The wait for the new season drags but the excitement bubbles away with new ferocity with the publishing of Non-League and FA Cup/Trophy and Vase fixtures. Plans can be made, lists reviewed and dreams could be fulfilled.
In the meantime I visited Wigtown, it is billed as ‘Scotland’s National Book Town’ but a search of the many second hand bookshops was fruitless in finding a good football book. My final stop was the Community Shop and there on a table as I walked in was a book of poetry about Scottish football for £3. The book was ‘Mind The Time’ – An Anthology of Poetry to Support Football Memories Scotland. It was produced with Nutmeg -The Scottish Football Periodical in 2017.The first Football Memories group met in Stenhousemuir in 2004 to engage with those suffering memory loss through discussing their memories regarding football. The projects success has not only been huge in Scotland but has raced over the southern border and become established in England too.
The poetry looks good for a future read but I thought I would share one poem now on the close season.
‘nutmeg’ also looks a real interesting source of football info for the future.
‘Back Lanes and Muddy Pitches’ by Robert Rowell: Published by Zymurgy Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne 2004
This is a fascinating and funny insight into Robert Rowell’s footballing and general life. Like many he dreams of becoming a famous footballer and like most he doesn’t achieve it in the professional game but has outstanding ability at the level he plays. That level is in the street, the park, school playing fields, Sunday League and he has an international career due to jobs in Italy and France.
There is a poignant passage when he realises that there is a better player at school. He manages to survive the harshness of Sheffield Sunday League football which he loves and can play a blinder after the blinder of the night before. He is fated in Italy but it all turns to dust.
Robert luckily has a relative who becomes a professional and international footballer and he is able to reach heady heights through him.
To say a lot more would be to spoil the book for someone else. This £2.49 copy from an Oxfam Book Shop was a joy and I would recommend it to anyone. It is easy to read but not to put down.
Thank you Robert it certainly made me feel a footballing star.
It started back on the 11th August with an FA Cup Extra Preliminary round game at Staveley Miners Welfare a ground I had passed many times but never visited. It was worth the wait and was the first of 28 games.
Some of the highlights were at the iconic West Aukland v Bishop Aukland local derby, I loved the ground and atmosphere at Boston (although I understand they are looking at a new ground) and saw an FA Vase game between Worksop Town and Grimsby Borough and commented at the time they would both do well in their season, both won their Leagues.
Christmas was enhanced by a cracking Peak District derby between Buxton and Matlock and into the New Year I visited Penistone Church my most welcoming club house of the campaign, hot pork pie chips and mushy peas will draw me back again. They were unlucky not to get promotion fading away at the final hurdles.
Bramhall Lane was my first visit to a ladies game for the FA Women’s Continental League Cup which has wetted my appetite to see a general league game next season.
The wall art in Sunderland is a football curio not to be missed as were the statues in Liverpool.
The jubilation of the Retford FC team and fans on their promotion day contrasted to my emotional visit to Vauxhall Motors at Ellesmere Port.
There seemed to be a genuine warmth at Shirebrook seeing their youthful team survive relegation and they now try to get interested locals to take up some of the administrative jobs to enable them to continue and prosper.
But this was not a good year for tradition as I saw Notts County’s last home Football League game and they now face a hard struggle to get back from the National League. The oldest professional League Team in the world have lost their identity. Elsewhere Berwick Rangers were relegated from the Scottish League system and there are no longer any English teams playing across the border at that standard. Colwyn Bay have opted to drop out of the English Pyramid system and play in the second tier of Welsh football to reduce costs but could push on to gain European football in the future, will others follow? Bolton Wanderers like Notts County one of the founder members of the Football League were relegated from the Championship, entered administration and look likely to start next season with a points deduction.
The flip side to this was the return of Aston Villa (the initiators of the Football League) to the Premiership via the play offs after an amazing ten match winning streak in the final 12 games of the season. The game that the Villa management believe was their best and most crucial of the season was one of only two I watched. The match was the away win at Rotherham where in the first half they missed a penalty had Tyrone Mings sent off and were one nil down at half time through the resulting penalty. They then managed to turn the game round to be winning 2-1 by the 51st minute after a wonderful goal by Jack Grealish.
