Saturday, 12 November 2011

Alfreton Town 0 Carlisle United 4

FA Cup, first round
Attendance: 1,488

“There are some things that tell you that you’re at a non-league ground” said my nephew and occasional Cup-anion Toby as he rejoined his brother Duncan and I on the terraces. “Dog footprints in the toilets”. Indeed. Welcome to the Impact Arena. Anything less arena-like it would be hard to imagine. This is a higgledy-piggledy, jerry-built ground but all the more endearing as a result of it. Only 10 years ago Alfreton were languishing in the Northern Counties League and it still shows. The narrow main stand – with three roofs at different levels – now barely has room for standard supporter accommodation. To walk the length of it is to weave in and out of the press box, Tommie Bradley terracing area and Lottie Bradley hospitality area – all shoehorned into what I imagine was previously terracing or seating. Along the way you also have to negotiate entrances to the changing rooms, bar, two hospitality suites and a sponsors’ lounge.

The opposite stand consists of thin metal poles supporting an equally flimsy roof. Behind one goal is uncovered seats plonked onto terracing and at the other end is a single, short cover that today demarked the exclusion zone between rival fans (not that it was needed). The fence badly obscured the view. Not surprisingly, the TV gantry took the form of scaffolding and plastic sheeting perched on top of one stand. Yards of multi-coloured cable festooned the terraces. Take away the breeze blocks enclosures, corrugated steel facias and hastily built brick kazis and this is a small ground inferior to most in the Conference to which Alfreton were promoted for the first time this season.

The arena (sic) is discreet within the outskirts of this north Derbyshire town (even the floodlights don’t stand out) and the muted mood matched. The Alfreton chairman described this tie as a “nice little diversion” from the fight to avoid relegation and the home fans seemed similarly unawed about the prospect of a visit by Carlisle, lying 10th in the third division. Perhaps that also had something to do with the fact that Alfreton were today appearing in the first round for the third time in seven years.

The Reds started promisingly but then conceded four goals in the second quarter of the contest as befitting the side with the worst defensive record in the top six divisions of English football. The pick of the bunch was a bicycle kick from a cross which, when I passed right in front of him, I heard the Radio Cumbria commentator liken to Rooney’s strike against Man City last season. (First goal pictured, below).

By half-time, then, it was all over bar the shouting but there wasn’t any. While understandable to a degree, this was the most astonishingly quiet match I’ve ever been to. It was as if the minute’s silence for Remembrance Day before kick-off had been extended to cover the full ninety of the match. You could almost hear a poppy pin drop. Without exaggeration the players made more noise than the fans. In fact, there were more vocals at Barnoldswick back in August.

To their credit Alfreton put up a good fight in the second half. A penalty rattled the bar and the Reds tested the Carlisle goalie but it was all, inevitably, too little, too late. They deserved at least a consolation goal, though. In true non-league fashion, a woman with a peroxide beehive pushed her child around the pitch and we too were soon perambulating to the exit.

Streete map: Turning out for Alfreton was Theo Street, son of Floyd, who played for Wolves and Reading among others. Originally, I thought that it was Floyd on the pitch but he’s 52 now, as Duncan revealed from a quick Wiki. (Funny how iPhones have now completely replaced tiny, tinny trannies from Tandy on the terraces). Remie Streete, Theo’s brother, plays for Newcastle.

Stocking filler: You can buy a DVD of Alfreton’s pre-season 14-0 thrashing of a Sheffield Wednesday XI from the club shop. Now that would warm the cockles on a cold winter’s night …

Good thrashings: AFC Totton’s 8-1 win over Bradford Park Avenue was the biggest win for a non-league side in the proper rounds of the Cup for 66 years. Stranraer, meanwhile, bagged nine without return against Wigtown & Bladnoch in the Scottish Cup last month. The match was also notable not for being a rare Wigtownshire derby. Good blogtastic write-up by The Scotsman here.

My Cup doesn’t overfloweth: Faced with no suitable tie to go to in the final qualifying round, I made do with listening to commentary on Wrexham v. York. York lost having fielded a weakened team. “No matter: we can concentrate on the league” was the tenor of the post-match Tweets to the radio station. Oh, for goodness sake! Is the prospect of trips to Accrington and Torquay next season really more exciting than the potential of taking on a Premier League side (albeit their reserves) as, indeed, the Minstermen did last season? It’s a sad day for football if it is. At this rate the only knockout competition anyone will be serious about winning is the good old FA Vase.

