Ground Hopping: New Mills v AFC Goole Evostik Northern Premier League Div 1 North – 8th April 2013

I was in Manchester for a couple of days work, so I took the opportunity of a bit of ground hopping. It was the night of the Manchester United v Manchester City game and I was staying in a hotel which had a free bar for 2 hours. So did I stay in the bar and watch the game on Sky TV like most sensible people would?

You already know the answer to that when you read the word “sensible”. Yes, I decided to drive up into the Peak District on a freezing cold night when it was blowing a gale to watch New Mills against AFC Goole.

I was staying in the same hotel in Manchester that is used for the Prawn Sandwich brigade hospitality. As I was leaving the hotel, coaches were loading up with Asians and Eastern Europeans who had paid an arm and a leg for a prawn sandwich and a match ticket. The concierge at the hotel asked if I was going to the football, when I said yes, he tried to escort me onto one of the coaches. He wouldn’t accept my protestations that the coach wasn’t going to take me where I wanted. He did not appear to understand that there could be more than one football match that night.

I eventually got away and drove to New Mills which is situated seemingly on top of a hill in the Peak District. The sight of snow as I got higher and higher should have been a warning as to how cold it was.

The ground itself is easily missed. The main stand is very low rise and not particularly striking from the outside. The ground is also a little way from the centre of New Mills.

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Arriving at the main entrance, I got an unwelcome surprise.

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The poster showed the game was on the 10th April, not the 8th. Had I misread the fixture list in The Non League Paper or had the paper got the listing wrong. Either way, it was a waste to come this far for a game that wasn’t on.

Fortunately, the turnstiles were open, and an enquiry revealed that New Mills were playing against AFC Goole tonight instead of the Wednesday. Apparently the fixture had be re-arranged again to try to fit all the remaining games in.

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The main sign outside the ground still showed the game from the preceding Saturday!

Inside the ground and my first look at the ground. The first think I noticed was the slope on the pitch and the fact the changing rooms are behind the goal, and up several steps. An unusual layout.

The crowd seemed rather sparse, this was because many people stayed away to watch the Manchester derby on Sky TV. Indeed, the game was being shown live in the clubhouse inside the ground and it seemed as many people were watching the Manchester derby in there as were watching New Mills v Goole.

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The referee appears to be hunting for the teams.

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The above pictures shows some of the quirks of non league football, with picnic tables in side the ground and the player’s tunnel being a couple of pieces of fencing which are opened after the team is on the pitch.

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The ground is locate at the top of a hill and provides a great view across the Valley. It is a very picturesque location and the ground is in keeping with the surroundings, doing its best to blend in.

The game itself is between a New Mills team chasing promotion and a Goole team fighting against relegation although that was not obvious for the first 25 minutes with both sides coming close to scoring. New Mills scored first, Goole hit straight back, but then 2 quick goals demoralised Goole and heads started to drop. The fact that Goole were playing downhill and with the wind behind them probably made the game look more even.

I spent most of the first half chatting with a very knowledgeable football fan who watches Macclesfield, New Mills and one or two other local sides and had travelled all over the country to games. He’d been to most of the Northern League grounds over the years.

He pointed out to me that I would be unable to walk around all the ground as they had shovelled snow over the advertising hoardings at the bottom end of the ground. Sure enough, the bottom part of the ground was closed to spectators. Not that this made a lot of difference with the size of the crowd (92).

The only stand was a slightly unusual affair consisting of terracing at one end and seats at the other end. This was down one side of the ground. The other 3 sides of the ground were open to the elements. The ground did have the almost compulsory phone mast though.

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The wind made for a very cold night, and it did little to encourage some fans out of the bar to watch the football of New Mills rather than the SKY TV offering of the Manchester derby.

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A very friendly little club with a draw back of being surrounded by bigger clubs in easy commuting distance. It would be good to see a club like this progress. A non league club whose fan’s don’t have a chip on their shoulder unlike some clubs.

 

I arrived back at my hotel just as the prawn sandwich brigade were returning from seeing Man U lose at home to Man City. From the looks on their faces, I had a far better night than they did. My match cost me £6.50. Their night cost the several hundreds of pounds each.

