Badgers see off the Corinthians.

A journey down the M1 gave me the chance to see a United Counties South League game having recently watched a number of North games.

Bugbroke is a village to the North West of Northampton not yet swallowed up by the behemoth that is this fast growing town. If you stand still for long on the outskirts of Northampton for long you risk being part of a roundabout, housing estate or one of the large sheds that keep growing and growing.

A team named Bugbrooke United started in 1910 but only lasted until 1927 and two years later Bugbrooke St Michael’s FC were formed. They played local Northampton football including in the intriguingly named Central Village League. Bugbrooke joined the United Counties League in 1985 gaining promotion to the Premier League in 1999. Since then they have developed as a Community Chartered Standard Club being voted the best in Northamptonshire in the past. The club now run teams of all ages and levels for men and women.

Their football foundation grant in 2006 to build a clubhouse shaped the ground, ‘the sett’, to what it is today. The brick built clubhouse runs for much of one side of the ground incorporating, changing rooms, bar, food hatch, reception area and function room. They also cleverly incorporated a seated spectator covered area to meet ground grading parameters.

The rest of the pitch area is surrounded by hard standing and new railings and fencing supplied with the support of the FA make this a very tidy and compact ground. There are other football pitches around for their other teams and training and they merge into Rugby and Cricket pitches all with their own clubhouse facilities.

The visitors Rothwell Corinthians like many clubs started as a church side and played local football on the ‘rec’. However in the 1980’s a move to the local cricket ground and the subsequent purchase of their current ground cemented their future. Winning the East Midlands Alliance Premier League on two occasions gave the club the confidence to apply to and join the United Counties League in 1995.

The club have cemented their status in the United Counties despite a few ups and downs and have been set in the United Counties Premier League South since the FA reorganisation. The Corinthians have assumed the senior role in Rothwell after Rothwell Town’s demise from the Southern League just over a decade ago.

Bugbrooke Town 2 Rothwell Corinthians 1

Saturday 25th February 2023. 15.00 pm kick off. United Counties Premier League South.

The Sett, Camp Hill, Bugbrooke, Northampton, NN7 3PH

13th v 17th. Badgers v Corinthians

Bugbrooke, White shirts with black shorts: Rothwell, Red shirts with black vertical stripes on the front with red shorts.

The very flat grasss pitch looked good even though it was wearing in a few places. The day was cold, 5.5 degrees, windy with grey skies that were begining to turn blue in places.

Rothwell were the more possitive team at the start with more possession, more running with the ball and more movement up front. Bugbrooke did have a few moments of opportunity and converted one of these into a goal on 39 minutes when Tom Simmons stole in at the back post to tap the ball into the net after it was headed on after a free kick from the right. Half Time 1.0

The game reverted to the previous halves pattern with Bugbrooke becoming more adventurous which was rewarded in the 70th minute when they were awarded a hotly contested free kick just on the right line of the penalty area. The free kick was whipped in for Joe Malkin to run in and make it 2 nil to the home team.

The Corinthians did not give in and pressed harder resulting in a free kick from the left being met by the soaring Aaaron Healey who headed it past the keeper to set up a frantic final 6 minutes. They continued to press but wasted a series of free kicks that went harmlessly to the goalkeeper or out of play. When the final whistle blew you could see the relief of the home team who celebrated their win with some vigour.

The crowd of only 60 was disappointing for this level of football.

The chips which were freshly cooked were very hot, had the skins on, tasty, crispy but were a bit greasy. A good score of 75.

Respect for those unsung heroes who keep football clubs going.

While many watched on TV as Real Madrid gave Liverpool a roasting I made my way to Arnold F.C. which is situated just north of the town which is itself just north of Nottingham.

It was pitched dark as I drove into an enormous car park with the lights of the ground burning in the distance. There are at least two other pitches on the complex but it was too dark to see any more detail.

Parking in the huge car park the ground, lit up, looked magical, they may call it ‘field of dreams in other locations’ but this looked just as good. The large brick built building houses all you need to run and manage local football. The huge lounge with bar and ‘snackery’, their name, is great for match days and use for any function.

Outside there was a good sized seated stand with a small covered terraced area between the two dugouts and some hard standing all around a very flat grass pitch that looked in good condition.

The night was cool with a wide clear sky as I sat down in the stand. An elderly gentleman approached us to buy raffle tickets but his telling all that his deafness was getting worse didn’t stop him from succeeding. After his efforts I looked down at the program to see that it was dedicated to fan Bob Bethell who had died over the weekend. A regular at home games and some away he was a true supporter and a quote by Mick Gretton, program editor, says it all…..”I know how much Bob loved his football and his genuine affinity for Arnold backed up by regular sponsorship throughout the season- barely a week went by without him thrusting a £20 note in to my hand”…..

