Manchopper in….Keighley (Steeton AFC)

Result: Steeton 6-1 Daisy Hill (NWCFL Division 1 North)

Venue: Cougar Park (Saturday 6th April 2019, 3pm)

Att: 96

Another month, another attempt to make it to the fine old girl that is Cougar Park, however I’d not be going for its primary purpose. No, I’d instead be heading to the home of Keighley Cougars to watch football of the more circular variety, as groundsharers Steeton welcomed divisional strugglers Daisy Hill in the First Division North of the North West Counties. Incidentally, it had also been a year since I’d visited Steeton at their traditional, and ever so slightly less sizeable, Doris Wells Memorial Field home too, so quite a nice fit there.  Anyway, I set off bright and early during the morning to enable me to catch a quicker connection through to Leeds which all went smoothly and by the time I’d jumped on the carriage that would take me across to Keighley, the time had barely passed 10am.

40 minutes or so later, I was arriving into the station alongside the ever welcome sight of an old steam train on the local heritage line, its smoking, proud locomotive and plush carriages a far cry from the pacers and the like that are still running. Even the new ones won’t be as impressive, but technology beats all, I suppose. Shame. Anyway, I began my day in the station bar that is, somewhat cleverly, named Café Choux Choux where, upon entering, a lad at the bar proceeded to regale me about his trials and tribulations regarding his two-day hangover and bemoaning the passing of time. At the other end of the spectrum (for now at least) I began on a pint of Amstel (£3.90) and settled into one of the window-side sofas to plan out the rest of the day’s journey.

Arriving in Keighley

Café Choux Choux

Next up along the way would see me head right across to the far side of town before back-tracking steadily towards the ground. As such, my second stop was planned to be the Royal Oak but with its opening times not being all that obvious on the board outside, I chose to leave that for the one just around the corner by the, again smartly titled, Percy Vere – see what they did there?! In here I opted for a pint of the Saltaire Brewery’s Blonde Ale and also gave a bit of change to a fella that came around for donations for a charity walk across to Skipton. Fair enough, especially considering the pint here was only £2.70 too! Heading back towards the centre of Keighley once more, next up was the Albert Hotel, a large, old building with a horse-shoe style bar. A nice enough place for a quick pint of Carlsberg (the options weren’t all too exotic overall and £2.80 wasn’t bad) before continuing on around the corner to the interestingly named Red Pig. Why is it red? Nobody knows.

Anyway, this pub is the survivor of two neighbouring hostelries, with the adjoining Commercial being shut down at some point in the not too distant past it seemed and the pint of Staropramen in here was decent too, especially so when it set me back just the £3.50 and my next stop wasn’t too far away once again either. In fact, it was just across the road this time, situated alongside the imposing church it neighbours and seemed to be one of, if not the oldest pub still standing in the town. The Lord Rodney would be home to by far my dearest pint of the day, the Peroni setting me back £4.60, but it wasn’t as if it wasn’t a pleasant place and I certainly don’t mind that sort of price considering some of the trips I’ve been on have shown me the worst side of beer prices, here and there!

Percy Vear

Albert

Red Pig and the closed Commercial

Keighley is a town and civil parish within the City of Bradford in West Yorkshire at the confluence of the Rivers Aire and Worth. Historically in the West Riding of the county, Keighley is home to the terminus of the Keighley and Worth Valley Heritage Railway and itself dates from back before the Norman Invasion, its name meaning Cyahh’s farm or clearing, with it having gone through many different spellings throughout its years. It was granted a market charter in 1305 by King Edward I as he allowed Lancastrian knight Henry de Keighley the right to hold one in the town and it remained as a market town through to the industrial revolution when the market was joined by the advent of textile mills and the like. In the meantime, the Union stage coach departed from the town’s Devonshire Arms and which linked the area to surrounding towns. The textile industry was largely made up of wool and cotton and lasted through to 2008.

The town was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1882 and in 1938, its civil parish boundaries were expanded to take in the areas of Haworth, Oakworth, Oxenhope and Morton from the recently abolished Keighley Rural District and a small part of the Bingley urban district. In 1974, Keighley became a part of the City of Bradford Metropolitan District in the newly formed county of West Yorkshire, with this apparently causing disapproval with the Keighley residents who weren’t exactly keen on becoming part of the city. Civil Parish status was restored in 2002 with Keighley once again having its own town council in place. Despite losing many historic buildings over the years, a few Victorian and outlying manor houses do remain. There was also a case when the Hindenburg airship flew over the town, a package was dropped and two boys picked it up. It was a small cross and flowers for a German POW who’d died in the area and it still remains there to this day.

Keighley

Keighley Church (and Lord Rodney)

Toby Carvery

After stopping off in Steeton sponsor the Boltmaker’s Arms for a quick half of Warsteiner (I’d visited there last year too) I decided it was high time I got near the ground a little more and so made a beeline for what seemed to be the only real pub in the area immediately around Cougar Park which was one of your generic-style Toby Carvery’s and you all know what comes with the scenery there. It was fine enough, the pint of Stella coming in at £3.70 and upon finishing up, it was finally time to go and get the elusive old ground ticked off. Arriving at the ground, I handed over my £5 entry fee and £2 for the programme before sorting out my pre-arranged and agreed pictorial tour of the ground, which pretty much meant a high-vis jacket was all that was required, though this wasn’t all that much for one security guy who still had to go check I was allowed to be doing this, as though I’d pre-planned all of this for some evil means, even going as far as to turn up in a ground-specific bloody high-vis. Sometimes.