The play off final was the first non-terrestrial television game I have watched on TV having boycotted Sky due to its owners reporting of the Hillsborough tragedy. Now they no longer own the company I have been set free.
But we now look forward to a new season with the restoration of more promotion from feeder leagues as the latest pyramid tweaks has been bedded in. There are still some leagues where there are not the full complement of teams competing and this must be a major problem to put right. Another upheaval is on the way with a new Step 4 League run by the Northern Premier League in the 2020/21 season. It was disappointing that the Northern League did not get the FA support to run this new league as it would have been good to see more diversity and localism within the administration of the pyramid at this level. Of the games I have watched in the Northern League you feel that both divisions are a step above where they sit in the pyramid and this is borne out by the numbers within their ranks who have won the FA Vase in recent years.
There will be one very new addition to the pyramid system in 2019/20 and that will be Jersey Bulls who have been accepted by the Combined Counties League. This was after Jersey had their application to FIFA turned down in February for themselves and their Island league joining world football as a separate country. Good luck to them and hopefully they will have the same success as Guernsey.
Finally a great thank you to all of the officials and helpers who ensure that we are able to watch an amazing depth of football in the UK. These are heroes trying to and succeeding in generating income to keep local football going through many ideas and methods as well as giving up hours and hours of their time.
Shirebrook Town F.C. won the 2018/19 payonthegate Chip League with the highest score of 85 against 26 other teams.
I wrote at the time of tasting, ‘These were the best chips of the season so far and were provide by a lady from the host club, Shirebrook Town, who is at the ground every week. They were tasty, thick, hot, not spoilt by an oily taste, a score of 85. I was offered American Red salt on the chips which I tried separately and was pleased I didn’t ruin the chips with this spicy condiment.’
This was at a Bolsover home game as they have this season shared the ground with Shirebrook their hosts. The Chips are supplied by the Shirebrook team and I again ate them (this time with gravy on – although I tried some without to check the taste) at the end of the season at a Shirebrook home game and they were still the best. Amazing work by the lady who runs the food hut and to all the others around the grounds who help add a worthwhile extra to the football experience and garner a little extra income for the clubs.
The pictures show the food Kiosk at Boston United, the most professional I visited, the best chips at Shirebrook and the amazing ‘Only Foods and Sauces’at Crook Town on a cold Friday night.
Payonthegate 2018/19 Chip League
FC Bolsover / Shirebrook
Boston United FC
Worksop Town FC
Staveley Miners Welfare
West Aukland Town FC
Alfreton Town FC
Dronfield Town FC
Forest Green Rovers FC
Aston Villa Football Club
Chesterfield Football Club
Stocksbridge Park Steels
A special mention has to go to one of the readers of ‘payonthegate’ who sent us this picture from a French League Two game between Nice and Montpellier. They seem to do chips big in France
The Meadow Lane ground is on the banks of the river Trent which divides it from Nottingham Forest’s City ground.
The weather for Notts County’s last home game of a disappointing season was more like autumn than the end of April with rain, a temperature of just 7 degrees and swirling wind making it a grey day. The talk in the stands among the 8598 fans was gloomy with some clinging on to a hope that Bolton’s potential non completion of fixtures could mean only one team ends up being relegated.
This is a very good ground and the prospect of them playing in the National League next season against Chesterfield, Torquay, Barnet, Stockport, Hartlepool and Halifax could result in a record attendance aggregate for that league.
Notts County Football Club, nicknamed The Magpies, were formed in 1862 and were one of the twelve clubs that started the Football League in 1888. It is a long time since their only major trophy, victory in the 1894 FA Cup Final. However they have been continuous in the League ever since and are the oldest professional team an honour that will pass to Stoke City should Notts County go down. One unusual fact is that it was their black and white vertical striped kit that was adopted by Juventus who still play in the strip today.
