The real football season began with The Extra Preliminary Round of the 2020/21 F.A. Cup and I missed it.
My predictive ability looks poor as I expected the season to start later and was away on a two week holiday on the Kintyre Peninsula in Western Scotland.
The games come fast now for Non League clubs with rounds of the 3 National cups already drawn despite the FA Vase and Trophy from last season not quite completed.
Who says there is no glamour in the F.A. cup anymore when you could be one of the 20 first time entrants in this year’s draw dreamimg of a trip down Wemley Way in far off May.
This could be, no will be, the year of the underdogs with preparations for all teams disrupted and finances fragile which could just turn a few things upside down.
I made it to my first match at South Emsall in West Yorkshire to see Frickley Athletic at home to Newcastle Benfield in the F.A. Cup Preliminary Round. As I wandered down Westfield Lane to the ground summer was still with us which was evident by the cricket match in play just before the car park.
The online ticket booking had been easy as the game was played under Covid restrictions and the attendance was limited and Track and Trace was in operation. In the event the crowd of 192 was not near the allowed number.
It was good to be seeing my first live game since March and it was a glorious end of summer day with blue skies and some high cloud. Sitting in the large stand the ground looked as if it had been lovingly worked on since the last game with lots of newly painted areas. The pitch was immaculate and looked very flat until I walked round the perimeter to see a large slope existed from the stand to the far edge of the pitch.
There is mention of Frickley Colliery Athletic Club as far back as 1908 but with the demise of the coal industry the Colliery name was dropped in the 1970’s. Evidence of the mining roots can be seen from the stand as it overlooks an old mining spoil tip that has been contoured and is now used as farm land with the hay bales in the fields which acted as seating for some people to overlook the ground and watch the game. Frickley ‘s best performance in the F.A.Cup was in 1985 when they reached the third round only to lose at home to local rivals Rotherham United. At that time they were playing their football in the highest level of Non League Football and were founder members of the Football Conference the following year. Since then they have slipped down some levels but are a well run and established club.
Benfield by contrast were only formed in 1988 and have had a few name changes on their journey to becoming settled members of the Northern League Premier Division. They have reached the quarter finals of the F.A. Vase and are always a hard team to beat.
Frickley Athletic 3 Newcastle Benfield 1
The game started competitively and Frickley soon stamped their physical advantage on the game but some accurate long passes to the Benfield forwards put them under pressure.
After only 6 minutes Frickleys Nyle Blake was played through and he was able to slide the ball between the advancing goalkeepers legs and into the net despite the efforts to clear off the line by a despairing Benfield defender. The same player should have doubled the score on 15 minutes but dragged his shot wide of the left post.
Benfield started to have the best of play and on 42 minutes their left back, Turnbull, who was my man of the match, was again fouled and the freekick from Noble was headed home at the near post by number nine Brayson.
Benfield lack of concentration let Grayson restore Frickley’s lead only two minutes later and the home team went in 2 -1 up at half time.
Benfield had the most possetion in the second half but were unable to get clear shots on goal and Jack Whightwick wrapped it up just before the end when he received the ball from a throw in and made a great turn and shot to put the home side into the next round.
I was excited to find Big Fellas Snack Bar and find chips on the menu. Unfortunately although hot they were a bit soggy and lacked taste. Good value and quantity but dropping half was not a disappointment. A score of only 53 to start the season.