Ground Hopping: Rotherham v Chesterfield League 2 February 16th 2013

A very belated post I know. There are good reasons for the delay, but at present I have not made the excuse up.

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Anyway, this game was 24 hours after the Spennymoor v Darlington game. It was appropriate as  back in 2000, Darlington missed out on promotion after losing in the promotion play off to Peterborough. The other 2 sides promoted that season from what is now League 2 were Swansea City and Rotherham. It is interesting to see what has happened to those clubs in the intervening years.

Swansea narrowly avoided bankruptcy and going out of the league and are rejuvenated in a new ground and in the Premiership and won the League Cup this season. They are having the most successful season in their club’s history.

Peterborough have oscillated between the Championship and League 2, but at the time of writing are still in the Championship.

Rotherham have also oscillated between the Championship and League 2, have been into administration more than once, and been forced to play home games in Sheffield. They now have a brand new stadium in Rotherham, hence my visit there. Rotherham have been into administration at least twice in that time.

Darlington however appear not to have seen any ups in those 13 years. The best they have managed was a very unlucky play off defeat in 2008, when they lost on penalties after a brave struggle with Rochdale. Darlington struggled to get 11 players out for the 2nd leg game. The players did the club proud in the circumstances. Darlington have been into administration 3 times in this period and are now playing at Level 9, some 8 levels below Swansea, 7 levels below Peterborough and 5 below Rotherham. It is amazing how the fortunes of clubs that were so close that season have varied.

Anyway, back to the trip to Rotherham. I decided to visit as they are playing in a new ground, The New York Stadium which was built by the council on a brown field site in the town. I stayed in Sheffield the night with my son who is a student there and his Godfather who came up from Cardiff for the weekend. No, not Marlon Brando, although there is a resemblance some may say.

Arriving at Sheffield railway station for the train to Rotherham, we were greeted by numerous police officers on the platform surrounding the 2013 version of the infamous Chesterfield Bastard Squad. I have to say they were an embarrassment to the name. If they were anyone over 18 I’d be surprised. They couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag, but they thought they looked the part. They did, if the part is to look like a geek.

They made themselves look silly when they got off the train in Rotherham and waited for the police to escort them to the pub whilst chanting about what they would do to Rotherham fans. Its hard to be brave behind lots of police isn’t it?

The three of us decamped into Wetherspoons for a bit of light refreshment before wandering over to the ground. The real ale in Wetherspoons had a familiar name.

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I thought Double Maxim had died when the Vaux Brewery Closed. Wishful thinking?

This is another of those modern concrete grounds that looks as if it comes from IKEA. It is functionally very good, with plenty of leg room in the seats, not a bad view in the ground etc.

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It might be the New York Stadium, but there are no Giants playing there!

The family stand seems to have been named knowing Tom & I were coming

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Anyway, into the ground and the first thing is that all the stands were not identical. They do provide a great ground for a League Two club.

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The game itself was a frenetic local derby which was eventually won 1-0 by Rotherham. The atmosphere was great for a League 2 game.

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So, you may think that it was all positive at the game? Well, there was one thing that surprised me, the catering outlets all shut at the end of half time. They are surely missing a trick there. Think of the extra income they could gain by actually selling food & drink.

After the game, ok during the 2nd half, we left the ground and headed back to Wetherspoons for a quick pint of 3. As we left Wetherspoons to go to the railway station, there appeared to have been an incident outside. The police were trying to separate fans, directing Rotherham fans back to the bars and Chesterfield fans to the railway station. They were bemused when they asked us “Rotherham or Chesterfield lads?” and got the replies “Newcastle United”, “Leyton Orient” and “Fulham”. They were even more bemused after we got to the station and then walked back through the police lines to the pub again. Well we had 30 minutes to wait for a train, so time for another pint.

So, game over, drink on board, it was time to head back to Sheffield and meet up with Matt & Lynn from Barnsley for a few beers. Tom decided to order food for us all in the pub. So, I let him… more fool me. This is what I got

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Was he trying to tell me something?