Grimsby Town is a long standing club too being started in 1878 as Grimsby Pelham and changing their name a year later. They were founder members of the Football Leagues second division in 1892 and have been champions of lower divisions 6 times in their history. Their nickname is the Mariners and play all of their games away from Grimsby as their ground is in Cleethorpes. This fact will hopefully change one day as they try to get numerous plans off the ground. The goalposts keep changing though and their 120 year stay in Cleethorpes looks set to continue for some while. They tasted demotion to the National League and had to stay at that level for 6 years before returning in 2016.
Notts County 2 Grimsby Town 1
It was a tense start to the game as neither side dominated.
But a gloom soon fell over the home fans as they heard of Yeovil’s away goal at Northampton which was soon doubled, Notts County were looking down and out. The team could not have heard this news and came on strongly before half time.
With it all in County’s own hands they started the second half well and on 48 minutes found a chink in the solid Grimsby defence when a cross from Rose was deflected to Craig Mackail-Smith, who touched it into the net at the far post.
This was well deserved as the veteran had been running and challenging for any ball and was inspiring the crowd and his team mates.
County were two up on 67 minutes when the ball looped into the net following a free kick and no one was quite sure whether it was on own goal by Harry Clifton or a Pierce Bird flicked header.
There was more joy as Northampton equalised sending Yeovil bottom and relegated but Macclesfield had scored away from home.
In the 6 minutes added time Grimsby scored a consolation goal through Alex Whitmore and the referee blew the final whistle soon after leaving Notts County the task of having to win their last game away to Swindon and hope Macclesfield lose at home to Cambridge United.
The supporters club at the end of the ground perhaps foretells the fate of the team when the last game is played. The notes in the program by Chairman Alan Hardy thanked everyone for their help during his tenure but explained that he was stepping down and new owners were ready to take over. A fan next to me told me the new owners were a South African group who were waiting to finalise the price dependent on which league the club finds itself in.
These were great chips served from a mobile van inside the van and if they would have been hot their score of 80 would have been higher.
A return visit to Shirebrook but this time to see the incumbent team and not Bolsover their tenants as I did before. It was also Shirebrooks last game of the season with Bolsover at home this weekend in their last game. As you arrive at the ground the field in front, that is the car park, is fenced off for the whippet racing that has been the highlight of the Easter weekend and most probably had more spectators than the 107 at the match.
Shirebrook had over Easter gained the one point they needed not be relegated with Bolsover and the team were lazily kicking the ball about in the warm up while their opponents Campion were being drilled and went back into the changing room 15 minutes before the off while Shirebrook ambled off in dribs and drabs right up to 5 minutes before kick off. It was evident that this is a youthful Shirebrook team with a smattering of experience while Campion looked the part of Champions elect sitting on top of the table.
After such a glorious Easter the evening temperature was falling as a watery sun dipped down into a greying horizon. The pitch slopes greatly from end to end and is now patchy after a hard season of two teams playing their full fixtures on it.
Campion are a Bradford team from the Manningham area who started in 1963 in Sunday football and switched to Saturday district football in 1976. They have made steady progress through district football and developed the ground facilities including a club house and floodlights in 2016 when they entered the Toolstation Northern Counties East League.
There have been Shirebrook teams for over 100 years but the current club dates back to 1985 when it was formed as Shirebrook Colliery changing its name to Town in 1991 when the colliery closed. It has played in the Northern Counties East Leagues for nearly 20 years but recently has found it hard to progress further with a limited amount of resources.
Shirebrook Town FC 1 Campion FC 1
Campion started strongly but Shirebrook matched them and were very quick on the break. The first half ended even with neither team having a clear cut chance. Just before the break Shirebrooks player of the season goalkeeper Levi Owen went off with what looked like an ankle injury and was replaced by another youngster.
Within two minutes of the restart Campion were ahead after a mix up in the Shirebrook defence left the goalkeeper no other choice but to run out of his area to compete for a ball with his head. A miscued header and what looked like some shirt tugging left Auden Day free to run on to the ball and stroke it into the net for Campion to lead. I expected the flood gates to open but Shirebrook showed a lot of resolve and again matched their opponents. As Campion pressed more and more out of the blue Robbie Savage from 35/40 yards out volleyed a pass into the top left hand corner of the goal past the goalkeepers outstretched hand, a goal of the season strike.