And then there were eight: Another sign of the times is how few clubs below Conference North/South level made the first round this season: only eight (including just two from the north) out of 603 starters. Only sperm set off on a journey with less chance of reaching their goal.

Ex-pro in the news: Steve Claridge has signed for Gosport. Interesting little film about his debut here. And what a winner he scores too.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Leek Town 1 Hinckley United 2 (aet)

FA Cup, third qualifying round replay
Attendance: 488
Leek isn’t the most obvious destination for a night out but for an FA Cupaholic in the Midlands on business on Cup replay day it was the only place to be. I was actually working near Hinckley so this was nearly an ‘howay the lads’ trip. The route wasn’t exactly aflutter with orange and white scarves, though, as I plied my way across the endless dark expanses of Derbyshire and Staffordshire. By the time I reached the turnstiles I was starting to question my sanity. My attendance at this tie was borne out of expedience rather than simple desire.

Harrison Park is a very substantial ground for this level with cover on all three sides plus large grandstand with paddock. The Conference-type set-up a hark back to Leek’s glory days in the nineties when they enjoyed two seasons at the top level, were runners-up in the FA Trophy and twice progressed to the proper rounds of the FA Cup. Today, languishing in the first division south of the Northern Premier League, two steps lower than Hinckley, Leek is a sleeping giant. But, attracting the division’s second highest average league gate of 371, you feel that the club could easily follow in the footsteps of Chorley, another ex-Conference side with a rowdy, resilient hardcore of youthful support you often get for one-horse town teams. I never know whether to admire these lads or take pity. The crowd was practically all male under 21s and old men and the majority of the few women I spotted were over 60 and had car rugs over their knees.

Most of the key action took place in the first quarter of the match. Leek started very positively and took the lead with a header off the post by Matty (footballers aren’t called Matthew) Haddrell. The “hurly burly striker” as the local paper call him then ran behind the goal stroking the outstretched hands of the fans (see lead pic). Love a bit of showmanship. Leek then nearly doubled the lead with a similar effort (video here). Within a minute of the re-start Hinckley had broken away at the other end and equalised through Gray. Thomas of Leek was then sent-off for lunging foul and, after that, the Lockmen – as Leek are called account of the town’s most famous resident, canal builder James Brindley – were always going to struggle much like the similarly reduced Welsh rugger side on Saturday.

I had the obligatoy leak in Leek at half-time (the bogs are of the breeze block, unroofed variety) really, really, really hoping that we weren’t heading for extra-time and penalties, mindful of my two-hour journey home. I haven’t wanted a 90-minute conclusion so much since the Harrogate/Torquay replay (goalless and Harrogate lost on penalties) when I had to be up at six the next day to catch a flight.

The rest of the contest was pretty much one-way traffic in favour of Hinckley and, but for some poor finishing, they would have put the tie out of sight. Leek had their moments – hitting the post again, for instance (video here) – but they were few and far between. Right at the start of, yes, extra-time a cross from the right was flicked in at the near post by Byrne. I was half-wanting Leek to draw level but equally wanting to put an end to what was an increasingly cold night. The temperature had dropped about 20 degrees since the previous round. As it was The Knitters retained their lead and go through to face Darlo in the final qualifying round.

I left the ground to the sounds of “the referee’s a wanker”. And so to the Silk Road (the one named just that in Macclesfield), around Manchester and over the Pennines at midnight. “Was it worth it?” the missus asked, as I stumbled down to breakfast. In truth – and in the absence of an upset – probably not but a night tie at a new venue was a novel experience.

Programme notes: Devon Gibson of Leek “appeared in the final of the Australian reality television series Football Superstar”. Umm, err. I take it he didn’t win. In the dubious crudentials stakes Devon rivals Tunji Moses of Hyde (see previous post).

Photography note: I inevitably struggled with the photography tonight and pinched the Matty and sending off pics from the local paper. No such problems for a  photographer at a recent Histon match who took this cracking, atmospheric shot.

Those were days, part 203: I’ve been enjoying Sounds of the Century on Radio 2. It’s a skilful blend of archive recordings and pop from each year. Here’s a great clip of two Liverpool commentaries from 1977. In an instant you will be reminded of how tremendously exciting the FA Cup final used to be and the irreplaceable thrill of a cracky football commentary on the radio (even when the commentator misidentifies the scorer). Back then a British team in Europe was genuinely that and we were all behind it.

