Rainworth Miners Welfare 2 Selby Town 1

Tuesday 29th September 2009
Rainworth Miners Welfare 2 Selby Town 1
KoolSport Northern Counties East League Premier Division
At: Welfare Ground, Kirklington Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1
Attendance: 79
Weather: cloudy, mild, dry
Duration: first-half: 47:47; second-half: 50:04

Aha! Time for another of my coincidental links. Yesterday’s FA Cup Third Qualifying Round draw gave my old team Stafford Rangers a potential home time against Bedworth United, the team that defeated Rainworth Miners Welfare 2-1 on Saturday in controversial circumstances. So controversial, in fact, for a variety of reasons that Rainworth have appealed for the tie to be replayed.

Mention Rainworth Miners Welfare FC and I think of one of those romantic cup runs took place in the FA Vase back in 1981/82 season. I was still at university (or more accurately polytechnic) when the true amateurs of Rainworth, then of the Notts Alliance, made it through all the way to the final at Wembley where they lost to Forest Green Rovers. Their home semi-final against Barton Rovers, according to the history on the club’s website, attracted a crowd of 5071 which is still the biggest attendance for a Vase tie outside the final.

It was a trouble-free journey up the A38 and I knew exactly how to find the ground. From the end of the Mansfield bypass where the A617 met the A6191, I took the B6020 towards Rainworth, following a learner in a Ridings diving school car, to the heart of the village. Just past the Rainworth Fish Bar and next to the Robin Hood pub, the turn up to the Welfare Ground was on the left. It was up the hill on Kirklington Road just before the Welfare building.

A large sign advertised the next home game. The Alan Wright memorial gates marked the entrance and through them into what previously was a large recreation ground before development of the stadium – nowadays a playing field on the left and stadium on the right.

The turnstiles were located in one corner of the stadium and all the main facilities were around this corner. A building behind the near goal, known as the Welfare end, housed the changing rooms and ‘T-bar’ with several small building on the near touchline. Banking ran up to a wall next to the road. A stand containing around 150 individual tip-up seats stood n halfway down the near touchline. Opposite were the dugouts either side of the halfway line and another area of cover with standing room and, I guess, another 60 black seats in two rows. The bypass ran beyond the far goal, protected by a large tall net, though it would take some shot to reach the road! All in all a really neat and tidy place to watch football.

Through the turnstiles, programmes £1, the first person who said “hello” to me turned out to be ‘Rainworthgord’, forum user, match reporter, PA man, programme editors, etc. After picking up a teamsheet (free to programme purchasers), I had a chat with Gordon about the Bedworth game and found out that he was at my personal ‘match no. 1’, a game in October 1971 between Stafford and the now defunct Nottinghamshire-based Sutton Town.

I enquired about club badges and was grateful to Secretary Les for finding one for me when it looked as it all current stock had been sold.

The programme, bang up to date with the events of Saturday, included a league table which showed visitors Selby Town (18 points from eight games) in fourth position, three points behind leader Bridlington Town. Rainworth, in the NCEL Premier Division for the first time ever this season, were on 10 points from six games in 12th position and had the incentive of leaping into the top half with a win tonight.

Once the fair-play handshakes were over, the respective captains met in the middle and the referee announced: “turn around, red kick”. Visitors Selby (wearing all red) got the action underway defending the near Welfare end in the first half. I opted for seat in the newer stand on the near side – back row, blue seat.

The home fans near me in the stand were soon applauding their side’s opening effort on goal. Matt Baxter hit a rising 35-yard drive which Selby’s Adam Mitchell saved underneath the bar.

Rainworth (wearing all white) made a positive start and the tall defender Barry Alberry sent a far post header straight at Mitchell from Simon Wright’s deep corner. They went even closer in the 9th minute. Ant Lynam was given space down the right and cut into the area before firing a low angled shot. The ball hit defender Chris Gowan and was heading for the net until Scott Pickles got back to clear off the line.

Selby were “not switched on”, to quote one comment I heard, but created problems for the Rainworth defence on the quarter hour. Tom Matthews’ free-kick looped up towards goal off the wall where Luke Ibbetson saw a header blocked and eventually the ball was cleared.

Gordon came over a mentioned an interesting fact. Rainworth’s Brendan Sweeney once played in the Champions League against Liverpool for Cork City – but when?

Despite not winning one for as long as I can remember, I opted again for a go in the raffle, lucky strip blue 831–835.

Shortly after I parted with £1, Rainworth took the lead in the 20th minute. From the right, Cameron Fearon propelled a long throw towards the near post where the ball was flicked on for Danny Naylor to volley into the bottom left corner.

