Result: Thackley 2-2 Abbey Hey (FA Cup First Qualifying Round)
Venue: Dennyfield (Saturday 12th September 2015, 3pm)
The FA Cup trail continued for both myself and Abbey Hey on this day, as I made good on my word and made my way over to near Bradford and, more specifically, Thackley AFC of the Northern Counties East League (NCEL). So, on a wet, miserable morning in Manchester (shock, horror), I was trundling along the station approach into my usual transitional point of Manchester Oxford Road, before going through to Piccadilly Station and getting the Newcastle-bound train to my next stop, Leeds. Surely, the weather over the other side of the Pennines must be an improvement. Surely…
Well, no. No it wasn’t. Upon arrival at Leeds, there was an absolute deluge of rain in the process of drenching the Leeds-dwellers. Luckily for myself, I was able to stay under the substantial cover afforded to you at Leeds Station and immediately jumped on the train which would take me the short distance to Shipley where the strange layout means I had to cross over one set off tracks via footbridge, before crossing the car park to get to the other pair of platforms for the hop to Baildon, which was the destination for today’s pre-match ritual. Pub visits!
Well, that was the plan originally, but having scouted the walk, I decided to head straight for Thackley itself as to truncate the 1.5 mile walk with a couple of much needed “water” stops. After a walk through Buck Wood, along the pedestrian pathway/road which separates the two towns, I eventually re-entered civilization amongst a small housing estate, at the end of which sat the roadway leading to the ground. But, first, it was to the Great Northern for the first half of Everton-Chelsea.
After arriving just as the heavens re-opened, I quickly headed inside and ordered an Amigos, to try to simulate somewhere with a much nicer climate. The experience was improved even more so, as I was first welcomed to use the plugs to charge my phone and watched Steven Naismith put another early dent into Chelsea’s title hopes. Superb. Before too long though, it was time to leave the welcoming, if unspectacular, public house and head to the Commercial Inn, which sits round the corner from Dennyfields. Well, that was the plan, but upon it coming into view, it quickly became apparent that it was closed for a re-fit.
Plans spurned, I decided to head to the ground, having just been passed by the, slightly late arriving, Abbey Hey team bus. So, with the clock standing at 2pm, I figured I’d give Thackley’s clubhouse a go. Having walked up the small lane heading to the ground, past both the town’s cricket club and horse-filled farm, I came upon the unmistakable sound of “pre-match entertainment” emanating from my right, and soon enough Thackley’s ground came into view. From the outside, it didn’t look all too much, but unperturbed, in I headed, purchasing a programme first (£1.50), before heading to the clubhouse, which sits just outside the ground itself.
So, after ordering a Corona for the remarkably cheap £2.60, I got chatting to Thackley supporter, and former Morley rugby player, Jamie, who gave me a fair low down on his adopted local side, as well as regaling me the story of Cyril, a man who followed one of his semi-pro rugby sides as far as Cornwall and Exeter. Some people are just nuts! It was a shame that the story ended with the ever present problem of players not particularly caring for their loyal fans, bar the odd few. It happens in all sports, and some need to have a think about where they’d be without these sort of people.
Anyway, my chat with Jamie quickly passed the best part of a half-hour leading to kick-off and at 10-to the hour, I bid goodbye for the moment and headed to the turnstiles where I parted with £5 for entry and I was into Dennyfield itself. Contrary to my earlier view, the ground was a gem. A decent-sized benched seater stand sits on the half-way line, and is joined by the tea bar and dressing rooms, which are situated behind a small covered standing area in front of the tea bar, which bears the club’s main sponsor, Superfreight, otherwise you’d probably never even notice it. The far touchline is flanked by an open standing terrace, which runs the length of it, with both ends being open hard standing, with a further small terrace at the far end. Now, here’s the story and the history of the Dennyboys of Thackley…
Thackley AFC were formed in 1930, spending their formative years in the local leagues before switching the West Riding County Amateur League in 1939, winning it on five occasions before spending a brief spell in the West Yorkshire League, winning it on two successive occasions in 1965-’66 & ’66-’67. Thackley then joined the Yorkshire League, winning its Division 2 in 1974, alongside a further two prior promotions and relegations, before becoming founder members of the Northern Counties East League Premier Division in 1982. Remarkably, the club have remained in the same division ever since, the only club in the NCEL to hold this achievement.
