29th March 2013
The Good Friday leg of this year’s Northern Eastern Counties League Groundhop took place in West Yorkshire. The weekend football fest finally got under way after the postponement of the game at AFC Emley the previous evening due to a snow covered pitch. Three of the four Friday matches took place within the City of Wakefield. The metropolitan borough of Wakefield is a district which includes the "Five Towns" of Normanton, Pontefract, Featherstone, Castleford and Knottingley, as well as the other towns of Ossett, Hemsworth, South Kirkby & Moorthorpe and South Elmsall.
After putting out a plea for a lift to the NCEL Groundhop on the website and the Facebook Fanclub page, I gave up hope of attending the festivities until receiving a message from Consett based Peter Taylor on Monday night, who after a change of plan, was now able to attend and inquired if I still needed a lift. The breadknife keeps warning me about accepting lifts from strangers but I couldn’t refuse this kind offer, so Peter travelled over from County Durham to pick me up early Friday morning and we were on the road to the hop at 8am.
Glasshoughton Welfare 2v0 Nostell MW
Northern Counties East League Premier Division
The first match of the day was hosted by Castleford based Glasshoughton Welfare. We were amongst the early arrivals at the Leeds Road ground, pulling into the Glasshoughton Centre car park at 930am. The club officials were already at the ground along with pin badges and programme stalls in anticipation of the pending influx of haversacks and anoraks.
Glasshoughton Welfare formed in 1964 as Anson Sports, eventually changing their name in 1976. They played in the West Yorkshire League until joining the old Northern Counties East League Division Three in 1985-86. The club moved up to Division Two after the third tier was scrapped the following season and benefited from league re-organisations in the early ‘90s, playing in the NCEL Premier Division for the first time in 1991. They remained in the top flight until relegation to Division One in the 2008, but won promotion last season after finishing runners-up to Handsworth.
Glasshoughton have lifted silverware in the West Riding County Cup in 1994 and President's Cup in 1998. In April 2007 the club signed local resident Bruce Grobbelaar for a one-off appearance in the hope of raising funds to ease the club's financial troubles. The former Liverpool ‘keeper played the full ninety minutes for the Welfare and was just six minutes away from keeping a clean sheet.
The Glasshoughton Centre is also home to the local bowls and cricket clubs. The turnstile entrance is in the corner of the ground with the centre building; which includes the clubhouse and changing rooms on the near side. The team dugouts are in front of the bar entrance with the main stand on the opposite side. The stand is decked out with blue and white flip seats with park bench style seating at the front, with the club name on the blue framed façade. At the Leeds Road end there’s a six steps covered terrace directly behind the goal and at the far end there’s a very narrow hardstanding pathway.
For the first match of the day, the club hosted Nostell Miners Welfare in a Premier Division fixture. Glasshoughton went into the game in 16th spot with their opponents’ two places below them and still not safe from the drop zone. The game got off to a lively start with chances from both sides, but as the match progressed decent goal chances were limited and after an hour, it was looking likely the enthusiastic gathering of groundhoppers were about to start the day with an unwanted nowts-each.
The deadlock came in the 66th minute with an obscure own goal, the likes of which Glenn Keeley would've been proud of. There didn’t seem too much danger when a crossfield ball was intercepted by left back Wayne Ball, but unfortunately Wayne ballsed up! – his attempted up field clearance from the edge of the box skew whiffed in the opposite direction before nestling in the corner of the net.
The goal gave the hosts a lift and they had a great chance to double the lead from the penalty spot on 80 minutes, but the ‘keeper pulled off a fine save to deny Daz Young. However the points were finally bagged in the last minute as Nostell pushed up looking for an equaliser leaving plenty of time and space for Woollard to pick up a crossfield pass before producing a cool finish.
Glasshoughton Welfare were fine hosts for the opening game and appear to be a smashing little club. On the final whistle the first of the mad mass exoduses began as the groundhoppers in attendance raced to their cars and onwards to the next venue along the road to Pontefract.
GWAFC 2(Ball 66OG Woollard 85)NMWFC 0
Ground no.342 Leeds Road - Matchday Web album (18 pictures)
343. Beechnut Lane
Pontefract Collieries 2v2 Selby Town
Northern Counties East League Division One
The next stop on the hop was the historic market town of Pontefract, the UK home of liquorice, Haribo sweets and Pontefract Cakes. The 3 and a half mile journey between the two grounds took 10 minutes, found on the other side of the M62 with the Ferrybridge power station in full view.
As we drove along Skinner Lane towards the town centre, there was a young lad in a hi-vis jacket holding up a sign to escort us in the right direction, taking us down Beechnut Lane bank and onto the large car park field outside the ground.
Ponte has a football history stretching back to the 1890s; though the current Pontefract Collieries club formed in 1959. The club playing in the West Yorkshire League until joining the Yorkshire League in 1979, winning the 3rd Division in the competition’s last season before it merged into the North Eastern Counties in 1982.
The Colts won successive promotions at the start of NCEL, playing in the Premier Division in all but one of the next 15 seasons until they were relegated for a second time in 1999, and have remained in the First Division ever since. The club have enjoyed success in cup competitions, winning the Castleford & District FA Embleton Cup on seven occasions, the NCEL Floodlit Cup two years running from 1988 and were the first winners of the NCEL Wilkinson Sword Trophy in 1995-96.
For sponsorship purposes the ground is currently known as the Whiterose Stadium. It was developed in the 1980s as The Colls progressed in the NCEL top flight. The club’s connection with the mining industry saw a lot of work taking place during the miners’ strike. During this period ground improvements included work on the stands, seats and a new clubhouse. In 1987 floodlights were erected and switched on for a friendly with Hull City in front of a record breaking four figure crowd.