Rainworth central defender Ian Streather was booked on the half hour for tripping Luke Ibbetson who was making progress down the right.

A long-range effort by Gowan sailed over the bar though did give Selby enough encouragement to “keep it up”. And they went even closer when Stuart Dove sent a close-range header straight at Rainworth keeper and skipper Mark Hales.

Lynam had a chance to double his side’s lead. He stayed onside and broke down the right before hitting a low shot which Mitchell kept out with his boot. From the rebound, Lynam forced a corner from which Baxter’s header was cleared off the line.

The referee played advantage after Josh O’Neill went down under Naylor’s challenge and when play stopped the home midfielder received a 44th minute yellow card. Selby finished the half on the attack and really should have equalised. Instead, Brenton Leister fired over from just a few yards out.

Having had a tea from the T-bar before the game, I took up Gordon’s invitation to go into the Visiting Team Officials room during the interval. Alas, no luck with the raffle when the numbers were announced - first prize to 781 and second prize to 786. ‘Walsall Neil’ sent me a text to say ‘at Millwall ht 0.0’.

Shortly after the second half commenced, the attendance of 79 was announced of the tannoy.

Rainworth should have doubled their advantage. Mitchell failed to reached Sweeney’s left-wing cross but unmarked Lynam fired over at the far post to groans from home fans.

The miss didn’t matter as Lynam made amends in the 55th minute by netting his side’s second goal. Julian Topliss broke down the right with Selby wanting a raised offside flag and crossed low to the far post. Lynam was perfectly placed to sidefoot home into the bottom left corner. The referee had a quick word with the assistant over on the far side and the goal stood. I think Selby’s bench continued their protests as the referee needed a word with them as well.

Mr Cook had another situation to deal with five minutes later. Gowan chopped down Naylor and escaped with just a booking. The Rainworth midfielder was forced off and, while his side were temporarily down to ten men, Hales leapt up on his line to hold a chip from Leister hit from the edge of the area.

Naylor was unable to continue and replaced by Jermain Hollis in the 62nd minute.

The home defence survived a scare. Tom Reid delivered a perfect ball from the right to the far post towards unmarked Stuart Dove. The cross presented the striker with a routine tap-in but instead he ballooned the ball over the bar.

I really was enjoying this game and Selby halved the deficit in the 69th minute to set up a tense finale. Dove was the provider with a ball into the area from the right which Ibbettson fired home from barely six yards out. Skipper Leister raced into the back of the net to retrieve the ball in an attempt to quickly get the game restarted.

Rainworth responded with a tactical substitution as striker Topliss was replaced by Andy Jones in the 71st minute. Two minutes later, Selby brought on Ian Beckram in place of O’Neill. “C’mon we need one more. C’mon Wreneth,” were the cries from the nervous home fans sat near me.

Selby made another substitution in the 82nd minute replacing Leister with Steve Lyon who took over the captain’s armband. But it was the home side who went close to scoring. Hollis got down the right to the byeline before pulling the ball back. It reached Jones who hit a well-stuck 25-yard shot only to see it blocked by a defender inside a crowded area. Mitchell produced a smart save to turn round a 35-yarder from Baxter.

The closing stages were really end-to-end and one still nervous home fans asked the nearby assistant who long was left. “I’ve got 2 1/2 minutes duck,” came the reply. That mist have been to the start of stoppage time

Tom Matthews made a bid for glory with a surging run down the middle. However, his progress was halted by Fearon’s saving tackle on the edge of the area. Rainwroth quickly broke upfield and Lynam got clear but Mitchell bravely claimed the ball at the feet of the striker.

Into stoppage time and chances continued to be created. Mitchell thwarted Lynam with a decent near-post save. Craig Robinson replaced Reid (90+1 minutes) who could have set up one last opportunity for an equaliser but sprayed his pass towards Michael Staley out for a throw instead.

Once the league table was updated, Rainworth had in fact leapt all the way up to fifth position.

The programme editor hoped that any groundhoppers would ‘return home with good memories of our club and our village’. I certainly did!

1-0 Naylor (21)
2-0 Lynam (55)
2-1 Ibbetson (69)

Saturday 26th September 2009

Lincoln United 2 Jarrow Roofing Boldon CA 1
FA Cup sponsored by e.on Second Qualifying Round
At: Ashby Avenue
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £6; Programme: £1-50
Attendance: 151
Weather: warm with continuous sunshine
Duration: first-half: 49:12; second-half: 48:15

So far this season, my FA Cup trips have taken in three clubs from the East Midlands Counties League – Gedling Miners Welfare, Borrowash Victoria and Bardon Hill Sports – as well as the bonus Sunday tie at Cirencester. After Bardon defeated Barton Town OB, my initial thought was to watch their second qualifying round tie provided it was played at a ground I’d not previously visited. They were given an away tie at Northwich Victoria, a venue at which I’d seen Stafford play at on, so I looked elsewhere in the draw for today’s game.

One tie which stood out was this one between two teams with contrasting league form. Lincoln United had just a single league point near the foot of the Unibond League Division 1 South table while visitors Jarrow Roofing were challenging for promotion towards the top of the Skill Training Ltd Northern League Division 2. Giantkilling alert!

Yesterday my good friend ‘Walsall Neil’ suggested that the crowd for any football trip should ideally be greater than the mileage from home to the ground. He opted to make the 58-mile trip from Croydon to Clymping in Sussex while I opted to keep my FA Cup run going with this intriguing tie at Lincoln needing a crowd in excess of 88 fans. I was confident that a three-figure crowd would be attracted to Ashby Avenue.

The directions to Ashby Avenue appeared straight forward and so they proved to be. From the Skellingthorpe roundabout on the A46 Lincoln north bypass, I followed the ‘Birchwood’ sign towards the city and went straight through the first set of lights next to a filling station construction site. Just after passing the partially obscured lake to the right and recreation ground to the left and entering the 30 mph zone, Ashby Avenue was on first right (look out for the ‘Ashby Avenue Sports Ground’ sign) and the ground 200 yards on the right just past the tower block.

One the way, I spotted the team coach from a Stockport firm on the A52 near Radcliffe, which I guessed was carrying Witton Albion to Grantham.

A large sign confirmed the home of both ‘Lincoln United Football Club’ and ‘Hartsholme United Cricket Club’ and parking for spectators was round the right by the cricket pitch. There were fans milling around in Jarrow replica blue and yellow shirts and I picked up a programme from the turnstile before heading off in search of lunch. I found the Lakeside Fish Bar close by on Skellingthorpe Road though had I known the extensive menu in the football club’s canteen, even for a vege like me, I’d have probably eaten there instead. Still, I enjoyed my chip from the ‘LFB’.

Though the turnstile on the far side of the cricket pitch, the fully-enclosed football pitch (orientated north-east–south-west) ran lengthways. All the main facilities were behind the near goal with a changing room and hospitality building closest and separate canteen (aka The Willy White Suite) and club shop beyond. A sturdy plastic coated wire fence protested the building from shots hot wide of the goal. A plaque on the wall of the said building explained it was erected in memory of Bryan Smith. Down the left-hand touchline stood the main stand containing four rows of individual tip-up seats and at the far end was the Claudine Morley Stand covered standing behind the goal. There were a couple of interesting structures along the right-hand touchline. On halfway were the dugouts and press box with the Arthur Simpson Stand containing two rows of benches, located between the dugouts and far right corner. I opted to watch the whole game from a position on the back row of this quaint stand.

It is fair to say that Lincoln United’s league form this season had been in complete contrast to the cup. They went into this tie second from bottom in the Unibond League Division 1 South table with just one point from six games – a 3-3 draw at home to Kidsgrove Athletic a month ago. The only team below them, Willenhall Town, were only bottom because 10-point deduction.

In the FA Cup, Lincoln have beaten Friar Lane & Epworth and then pulled off a shock result in the last round to beat Unibond League Premier Division side Retford United in a replay. On Tuesday, good cup form continued as they hammered Loughborough Dynamo 5-1 in the Unibond League President’s Cup.

The programme gave the complete FA Cup record of both sides and I noticed that Jarrow Roofing were enjoying their best-ever run in the competition. They had already overcome three hurdles against more senior opposition in Armthorpe Welfare, Penrith and most recently Garforth Town. In the league, they were in third position (18 points from seven games, six wins and a defeat), seven points behind leaders Sunderland RCA with two games in hand.

Teams lined-up facing the main stand to exchange those fair-play handshakes. Teams stayed as they were after the toss and Lincoln (wearing white shirts, red shorts and sock) got the action underway attacking the Claudine Morley Stand end in the first half defending into the sun.

The first major incident came in the 3rd minute when Sam Wilkinson was booked for a heavy challenge of Roofing skipper Brian Rowe. A fan wearing a Notts County replica shirt with his son walked by and I wondered what he thought about Sol Campbell’s one-match strint with the Magpies.

It was the visitors (wearing all blue with yellow trim like the replica shirts I’d seen) who created the game’s first chance as Michael Hepplewhite and Paul Milner combined on the right. The former crossed into the area where Tony Thirkell saw a header held by Mario Ziccardi, who I remembered playing for Grantham in the past.