The teams lined up and a minutes silence was observed which made me reflect on the local football communities. How had Mick Gretton put together the program in a few days, who had put the nets up, taken the money on the gate, manned the bar and ‘snackery’, mowed the pitch, administered the club, coached and managed the many teams. Where had the players traveled from to play after a day’s work, where had the officials come from. Just a few of the many that keep these local clubs going, not to forget the fans who turn up, around 50 for this game.

Don’t you just love Non-League football at all level, I know I do.

Arnold Town 0 Mickleover Royal British Legion 2

21st February 2023, 19.45 kickoff

Central Midlands League South Premier Division

Eagles v Legion. 11th v 4th

Mickleover took control of the game from the off with particularly good progress down the wings. The home defense stood firm but often played long balls out which only came straight back. There were times when Arnold could have carried the ball forward before making decisions of where to place the ball. They seemed static, where their opponents were running into spaces. It took until just on half time for Arnold to have their first corner against many for the visitors. Nothing came of it and the sides went in all square at 0.0.

The referee had controlled the game well playing the advantage rule and explaining decisions to disgruntled players.

The second half was delayed as a repair to the net fastening needed to be made.

Arnold came out with more intent in the second half which will have helped them keep warm as the temperature dropped. Their better play was undone after ten minutes when a defenders back header gifted the ball to Sam Vickers who lifted it into the net. Ten minutes later and Arnold hit the post during their most positive spell, all to no avail as a few minutes later another poor clearance gave Sam Vickers the chance to run beyond the rest of the defense and slide the ball across the goal for Jordan Lee to tap home.

The game was now over and both teams blanked each other out leaving Mickleover to walk away with all three points. A thoroughly good evening of football and I reflected that this was two levels below the match I had seen on Saturday but there was not a great deal of difference in skill level.

The Chips were hot, crinkled, crispy with a firm centre, but had a bit of a greasy after taste and scored 77 in my chip league. After pancakes perhaps this was not the best thing to eat.

It’s cold at Harworth but the football kept us warm.

Continuing my journey to some ex mining football clubs I ventured to Harworth Colliery F.C. in the northern corner of Nottinghamshire very close to the South Yorkshire border.

I recently attended a talk at Worksop Library about the history of Harworth Colliery and its interesting history by David Amos a Nottinghamshire mining historian. The pit had an chequered past having been developed by a German company in 1913 and at the outbreak of war caused a lot of local intrigue. Some locals were convinced that the owners were going to install surveillance and disruption on the A1 which is very close. The German sinkers were interned and the pit was nationalised during the war and sold to Eastwood based Barber Walker Co after it. They ran it until nationalisation and was latterly developed as a super pit which never lived up to its promise, being closed in 2006 when under the ownership of UK Coal. The football club was started in 1931 playing locally but rising to the prestigious Yorkshire League in 1946 where they stayed for 4 years before droping back into local South Yorkshire Football.

By the 1980’s they had progressed well to the Northern Counties East League but were relegated after a short while droping back to the Central Midlands League but were again promoted back into the NCEL in 2018 after 32 years. This uplift was only to last one year and they have stayed in the Central Midlands League since being proud to develop young talent in the Under 21’s, reserves and senior team.

What is noticeable is the development of the ground over recent years, situated off Scrooby Road along with other sports pitches and not far from the modern Bircotes Leisure Centre, the large tarmacked parking area is exceptional.

The land around here is very flat and on entering the ground this is continued with a lovely thick grass covered pitch. There are new LED floodlights, Toms tea rooms, a Shaft Side bar with outside fan zone, a small 50 seat covered stand on one side of the pitch mirrored by a similar standing area opposite. I’m sure the facilities go a long way in attracting the 118 hardy souls who were there to watch. You had to be hardy as the car temperature said 6 degrees but the biting strong wind blowing straight down the pitch cut you in quarters not half. This was despite the sunshine and clear blue skies.

I have written about Staveley Miners Welfare before having visited the ground more than once. They have been going for over 100 years.

Harworth Colliery FC 2 Staveley Miners Welfare Reserves 2

Saturday 14th January 2023. Kick off 15.00 pm

Central Midlands League North Division

5th v 7th, Colliery v Miners

Harworth Colliery orange shirts, black. shorts: Staveley blue and white vertical stripes shirts with blue square on the back, blue shirts.

Immediately it was noticeable that it was two young teams and both displayed some good skills in a well matched first 10 minutes despite the windy conditions. It was however the home side who scored first when with 13 minutes gone a Staveley defender turned in his penalty area and lost the ball to Bailey Lowe who made no mistake in finding the net.

