Result: Steeton 3-2 Littletown (West Riding County AFL Premier Division Cup)
Venue: Doris Wells Memorial Field, Summerhill Lane (Saturday 7th April 2018, 1.45pm)
Att: 45~ (approx.)
The first weekend of April saw me in a dilemma of which, possibly, soon-to-be-unused ground to visit. Three options were up for consideration, these being Hollinwood’s Chapel Lane 3G in Oldham, Steeton’s Summerhill Lane, or the brilliantly named Route One Rovers’ ground in Esholt, otherwise known as Emmerdale in some quarters. With it being the more tricky to get to, I decided on the latter. With Steeton’s home as a back-up, I just needed the weather to be kind….
Oh, what a surprise, it’s raining again. Yes, another grey, wet day dawned over the North (and the majority of the country I think too) and with the above games being earlier kick-offs than normal, my hands were tied in terms of making a decision on whether to head across the border and into the White Rose county. I reckoned that, with two goes at a game, I might just get lucky and so opted to get a ticket into Bradford initially and go from there. This proved to be a shrewd choice!
After heading through the soggy Pennine hills, I arrived into Bradford at just before midday and headed over towards the city’s Forster Square station, where I would catch either the train over to Baildon station and Route One, or to Steeton & Silsden for, well, Steeton. On my arrival, I only had a short time to make a choice and with the former still showing as all set on my last check, I opted to head there. But after buying the ticket, something made me check again a final time just to be sure, and lo and behold, the game was off. Great.
A swift edit of my ticket was arranged and I was instead boarding the Skipton-bound rattler for the short trip up to Steeton. With Silsden also scheduled to have a home game on that day as well, I was comfortable in the knowledge that I’d have to be pretty unlucky to end up with a wasted journey. As it was, I arrived into a drizzly Steeton at just after 12.30pm and took out my camera to begin proceedings….only to find I’d forgotten to put the memory card back in from the previous blog. Ah well, my phone would have to do the job for today, which would be fine, as long as there was no more rain on the horizon. My phone doesn’t do rain you see, preferring to somewhat give up if more than two spots land upon its screen. It’s not the best, but it does the job well enough.
Anyway, my research on route showed little action in the way of pubs within the village and so my first refuge came in the form of the Steeton Hall Hotel whose sign, much to my relief, proclaimed that its bar was open to non-residents too. Another plus was that it was showing the Merseyside derby too and so a pint of Moretti was gotten in to keep me entertained alongside the game. The hotel bar was decent too and the pint charged at around the £4 mark wasn’t as much as other places similar can put on it, so no complaints here from me.
Soon enough, though, I decided to head up into the village itself and see what I could come across. With nothing showing up on the map, it looked a fruitless endeavour, though there was one a fair walk away that I decided to risk walking to. However, upon arriving into the village centre within a heavy shower, I came across the form of the Goats Head, a pub which proudly presented itself as the “Home of Steeton AFC”. Now, it’d definitely not be correct to refuse to visit it on that basis, so I decided to leave that one to after the game. Plans soon changed though, as this other pub seemed to be at the end of a never-ending road and so I turned back on myself and headed for a swift one in the Goat before continuing on back to the ground, which I’d popped into on the way up to get a programme sorted. A tidy little effort it is too and, at this level, it is definitely a bonus at just £1.
Once in the goat, a Kozel did me fine until I had to depart for the ground, with kick-off now imminent. A couple of minutes later, I was back at the Doris Wells Memorial Field where the referee had the whistle betwixt his lips and was just getting the game underway. I later found out I’d missed out on a minute’s silence for Ray Wilkins pre-match, though I think I got my own in during the game to make up for it. Being a United fan, his passing was, of course, saddening, as it was to everyone involved in the footballing community, as shown by the fact that silences were being held up in the West Riding League. R.I.P Ray.
Steeton’s home seems to have been a public field in the past, with the odd dog-walking warning still assigned to the pitch-barrier, though there is a gate guarding the car park for “insurance reasons and to keep travellers out”! The pitch itself houses little in the way of what seems to be termed in ‘hopping circles, I’ve recently discovered, ‘football furniture’, with just a pair of dugouts – one on each side – featuring there, though there is a smart building in the car park behind the entrance-end goal which houses a tea/food bar, the changing rooms and other amenities. The ground is somewhat enclosed otherwise by houses and an allotment on one side and a small wall on the other, with the other end seeing the cricket field separated from the pitch by a hedge. That’s the Doris Wells Memorial Field and this is Steeton A.F.C.’s story….
Steeton AFC was formed in the 1890’s (apparently, despite the 1905 stated on their badge, interestingly enough) and initially played in the Keighley League on a farmer’s land on the nearby moors. They remained here until 1908 when the club moved to their long-term home, the Oaks, where they stayed until the ground was built on upon the construction of the Airedale Hospital. Their stay at the Oaks saw Steeton win the Keighley League title in Season 1923-’24 prior to the club’s golden era in the 1930’s, which built to a further two consecutive titles in the latter pre-war years, these coming in 1937 & 1938.
Post-war, Steeton joined the Craven League and their first silverware during their tenure here came in the form of the 1948 Skipton LMS Cup and the team known as “Bits of Mint” would go on to defend their title the next season too. This would prove to be the end of the seasons of success for a while, the 1950’s bringing a lean spell along with them, not helped by the squad being threadbare and the team regularly struggling to field a side, leading to heavy defeats. However, the end of the decade saw fortunes change markedly for the better and the club won the Craven League’s Second Division in 1959 and followed this up by lifting the First Division title the next season, beating Grassington United to the top spot via a Championship play-off.
