s a nice ground and facilities are good, but lacks bar the stand.

Food: 4- Not happy with the price. Did you guess?

Programme: 7- As I said, a pretty good read, with some good articles.

Fans: 6- Not much in terms of atmosphere, but the youths gave Matt some friendly (I think) stick.

Value For Money: 6- About £13 travel, £25 at the ground all in (approx.). Decent game, just bloody cold!

 

 

Manchopper in….Selby

1308328447_originaldronfieldtownfc-thumb-549790

Result: Selby Town 2-4 Dronfield Town (Northern Counties East League Division 1)

Venue: Flaxley Road Ground (Saturday 23rd January 2016, 3pm)

Att: 72

After an illness enforced week off the prior weekend from the groundhopping game, it was back to normality (or otherwise, if you think sanely) with a trip to….well an undecided location. For most of the month I was planning on heading up to Clitheroe, until replacement buses put paid to that idea. So to the trusty draw tub I looked and eventually the decision was made. The team remaining in was Selby Town of the Northern Counties East League Division 1 and so to the Robins’ ground it was.

Heading through Manchester via the usual methods, I eventually took a seat upon the Transpennine service towards Hull, turning down a table seat (and plug socket) due to a sticky table top, which is something I’ve learnt to always steer clear of because you never know. After Mark the conductor had thoroughly checked my ticket and railcard as I must appear the type who pays the best part of £18 to go to Selby but try to get off with paying the extra, we began to pick up the pace toward Yorkshire.

After heading through Stalybridge, where everyone (and I mean everyone) who got off headed into the Buffet Bar and the usual West Yorkshire stations, we passed through Garforth and I spotted, not just the one, but two grounds as Garforth Rangers’ home flashed past the windows sitting right alongside the line. One for another day perhaps? Who knows, but for now it was Selby and I disembarked at the station and headed towards the river to see what the area was like around there.

Not up to much was my assertion of the above and I was put off one pub by a guy having a cigarette outside blaring out “I’m a One Man Band” to someone on the opposite side of the road. Soon enough though, I was passing by the famed Selby Abbey and heading into the town centre where I found my first stop of the day, the Londesborough Hotel, which dates from the 15th century no less.

Selby Abbey

Selby Abbey

Selby, probably overdoing Christmas now

Selby, probably overdoing Christmas now

The Londesborough Hotel

The Londesborough Hotel

Carrying on the history theme, Selby also has a claim to royal fame. Henry I was born in the town during a visit by the monarch and his wife, Queen Matilda, apparently to the Abbey. The Abbey also has a stained glass window to the Washington family with the stars and stripes design said to be the inspiration for the flag of the USA. The town was also the scene of a battle in the Civil War. It also has an amphitheatre (sort of).

Through necessity I imagine, it’s rather more modern now but it still is a nice place to spend a while in. The place was rather full too with brunches being eaten alongside beverages being downed. After hearing of good things about Punk IPA, especially from Gibbo who raves about the thing on a regular basis, I decided to break my duck and have a try. It’s not bad, but nothing I’ll start to hammer away on!

After watching some of the Norwich-Liverpool game, but contriving to miss the first two Norwich goals while doing so, I headed down the Main Street and had a choice. The Cricketers’ Arms or the New Inn. I took a punt on how they looked from the outside and headed for the more interesting Cricketers. It’s certainly different inside, with tables laid out almost exclusively along the back wall and with cricket kit and pictures adorning the walls. Sadly, no football in here, so I quickly downed my Samuel Smith’s lager and headed back into Selby.

As I continued on down the high street and towards the ground it looked more unlikely I’d find the game anywhere else, so I gave best and plumped for a safe bet next. This safe haven was to be The Giant Bellflower, which I think is a great name, the town’s Wetherspoons. The Bellflower is quite a narrow, smallish ‘Spoons and has the usual assortment you’d expect. I took advantage of the 2-for-£5 Desperado’s and waited out some time here, while following the action at Carrow Road via the medium of social media.

