Saturday, 13 September 2014

Ossett Albion 0 Droylsden 4

FA Cup, first qualifying round
Attendance: 116

Wakefield must be the biggest settlement in Yorkshire never to have had a club at steps 1 or 2. What’s more the city’s club folded at the end of last season after a somewhat chequered and nomadic history. A few miles to the west is Dewsbury which isn’t much smaller and doesn’t have a side. All of which makes it curious that the small town between them, Ossett, has two clubs both well established in the Northern Premier League. I saw Town in 2005 but have never had the opportunity to visit Albion until today.

The attraction of Albion’s ground begins with its name, Dimple Wells, which sounds like a location from the Vicar of Dibley. You approach it via a narrow lane from a residential area and pass car parks for the bowling green and cricket pitch (busier than that for the football club). The ground reminded me of Tow Law in some respects. Facilities are clustered around the corner entry point, the pitch is sloped and there’s a good view past one of the touchlines across a valley, in this case of the River Calder. Directors’ accommodation (see lead pic) consists of the uppermost of a pair of shipping containers. The lower storey is a programme and souvenir shop, issues meticulously arranged with dividers according to the opposition like racks in a record shop.

The club history is on sale – in 10 volumes priced at £1.50 each and written by the club historian and shopkeeper. He wore one scarf and displayed another proudly above the counter. I should add that today’s full colour programme as every bit as immaculate as his premises.

The shop and a disused turnstile block (pictured below) each has a domestic front door and the press box (empty, above) has similarly house-like glazing, all features which add to the ground’s quirky, jerry-built appeal. The director’s box (also empty) consists of dirty old bucket seats with ‘director’ stencilled on them. Love it. The dugouts are substantial brick-built affairs. The brickwork extends to the surround to a pair of giant steel doors which seem out of place in a ground where there’s seldom need to provide rapid egress for a large crowd.

Droylsden have had a torrid time since I last saw them on that unforgettable pre-Christmas night in 2008. Two successive relegations partly caused by debt problems now see them plying their trade at step 4 and just six years after a season in the Conference National. In 2013/14 they shipped 182 goals. Things are looking up, though: last week they won their first back to back league matches for 2½ years. Their small knot of fans provided the welcome and entertaining first chants of this season’s FA Cup trail.

Their version of Anarchy in the UK is a cracker: “I am a Droylsden fan/I am a Mancunian/I know what I want and I know how to get it/I wanna destroy [Stalybridge] Celtic and Hyde/’Cause IIII wanna beeee Droylsden FC”. Then there’s the old classic about Dave ‘Mr Droylsden’ Pace, the sort of hard nut northern manager you wouldn’t want a bollocking from: “You’ve got Mourinho/We’ve got Dave Pacio”. The Okey Cokey has been adapted to suit Fernando Moke. Apparently, Fernando asked the manager if he could tell the fans to stop singing this song as it was irritating him so much. Perhaps they could switch to that Abba number … Completing the repertoire is the inevitable: “Wemberley, Wemberley/We’re the famous Droylsden FC and we’re going to Wemberley”. Part of me admires these sorts of fans for their dedication and part of me feels sorry for them.

The Bloods, to give Droylsden their great nickname, scored twice with short range shots from low crosses and then ended the contest with another similar effort immediately after the re-start. Albion improved but it was far too little, too late. The visitors extended the lead at the end and should’ve made it five when a forward missed a sitter. Had it not been for several fine saves from the Albion goalie the margin of victory would’ve been much greater.

“I'll come to yours later,” said an Albion player to his girlfriend over the barrier at the final whistle. “Are you having tea at mine?” she asks. “Yes,” he replies. They kiss and he’s off to the changing room while I exit via the boundary of the cricket pitch.

Programme notes: Albion president Neville Wrigglesworth strikes a plaintive note and underlines the importance of the Cup to non-league sides when he writes: “My second major aim when taking over as chairman [in 1979] was to be at the helm when Ossett Albion reached the first round proper of the FA Cup. I remained chairman for a period just short of 30 years but never actually managed to fulfill that ambition though we have come agonisingly close of a few occasions.” Ah, well. Maybe next time, Neville …

Beard of the day: No sign of Father Christmas this time but there were still some fine in vogue Edwardian whiskers in evidence courtesy of Albion’s Ben Grech-Brooksbank.

Match of the day:
Not often you get minnows versus Cup legends in the first qualifying round but that was the case today when the wonderfully named Ellistown & Ibstock United (from Leicestershire and today playing at Coalville Town) took on Hereford United. The hosts, who play at step 5, were formed through a merger a year ago while the visitors were demoted from the Conference last season for debt reasons and now compete in the Southern League. Ellistown & Ibstock came from two goals behind to win 3-2 with Hereford missing an injury time penalty. Lancaster (aka The Dolly Blues) are on fire. They won 5-0 at West Allotment Celtic today having beaten Washington 7-0 away in the previous round. A mention in dispatches too to Maidstone United who pasted Littlehampton 10-0. Best sounding fixture of the round: London Tigers v. Brightlingsea Regent.

Recommended viewing: Couple of websites with some very arty pics of football grounds for you to enjoy. Firstly, a selection of floodlit grounds, mainly non-league and in the south, photographed from outside and, secondly, some pics of the old Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh. To finish here’s a gratuitous pic of Georgie Best turning out for Cork Celtic in 1975.

No comments: