Manchopper in….Chasetown

Result: Chasetown 3-0 Coleshill Town (FA Trophy Preliminary Round)

Venue: The Scholars Ground (Saturday 12th October 2019, 3pm)

Att: 232

A first FA Trophy trip of the season saw a few options thrown up; these including a few revisits and new grounds too. But there was one long-term target of mine that kept on creeping to the forefront of my thinking each time I had a scan of the fixture list – that fixture being at The Scholars Ground, home of Chasetown. I’d wanted to visit since watching their live FA Cup games a decade (Jesus!) ago and so it was a long time in coming around, that’s for sure. As such, come the morning of the tie, I was heading through Manchester and onwards to Crewe, where I was due to catch a connection onwards to Lichfield.

However, I arrived a little later than advertised and ought to have duly missed said train. But, luckily for me, it was still in and disaster (not really a disaster but, you know….) was averted. It soon became apparent that this was due to someone being hit around the Euston area and we were informed that the delay was indefinite. I began to consider what my alternatives would be, only for the train to depart moments later, so clearly not affected too much by whatever was going on down the line. Pulling into Lichfield around a half-hour later, I made my way across the road and to the bus station where I’d catch a service over to the Chasetown area that borders on Cannock Chase.

My bus ticket wasn’t optimistic weather-wise

First stop – the Wych Elm

The 10A would be my carriage for the day and a twenty minute journey took me to just outside my first stop of the day – the Wych Elm – due to it seeming to be the only local place open anywhere near the route I was taking during the morning. On entering, I found the place to be decently busy considering it was only just striking midday, and I settled in with a pint of Budweiser (£3.10) whilst planning out the remainder of my pre-match trip around Chasetown. This saw me target the nearby Sankeys Tap just the other side of the nearby roundabout but, on arrival, I found it still closed despite its 12pm opening time and so instead made haste to the bus stop where, luckily, a bus was due that would drop me in the centre itself.

I passed on through the trio of watering holes within metres of each other in the high street, instead continuing on just around the corner to the Miners Arms, a Joules’ pub. A pint of the brewery’s fine Indian Pale (£3.60) was had in here, whilst I made the acquaintance of the pub’s ‘guard cat’, before I cut back on myself a little and headed up to the out-of-the-way Cottage of Content. Whilst it may not look the most attractive from a distance, the people within were superb and in Roxy the dog, I made a friend for life….well for the 20 minutes I was there anyway, until she abandoned me when I waved goodbye. I was also kind of ID’d too, which is what shaving does for me! Coors (£3.25) polished off, I returned back towards the central three pubs.

Miner’s Arms

Feeling threatened….

The Cottage

Chasetown is a village within the wider town of Burntwood in Staffordshire and is split into the civil parishes of Burntwood and Hammerwich. It grew up during the 19th century around the mines of the area and was known as Cannock Chase, due to its proximity to said area. It became Chasetown in 1867 and houses, churches, pubs and businesses all began to be added to the area as the years went by and more mines were sunk. Incidentally, St. Anne’s Church within the village was the first church in England to receive electric lights – quite something when you consider its location in the wider scheme of things. Around World War II, Chasetown was added to with the addition of the Oakdene estate and continued to expand despite the last mine closing in 1959, as it became an overspill area for those in the Black Country. Thus, the green spaces that existed between Burntwood and Chasetown were gradually reclaimed and developed, virtually merging the two areas.

The area shows little sign of its mining past, with the Cannock Chase Collieries covered by recent developments such as the Burntwood Rugby Club, though the Chasetown reservoir still remains, harking back to the times it was required to syphon its waters to the surrounding canals. These were essential to enabling the movement of coal to Birmingham and the Black Country, whilst the Chasewater Light Railway has been restored for heritage/leisure use. The likes of Dalian Atkinson, Gary Cahill, former ref Alan Wiley, 1980 Olympic bronze-winning athlete Sonia Lannerman and road/track cyclist Paul Manning MBE, all hail from the wider Burntwood area.

Chasetown

Chasetown Centre

Memorial Park

The first of these three pubs, found just across the way from the Memorial Park, is named of the Junction (it’s on a road junction, crazy, huh?), but first I continued on just beyond it and to the Crown – where I imbibed on a pint of Marston’s 61 Deep (£3.15) before returning a few doors back to the Junction and a second pint of Bud (£3.65) for the day. The ground sits just up the road to the right from here and it just so happened that the Uxbridge Arms sits on the corner of this road and so provided a final pre-match stop. The Uxbridge is a fairly oldie-worldy kind of place inside and a pint of Aspall’s (£3.70~) in the smaller bar area (which also has a bell for service) was enjoyed before I made my way up the aforementioned street and towards the Scholars Ground, where Coleshill Town would be providing the opposition for the Scholars themselves.

A few minutes later, I was arriving at the gates of the ground and, having paid my £8 entry, I headed on through and secured a programme (£2) before making my way down to the far end to visit the ground’s food outlet – a portable trailer – for some chips and gravy which, to be fair, were highly decent. I also made use of the chairs laid out on the grassy area just in front as the sun broke through on a regular basis as this part of the Midlands continued to avoid the rain showers that seemed to be lashing down all over the country. From there, I took in the ground and it’s certainly one unto itself.

Junction

Uxbridge Arms

Arriving at The Scholars

An open terrace runs the length of the far side, with a bit of it covered by a roof around the half-way mark, whilst running for most of the length of the field, whilst another seated stand – to which the clubhouse backs onto – is located to the right of the turnstiles opposite, and fills up the final third of that side. A block of blue portakabins take up the other side of the turnstile towards the far end, complete with covered terrace and a small, uncovered seating stand, and the in-situ food trailer, whilst a kind of tented, covered seated stand, almost akin to those at the Memorial Ground in Bristol, is located behind the near end. That’s a very brief description of the Scholars Ground, and this is the story of the side that shares its name….

History Lesson:

Chasetown Football Club was founded in 1954 as, the rather long winded, Chase Terrace Old Scholars Youth Club and initially began life as a youth side in the Cannock Youth League prior to moving into adult football in 1958, joining the Lichfield & District League. They would finish as runners-up in one of their three years here prior to switching into the Staffordshire County League in 1962, prior to another move in 1972 – this time into the West Midlands (Regional) League – which also saw the name change to their current title. The club would go on to spend eleven seasons here and, despite the rather impressive feat of never finishing outside of the division’s top four, would only secure the one title – this coming in the 1977-’78 campaign. This title win wouldn’t see promotion achieved, as the club’s ground (a park pitch) would fail the required grading.

The move to the Scholars Ground from the Burntwood Recreation Ground came around in 1983, with entry secured for a move into the Premier Division along with it. Struggling for the most part during the remainder of the decade, in the league, the 1990’s would begin with that year’s WML League Cup, which was successfully defended the next year, and they followed this up with the Walsall Senior Cup title, with this success being repeated in 1993. 1994 saw Chasetown become a founding member of the Midland Football Alliance, though this brought little in the way of silverware the club’s way and 2001 saw the club avoid the drop only on the account that no club was promoted from the division below. Fortunes changed soon after and 2005 saw a third Walsall Senior Cup lifted and a runners-up league placing secured, before Chasetown would begin to achieve national recognition, via the FA Cup.

Chasetown FC

Starting the season with (I assume) defeating previous year’s double winners Rushall Olympic in the league vs cup winners Joe McGorian Cup, 2005-’06 saw the Scholars reach the First Round for the first time and it was a successful debut, the club defeating Blyth Spartans to secure a meeting with Oldham Athletic in the 2nd Round. They secured a replay against the Football League’s Latics, though would eventually succumb to a 4-0 defeat at Boundary Park. However, they would be back once again in 2007-’08 and once again they would attract the cameras to the Scholars Ground. Before that, though, in the same year as their initial cup run, Chasetown would stage an amazing rally to reel in the Alliance Championship leaders Malvern Town’s 20-point advantage over themselves and take the title – thus gaining entry to the Southern League Division One Midlands.

2007-’08 saw Chasetown return to the “proper” rounds of the Cup, as they again defeated higher non-league opposition in Team Bath to advance to Round 2, and an away meeting with local ‘rivals’ Port Vale. The club recorded a 1-1 draw at Vale Park, before taking the scalp of Vale 1-0 at home to reach the Third Round and the prospects of getting one of the country’s big boys. Alas, this wouldn’t come to fruition, although Cardiff City weren’t too bad a result and this proved to be on the pitch as well as off, as Chasetown battled hard to lose out 3-1, the lowest-ranked side to go that far in the competition had certainly not disgraced themselves and gave the Bluebirds a slight scare in going one-up early in the tie. This game resulted in Chasetown being invited to be the first opposition Cardiff would face at their new home upon its 2009 opening.

Clubhouse

Being switched into the Northern Premier League’s Division One South for that year, the club would finish runners-up, meaning they would have to settle for a place in the play-offs, where they progressed to the final and defeated now-defunct Glapwell 1-0, to go up to the NPL Premier Division. How different things could have been over 90 minutes of history for Glapwell and Chasetown?! 2010-’11 saw the club embark on another cup upset run, this time in the FA Trophy, as they saw off Kettering Town, Grimsby Town and Eastleigh to make the quarter-finals, where they would eventually fall to Mansfield Town after a replay at Field Mill, following an initial 2-2 draw.

But 2012 would see the Scholars relegated back to the Division One South, though they missed out on an immediate return, losing in the play-off final to Stamford. They have stayed at the same level through to today, though the last two seasons have seen the club compete in two differently titled divisions, due to the NPL’s ever changing boundaries. Last season’s one-year-wonder, the Division One West, saw Chasetown finish up in 13th, whilst they now compete in what is known as the Division One South East for this year.

The game got underway with little in the way of action during the early stages, aside from an early George Cater drive just drifting the wrong side of the upright, from his persuasion. But, when it did finally spark into life, it did so with the opening goal; Chasetown’s Cater receiving a square ball from striker Kieran Brown around 10 yards out, and placing the ball beyond Coleshill ‘keeper Paul Hathaway. Down the other end, Cater’s namesake George Washbourne then saw a low drive palmed behind by Curtis Pond.

Cater opens the scoring for the Scholars

Match Action

Match Action

Again, the game settled into a lengthy stage of sparring, with both sides not making much in the way of chances and it took until around ten minutes before the break for another to roll around and, once more, this ended up in a goal. This time, Cater would turn provider for Brown when, after a procession of corners, he delivered one for the Chasetown #9 to meet and drill a header past Hathaway, via a slight deflection off a Coleshill defender. 2-0 it would remain until the break, with Coleshill’s one real remaining chance of the half ending in Pond’s comfortable denying of Giovani Dainty.

A visit to the clubhouse took up the 15-minute off-period, before the sides re-entered the field. As in the first half, the play began rather turgidly and once again the first real chance ended with the ball in the back-of-the-net. On this occasion, it would be a free-kick on the hour mark that would provide the opportunity for the hosts – Lewis Riley-Stewart’s delivery not being cleared by the visiting defence, which duly allowed Brown to slam a volley home for number three, and his second of the day.

Coleshill responded and really ought to have got one back, but centre-back Keenan Meakin-Richards somehow guided his header wide at the back-post when he looked destined to score and Brown almost had his hat-trick all wrapped up just after the hour, but an eventual fine block made up for the initial poor Town defending. Luke Brown then forced Pond into a fine stop in order to keep his clean sheet intact whilst the final minutes of the game saw a flashpoint when a 50/50 saw a player from both sides end up booting each other, with one of the two involved instigating what would proceed to become a 20-man “brawl”….well, more of a congregation, but brawl sounds far more interesting, no?!

The clubhouse stand

Match Action

From the covered terrace

Back to Burntwood….

…and Sankey’s

Both players received a yellow for their trouble and after a late chance came and went for the hosts to add further gloss to the score, the final whistle blew to confirm Chasetown’s Trophy progression. Post match, I made a quick exit and marched back up the road to ensure I caught the bus in time to allow for a visit back at the Sankeys Tap I’d tried earlier in the day. This went well and I was soon disembarking back near the TESCO whose car park it neighbours. Opting for a pint of the ABK Pilsner (£3.50), I supped away at that for the 25 minutes until the next service back to Lichfield was due and this safely returned me to the station and the train back to Crewe. Once there, I was able to catch a delayed Virgin Train to Manchester, which was a bonus, and took care of any possible misdemeanours that the railways might try and serve up.

The connection was duly caught and that was that for another fine day. Chasetown is a nice area that seems to fly under the radar somewhat. The ground is interesting, which is always good, and though the game itself wasn’t the most enthralling, it was decent enough, despite the fact it was over as a contest fairly early on. Pubs were decent too, so all in all a good trip. Next up, it’s back on the Cup trail for the final time prior to the “proper” rounds beginning. Let’s get to it….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Buxton (2)

Result: Buxton 1-2 York City (FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round)

Venue: Silverlands (Saturday 5th October 2019, 3pm)

Att: 901

The FA Cup inches ever closer to, what is for many clubs, the promised land of the First Round and all the possibilities that come with it:- TV coverage, boosted gates, increased coffers and all the extra publicity amongst a number of other bonuses. For Buxton, a few of these would come a little early in the shape of the former Football League stalwarts York City, the Minstermen now plying their trade just a division above the Bucks. However, a home win would still be seen as something of a giant-killing – and with Silverlands now having a 4G pitch down, this had the possibility to be another added wrinkle to proceedings.