Cougar Park is as great as it looks and it’s just a shame it was, as expected of course, rather devoid of numbers on the day. It’s large bench-seating stand dominates the ground it towers over and it’s traditional style is pleasing on the eye. On the opposite side of the pitch is the large, sprawling expanse of an open terrace that runs the length of the pitch, whilst a further, rather deep covered terrace is located behind the goal. The near end plays host to a similar sized terrace, but this one is open to the elements. The dressing rooms, tunnel and press box are all located within the Main Stand, the box right at the rear (which I visited to grab my aforementioned, not quite clear enough for some high-vis), with the clubhouse and other buildings located to the left of it and down off behind to the rear. That’s the ground in a nutshell and I won’t truly go into the history of Steeton here (having already done so last season) and so will just say they have made a good fist of things at their first season at NWCFL level after taking 3rd place in the WRCAFL last time out.

In the clubhouse

After I made a swift visit to the clubhouse for a steak slice (£2), the game got underway and it was a rather turgid start, especially so for the hosts and they were stunned after around 15 minutes when their lowly visitors took advantage and went ahead, Nick Hepple getting in and sliding beyond Steeton stopper Fletcher Paley. This did seem to awaken Steeton from their early match slumber and they quickly began to assert themselves upon the Cutters of Daisy Hill (great nickname, btw) and when Ben Clarkson had forced Joe Leather into a pair of fine stops – with the first being especially good – they drew level when centre-half Sam Rooke headed home from a fine delivery from a free-kick.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Daisy Hill almost responded immediately and a close-range chance was spurned, and this proved costly just a few moments later as the Chevrons would forge ahead. A ball through found forward Angus Maney, the #11 duly finishing with aplomb, and they then still had time to wrap up their final fifteen minute comeback by putting daylight between themselves and the blue-clad visitors when another fine ball from another free-kick was nodded in by Clarkson, showing that third-time lucky was alive and well within the open expanses of Cougar Park on this sunny, fresh West Yorkshire afternoon. Despite a couple of late chances for Daisy Hill, they couldn’t quite reduce the deficit before the break and so we reached half-time with the score-line of 3-1.

Following my swift shift as a ball boy as steward Bryn had to go off and retrieve one of the balls that flew off over the stands, the half-time break saw me relinquish my high-vis without any further questionings and I decided to camp out within the Main Stand for the second half and get a couple of different viewpoints of the action from up high above the field of play. Speaking of play, the sides were soon back out there and we were about to get started once again.

The second period began with a quick kill-off by Steeton as they swiftly added to their tally twice in the opening moments. Firstly, Clarkson ended a swift attack with number four as he duly added his second, before Jack Richardson then added number four, finishing off beyond the beleaguered Leather, who’d pulled off an initial stop from a close-range volley, after a spell of pinball within the box. This really did end the game as a contest, unsurprisingly, and there wasn’t a whole lot of action in the next half-hour or so.

Match Action

From the stand

Cougar Park

What action there was saw Clarkson denied his hat-trick by a fine goal-line clearance from Jordan Hussey, whilst the Cutters responded with Clarkson’s opposite number at #10 not quite connecting perfectly with his attempt and seeing it kept out by Paley. Then, with a few minutes left on the clock, Richmond would join Clarkson in recording a brace as he latched onto a long ball from the back to deliver an excellent finish, smashing beyond the unfortunate Leather, who I don’t think really deserved to have beaten six times.

Post-match, I headed back into Keighley and first paid a visit to the town’s Wetherspoon offering, the Livery Rooms, for a Punk IPA whilst Tiger Roll wrote himself into National history, before I continued on past the war memorial across the way and to the little and large neighbouring watering hole duo of the larger Cavendish for a second Carlsberg of the day (£2.80) whilst I opted for a Strongbow (~£3) in the smaller Volunteer before walking the short distance back to the station for the train back to Leeds and an easy journey back in the company of a few women and a dog. No, an actual canine – I’m not like that!

‘Spoons

Heading to the final two….

So there ends an entertaining trip to Keighley and to the friendly Steeton. It’s always enjoyable to get in a “tick” at an unusual venue and especially so when it is as historic as Cougar Park. It is certainly a different proposition to Langtree Park in St. Helens that’s for sure! The town is decent and the beer is cheap, whilst the ground is superb and it’s good to see goals though it’s always a bit of a shame when it becomes an early dead rubber and the interest wains somewhat. Steak slice and programme was decent too, so really can have no complaints. Onto next week and to the city of five towns….

 

 

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 9

Programme: 7

Food: 7

Value For Money: 9

Manchopper in….Steeton

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.

Arriving in Steeton

First stop: Steeton Hall Hotel. ‘Twas wet.

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.

Steeton

War memorial

Goats Head

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 in the village

Arriving at Summerhill Lane.

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….

History Lesson:

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.

Doris Wells Memorial Field

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.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

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.

Looking out towards the cricket club

Match Action

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!

Jagger’s free-kick flies in

Crowd action

Match Action

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!

Interesting!

A quick peek at Belle Vue

The Boltmakers

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….!

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 4

Food: 8

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 9