Eventually, the combination of a week of working with slightly flu-like symptoms and the resulting tiredness, joined by alcoholic intake, began to catch up with me again and I began to feel a bit worse for wear, which is out of the ordinary prior to a game for me. But I soldiered on and got those Desperado’s down before deciding it was probably best to head to the ground early and secure a programme and the like.

The Giant Bellflower

The Giant Bellflower

Selby Town FC

Selby Town FC

Selby Town FC

Selby Town FC

After heading a further three minutes or so, I rocked up at Selby’s ground, which sits at the end of Richard Street, but is named after the more senior neighbouring Flaxley Road. After the guy at the turnstiles was quickly alerted to the fact there was a queue waiting for him, I handed over my £5 for entry and was into Flaxley Road itself. I was soon purchasing a programme for £1.5o off a group of young lads and set to finding the clubhouse.

After a quick search of the near touchline, I eventually found the door next to the turnstile. In I ventured and after heading past the hot refreshment window, found it still quite empty, with there still being 40 minutes or so to kick-off. I felt bad making use of Selby’s smart facilities and not having any drink, so I got a half of Foster’s to keep me company on the lead up to the game, as well as watching some snowboarding. I also found myself taking much notice of the wall decked in a pennant and pictures of David Beckham and Paul Scholes, amongst others, who played at Selby for a Manchester United XI a couple of months after the 1999 treble season.

After the snowboarding had been replaced by the dulcet tones of Jason Mohamed et al on the BBC, it was time to head back out for the game at hand today. Selby’s Robins were to be entertaining Dronfield Town, who currently share their town with the World’s oldest club, Sheffield FC. However, Dronfield represent the town in their own right, but still compete two levels below their temporary neighbours. As for Selby, well….

History Lesson:

The club was formed in 1919 and became founder members of the Yorkshire League, becoming the only club to compete in each of its 62 seasons. The earlier years of the club featured much success, the first silverware coming in the form of the 1928 West Riding County Cup, with the 1930’s producing three league titles (’33, ’35’, ’36), the West Riding Challenge Cup twice (’35, ’36), the West Riding Senior Cup in 1938 and a League Cup (1938) was added to the cabinet.

The years around the war saw little success on the pitch for the Robins, with the only silverware during the 1940’s arriving in the decade’s last year. This solo West Riding County Cup, though, was followed by regular success in the ’50’s.

Flaxley Road

Flaxley Road

Flaxley Road

Flaxley Road

After a ground move early in the decade from their original Bowling Green home to Flaxley Road, the 1950’s saw two further League triumphs (’53 & ’54), two more League Cups (’54 & ’55) and saw Selby reach the FA Cup First Round on four separate occasions, with one of these ties, against Bradford Park Avenue, attracting no less than 7,000 spectators. They also managed to progress to the Second Round in 1955. But following a final Yorkshire League Cup win in 1963, trophies became hard to come by.

1982 saw the club join the NCEL, following the merger of the Yorkshire League into the new entity and in 1996, Selby won the Division One and were promoted to the Premier Division where they were to add a NCEL President’s Cup to their honours list (2001) & the 2008 Otisdale Cup. The Robins remained in the Premier Division until 2012 when they were relegated back to Division One.

The time around the relegation prompted a number of managerial changes in a rather short space of time, but eventually things settled for Selby and they are looking to progress once more. Last season, they finished up in 11th place.

 

Today's Teams

Today’s Teams

Pre-match pleasantries

Pre-match pleasantries

Selby and Dronfield headed out of the dressing room block on the far touchline, but faced toward the turnstile/clubhouse side to shake hands, while still standing on the far side. Puzzling, yet boring in equal measure. With most of the home side’s fans congregating in the small stand which covers a small amount of the terracing at the far end, the game got underway with their team attacking that end. Dronfield, meanwhile, were attacking the “Main” Stand end where an old stand sits, numbering three rows of wooden seating, some more modern seats and a little terracing too, with ‘Selby Town FC’ emblazoned along the rear wall.