I headed off towards the Derbyshire spa town fairly early during this first Saturday morning of the first weekend of October, with the intention of hopefully getting around any kind of mass congregations of support and perhaps the introduction of the dreaded plastic pint cups. They send shivers down my spine just thinking of them….but luckily, the journey on through Manchester was silky smooth and I passed on through towns including the likes of Whaley Bridge and Chapel-en-le-Frith (yes, I’ve been to both in these silly pages) before arriving into Buxton station, the end of the line, around 50 minutes after leaving Piccadilly. Not bad.

Big train, little train, plastic box.

The Fan Window

Buxton

Having got in for a little before 11.30am, I decided to go on a sight-seeing walk around the town early on. As such, I paid visits to the rather grand fan window at the station itself, the famous Buxton spring, opera house, pavilion and its gardens and the hill on which the war memorial stands upon before heading back on down station-wards to my first stop of the day – this being the Buxton Brewery’s Tap House. A really nice setting that mixed the normal tap house setting with a kind of Mediterranean feel, it was a great place to begin with and the German-style Kellerbier wasn’t bad either, and the choice to play out the full track listing of Elbow’s Seldom Seen Kid album was another tick to their boxes!

From there, I decided to head back towards the steep incline up to the higher part of town, where the square hosts a number of drinking holes, but first you come up to the 53° North café/bar in one of the buildings towards the top of said hill. Given a welcome on entering and getting an Estrella (£4.30) from the bar, though the highlight was given by the puppy, Harley, that came in with double-dad (human and canine), as it decided to ‘relieve’ itself in front of the bar. Class stuff, though I thought it’d be looked on differently if I’d have done so. Double-standards, no? Finishing there, I said a goodbye to the dads and dogs and completed the last bit of the climb and into the town square area, which is complete with King’s Arms, New Inn and the Eagle. Now, having been to Buxton twice before and tested the former two on both occasions (along with the Old Clubhouse near the Opera House), I thought I’d miss them out on this occasion and instead go for the Eagle – which proved to be solid, if unspectacular.

Buxton Brewery Tap

53 Degrees North

Looking towards the Eagle

Buxton is a spa and market town within the county of Derbyshire and is known as the ‘Gateway to the Peak District National Park’, although it lies outside of the National Park boundaries. It is the highest market town in England by elevation and was a municipal borough in its own right through to 1974, when it was merged with other localities, i.e. Glossop, to form the district and borough of the High Peak. The Romans first settled in the area, creating the settlement of Aquae Arnametiae (spa goddess of the grove) and coins unearthed around the town indicate that Buxton was inhabited throughout their occupation. However, from where its current name derives is uncertain, though may be from the Old English for Buck Stone or Rocking Stone, though this (to me anyway) seems unlikely.

Having been initially developed by the 5th Duke of Devonshire from profits derived from his copper mines in the area, the town was built in the spa town-style of Bath and would continue to grow up around its geothermal springs, morphing into the spa town it is known as – with the water from the springs being funnelled out to St. Anne’s Well, a medieval shrine that stands opposite the Crescent and Bath House. Victorians were drawn due to the alleged healing effects of the waters and the later Dukes of Devonshire did little to discourage them travelling there! Earlier, in 1569, their ancestor, Bess of Hardwick, took her husband (one of four no less), the Earl of Shrewsbury, to Buxton to “take the waters” after becoming the gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots, who herself was taken to the town five years later and stayed at the site now taken up by the Old Hall Hotel. Mary noted Buxton as ‘La Fontagne de Bogsby’.

Pavilion & Bandstand

Boardwalk

As the years rolled on into the 19th century, Buxton continued its growth in the Victorian-era, gaining recommendations from philosopher and Grandfather of Charles Darwin, Erasmus Darwin, who pointed Josiah Wedgwood I (founder of the Wedgwood potting company) in the direction of Buxton and would then regularly visit with his family, before two of the later generations of the Darwin family would move to the town to reside there. Of the early settlement, only St. Anne’s Church remains of the majority limestone-build town, whilst most of what now stands is made of quarried sandstone from the 18th century and a nearby River Wye-carved limestone cave known as Poole’s Cavern contains unique ‘poached egg’ stalactites, as well as the largest stalactite in Derbyshire. It was handed its title due to a local, notorious highwayman of the same name.

St. Anne’s Well

Opera House Area

The town has also hosted the Buxton Festival since 1979 and its allied ‘Fringe’ festival, as well as being widely known for its bottled mineral water. Meanwhile, Buxton counts the likes of footballers Les Bradd (all time leading scorer for Notts County), Frank Soo (the first mixed-race professional player to represent England) and Mark Higgins, motorcycle trials champion Mick Andrews, BDO darting siblings Lorraine & Dean Winstanley, DJ Dave Lee Travis, Disney director Robert Stevenson (Mary Poppins etc.), as well as ex-Coronation Street actor Bruno Langley, or Todd, as most may be more familiar with!

With the “new” Carlsberg being pretty cheap at £3.10, I plumped for that to cut my prior losses before moving on through the neighbouring market area towards the Ale Stop; which was also complete with doggo action in the form of Obi – a lovely thing he is too. After sitting with me for long enough for a regular to remark that he was quite happy with me, he soon abandoned me for crisps. What betrayal….though if I had that choice, I’d go for the crisps too, to be fair. In a state of despair, I polished off the last of my half of Tatton Brewery’s Best (a half, who’d have thunk it?!) and despite planning to pop up to Silverlands then and there to grab a programme early doors (I’d missed them on both previous visits), a quick calculation found it better to have a quick one in the neighbouring The Vault first.

Vault & Ale House

Cheshire Cheese & first post-match stop, The Swan

London Road Inn

Opting for a Strongbow (£3.60) in here, I saw the toilets sign near the stairs, but also near enough to the rear part to cause a bit of confusion and give flashbacks to my unintended trespass in Mill Hill a couple of years back. As it was, it was fairly obvious when getting there and having all that cleared up, I made haste up to Silverlands to grab a programme at £2 though, for whatever reason, I kept trying to pay more than that – first £3 and then £2.50. “I’m too generous sometimes” I said to the guy on the gate, before being handed said bible and returning down the road and back towards the far end of the town’s main thoroughfare. Here, I found the London Road Tavern that had been closed minutes earlier when I passed en route to the ground, was now open and fairly well populated, and so I made the decision to pop in there on my way back after visiting my intended stopping place, the Cheshire Cheese.

With time becoming a factor and wanting to pretty much complete Buxton centre’s pub offering, I decided to go on bottles and a Corona and Peroni in each of the two named above (at £3.00 and £4.00 respectively) saw me having spent up all my pre-match time and so it was back to the Bucks’ home once more, this time for a fairly more extensive time. Arriving to a decent amount of queues on the gates, I handed over my £10 entry and entered into the ground in one corner, between the raised, all-seater (formerly of Maine Road) Main Stand and clubhouse building. A food bar actually sits between the stand and turnstiles, with a sizeable covered terrace located right in front, behind the near-end goal. The far side is populated by a long, covered largely standing area, though also has a small amount of seating available, though it is at a premium, whilst the far end is open, hard standing – as are the corners of the ground too. That’s the highest ground in England, Silverlands, in short and this is the story behind the Bucks of Buxton….

History Lesson:

Buxton Football Club was founded in 1877 as an offshoot of a local cricket club and played their first match later that year. After spells groundsharing with the cricket club at the Park, before venturing out on their own to grounds on Cote Lane, London Road and Green Lane, they moved into long-term home Silverlands in 1884 – the first match there being a Derbyshire Senior Cup tie against Bakewell that Buxton came out of as 2-0 victors. The club later joined the Combination in 1891, though didn’t experience much success and indeed finished bottom of the league table in 1896 prior to leaving the Combination altogether in 1899. Switching to the Manchester League for the new century-spanning season, Buxton finished as 1904-’05 runners-up but spent most of their initial time there in the lower half of the table prior to its 1912 disbanding. Re-joining the League upon its re-forming in 1920, the club considered applying to join the newly-created Football League Division 3 North the next year, but thought better of it.

This led to them edging up to being title contenders in the Manchester League as the years went on – including winning the Manchester League’s League Cup consecutively in 1926 and 1927 – and after finishing as runners-up in both 1929 and 1930, they finally lifted the title in 1932 and joined the Cheshire County League for the following season. They remained there with little in the way of silverware success (though did win their first Derbyshire Senior Cup in 1939) through to World War II, and post-war they re-joined and finished as 1946-’47 runners-up and lifted their second Senior Cup, winning both the last pre-war and first post-war tournament. 1951-’52 saw the club’s first notable foray in the FA Cup, as the Bucks made the First Round for the first time, whereupon they thumped Rawmarsh Welfare 4-1, before going on to face League opposition in the form of Aldershot Town. The Silverlands would see a cup shock as the Shots were, ahem, shot down 4-3 with Buxton’s third-round reward being a tie with Second Division side Doncaster Rovers – who put an end to any fairytale in a 2-0 win at Belle Vue.

Arriving at Silverlands

Two Cheshire League Cups were won in 1957 & 1958, before 1958-’59 saw the First Round reached again, though they this time experienced polar opposite results when, having defeated Crook Town 4-1, they were thrashed by Accrington Stanley 6-1. 1962-’63 yielded a third first-round outing, this time ending at that stage in a loss to Barrow, and the season saw some more slight disappointment in the Cheshire County League, with the club finishing as runners-up. Despite winning the League Cup for a third time in 1969, it would take Buxton a decade from the runners-up placing to finally lift the Cheshire League title, 1973 seeing them achieve promotion to the Northern Premier League and they remained there through to 1987, winning the 1982 NPL President’s Cup along the way, when the NPL gained a second (First) division, with Buxton handed a spot in the Premier. Their spell there lasted another decade, fending off the drop in 1996 on goal difference alone, before being unable to stave it off the next year, after finishing bottom of the table, and things only got worse for the Bucks the next season, as their first outing in the First Division of the NPL ended in a second consecutive relegation.

Being placed in the Northern Counties East League’s Premier Division, Buxton found it a rather difficult task to haul themselves back up into the NPL ranks, but 2006 finally saw them achieve promotion as NCEL champions, along with successfully defending their NCEL President’s Cup title (won in both 2005 & 2006), following this up with an immediate promotion from the NPL Division One the next year, in a pretty much complete juxtaposition to the seasons that saw them drop out of the league’s sphere. They also won the that year’s NPL President’s Cup to cap off a fine season in 2006-’07. They finished their first campaign back in the NPL Premier Division in a strong fifth-place, which saw them qualify for the play-offs; beating Witton Albion on penalties in the semi-finals, the Bucks were vanquished in the final by eventual Conference side Gateshead.

Clubhouse

They have remained in the Premier Division right through to the current day, with some seasons being more of a ‘hit’ and others a rather sizeable ‘miss’; last year was more of the former, with a 5th placed finish again seeing a play-off place achieved but, alas, this again ended with Buxton missing out on a Conference North place. On this occasion, the Bucks instead were defeated in the semi-finals 4-2 by South Shields up in the North East. They have gone on to win a total of ten Derbyshire Senior Cups to date, spanning from their first in 1939 through to 2012.

After a visit to the food bar for some chips and gravy, the game got underway with York coming out the stronger early on, though both sides would create little more than half-chances during the early skirmishes – Buxton’s Liam Hardy looping a header onto the roof of the net and York’s Kyle McFarlane driving an effort straight at Bucks stopper Grant Shenton. But it would be the hosts who would grab the first strike of the afternoon on eleven minutes, when the exotically named Diego de Girolamo, a former City player, nonetheless, pounced upon a knock-down in the area to slot home at the back post. 1-0 and the shock was on!

Match Action

Match Action

View from the Main Stand at ‘Tarmac Silverlands’!

More glimpses of goal would come and go, as the sides looked to extend and level up the scoring respectively, and went close through Warren Clarke’s fizzing drive, before Ryan Whitley had to be alert to keep out Bucks hotshot Liam Hardy when one-on-one with the hosts’ main scoring threat, following a long ball over the top. The half ended off with Adriano Moke testing Shenton with another effort from a fair way out, but that would be that as the sides headed in for the break. However, I’d seen enough to suggest that York would turn it around in the second half, as I’d stated to City fan Ben, so my reputation was on the line!