Staveley did not lose heart and they drew level on 22 minutes when a ball was chiped over the top of the defence for Charlie Bingham to run on and score placing the ball across the goal keeper.

The pitch was drying with the wind and 1.1 at half time was a fair reflection of play.

8 minutes into the second half the Staveley substitute for the centre back, who had been injured through a tackle in the first half that had resulted in a booking, brought down a Harworth player, Mason Laws, in their penalty area. It seemed to me a soft penalty but it was dispatched easily by Bailey Lowe , sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Harworth were now on top but the visitors equalised on 65 minutes when the Harworth defence momentarily stopped appealing for a free kick. Staveley kept going and the ball was put through to Reece Clegg who fired it into the top of the net.

Staveley took the initiative for the rest of the game partly helped by a 10 minute sin binning of Harworth’s number 10 who appeared to argue with a linesman and the fact that he had been booked in the first half for kicking the ball away. Despite his return to play and some substitutes Harworth were on the back foot and the woodwork saved them in the last few minutes.

The end to end game had helped to fight off the biting wind along with the facilities that gave some shelter and the opportunity for warming food and drink. With players as young as 16 you have to say that there is luckily some great future talent coming along.

The chips were cooked for me and they were hot, crispy, tasty with no oily after taste. A good score of 68 would have been higher but sor a soggy inside.

Derby Singh Brothers win at home away.

Having missed Kimberley Miners Welfare for my first match of the New Year due to a waterlogged pitch I planned to meet my daughter to see Derby Singh Brothers at home in the semi final of the Derbyshire Cup against Melbournre Dynamo. A day before the game was switched to Melbourne and the drive there was through driving rain until 20 minutes before the end. Even driving over the river Trent made me feel apprehensive as the level was near the top of the banks. Walking towards the distant pitch you had to dodge the sodden grass but when we reached it the surface was drained and looked ideal for football. Infact the sky had cleared to a bright blue and with a little wind it was the ideal day. The pitch with a very slight slope from end to end was covered with thick undulating grass and to add to it there was a great view over some of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, the Trent vslley as well as planes from East Midlands Airport taking off over you.

This is the Melbourne Sports Complex which is home to Melbourne Town Cricket Club, Melbourne Tennis Club, Melbourne Rugby FC and Melbourne Dynamo FC with a central modern two storey changing rooms and bar area that is open 7 days a week. A brilliant community venue.

While the rugby players chanted motivational chants Derby Singh Brothers kicked off against Melbourne Dynamo FC in the DerbyshireFA Divisional Cup South 2022/23 Semi-Final.

I had noticed Derby Singh brothers last year as they were promoted to the Cebtral Midlands League 1 South but missed a visit for some reason.

Derby Singh Brothers FC 2 Melbourne Dynamo FC 2

Derby Singh Brothers go through to the final 3.2 on penalties.

Saturday 7th January 13.30 pm kick off.

Derbyshire Divisional Cup South – Semi Final played at the Melbourne Sports Complex

Derby Sing Brothers from mid table of the Central Midlands League South Division v Melbourne Dynamo from second of the Central Midlands League Division One (West)

Derby Singh Brothers, Dark Blue shirts and shorts with white collars, Melbourne Dynamo, Blue and Black vertical shirts with black shorts.

Derby Sing Brothers started the game the strongest but it was Melbourne who took the lead when Jack Goodband received the ball on the right of the penalty area, moved forward, drew the goalkeeper and lifted the ball into the net.

It fell to Derby Sing Brothers’ number 9, Darnell Smith, to equalise on 17 minutes when he took the ball wide and slipped the ball between the goalkeeper and his left post. But it was Melbourne who went in at half time in the lead when on 37 minutes Carl Allsop rose above the rest from a free kick to head goal wards. The Singh Brothers keeper seemed to have it covered but the ball slipped out of his hands into the net. Melbourne had taken their chances whereas Derby had created more but not made the best of them.

Melbourne held out under pressure for 22 minutes in the second half until Derby Singh Brothers number 7 played a beautiful cross along the ground which was met by Tyla Johal who squeezed between two defenders to score. having equalised they now put on more pressure and stout defending, great goalkeeping and the woodwork kept them out.

With a draw at the final whistle the dreaded penalties took place and when both teams missed their first attempts it looked like a long shoot out. Derby however took the lead on the next round and two great saves by the Derby goalkeeper, making up for his earlier mistake, saw them through eventually 3.2.