Campion seemed most likely to score again but resolute defence particularly from the Shirebrook number 5 Carter Widdowson, my man of the match, meant it ended all square. A great result for the Shirebrook youngsters but a lost 2 points for the visitors who now face a last game away to second place Grimsby Borough in a winner takes all match.
It was worrying to read later on the Shirebrook Town twitter feed ‘The club would like to thank everyone involved for getting us over the line and hopefully we will be playing NCEL football next season.’
The chips here are currently leading the chip league and this serving with thick hot gravy did not disappoint. Thank you ladies for such a treat.
This was a trip down memory lane to watch Vauxhall Motors FC, but this was Ellesmere Port and not Luton.
My first ever matches were at St Albans City but my first cup run was with Vauxhall Motors FC (Luton) in the 1957/58 F.A. Amateur Cup. On a cold morning I sat in the front bench seat of a Bedford CF van on its way to the Vauxhall Sports and Social Club ground in Luton from the canteen. The van was full of tea urns and food for sale for the afternoon First round Amateur Cup match against Hounslow.
My Dad served the tea which I remember was then always premixed with milk and always tasted stewed. However the tea was great with the Wagon Wheel which at that age seemed to be the size of a dinner plate and a second cup with a Blue Riband went down well too. Vauxhall duly won the game 3-1 and set up a second round away game at Devizes Town which was too far to go. Huddled round the radio, Amateur Cup results were after the Saturday evening sport program, Vauxhall were triumphant 7-1.
Next up were Bromley from the Isthmian League which considered itself superior to the Spartan league in which Vauxhall played. Bromley was near relatives in South London so a trip was on and Vauxhall astoundingly won 3-1. The works team had won and it made the early evening news on TV. Vauxhall were also using the matches as publicity for the newly launched ‘F’ type Victor which were displayed on flat bed trucks at the ground entrance. This tail finned car at the time was a huge success satisfying the hunger for cheap modern styled cars, even exporting them to the USA where they were sold through Pontiac dealers. Unfortunately the poor build quality initiated a Vauxhall reputation for rust that took years to live down.
Vauxhall were now into the quarter finals but the draw was not kind with another away game this time to Isthmian League team Ilford. All I remember of the game was how dark it was and the misery of walking past the displayed cars at the end of the game after a 3 nil defeat. Ilford went on to make the final but lost to Woking. Despite this Vauhall Motors works team had gone a long way and created a warm interest in their progress. The company had gained great advertising for their cars.
Some years later I joined Vauxhall as an apprentice and stayed for 18 years and was lucky enough to play on their pitch in an inter department cup. The Sales Division had made it to the Semi Final but our two best players could not play that evening as they were on duty for Hitchin Town and Fakenham Town and I duly deputised at centre half but came up against ‘Stretch’ Godfrey a local senior non league goalkeeper playing at centre forward. My 6 ft 1 inch was out jumped on the half way line and he ran on to score the only goal of the game, gutted.
It was with disbelief when I heard that Vauxhall Motors FC (Luton) were to be disbanded after they had just won the 90/91 Isthmian League North and were about to be promoted to the Premier Division. It was said at the time that the social club wanted to promote Hockey but it was at one of those down points in Vauxhalls history and works teams were on the decline everywhere.
However in 1963 a Vauxhall Motors team had been set up in Ellesmere port where the new factory had been built and this team continues today now playing in the Hallmark Security North West Counties First Division South. They have over the years done extremely well rising from the Ellesmere Port league as high the Conference North and defeating Queens Park Rangers in a First Round FA Cup game on the way. But in 2014 the club had to resign from the Conference North due to financial troubles and regroup. They have fought back to where they are today.
Their opponents Maine Road FC started out in 1955 as ‘City Supporters FC’ and changed to their current name in the late 60’s when they moved to play at Maine Road Social Club. Maine Road have worked their way from Sunday football to their current level.