Indeed, the second half began much like the first, with an early strike seeing City duly level in similar circumstances to Buxton’s opener. After around five minutes of play, a ball into the area caused mayhem around the six-yard line, the ball eventually deflecting into the bottom corner. It looked as though York’s #9 may have got a touch en route, but it would be later credited as an own goal. With momentum at their backs, York now looked to assert the dominance their league placing should suggest. #5 headed over from a corner, before Buxton responded, a pair of shots from Hardy and the #9-clad de Girolamo (as opposed to, I assume, brother Nico) kept out by Whitley, with this enabling a swift counter down the other end, where a brilliant double save by Buxton ‘keeper Grant Shenton kept his side level. Keeping out the initial effort, with the loose ball meeting the head of Jordan Burrow, who looked destined to score, only for Shenton to fling himself across goal to block out the effort. Tremendous stuff, and it’s important to focus on the brilliance that goalkeepers pull off sometimes, as they certainly take the flack for the smallest of errors.

From the terrace

Match Action

Match Action

York continued to press onwards, though after #9 had seen his free header once again brilliantly saved by Shenton, it looked as though the Bucks were on course to at least secure a replay. But with ten minutes left on the clock, disaster struck for the hosts as a cross to the back-post was met by young full-back Nathan Dyer, whose looping header came back off the woodwork but fell kindly for a team-mate, who knocked it back his way, and this time the defender made no mistake – opting for power and thumping the ball into the roof of the net. The Buxton players looked broken, though their spirit was not and, with some sorts of trouble beginning to kick-off in the stand behind the goal, seemingly involving ‘fans’ of both sides, they almost got a late, late leveller.  Just after Nico de Girolamo had headed over, and introducing Martin Pilkington surprisingly late in the day, a clever low free-kick by Aaron Chalmers looked to be rolling into the bottom corner, but agonisingly came back off the foot of the upright, the Minstermen’s defence clearing the ball and securing their face in the final quali round.

CORNERS!!

As the authorities and ambulances began to arrive at the gate and enter the ground, the final whistle blew with a fine on-field contest being unfortunately overshadowed by the antics off the pitch. If the sparse info is indeed correct, I wish the young girl who was struck by an object the very best and not to be put off returning back to the terraces quickly. Buxton look a very strong side, and I expect their rise up the table to start quickly and them to be challenging for the higher places come the end of the season, if they continue these performances. York, meanwhile, look to have the steel they have seemingly lacked in recent times to grind out results, which should stand them in good stead as they seek to get back, firstly, into the Conference. Dyer looks to have all the attributes to go far as well; I was surprised to find he’s only 18, as he seems far older in his play and build.

Post-match, I joined the rush of people heading out of the ground as the sirens wailed around (it wasn’t quite as dramatic overall) and was soon back where I’d ended my pre-match tour, but this time on the other side of the road at the Swan. Having been unable to peruse the offerings overly in here, I opted for a pint of Stella (£3.50~), which I wasn’t planning on at the time – but having been informed that my parents were out and about back in their bar, I reckoned “free” drinks were better than me paying and decided to hop on the train back an hour later – meaning Spoons was sacrificed. It mattered little in the long run and so, after brief visits to the nearby Old Sun and Queen’s Head for more bottled goodness (at a surprisingly costly £4.20 a pop), I returned back down the steep hill (much more favourable) and back to the station in good time for the train back, which was about to pull in ahead of its return trip.

Old Sun

Queen’s Head

The remainder of said journey went smoothly and, making the connections in Manchester easily enough, I was back home by 7.30pm, which isn’t bad all things considered. As for the day, it had been a decent trip overall, despite the shenanigans from a few fools who blighted the names of both clubs – regardless of their following….though I doubt highly that either are anywhere close to being a fan of either in the real sense of the word. Silverlands is a great ground to visit (though the 4G does take a little of the essence off it) and Buxton is a brilliant town. The game itself was a highly watchable tie and Buxton were unfortunate to not grab a replay out of the contest right at the end, with York not at their best. Anyway, it was the Minstermen who took their place in the hat for the final qualifying round, where they drew fellow League former members Stockport County. What a tie. As for me, I likely won’t be at Bootham Crescent for a final visit that day; but I will be somewhere….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 8

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Matlock

Result: Matlock Town 1-2 Kidsgrove Athletic (FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round)

Venue: Causeway Lane (Saturday 21st September 2019, 3pm)

Att: 377

Yet another FA Cup weekend came up on the footballing world and with summer biting back for likely the final time this year, I reckoned I might as well make the most of it and join the tourists in one of the more popular inland areas up in t’hills. This would entail a rather irritating journey to get there, but I figured it would be worth the while in the end. As such, Matlock was the chosen destination and, having only visited the Gladiators’ ground once some six years back, I was looking forward to the trip.

Passing through Manchester on the way, I caught the train to Alfreton where I would make a change of transport method for a bus onwards to ex-New Zealand Test Cricketer Iain O’Brien’s abode, Matlock. The bus, helpfully, leaves from the station’s front entrance and so allowed for a small delay, though I did only have around seven minutes or so in hand, or I’d be stranded for a couple of hours and looking for alternatives on the fly. Luckily, these wouldn’t be needed, the bus arrived in good time (£5.30 day ticket) and I was soon rolling onwards towards Matlock Bath, though the journey wasn’t exactly peaceful – a couple of excitable kids putting paid to that – and that’s coming from someone who deals with this on a daily basis!

Arriving in Matlock Bath

Fishpond

Toads & Tails

The journey included a hareum-scareum trip down a narrow road as a diversion, though this did mean we encountered a convoy of a few Caterhams and an old, mid-1900’s bus on the approach to Crich – the latter complete with one guy and a huge, life-size panda teddy as passengers for some ungodly reason; I prefer not to consider too hard. I eventually arrived a good twenty minutes later into Matlock than planned, meaning my stay here was forcibly truncated due to bus timings and the like, as mentioned earlier. I did still have time to have a couple of sunsoaked pints on the pleasant-looking main street through it though – first in the Fishpond freehouse just across the way from the spa building itself, and an interestingly named alehouse called Toads and Tails. Both were fine and I decided to go local in my ales, opting for a Derby Pride Pale Ale (£3.70) in the former and a Matlock Brewery Illuminations (£3.40) in the latter. I preferred the Derby personally, though that’s not to say the Matlock one wasn’t good.

Soon enough, it was time to grab the bus up the road and to Matlock itself, sadly having to bypass the Cottage and Midland pubs as I did so. I originally planned to get off at the stop that would allow me a cut-through to the Duke William, but missed this due to not being attentive enough – the stops aren’t exactly easy to spot if you’re not used to them. However, this allowed me to instead head straight into the centre of town and proved to be a far better way of doing the day overall – well, if you don’t count not finding the aforementioned cut-through and getting lost in a churchyard, but more on that later. The Remarkable Hare just opposite the bus stop was first up for a pint of Atlantic Pale Ale (£3.30), whilst I went about setting out a tour of Matlock’s, surprisingly few, hostelries.

Outside the Remarkable Hare

Matlock

Matlock

Matlock is (apparently) the county town of Derbyshire (yes, I thought it was Derby) and is located at the south-eastern edge of the Peak District, and is part of the Derbyshire Dales district. The former spa town has the resort of Matlock Bath lying just to the south and Matlock’s urban district is considered to take in Wirksworth, Darley Dale, Tansley and Hackney. Its name derives from the Old English mæthel, meaning assembly or speech and āc meaning ‘t oak tree’ – so Matlock or ‘moot-oak’ is ‘oak tree where meetings are held. Recorded as Meslach in the Domesday Book, by the mid-1100’s it had become Matlac. Built upon the River Derwent, the town’s industries were thus taken from this, with hydrotherapy and cloth milling growing up along it and its tributary Bentley Brook.

Originally a group of villages within the Wirksworth Hundred – that of Matlock Green, Bath, Town, Bridge and Bank – until the 1698 discovery of thermal springs, the hydros that were being built became ever more popular and so the area grew with both residents and tourism eventually leading to the villages pretty much linking together. The Derbyshire County Council HQ currently resides in the largest hydro that was built and lasted over 100 years until closing its doors for a year in 1955 before re-opening in its current guise. The town council of Matlock also takes in Riber, Starkholmes and Hurst Farm as well as its ‘Matlock’ grouping.

Matlock Bath

Former tram cover

A cable tramway was used until 1927 to get around the issues of Bank Road, with the area’s earliest settlements around Bentley Brook at Matlock Green, eventually growing up the hillside, though the tramway was eventually usurped by buses and cars. The rail line through to Manchester (via Buxton) was closed in 1968, with Network Rail’s subsequent thoughts of re-opening the route not yet coming to fruition, though the line has been kept free of overgrowth with it still possibly having a new re-purposing. The town centre’s Hall Leys park houses a Victorian bandstand, an old tramway shelter, sports areas, café, a footbridge over the Derwent with river-level markings (its part of the flood defences), as well as a miniature railway and boating lake. The bridge and war memorial neighbour it, alongside a wishing well. Matlock is also one of the smallest towns in the country to host two bus stations. Exciting.

Bandstand

Bridge & Flood Heights

From there, I took a stroll on over the bridge and through the neighbouring gardens (no market as there was on my previous visit though), passing by the Wetherspoons before arriving at the modern, and kind of showroom-looking Tipsy Toad. A very modern/craft-style place, this was all very rustic inside and a pint of Rattler cider was had to fit in with the theme. Rattlesnakes and taverns go together, right? The pint here was £4.50 and is always a good one (though it had been a fair while since I’d sampled it – since Exeter, in fact if I remember rightly) and set me up nicely to brave the ‘Spoons. With time beginning to run a little on the short side, I opted for a Kopparberg Mixed Fruits (£2.75) before again taking a slight detour to the gardens and paying a brief visit to the ground to grab a programme on my way over to the Red Lion, just beyond the cricket ground at the far end. Again taking advantage of the outdoor seating in the sun here, I decided to milk a Dark Fruits for the twenty-or-so minutes through to kick-off time.

Tipsy Toad

Heading to the ‘Spoons

Red Lion

Returning back to the gate, I paid my entry dues of £10 and was allowed into Causeway Lane for a second time. The ground hadn’t changed from what I could remember, with the near side being populated by a covered terrace/seating dual stand that runs the length of the pitch and a covered terrace area at the near end. The Main, all-seater, Stand is located on the opposite side and straddles half-way, whilst the clubhouse area and food bar flank it to either side, the clubhouse standing between it and the off-limits far end, which is the cricket outfield. There is also a small amount of uncovered terracing just between the food bar and the covered standing area too, making for a super little ground. That’s Causeway Lane in a nutshell and this is the story of Matlock’s Gladiators….

History Lesson:

Matlock Town Football Club was founded in 1878 as Matlock Football Club and initially played at a ground on Hall Leys before moving into Causeway Lane. They began entering the FA Cup from 1885, though wouldn’t manage to win a game in the competition until 1890, the year when the club joined the Derbyshire Senior League as founder members. They would win the inaugural championship that year and defended it successfully the next too, this preceding a switch into the Midland Amateur Alliance for 1892. However, this would prove to be the Alliance’s final season – the league disbanding and leaving Matlock to return back to the Derbyshire Senior League once again. They would later attempt to move up to the Midland League in 1894, but this would prove to be something of a disaster, Matlock recording a bottom-placed finish at the end of their first season, before somehow managing to go one worse the following year, losing out in each and every one of their 28 league games.

This horrific campaign led to Matlock returning back, once more, to their safe haven of the Derbyshire Senior League, but things hardly improved on the field, and the club finished bottom of the league here too, in 1898. A period of un-noticeable seasons leading up to World War I came and went and, after the end of hostilities, the club returned to the field as Matlock Town; the club clearly hoping to start afresh. They would move from the Derbyshire Senior League to the Central Alliance in 1924, but the club again proved to be something of an ‘Alliance grim reaper’, as they competed in a second alliance league’s final season (1924-’25) before, yet again, finding refuge in the familiar surroundings of the DSL. They finished as league runners-up in 1927 before moving to compete in the Central Combination for two seasons from 1933, seemingly folding.

MTFC

However, Matlock Town would return once more as a post-war side, joining the Chesterfield & District League in 1946 for a season prior to the Central Alliance also returning. Upon a divisional split in 1950, Matlock maintained a place in the top division, Division One, though avoided the drop two-seasons later, despite finishing bottom. This happened again in 1956, but the club were benefactors of further league re-organisation – this time a regional North/South Division One split. This proved to be for the better as Matlock won the Division One North title in 1960 and also reached that season’s FA Cup First Round, losing out in a replay to Crook Town, by the odd goal. Their league turnaround would continue the following year, with the Gladiators successfully defending their league title and thereupon again decided to try their hand up the leagues; their destination this time coming in the shape of the reformed Midland League.

The club lifted the league title at the first attempt (1962) and took their second championship in 1969, which subsequently saw Matlock promoted to the Northern Premier League. 1975 saw a second FA Cup First Round appearance for the Gladiators end in a 4-1 reverse to Blackburn Rovers, but a Wembley appearance would be forthcoming that same season; Town making it to the FA Trophy Final where they thumped Scarborough 4-0 to lift the prize – a feat which also saw a bit of history in that three of the Town side were brothers; the only occasion this has happened in a final at either the ‘old’ or ‘new’ ground. This success would lead to an automatic qualification for the FA Cup’s First Round for the next season, but they would again be bested by 4-1, this time by future Cup winners Wigan Athletic.