Immediately on entering the turnstile there’s a refreshment bar, cabin office and under a canopy; a club & programme shop. The main stand is on this side sitting on the half way line, filled with 300 blue flip seats across 7 rows with the bar and changing rooms underneath. There’s a small one step covered terrace behind one of the goals with the rest of the ground open. The brick dugouts are at the far side separated by an advertising board featuring the club name and crest.
The Colls currently in 7th place in Division One hosted 19th placed Selby Town. The fear of a goalless draw was quickly diminished as the visitors took a first minute lead through Danny Gray, who played a neat one-two before firing home and the number 9 doubled their lead via the penalty spot on 28 minutes.
Although Selby were two goals to the good, I still felt Ponte could get something out of the game as they were playing well and carving out chances. So it was no surprise they halved the deficit on the half hour mark when a Liam Radford effort rattled the crossbar with Luke Durham on hand to fire home the rebound.
The second half was played in a competitive spirit with The Colls rescuing a point five minutes from time when a foul by Selby skipper Mick Jones (not him out of The Clash…Eddy) resulted in Andy Catton converting the spot-kick. In the end a draw was probably the fairest result over an enjoyable ninety minutes.
The Beechnut Lane ground has plenty of character with a quaint backdrop of the nearby hills and the smoking chimneys of the power station, although a good lick of paint throughout would make it a bit more pleasing on the eye. The club bar marked the groundhopping occasion with a couple of real ales from the Castleford based Revolutions Brewery. I tried the blonde ‘EP’(3.9%) and the stout ‘Remain In Light’(4.8%) and they were both top quality.
After the game there was another stampede to the car park. The exit from the ground can be tricky due to the traffic lights at the top of Beechnut Lane, but we managed to make a sharp departure and headed on towards the next venue in the small town of Fitzwilliam.
PCFC 2(Durham 30 Catton 85pen) STFC 2(1Gray 1,28pen)
Ground no.343 Beechnut Lane - Matchday web album (26 pictures)
Hemsworth MW 0v4 Knaresborough Town
Northern East Counties Division One
The final stop of our NCEL treble was the former mining town and civil parish of Hemsworth on the edge of West Yorkshire. The ground is actually found in Fitzwilliam, which was 7 miles from Pontefract and due to busy traffic took us a good 25 minutes.
Hemsworth Miners Welfare FC formed in 1981 after the disbandment of Hemsworth Colliery Football Club the previous year. The club joined Division Three of the Doncaster and District Senior League and following back-to-back promotions reached the league’s Premier Division in 1987–88.
The club moved to the West Riding County Amateur Football League, winning the Division One title in 1996–97 as well as the Division One Cup. Whilst in the league’s Premier Division they lifted the Premier Division Cup in 1998 and 2001.
In 2008 the club were accepted into Division One of the Northern Counties East League, where they have remained since.
The Fitzwilliam Stadium is tidy little ground, with one main stand at the far side. The stand sits at one side of the half way line with about 80 green flip seats. Next to the stand are the dugouts which are quite roomy and nearly as large as the stand, with the club name and crest on the front fascia. The Mick Crapper clubhouse is on the nearside with a portacabin office block to the other side of the spectator entrance. There’s open standing behind the goals with the cricket field at one end and the opposite goal is enclosed with conifer trees. There are floodlight poles on three sides of the ground and for sponsorship purposes the ground is currently known as The MDC Sports Stadium.
My final game of the day was another First Division fixture as mid-table Hemsworth hosted fourth top Knaresborough Town. After watching two close encounters earlier in the day this game was dominated by the visitors, as they sailed into a four goal lead by half time. Town took the lead in the 12th minute with a converted penalty from Steve Bromley and doubled their lead five minutes later in the same manner, which was the fifth penalty witnessed over the three matches.
Knaresborough went further ahead on 25 minutes when a cross was headed back from Bromley into the path of Joel Freeston who fired home from close range and he grabbed his brace ten minutes later; the striker timed his run to perfection to stay onside before firing the ball under the ‘keepers’ body.
The Welfare improved in the second half (well they couldn’t have played much worse) but failed in to get on the scoresheet. The second half fizzled out as the game was won and over as a contest in the opening 36 minutes.
We had to give the final game of the hop at Athersley Recreation a miss, as Peter had to get back home, while I had a busy Saturday ahead with a 4.45am early start. I was pleased to find out that the match finished 8-1 to the hosts, so we didn’t miss too much!!!
The festivities continued the following day with matches in north and east Yorkshire at Bridlington Town, Pickering Town and Tadcaster, three grounds which I’ve already done so didn’t need to travel to, but having seen the results of these matches the groundhoppers present would have enjoyed another cracking day.
HMWCFC 0v4 KTFC(Bromley 12pen 17pen Freeston 25,36)
Ground no.344 Fitzwilliam Stadium - Matchday Web album (16 pictures)
To say I had a very enjoyable day would be an understatement. The day went perfectly so full credit to organisers Groundhop UK and the clubs involved in hosting the event. The best thing about the occasion was seeing friends from the 100FgC, some of which I met for the first time along with a few who I hadn’t seen for a couple of years, alike to a reunion party where you mingled amongst old mates for a catch up and a good bit craic. So throughout the day I enjoyed the company of David Poole, Lee Stewart, Katie Wallace, Graeme Holmes, Dickie Bysouth, Keith Stoker, Dan and Sam Gooch with baba Katie, Simon Lee, Eddie Fogden, Stephen Jackson and the bloke from Telford with the long grey hair and beard who loves Yorkshire ale. However the biggest thank you goes to Peter Taylor (not the one who played for Spurs and Palace…Eddy) who chauffeured me around the grounds and without his assistance, I would have missed out on experiencing such a fabulous day.
Blogger links to others in attendance to follow