Saturday, 27 September 2008

Stocksbridge Park Steels 1 Curzon Ashton 2

FA Cup, Second Qualifying Round
Attendance: 150

I’ve wanted to visit Bracken Moor, home of Stocksbridge Park Steels, ever since I read a description that said that the main stand looked like Inspector Clouseau’s gendarme hat (the overhang looking like a peak). I had to wait a while for the opportunity, though, since the Steels have been drawn away from home for five out of the last seven times.

What a great name for a club too. If I told you they play in Yorkshire you’d guess the nearest city in one. Yes: Sheffield. “Corus –the future in metal” proclaims the Clouseau stand, itself made of the product as is the players tunnel, the most formidable structure of its type this side of Galatasaray. I can’t think such enclosure is necessary. In contrast, the stand has quaint wooden tip-up seats from Hillsborough that would look more at home around a bandstand in a park on sunny afternoon which, as it happens, would have a similar appeal to today’s occasion. Sheffield Wednesday’s reserves play here too. The turnstiles bring you out beside the clubhouse on top of several steep tiers of corner terracing. One side of the ground adjoins a cricket pitch and is even more eye-catching despite being empty on account of the superb view it gives to the other side of the Don valley. This is a ground that’s really embedded in its locality.

Amidst this Yorkshire footballing idyll an FA Cup tie was taking place although you’d hardly have guessed it from the size of the crowd (150) or its noisiness. In fact, the only chanting came from a couple of lads standing behind a feeding baby. There was one pretty big cup cue, though: a replica of the grand old pot itself. I deplore the way the real trophy is passed around between every Tom, Dick and Harry these days but sidling up to a copy isn’t too hypocritical I told myself as I had my picture taken with it. Juvenile, I know, but I couldn’t help myself.

The opposition, Curzon Ashton, came from the other flank of the Pennines and, for the most part, the contest lived up to a War of the Roses billing. After just two minutes Anelka-like Edghill burst through the Steels defence to score. The Steels deservedly levelled following an error by a Curzon defender. Curzon were marginally the stronger, though, and got the winner mid-way through the second-half. So the Steels go tumbling out of the competition once again. Good job I made it today, then.
Coaching tip of the day: From Gary Lowe, Curzon gaffer, when his team was time-wasting in injury time: “Stop taking the piss and get the ball!”

Programme notes: Among the pen pictures is the line: “Chris Worsley often arrives unannounced in the box”. What does he expect? A butler-type calling out his name and the opposition forming a wedding line? Nippy Gambia international James Ogoo has a name just made for chanting in a “Roo-ney, Roo-ney”-type refrain.

Royals reunited: Curiously each of my matches this season has featured an ex-Reading player. Ricky Newman coached Aldershot; Tony Barras played for Halifax; and today 37-year-old Martyn Booty – who had 70 games for the Royals in the late nineties – popped up for Curzon.

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