The raffle ticket seller came round, £1 a strip, and I enquired if the badge pinned to his tie was on sale. He said ‘yes’ and mentioned the club shop would be open at half-time. No chance of peach 141–145 being lucky?

Referee Michael Bell had his yellow card out again in the 10th minute to caution Jaarrow’s Robert Houghton for a foul on Sean Cann.

Jarrow certainly settled well in what could be described as the biggest game in the club’s history and they went close four minutes after the booking. A poor back pass header was intercepted by unmarked Michael Chapman who couldn’t be flagged offside. He broke into the area down the left and fired wide of the far post where the ball was cleared for a corner.

I sensed the home fans were getting a bit nervous, especially when Keith Foster whipped a free-kick across the face of the Lincoln goal. And the fans near me were again concerned as defender Ryan Porter was forced to produce a saving tackle inside the area to deny Hepplewhite a shooting chance.

Lincoln were clearly second best during the opening half hour but started to show more promise during the last 15 minutes of the half. Terry Fleming won a corner and one of the fans near me predicted a (Brendan) McDaid goal – the corner, however, came to nothing.

I spotted another replica shirt, a yellow Norwich City one, and he was on the phone taking about a keeper being sent off and a penalty. He must have been talking about City Fraser Forster who saw red after conceding a penalty at Gillingham.

Ziccardi produced a good save in the 35th minute to beat away an angled shot from Nathan Bonar who had got the better of McDaid.

At the other end, Cann got down the left and crossed into the area but Foster cleared the danger. “A goal now would be worth so much,” said the fan, no doubt lifted by Lincoln’s improved play. Little did they know that the visitors would find the net.

“Minimum of four minutes of added time,” came over the tannoy and it looked like being a goalless first half until the Roofers took the lead in the second minute of stoppage time. Thirkell latched on to a long ball forward into the Lincoln area, got the better of Terry Fleming and fired home at close range.

As promised, the club shop was open and there were two other Lincoln United badges for sale in addition to the 70th anniversary one I’d seen, each costing £3. I also picked up a Lincoln City Ladies programme as well from last month. I then joined the queue for the canteen and was once again served a tea by the two cheerful ladies behind the counter. By the way, I was unlucky in the raffle as none of the three winning stripes remotely matched mine.

The home side needed to up their game in the second half if they were going to avoid a giantkilling and they did just that by equalising in the 52nd minute. Like the Jarrow goal, it came from a long ball. Wilkinson exchanged a one-two with Jamie Forrester before sidefooting low past keeper Adam Dowell.

There was almost a quick-fire second goal for Lincoln, prevented by a good block by Dowell to deny the lively George Zuerner. The same player then fired into the side netting in the next attack.

Lincoln had their tails up and took the lead in the 60th minute. Zuerner latched onto a forward pass, got past Scott Donaldson, and confidently fired past Dowell.

Ziccardi produced a good save to push clear a rising shot from Chapman before the visitors made a change in the 70th minute with Martin Thompson replacing Donaldson. Lincoln made a change themselves three minutes later as Forrester was replaced by Sam Mullarky.

With 10 minutes plus stoppage time remaining, both sides unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty and, in the 83rd minute, Roofer’s defender Foster was booked for retaliation.

Ziccardi needed to remain alert and the keeper rushed out of his area to boot the ball clear as Hepplewhite closed in on a ball down the middle.

Jarrow played a last throw of the dice in the 89th minute when Paul Catto replaced Bonar though they were given little opportunity of forcing an equaliser in the ‘minimum of three minutes added time”.

I’ve had complains in the past that I simply go the game and come home. So, before heading back I decided to do a little bit of sightseeing and took in the old racecourse with the old stand still in situ, as well as a closer look at the cathedral.

0-1 Tony Thirkell (45+2)
1-1 Sam Wilkinson (52)
2-1 George Zuerner (60)

Sunday 20th September 2009

Causeway United 4 Coventry Sphinx 0
FA Carlsberg Vase Second Qualifying Round
At: War Memorial Athletic Ground
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1-25 (28 pages)
Attendance: 108
Weather: warm and sunny
Duration: first-half: 47:21; second-half: 47:22

I’d better not get used to this … football on two consecutive Sunday afternoons!

There were a few games to choose from today and I opted for the all Midland Alliance Vase tie between Causeway United and Coventry Sphinx. And, spotting the Stafford Rangers team coach travelling south on the M1 yesterday evening provided a coincidental link into this game as my old friends from the Blue Square North visit Sphinx in the FA Cup on Saturday.