This was a great game for the level of football, good facilities and great footballing weather. Melbourne although they lost could be proud of getting the game on considering the recent weather and that they had held a team a division higher than themselves. derby Singh Brothers showed some good skills at time s but must know that their poor finishing nearly cost them the game. 60 plus fans were on hand to see an exciting game that seemed over in a flash. It turned out to be a great start to the season and one worth waiting for.

Good cheer all round at Christmas Eve football.

With very little football scheduled in England for Christmas Eve the Central Midlands League, 10 promotions from the Premier League, gave their clubs the choice of playing or not. Dinnington Town and Retford United agreed to play and were well rewarded with a crowd of 269, much, much higher than normal. There was the fact that Dinnington had won five in a row and were third, at home to Retford United, who were top and so far undefeated in the league although they only just maintained that record last time out when they equalised in the 90th minute against Haworth Colliery.

The large mainly male crowd may also have been helped by getting a pass out with the children to be out of the way. It may have been because after the torrential rain that swept across the UK the day before, Christmas Eve was a beautiful sunny day, with clear blue skies but with a chill wind. There also seemed to be a good many groundhoppers taking advantage of visiting Dinnington where the midday kick off didn’t disrupt the day too much.

I decided to go to see if Retford could maintain their record against in form opposition and because the ground had been majorly updated since I was last there. A new 3G pitch has been installed with new floodlights and tarmacadam hard standing on three sides. Gone are the covered areas but I’m sure that is a future priority not only for the fans but to achieve ground grading criteria. What has been achieved is outstanding and gives the club a firm financial base to progress.

They have also updated the facilities by the fact that you now enter the playing area via the resource centre which provides food an drink before, during and after the game. This was not available before and is a great idea to bring together two community assets. There is also unusually a Post Office in the building. The bowls club is also next door.

The new pitch does appear to slope slightly from end to end and is covered with multi coloured lines marking out various smaller pitches for juniors.

Dinnington Town 1 Retford United 3

December 24th 2022, kick off 12.00 (Midday). Central Midlands League North Division

Dinnington Yellow shirts with black edging and fading with black shorts. Retford United Grey shirts with darker grey vertical stripes and grey shorts.

Dinno v The Badgers

The game was very competitive as expected but it was Retford who created the best chances. They had a disallowed goal on 20 minutes and hit the cross bar 7 minutes later when the rebounding ball was just scrambled away only to be hit back in but only into the side netting. Dinnington had their own period of pressure and were denied by a point blank save by the goal keeper on 32 minutes.

Retford though went ahead on 41 minutes when a cross in from the left was met by the number nine Joe Froggat who tapped in. This seemed to coincide with the sun disappearing behind some cloud which certainly increased the chill factor. It was soon colder for the home side when in the last minute of the half a Retford player was fouled in the penalty area and Mark West took charge and dispatched the ball into the net for Retford to lead 2 Nil at half time.

As the teams walked off the pitch the Dinnington Manager walked over to argue with the ref and was shown a yellow card, unfortunately this added to one he had collected earlier for the same offence and he was red carded and sent off.

Dinnington came out in the second half with renewed vigour and deservedly pegged a goal back after ten minutes of the restart when Brad Sedgwick collected the ball near the penalty spot and struck it straight into the top right hand corner of the goal. They continued their pressure and for a while Retford looked a little rattled.

With 21 minutes left Retford’s impressive Mark West was put through on goal and running on to the ball he clipped it across the home keeper, Best, into the top right hand corner. This goal steadied Retford and they kept control of the game until full time.

Retford went home with their unbeaten league run intact but Dinnington played well and showcased their great new facilities that will surely improve the game of football for the community in the future.

The officials should also be commended keeping very tight control of the game and the referee was quick to explain any of his decisions on the pitch. All in all a happy start to Christmas.

Déjà vu Football.

Tuesday 20th December 2022, Technique Stadium Chesterfield, FA Trophy Kick off 19.45pm

Having been to see Chesterfield FC bow out of the Derbyshire Senior Cup the night before I thought I would give myself an early Christmas present and watch two games in two days.

I don’t know why turning up for an evening game is so magical, but it is.

Chesterfield’s FA Trophy match against Coalville Town FC had been postponed on Saturday due to the hard ground and to ensure that fixture congestion would not build up it was quickly rescheduled for Tuesday night. The draw had already been made for the next round and each team knew that a win would bring them an away tie with the winners of Banbury v Bognor Regis which was being played on the same night.

The evening was so different from the night before in that there were now clear skies and the temperature had dropped by 7 degrees.

This stadium, one of the newly relocated grounds of the past 10 years, is one of the best, which was amplified by the fact that England under 19’s have played here in the last 12 months. Those who will remember Saltergate will have loved its homely charm, but it’s cramped near town centre location could not survive and the housing that has replaced it gives no indication of football’s cultural loss. The Spireites have not had a good time in the new stadium having dropped down to the National League but the club is now more focused locally and on a much steadier foundation.