The facilities here are fantastic being part of the Vauxhall Motors Sports and Social Club which is also a community stadium. There are a few pitches, two of which are 4G, as well as a Rugby pitch and a fabulous multi purpose club house. Everton FC run a satellite football college here. https://www.vauxhallsportsclub.co.uk/
The pitch was flat but patchy in places and with no rain recently the ball kicked up dust and travelled fast over the hard ground. There was little wind and a grey overcast sky on this cold April day. A good seated stand on one side behind the dugouts is opposite some covered terracing otherwise there is a concrete path around the ground which has few advertising boards. The program was sparse and there was no raffle, one presumes the running of the club is generated from the Sports and Social Club.
Vauxhall Motors 3 Maine Road FC 0
There was little between the teams in the first half although Vauxhall were the slightly livelier and they did get the ball in the net but they were adjudged to have fouled the goalkeeper from a corner. The teams went in at half time 0-0 and the small crowd of 64 returned to the social club.
Vauxhall upped a gear and put pressure on their opponents right from the start of the new half and it was no surprise when on 52 minutes the ball ran across the area for their centre back Thomas Mitchell to side foot them into the lead. Initially Maine Road fought back and a curling right foot free kick from 20 yards out brought a fine save from the Vauxhall keeper. But renewed Vauxhall pressure resulted in goal number two as Mike Burkey followed up a parried save by the keeper placing the ball firmly in the centre of the net. As the game ended Vauxhall added a third through an own goal deflected in after a strong run down the right by number 12. Only a few minutes later the referee blew promptly for the end of the game which sees Vauxhall move up to second in the table.
Again there were no chips but the social club was first class.
Villa’s class and determination overcame a tenacious Rotherham who were battling to get out of the relegation places in the Championship.
The New York Stadium is high profile as you drive into Rotherham. This relatively new stadium which holds 12000 fans greets you with a smile.
Rotherham United FC 1 Aston Villa FC 2
The dry cold evening seemed to have a sparkle in the air and that proved to be the case as early Rotherham pressure was countered by a penalty to Villa after Jack Gralish was brought down. Tammy Abrahams, Villa’s top goal scorer, stepped up and tamely struck the ball to Marek Rodak’s left and his dive stopped the poor effort. Rotherham were putting increasing pressure down the right and causing trouble with long throws into the penalty area.
On 36 minutes Mings was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area and this yellow card added to the one received earlier in the game for an off the ball incident meant he left the field after seeing red. Vaulks smashed the ball past Jed Steer who could not match his heroics at Hillsborough on Saturday and Rotherham took the lead and control of the half
Villa immediately took Albert Adomah off and replaced him with Mile Jedinak who has not featured much this season under Dean Smith. Jedinak took over Mings central defending role but Rotherham kept the pressure on.
The second half saw Johnathan Kodjia replace El Ghazi and he took charge after 48 minutes to take another penalty this time awarded for hand ball by Semi Ajayi. He made no mistake hitting the back of the net in the top right hand corner.
Villa had stepped up a gear and only three minutes later they led 2-1 after Grealish had run from his own half down the left to beat three defenders, spinning round them towards the centre of the goal and passing to Elmahamady on the right who feigned to shoot but cut the ball back to Greaslish now in the centre of the D who precisely slotted the ball passed a sea of legs into the bottom right of the goal.
An amazing turn round with 10 men.
Rotherham did not give up and tested the Villa defence with Jedinak playing his best game of the season despite his lack of competitive pitch time.
Jedd Steer in the Villa goal was called upon to make an outstanding left handed save from Rotherham’s Mattock.
Man of the match though was McGinn who seemed able to cover every blade of grass on the pitch often with the ball at his feet and able to draw a foul to calm the game down and stop the pattern of play.
A pulsating game that keeps Villa’s promotion hopes alive and gives Rotherham hope that they have the backbone and skill to keep them in the division.
