Where better than Gresley FC to spend Non League Day to see them entertain Rugby Town in the Buildbase FA Vase first round.
The Moat Ground is iconic in its ramshackle appearance tucked into an old housing estate, that belies the enjoyment that is created on this stage. 205 fans turned up and the snack bar and Harry’s bar did a good trade. A large group of fans had a pint or two outside the bar in good humoured fun and banter. Gresley long to move to community facilities and their ground and car park have been zoned for housing in the local plan. In the meantime it’s worth the visit to just take in the sense of belonging created by many fans, officials, volunteers and players of the past.
I saw Greeley last year at Lincoln United in their relegation from the Northern Premier League and remember overhearing officials of both teams debating the rising cost of paying players and how they couldn’t and wouldn’t compete.
Gresley’s fall has continued and they now sit bottom of the Midland Football League, Premier Division with only two points and no wins after 9 games. They hoped that they could add to their two wins in the preliminary rounds and perhaps emulate Gresley Rovers Wembley final of 1992.
I have previously written about Gresleys history so a brief resume of Rugby Town FC. Formed as New Bilton Juniors playing friendlies in 1955 they changed their name to Valley Sports the following year and started playing local Saturday football. they progressed to the United Counties League by 1969 and changed their name again, this time to VS Rugby. They progressed up through the West Midland League to the Southern League and had some memorable F.A. cup runs before folding in 1993. Some of the original founders of the club rescued it and reformed. VS Rugby became Rugby United in 2000 and in 2005 changed to the present Rugby Town. Rugby like Gresley have in recent years been relegated from the Northern Premier League and had a spell in the Midland League before being transferred to the United Counties League in one of the FA’s many reshuffles.
The day was dry but the grey skies and fluffy darker clouds threatened rain. At 13 degrees it was pleasant and the pitch looked lush and in good condition. The pitch slopes down from each end to a sort of plane in the middle and is undulating in many areas.
Gresley try hard to raise money, they had a quiz the previous night and a program for £1.50 was supplemented by a 20p team sheet printed while you waited. Sellers for golden goal, a raffle and a team draw were active as well as the food and drink bars.
Gresley FC 0 Rugby Town FC 1
Rugby immediately dominated the start of the game and it looked only a matter of time before they scored. Gresley however hung on and midway through the first half had started to dominate. A string of corners and balls into the goalmouth should have seen them get one good chance but they looked unlikely to put the ball in the net with little direct striking power. Level at half time was a fair reflection of the action.
The second half saw Rugby gain the upperhand and were unlucky not to go ahead after 55 minutes when Jazz Luckie rose to meet a corner and his header crashed against the corner of the upright and crossbar. Rugby’s domination though proved fruitful on 78 minutes when Jazz Luckie hit the ball home from the centre of goal after good work from the left wing provided a cross that beat everyone. Gresley tried to rally and managed to put some pressure on but Extra Time was not needed.
For me my man of the match was Gresleys No 10 Albert Landsdowne who seemed to be everywhere and had abundant passion and commitment.
One thing about the game was that I don’t remember the officials, well done!
Gresleys great experience was further demonstrated by their organisation of a one way system that cleared the full car park and on street parking quickly. The guy directing everyone did extremely well.
The chips were hot, golden brown and tasty but had a slight burnt taste to them, a score of 68. I will issue an up to date chip League after the next game.