Coalville Town play in the Southern League Premier Division Central which is two levels below Chesterfield. They have been a successful Non League Club for some years since originally establishing in 1926 and have been known as Ravenstone Miners Athletic, Ravenstone Swifts and Coalville Town from 1998 when they moved into the Town after having local difficulties in being able to install floodlights.

When I looked at the program and heard the teams over the sound system I had that eerie feeling that I’d seen this before, in fact at Staveley the night before. Chesterfield were not playing their first team but their second stream squad which when I compared it to who had featured in their league games this season there was little comparison. There was a place for Lawrence McGuire, brother of the England centre back who I had seen previously play for Illkeston Town.

Chesterfield FC 1 Coalville 3

Isuzu FA Trophy Third Round Proper

Chesterfield, Light Blue Shirts , White Shorts: Coalville Town, White and back vertical stripes to front of the shirts, plain white back with black shorts.

This seemed familiar as Chesterfield stroked the ball across the back finding no outlets for a final pass while Coalville buzzed around as if their life’s depended on it. Coalville also played quick tempo direct running and passing that unnerved the Chesterfield defense. All the same as Belper the previous night.

It was no surprise that Coalville took the lead on 10 minutes when their number 2, Alex Dean, took the ball past defenders and crossed it beating the goalkeeper for Ashley Chambers just to tap in. This brought some response from Chesterfield who seemed stung by the visitors and they drew level 8 minutes later when a curling free kick from the left was met by George Wilkinson at the far post.

The night was getting colder and I thought that Chesterfield would now show their dominance and take control of the game. They did however fall back into their previous lethargic pattern and Coalville renewed their lead on 22 minutes when a poor clearance by the home defense meant the ball fell to Tom McGlinchey who curled the ball across the keeper into the far corner of the net. Again the goal sparked a Home response but Coalville looked well prepared and organised and little came of some shots from long range.

Coalville were worth their 2.1 lead at half time and within 5 minutes of the restart were 3.1 up when Ash Chambers again scored with a deflection after some good interplay with McGlinchy after Banks sloppily gave the ball away.

Chesterfield and Coalville made changes but there was little change to the pattern of play and the outcome. Many of the Chesterfield fans had drifted away before the final whistle but the away fans stayed to celebrate. Coalville are off to Banbury in the next round but Chesterfield’s two matches highlighted that they have little in depth beyond the first team. Hopefully at the end of the season they will be in with a shout of promotion otherwise these two games will be seen as a waste.

There were 2107 fans there with 287 from Coalville but listening to the reaction in the main stand when they scored I think there were a few more away fans than identified.

The Mini Freeze is Over.

Monday 19th December 2022: Staveley Miners Welfare Ground, Staveley Derbyshire. Kick off 19.30 pm

As the freeze of the past ten days ended I noticed a game not far up the road at Staveley. Chesterfield FC had hired the all weather pitch to play their previously twice postponed ‘Derbyshire FA Senior Challenge Cup’ match. It was to have been played at Clay Cross’s ground but was postponed on 6th December due to a waterlogged ground and the 13th due to a frozen pitch.

Staveley had not missed out like other teams because of hard pitches and the drainage was more than adequate to cope with the change in temperature, a balmy 13 degrees and the slight drizzle that soon wet you through if you stood out in it.

Chesterfield’s team was styled as a Chesterfield FC XI as they were playing many youngsters as a group of their fans just behind me in the stand told me. They said that the only first team squad player was the goalkeeper Luke Chadwick.

This I’m sure was a disappointment to the Belper United players who would have loved to have pitted their skills against a team four promotions away from them. However it was understandable that Chesterfield were in this position as their FA Trophy game was postponed from Saturday and was to be replayed the next night. Chesterfield have also won through three rounds of the FA Cup, twice against League opposition, and now face a mouth watering home game against Championship team West Bromwich Albion in early January. They are also sitting third in the National League with games in hand with Notts County and Wrexham above them, this league is in my mind the hardest, most competitive to get out of in the pyramid structure.

The facilities as always are first class at this venue and the Chesterfield fans were expressing their admiration and comparing it to some of the grounds in their league. I had a coffee and some chips before the game but they did not come up to their usual standard and I will not comment further than say they were cold and I resorted to some tomato sauce to help them down.

Chesterfield FC XI 0 Belper United 3

3rd in National League v 14th in Unuted Counties Premier Division North

Chesterfield in an unusual all light green kit: Belper United all blue ki with a white flash across shoulder and down the arms.

