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.