The club’s best finish in this league was runners-up, which in they achieved in 1993-’94, when finishing behind Stocksbridge Park Steels. They have, though, won two NCEL League Cups, in 2011-’12 & ’12-’13, allied with the club winning two West Riding Challenge Cups (1964 & ’67), two West Riding County Cups in ’73-’74 & ’74-’75 and no less than 13 Bradford & District Senior Cups. In FA Competition, the club haven’t achieved a huge amount, though they did reach the FA Vase 5th Round in 1980-’81. Last season, the Dennyboys finished in a solid 12th place in the NCEL Premier Division.
So, onto the big game then, with over £3,000 at stake as well as a place in the next round of the Cup. Hey were comfortably on the front foot in the early stages, and it was to no-one’s surprise when they took the lead as Bradley Robinson netted with a simple back post tap in after a poor mistake by the Thackley ‘keeper, who let a weak cross squirm through his grasp and to the feet of the oncoming Hey #7.
This did seem to spur the home team on somewhat, with them forcing Hey back and into a number of errors, but without ever really looking to threatening in the final third. As I made my way to the turnstile end of the ground once again, I came across Jamie and watched the remainder of the half alongside him. Well, I say the remainder. It was about three minutes until Hey doubled their lead through Johnathon Hardy, who had the easiest of tasks to net from six yards, after some questionable defending by the Thackley left-back, who kept retreating into his area and allowed the cross. Jamie headed to the bar, with the prophetic words “Well, we’re always better thus way second half…”
Upon the break, I headed to the tea bar, where I ordered some chips for £1.20 (a decent portion too and fresh), so well worth it. I headed over to the park benches next to the hatch, but not before the guy in front of me, who’d just got some sort of soup, had it knocked from his hand and all over the floor and “all over (his) new trainers!”. No such qualms for me, as I quickly finished off the fries before heading to the stand to watch the early stages of the second period.
The early part showed no real signs of what was to come. Hey pretty much in control, despite more urgency from the home side with nothing to lose. But, it wasn’t until I headed behind the Thackley goal that it all began to go right for the hosts, and badly wrong for those from Gorton. First, they had a goal ruled out for offside, before Thackley mounted a quick attack which saw the ball crossed in and #9, Mike Garrod, finished off to give the home fans a lot of belief. They, as well as the players, were up for this and for the next five minutes, Hey fell apart.
As such, it was little surprise as the Dennyboys, on the crest of a wave of their own making, found the leveller. I was just about to tweet about the fact Hey had gone close, as an effort rattled the bar and bounced down just in front of the line (definitely no goal) and Thackley went up the other end and went mighty close themselves. Just as I was updating the message to include the latter, up went the decibels and I saw the ball rolling into the net via Craig Bentham. 2-2! The comeback was complete and Thackley, you felt, could go on to win from here.
But then, Abbey decided they could play football again and completely dominated the last 15 minutes or so of the game and really should have won it on the day, as numerous chances came and went, with sub Ashford Blake, as in the Warrington game, being mighty effective. Not sure why he didn’t start! But, there were no further goals for me today, nor the other 80+ people in Dennyfield to witness, so it meant that Abbey would get another £5 from me on Tuesday night. Fix!
So, upon the whistle, I made my exit and quickly climbed up the hill overlooking the ground, which is home to a tower of some sort. I did get some strange looks off a young couple who were having some serenity up there as I came bounding over the steep incline, camera in hand! They must have been rather relieved when I let them be and headed back through Buck Wood and to Baildon station, before repeating the inbound journey exactly.
The bonus on the outbound leg was the fact that I inherited a table seat on arrival at Huddersfield and thus a further opportunity to charge the necessity of the mobile. Not only that, but I was joined by a lad who was heading into Manchester for a mate’s birthday and who, after waking up late after realising it was in fact today and not next week(?!), somehow happened to inherit a 4-pack of Stella Artois and I was presented with one for the final leg home as he had to get rid of them before getting to Manc. A strange story, but one that I feel may be a watershed moment in my groudhopping tales. We’ll see, as I return to Yorkshire next week…
Game: 8- Full of drama and action from the off.
Ground: 8- One a really fell for. Something about it I truly liked.
Fans: 8- A friendly bunch, who really got behind the team.
Programme: 5- A fairly average issue, but I liked the simplicity of the cover!
Food: 9- Superb, well worth it, especially for the price.
Value For Money: 7- Can’t fault the club, but not much to the town and the travel was quite steep.
*Incidentally, Abbey Hey won the replay on Tuesday 15th September, 1-0.