Liverpool commentaries 1977 (mp3)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Staveley Miners Welfare 0 Hyde FC 3

FA Cup, second qualifying round
Attendance: 320

What’s it like to see a crowd? Well, after three rounds of decreasing sub-200 crowds, very good. I’ve reached the stage in the Cup when I select a tie based more on what sounds like a good contest rather than a grand day out. Today I watched the equal highest ranked side in the competition at this stage, Hyde (top the Conference North) hosted by newly promoted Staveley (three steps lower at the top of the Northern Counties East Premier). Both sides are unbeaten. Something had to give …

Staveley love their stripes and logo. Two helpful chaps in polo shirts bearing the logo directed me to the last space in the car park then I made my way to the turnstiles past an ostentatiously parked four-wheel drive vehicle with striking Staveley livery (like the club’s minibus at Goole two rounds ago). The full length of the clubhouse and function room on both sides is immaculately painted in blue and white stripes. Inside every table has a logo as does the extendable vinyl tunnel. Even the bins around the ground (royal blue, of course) have the logo. There are almost as many Staveley logos at Inkersall Road than there will be five rings at the Olympic stadium.

First impressions of Staveley (in north Derbyshire) is that this is a club on the up – and rather flush with it. I’ve never seen such an exceptionally smart (if otherwise unremarkable) stadium at this low level. There’s a fancy electronic scoreboard and clock and fascias on all the stands positively gleam which is more than a little to do with the fact that they – and their league, the Northern Counties East – are sponsored by Baris Fascias and Linings. Company MD and, one assumes, Staveley benefactor, Terry Damms is pictured in the clubhouse pressing the flesh with England World Cup winners, Jimmy Greaves, HRH Bobby Robson, Harry Redknapp and numerous other football royalty. This fellow is well connected.

Peculiarly, given the standard of the ground, the PA announcer-cum-cameraman has to make do with a scaffold tower away from the clubhouse (wonder if he fell out with Terry) and supplies for the barbecue are stored in a shipping container. Pity that two of the three stands are set far back from pitchside too. With temperatures up to 82F, the crowd was all baseball caps, bare chests and beer cans today. The away fans – who came in a coach rather than minibus for the first time on this season’s FA Cup trail – chanted their hatred for “Celtic”. Not the Glasgow variety but Stalybridge Celtic, their bitter Tameside rivals (as I found out in 2007).

Hyde made their superior status tell immediately. It was no surprise when they took the lead on 20 mins when a cross from the right was knocked in at the far post. Thereafter a Hyde win – their first in the competition for six years – was always on the cards. FA Cup virgins this season, Staveley didn’t have their first goal chance until 30 mins were up. Hyde extended their lead with a shot that took a wicked deflection early in the second half. Thereafter Staveley rallied well but, after the third Hyde goal, everyone was just playing for time. This contest was actually a no contest. Still I had a super afternoon in the sunshine.

Star turns: First up we have Tunji Moses, formerly of the Macclesfield Meltdown roller hockey team and FC United of Manchester and, even more notably, son of Remi Moses of Man United in the early 80s. Secondly, Matty Berkeley, the only international on the pitch having played for St Kitts & Nevis under 20s. Thirdly, Martyn Booty, an ex-Reading pro and Hyde’s assistant manager, whom I last spotted playing for Curzon Ashton.
Tunji ... Remi ... and Martin
Programme notes: “As always as a club we wish to look, listen and learn and if anybody has any suggestion as to how we may better our facilities and arrangements for you, the supporters, then please let us know. You lot are the life blood of our business here so you are very much priority as to how we look after you”. So it said in the ‘introduction’. Love it. Another indication of what sort of club this is is the fact that the chairman’s work telephone number, mobile and email are printed in the programme.

FC means sweet FA: What’s with the ‘FC’ prefix or suffix that’s in vogue at the moment? Parkgate and Hyde have both changed their names in this respect recently. The new names have all the impact of a company switching from being called Marks & Spencer to Marks & Spencer Plc. If you want to re-name then why not create an albion or wanderers? And, more meaningful than FC would be DC as in ‘da capo’, the musical notation for play again from the beginning.

TV or not TV? So Fergie thinks that telly is too influential over football. Not from where I’m standing (as opposed to sitting with a prawn sandwich). There are 82 ties in the second qualifying round and all but two kicked off at 3pm on Saturday.

