Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hear We Go

Sheffield FC (blue) Attack The Gresley Goal
(Photo by Janet/Dave Hill)

Yesterday Sheffield FC kicked off their "Unibond League Division One South" season away at Gresley Rovers.

Gresley's ground is made up of bits and pieces and is full of character. They have a fine clubhouse from which the pitch can be observed. So I knew that this time I wouldn't miss any of the goals when I slipped away for my half-time pint.

Janet and David Hill provided me with a lift to the ground, with Janet doing the driving. Although both Sheffield FC and Gresley play in Derbyshire, the grounds are 57 miles apart. The motorway journey took us into Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.

It's The Only Place

As we made our way through Leicestershire we passed Ashby-de-la-Zouch, so I burst out into the only two lines of the song I know - "Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle Abbey. That's the only place I long to be." But Janet and Dave either hadn't heard it before or my tones confused the issue. I accept that it was before their time when I used to hear it on what we then called the wireless.

Before the game started, we bought £1 raffle tickets. When we opened the envelope it predicted the score. In my case a 3-4 away win. Each envelope contained a different score between 0-0 and 6-6. I estimate that this covers 39 options. The prize was £25, which is reasonable.

There were a good number of Sheffield FC supporters present, which accounted for the crowd being the biggest of the day in its league. At 285, this was one more than at a game at Stamford. Tom was the one. I had not seen him at any of the pre-season friendlies due to his shift work and his dislike of non-games.

Game On

As the game started, I attempted to sort out our team, because some of the old favourites have departed.

Compared to last season we had four new players in the starting line. Our goalkeeper, Leigh Walker had not even played in the pre-season games - he has previously been on the books of Sheffield United and Scarborough. Yet the keeper who had then performed heroics in the friendlies, Steve Hernandez had moved on to sign for his third on-loan spell with Worksop Town from Sheffield United. We are only lucky that he did not play for Worksop in our last competitive game when we defeated them in the final of the Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior Cup.

The other three newcomers were (1) a striker, Scott Partridge who has moved into the area from the south west, (2) Steve Wooley from Lincoln United who plays what used to be called outside left, and (3) Greg Wright in central defence - he is from Retford Town but was previously on our books.

Gresley's pitch slopes. Sheffield kicked uphill in the first half. Our two strikers struck to give us a 2-0 lead at half time. But the moment of the match came in the 42 Minute when Gresley's goalkeeper David Clarke made a double save from the same two strikers. This was the non-league equivalent of the double save Montgomery made in the 1973 Cup Final against Leeds United which ensured that what was then a Second Division Sunderland became giant killers.

Second Half Mix

The windows at the club house served their purpose when I spent time on my pint at half time. Again our two strikers hit home and we were 4-0 up. I could only win my £25 if Gresley now staged a revival. After I nipped to the toilet at one stage, Tom told me it was now 4-3. He was only joking of course, but I responded by demanding that the referee should blow the full-time whistle.

Matters were soon settled, however, when Asa Ingall made it 5-0 on the hour. Next Chris Dolby our new player-manager moved (in stages) to use his three substitutes. Unfortunately, he did not include himself. We lost the momentum. Gresley's David Blenkinsopp scored twice.

We ran out 5-2 winners and went to the top of the one game league. I don't know if we will still be there after another 37 games. In the old days no-one would ever produce a league table until at least three games had been played.


When Janet and Dave asked me who I thought was our man of the match, I could not come up with anyone. For Gresley, it was their goalkeeper or their goalscorer. Ours was very much an all-round performance. There were the goalscoring strikers, our own goalkeeper who also brought off a fantastic save, a defence that normally contained and then set up attacks and a mid-field which kept probing.

We only had one grouse. The Gresley programme contained a full page advert from the leader of the South Derbyshire Conservatives. Hardly something that would appeal to a Labour County Councillor, a former Labour Mayor and a Labour ex-MP.

On Tuesday night at 7.45 pm we are at home to Carlton Town. Last season they finished level on points with Gresley. It is only if we repeat yesterday's performance that we can start thinking of promotion.

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