Northern Counties East Premier Division

Inkersall Road, Staveley 02/11/16

Family has always been important to me, never more so since falling and breaking my hip. It is funny how people come together during a crisis, lending help and support and pulling together. While I have been recuperating I have had the pleasure of chatting to complete strangers through Twitter and email, these people are all pulling together to help their local club. Volunteers on the turnstile, running the cafe, making the programmes and taking the photos. A word that has cropped up a few times on Twitter, Facebook and team websites is ‘family’. I think that’s why I love non league, everyone that is there is there for the right reason.

Obviously I must thank Ken for driving us about, buying teas and programmes and for his excellent company, without him I would be extremely bored! I also have to give a special mention to my Step-Father Tony, who has been my chief carer during the day. We usually ‘discuss’ football and politics over a few cups of tea in Doncaster and it was during one such discussion that got the cogs turning. Tony was saying how good football was in the 60s and 70s, I’ve heard it from everyone and often put it down to the rose tinted spectacles that all people born before 1970 seem to wear (I agree with them by the way!). Anyway, one of his points was that clubs were on more of a level playing field. Indeed, during the decade of the 60s eight different teams were crowned Champions of England. Other than the freak Leicester City title this year, only four clubs have been crowned champions in the previous twenty years. Manchester City and Chelsea have had money thrown at them in order to compete and two decades earlier Blackburn had Jack Walker’s riches to thank for their one league championship. We discussed Manchester City’s victory over Barcelona, and how their leadership team had pursued Guardiola for years and finally got the man to deliver on an unlimited budget. The Manchester City Ladies team have just won the Women’s Super League after going undefeated for the full season, two years ago they controversially took the place of Doncaster Belles in the top division, why? Money.

So back to non league, the defeat for Frickley at Shaw Lane on Saturday didn’t feel right and I think it is because Shaw Lane are striving for bigger things, and while everybody could ‘feel the force’, I think it felt a bit ‘forced’. Who doesn’t want to see their club winning and doing well? I’m not being bitter, I have spoken to a few (real) Man City fans who are loving life, watching the best players in he world and winning things, my biggest fear is that the evil Red Bull empire will take my team and make them even more loathsome, as they have with Leipzig and Salzburg.

Today then it was Staveley Miners Welfare vs Garforth Town and another game under the floodlights. We have been doing extremely well with the weather but it was going to be a cold evening. Who wants to watch the ‘Champions’ League from their sofa when they can watch 17th play 15th in the Northern Counties East Football League Division One!

I was in a buoyant mood as I had been to see the Occupational Health Nurse at work who was very positive and supportive about my return to work sooner rather than later so when Ken picked me up their was lots to chat about. We were again Nathan-less but he was very much in our thoughts as he would become a teenager in the morning. Nathan was just five days old when Leeds were thumped 6-1 away at Portsmouth in the Premier League, a sign of things to come as a Leeds fan, I think he’s better sticking to non league ground hopping.

img_0787Staveley was another ground that Geoff had mentioned when we saw him at Pontefract, I had done a bit of googling and loved the look of their ground. The journey down flew, about 35 minutes down the A1, M18 and M1. We needed the Sat Nav to get us to the ground, past a country park where I am guessing the old pit stood, round a couple of roundabouts and into the car park. On entering the car park I liked what I saw, lit up by the beams of the floodlights was Inkersall Road.

img_0789The ground is blue and white, I have never seen anything like it before and can totally see why Geoff likes it! The name and crest and stripes are everywhere, you really know where you are. There is an entrance to the clubhouse advertising live Sky Sports football, beer and food. We walk round to the turnstile, a fiver to get in and £1.50 for the programme. The young man on the turnstile leaves his post to open the large, Staveley branded gate for me to hobble through.

For the first time at non league level I stood in awe, not because the ground had huge stands or majestic floodlights, because it was just ace! There was the clubhouse to my left, with five or six picnic benches outside for people to sit and watch the game.

img_0792The clubhouse offered fans the opportunity to watch the game from inside, with food and drink on sale. Down the left touchline was a wide area for standing, it banked up slightly. There was a tall, detached building, the Tower Bar that was shut this evening but would be a fantastic vantage point to watch or film the game. Two covered terraces adorned with the clubs name and colours sit behind each goal with a larger seated terrace running down the right touch line. The club have a blue and white extendable (and contractable) tunnel for the players to run down as they enter this magnificent arena, after looking down the tunnel it appears that the players just go into an old building that houses the changing rooms.