I’d not previously seen a Causeway home game and they currently share with Stourbridge FC. It was about 18 years ago when I last visited the War Memorial Athletic Ground, for an FA Cup tie with Long Buckby played on a sunny Sunday afternoon in September 1991. My earlier and only other visit was on a dark March evening in 1987 for a Staffs Senior Cup replay.

One concern I had en-route was the journey through Wolverhampton with Wolves entertaining Fulham at 2 pm. Apart from a lot of parked cars, I was surprised how quiet it was approaching Molineux 10 minutes before kick-off, even on Waterloo Road which runs alongside the main Billy Wright Stand. Close to the ground and in sight of the Stan Cullis Stand and Goal Post pub, things really started to buzz though I was amazed that, apart from the odd fan, no one seemed to be hurrying to get into the ground before kick-off. I was stationary in traffic by the Billy Wright statue when I heard a great roar and fanfare, presumably, as the teams came out. Still the fans didn’t seem to hurry.

Twenty minutes later, I was travelling south down the A491 from the A449 at Wall Heath towards Stourbridge, listening to the Manchester derby on the radio and hearing that Kevin Doyle had put Wolves in front. The entrance to the ‘WMAC’, in the Amblecote district of the town, was on the right through the arch, just before the lights by The Royal Oak pub. A car park on the other side of the arch provided a first option to leave the car but I made my way through the second set of gates and parked by the cricket pavilion.

Programmes were on sale at the table by the clubhouse and teams were both displayed at the PA box window and announced over the tannoy. There were quite a few other travellers milling around as well. From a personal point of view, there were two ‘debuts’ – the hat bought for me at Brodsworth Hall yesterday and also a new notebook.

The ground itself (orientated roughly east–west) occupies one side of Stourbridge Cricket Club’s pitch and spectators only have access to three sides. Behind the near goal was the clubhouse and changing rooms, and also a couple of terrace steps next to the pitch barrier. Down the far touchline stood an interesting stand which comprised three distinct adjacent sections. The two outside sections were covered terrace with a middle section housing seven rows of red-painted benches either side of the directors/officials box. Behind the far goal was a large cavernous covered stand, the ‘Shed End’, with no fewer than ten wide terrace steps.

Causeway (2nd position behind leaders Barwell with 18 points from seven games) had made a great start to their 2009/10 Midland Alliance campaign, despite playing all but one league game away from home. Ironically, the only points they’ve dropped were in a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Westfields. Coventry Sphinx (18th position with six points from six games) were in a lowly false league position and had three games in hand on the four teams immediately above them in the table.

In the FA Carlsberg Vase First Qualifying Round played two weeks ago, Causeway won 2-0 at home to Ellesmere while Coventry Sphinx won by the same scoreline at Ashby Ivanhoe.

I didn’t expect anything else as the teams came out in fair-play fashion before lining up on the pitch in front of the benched section of the stand.

Causeway (wearing all blue) got the game underway attacking the Shed End in the first half. I opted for a position sat in the stand so, in other words, the home side were playing from right to left.

It was visitors Coventry Sphinx (wearing a change kit of all red) who created the early chances. Kelvin Phillips volleyed over from the edge of the area and, from a free-kick delivered into the area by Aaron Donaldson, Terry Ward saw a far-post header held by Causeway keeper Joel Skeldon.

I tried a couple of viewing positions and settled on a front row place on row A, position 5, in the section in the half defended by Causeway and nearest the visitors’ dugout.

Causeway took an early lead in the 13th minute. Sam Beasley’s right-wing corner wasn’t cleared and leading scorer Matt Gardner fired home inside a crowded area at close range.

Raffle tickets came round and my lucky strip was orange 81–85.

Midway through the half, Causeway had a good shout for a penalty. Ben Stretton chipped the advancing keeper and went down, in a manner that wasn’t clear to me, and the referee waived play on. I really didn’t know where it was a good decision or not though the attacker wasn’t deemed guilty or accused of diving.

The referee was more receptive to the home side in the 27th minute when Stretton was brought down by Ward just outside the Sphinx area. Gardner stepped up to curl the resulting free-kick over the six-man wall and between the bar and the outstretched left hand of leaping keeper Carl O’Neill.

The game was all but over as a contest two minutes later when Gardner completed his hat-trick. Fed by Stretton, the striker wrong footed a defender on the edge of the area before firing low into the bottom left corner of the net.

Gardner was proving too hot to handle and almost scored a fourth goal in the 31st minute. Stretton combined with Carl Hind out on the right and delivered a deep cross. The unchallenged striker stretched to get his head to the cross and sent the ball across goal just wide of the far post.