Clubhouse

Before Wigan’s future heroics though, Matlock would get their revenge in the next staging of the famous competition – besting the Latics 2-0 – and beating eventual Third Division champions Mansfield Town 5-2 at the Stags’ home, taking their first Football League scalp in the process, before eventually bowing out to Carlisle United in the Third Round. An NPL Cup double would be achieved in 1978, as the Challenge Cup and Peter Swales Shield arrived at Causeway Lane, and Matlock entered the 1978-’79 Anglo-Italian Cup, finishing a creditable 2nd in the English section. The Gladiators finished as NPL runners-up in 1984 and three years later, became a member of the NPL Premier Division when the league gained a First Division too. They remained there through into the new decade, winning the 1989 Floodlit Trophy, whilst 1990 saw yet another First Round FA Cup appearance end in a 4-1 loss, this time at the hands of Scunthorpe United.

Causeway Lane, MTFC

Despite starting the decade with the 1991 Floodlit Cup, Matlock would suffer relegation to the NPL’s First Division in 1996, finishing bottom, and would remain there for eight seasons before finishing as runners-up and earning promotion back to the Premier Division. They followed this success by winning the next season’s (2004-’05) NPL Challenge Cup, the second time they had won this silverware, and 2008 saw Matlock earn a shot at a place in the Conference North when making the play-offs; Witton Albion would, however, prevail 4-2 in the semi-finals, consigning Town to another year in the NPL. They have since finished a best of 7th (coming in 2010), whilst consolidating themselves as a solid mid-table outfit, year-on-year, finishing last season in 15th place. They have also lifted the Derbyshire Senior Cup on a total of ten occasions – their first in 1975, and most recent coming in 2017.

The game got underway as I got talking to Matlock and Leeds fan Gary, about all and sundry with regards to different things in the world of football and the like. It was a good job there was something to distract me (at least from my perspective) from the on-field action…or the lack thereof; it was bloody horrendous early doors. It really isn’t a stretch to say that the first twenty minutes or so saw next to nothing in the way of goal-mouth action – or 18-yard action even – truly be created – a shot from over the half-way line being the closes we came to an opener. Even then, it wasn’t really that close. The first real chance eventually came the way of Matlock’s Dan Bramall, his shot being deflected wide, before Ant Malbon responded for Kidsgrove – however he could only tamely hit straight at Jon Stewart between the Gladiators’ sticks.

View from the dual stand

Match Action

Footie & Drink!

That would pretty much be that for the first half it seemed, but, right on the stroke of half-time, the hosts grabbed a slightly deserved lead on the overall balance of play. Having just visited the food bar for something that involved chips (I can’t remember what else – its been over ten days…), I headed over to the clubhouse entrance in anticipation of the whistle, when a free-kick was met by James Williamson at the back post and his header nestled in the net. 1-0 Matlock at the break, a break which was spent watching the half-time scores come in from around the country, as a rather sizeable queue formed at the bar.

The second half was soon on the go and Kidsgrove came out like a house on fire, intent on getting themselves back on level terms, clearly having been stung by conceding so late in the first-half, Malbon volleying over the bar in their best chance early doors. Having said that, this approach gave Matlock the space to attack too and they also went close, Marcus Marshall firing narrowly wide in search of a second goal that would have likely clinched Town’s place in the next round. Kidsgrove, however, would have other ideas and the impressive Kingsley Adu Gyamfi went close on a pair of occasions as Athletic strove to get back level.

Through The Crowds

From The Stand

Terraces

They would achieve this goal with around twenty-five minutes left on the clock; skipper Ant Malbon latched onto a loose-ball, after James Butler’s header had been cleared off the line but no further, and he calmly finished – showing all his experience in doing so. The wind was well and truly in the sails of Kidsgrove now and, with their band of supporters in the terrace behind the goal still coming to terms with their leveller, their joy became jubilation moments later. All but straight from kick-off, the quicksilver Gymafi picked up the ball just inside the Matlock half, beat a couple of challenges in advancing forward, before lashing a drive across goal that flew past Stewart and into the back of the net. What a strike it was and Gyamfi enjoyed it just as much as the Grove faithful did!

A stunned Matlock did seem shell-shocked by the sudden turnaround and despite seeing Williamson and Luke Hinsley denied by Kidsgrove ‘keeper Kieran Harrison, even the coming up of Harrison’s opposite number Stewart for a final minute corner couldn’t force an equaliser and the NPL South visitors held on to seal a “Cupset” and head into the Third Qualifying Round, the magical First Round place and all the possibilities that come with it edging ever closer. However, I’m still left with just the one ‘keeper goal live – Greg Hall’s place in my ‘Hall of Fame’ (NB: a note) as sole member in that category is safe. In fact, I’ve seen him score as a ‘keeper, midfielder and striker. So, yeah.

Late on…

Small bridge & stream. Quaint.

After the game, I made haste up the steep incline to the Duke William, which should have been my starting point upon my arrival into Matlock proper. This had also been the scene of one of my rare darts wins which, I must admit, came in my more sober days!! Upon entering into this throwback public house, I plumped for a pint of Heineken (£4.30~) and wasted away a fair bit of the hour-and-a-bit or so I had until the bus back to Alfreton. This was all going well until….well, you remember that “getting lost in a churchyard” bit, yeah? See that and add ‘a private road’ and could I find this place? Could I hell. As such, I decided to follow the paths from whence I came and got back to the Remarkable Hare in good time for the bus….which was then delayed by a good twenty minutes, meaning a later train back was now on the cards. Walking through Alfreton, I decided it was time to employ my ‘trump card’. What was that, you ask? I think you know….!

Duke William

Back in Alfreton at the Prospect Micropub

Since visiting Alfreton with fellow hopper Paul a few seasons back now, a small micropub in an unassuming side road has opened up judt a few minutes walk from the station entrance. Going by the name of the Prospect Micropub (on account of said road it is on), it was always going to be a place of refuge is something went a little awry, and so it came to be. Unfortunately, for some reason, I sounded like a pure drunk on my arrival there and could barely string the sentence I wanted together, though maybe wasn’t as bad as I suspected, as the guy there seemed to know what I was on about. Or maybe he guessed?! Either way, I ended up choosing another Rattler at £4.70 and wasted away the remaining time lazing on a couch. Lovely stuff.

Eventually I had to rouse myself from the sunken sofa and back out onto the streets of Alfreton, which by now were bathed in darkness and illuminated only by the streetlights glaring down upon them. Hello darkness, my old friend. Winter is coming. Any other puns; I can’t see me thinking of anymore. Sorry. Anyway, no other problems were seen and via a welcome doze on the train back into Manchester, I was there in quick time, though wasn’t in the mood to stick around the best part of an hour for a train; instead I opted to part with a couple of quid extra to grab a bus and get home a half-hour earlier. I fair trade I think. That ended another good trip to another lovely town. Of course, I knew what to expect out of Matlock (less so its pubs), but I hadn’t been to its Bath-y neighbour before and that was the bonus. Both were great and, of course, Causeway Lane is, as I’ve already said, a top ground – even without the dramatic backdrop up to Riber Castle. Next up….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 9

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

 

Manchopper in….North Ferriby

Result: North Ferriby United 0-4 Gainsborough Trinity (NPL Premier Division)

Venue: Grange Lane (Saturday 23rd February 2019, 3pm)

Att: 314

My late season “vulture job” of getting to grounds whose very existence is in some doubt continued for a second weekend with a trip to the outskirts of Hull and the small village of North Ferriby, where I was to pay a visit to North Ferriby United’s Grange Lane ground. This would mean going against my usual standing of not giving money to owners who are (in my distinctly humble opinion) running a club into the ground for whatever reason (which is why Hull, Charlton and Blackpool have remained off limits, though the Tangerines have recently been thankfully rescued and I only did the Ricoh for a cut-price game, but with many seemingly still happy to give money to the club, it seemed OK morally to do the same.

Now, I’m sure many of you with any sort of internet access/non-league knowledge had heard of the recent goings on surrounding the club and its swift fall from grace and I’m not going to speculate on what may or may not be going on, as it really isn’t my place to do so. Plus, with what happened during the game, I really don’t want to risk any future bans that may cloud any return visits – be that at Grange Lane, Dunswell Park or anywhere else… *suggests one-off game at Craven Park, selfishly*. Anyhow….

Setting off into Manchester, the local train delays returned, meaning I had a full hour to waste in the surroundings of the Manchester Piccadilly concourse. To make this a little more bearable, I headed up to the mezzanine and my favoured in-station haunt of the Hourglass where I was forced into breaking my 11am rule – though 10am was close enough I figured! A pint of Boddies was bought to accompany me through the wait until the next Hull-bound train, as I looked to figure out some kind of trip/plan to get over to North Ferriby from Brough station – where the train has its penultimate stop. With a few little villages along the way, I reckoned I might as well go that way and stop off here and there on my way over to the ground, rather than fork out the unbelievably costly £6+ return bus ticket for what would have been about five minutes. No chance, guys and girls.

Following an hour and a half’s journey, the train eventually pulled into Brough and I set off on the hour-and-twenty-minute walk to United’s home. Foregoing Brough’s own watering holes (on account of them having their own based club there which I’ll likely visit at some point too), my first stop was in the nearby village outpost of Welton. Here, I found a pub by the name of the Green Dragon, and what a find it proved to be – this being the very pub that the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was apprehended in during the 18th century. Well worth the effort to get there for sure, as was the pricing and overall setting – a pint of Amstel costing £3.65 and the pub and village itself being highly pleasant on a fine, sunny day.

Welton

Green Dragon

Melton’s Sandpiper

From there, the long and winding old road to Melton was undertaken, crossing a footbridge en route to the Sandpiper – a new-build modern food-based chain pub. Having been pressed in this way with a lack of overall options for the day (not that it was a surprise), I was more than happy to drop in for another Amstel (£3.65) before deciding to forego a pre-match visit to North Ferriby’s one-and-only pub, the Duke of Cumberland, as I’d come up with the idea of maybe heading towards the Humber Bridge post-match for a little bit. Also, I’d said I’d pop to say “Hello” to Matthew, one of the lads involved with the North Ferriby fanzine known as ‘View from the Allotment End’, which has gained a little infamy over the last few days. Having done so and gave a bit of money to both he and the guys collecting for the homeless charity outside, he said to me they’d be congregated around the dugouts during the game. Of course, as it turned out, that wouldn’t happen as Matthew would be banned from Grange Lane minutes later for apparent comments in said fanzine, so I’m watching my tongue here too in fear of more reprisals against independent writings!!!

North Ferriby is a village and civil parish in the Haltemprice area within the East Riding of Yorkshire and stands on the North bank of the River Humber and is where the oldest boats ever found in Europe were discovered – dating from the Bronze Age estimated to go back to the region between 2030 BC-1680 BC. Iron Age and Romano-British archaeology has also been discovered in the area, suggesting that the settlement continued to exist through these times too, prior to the arrival of the Danes around 900 AD, with each ship arriving apparently setting up their own settlement and amongst these was the modern territory of North Ferriby (derived from the Danish ‘Ferja bi’ meaning place by a ferry, with both North and South Ferriby linked by said transport).

North Ferriby

North Ferriby

During the medieval period, Ferriby was home to a Ferriby Prior – belonging to the, somewhat infamous (whether in truth or exaggerated fiction), order of the Knights Templar. The abbey, dating from c.1160, was founded by Lord Eustace Broomfleet de Vesci and remained standing until the dissolution in 1536 with the village having passed through the hands of the families of the Mortimers, the Poles and the Barons, with mansions being added by merchants from Hull from the mid-18th century. It’s All Saints Church is Grade II listed and is recorded in the National Heritage List for England and maintained therefore by Historic England. The village also hosts part of the Transpennine and Yorkshire Wolds walkways, with the former being where the three Ferriby boats were discovered on the banks of the Humber. For a small area, they have a pretty impressive list of alumni including:- Alex Deacon (BBC Weatherman), Zara Holland (Miss GB and of Love Island fame (apparently in the case of the latter!), Phil ‘team talk on the pitch’ Brown and, most impressively, the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.

Paying my £5 entry as a student (nice bit of saving there), I headed inside Grange Lane and over to the club shop where I’d been told by Matthew I could find the programmes for the game today. £2 for that and 20p for a teamsheet (because I might as well for that), the game was soon upon us and the teams heading out of the tunnel. Grange Lane itself is a bit of a strange ground on the basis that apart from its “Main Stand” there is little to suggest it has ever hosted Conference-level football, though this allows it to retain its charm. Despite this, it is a pretty smart set-up and there seems little reason for the relocation in any way, shape, or form that would be beneficial in the long-run on the face of things, though I could just as easily be wrong.

