Pinball Football

On Saturday I visited Sandygate Road S10 Sheffield (The World’s Oldest Ground) to see Hallam FC play Bury AFC in the second round proper of the FA Vase. I missed their clash in the FA cup due to other commitments but fate had it that they had been drawn together in the ‘Vase’ a cup that either side could well go all the way to Wembley. Both these teams play at the same level in the pyramid system with Hallam and Bury both being promoted last season to the Premier divisions of the North East Counties and North West Counties respectively. Their encounter in the FA Cup ended 0.0 at Hallam with Bury winning the replay at home 1.0 so a competitive game was expected.

Hallam have continued to attract good crowds this season despite being in the lower half of the higher Division and like Bury are one of the best supported teams at this level. The Sandygate Road ground in the leafy suburb of the Crosspool area of Sheffield was once on the edge of this green city and you can understand their Countrymen nickname. The ground was opened in 1804 as a cricket ground and like many other clubs started to play football in the off season to keep fit and in 1860 Hallam FC was born. This has been officially confirmed by FIFA as the oldest football ground in the world still in use for football and the first interclub football match was played here against their rivals Sheffield FC on Boxing day 1860.

Sheffield FC although being the oldest have had a nomadic journey and still play just over the border in Derbyshire but their proposed new home at The Sheffield Transport Ground at Meadowhead, Sheffield, looks like it is going forward after a partnership arrangement with The Joe Root Academy. Again it will be cricket and football together, back to Sheffield FC’s roots. (The Sheffield Star 22nd October 2022)

How long can this weather last, clear blue skies and no wind meant perfect conditions for the players to perform on this highly sloped pitch, from end to end, that looked like it had absorbed the recent heavy rain leaving a heavy ground that had cut up in places during the warm up. The ground is homely with the shed end, a covered standing area behind most of one goal, an open end for standing and a side that hosts a good seated stand along with clubhouse and changing facilities. The club house is active locally for use at evenings and weekends. The open cricket square side harps back to the clubs founding and the cricket club remains a local asset as well with many teams of all ages and abilities. There is investment here with some very substantial posts having appeared since my last visit that look like they will be hung with nets to stop those boundaries going into the road or gardens. The cricket ground also has a historical claim to be the oldest club ground in Yorkshire and they now have a second ground further out of he city towards the Peak District on Crimicar Lane, Fullwood.

Hallam’s history which I have documented before has spanned 162 years whereas Bury AFC were only formed in 2019 out of the sad collapse of Bury FC and the loss of their Gigg Lane ground. Different groups looked to save the club which was not achievable and two emerged, one that created Bury AFC and set them on a footballing journey to climb up the footballing ladder and another that wanted to save the Gigg Lane ground for football to be played by a Bury team. Both have succeeded but now have to come together to put all the pieces in place. We hope that this can happen in the near future.

Hallam FC 1 Bury AFC 1

Saturday 12th November 2022 Kick off 15.00pm Sandygate Road, Crosspool, Sheffield.

The Countrymen v The Shakers

Hallam : Blue and black vertical striped shirts with blue shorts. Bury : White shirts with a blue flash across the shoulders with black shorts.

Bury kicked down hill in the first half towards a waning sun that hovered over the cross bar of the goal. Perhaps it was the sun in Bury’s eyes but more likely Julian Lawrence between the sticks that kept them at bay as they created the most and best chances of the first 15 minutes. Hallam came more into the game but it was Bury who should have scored on 36 minutes and the 0.0 draw at half time was down to goalkeeper hero Lawrence.

The second half had no let up in chances as both sides came close. The stalemate was broken though on 60 minutes when the Bury team stopped for a foul on one of their players that they thought the referee had indicated with his arm movement but the linesman had flagged for a throw to Hallam which they took quickly for Brett Agnew to run on unopposed and slide the ball into the net past the goal keeper. The Bury team to a man surrounded the referee and what seemed like an age the referee finally dismissed them and the game could be restarted.

Bury now threw everything into attack and Hallam were resolute in defense until on 70 minutes a ball was swung in from the right at chest height that was met by Connor Comber whose downward header squeezed into the net between the post and the diving Julian Lawrence.

The final minutes were tense for the large 660 crowd but despite chances neither team were able to find the winning goal. Everyone’s heightened emotions were deflated as they realised that at this stage of the Vase competition there is no replay only penalties to decide the game.

The referee organised penalties at the Shed End and it was Bury who came out the winners 4.1 with Jack Atkinson saving two of the spot kicks. What a disappointment for Julian Lawrence who as Hallam’s goalkeeper was my man of the match by a mile although it was Jack Atkinsons penalty saves that made the most impact on the result.

This had been an exhausting ‘Mad Max; game played by two very frantic competitive teams who looked like they both had so much to lose that it reduced the skill level to make me feel I had seen an old fashioned pinball machine in action which had ended on tilt with the penalties. The players must have been exhausted, I was, but I left the ground to walk to the car knowing I had seen the best game of the season so far.

The only disappointment were the chips which at £2 were a small portion of thin, crispy, hot but with little taste with a greasy after feel. A score of only 60.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s