Sunday, 9 February 2020

a not that lucky mascot

The night before was a big one, a still-supping-wine-at-2am one, so I’m not in the mood – and don’t have the legs – to go far today. Spawny, then, that Shelf are playing at home, with “home” being round the corner from where I got to bed just a few short hours ago.

Bolstered on the sidelines by the fortifying one-two of a full fat Coke and a Yorkie - a healing combo I’d not self-administered since the late 90s - I ponder how I might be something of a lucky mascot for today’s opponents Northowram, who came back to draw 5-5 with league leaders Sowerby Bridge when I last saw them a couple of months ago.

And one team goes on to bag 5 again today, but unfortunately for the away side, bottom of the league but resplendent in their distinctive Sunny Delight colours, it’s not them.

The first half an hour, though, is an even affair whose most notable moments include a whipped in Shelf cross that just misses a speedily-incoming head; a home effort cleared off the line; and the brief but always welcome appearance on the pitch of an enthusiastic Labrador.

A tap-in following some classic right-back-to-right-wing-to-6-yard-box sees Shelf go one up, but Northowram soon get one back when a long ball over the top finds the pacey Number 11, kept quiet so far by an organised defence, who doesn’t piss about with the finish. 

Shelf take the lead again following an angrily contested thrown-in which results in a simple nod-in. The ensuing merriment and droll “thanks liner” suggest that the home team know the throw-in was a jammy call.

Although it’s bright, the rapidly reducing temperature and blowy sky as the second half gets going are a reminder that Storm Ciara will be with us anon. To underline the point, a Northowram goal kick hangs high in the air before looping ominously back on itself to be picked up by Shelf’s 10 who makes sure.

But there’s that Number 11 lad again for Northowram, causing bother with his nippy mate 7 whenever the ball finally gets through to them, who slots in from the spot after a daft challenge to make it 3-2. And perhaps my presence will, again, inspire the away side to get another for the draw, or even to go on and win just their second game of the season. 

‘Fraid not, and Northowram remain stuck at the bottom of the table while Shelf stay sitting in second of the Haslem and Sheppard Premier. The home side nick a couple more, one ‘megging the keeper and the other a smart finish from Shelf’s 9 who’s looked for it all afternoon. 

To their credit Northowram stick at it, and when the Number 6 tries an overhead kick from too far out he manages - fair play - to not make a tit of himself.

Shelf FC 5

Northowram 2

Entry - free

Pie notes - after a load of Montepulciano and a questionable chicken Madras, pie is not the answer.

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Thursday, 6 February 2020

The Bronte Tour

I’ve read about this kind of thing before.

The groundhopper, hotly anticipating a tasty bit of weekend action, rocks up for a game only to find the place deserted. 

(Having bounced around a minimal number of local-ish lower league grounds I’m not sure I can really claim to be a member of the “groundhopper” elites yet, whose commitment is next level, but I do have a flask so I think I'm on my way.)

And so it is for us at Oxenhope Recreation's phantom West Yorkshire League Division 1 fixture against Otley Town. Which is a shame, because it looks like a neat set-up down there, amidst the sweeping hills of the Bronte Country. (I learn later that the game was played at the grandly named Marley Stadium.)

For a full-on geek day you could combine an Oxenhope match, provided they rock up, with a trip on the KWVR, just down the road. Did it once, got absolutely spannered while the train trundled up and down the line to Keighley and back, before a good tea at the Hawthorn on the cobbled Haworth high street. Great days.

Anyway, I’m not sure of the rules of this groundhopping malarkey but, regardless, I’m ticking it off as a new ground visited despite witnessing zero football being played. They all count.

And that includes a park, too. Keen not to waste the photo opportunity afforded to me by having stopped off at the Farm Shop to get pie’d up in advance, we identify an alternative match nearby. 

It’s pissing down with rain by the time we get to Foster Park to soak up the second half of Denholme United grappling in the muck with St Columbas in the Challenge Cup. A few reticent souls watch from cars, windscreen wipers on rapid, but we go all in, pitchside and hardcore.

No idea what the score is, but we manage to take in a couple of goals - including an accidentally-on-purpose free-kick/deep cross/visionary lob from near the touchline - some tackling we'll describe as 'influenced by the conditions', and the Denholme gaffer fetching stray balls from under the swings. 

4-1 to the home-side by the end, it turns out.

Entry: nowt.

Pie notes: I’m in the minority here, but the filling's on the dense side, I reckon. Too compact. Needs loosening.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

field v beeston st anthony's, (or bradford v leeds)

For a bit of added frisson, I frame this Field AFC versus Beeston St Anthony's match as an old-school Bradford v Leeds derby. And while I’m being geographically accurate  - Bradford and Leeds being where the two clubs are from - I don’t think there’s anybody else watching from the touchline whose mind keeps going back to that parky night down at Valley Parade in 2014 when Billy Knott, poised just outside the box, paggered one in on the volley before Jimmy Hanson did the Jimmy Hanson thing, heading in the winner.

That was a good night to be a Bradfordian.

I don’t leave today’s West Yorkshire League tie quite as hoarse as I did on that night, and today there’s no post-match visit to the Sparrow for a celebratory refreshment or two, but it’s still an absorbing toe-to-toe between top of the league Beeston and fourth placed Field. It’s freezing, too.

Beeston St Anthony's are, ominously for the home team, unbeaten before today, winning 15 and drawing 1 of the 16 games they’ve played so far, conceding just 14 goals along the way. Decent side then.

Despite that record, it’s not quite David and Goliath stuff, with Field just about holding their own for the first half until the ref awards a dubious penalty to the away side as the interval approaches. I say dubious, but I’m not entirely sure what happened and, alas, there’s no frame-by-frame VAR replay to check, either. Protestations over, the Beeston left-back sends them in a goal up from the spot.

There follow some spiky comments from the Field players towards the man in charge, fuelled by the alleged injustice and, I’d guess, the presence of a referee’s assessor standing next to me, replete with clipboard and pen. For what it’s worth I think the ref has a good game; quick to act when the Beeston captain goest down after a clash of heads that we hear from the touchline and, minutes later, banging the same player in the sin-bin for providing some over-enthusiastic verbal feedback.

I linger too long over a half-time Guinness in the bar (£3.30, and a quid for yer bag o' cheese and onion,) and arrive back pitch-side just as Beeston St Anthonys number 11 gets an early second, in a fashion not dissimilar to the Billy Knott beaut mentioned above.

And although Field aren’t out of it and never stop looking to get something, their efforts are stifled by the defence that’s conceded less than a goal a game. Beeston are a force; a team full of captains, grafters and confidence.

Field AFC 0
Beeston St Anthony's 2

Entry: Free

Pie notes: I arrive pre-armed with a Christmas leftovers job. Spud. Cheese. Ham.

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