As for me, I headed on an early lap, heading past the small bit of terrace near the turnstile and onwards into the “Main” Stand. With very little early action, I continued onwards and round to the far end, where a segregation gate stopped me in my tracks and forced me back round. But this wasn’t all bad as I was making my way round to meet with Elliot who runs the Selby Town twitter on match days. The Selby flag was to be my destination.

After a quick pit stop, I headed back out of the clubhouse just in time to see Dronfield’s Tom Fairweather tap the ball in from a couple of yards. Timing is everything, they say! 0-1, but this setback for the home side did aid me in finding Elliot in the small stand. The typing away on phones usually gives “twitterers” away! I have to say now that I think I was more hindrance than help during the rest of the first half to Elliot’s match report, especially with my drunk-tired state, so I can only apologise as I doubt much sense was being said either!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

But the half was to end on a positive note for the Robins as a ball through the middle found its way to the feet of the advancing Danny Bunch and the midfielder coolly stroked the ball beyond the Dronfield ‘keeper to level the scores and upon resumption of the game, the ref blew for the break. 1-1 and it was to the clubhouse but this time for food only. A plate of chips was ordered for the cheap price of £1.30 and though you don’t get loads, they are fresh and piping hot, so definitely keep you going and stave off hypothermia.

After Elliot had gone off on a quest to sell off some Selby merchandise to add to his already substantial list of jobs, it was time to head back out for round two. With the game well placed and little between the two sides during the first half, anyone could go on to win it and with me being promised that Selby were better attacking the “Main” Stand, there should have been one winner. But then….

The second half was definitely more entertaining than the first, as is common at this level of football I find, and both sides had a number of chances but it wasn’t until the 75th minute that a side doubled their score. That side was Dronfield and it was Fairweather again who doubled his own tally.

But just as they’d finished celebrating, Selby were level once more. The Robins kicked off, got the ball out to Bunch who drove expertly inside the far post to level the game once more. This prompted one guy who shouted “Come on Selby” quite frequently to do so even more regularly!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Goalmouth Scramble

But that was as good as it got for the home side, as despite looking the stronger towards the end, they went on to concede two late goals. Firstly, a right wing corner was poorly defended and the ball was nodded in at the back post by Joe Butler, who hardly celebrated, maybe due to remembering what happened just prior, but the game was made safe with the last kick of the game in dubious circumstances. Callum Mawbey unleashed a wicked drive that crashed back off the underside of the bar. Neither ref nor linesman were in position to judge it had gone in, but the ref decided he might as well award it and give everyone another goal to witness. 2-4, game over.

So, I bid goodbye to Elliot and headed back to the train station for my return trip. After a short wait I was soon on board, this time with a table seat, despite having to slightly disrupt a lady’s own trip my ruining her immediate view with my mug. Apologies again! Happily for her, she only had to endure it to Leeds, and I was half asleep until Stalybridge anyway which helped the journey pass a lot faster than it had on the way, for sure!

Then on arrival into a soggy Mancunian evening for the second trip in succession and just as after the West Ham trip when I got back into a wet city centre, my connections went much better than expected, meaning I was able to catch my train home an hour later than I should have managed and thus a good day was improved markedly.

In summary then, it was a pretty decent day. A good little town, a good game with six goals can’t be sniffed at. In addition to that, the club itself at Selby seems a great little one and thanks to Elliot for the Selby Town sticker that I’d forgot about until I wrote these very words! On Dronfield, they look a good side and better than their table position suggests. Thanks all, and it’s onto another mystery destination next week!….

Match Action

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Slow start, livened up markedly during the later period.

Ground: 8- A small, simple ground but one that endeared itself to me.

Fans: 7- I especially liked the “Come on Selby” guy.

Food: 7- Small portion (but cheap therefore), but hot and tasty too.

Programme: 5- Only a simple production, not too much to it, though I did like the history articles, which helped in certain parts here!

Value For Money: 7- A good day on the whole, but ended a bit pricey!