The Welfare Ground, Armthorpe, Doncaster. 15/04/17.

Northern Counties East League, Premier Division. Easter Groundhop 2017.

The middle game of the final Groundhop Day in the Northern Counties East leagues. The organisers, Chris and Laurence had a bit of a dilemma with this one. Armthorpe were hosting Hemsworth in the wEl-Classico at 2pm, the 12:45 finish time at Rossington meant that some of the hoppers could go elsewhere for a three o’clock kick off and still make the final game at Selby. Rumour had it that a host of hoppers were off up to Billingham near Middlesbrough to see Synthonia in their final game at their Central Avenue ground. It was a real pity for Armthorpe as the Welfare ground is a cracking set up, with a superb chippy over the road. It sort of made sense to the hardcore hoppers, visit a ground that was to be no more, particularly as it was just under an hour and half away from Rossington and direct on the A19 back to Selby. I still think they missed out though, not just for the ground but also as it was another goal-fest.

I was eagerly anticipating another visit to the Welfare Ground, since our last visit Ken and I had sponsored Liam Radford and Danny Taylor’s kit for the final few games of the season. Welfare were offering an introductory price of £5 so it was well worth contributing. Depending on price and whether Danny stays, I’ll probably sponsor his kit next season. Radford and Taylor were two of the goalscorers in my ‘Match of the Season’, the earlier meeting of these two teams in Hemsworth back in December. It was the most entertained I have been to in a long while, Armthorpe upsetting the form books and recording a superb 3-2 victory against the odds. Taylor popped up with the first goal, a great volley as he ran on to Radders’ pin point cross. Radford scored the third, a neat finish. We weren’t expecting a repeat…

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We didn’t get one! Wellie were well and truly mauled by the Wells. It was a sad ending to a very difficult season for Armthorpe who will be starting life in Division One next season. The club have been in the Premier Division since 1985, the longest streak in the top division by any team, to lose that status must hit hard to those involved in this great community club.

We did see the ‘Performance of the Hop’, Richard Collier hitting four goals as Hemsworth battered Armthorpe 6-1. The rout started in the fourth minute, Nash Connolly scoring from the right. It took until the 31 for Bill Law to double Hemsworth’ lead, Connolly beating Taylor down the right, getting into the box and Law striking first time to beat Liam Copley in the Wellie net. Two minutes later, Collier got his first, floating the ball in directly from a corner. There was some confusion as to who the goal should be credited to but there was no doubt in my mind.

Connolly was provider again 17 minutes into the second half, his pull back nonchalantly stroked home by Collier.

Taylor almost pulled one back, ghosting into the box ala wEl-Classico 2016, this time he couldn’t capitalise.

Collier sealed his hat trick on 72, bending a beautiful effort round Copley. Armthorpe’s Gary Collier pulled one back two minutes from time, gallows humour set in for us Armthorpe fans “we’re gonna win 6-5” was the chant. We didn’t, Richard Collier hit his fourth in the last minute of the game to make the score 1-6. It was almost poetic that five of the seven goals were scored by ‘Colliers’ in this traditional mining village, the winding gear from the old Markham Main sunk into the memorial garden that sits next door to the Welfare Ground. Wellie are going to need the famous miner’s spirit to see them bounce back next season, this tight knit community needs to get together as it has something that money can’t buy – spirit.

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