You sometimes know the result of a game early on and this was no exception. Belper immediately showed that they wanted the win and pressed forward down the wings with some intensity and direction. Chesterfield however played the ball out of defense slowly from side to side and were overwhelmed by hungry opponents. How Belper didn’t take the lead on 12 minutes was a mystery. A corner for them was awarded after Chadwick had managed to tip a shot over the bar and when it came into the box it was met with some ferocity hitting the bar and bouncing down to a group of player of which a Chesterfield player managed to scramble it away.

Chesterfield did come more into it at the mid point of the half but they lacked any cutting edge and didn’t bother the away teams defense. The left full back for Belper was now playing more as a constant overlapping winger and one of his crosses was headed just over on 35 minutes. But two minutes later the inevitable happened as he again flashed in a cross which this time was met by Josh Gregory who right footed put the ball beyond the diving keeper into the left hand corner of the goal. So a deserved half time lead for Belper who came off the pitch to torrential rain.

Chesterfield were a little more direct after the restart but within 10 minutes another attack on the left made it to the goal line and the cross was rolled along the ground past the despairing goalkeeper for Richard Hanslow to tap home for Belpers’ second.

Belper played out the rest of the game with ease and made it three nil when yet another cross from the left was loop headed over Luke Chadwick’s dive by Jack Tyson.

The one bright spot for Chesterfield was the performance of the number 3, Archie White, according to the team sheet, who didn’t give up all night and provided many of their better plays.

Great to be back after the freeze and I would expect that Belper will have a harder game away against Gresley in the next round even if that club is a Division lower than them.

Winter finally comes to football in Swinton.

Saturday 3rd December, Swinton Community Sports Ground, Barton Road Swinton, Dearne Valley, South Yorkshire

I finally made it back to Swinton after my abortive visit in September. We were then experiencing beautiful Autumn sunshine but this dull grey day seemed an age away. The ground is situated on the edge of a housing estate on the side of a hill and the 6 degrees seemed colder as the wind blew up the valley from the school down below.40 brave people had turned up despite Christmas events and shopping and the draw of the world cup on the television.

The pitch slopes slightly from end to end and is mainly flat with the surface showing some mud after the constant rain and previous games.Next to the pitch are training pitches that can be used by the seniors as well as a good junior set up for this community involved club.

The senor team this year have returned from exile after playing at the Mexborough ground and a new stand is being constructed to meet the grading standards of the league.

Swinton was one of the many coal mining towns in the area which I have been visiting recently, the area goes back at least as far as Roman times and was famous for its pottery industry in the 1800’s when Rockingham Pottery was world famous. The factory ceased production in 1842 but gave the world the style, Rococo after the factory name. Now light industry, warehousing and call centres have become staple industries of the whole area.

There is little about Swinton Athletic F.C.’s history with football having been played in the town in the 19th century. They joined the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League about 1990 where they have played since, often in either division . They have been active locally and have won the local Montagu Cup on 8 occasions starting in 1964.

Their opponents Hepworth United come from a village near Holmfirth and joined the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League in 2016 having previously played in the Huddersfield League. The club has been going for over 100 years in this farming village with locals also formerly employed in nearby textile mills.

I sat down on the girders that are part of the ground improvements as the teams came out and today at this level 10 league wins away from the Premiership there was only a referee to take charge of the game with no line officials.

Swinton Athletic 2 Hepworth United 0

Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League – Premier Division.

Swinton all blue kit that had some subtle vertical darker stripes on the front. Hepworth black shorts with vertical black and white striped shirts.

The chat amongst the fans was that both sides are without a few regulars with work and family Christmas commitments taking precedence.

Hepworth were first to put pressure on their opponents particularly down the left side but poor finishing let them down. Often if you don’t take your chances you will be punished and on 19 minutes the ball bobbled through to Swinton’s number 9 who placed it onto the right hand corner of the net between the keeper and the post.

Just 2 minutes later and a high ball in from the right was miss headed by a Hepworth defender and it fell again to number 9 who made no mistake with the gift to make it 2.0.
For the remainder of the half Swinton were the better side but couldn’t add to their tally by half time.

With a cold bum from sitting on the girder for the first 45 minutes I decided to have a walk round and watch the second half standing up. It was then the chill wind blowing up the hill hit me and I decided that winter was finally with us, late this year.

Hepworth were again fastest off the blocks and were awarded a penalty on 63 minutes for a blatant hand ball. However after what seemed an age the keeper dived the right way to save a weekly hit attempt. Hepworth shyness near goal continued, even the woodwork wasn’t helping when they hit the crossbar in the dying minutes.