Anyway, back to the day at hand. The near-side plays host to all facilities, a food bar flanked by the club shop and a raised, rather strange-looking disabled viewing area, which the dressing rooms are located to the rear of. A further hospitality building, and what I assume is the clubhouse, though I couldn’t actually ever locate it myself, is situated towards the far end, which itself is open, hard standing and features a couple of steps of terracing, as does the opposite end. The Main Stand backs onto a railway embankment (with trains running above the stand for those interested) and houses all seats in the middle, these flanked by small amounts of covered standing at each end, which I suppose were planned to have seats installed in the future too, had the need come around. A second snack bar is located next to the old away end turnstiles. That’s Grange Lane in a nutshell, and this is the story of North Ferriby United….

History Lesson:

North Ferriby United Football Club was founded in 1934, first taking part in the local East Riding Church League, winning the Division 1 title in 1938. After WWII, the club was admitted to the East Riding Amateur League and Ferriby went on to enjoy a successful period with various pieces of silverware being brought to the club’s trophy cabinet. In 1969, North Ferriby stepped into the Division Two of the Yorkshire League in 1969 and won the title at the end of their second season in the division, winning promotion to Division 1 in the process, and also added the East Riding Senior Cup title the same season. 1975 saw Ferriby lift the Yorkshire League Cup with a 2-0 triumph over Lincoln United before finishing Division 1 runners-up the next year.

In 1982, the Villagers joined the newly formed Northern Counties East League and immediately finished as runners-up in Division One North, though promotion was declined due to ground issues. This setback was soon rectified and 1986 saw Ferriby win the Division One title and with it promotion to the Premier Division. 1990 saw the club reach the FA Vase semi-finals, losing out to Tamworth in the semi-finals, before going on to achieve a “what might have been” moment in defeating the following year’s Vase winners, Guiseley, in the 1991 NCEL President’s Cup. A cup double was secured too, as the club lifted the East Riding Senior Cup. Ferriby reached the 1997 FA Vase Final after overcoming Guisborough Town in the semi-finals, but their day at Wembley would end in disappointment at the hands of Whitby Town. Two further consecutive NCEL President’s Cups were won in both 1999 & 2000.

Arriving at the ground

Myself & Matthew ft. the ‘trouble-making’ fanzine!

The 1999-‘2000 season also saw the Villagers take the NCEL championship and were duly promoted to the Northern Premier League’s Division 1 and the following season’s East Riding Senior Cup triumph ensured a fifth consecutive win between 1997-’01. A sixth straight East Riding Senior Cup duly followed in 2002 and the next season saw Ferriby make the NPL Division 1 play-offs, losing out to Radcliffe Borough, before breaking Hull City’s record for consecutive East Riding Cup wins with a 7th to offset the disappointment a little (they’ve since won 19 between 1971 and 2014). They would achieve promotion in 2005 to the NPL Premier Division, foregoing the play-offs on this occasion to take the title and immediately had success, being long-time Premier Division leaders until fading a little and finishing 5th, losing out in the play-off final to another village club:- Farsley Celtic.

Spending the next seven years in the Premier Division and winning a pair of NPL League Challenge Cups (2012 & 2013), Ferriby would eventually secure promotion in 2013, again as champions, after defeating Ashton United on the final day of the season to ensure a place in the National League North. They immediately finished as runners-up, narrowly missing out on promotion, but the next season would see major silverware won in the form of the FA Trophy, the club’s ‘return’ to Wembley this time being a successful one, as the club eventually saw off Wrexham on penalties after a 3-3 draw. The next season saw yet more success for the Villagers, as they went and got promoted to the National League, defeating AFC Fylde at Grange Lane by 2-1 AET. However, it’s all gone downhill from there, with two straight relegations seeing the club return to the NPL and it’s about to become three – likely within the next few weeks – a number of managerial changes and changes in ownership failing to arrest the slide, it seemingly more akin to a downhill slope.

The game got underway following a minute’s silence for a long-standing home supporter and it was a fairly evenly matched first ten minutes or so, though it wasn’t long until I heard a bit of a something going on at the gate and rumours of a banning order began to go around between some in the NFU supporters’ ranks. Back on the pitch, it was the hosts who had the first clear chance when Alex Knox saw his shot parried away and the acrobatic overhead follow-up was clawed away by the recovering GK. However, Gainsborough steadily took control, and after left-back Ben Gordon had shown good persistence to drive into the box, his pull back found Alex Byrne, who could only fire wide.

Match Action

Match Action

Watching on….

But the visitors would break the deadlock shortly afterwards when Anthony Wilson showed a good touch before feeding his strike partner Ashley Worsfold who confidently slotted home. They went close again soon after when Will Longbottom curled a free-kick narrowly wide of the Ferriby goal, and despite the hosts coming back into it and fashioning a couple of good sights of goal, Trinity’s #11 Longbottom would be denied by a fine double stop by the Ferriby GK Lewis Exall, but the visitors would strike again just before the break, when they were awarded a penalty and Worsfold doubled his and his side’s tally – hammering the spot-kick down the middle. 2-0, half-time.

Worsfold nets from the spot

Spending half-time munching away on a decent portion of chips, mushy peas and gravy, the second half soon began and it wasn’t long until Gainsborough killed off the game. Within a couple of minutes of the restart, Anthony Wilson found space just outside the area and curled a fantastic effort just inside the angle of the far corner woodwork. A fine strike. That goal ended Ferriby’s hopes of salvaging anything from the game in truth and their heads seemed to drop as Gainsborough took full control and pretty much peppered the home goal from then on in, only for a combination of wasteful finishing and good ‘keeping at times to keep the score down.

Match Action

Match Action

NFU ultras branch

Byrne and Longbottom continued to create problems and both saw shots fly over, before Shane Clark should’ve really done better when he capitalised on some indecisive defending to nip the ball away from the home defence, but saw his shot eventually saved, as did Longbottom, seeing another well hit free kick kept out by Exall. Wilson then scrambled the ball against the post after a quick break, before the game settled somewhat until the final throes saw sub Damian Reeves slot home number 4 and add gloss to the scoreline. Full-time, 0-4.

Post-match, I bid farewell to the ousted Matthew still positioned at his gate viewpoint (though I have since seen that it was actually someone else involved with the fanzine and not him, which just shows the disconnection from the top) and headed back to North Ferriby high-street and to the Duke of Cumberland, which was packed full and is clearly the centre of the community. Luckily, I managed to just beat the evening rush and so was able to secure a seat with a pint of San Miguel (£3.40)whilst trying to figure out with the trip to the Humber Bridge was truly worth it, over an easier (and earlier) trip home. I reckoned that, no, it wasn’t, and so after wasting the best part of the hour’s wait in the pub, I headed through the evening foggy haze that was beginning to fall over the village.

Duke of Cumberland

The Buccaneer in Brough

On the way to the station, I ended up being startled by one guy coming out of his driveway without any sound whatsoever. I began to ramble something, thinking he had seen my startled brief stop, but it soon became apparent he hadn’t and so I assume I seemed like a crazy drunk from out-of-town! That’s usually correct, so I wouldn’t blame anyone assuming this! Anyway, upon grabbing the hourly local stopper the one stop down the way to Brough, I had a good hour’s connection here too and so I was enforced to visit one of the local hostelries, the nearest to the station being the Buccaneer – seemingly an aircraft with a connection to the old airfield just across the tracks.

After milking the pint of Amstel whilst watching Wales overcome England in the Six Nations, it was finally time to head back to Manchester – a trip which was going well until my local connection was allowed to leave before a slightly delayed train for once and I ended up back on the bus home, a circuit I’m well versed in after the last six months or so! A good day had been had on the whole, and I sincerely hope that the problems at Ferriby are sorted through one way or another, as long as the club survives as it has been able to for years to this point. The village and surroundings are lovely (some of the houses wouldn’t look out-of-place in the Hollywood Hills) and the pubs I managed to visit were all decent too. Game was fine until the third killed it off, the ground nice to visit too and everyone about around the club I met seemed very welcoming too, which is always the way around these parts I find. On to another weekend we go and, hopefully, no banning this time….on or off the field!

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Workington

Result: Workington 0-3 Basford United (Northern Premier League Premier Division)

Venue: Borough Park (Saturday 16th February 2019, 3pm)

Att: 511

The strikes are over!!! Finally, Northern rail is (hopefully, when and if they turn up) back up and running on a Saturday and with that comes the possibility of getting to places that had been out of reasonable reach for quite some time. One such place just happened to be Workington and with Borough Park not long for this world, I figured what better time to make the trip to the Cumbrian Coast and the historic old home of “the Reds”.

Catching the twenty-past eight train into Warrington during the morning, having to bypass the ticket machine due to its seemingly ever-present technical issues, the usual walk through the town to Bank Quay was made prior to catching the connection up to Carlisle. Arriving a few minutes late was beneficial for once, shrinking my waiting time a little before the ride over the rural route to the coast. Arriving at a little before midday, the staple ‘getting lost’ part of the trip was overcome with little overall waywardness and upon coming to Wetherspoons, I figured I’d start off in their tried and tested environment. An old theatre/cinema building (not as impressive as others I’ve been in, though), it was a pleasant enough place to plan out the rest of the day’s itinerary over a Punk IPA, alongside a bit of people-watching/being a weird line drinker, depending on whose point of view you want to look at it from!

Arrived in Workington courtesy of a bit of its history

‘Spoons

Miner’s Arms

As a little drizzle began to fall from the sky, I headed over to a back-road that was the strangest place for a pub hotbed I’ve ever come across. 4 pubs are located in pretty much a straight line, with three all but neighbouring each other. After visiting the local-centric Miners Arms for a Kronenbourg, the next pub along by the name of the Grapes was quiet though welcoming and, more interestingly, had Singha on draught. Of course, with that being one of the lesser-spotted draught beers – outside of Indian restaurants – , I opted for a pint of that, with it coming in at a pocket pleasing £3.10

Finishing up, I headed the few doors down to the neighbours of the Blue Bell and the Old Red House, though neither were overly blue or red, which I suppose is to not put off any Worky or Carlisle fans from either establishment! Both were decent, the former having only racing on for their punters (Coors £3.20), but the latter had the early kick-off on to get me in the football mood. A pint of Amstel and its old Champions League connotations, also at £3.20, helped this feeling along too, before I walked over to Borough Park to secure a programme (I was kindly allowed inside to do so) before back-tracking for a final pre-match drink of Dark Fruits at the nearby Waverley Hotel.

Workington is a coastal town and civil parish on the mouth of the River Derwent and is on the West Coast of Cumbria. Historically in Cumberland in the Borough of Allerdale, it has history from the Roman era in defences and forts protecting from attacks by the Irish Scoti and Scottish Caledonii. A Viking sword was also found on the Northside of the River Derwent, suggesting a settlement may have been sited there during the era of their invading and later settling. The Roman fort (likely Magis), now known as Burrows Walls, was also on the North side of the river and further fortifications and watch towers suggest that the era was an extension of Hadrian’s Wall to protect from sea invasions. The town’s current name is derived from the old-English “Weorc” (likely a man’s name) and the suffixes “ingas” (people or sons of) and “tun” (settlement). The settlers were followers of Weorc and would have named themselves “Weorcingas” (Weorc’s People), though the town’s name has since been written in 105 different ways over a millennia. Later, it was beleieved monks connected to those at Lindisfarne had a community in the area and lost their gospels on trying to cross to Ireland, though returned safely themselves.

Workington

Remains of Workington Hall

The Curwens, Lords of the Manor of Workington, were heavily involved in the First War of Scottish Independence and their motto is said to derive from the arrival of their troops at the Battle of Falkirk – turning the battle in favour of the English King Edward. It was here William Wallace was defeated and it’s been claimed since that Sir Gilbert de Curwen left his arrival strategically late as to join the winning side, as he had allegiances in both armies. Upon Wallace’s execution, Robert the Bruce was duly crowned King of Scotland and would go on to contest the Second War, also against King Edward. After claiming his knighthood in battle in France – fighting on behalf of King Edward III’s cause to take the French throne, he would become a victim of the infamous Black Death in 1403, which also claimed his son who’d taken on his mantle. The family would also (allegedly) feature at the Battle of Agincourt, later fights against the Scots and the Wars of the Roses, supporting both sides where the crown went. Mary, Queen of Scots, spent her first night in England in Workington Hall after defeat at the Battle of Langside prior to being escorted to Carlisle Castle to begin her ill-fated imprisonment.

Later, politician John Curwen introduced acts to lift restrictions on the Catholic community in the country in the late 18th century and helped to forest the area around Windermere. He would also be a strong supporter of the abolition of slavery and introduced social security and mutual benefit schemes for his farm and colliery workers, of which coal would continue to be a long-term industry along with iron ore and steelworks throughout later years and centuries. Most of these would depart the area in recent times, with chemical, cardboard, the docks and recycling companies largely becoming local employers along with the nearby nuclear facility at Sellafield and those that go with it. The British Cattle Movement Service (a government agency which oversees the beef and dairy industry) is also based in Workington and the town also produced Leyland Buses and the much-maligned Pacer trains, the bus factory later taken on by Eddie Stobart. The Cumbrian Coast rail line gives connections to Lancaster/Preston and Carlisle and a temporary station was once hosted here (Workington North) which operated during the flood recovery times in 2009, connecting the main Workington station and Maryport.

