Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All Roads Lead To Nantwich

Vill Powell - Loan Ranger Against Stocksbridge

From the Sheffield FC Programme - "Vill is a product of the Sheffield Wednesday Academy, leaving the club as a teenager and spending time with Irish Team Derry. Vill has also starred for North Ferriby United, Stocksbridge Park Steels, Denaby United, Grays Athletic and Havant and Waterlooville. Signed in September 2006 from Retford United after an impressive performance against Sheffield in the FA Cup. Top scorer last season."

To date, he is also top scorer this season.

Crunch Game

It was well worth the wait. At last I was able to make it to the Stadium of Bright to see Sheffield FC for a semi-final promotion play-off game against Stockbridge Park Steels. You could tell that it was a special occasion from the sizable queue at the only turnstile that was open. Stockbridge had held us to a 1-1 draw last Friday in our penultimate League game of the season and also beat us 4-1 on their own ground. We had also met in this needle match as some teams played each other three times in this season's League programme.

I entered the ground just as the teams were running out onto the pitch. There was only time to grab a programme and say a quick hello to Tom. Our team had a rather odd formation due to the fact that this was our 14th game in a month between 29 March and 29 April (Won 8, Draw 3, Lost 3). Rob Ward our third highest goal scorer was regularly tucked into a central defensive role and Jon Boulter who was a regular left-back before a long term inquiry was also a central defender. But Jon was able to slip over to the left-back position whenever Smudge (Paul Smith) with No 3 on his back went foraging forward.

Loud Speakers

The first half was keenly contested. Although I never counted, the corners' count was clearly in the favour of Stocksbridge. But after 8 minutes, Vill Powell broke through to score, although it looked as if the goalkeepers dive to his left should have parried the ball. We then had an announcement to tell us that Manchester United had taken the lead against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final. I wondered if the Old Trafford crowd had been told about Vill's achievement.

We went 2 up after a great move down the left enabled Smudge to send over a fine cross which Stewart Copnell drove home. Luckily, Stewart's regular rabbiting at the referee hadn't led to him being disciplined.

I wasn't going to budge until the half-time whistle went. But as soon as it blew, I dashed off to the Coach and Horses. Given we had a crowd of 430, I was surprised how easy it was to get to the bar. I then met up with Dave, who had found out about the match by reading this item I had posted - so there is an encouragement to me to carry on blogging.

Backs Against The Wall/Best Foot Forward

When we returned to the ground for the second half, Stockbridge threw all caution to the wind. Under constant attack, our tactic was to boot the ball up the field for Vill Powell as our loan striker. And it worked. Within 10 minutes of the restart, Vill burst through and put us 3-0 in the lead.

But 5 minutes later, Stockbridge's threat re-emerged. They were given a penalty for something-I-know-not-what. Indeed only the referee moved into position before it dawned on the rest of the players as to what was up. The penalty made the score 3-1 and we began to wonder if a two goal lead was enough. Yet Vill was still creating havic with his solitary runs. Then in the 80th Minute it was Stewart Copnell's turn to capitalise on such a break and we were 4-1 up and victory was assured.

Jam Today And Tomorrow

Full-time was celebration time at the Coach and Horses. Dave contacted his wife on the mobile and Janet joined us and provided the welcome car journey home.

The news came through that Nantwich Town had won the other play-off 2-1 against Grantham Town. As Nantwich finished ahead of us in the League, they have home advantage. So for the decider we play them away from home at 3pm on Saturday. The prize is a place in the Unibond Premier League at Step 3 of the Non-League Pyramid. Furthermore, I will be travelling to Nantwich with Dave and Janet where I expect to be in good voice with Tom and the other regulars (including these) in marking a famous victory - even though Nantwich have beaten us three times this season. Revenge will be sweet.

Added 5.15pm

Nantwich Town have averaged home League crowds of 507 with a top crowd of 927. These are the highest in the League. Sheffield FC are the League's second best supported club, with an average home attendance of 336 and a top crowd of 647. For the play off final at Nantwich on Saturday there could be a crowd of up to 1,000.

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