Swinton deserved their win because they had taken their chances, surely Hepworth won’t miss so many this season.

There were no chips or catering facilities at the Swinton ground but next door is Park View Bar where you can get a drink and I believe some food before or after the match. For me this time it was a coffee and a packet of crisps. Swinton also entertain their team and the visitors there afterwards. Swinton have a long way to go but they are making some steps along the road at this community ground.

Macclesfield play Scrooge to Prescots Tiny Tim.

Walking through Prescot Town Centre you come to the hill that is Hope Street. Walking down it you see Prescot Cables Football Club. You wonder how many fans of all teams have walked down this street full of hope for a victory.

Football has been played in Prescot since 1884 under the name of Prescot and Prescot Town before they adopted the Cables name. The ‘Cables’ came from the largest employer, British Insulated Cables that had been set up in 1890 and which traded locally for 100 years under various names until its closure in 1991 with the loss of 230 jobs.

The club had a successful run in the Lancashire Combination from the late 1920’s until a slump in form saw them drop into the Mid Cheshire League in 1975 where after continued high finishes they became founder members of the Cheshire County League. More success was to follow when in 1982 they were again founder members of a League, this time the North West Counties League where they progressed to the highest division. When they finished runners up in 2002 they were promoted to The Northern Premier League Division One and attained a spot in the Premier Division in 2004 with one of the many Non-League re-organisations.

2005 was a pivotal year in that a group from the Supporters Club took control but the club fell into administration in 2008 caught up in the financial crash. Relegation followed a year later to Division one where they have stayed and this year are having one of their most successful recent seasons. They have now become a Community Club that is run by volunteers who have a long lease from the local authority who now own the freehold of the John Russell Stadium.

Macclesfield Football club by contrast have only been in existence since Macclesfield Town FC went into liquidation in 2020. The club were bought by Robert Smethhurst with the intention of quickly getting back into the National League and from there the EFL. Macclesfield Town FC had risen as high as the 3rd tier of English football over their nearly 150 year life and throughout their history were known as a strong Non-League club. Robert Smethurst has invested heavily in the club and has brought high profile Robbie Savage on board as Director of Football. His status in football and his celebrity profile has enabled the club to get outstanding media coverage.

Up the hill just off the Town Centre is the Shakespeare North Playhouse a beautiful new theatre built of wood by traditional methods, in the round, a cockpit theatre fashioned in the style of ‘The Globe’ in London. The theatre was opened this year and you would be right to ask why Prescot. Well the area of Prescot was very influential and prosperous in the first Elizabethan era and had a theatre there in those days rivalling London. The play that was being presented at a rival matinee performance to the football was ‘A Christmas Carol’. Scrooge v Tiny Tim came to mind in the football with the team with money v the Community Club.

It was a dull grey day with some slight drizzle in the air and although the Met Office App was saying it was 11 degrees I think they must have been measuring it indoors. The pitch looked flat but the grass was beginning to wear after the rain of the last month. What hits you first is the high, large, seated stand that runs down most of one side under which are the changing rooms, snack bar and club house. The other three sides were terraced with a small covered standing area over half of one end.

The snack bar beckoned but there were no chips, however unexpectedly there were Hot Pot pies! This turned out to be a mushy meat and potato pie that with peas and gravy was delicious. The club house was well furnished, warm and friendly which belied the recent club statement against anti social behavior that had been issued for a second time this season and had meant that two policemen were standing within the crowd which was a great 948. As I moved to the exit I saw one of the policemen yawning which didn’t reflect the game but their lack of work. The crowd of nearly a thousand was good considering Christmas Shopping, the miserable weather and the World Cup matches of Poland v Saudi Arabia and France v Denmark on the television.

What struck me was that I was in Prescot where Lancashire or Liverpudlian accents prevail but the announcer had a very strong American accent!

Prescot Cables 1 Macclesfield 2

Saturday 26th November 2022: 15.00pm kick off.

Northern Premier League Division One West.

9th v 1st Cables (Also known as the Pesky Bulls) v The Silkmen

Prescot: Yellow shirts with black sleeves Macclesfield: Pale Mint Green shirts with white shorts

Macclesfield started the game the strongest both physically and skillfully and had two attacks cleared off the line. Despite this Prescot hung in there and were still very much in the game but on 30 minutes a second yellow card for James Hamill looked likely to open the floodgate for the away team but some profligate finishing and great saves from Mitchell Allen in the Prescott goal kept it all square at half time.