Causeway’s Beasley was lucky to escape with just a talking to for a foul on Craig Goodbody before Sphinx suffered another blow in the 37th minute. Kyle Rhodes suffered a nasty cut to his forehead (which neither the referee, the closest assistant or my good self spotted) that put midfielder out of the game.

There was almost another goal for the home side after Rhodes went off. Chris Field flicked the ball past the advancing O’Neill and headed towards and unguarded net. But Liam Kay got back to head clear at the expense of a corner.

Before the corner was taken, the unfortunate Rhodes failed to reappear and was replaced, in the 41st minute, by Jamie McAteer.

The referee finally produced a card in first half stoppage time (45+1) when Goodbody was booked for a foul on Beasley.

Half-time came with Causeway holding a comfortable lead. I agreed with an assessment I overheard that Sphinx started well but heads dropped as soon as they went behind.

The referee drew the winning raffle ticket before going in to the changing rooms – green 381-385 so not luck again.

I checked the identity of the first goalscorer with a fellow traveller before popping in to the clubhouse for the usual tea and chips from the hatch I returned to the stand and opted for position 14 on row A, close to where I’d been in the first half.

Sphinx were back out on the field barely ten minutes after the first half had ended. They waited for the home side to emerge before having a motivating team huddle. The visitors, now attacking the far end, needed a good start to the second half and started to put Causeway under pressure. They were awarded a free-kick just outside the area. Goodbody took a very long run up and fired low past both the three-man wall and left-hand post.

With the visitors very much in the ascendency, the Sphinx manager made a second change in the 58th minute. Goodbody went off and on came the more attacking Joshua Ruff. “Sphinx, better stuff,” was soon the verdict from the sidelines but the visitors still had a three-goal deficit and little over half an hour to close it.

Way over in the distance, there must have been a function at the cricket pavilion as smartly dressed individuals started to gather on the steps in front of the ornate building.

Sphinx kept up the attack as the overlapping Tommy Muldoon picked up the ball out on the right. He sent a low ball across the face of goal but unmarked Aaron Donaldson couldn’t quite apply the finishing touch.

Hat-trick hero Gardner was replaced in the 69th minute with Duncan Willetts and four minutes later Mark Jones chopped down Ruff to unsurprisingly pick up a booking. Causeway made their second substitution in the 75th minute, replacing Aaron Drakeley with Steve Poole, and a third on in the 79th minute, replacing Hind with Stuart How.

For most of the second half the ball seemed to be rarely out of the Causeway half, though the home defence made sure Sphinx couldn’t turn their possession into a goal. The visitors’ challenge started to peter out in the last 10 minutes. David Plinston dribbled into the Sphinx area and saw his shot well blocked by the advancing O’Neill.

It wasn’t long before Causeway wrapped up the scoring with a spectacular 87th minute strike. Substitute Duncan Willetts hit a rising 30-yard right-foot drive which gave O’Neill no chance of keeping out.

Before the referee brought the tie to a close, Willett miss-kicked in front of goal following food work by Mark Jones and Stretton and, in the 90th minute, Sphinx’s James Holmes was booked for dissent.

Causeway, who pocketed £900 prize money for the win, will have to wait to find out who they’ll visit in the First Round until the Loughborough University and Dudley Town replay on Tuesday.

Before setting off home, I enquired about Stourbridge and Causeway United pin badges and bought one representing the former at £3.

Causeway United (blue/blue/blue): 1. Joel Skeldon, 2. Mark Jones, 3. Sam Beasley, 4. Dan Cox, 5. Matt Aston, 6. Chris Field (capt), 7. Matt Gardner, 8. Ben Stretton, 9. David Plinston, 10. Aaron Drakeley, 11. Carl Hind. Subs: 12. Darren Whitley, 14. Steve Poole (for Drakeley, 75), 15. Danny Jones, 16. Stuart How (Hind, 79), 17. Duncan Willetts (for Gardner, 69).

Coventry Sphinx (red/red/red): 1. Carl O’Neill, 2. Craig Goodbody, 3. James Holmes, 4. Kyle Rhodes, 5. Terry Ward (capt), 6. Liam Kay, 7. Aaron Donaldson, 8. Gary Mead, 9. Kelvin Phillips, 10. Jerome Murdock, 11. Tom Muldoon. Subs: 12. Joshua Ruff (for Goodbody, 58), 14. Jamie McAteer (for Rhodes, 41), 15. Chris Daffern.

Referee: R. Hathaway (Tamworth).
Assistants: I. Gillespie (Sutton Coldfield) and N. Underwood (Erdington).