In the right corner there is the Staveley MW elderly and disabled seating area, an indoor space to sit and keep warm. Leading up to this is a carpet with frosted glass panels either side that I guess would impair the view, there are a number of white plastic garden chairs at the top of the stepped terrace and inside the closed building.

Just round from the elderly and disabled area is the club shop and bizarrely next to this is an outdoor giant chess board.

At the opposite end of the pitch there is Trojan Tennis, another  random detached building housing a table tennis table and seating. The mishmash of buildings is just beautiful and deserving of a team much higher up the football pyramid. I truly hope that Staveley find the rich investor to rocket them through the divisions just so more people can see this ground. Everything is blue and white striped, EVERYTHING! Everything has the club name on, the badge is everywhere, it is just fantastic. My groundhopper app claims that Inkersall Road can hold 5000 fans, I know I have said it before but I would love to see this ground full.

Ken nips into the clubhouse to get a teamsheet, we scan to see if we recognise any players or if there are any ex pros (or relations of ex pros) to go on our list. Ken lives in Garforth and has seen them a few times over the years, after the Simon Clifford vanity project of the mid naughties he expects Garforth to be disliked by visiting teams but he is happy to support and cheer them on this evening

This is the first ground we have visited where a fanatic can watch from all four sides of the ground, I say to Ken that we should walk (or crutch in my case) all the way around to get to the seated terrace just so we can take this ground in and get a closer look at all the random buildings. The ball trickles under the post that runs the perimeter of the pitch, it is calling for me to nudge it with my lesser used left foot, I take a little swing and just about touch it back to the lads that are warming up, quite sad really but that is the first time I’ve touched a football in nearly four months and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to kick one properly again (cue…you couldn’t kick one properly before).

We walk past all the buildings, I’m disappointed the elderly and disabled area and club shop are shut this evening, I reckon Nathan would’ve loved the giant chess set, all the best places have an outdoor chess set. The Garforth players are leathering the ball into the goal during their warm up, hopefully this is a sign of things to come – great power and accuracy and some tidy finishes that are applauded by the coach. Ken worries that they are playing in their awful pink kit, I think they are.

We take a seat in the large stand, looking around there doesn’t appear to be many people here. This is about to change as the referee leads the teams out, people flood out of the warmth of the club house and take their places at all ends of the ground, seats begin to fill in our stand and four elderly gentlemen catch my eye. I reckon these four have been coming to Inkersall Road since time began as they share a joke. A ball comes flying our way, one fanatic misses it which brings one of the elderly men to laugh about his goalkeeping abilities. I take a picture of the floodlights and tweet it to Non League Crowds who the previous night had asked for pictures of floodies, I don’t need asking twice when it comes to floodlight porn.

Garforth were the fastest out of the blocks with Jack McMurrough forcing a fine save from Staveley keeper Gareth Briggs in the first minute. McMurrough firing his effort from outside the box surprising everyone. On 6 minutes Mitch Hamilton danced his way around a couple of Staveley defenders before shooting well wide.

Staveley were starting to try things down their right flank, one attack was cut short by a good challenege by full back Jamie Allsop, the ball ricocheting into the giant chess set and kncoking down a couple of pieces. Shaun Nesbitt showed what he could do with the resulting throw in, launching a huge throw into the Garforth box. Nesbitt and Allsop were battling again when the latter defended solidly again after some good play by the winger.

It was getting very chilly, the breath of the players hanging over the pitch like a mist, Staveley boss ‘Wardy’ barking orders at his players, his instructions echoing around the ground. The game was very scrappy, a succession of long balls headed back between the teams was frustrating to watch. A Staveley player went down after a good run only to be told to ‘man up’ by one of the fans, straight after this a Staveley defender went sliding in with a heavy challenge, seeking vengeance for his team mate.