After consolidating their place in the top-flight of the Craven League, Steeton would move from the Oaks in 1969 upon the creation of the hospital and moved into their current home, the Doris Wells Memorial Field. After funding renovations of the pitch themselves, the club’s committee and members were rewarded with a pair of runners-up placings in 1975 & 1978, along with a Keighley Cup Final appearance with Steeton eventually losing out to local rivals, Silsden.
Losing out on both the title and the League Cup to Gargrave in 1983, Steeton would win the newly created T.A.P. Cup in 1985, the Chevrons triumphing 4-1 and signing off from the Craven League to join the West Riding County Amateur League. Unfortunately, I can’t find much, if anything, about the club’s more recent years, though they did finish as runners-up in 2013 as well as recording a third placed finish last campaign. They currently look well set to challenge for the runners-up placing again this season and, with a Step 5 application well underway, another step up looks to be on the horizon.
With the game just having started, it quickly gained life when, after just nine minutes, Ben Clarkson latched onto a through ball to fire a low shot beyond the Littletown ‘keeper and into the net. Littletown looked to respond quickly and saw a decent penalty shout turned down a couple of minutes later, the referee waving away the visitors’ protestations.
Steeton also had a couple of efforts during what was, on the whole, a tightly fought first half, with Ben Richardson’s attempted chip flying over both the bar and the hedge behind, before Andy Holden fired wide. However, just as I was making my way around to the food bar for some much-needed lunch, the hosts doubled their advantage when the Littletown stopper was beaten to the ball out near the touch-line and the ball was worked back to the edge of the area where Clarkson was on hand to plant the ball into the largely unguarded net to double both his and his side’s tally.
The hosts almost killed off the game right on the whistle, a Holden free-kick pushed wide of the target in fine fashion by the ‘keeper, atoning for his earlier mishap, but the whistle blew shortly afterwards, the score-line remaining at two-nil to Steeton as the sides headed in for the half-time break.
What turned out to be a very decent Hot Dog was bought (£1) during the interval, which was a shorter than usual one thankfully and this would later enable me to grab an earlier train back, so nice one everyone! Back underway soon afterwards, Littletown soon showed they were no pushovers and in little mood to relinquish their Premier Division Cup crown.
Home ‘keeper Joe Mash was kept busy during the early part of the half, first pulling off a flying stop to deny a fine strike and then reacting well to his initial stop by diving across to meet Matt Bugg’s follow-up, smothering the effort in the process. This would prove the catalyst to allow Steeton to look ahead and try to extend their lead instead, with an effort flying over the crossbar, before a fine effort was crashed in from the angle by Briggs but he was unluckily denied by the that very piece of woodwork with the keeper beaten. It truly did deserve to end up in the net but the home side weren’t to be denied their third for long.
If that strike deserved to be number three, then the one that did….well, didn’t. However, soon after entering the fray, Jonah Smith received the ball on the right of the area and scuffed his effort. The ball continued on with little pace, but struck a defender in such a way that it wickedly diverted away from the already committed ‘keeper and crawled its way across the line and into the bottom corner. Three-nil and that looked like game, set and match to Steeton.
But the visitors weren’t done there and soon revived their own hopes with a couple of quick-fire efforts to bring themselves back into play. First, a foul just outside the area gave the dangerous Joe Jagger the chance to strike at goal, and boy did he! He lashed the set-piece beyond the helpless Mash and into the top corner of his net for 3-1 and, just minutes later, Matt Bugg found himself clear in the area and calmly slotted beyond the ‘keeper for three-two and we were all set for a grandstand finish!
Unfortunately, just as at Crawley on Easter Monday, this never really materialised and, after some tempers began to approach boiling point, the game reached its conclusion with Steeton holding out to oust the holders from this season’s competition and go on to face the winners of my intended game of the day: Route One Rovers vs DRAM Community. I doubt I’d have seen a better game had I ended up there though, as this one ended up being a highly entertaining match-up.
After coming up with a plan to head into nearby Keighley and have a peruse at the Steeton’s rumoured home for next year, Belle Vue – Keighley Cougars’ home – a swift exit and sprint over to the station allowed me to get the slightly delayed service to the town. A quick walk over saw me at the rugby ground and after a couple of badly taken pictures over a floodgate, I headed back towards the station, but had a few minutes in hand. I think we all know where this is going!
I’d seen the Boltmaker’s Arms sign up at the ground and so was happy to see it all but neighboured the station too. Of course, I reckoned I’d visit a place that supports a local side, but not that they needed it as the small pub’s bar area was packed! As it was, I took up a place in the bar whilst enjoying a pint of Warsteiner before returning back to Keighley for the train back into Bradford.
A delay on the way looked to have doomed my, admittedly hopeful, plan of getting an early train and thus getting home an hour earlier but, having had a check on the off-chance of a delay, I was excited to see the train back to Manchester Victoria was indeed delayed by five minutes. A further sprint was needed and this duly got me to the train with about a minute to spare, with the remainder of the journey being a far more serene experience. Well, if you don’t count the rowdy concert goers on board, that is!
So there ends my trip to Summerhill Lane. The ground will still be used by the club’s other sides if their Counties application goes well, but a first-team game is always much more attractive, to me anyway. The ground was simple but tidy, the hot-dog was great and everyone was very friendly there too. The game’s excitement was a pleasant surprise (especially at 3-0) and for the travel delays to work in my favour for once is nothing short of the cherry on top of the icing on the cake. So there ends my trip to Steeton, I’m finally up to date and it’s off to the similar surroundings of Loftus Road next….!
Value For Money: 9