As always I looked forward to a great year of watching football but it didn’t start well with a very dull 0.0 draw between Heanor and Selston. The cobwebs were however blown away at Hucknall where they scored 10.
The following week I found myself in Spennymoor along with some long distance fans from Plymouth who at half time had smiles on their faces as they led one nil.Unfortunately they were reduced to tears and a long miserable drive home as the home side swept to an FA trophy win in the last ten minutes of the game. The mid winter month of January ended in a warm clubhouse in Rossington who lost the match but won the tie as heir opponents had played an ineligible player. It was also a night to remember for a tasty chicken and mushroom pie, mushy peas and gravy.
What a February, criss crossing the country from Poole where penalties were the difference to an evening game on top of Emley Moor. It was windy up there but that didn’t stop Emley putting 4 past Knaresborough. I didn’t win the meat raffle or all of the others I entered in 2022. A few days later I was back in the North East to watch Esh Winning who lost. But this is one of those iconic grounds to visit but it was the troubadour ‘Miserable Les’, a local poet and folk singer, who talked me through all things local for two hours and made it one of the highlights of the season. The chips at the local coal fired fish and chip shop added to the enjoyment.
March started with ‘WOW’ a visit to Loughborough Students. The facilities here within the University campus are amazing for this level of Non League football, well worth a visit.They also have a great team on and off the field that has a very progressive attitude.
I traveled next to nearby Eastwood which also have good facilities but an unusual sloping all weather pitch. The teams performance didn’t match the set up. This was followed by a visit to one of my favourite grounds in Belper but this time to see Belper United not Town who play on the same pitch although I have heard gossip that they will not be there next year. Belper beat Hinkley in a very competitive match. Onward to Mansfield Hosiery, you have to go just for the name, where I found a very homely, friendly club in a housing estate. There were no chips here but the hot chocolate on a cold evening was a warming sensation. Mansfield Hosiery’s win eased their relegation worries. March continued in Newcastle-under-Lyme on a beautifully hot clear day that would have graced mid summer.If only the football would have been as joyous. Still more in March which closed at Chesterfield where England’s under 19 team beat Portugal to qualify for the European finals which they went on to win in Croatia. I was impressed by the silky skills of Tim Iroegbunam who will be a full England star sometime soon.
The showers in April were turned on at half time in the match I watched at St Josephs Rockware Worksop when the referee abandoned the match due to a touch line altercation. However the full 90 minutes were played at Carlton in Nottingham where the home team beat Belper Town in a scramble for play off places. Easter Monday found me in Mexborough for the 125th Montagu Cup the oldest of its kind still being played. The game was between Dog Daisy United and Scawthorpe Athletic which the away team won 3.4. A very exciting game but I will remember the day as a great family fun event that must be visited again. The organisers even went round the ground with the cup letting fans have their photo taken with it. The large crowd was down to their dedication and commitment. April ended with a Welsh experience, first to see Llandudno’s last game of the season where although they beat Llangefni 6.1 they still finished second in their league.On the way back home I was lucky to get a ticket, via Southend, to visit the up and coming Wrexham who were pushing to get back in the Football League. This is the oldest ‘International’ ground still in use where their current high profile owners have big plans for the future. Wrexham won 1.0 but later failed in the play offs. One negative was the poor conditions I experienced in the away section. Their goal of redeveloping the ground cannot come soon enough.
May was perhaps the highlight of the year when I visited Barrow-in-Furness where I met my daughter completing the full current 92 Football League grounds, I was there at the start and the finish. Brilliant achievement but the drama of Northampton winning three one away and so achieving automatic promotion was bettered by Bristol Rovers incredulously winning seven nil to pip them by goal difference. It is a very strange game at times.
No football in June but in July I watched a UEFA womes Euro’s game which France beat Italy 5.1. France’s first half performance was out of this world and I expected them to go on and win the competition easily. Up stepped England and blew everyone away.
I sneaked a pre-season friendly later in July at Wells-next-to-sea where the rock hard ground and crispy grass seemed to inhibit the football and it became the first ever game I have left before the end. However if I am in that area again I would like to go to see a competitive game.
So a new season and the month of August found me at Shepshed Dynamo for an early round of the FA Cup. No goals meant a replay in a poor game. Shirebrook next as I gave them a chance to regain the Chip league, they won the game but the chips lost. Richmond in North Yorkshire next to see them play in a Weirside League game, new to me. Disappointing as they had moved to a school 3G pitch from their iconic ground under the castle, progress.
A much more traditional ground at Quorn and a a friendly warm clubhouse. They unfortunately lost to Heanor by three goals with the shouting and language of the visitors leaving much to be desired.
September started with an M1 trip to Selston a village in Nottinghamshire on the Derbyshire border where the ground shares facilities with the cricket club. The moon shining brightly couldn’t help them in their 3.1 defeat by Belper United. After a complete lack of organisation I found myself getting to Denaby Main late but enjoyed the football in what was the start of a longer dive into the Sheffield and Hallamshire League. Ilkeston up next for an evening game where I again gave a club the chance to regain their chip league top status but again a disappointment. What had changed was a 3G pitch and a digital program.They won competently 2.1.
October saw a run of three Sheffield and Hallamshire clubs. First Sheffield Town who were playing their first game at the newly agreed ground share at Kiveton. This was followed by visiting Dearne and District near Goldthorpe, this is a progressive community club running numerous teams. With future ground improvements this is are a team to watch. Then finally to Dodworth Miners Welfare where a true entrenched community spirit still thrives. Staying with the ex mining community theme I visited Linby Miners Welfare in this pretty Nottinghamshire village. A great history packed club house here, I wish I could have stayed for the after match curry and rice. I ended the month in Stratford on Avon to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre and a visit to Stratford Town’s ground where FC Stratford play in the Hellenic League. Again a 3G pitch and an improbable late comeback for the home team to win.
An unbelievably wet journey and biblical rain through the match as I visited Horbury just off the M1 south of Wakefield.
Just promoted to the Northern Counties East League their facilities just meet requirements but they look to make forward strides in the future and definitely one to go back to on a drier day in the future. Hallam drew Bury in the FA Cup which Bury won on a replay so when they drew each other in the FA Vase I decided that it was one to see. Again a large crowd turned up in the Sheffield suburbs and again it was tight with Bury winning on penalties to go through. The rain had continued but Worksop Town’s game on their 3G pitch was on as they tried to maintain their top spot in the Northern Premier League East, this they did with some style under the lights. The following week back to Loughborough Students to see if they could remain unbeaten in the League and top of the United Counties League. They did that in style winning 5.1 against Heanor. Finally a trip to Prescott to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ again but this time at the Shakespeare North Theatre meant I could see Prescott Cables take on high profile and high flying Macclesfield. Macclesfield edged it but it was Prescott’s 10 man display for 70 minutes that caught the eye.
So into December and the end of the year I finally made it to Swinton which again is in the Sheffield and Hallamshire League and making changes to their ground to hopefully progress in the future. It was here on top of the hill that I finally decided that winter was with us. Mid month I watched Chesterfield FC go out of two cups on consecutive nights. Monday at Staveley Miners Welfare’s ground to Belper United in the Derbyshire Senior Cup and Tuesday at home to Coalville in the FA Trophy. The end of my football year was on Christmas Eve when I watched Dinnington Town lose to unbeaten table toppers Retford United. Great crowd of 390 at this redeveloped 3G ground.
Another fantastic year and I can’t wait for 2023 hopefully it will be as exciting and enjoyable as 2022.