Having visited Retford United earlier in the season it was time to visit Retford FC who needed two more points to become Champions of the Abacus Lighting Central Midland League North Division. Their opponents were Appleby Frodingham FC from Scunthorpe who have been playing for just over 30 years in their current guise with a team of a similar name having been started in the 1940’s.
Retford are even younger than Appleby Frodingham formed in 2015 and have played at their ground ‘The Rail’ since 2017. The ground is developing and as yet with little cover or seating but with the strides that are being made you expect new developments shortly. The grounds name is very apt with the main East Coast rail line passing down one side.
The pitch is mainly flat but with some bumpy areas and has good grass cover. The dry, cloudy, windless day was ideal for playing football. A crowd of 262 was present and there was a good mix of ages and gender.
Retford FC 4 Appleby Frodingham 0
The pattern of the game soon became set as the younger more energetic Retford team took control and on 12 minutes No9 turned in the penalty area and was tripped with the resulting penalty being dispatched efficiently to the right of the static goalkeeper by Gareth Davies.
The post and bar denied Retford a bigger lead until the 29th minute when Graeme Severn met a corner from the left and it was 2 nil, which it remained until half time.
Retford continued their domination but it wasn’t until the 80th minute that Gareth Davies made it 3 nil, again from a penalty and again awarded for a foul on number 9.
A fourth was added by Jack Johnson on 89 minutes latching onto a cross from the the right, the ball deflecting of an opposition defender into the net.
The referee blew the final whistle dead on 90 minutes which cued wild celebrations by the team on becoming Champions having lost only once in the League campaign with one game left to play. New horizons for next year and who knows how far this new energetic club can go.
Lincoln City maintained their top spot and 11 point advantage over the chasing pack who are just outside the automatic promotion positions in The English league 2. Their unconvincing 1-1 draw with the bottom club Macclesfield belied their march on promotion under the Cowley brothers which has seen the brothers given the freedom of the city (Lincoln).
Just two miles away Lincoln United were at home to Gresley the bottom side in the Evostik East Division.
Lincoln United are the junior team in Lincoln by age as well as status having been formed in 1938 (Lincoln City FC were formed in 1884) first known as Lincoln Amateurs but changed their name to United in 1951 after signing their first professional player. They play in all white with some red trim hence the nickname the ‘Whites’. Apart from two good runs in the FA Cup in 1991/2 and 97/98 they have maintained a level of football averaging where they are today.
Lincoln City’s opponents Gresley FC were only reformed in 2009 but have had a very successful 10 years that seems to have hit the buffers this year as they lie last in the league and look doomed to be demoted back to a similar level as to where they started. There had been a previous history of football success in Gresley under the name of Gresley Rovers since 1882, they were unlucky to lose the 1991 FA Vase Final against Guiseley that went to a replay.
Lincoln United FC 1 Gresley FC 0
The conditions were great for football on this warm end of March Saturday with rolling grey skies interspersed by sunny spells. The stadium is at the end of a housing estate and part of a sports and social ground. The next door cricket ground looks magnificent and ready for a summer season. There was little wind, made calmer by the trees along two sides of the ground. The pitch was flat and well drained but the grass was patchy in places. There is plenty of covered areas and seating in the ground but the crowd of only 105 was disappointing, perhaps they should play when Lincoln City are away.
Gresley countered any United threat and were on top with long throws from either side into the goalkeeping area causing angst for the defenders. Lincoln United had little to offer and a young Ben Alsop in goal for Gresley looked comfortable.
The half time score of 0-0 showed little promise of a high scoring second half and when on 72 minutes Lincolns No.3 Scott Mathews stepped up to take a free kick to the left of the D everyone seemed surprised when he bent it accurately left footed round the wall and into the far corner. Apart from United’s No.9 winning the majority of aerial battles they lacked any great intent and if someone would have played off his winning balls more could have been accomplished.
When your down your down and Gresley continued to dominate the game after the goal but to no avail.
The food facilities ‘The Canteen’ were good with a great choice served by a friendly duo and doing brisk business.
Chips and coffee were £2.50 and the chips were very hot, large, a good portion, golden but the soggy centres let them down to score 68.