Ooh-err, missus! Following news of Harrogate Town’s “new brand spanking website” (see end of previous post), I read also in the local paper that, following a victory over Scarborough Athletic in the first qualifying round, Tadcaster Albion “deserve all the plaudits not only for beating ’Boro but giving their Seadog backsides a tanning”. Is their reporter kinky, or what? Still, nothing like partisan journalism. That sort of tribal passion is what the Cup’s all about.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Parkgate FC 1 Whitby Town 3

FA Cup, first qualifying round
Attendance: 116

Neither this tie nor my attendance at it were ever supposed to happen. My original plan was to see Ramsbottom v. Nantwich but I abandoned that when I learnt that the match had been switched to another ground (see below). After a hasty scan of the fixture list I selected Parkgate who had been reinstated to the Cup on Monday after their conquerors in the previous round were expelled for fielding an ineligible player. I hadn’t even heard of Parkgate before last week when, coincidentally, I chanced upon a very funny blog post about their preliminary round encounter. It told of a dead hedgehog, children watching the match via trampoline, balls being fetched from gardens by ladder and the perils of buying a cup of tea from the tea hut located behind one of the goals. If I got just half that off-pitch amusement then I was in for a treat.

So where is Parkgate? With a name like that the club could be anywhere. It’s actually a suburb of Rawmarsh which is effectively a suburb of Rotherham which – as all spectators at York v. Rotherham last season will know – is just a “small town in Sheffield”. The ground is snuck away down a lane signed only to the golf club. Had it not been for the website instructions to look out for the Wing Wah takeaway and follow the signs to the golf club I’d never have found it. Parkgate is right up there among the great hidden football grounds of Yorkshire second only, in my experience, to Emley. Having edged down a narrow lane I was assured to find the Whitby team bus among the golf buggies.

‘Park’ is very much the operative word in Parkgate. An entire side of the ground (not open to spectators) is lined by a hedge and the opposite flank backs onto conservatories, garden sheds and trellis fencing. The place is much more Diarmuid Gavin than Archibald Leitch, shall we say. The scene may be suburban but the steelworks looming in the valley behind the hedge is quintessentially South Yorkshire. One industrial structure sticking up over the hedge looks like a oil rig or Nazi look-out tower.

A polite sign says “spectators are not permitted to stand within the roped area” which refers to a grassy bank protected by a plastic chain on wooden posts. Two mean looking fellas with an Alsatian didn’t heed the instruction but no-one chose to question them. A safety notices forbids cycling around the pitch – and in these surroundings such misbehaviour isn’t quite as unlikely as it sounds.

The playing surface is absolutely immaculate which I suspect has something to do with the fact that Rotherham reserves play here and the club’s training ground is adjacent. It’s the sort of pitch that makes you long for a kick-about. One other point of note: the plastic seats are flip-down rather than flip-up so careful how you stand up from them or you’ll end up in heap on the floor.

Whitby play two divisions higher than Parkgate and it soon showed. They took the lead on 17 mins when McTiernan clipped back from the byline and Hodgson steered it home. Then, on the stroke of half-time, McTiernan controlled the ball well on the edge of the box and shot into the bottom left corner. This was reflective of their tidy, measured football which rather matched their continental-style shirts: plain white with stripes down one side and narrow numbers on the back.

I half expected Whitby to inflict on Parkgate the same sort of 8-1 drubbing that the home side dished out to Barton Old Boys last week but that didn’t happen. Parkgate came out fighting in the second half, contained the visitors and even got a goal back, a looping header from the lanky Wood. First-half showers gave way to a rich rainbow and lovely low-angled September sunshine as the ice cream van’s The Entertainer jingle wafted into the ground.

The tie was sealed when a cross was bundled in by Dunford and adjudged to have crossed the line. A possee of Whitby fans – the first chanters encountered on this season’s FA Cup trail – provided the next somewhat predictable melody: “Wember-ley, Wember-ley. We’re the boys from Whitby Town and we’re going to Wembley”. At the final whistle the bawl was: “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to see Whitby win away”.

For Parkgate the match will be remembered as the only time that they were knocked out of the Cup twice in the same season. For Whitby – and me – it was practically a walk in the park.

(I pinched this pic angle from the aforementioned blog. Looks like one side is defending three goals!)

Star turn: Whitby are bossed (love that lingo) by Tommy Cassidy, pictured, an FA Cup finalist for Newcastle in 1974.

Poor bloke: The lino was called Ian Smellie. He must’ve heard ’em all.

Poor Rammy: Ramsbottom had to relocate their keenly awaited tie against Nantwich Town at short notice because of a festival taking place on the cricket pitch next to their ground. AFC Darwen agreed to be hosts. Following heavy rain their pitch was inspected at 11am on Saturday and the match declared ‘on’ only for it to be called off later because of further deluge. It never rains but it pours. So glad I checked the match online minutes before I set off. Three cheers for the interweb.