1-0 Matt Gardner (13)
2-0 Matt Gardner (27)
3-0 Matt Gardner (29)
4-0 Duncan Willetts (87)

Saturday 19th September 2009

Brodsworth Welfare 0 Thackley 5
KoolSport Northern Counties East League Premier Division
At: Welfare Ground
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1-50
Attendance: 40
Weather: warm and dry, sunny spells
Duration: first-half: 47:06; second-half: 47:23

We’d been waiting for the chance to double-up English Heritage’s Brodsworth Hall and a Brodsworth Welfare home game. And with autumn opening hours less convenient and probably the weather as well, we decided to head for South Yorkshire on a really nice late summer day.

I enjoyed the drive up to South Yorkshire and we spotted the Goole FC team coach travelling in the opposite direction on the way to Rushall Olympic. Scarves from Birmingham City and an orange/white hooped one were also seen and during our ‘pit spot’ at Woodall Services fans wearing Hull City, Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers shirts milled around.

Our next port of call was Brodsworth Hall, close to the A638 and a couple of miles from A1(M) junction 37. I’d got time to get a glimpse of the hall and gardens before leaving Mrs and Junior ‘iwf’ there for the afternoon while I headed off to the match.

Brodsworth’s Welfare Ground was easy to find and around 2 ½ miles from the Hall. Travelling south on the A638 dual carriageway (Great North Road) towards Doncaster town centre, there was a left turn into Welfare Road (signed Adwick Leisure Centre) just after the ‘Picture House/Bingo Hall’ and Woodlands pub. Fourth Avenue was the first left and the ground entrance was at the end of this short cul-de-sac.

Just before turning off the Great North Road, I noticed players on a pitch behind park railing which turned out to be, like the Welfare Ground, next to the cricket ground. I wonder if this game was the Doncaster Senior League Division 1 game between Woodlands Rhino and ISG Doncaster, played according to mitoo at ‘Brodsworth Welfare 2’?

According to a sign I didn’t initially spot, there was parking available at the Welfare Hall but I left the car on the grass adjacent to the cricket ground. What appeared to be the only entrance was next to the scoreboard and into one corner of the football ground at the top of a small bank. The pitch (orientated south-east–north-west) ran widthways to the left and enclosed by a sky blue pitch-side wall. A new area of cover had been recently erected behind the goal at the far end. On the near left-hand touchline was a decent sized seated stand containing several rows of benches with dugouts in front either side of the half-way line. To the right of the entrance were the clubhouse, changing rooms (with signs labelling ‘HOME’, ‘AWAY’ and ‘OFFICIALS’) as well as the Gents! All in all, a ground that was well worth a visit.

With time on my hands before kick-off, I popped into the clubhouse which also houses the tea bar. On sale were two different designs of lapel badge and in here, I obtained the line-ups from home and away club officials. I got myself a tea and made a mental note to return at half-time for chips. The clubhouse felt such a friendly and welcoming place.

It was fair to say that Brodsworth’s 2009/10 campaign hasn’t gone the way they wanted it to. They went into this game bottom of the 20-team Premier Division without a single point from six games and a goal difference of –35. They’d scored two goals – one on the opening day at home to Hallam and the other last Saturday at Selby Town.

Thackley (in 10th position with nine points from six games) were rocked in the build-up to this game by the ‘shock’ resignation of manager Billy Fox and his assistant Nigel Ransom. Caretakers Sean Clifford and Dave Walters took charge for Wednesday’s win at Shirebrook and were also due to be in the dugout today.

Teams emerged in fair-play fashion and soon Brodsworth (wearing sky blue and navy blue striped shirts with sky blue sleeves, navy blue shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the far end with its covered standing. I opted for a place in the stand, second to back row on the side nearest to the visitors’ dugout.

Thackley (in red shirts with white sleeves, white shorts and red socks) made what was described by their bench as a “positive start”. Joel Birks hit a 30-yard left-foot drive that flashed past the left-hand post and the same player also sent an angled shot across the face of the home goal.

Despite the visitors enjoying plenty of possession, Brodsworth were certainly competitive and this didn’t go unnoticed by one observer sat in the stand who commented: “They haven’t started like a bottom of the league team”.

However, Thackley took the lead in the 18th minute. Ross Daly was tripped inside the area and Dean Waters sent keeper Martin Spavin the wrong way from the spot.

Spavin soon produced an excellent save to deny Thackley a second goal. Nicky Matthews latched onto a flick from Danny Tononczak and got clear into the area but the keeper left his line to bravely block the resulting shot. The Brodsworth keeper again excelled in the 25th minute to tip over an angled rising drive hit from the left side of the area by Joel Birks.

Thackley doubled their advantage in the 26th minute despite another good save by Spavin who blocked Birks’ initial shot with this boot. The ball wasn’t cleared and Matthews fired home low from a narrow angle across goal into the far left corner of the net.