On 17 minutes Kurtis Morley struck a fine shot early after beating the Garforth defence for pace, the shot was palmed out to his right by Garforth keeper Hagreen. Hamilton appeared to be the brightest player for Garforth and went on another run on 24 minutes forcing a save from Briggs. It was difficult to watch the hoofball as both sides had a couple of players that could produce decent runs, neither team were playing to these strengths and cancelling each other out. A fanatic shouts for his team to protect the ball more, leading to Ken and I agreeing. Neither team were working hard to protect the ball, bad decision making and poor passing was producing a scrappy affair. The few games we had seen in the league below seemed better quality and no one stood out who had the ability to really change the game, this game had 0-0 written all over it, one of those games.

The one man that did look dangerous was Morley who out muscled the defender and hit a nice curling effort that was very well saved by Hagreen. 10 minutes later he had another effort but fired over with the goal at his mercy.

Garforth kept pumping the ball up to Lee Turner but no one was there to support on the few occasions he did win the flick on. On 40 minutes Staveley hit the side netting before Hamilton was once again the architect of an opportunity for Garforth, showing good control and run, knocking it to McMurrough who fired wide. The ref blew for half time bang on 45 minutes.

Ken offered to go for the half time brews but today I opted to go with him, it was very cold and the hip was starting to ache, I needed the warmth of the clubhouse.

As we walked in I noticed the Staveley badge under every table, an area was cordoned off with sandwiches and drinks on the table. On the back wall 11 red shirts were hanging in frames, signed by all the 1966 World Cup winners with the exception of Moore whose number 6 was facing us. On closer inspection they were pretty much all signed to Stavely Miners Welfare. Further down the wall Ken informs me that the shirts of Pele, Puskas and Di Stafano are framed. Tottenham vs Leverkusen is on the screens around the room as a long queue forms for food and drink. It really is a good set up, the club could charge to use the clubhouse alone. Ken returns with the teas and some chips for me, well priced and tasty. We pull a chair up to the window to watch the start of the second half, Ken chats to another Garforth fan as I eat my chips. While we are sat in the clubhouse Staveley fire a corner in which is headed onto his own bar by a Garforth defender with the keeper beaten. I finish the chips and we brave the cold, returning to our seats that are still down from the first half.

On 56 minutes Hamilton shoots wide for Garforth, again showing his intent, five minutes later he was involved again as Lee Turner shot wide. Opportunities were sparse and we thought that Garforth would rue not converting these few chances.

The deadlock was broken on 65 as Staveley finally found the back of the net. Nesbitt received the ball from a decent pass and finished well low in the bottom right corner.

Their lead was doubled on 79 when Tom Ellis lobbed the keeper from wide on the left, Garforth’s match report exclaims this effort as an audacious shot but I think it is more luck than judgement, it’s great to see a goal like that amd Ellis had caught Ken’s eye earlier with a couple of runs forward and few meaty tackles. Meanwhile his teammates swamp him with celebrations, this is a popular goal.

The highlight of the game came on 86 minutes with Ken showing the footballing world what they have been missing. With the ball coming to him at pace, Ken leaps from his seat and with one touch caresses it back to the Staveley player. He reckons he couldn’t do it again and tells me a story about when he attempted to pass the ball back during one of Nathan’s games but proceeded to hit someone on the head.

The game was fizzling out when Staveley scored their third deep into stoppage time, Steve Carty going on a mazy run and putting the ball through to Morley. His shot just trickled over the line despite the desperate lunge by a Garforth defender. Garforth put this down as an OG but I’m going with the official NCEL website and giving it to Morley as he probably claimed my man of the match award as well as the goal.

3-0, we wouldn’t have put money on that at 60 minutes and it wasn’t the best game but once again both teams put the effort in and put on a competitive showcase, even if the quality was lacking slightly. I think the result flattered the home side but they were worthy of the victory, just about shading their opponents. Staveley can continue their good run on Saturday as they host bottom of the league Parkgate while Garforth play third-bottom Armthorpe Welfare.

I really enjoyed my trip to Inkersall Road and wish them luck for the rest of the season, I hope to see Garforth again in a couple of weeks away at Retford. This weekend will see a return to Westfield Lane, let’s hope the blues have dusted themselves down and are up for the league.

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-13-06-37Table from – Accessed 03/11/2016