Name of Cup so far: Harry Honesty, “the sort of name you might normally expect to find in a wartime ‘educational’ comic produced by the Ministry of Information” says the blogger who brought the name to my attention from his chucklesome and well observed report on Harry's fine preliminary round display for Haringay & Waltham Development, a team of British-born Mauritians.

Off the rails: Harrogate Railway's manager said ahead of their tie against Bradford Park Avenue: "I think we can get something out of it. I'm quietly confident". 'Rail got walloped 8-0! Also in the Harrogate Advertiser I read that "Town's new brand spanking website went live this week". Even more concerning is that "the club hopes to connect with more of the younger members of the community".

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Goole AFC 1 Staveley Miners Welfare 1

FA Cup, preliminary round
Attendance: 134

‘Did you mean Google?’ Well no, I didn’t, actually. It’s as if the world’s favourite search engine can’t imagine that anyone would be seeking information about Goole, a town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, rather than Google. For today, at least, Goole meant more to me than an e-spelling error although I will never forget (courtesy of Wikipedia) that people who come from the town are, indeed, called Goolies.

The quaint sounding (but not quaint) Victoria Pleasure Ground (VPG) is a one-shot stadium but what a shot. It is dominated by a pair of water towers, nicknamed the salt cellar and pepper pot. Built in 1926, the former also looks like a giant phallus and the latter is the largest water tower in Europe. I haven't been so enthralled by stadium-side towers since the (now demolished) giant drill bit at Glossop North End.

The pitch is surrounded by a four-lane running track, the outer lane partially covered in moss, which is never an ideal arrangement for watching football as I’m sure West Ham fans will come to realise in seasons to come although, admitedly, the Olympic stadium is a long way from the VPG.

This is not a place I’d like to come on a wet winter’s night as the wind whistles across the surrounding docks and plains. The noise of an excavator grinding and groaning in the docks drowned out the calls of the players. One chap watched from this back garden, leaning on a wall comprised of concrete planks and topped with barbed wire like a cross between Kilroy and an inmate in a prisoner of war camp. Razor wire protected the press box from interlopers.

The VPG contains two conundrums. What happened with the ‘g’ in the ‘no parking’ sign, my son Bertie wondered, and why is there a row of numbered seats facing away from the pitch (see below)? Perhaps their orientation is to facilitate prayer. There isn’t exactly a great clamour for accommodation at the VPG and certainly not for this sort of vantage point. These must be the most needlessly numbered seats in the world. Nearly as superfluous is the formidable caging around the tunnel (see earlier pic). The tune played from the tinny PA as the teams came out – that old non-league standby, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ – was the only wild thing about this encounter.
The second half was much better than the forgettable first. Staveley (from Derbyshire) took the lead on 55 mins when a striker burst through on the left and squared for Barraclough to stroke home. The visitors then looked much the stronger side and clipped the bar (see mini-movie, earlier). Meanwhile, Goole had an effort nodded off the line and then, largely against the odds and three mins from time, Martin of Goole blasted home from the edge of the box. Drat: there goes my intended witty last line about about ‘no gools’ from Goole or something like that.

Programme notes: ‘Big Mal’, editor, describes the fame that FA Cup first round glory can bring, citing a notable Cup runs for my local team: “For that season every football supporter in the country knew the name of Harrogate Town and this in turn brings notoreity to the town of Harrogate”. Mmm, err. It was Harrogate Railway, Mal. Perhaps it didn’t make their name quite as well known …

True colours: Here’s what Staveley’s ground looks like. Wow! No prizes for guessing what colours they play in …

Make a day of it: Arrive early in Goole as we did and visit the Yorkshire Waterways Museum which also runs boat tours of the docks. Goole is the furthest inland port in the UK and was purpose-built to serve the docks in the 1820s.

Star turns: Ex-Reading and Birmingham hotshot Nicky Forster and ex-Blackburn title winning defender Ian Pearce turned out for Sussex-based Lingfield in the Cup today. See here for some footage.