Spavin was certainly in inspired form and produced an acrobatic save to beat away Birks’ close-range volley.

I headed for the clubhouse and did indeed get the portion of chips I’d promised myself before returning to the same position in the stand.

Referee Booker lived up to his surname in the 49th minute by brandishing the game’s first yellow card for a foul by Brodsworth skipper Shane Fox. The home side made a first change a minute later with Liam O’Neill replacing Daniel Billing. Brodsworth’s Nathan Brady was also booked in the 55th minute for kicking the ball away after being flagged offside.

The Thackley bench were far from happy with the start their side had made to the second half. Their only effort of note was a dipping volley by unmarked Birks that failed to hit the target. “Everything we’ve talked about we haven’t set in motion,” was the shout from the sidelined.

The wake-up call soon did the trick as Thackley scored again in the 56th minute. Adam Fretwell appeared to have few options on the edge of the area so tried the lob Spavin and ball dropped into the net.

In response, Brodsworth got forward and O’Neill got a shot on target which keeper Scott Dinnigan held.

A club official came round with a football card rather than a raffle. I opted for ‘Stoke City’ but The Potters didn’t prove to be lucky for me.

Thackley made a change on the hour when the limping Matthews was replaced by Martin Brissett and they scored again in the 64th minute. Awarded a free-kick a couple of yards outside the area, Dean Walters hit the ball with his right foot over the five-man wall and straight into the left side of the net past Spavin who never moved.

Barely a minute after the goal went in, Chris Peake made a surging run down the middle towards the Thackley goal only to have his passage blocked by Rob Ward who, unsurprisingly picked up a booking. Fox’s free-kick hit the wall.

Thackley made another change in the 66th minute – Bruce Hogg replaced Birks – before they took were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the area. Adam Richardson picked up a booking (70th minute) for bringing down Toronczak and Walters stepped up to take the free-kick. However, there was no repeat of his earlier feat as this time the ball hit the wall. In between the booking and free-kick, Thackley replaced Fretwell with Richard Patterson.

Despite conceding five goals, Spavin had an impressive game and did well to block a shot from Brissett that resulted from a patient build-up and cross from Hogg.

Brodworth’s endeavours perhaps deserved a goal. Daniel Freer whipped a cross from the left into the area but Peake couldn’t direct his header on target. The home side made a 77th-minute substitution to bring on Stuart Laidlaw for Matt Bedford.

Thackley wrapped up the scoring in the 79th minute. Spavin failed to hold a close range shot from Toronczak who managed to fire home the loose ball at close range.

The visitors wanted even more goals but once again found Spavin no push over. Hogg fed Brissett who saw his shot turned round by the keeper who, by my reckoning, had kept the visitors’ tally to single figures.

Brodworth made a further late substitution in the 88th minute – Ryan Fletcher replaced Ashley Gillespie – before Spavin produced another save to block Ross Daly. In stoppage time, Spavin parried a long-range free-kick from Hogg but Toronczak was unable to take advantage of the loose ball.

On the way home we added football-related vehicle to our list travelling down the M1 and it was a familiar one… the Stafford Rangers team coach!

Brodsworth Welfare (sky blue and navy blue stripes with sky blue sleeves / navy blue / navy blue): 1. Martin Spavin, 2. Bayden Lockwood, 3. Daniel Billing, 4. Matt Bedford, 5. Adam Richardson, 6. Ashley Gillespie, 7. Shane Fox (capt), 8. Paul Haigh, 9. Nathan Brady, 10. Chris Peake, 11. Daniel Freer. Subs: 12. Ryan Fletcher (for Gillespie, 88), 14. Stuart Laidlaw (for Bedford, 77), 15. Liam O’Neill (not used).

Thackley (red with white sleeves / white / red): 1. Scott Dinnigan, 2. Neil Murray, 3. Jerome White, 4. Rob Ward (capt), 5. James Firth, 6. Adam Fretwell, 7, Dean Walters, 8. Ross Daly, 9. Nicky Matthews, 10. Danny Toronczak, 11. Joel Birks. Subs: 14. Richard Patterson (for Fretwell, 70), 15. Martin Brissett (for Matthews, 60), 16. Bruce Hogg (for Birks, 66).

Referee: P Booker (South Yorkshire).
Assistants: T Bramall (South Midlands) and P Tomes (North Yorkshire).

0-1 Dean Waters (18 pen)
0-2 Nicky Matthews (26)
0-3 Adam Fretwell (56)
0-4 Dean Walters (64)
0-5 Danny Toronczak (79)