The Grapes

Blue Bell and Red House

Waverley Hotel

After heading back to Borough Park once again, I paid my student discount (thank God that’s back for even further savings) of £7 and was into the sprawling expanses of the covered terrace. The old main stand which was closed and largely dismantled after the Bradford fire, though it remains in spirit with the bottom part still standing and housing the dressing rooms, clubhouse and other facilities. The opposite side is home to what had become the defacto main stand, a covered seating and standing affair, with the standing area at the rear separated by a wall bearing the W. A. F. C initials upon it. To the front is further terracing protruding from under the cover, with the far end (and intermittent parts) all being expanses of uncovered terracing. That’s Borough Park in a nutshell, and this is the story of Workington A.F.C….

History Lesson :

Workington A.F.C. was founded in 1921, though, in very early and different guises, the game of football dates back from at least the 18th century, with one of the earliest records of a match dating from 1775, which states the match is “long contested”, suggesting the game’s history goes back further than this. A local game of “Uppies and Downies” continues to be contested annually alongside Workington’s Borough Park home. Association football was brought to the town in the 1880’s and it’s thought a group of migrating steel workers from Dronfield (current home to Sheffield F.C. of course) further popularised the game and eventually founded the original Workington AFC in 1888.

The original side became a founding member of the Cumberland Association League shortly after their own founding, playing at Lonsdale Park, and remained in the League through to 1894 when they moved to the Cumberland Senior League, before a further switch of scenery saw the club move to the Lancashire League in 1901. However, the League would fold just two years later and thus Workington returned to the Cumberland Senior League for one season prior to their admission into the Lancashire Combination in 1904, remaining there until 1910 when switching leagues one last time to compete for a sole season in the North East League before folding. Post-war, the Workington AFC name was re-introduced, with the current club starting life where their predecessor ended its own. In 1933-’34, the club achieved their best FA Cup run, making the Fourth Round before bowing out to Preston North End. Workington won two North Eastern League Challenge Cups in 1935 &’ 37 too and lifted their first Cumberland Senior Cup in 1887, the first of five consecutive triumphs, winning the Cup on 24 occasions up to 2009.

Arriving at Borough Park

Moving to Borough Park just before the outbreak of the Second World War, and in 1951 the club were voted in to join the Football League’s Third Division North at the expense of Wirral-based New Brighton. However they would struggle in their initial couple of years, finishing the first two seasons in bottom and second-bottom place respectively. But fortunes changed when they appointed a man who would go down in management folklore – Bill Shankly. He would only remain at the club for just under two seasons before moving on to pastures new, but Workington had somewhat settled into Football League life by that point. In 1957-’58, Workington hosted the famed Busby babes of Manchester United, just a month before the Munich Air Disaster, a match which attracted a record 21,000 fans to Borough Park to watch the ill-fated young side.

Come the end of that same season, Workington would be placed in Division 4 of the reorganised Football League and in 1964, the Reds would finish up in 3rd place and achieve promotion to the nationalised Third Division. During that season, as well as the following campaign, Workington reached the quarter-finals of the League Cup – bowing out to West Ham United and Chelsea (after a replay) respectively, the ’64 run seeing them overcome Blackburn Rovers 5-1, though the following season would see an occurrence go from being remembered fondly to one tinged with sadness years later, as Workington’s Tony Geidmintis was given his Football League bow aged just 15 but would sadly pass away at the young age of just 43. This period also saw the club field Peter Foley, who’d go on to receive an OBE for his work in combating racism in football.

WAFC

1966 would see Workington reach their best-ever finish, 5th in the Third Division, before slipping down to bottom of the table the next year to return to the Fourth Division. They would never bounce back from this and would eventually become something of a staple at the wrong end of the table, ending up second-bottom in each of 1974 and 1975, prior to ending up bottom of the League in 1976. They would be re-elected on that occasion, but the following season saw the Reds record just four league wins all year in again finishing bottom, and this would be a contributing factor for the death knell of Workington as a Football League club, as they were replaced by Wimbledon. In being relegated, Workington became the penultimate side to be ousted from the League by this rule.

Now back in the non-league ranks, the club would end up dropping into the Northern Premier League, but would never finish higher than 7th before dropping into the NPL’s First Division in 1988, though did win the league’s President’s Cup in 1984. However, their struggles wouldn’t end there and after a decade in the Division 1 of the NPL they were relegated to the North West Counties League’s top-level. Their stay in the NWCFL Division 1 would be a short one though, and they would win the title at the first attempt, defeating Mossley in a title decider (with Grant Holt on the Reds’ scoresheet) and, in doing so, lifting their first ever championship – some feat for a former league team!

Back in the NPL’s Division 1, the club would remain there until 2004 when a 7th placed finish was comfortably enough to ensure a spot back in the Premier Division upon the pyramid’s restructuring. This enabled Workington’s progress to continue and, after finishing as Premier Division runners-up the next season, would achieve promotion to the Conference North through the first-ever NPL play-offs. The Conference North would become a long-term home for Workington over the next decade, with the club reaching the play-off semi-finals in 2007 (losing out to Hinckley United) and 2010 (losing to Alfreton Town) before eventually being relegated in 2014 and returning to the NPL Premier Division. After reaching the following three season’s play-offs – losing out on each occasion to Ilkeston Town, Salford City and Stourbridge (the latter two in the semi-finals) respectively – 2017-’18 looked to be heading a similar way only for injuries to tell and Workington to drop away from 2nd to mid-table. This season has seen the struggles return, with the club battling the drop to the Division 1 again.

Getting underway after a minute’s appreciation for the legendary Gordon Banks, there was another “blast from the past” between the Basford sticks by the name of Saul Deeney who helped Burton Albion (when still a non-league outfit) secure a replay with Manchester United way back when. The Northern Irishman was called into action early on in the piece too, denying both Workington front men, before Basford were awarded a spot-kick upon a fairly needless trip and it was another veteran of the same Burton side, Shaun Harrad, who stepped up to confidently find the net. 1-0 Basford.

Match Action

View from the ‘Main’ Stand

Match Action

Workington would have the majority of the play during the remainder of the half, though it was only sparingly that they truly troubled the visitors’ defence. Niall Cowperthwaite had an effort blocked and Conor Tinnion headed over, before the latter had a shot brilliantly tipped over the bar by Deeney. A late first-half bit of aggro livened things up as I exited from the old stand rooms with a tray of chips and curry but the scoreline would remain the same as the referee’s whistle signalled the break.

The second half saw Basford seek to be more proactive in their attacking approach, as they took advantage of the hosts’ own forays forward in search of a game-clinching second. After Workington’s Brad Carroll had seen a disappointingly tame shot easily saved, Basford front man Watson broke clear but with only the ‘keeper to beat, he chose to go for a chip, which proved a poor decision akin to that of the guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade….okay, maybe not that bad, but the ball drifted a fair way wide and the chance had gone.

Match Action

Match Action

From the covered terracing

The hosts responded with some great chances to level – the dangerous Cowperthwaite firing across goal but the ball narrowly avoided the far side-netting, before fellow wide man Tinnion unleashed a great drive from 20 yards which Deeney again met with a brilliant stop. Tinnion would then also see a header loop up and off the top of the crossbar, but you felt these missed chances would come back to haunt the Reds, and so it proved when, with around twenty minutes left, Basford grabbed the all important second goal of the game when James Reid’s delivery was met by the unmarked substitute Zak Goodwin who duly nodded in. If that wasn’t game over, then it definitely was a couple of minutes later, as a free-kick was only half-cleared to Jack Thomas and he judged a chipped effort to perfection from a fair way out, the ball dipping in at just the right moment. 3-0 and game over.

Late on…

A pair of late chances for both sides could have seen the score-line added too, Goodwin showed good footwork to work a chance for himself to double his tally, only to wastefully send his shot wide and Cowperthwaite was denied by Deeney in the last real action of the game but that was that and Workington’s recent resurgence was over. Basford’s quest for another promotion to continue their impressive rise up the pyramid continues on. Post-match saw me unable to find the pub out near the waterside the other side of the station and, as such, I thought I’d set off home a little earlier and pay a visit to Carlisle station’s 301 miles bar. On the way there, though, I was asked for travel guidance to get to Kendal by a girl from California (culture shock or what?!) and my attempts at initially explaining my reasons for being in Workington for football again ended up with it being taken that I was playing there. I didn’t lie, I just didn’t ruin the experience!

Eventually guiding her to the correct place (my unfamiliarity with Carlisle likely giving the unintentional ruse away), the visit to 301 miles was undertaken, a pint of Amstel (£4) had before it was back on the train to Manchester, which slightly broke down near Wigan. Lovely. Luckily, whatever the issue was, it was quickly rectified and the rest of the journey passed without issue and that was that. Good to get Borough Park done and it was a good experience too, the history really resonates around the ground. Workington as a town was OK, with food and programme beivg decent enough. Onto another culture job next week as I ferry myself Northwards…

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 9

Programme: 6

Food: 7

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Pontefract

Result: Pontefract Collieries 4-2 Belper Town (Northern Premier League Division 1 East)

Venue: Beechnut Lane (Saturday 12th January 2019, 3pm)

Att: 232

Another weekend with no plans set out came about and I arrived into Manchester still looking at where my fate may lie. Heading into Piccadilly station at around 11am, I popped up to the Hourglass bar for a pint of Shindigger Pale – which gave me a shock at £5.85 – before the twitterverse’s decision was given. Well, sort of. Despite putting it to a vote, the poll would come back level-pegging but a bit of positive feedback from fellow ‘hopper the Wycombe Wanderer, Russ, saw me off to the old Yorkshire mining town of Pontefract and Collieries’ NPL East game with Belper Town. Both the ground and town looked pretty interesting, so I was rather looking forward to my visit as I caught the Hull-bound train to Leeds where I’d catch the connection over to Ponte.

Actually managing to find a Northern service running on a Saturday (shock, horror, I know) the short half-hour hop to Pontefract was completed with little issue and I was soon paying a brief visit to the town’s castle, though it was under a fair bit of reconstruction work meaning it didn’t look quite as classic as it usually would, I supposed. Anyway, with the castle not at its full glory, I continued back down towards the town centre and first came across the appropriately named Golden Ball. However, upon entering, it appeared that the golden ball in question was more egg-shaped than round. A Strongbow in here sufficed for a quick one before I continued up the high-street and through the pedestrianised centre, bypassing a few hostelries I made a note of whilst heading right to the other side of the town and to Russ’ recommendation – the Robin Hood.

What’s left of the infamous Pontefract Castle

Golden Ball

Pontefract

It certainly was a good pointer too as it was probably the most craft/real ale centric pub I visited during the day, opting for a pint of London Fields Brewery’s Pale Ale (£4.45) whilst watching some of the early kick-off before returning back towards the centre and, more importantly, the ground. Incidentally and more than helpfully, the next few pubs were right up next to each other, though I had the time to visit just the two pre-match at that point, and even then it would have to be a quick in and out task, though time was aided by the fact two were actually next door. Nice. First up came the Ponty Tavern where I opted for a pint of Dark Fruits before popping next door to the Green Dragon for a Desperados prior to cutting through the nearby car-park and over the road towards the lights illuminating the surrounding, overcast area.

Pontefract is a historic market town in the West Riding of Yorkshire and is one of five towns within the metropolitan borough of Wakefield. The area has been inhabited since Neolithic times and the modern town is located upon an old Roman road from Doncaster known as the “Roman Ridge”, likely used as an alternative route to the main road over the Humber to York in times of bad weather. Around the time of the finely named Viking king Eric Bloodaxe in 954 AD through to the arrival of the Normans, Pontefract was made up of two townships known as Tanshelf and Kirkby. Known as Tateshalle (or something alike) within the Domesday Book, Tanshelf is first mentioned in 947 AD when King Eadred of England met with the ruling council of Northumbria to accept its submission to him. This wouldn’t last long, and the aforementioned Danish king Bloodaxe would soon become King of York. Kirkby, meanwhile derives from the latter’s language being given the tell-tale suffix “-by”.

Pontefract market place

After the Norman Conquest, the area fell under the control of William the Conqueror and Tateshale (another name Tanshelf was called) was given to an ally by the name of Ilbert de Lacy who constructed a castle there. The wooden motte and bailey castle dated from 1086 before being rebuilt in stone, the family remaining in situ until 1348 and the death of Alice de Lacy. It is also infamous in English history as the site of King Richard II’s murder (or starvation), though the exact reason for his demise is unknown. Pontefract is also the apparent site of the legendary Robin Hood’s death, it being stated he died in Kirkby. The town was also mentioned in both of Shakespeare’s plays – ‘Richard II’ & ‘Richard III’ under the name ‘Pomfret’ as it was known in Tudor times.