Ground hopper to island hopper: So much for Man U 8 Arsenal 2. The only result I heard last weekend was Frimley Green 0 Guernsey 5. I’d tuned into Radio Guernsey to hear the weather forecast while staying on nearby Alderney. The island’s football team play – or, it looks like, used to play – at his beautifully located ground. Alderney finished bottom of the 14 teams in the recent Island Games. Opposition in the group stages included Gibraltar and the Falklands. Greenland v. Menorca must’ve been a cracker.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Barnoldswick Town 0 Ramsbottom Utd 2

FA Cup extra preliminary round
Attendance: 177

As I’ve noted before, selecting a tie in the ultra-early rounds of the Cup is like picking a winner for the Grand National: just go for a funny name. There were some splendid ones to chose from this time including Greenwood Meadows, Thurnby Nirvana, Wolverhampton Casuals, Dunkirk, Bustleholme, Continental Star, Bugbrooke St Michaels and Bemerton Heath Harlequins.

No tie was more quintessentially northern-sounding than this one, though. The match had a certain symmetry for me in that my final match of last season involved Barnoldswick. The lads began the season (only their third in the non-league pyramid) at a gallop with three wins out of four and, particularly adding to the attraction, this was their first ever match in the FA Cup. Barlick, as the town’s known locally, were absolute beginners in the outer space of the competition.

Some 671 non-league clubs enter the Cup in the qualifying rounds and there are only 32 places available for them in the first round proper. The slender prospect of significant progress didn’t put off the supporters. A healthy 177 turned out for the occasion. I’m not a fan of sponsored stadia names but the Silentnight Stadium is a cracker. What a gift for journalists when it’s a boring game. (Silentnight are have been based in Barnoldswick since acquiring a mill-powered mattress factory in the 50s). It was, indeed, a pretty silent afternoon, the calls of the players much louder than the murmer of the crowd except for the spasmodic and bizarre bawl of “Sew-er!” from the clubhouse steps. Why?

Fittingly, the ground includes some old barn cues. You half expect to see a cow through a window at the end of the main stand and behind one goal is what looks like a pair of barn conversions. The view from the clubhouse end includes a rugby pitch on the top of a bank to the right (see pic, above) and a cricket scoring tower peeping over the left touchline.
These features together with the concentric rings of freshly mown grass on the football pitch really sums up how August marks the blurring of the sporting seasons. Victory Park, as the whole complex is called, is a most convivial spot for an afternoon’s sport, whether playing or spectating.

Kids on scooters and mum’s with bairns in pushchairs dawdled around the pitch. The set-up was so casual that my son, Bertie, and I were able to leave the ground at half-time for the playground and return without having so much to ask the gateman. He wasn’t there! It only cost £4 to get in – and under 16s were free.

Barnoldswick’s debut didn’t go well. They were second best from the start. They nearly went behind when the goalie dropped a ball on the line but the lino waved play on. Ramsbottom predictably took the lead on 18 mins when a free kick was pushed by the goalie onto the bar then bundled into the net. I caught it all in a mini-movie, as below. The tie was effectively ended shortly before half-time when Robinson of Rammy burst through from midfield and beat the keeper in a one-on-one.

A bright first-half gave way to heavy rain throughout the second. “Surve watterin' bass-kits,” mused the old fella behind me in an accent reminiscent of Fred Dibnah – or perhaps Geoff Boycott. It’s hard to tell in this hinterland between Yorkshire and Lancashire. The club crest bears both the white and red roses. Barnoldswick improved but it was too little, too late. The main action was the sending off of their sub, Smith, after just six minutes on the pitch for an over-the-top tackle. It all ended in tears, as my Dad would’ve said. How beat does this lad look as he leaves the pitch? The X-Factor’s back on the telly tonight and the Cup is up and running once more. Autumn is on its way.

Programme notes: Michael Saunders of Rammy is a “pocket exocet” while Phil Dean is “five foot next to nothing but has pace to burn”. Best name? Barry Shuttleworth who has “more clubs than Jack Nicklaus”.

Make a day of it: Get to Barnoldswick early and do the excellent Stream and Steam Heritage Trail then cycle for three miles south along the canal towpath to The Wharf at Foulridge for a spot of lunch. That’s what we did.

Tale of woe: Spare a thought for poor old Brodsworth Welfare. I saw them in April at the end of what was to be a winless season. Last month, in their centenary year, their clubhouse was arsoned, Featherstone Rovers declined to ground share and, as a result, Broddy has dropped out of the non-league pyramid. How sad: the local yobs see their club as more fun to torch than play for.

Close season appearance: The company I work for is carrying out extensive flood alleviation works in Banbury. My tour of the scheme included the new concrete walls we’ve built to protect Banbury United FC from the River Cherwell. Never mind the 3km bund upstream, treading the turf was the undoubted highlight for me.