Uttoxeter Town 2 Ashbourne 1

Saturday 3rd November 2012
Uttoxeter Town 2 Ashbourne 1
Staffordshire County Senior League Division One
At: Oldfields, Springfield Road
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: £1 (16 pages)
Weather: sunny
Attendance: 109
Duration: first-half: 45:20; second-half: 50:05

Attracting a three-figure attendance, Uttoxeter Town and Ashbourne served up a thrilling and competitive Staffordshire/Derbyshire derby at Oldfields which the hosts eventually won with a last gasp winner deep into stoppage time.

Uttoxeter Town, founded in 1972 according to the sign at the entrance to Oldfields, moved into Saturday football at the start of the current season by joining the Staffordshire County Senior League Division One. Recently they had been successful in the Burton and District Sunday League, winning the Premier Division in both 2010/11 and 2011/12.

Their move into Saturday football took away a possible answer to the question about the ‘biggest town in the UK without a Saturday football team’ though Rocester FC play five miles to the north at Step 5 in the Midland Alliance.

So far their season has gone very well and they went into today’s derby in third position with 22 points from 8 games. Unbeaten with seven wins, they demolished Sandbach United Reserves 8-2 last Saturday with Tommy Smith bagging a double hat-trick.

Visitors Ashbourne from just over the border in Derbyshire have also made a decent start to the season as well, lying two places and six points below Uttoxeter having played one game more. Their squad, today, featured several ex-Summer League players who have made the switch to ‘winter’ football including goalkeeper Sean ‘Horny’ Jones, Dec Bacon, Sam Howard, Sean Millward and Callum Woolley.

I’d not been to the ground before, a large playing field which caters for cricket, football and rugby. The football pitch, on the far side of the cricket square and on the opposite side to the impressive pavilion, was roped off on all four sides with a small stand behind the goal at the north end.

Inside the pavilion, I was greeted by Mick Burt and Bill Berry who pointed out where the programmes were on sale at the bar.

As the photo to the right shows, the referee decided to line up the players for the fair-play handshakes with their backs to the dugouts and majority of the crowd!

Ashbourne (in blue and black) got the game underway defending the north end of Oldfields with the small stand behind the goal – attacking from left to right in relation to the dugouts.

It was Uttoxeter who created the first chance when the diving Ashbourne goalkeeper Sean Jones turned a 25-yard free-kick around the left-hand post at the expense of a corner.

The home side twice went close again before the quarter-hour mark. Leading scorer Tommy Smith, previously with both Rocester and Stafford Town, first volleyed powerfully across the face of goal and then forced another diving save out of Jones (photo right).

As well as the clubhouse, programmes were available from a pitch-side seller as well.

Uttoxeter took the lead in the 29th minute. Matthew Dowling brought down Jack Holley inside the area and the midfielder got up to send Jones the wrong way from the resulting penalty.

“Let’s build on it,” was the advice to the home side while the away bench felt it was “very quiet Ashbourne”. One player particularly impressing us amongst numerous decent performances in a high-quality game was Ashbourne central defender John Ford.

In what a decent first half before a crowd of around 100, Smith fired just over the Ashbourne bar while, just before the interval, Paul Spencer saw a header cleared off the line.

While the players remained on the pitch, the three match officials retreated to the changing rooms during half-time, yet in the inverval lasted only ten minutes.

Ashbourne made a positive start to the second half. Steven Sellers saw a header held by Uttoxeter goalkeeper Alex Langridge from Dowling’s crossfield diagonal cross before the visitors equalised just 66 seconds after the restart. Sean Millward intercepted a poor clearance from Langridge inside the area and squared the ball for unchallenged Spencer to hammer home.

Smith almost regained the lead for Uttoxeter when ran onto a throughball down the middle and hit a first time shot which flew past the advancing Jones and just wide of the right-hand post.

While the Uttoxeter defence was extremely tight during the first half, Ashbourne started to exploit gaps. A lovely move down the left involving Sam Howard and Paul Etherington led to Spencer having an initial shot blocked and Etherington driving the rebound over the bar.

With 25 minutes left we felt the game could go either way and Tom Harvey beat Jones only to see the ball rebound off the right-hand post.

Ashbourne immediately got forward. Nick Birds crossed from the left into the area, Millward headed the ball to the far post where Spencer fired over the bar.

Smith had the ball in the back of the Ashbourne net in the 73rd minute, only to be thwarted by an offside flag. In the next attack, Smith beat Jones with a low shot but the ball rebounded off the inside of the far right post into the arms of the thankful goalkeeper.

Ashbourne then had a strong (and justified) claim for a penalty when Spencer went down in the area and it looked very much like the referee moved his whistle towards his lips before waiving play on.

Into the closing stages and Smith sent an acrobatic overkick just over the bar from Breadsley’s free-kick which Martin Gadsby flicked on. Uttoxeter won a disputed corner, delivered from the left by Liam Sowter which under pressure Jones held. The goalkeeper’s catch drew applause and it looked like Ashbourne had earned a point.

So they thought…

After three and a half minutes of stoppage time, the referee indicated there was one minute remaining. Time for one last Uttoxeter chance and Chris Richards forced the ball over the line during a goalmouth scramble to score the winner. Joy for the home side but cruel on Ashbourne as the referee played a further five seconds before blowing the final whistle.

The win maintained Uttoxeter’s unbeaten start to the season and the three points lifted them into second position in the Division One table, two points behind leaders Hilton Harriers with three games in hand.

I certainly enjoyed my first footballing experience in Uttoxeter!

After the final whistle, I headed to Hillsfields and saw the last 43 minutes of Rocester’s Midland Alliance fixture against Bridgnorth Town. Leading 2-1 when I arrived, the Romans conceded a late equaliser before a crowd of 108.

Uttoxeter Town (yellow / navy blue / white): 1. Alex Langridge, 2. Dom Ward, 3. Chris Richards, 4. Jason Beardsley, 5. Paddy Farrelly, 6. Jack Holley, 7. Martin Gadsby (capt), 8. Kyle Esplin, 9. Tommy Smith, 10. Tom Harvey, 11. Robert Collins. Subs: 12. Glyn Douglas (for Collins, 79), 14. Liam Sowter (for Holley, 79), 15. Lee Bagley (for Harvey, 70). Manager: Mark Grimley.

Ashbourne (blue and black stripes / black / black): 1. Sean Jones, 2. Steven Sellers, 3. Matthew Dowling, 4. Dec Bacon (capt), 5. John Ford, 6. Liam Gibson, 7. Sam Howard, 8. Paul Etherington, 9. Paul Spencer, 10. Sean Millward, 11. Nick Birds. Subs: 12. Steve Williams (for Millward, 79), 14. Richard Wright (not used), 15. Paul Dabbs (not used), 16. Jonathan Cragg (not used), 17. Callum Woolley (not used).

Referee: Mark Boxley (Great Wyrley).
Assistants: Jon Lamburn and Ryan Metcalfe.

1-0 Jack Holley (29 pen)
1-1 Paul Spencer (47)
2-1 Chris Richards (90+5)

Uttoxeter: Paddy Farrelly (YC, 65)
Ashbourne: John Ford (YC, 17), Sam Howard (90+6, YC)