During the English Civil War, the castle was put under siege by the Parliamentarian forces of Oliver Cromwell who called it “….one of the strongest inland garrisons in the kingdom”. An eventual three sieges were suffered by the Royalist-supporting town, leaving it impoverished and depopulated, with the remaining residents calling for it to be knocked down, in fear of a fourth. The remaining ruins show what the outcome of that, as the castle was deconstructed from 1649. The All Saints church was also damaged during the conflict, with a new one built within the ruins of the old, whilst the priory had already fell during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.

Looking across from the castle

Nowadays, the town continues to host a market as it has done since the middle ages, and is known in jest by locals as “Ponte Carlo” (I’d like to see that track). The former General Infirmary is also infamous as it was the place Harold Shipman began his murder spree, whilst beneath this building is an old hermitage. Its barracks currently house a recruitment regiment of the Rifles, whilst the town hosts three railway stations (Tanshelf, Baghill and Monkhill), which would have been handy when the town (allegedly) held the record for most pubs per square mile in the country.

Passing underneath the neighbouring railway line via a small tunnel, you head round past a couple of warehouses and down a dirt track before arriving at the turnstiles. Handing over my £8 entry, I initially thought the programmes were sold out, before being helped out by one of the guys on raffle duties who pointed me back in the direction of the gate. £2 lighter, I made my way into the main stand ahead of kick-off, which was just moments away at this time, the seats within are some of those that previously resided in Maine Road back-in-t’day.

Robin Hood

Final stops: Ponte Tavern & Green Dragon

Arriving at Beechnut Lane

Elsewhere, Beechnut Lane is a great little ground. Its quirky, ramshackle nature is highly appealing to those who like places with character to them, the Main Stand retaining the style that seems fairly commonplace in and around the Ridings and has a mix of seats and a small area of benched seating towards the middle. Behind the near-end goal is a covered terrace that runs most of the width of the pitch, whilst both the far side and end are open, hard standing, though the far side does host a small grass mound with a stream right behind and the railway embankment above it, featuring a number of passing choo-choos for those into grounds featuring the two! The hospitality area is between the terrace and entrance, tucked back from the pitch and is adjoined to the food bar. The dressing rooms and bar, meanwhile, are located within the stand. That’s the ground in a nutshell (get it….ok) and this is the story of Ponte Colls….

History Lesson:

Pontefract Collieries Football Club was founded in 1958, though the town is known to have been home to a football club since at least the 1890’s, when a side comprised mostly of soldiers from the garrison stationed in Pontefract played in the West Yorkshire League as the imaginatively named Pontefract Garrison. Unfortunately, there is a dark period with regards to information from this point through to the current club, though it is known the Garrison side reached the higher Yorkshire League by the end of the 1920’s but would not being able to finish the 1929-’30 season. However, 1935 would see the Pontefract name return to football as Tanshelf Gems became Pontefract United after moving to a ground on Ackwith Grove. They would dominate the local scene pre-WWII, but were joined post-war by a side under the name of Pontefract Collieries. This Colls side would go on to have slightly the better of the fortunes on the pitch, with both being competitors in the West Yorkshire League. However, 1960 would see the Colls team fold with the name being rekindled not too long after as United merged with a local youth team and adopted the name for themselves.

The new club quickly asserted itself, returning to the West Yorkshire League and gaining a fair amount of success before again joining the Yorkshire League in 1979 and winning its Division 3 in 1982. This would prove to be the last season of the old Yorkshire League in this guise as it would then merge with the Midland League to form the Northern Counties East League. Colls became a founder member and would remain in the league for the next 36 years. They started life there well, two successive promotions in both the first two seasons saw the club finish as Division 2 runners-up and Division 1 champions whilst making the top-flight and remaining there for the next decade whilst continuing to improve their Beechnut Lane home.

In the clubhouse

The club would add cup success to their honours list, winning two NCEL Floodlit Cups whilst also making losing appearances in two West Riding County Cup finals and in the 1994 NCEL President’s Cup. However a change of manager saw a turn for the worse with the club relegated in 1995, yet this would only be brief, with a further change in the hot seat seeing Colls return to form and a runners-up finish saw them make an immediate return to the NCEL Premier, whilst also lifting the “Wilkinson Sword” Trophy to secure a 1995-’96 double. Unfortunately they would miss out in the NCEL League Cup final the next season before again suffering the drop to Division 1 in 1999, just missing out on survival on goal difference alone.

Things would stagnate for a while before again taking a turn for the worse after the millennium. Losing out in their second Wilkinson Sword Trophy final appearance in 2000 to Goole on aggregate, they would go on to finish bottom of the NCEL Division 1 two years later. Things would recover though and Colls would again make the Wilkinson Sword Trophy final in 2003, finishing as runners-up and made a good recovery in the league in finishing 4th. However, the recovery was brief and Colls would be forced to seek re-election in 2004 whilst also being affected off the field by fires in the main stand and tea bar, whilst the loss of the nearby Prince of Wales Colliery also hit the club hard as they also lost electricity supply to their home. On the pitch, meanwhile, things looked bleak as the club were saved from dropping out of the “pyramid” system on more than one occasion thanks to league restructuring and happenings higher up the divisions. Things reached their trough in 2007-’08 as, despite winning their first game, Colls would go the rest of the season without a victory, finishing up with just nine points. Again, restructuring would come to their rescue, saving their place in the NCEL.

Teams & teas

Under Simon Houghton, things drastically improved over the following two campaigns as early runs at the top of table were enjoyed before eventually falling away. Houghton would depart and former Leeds United skipper Brendon Ormsby was installed as his replacement, though things didn’t go to plan and he would be replaced by joint player-managers Nick Handley and Duncan Bray, who suffered just the one defeat in the last ten games in securing a third straight 5th place finish in 2013. A ninth-place finish in 2014 preceded a successful year as they finished as Division 1 runners-up to return to the NCEL Premier Division for the first time in 16 years.

The club’s return to the NCEL’s top-tier wouldn’t be a successful one and a bad run saw a new management team of Craig Parry, alongside assistants Craig Rouse and Nigel Danby brought in, but they couldn’t save the club from an immediate return to Division 1, finishing up third-bottom. But, they would again bounce back at the first attempt – again finishing as Division 1 runners-up to return to the Premier Division. This time, the club went on to go straight on through the division, taking the title after reeling in AFC Mansfield’s 21-point lead in making up their games in hand on the Bulls, after bowing out in the last 32 of the FA Vase to ensure full focus was on their league campaign. Ponte passed 100 points in taking the Premier Division title and, as such, are playing Northern Premier League football for the first time in the club’s history this season.

The game got underway and the first real chance of the game produced the first goal. Within the first ten minutes, the strong starting Belper outfit were awarded a pretty clear-cut penalty for a push, with skipper Craig Nelthorpe taking responsibility from the spot and making no mistake with a confident finish. I would leave the relative comfort of the stand at this point, proclaiming to the Belper tracksuit-clad guy next to me that I “was off”, making him think I was there for just the solitary goal and that was enough!

Belper open the scoring

Match Action

Belper continued to be on the front foot and were well and truly dominating the early phases of the contest and would see further chances for Danny Gordon and Nathan Curtis go off-target as the Nailers looked to push home their apparent advantage. By the time I’d completed my lap and gotten back around to the food bar – ordering some cheesy chips as the half drew to its conclusion – the game had settled down a little and become more competitive, though there wasn’t a whole lot in the way of action as a result bar a scramble in the Belper box that saw Leigh Overton keep out the initial free-kick, the loose ball eventually being cleared by the visiting defence.

Match Action

From the terrace

But then, on the stroke of the break, Belper would double their advantage as Pitou Crouz sprung clear and advanced upon the Pontefract goal, where he fired across the home ‘keeper and into the far corner to secure a two-goal advantage heading into the dressing rooms, although I had missed most of the action for this strike whilst queuing, my view obscured by the stand. Ah well, what can you do? It was little more than Belper’s first-half showing had deserved and I returned back to the clubhouse for a bit of a warm.

The second-half was soon underway and if you wanted a proverbial “game of two halves”, then this was the one for you. It couldn’t have been any different from the first from both sides’ perspectives as, after a fairly inconspicuous start, Ponte would come on strong. Overton would deny a header early on in the half in something of a precursor of what was to come, before the hosts did pull one back on the hour, a cross eventually finding its way to the feet of Chris Jackson, who knocked home from close-range.

Match Action

Ponte about to go ahead

With renewed vigour and belief, Ponte came at Belper straight from the resultant kick-off and found themselves level just seconds later when Michael Dunn was found on the left flank and he cut inside prior to firing above Overton and into the roof of the net, sparking some scenes. The blue-touch paper had now been lit and Belper almost hit-back themselves, Louis Danquah striking the upright soon afterwards, but this would only prove to be a false dawn for Belper’s hopes of recovering their position and the hosts’ comeback was completed with around twenty-five minutes to play, when a corner from the right was met by the head of Spencer Clarke – the ball nestling into the net to spark jubilation in the Colls ranks.

From the Main Stand

Hey completes the win.

As the clock began to wind down to the game’s end, the Nailers began to throw caution to the wind somewhat and commit more bodies to their attacks it seemed. Nathan Curtis again went close, as did right-back Isaac Assenso, but it was to be in vain and things would end on even more of a sour note for the visitors from Derbyshire, as Curtis was given his marching orders for a second yellow for a rash challenge and Pontefract would add a fourth late in stoppage time as Eli Hey was felled in the area and, in some ways summing the game up, he would convert Colls’ own pen to complete the scoring. Full-time, 4-2 and a quick exit was made through the ever more cold evening air.

Post-match it was back from whence I came, with me giving a lad on a bike a cheap laugh by splashing through an unseen puddle in the increasing darkness. Unscathed by mud somehow upon inspection, I carried on undeterred and to the Windmill Inn back in the town centre. A bonus of this place was that it was that it was a Sam Smith’s pub and, if you follow my blogs regularly, you know what that means. Cheap pint alert!!!! A Taddy Lager (£2.30) was most welcome as I warmed up in the cosy, traditional bar area prior to continuing to head more towards the station for the last train back to Leeds…..at half five. Jesus Christ.

Windmill

Liquorice Bush

Next on the tick-list was a choice of two – either the Beastfair (from the square it stands on) or the interestingly named Liquorice Bush (later I found it’s due to the fact the town is one of a rare few in Britain that can grow liquorice in its soil) – deciding the Malt Shovels was a little too far to bother with. I chose the latter on account it was open when I passed earlier in the day and with time conspiring against me ever quicker it seemed, I chose to stick on the weaker stuff. A Dark Fruits in here (£3) was followed by another in the Horse Vaults (£3) just past the Town Hall before a quick stop in Pontefract’s Wetherspoon’s, the Broken Bridge – coming from the town’s derived name – where a bottle of Hooch sufficed for the five minutes I had before returning to the station for the train, nodding off somewhere along the way back and being awoken at Leeds. Cheers to the guy who saved me a possible trip to a depot!

Horse Vaults

‘Spoons to round off with

The remainder of the journey back to Manchester and onwards home was completed without issue to end off the day which, again, had been good fun despite having been up in the air approaching midday. Pontefract as a town far exceeded my expectations on arrival, whilst the ground was one of those that appeals to me for sure, in many an aspect. The game was brilliant too, the food decent and the programme a good read. Complaints? Nada. Just the fact I was hamstrung for time could be a small gripe, but that’s not really anything I’m too concerned about. Anyway, onto another week and its off to Staffordshire once again to get one of the more tricky North West Counties grounds out the way. ‘Shall we….?!

RATINGS:

Game: 10

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Droylsden (2)

 

Result: Droylsden 1-1 Tadcaster Albion (FA Trophy Preliminary Round)

Venue: Butcher’s Arms (Saturday 13th October 2018, 3pm)

Att: 167

Non-League Day rolled around once again and with the seemingly never-ending train strikes continuing on unabated, another local revisit was on the cards for this week; the only question being “Where?”. Well, my regular accomplice on these pages, Dan, had already told me of his want to get to the Butcher’s Arms, home of Droylsden FC, the only “major” local ground he’d never made it to by this point. As such, the decision was a fairly simple one, made all the more attractive by the game in question being a tie in the FA Trophy. The visitors would be Tadcaster Albion, whom I’m sure had visions of less of a bloodbath at the Butcher’s than what happened just down the road from them at the Battle of Towton.

Setting off at just after half-ten, the easy bus journey into Manchester saw me able to grab an earlier than planned service into Droylsden. My original starting point was still shut up at this point, so I instead diverted back to the brilliantly named Lazy Toad, just on the edge of the town centre. It was here on New Year’s Day, that I had received the bad news of the late postponement of the Bloods’ game that day and I even repeated the trick almost as a whole, sitting in the same seat at the same table, though did mix things up beer-wise by opting for a pint of the Pravha, which came in at the quite astonishing price of £2.70. Considering I’ve seen how much it can cost whilst on my travels, this was a fine start! A nice welcome was had too as I got to the bar, which never goes unnoticed. Wasting away the extra-time I now had in here on account of my earlier than planned arrival, I planned out my itinerary for the day, which would see a slow and steady crawl along Market Street’s few offerings and up to the ground. Next up, the Silly Country. Some great pub names around here! (NB: This is apparently derived from a nickname given to the town by the Mancunians, relating to a legend that grew about the people of Droylsden putting a pig on a wall to watch the annual carnival and other festivities).