Just after another Macclesfield attack Prescot were awarded a free kick out on the right touchline, some 35 yards plus out. James Edgar hit the ball into the centre and it sailed over everyone into the top left hand corner of the goal for a home team lead, could this be real! The euphoria of the home crowd only lasted a minute as James Berry through on goal chipped Allen but the ball hit the cross bar and dropped down for Berry to run through and tap it in for the equaliser. The game was now getting more competitive and you couldn’t tell that it was Prescot who had the ten men. It could have been ten each when a bad foul in midfield ended in a scrum of players with the Prescot centre back being booked for some jostling with the perpetrator of the foul slinking off early and avoiding a second yellow. Macclesfield substituted the player immediately afterwards.

With 15 minutes left the referee awarded a freekick for a foul inches from awarding a penalty with the crowd baying for a different response. The freekick came to nothing and eight minutes later Macclesfield dowsed all of the Christmas cheer when a ball was hooked into the goal mouth from the right in what looked like an off side position for Dan Cowan to tap in for the lead 1-2.

Prescot just didn’t give up and had a penalty shout for hand ball and a deflected shot just go wide in the last minutes. I usually don’t get partisan in the matches I watch but I was so upset for Prescot who gave their all and ran their socks off with super human effort. Certainly Macclesfield were Scrooge in this performance and Prescot were Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim in the story recovers and with this spirit Prescot will come back stronger.

P.S. After the match the Shakespeare Theatre North was amazing and the production of A Christmas Carol was more like a pantomime. The four actors kept everyone entertained and if this is what they are going to offer to the public I’m sure it will be full as it was on Saturday night.

Lions tamed by students.

A trip south on the busy M1 full of commuters hurrying home lead me to Loughborough University, one of the top ten university’s in the UK, to see Loughborough Students play.

I was here last year to see one of their FA Vase matches when they went all the way to the semi-final, this year they were eliminated at their first hurdle.

I had come to meet up with my daughter, to see how they are maintaining an unbeaten league season and enjoy the great facilities they have.

Luckily it was a dry evening considering the recent rain and at 8 degrees was a good night to watch football. The beautifully flat grass surface was beginning to wear on the touch lines and there were marks on the pitch where the teams had warmed up.

Heanor have a long history being formed in 1883 but other teams pre-date this in the town. They missed being elected to the Football League by 3 positions when playing in the Midland League and did well in past FA Cup matches only losing to teams like Aston Villa, Southampton, Bury and Nottingham Forrest. Most of their football has been played in local and midland leagues but spending just over the last decade in the United Counties.

Loughborough students trace their history back to 1919 under the name of Loughborough Technical Institute later to become a Technical College and then a University. They have won many University competitions but it was in 2007 that they moved into the Non-league sphere of today. The University Stadium was opened in 2012 and they were moved into the United Counties League in 2019 with the major league re organisation. For this season they have appointed Rebecca Sawiuk as Director of Football who is maintaining the growth of the men’s and women’s teams.

Loughborough Students FC 5 Heanor Town 1

Tuesday 22nd Novbember 2022 19.45 pm kick off

United Counties League Premier Division North 1st v 4th Students v Lions

Loughborough Students: Shirts with pink shoulders graduating into purple body and shorts.

Heanor: Ready orange shirts and shorts.

Loughborough immediately set the pace of the game but it was a mistake in the Heanor defense that gifted them a goal on 8 minutes giving Anthony Lynn time to draw the goalkeeper and place the ball past him for the lead. The students pace and passing kept up the pressure and they scored their second goal after 22 minutes when two or three rebounds from shots meant the ball fell to Ethan O’Toole who blasted it home from close range.

Ethan had his second 6 minutes later when he found himself wide on the right in the penalty area but was able to hit the ball across the goalkeeper into the left hand corner of the net. The Students maintained their slick play and although Heanor did have some chances they failed to take them.

Immediately at the restart with Loughborough in a commanding three nil lead Heanor pressed forward and secured a corner. The ball was swung in from the right just under the cross bar and although it seemed the keeper had it in his hand the ball was bundled over the line by the Jack Dando of Heanor. Despite protests from the home side the goal stood.

Heanor pressed more in the second half and used the high ball to challenge the keeper from corners and free kick. At the other end chances were kept out by some heroic goalkeeping but he was unable to keep out a missile of a free kick from just outside the penalty area by Matty Bowman for a 4-1 lead at 58 minutes. Both sides now had more chances but it was Matty Bowman again who showed class with a through ball to Dylan Edwards who calmly rounded the keeper to give the students a convincing 5-1 win.

There were numerous chances for both sides in the game and on chances it could have been 12 – 7, many of the home team players shone out on the night in a very competent team performance but my player of the match was the Heanor goalkeeper.

As I knew there would be no no chips so I had a vegan sausage roll and a coffee, pictures tell all.