It’s great to be back

For me the 2022/23 football season is underway with my first game at Shepshed Dynamo. Shepshed of the Northern Premier League, Midland Division played Winterton Rangers of the Northern Counties East League, Premier Division in the Extra Preliminary Round of the F.A. Cup. Shepshed are one level above Winterton in the Pyramid structure and with home advantage were favourites to win.

I often start my season at this first stage of the F.A. Cup but today I had an extra reason.

My son joined me to watch the match and we reminisced that in 1991 we had last been here to see Shepshed Albion beat Stourbridge Swifts 2.0 after watching Stourbridge beat Long Buckby 1.0 in the previous round. The significance to my son and I was that as the teams were warming up my son then nine retrieved a ball from behind the goal dribbled it back onto the pitch and then chipped the goalkeeper to see the ball nestle in the net. We have always maintained that he scored a goal at an FA Cup match!

Shepshed’s ground also has some notoriety in that it is on Butthole Lane and some Talk Sport morning presenters made a point of talking about it over too many shows.

201 people were there which I thought was disappointing for the start of the season, but it is holiday time.

The ground has no parking but we were rerouted to a nearby campus where there is ample tarmac parking. The temperature said 23° on the car but a slight breeze made it feel more comfortable than that. The bright blue sky had scattered wispy clouds that gave a little relief from the sun. The pitch slopes slightly end to end with a few undulations but the grass was yellowing in large patches and the goal mouths had no grass cover being dusty from where it was worn last season. The long hot summer has not been kind to the pitch and a long period of rain will only cut the pitch up further and provide a poor playing surface this season.

Shepshed Albion stated playing over 120 years ago in local Leicestershire Leagues but changed their name to Shepshed Charterhouse in 1975 due to financial support. This helped them to league wins that left them only two levels away from the football League in the Southern Football League, Premier Division only to be transferred to the Northern Premier League, Premier Division.

The club had a few months flirtation with Martin O’Neill as manager but their star waned and in 1992 they went back to their old name of Shepshed Albion. The following year they sought help from near neighbours Loughborough Dynamo (Just over junction 23 of the M1) and re-named and reformed as Shepshed Dynamo. some ups and downs and re-organisation of leagues now sees them playing in the Northern Premier League , Midland Division.

Winterton Rangers have had a more stable existence having started life in 1934 at Winterton in Lincolnshire just north of Scunthorpe. They played local football until 1965 when they joined the Lincolnshire League and five years later the Yorkshire league which in 1982 was re-structured to form the Northern Counties East League where they have stayed. Despite some highs and lows they are still in that League now playing in the Premier Division.

Shepshed Dynamo 0 Winterton Rangers 0

I have headed this blog it’s good to be back, and it is, but this game was not memorable. Shepshed took control of the first half from the start but were ineffectual in front of goal and other than the chat to my son there was little to commend the 45 minutes.

The second half was much the same and there were few Winterton shots on goal. The Winterton defence was resolute with the man of the match, Nathan Popple in goal, making two high class saves. One full stretched diving to his left and another at his right post when he denied Zayn Hakeem touching the ball onto his post and away from danger.

Zayn was replaced with 15 minutes left which baffled us as he was the most effective forward and we would have subbed centre forward, Dempsey Arlott-John who seemed to be suffering from a calf strain and brought Zayn inside to spearhead the attack.

So all square and a replay on Wednesday night at Winterton, yes a replay, they are back in the early rounds this year.

I had commented last season that I may not keep my Chip League going because of a higher than desired cholesterol result. A bit of weight loss, a better diet and statins have reduced this so chips are back on the menu. Whether it was the pre-season wait but the chips were superb. After waiting a while for the food kiosk staff to sort out a boiler problem they produced a £2 tray of chips that were hot, golden, fluffy in the centre, no after taste of oil and delicious. I have only scored them 80 as it is the start of the season but I think it is a score that may well not be beaten in the next 9 months.

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