Arriving in Droylsden

Lazy Toad

Droylsden Square

Droylsden is a former mill town located between Manchester City Centre and Ashton-under-Lyne, just within the borough of Tameside. Originally settled in 900 AD, it would later grow in the mid-19th century to become a mill town, where the world’s first machine woven towel would be produced at Fairfield Mill under the name of W.M. Christy and Sons, with Queen Victoria being a regular user of their business and their newly created product, derived from the looped Turkish versions. Sadly, as with many places, the site is now a Tesco. Droylsden would latterly grow into an overflow housing area for the workers in and around Manchester around the 1930’s and was also the apparent host of Britain’s first ever Speedway meet in 1927, the sport then being termed simply as “dirt track racing”. More recently, during the mid-to-later-2000’s, the town became home a Marina just off the canal, which appears to be well used, though the predicted building and facilities don’t seem to have fully come to fruition.

The Silly Country is a recently opened ale/craft/bottle shop kind of place, and I arrived just prior to the place emptying out on account of the place having a tour of a brewery on the go. Regardless, I opted to be sensible(!) for now and went for a pint of the Brazilian lager beer, Cruzcampo which, at £4.40, would be by far my dearest choice of the day. Not that I minded whatsoever, as the Silly Country is definitely a nice place to enjoy a pint in if you’re into the above side of things. Anyway, after watching the world go by from its prime position at the corner of the town’s clock square and seeing a kid lose his hat on two very swift occasions by the hand of the apparent “Storm Callum”, I finished up and continued up the way, the Beehive Inn being just a few doors down. The Beehive is definitely my sort of place. A seemingly older pub than those around it, its interior is very timber-orientated and is nicely decorated with varied paraphernalia too – a real traditional kind of place. Split into two parts, it was still fairly quiet upon my arrival and I took up a spot in the corner whilst overhearing (unintentionally I can assure you) stories of drunken exploits from the night before, which were more than entertaining….especially when you can relate!

Trying to take up as much time as possible (the time hadn’t quite reached half-one by the time I was half-way through my pint) over the Boddington’s in front of me, I fell into the trap of clock-watching, a decision which never helps when you’re wishing the time away as I’m sure you are all well aware. Eventually, though, the clock did tick on round to ten-to-two and so I supped the final dregs and again headed on a few doors away, across the road from the large retail park and to the King’s Arms, complete with a large image of local hero Guardsman Tony Downes, the soldier from the town who was sadly killed in action whilst serving in Iraq. He also has an office building named after him too, which is a further nice touch of remembrance. I guess from the statement on said poster that he had links to the pub at the very least. Passing Tony with a nod, I headed in and was soon in possession of a pint of the fine Bootleg Brewery’s IPA at the ever interesting Holt’s price of £3.03. Dan arrived shortly afterwards to join me in taking up the remaining time leading up to kick-off, opting for a pint of Diamond Lager whilst bemoaning a lack of Carling – I don’t know what else I can do to solve this issue….

The Silly Country

The Beehive

King’s Arms

Eventually, it was finally time to head to the Butcher’s Arms and, after taking a pic of the ground’s perimeter from where the pub of the same name once stood up to its demolition almost a decade ago now (God, I feel old writing that) we headed for the turnstiles, paying our £8 entry, plus a further £2 for a programme, which I’d missed out on my other blog visit a few years back, when the Bloods took on the recently “Class of 92’d” Salford City in abhorrent weather conditions. A quick peruse of the teamsheet, which is helpfully on display as you enter, showed the likes of ex-Football League and Premier League academy players Liam Dickinson (ex-Leeds & Derby), Febian Brandy (ex-Manchester United & Wolves) and Javan Vidal (ex-Manchester City) lining up for the Bloods. Sadly, there’s no Jonathan Greening these days to compliment them from Taddy’s side. After heading around to pitchside, a twenty-minute wait faced up prior to kick-off, which allowed a look around the ground. The far end is open, hard standing, whilst the opposite end is host to a sizable, covered terrace. A small, older terrace is located on the far side, and has recently had a smarten up out front, with a big red sign proclaiming “Droylsden Football Club” across the field. The large “William Pace” all-seater Main Stand is right in front of you as you enter and offers decent views over the action, whilst a small amount of terracing is located out front. The clubhouse is right alongside to the left as you enter, with the usual food bar there too, though this was out of action today and replaced by a trailer. That’s the Butcher’s Arms in a quick summary, and this is the story of the Bloods….

History Lesson:

Droylsden Football Club was founded in 1892 at the invitation of the landlord of the Butcher’s Arms pub and thus played behind said establishment. After spending their first two decades going in and out of existence whilst playing in local league’s and playing friendly fixtures – including winning the Ashton & District League in 1914. Post-war, the club would emerge as the village’s sole surviving team and became members of the Manchester League, whilst also adopting their now familiar red and white strip. They won the 1923 Manchester Junior Cup, gaining revenge on local rivals Hyde United who beat the Bloods in the 1921 final, whilst the 1930’s saw club legend Ernest Gilibrand net an astonishing 275 goals over four seasons, helping Droylsden to the Manchester League title in both 1931 & 1933.

1936 saw Droylsden successfully apply to join the Lancashire Combination and the club became a “nursery” side for Manchester City’s surplus players, though this link ruled the club out of the FA Cup. They would remain in the Combination through to the outbreak of WWII, with the Bloods joining the wartime Cheshire League and finished runners-up in 1945-’46. However, things went downhill quickly and the club failed in their re-election bid just four years later and also lost the lease of the Butcher’s Arms to Belle Vue F.C. who then renamed themselves as Droylsden United. Common sense would prevail from prior experience, and the two clubs merged in 1952, after the Bloods played a short time at the Moorside Trotting Stadium, affectionately known as “Pork Park”.

The Butcher’s Arms, via the site of the pub

In 1952, the Bloods returned to the newly rotated ground at the Butcher’s and began to see silverware on a far more regular basis than before. During their stay in the Lancashire Combination through to 1968, they won four Manchester Premier Cups (1947,’52,’ 60,’65) prior to returning to the Cheshire League, after they’d lost sides due to the formation of the Northern Premier League. The club didn’t see too much in the way of success in the league, though would add a further Manchester Premier Cup (1970) & three Manchester Senior Cups to their honours board, these coming in 1973, ’76 &’ 79. They also managed to reach the FA Cup “proper” on two occasions, losing to Grimsby Town firstly in 1976, before defeating Rochdale in 1978 prior to bowing out to Altrincham.

After another Premier Cup win in 1981, fortunes would again take a turn for the worse in 1982, when Droylsden finished a distant bottom of the Cheshire League, though remained at the level after the merger with the Lancashire Combination to form the North West Counties League, with Droylsden placed in Division Two of three. They would win the Second Division in 1987, though would bypass Division One after successfully applying for the newly created NPL Division One, gaining an effective double promotion in the process. 1990 saw Droylsden finish as runners-up and achieve promotion to the NPL Premier Division. They would spend six seasons in the loser echelons of the division, winning another Manchester Premier Cup in 1993, prior to being relegated in 1996 and being on the wrong side of the fastest FA Cup hat-trick in history, when conceding three in 2 minutes 28 seconds against Nantwich Town.

DFC

After lifting the NPL’s Division One title and President’s Cup in 1999, an eighth Premier Cup in 2000 would follow. This time they were more competitive in the Premier Division and finished high enough in 2004 to receive an invite to take up a spot in the newly formed Conference North. They would also win that year’s NPL League Challenge Cup and the Manchester Premier Cup for a ninth time. Finishing the inaugural season in third, they narrowly missed out in the following season’s play-offs – losing in the final to Stafford Rangers on penalties. 2007 saw the Bloods notch their tenth Manchester Premier Cup with victory over the sadly departed Flixton, before defeating Harrogate Town three days later to win the Conference North and achieve promotion to the Conference National. However, they would be relegated after just the one season. The 2008-’09 season saw the Bloods reach the FA Cup Second Round after beating Darlington in the First Round. However, it would become somewhat farcical come the Second Round as it took three matches to overcome Chesterfield, after fog, floodlight failure and an eventual 2-1 win, with Sean Newton netting both Bloods goals. However, it was then discovered he was ineligible and Droylsden were duly expelled from the competition. Crazy.

They would share the Tony Downes Memorial Trophy with Chester City in 2008, and added two more Manchester Premier Cup titles in 2009 and 2010, and again reached the FA Cup Second Round in 2011, when they took Leyton Orient to a replay at Brisbane Road and led two-nil, only for Orient to storm back and avoid the upset, winning 8-2 after extra-time. After missing out in the play-offs to Fleetwood Town in 2010, things soon dipped for Droylsden and they were relegated back to the Northern Premier League in 2013 after finishing second-bottom, prior to suffering something of an annus horriblis the following year as they finished a distant bottom with just nine points and were duly relegated to the NPL Division 1 North, where they have spent the last four seasons, finishing up 13th on both of the last two occasions.

The game got underway and, unfortunately, it was very much a slow-burner. True action was at a real premium in the first half-hour, with only Taddy’s Casey Stewart looking a constant threat, though Febian Brandy would occasionally show glimpses of his talent here and there throughout those first thirty minutes too. Stewart had an iffy penalty shout waved away by the referee mid-way through this period, whilst Brandy saw his attempted cross become more of a threat to Taddy ‘keeper Michael Ingham’s goal than intended, the stopper having to tip the ball over the bar, whilst Domaine Rouse wastefully placed a free-header wide of the mark from the resultant corner.

Match Action

From the back of the terrace

The old & the new covered terraces

Brandy would again pose a threat on the right flank, forcing his way into the area before firing a low cross-cum-shot across the face of goal, the ball evading both a Droylsden foot and the far side-netting on its way wide, before Taddy again saw a stronger penalty shout turned down as Stewart was played in before being clipped from behind, though his attempts to stay up probably went against him. Eventually losing his footing and going down in the area, his pleas fell on deaf ears. However, the visitors really should have been one, if not two, up at the break, as they spurned two glorious chances in the lead up. First, Lamin Colley was played in by a nice through ball, but his shot from the angle was tipped onto the post by Bloods ‘keeper Chris Thompson, before Aiden Savory would put it on a plate (sorry!) for Stewart to run onto around thirty yards out. Beating the offside trap, he advanced to the edge of the box and, with only Thompson between him and the net, he curled the ball against the outside of the post. Goalless at half time, it was off to the food trailer for some cheesy chips (£1.50). Lovely.

The second half began with Tadcaster again being the more dangerous side overall. Billy Whitehouse saw his own low ball just evade Savory at the back-post, before they deservedly took the lead when Colley advanced into the area and saw his effort well kept out by Thompson, only for the ball to land at creator-in-chief Savory’s feet once again and this time his ball to Stewart resulted in the striker placing the ball into the rather unguarded net from six-yards. Droylsden responded by replacing the largely ineffective Dickinson with another ex-Manchester United youth player, Phil Marsh, whilst also replacing skipper Brewster and, latterly Brandy with his replacement being Brandon Zibaka, a player whom, on our arrival, I’d stated to Dan I’ve always rated….

Match Action

Match Action

Zibaka was introduced in the 81st minute and, just four minutes later, he’d drew his side level. A cross in from the left by Rouse found the tall target man Sefton Gonzales in the box and he manoeuvred himself well to chest the ball into the path of the newly arrived Zibaka who drilled his effort beyond Ingham and into the net. At that point, all the momentum looked to be with Droylsden and they appeared to be pressing on to get the win but there was little truly created towards the end of the game and the sides would have to do it all over again on Tuesday night in Yorkshire. As it was, Droylsden would go on to triumph 2-0 in the replay, taking them into the First Round where they will travel to another White Rose County side, Pickering Town.

Post-match, there was time to pop in to the Church Inn right next to the bus stop we’d need, which was quite the amusing experience. Again, made to feel welcome, it was good to spend the final twenty minutes or so of our day in here, though it did end up being third-time lucky on beer option, after my first two choices were off. Eventually settling on Heineken (£2.10), Dan was in his element, having seen Carling. I’ll never understand how he manages to get that excited. Anyway, we eventually finished up and headed out just as the bus was rolling into the bus stop a little early, meaning we could jump straight on and be on our way. 20 minutes later we were back in Piccadiily and another quick connection was made to take us homeward.

Church Hotel

So ends the day and it had been good to finally do Droylsden properly, especially when considering the forecast weather looked to be similar to my first blog visit! Game was decent enough and I always enjoy a visit to the Butcher’s Arms. Pubs and food were all good and the travel was no issue whatsoever. Onto next week and MY GOD, I CAN USE A TRAIN! WHAT IS A TRAIN?! I’VE NO IDEA!!!! The FA Cup is back on and it’s a return to a club who have a pretty new home on the Farm….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7