Saturday, 29 August 2015

Barton Town Old Boys 1 Droylsden 2

FA Cup, preliminary round
Attendance: 142

For me the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup are summer’s parting gift. This season’s trail began at Barton Town Old Boys on the southern side of the Humber Bridge. (£3 return toll compared to just £5 admission, a bargain!) The tie brought back happy memories from last season of seeing North Ferriby (on the other side of the bridge) in their FA Trophy semi-final and Droylsden at Ossett Albion last season. Sadly, though, their fans who were so entertaining then weren’t much in evidence today.

As is often the way at this formative stage of the season I prefaced the trail with a bike ride and struggle to find the ground. I reached Barton Cricket Club easy enough but initially didn’t realise that the football club was further down the narrow lane. Had it not been for the railway line I may have overshot and ended up in the wetlands of the adjoining nature reserve. That’s what happened to a Droylsden shot during the warm-up. In the car park I came across a player fishing the ball out of a mildewy ditch with a long pole.

Barton’s ground is trim but very plain, consisting of just three modern corrugated steel stands and a one-storey clubhouse. The only remarkable features are the artificial turf that covers a bench for the subs (must’ve had some left over from the technical area) and a view of the Humber Bridge.

The hosts (aka The Swans – but shouldn’t their nickname by something bridge-related?) took the lead when a striker broke through the offside trap and lobbed the keeper. Droylsden equalised soon after the re-start when Hampson volleyed home after a corner wasn’t properly cleared and proceeded to boss the second half. The winner was a firm header into the top right corner of the goal from a cross from the left.

“Keeps! Keeps!”, a chap to my right called out to the Droylsden goalie. “Who was the scorer?”. “Dunno. Nine, I think,” he replied. (The fella had previously referred to another teammate as ‘seven’; he must be new). Moments later my fellow spectator switched on  his radio microphone, having glanced down at this teamsheet. “And the scorer of the second goal for Droylsden is Steve Hall.” Priceless. To my left behind the goal two woman and children were sitting on the grass having a party, complete with party bags.

My other favourite remark of the afternoon came from dreadlocked Droylsden assistant boss Aeon Lattie. “As much as we keep booting the ball fucking forward they keep kicking it back,” he said to a colleague. With analysis like that he ought to be on the Match of the Day couch. Not surprisingly the Droylsden bench lead by the ever-angry manager Dave Pace outbarked the home bench. At the end, after an instruction to keep the ball, one of his lads did a wayward pass. You’d think he’d missed a penalty in the final judging from the opprobrium coming from the manager’s mouth.

In the end it was unnecessary. The Bloods deservedly won – and will face Ossett Albion in the next round in a repeat of the tie at the same stage of the competition last season.

Programme notes: ‘Terrace talk’ bizarrely included a comment bemoaning the split of pop-punk band, The Hype Theory. Two pages were dedicated to pics of Barton players with a big blank box for their autographs. Didn’t see too many boys clustering around the players after the final whistle, notebook and pen in hand. The whole idea of autographs seems rather quaint now in this selfie-obsessed world.

Face in the crowd: In keeping with my first match of last season’s trail Father Christmas put in an appearance today.

Long distance travellers: Barton had an epic (by early FA Cup qualifier standards) journey back from their replay in the extra preliminary round at Squires Gate in Blackpool. Having come back from 2-0 down to win 4-2 after extra time The Swans didn’t return from their coast to coast run until 2.30am following motorway jams. That’s nothing compared to the 779-mile midweek journey made by Carlisle players and fans to Plymouth earlier this month, the longest trip in the Football League. And finally, spare a though for Aberdeen having made the longest ever journey in European club competition: 3,415 miles as the crow flies to Kairat Almaty of Kazakhstan (north-west of Pakistan) in July to compete in the UEFA Cup qualifiers. They lost.

Just not cricket: Couldn’t agree more with Jonathan Freedland writing in The Guardian on Aug 6 about the prematurely early start of the football season: “A quirk of the diary it might be, but it feels like an offence against nature all the same. For the football season to begin now, as the Ashes reaches its climax, is all wrong. There are rhythms to our national life, tides and currents that mark the seasons as surely as the falling of the leaves or the darkening of the nights, and this seeks to upend them. It is a violation on a par with the premature ‘back to school’ poster I spotted in a high street window last week, a form of words that can make the heart sink in early September, let alone a month in advance.”

Pic extra: Talking of cricket and in the absence of many pics from Barton today here is a shot I took during the close season of the clubhouse-cum-stand at Gargrave cricket club near Skipton.