Saturday, 30 August 2014

Knaresborough Town 0 West Allotment Celtic 1

FA Cup, preliminary round
Attendance: 268

Every cloud has a silver lining. The cloud in question was the bloody big one that hung over North Wales yesterday and today and which caused my family and I to return home in the morning rather than evening of a holiday. The silver lining was the opportunity this afforded to watch Knaresborough host an FA Cup tie for the first ever time.

Manse Lane is the nearest ground in the non-league pyramid to where I live. By my own admission I’ve been somewhat tardy in getting down there to catch up with the greatest period in the club’s 100 year plus history (although I did see them in the Northern Counties East League Cup final at Valley Parade in May.) I missed Knaresborough’s first ever match in the pyramid two years ago as well as the friendly against Leeds which marked the switch-on of the new floodlights.
These were among several ground upgrades that enabled the club to join NCEL (at step 6). Others included the addition of two very basic, small stands and a turnstile block. The ground is very smart and well cared for throughout even though it has absolutely nothing to remark about.

The visitors were from a village near Newcastle. Despite their name – one of the greatest in the game – and green and white hoops, they have few if any links to Celtic groups and there are apparently no allotments in West Allotment either. Bit disappointing, really. Following an appearance at Pickering in the previous round, Father Christmas featured among the small band of travelling supporters. I last saw this one aka Salty at Norton & Stockton Ancients four years ago. The attendance was the largest ever at Knaresborough for a competitive fixture.

Celtic took the lead from the penalty spot, reflecting an opening period of superiority. They were awarded a second spot kick when a Knaresborough player deliberately pushed the ball away from the goal as he tumbled following a collision. He was sent off and I thought there was no chance of the goalie – somewhat dodgy to that point – pulling off a save. Of course, he did. Reduced to 10 men galvanised Town and they were a match for Celtic for the remainder of the game but rarely threatened the visitor’s goal.

A tense, passionate encounter came to a head in the last quarter. Firstly, the veteran, hard-as-nails Celtic centre-half (see Star Turns, below) gashed his head in a clash and left the field with a bandage à la Terry Butcher. (A word here for the Celtic physio who sported a black fleece and faded blue and pink track suit bottoms that she may wear in bed. You could almost have mistaken her for one of the young mums you see pushing their bairns around the perimeter during non-league matches.) Then the sides were evened up when a Celtic defender was sent off for headbutting following  an earlier booking. The ref waited patiently as the player walked along the pitch rather than beside it to the dressing room in the far corner.

In the final minutes of Fergie-time the towering Knaresborough goalie (he can hold onto the cross bar with his feet on the ground) came up for a free kick and two corners. From the second of them Knaresborough scored but the goalie had previously pushed a Celtic defender so it was disallowed. Argh! Previously so dominant, Celtic were reduced to playing keep-ball beside a Knaresborough corner flag. Celtic had a strong penalty appeal turned down sparking an outburst of invective towards the officials before time finally ran out for the gallant hosts. Gripping finale.

The final whistle didn’t blow until 4.59pm but I still reached the car in time for Sports Report and was home 10 mins later. (I was on the radio with my report too today. See below). There’s a lot to be said for keeping it local and non-league.

Star turns: Playing for Celtic was Marc Dummett, brother of Paul who was sub for Newcastle today against Crystal Palace. The veteran Celtic player referred to above was Paul Stoneman, 41, who played for Halifax and Blackpool. Knaresborough’s star, Seb Carole, ex-Leeds and Monaco and pictured below, was injured. The only Carole in action today was his lad playing in the kids game behind one of the goals.

Reversal of fortunes: In the last round I saw Washington hit six in at Pickering without reply. All change in this round: Washington lost 0-7 at home to Lancaster who are coached by Darren Peacock (ex-QPR).

Welsh grounds:  There was a Welsh groundhop over the Bank Holiday weekend. The outstanding pic above shows Blaenau Ffestiniog’s ground and appears on the highly recommended Onion Bag blog. My footballing serendipity on holiday continued in North Wales last week. I happened by Menai Bridge Tigers v. Aberffraw (7-3) in the Gwynedd League. Tightly enclosed on two sides by woods, one side by flats and another by a library and changing rooms, the pitch had the vague feel of a ground to it. Have a look - and enjoy the seagulls ...

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