Albion Sports v Bradford Park Avenue
Throstle Nest / West Riding County Cup / 28th October 2015
This was supposed to be a night out in St. Helens watching Liverpool U21 take on Celtic U21 at St. Helens rugby ground in the U21 Premeir League International Cup – that sounds fun doesn’t it? Well, as always seems to be the case when I plan to watch football at St. Helens rugby ground, the game was moved. So, it was time to find a new fixture. Yes, we all know that the obvious answer was Albion Sports v Bradford Park Avenue in the West Riding County Cup Second Road. Obviously.
I’d visited Bradford Park Avenue last season (twice in fact – once for a game that was abandoned 40 minutes before kick-off and then another occasion when I actually got to see some football), but I can say I knew virtually nothing about Albion Sports beforehand, apart from the fact that they were also a Bradford-based team; I was sort of right, but at the same time very wrong too.
Albion Sports are originally a Bradfordian team and following their formation they dominated the local Bradford leagues. However, their move to the higher level of the North Counties East League saw the club switch their home to Throstle Nest – the regular home of Farsley Celtic. This meant my Wednesday night football fix would see me head to New Pudsey – a small area located almost midway between Bradford and Leeds.
There was actually the tiniest bit of doubt that the game would even go ahead, as there was a ‘precautionary’ 16:45 pitch inspection called. However, me and my groundhopping companion for the day, George ‘The Manchopper’ Cheetham, decided to adopt the ‘fortune favours the brave’ philosophy and hopped on a train towards Leeds an hour before the inspection was to even take place.
I had been in contact with my pal Joe, who is Bradford Park Avenue’s media man, and he had informed me that the game was pretty much nailed on to be given the go ahead, but I was still relieved when he sent me a message with those magic words: ‘Game on’.
George had actually been to Throstle Nest (love that ground name by the way) before, but on emerging out of New Pudsey station he took his time to find his bearings. I got bored of waiting for George to suss out the way to the ground and so I turned to my mate Google Maps instead. The ground was apparently not too far away it seemed.
It was only 5pm and having had a completely alcohol-free night at Bootle the night before, I wanted to hit the local pubs and bars of the area. However, I began to question if this part of the world even knew what a pub was. It seemed to me that we had landed in the largest housing estate in the country and the quietest, sleepiest suburban housing area you could find. The place was an admittedly fairly pleasant suburban jungle with copious amounts of cul-de-sacs and dark alleys. Eventually, we took a punt on one such alley and just happened to emerge onto the main street of Farsley – a street with 4 pubs and bars upon it. Within seconds I was pitching to George the order we would be doing the pubs in and we had ourselves a mini-pub crawl through Farsley on our hands.
We started in the Bay Horse at the bottom of the street and I immediately forecasted before we went in “This will be the roughest of the 4 pubs we go in.” It was a bit ‘gritty’ inside with a gathering of shaven-headed men speaking in Yorkshire vernacular at the bar, but the place was harmless enough – and very, very cheap too! I was more than content with my £2.40 pint and a seat next to the TV showing the best goals of BT Sports’ football coverage over the past week.
Next on our crawl was the New Inn. Now this place seemed equally as ‘gritty’ but it felt more fun too with 80s anthems like Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer and Springsteen’s Born to Run blaring out of the jukebox. Once again, the beer was cheap, but this establishment did let itself down with the large Leeds United flag on the ceiling.
For our next stop we figured we’d sample the sophisticated side of Farlsey and head into the Village Wine Bar. To be honest, it was a slight bit more classy (there was more emphasis on wine here), but it wasn’t exactly the Ritz either. One thing all 3 pubs had in common though was their Halloween decorations; it seems they bloody love Halloween in Farsley with the effort that goes into decorating their bars and pubs. Undoubtedly the Village Wine Bar won the Halloween decor contest by throwing its more respectable demeanour to the wind and covering the whole place in skulls and cobwebs and even labelling one of the small ‘cwtch’ areas a ‘Highly Contaminated Area’ complete with yellow and black hazard signs. Top banter.
We did call in the Old Hall pub, but there was plenty of punters entering and one poor barmaid trying to serve everyone at once, so we figured instead of hanging about and waiting for our drinks we would just head straight to the ground’s club bar; a bar that had even been praised by usual travel buddy Gibbo.
Similar to my travails at trying to get to Bootle’s ground the previous night, despite the ground being heavily floodlit, we just could not fathom our way around the suburbia streets to the ground’s entrance. Then George dug into his memory and recognised the route from his previous visit and soon we were at the entrance dubbing our location as the home of Farsley Celtic AFC (there was no sign that Albion Sports played here at all). Can I also point you in the direction of my super-cool, atmospheric car park photo below – that’s good Instagramming right?
We headed for the turnstiles only for a stampede of Park Avenue fans to come traipsing out of the ground in their greens and whites; it seemed the bar was only accessible from outside the turnstiles, so we followed on behind them. Apparently, George had been in a different part of the clubhouse on his last visit, but this area more than sufficed for me. “Two beer please barman!”
As we sipped away at our beers and watched through the window as the teams warmed up, I began to think how very un-Albion Sports the whole occasion felt. Firstly, the place was plastered with Farlsey Celtic, as you would obviously expect since Throstle Nest is their ground, but also the fairly decent following that had come with Bradford PA this evening made it feel like even less ‘Albion Sports’. Nevermind. I’ve always thought it must be tough being a club not playing at your own home.
As the teams petered out onto the pitch, we exited the bar and headed into Throstle Nest proper (I still love that name). As mentioned a few times previously, this ground is the usual home of Farsley Celtic – a team that played one season in the Conference Premier 7 years ago. With Farsley reaching just heights, the ground is obviously to a fairly decent standard if not still a little bare. The main structure in the ground is the Main Stand which features the only seating in the ground and the diminutive press box, where we headed first to say hello to my mate Joe who had already set up camp there. Apart from the sheltered standing terrace behind the near goals, the rest of the ground is largely open with concrete steps forming the rest of the standing area around the ground. The ground doesn’t really capture the imagination, but I did think that the ground must be a far more pleasant experience on a warm summer’s evening rather than a cold evening in later October.
After saying hello to Joe, before leaving him to his match coverage, we headed to the standing terrace behind the goal and joined the collection of green and white-clad fans cheering on current West Riding County Cup holders Bradford PA.
Bradford Park Avenue currently play in the Conference North , whilst Albion Sports frequent the Premier Division of the North Counties East League. Despite the 3 step gulf in divisions, Albion gave Park Avenue an early scare by hitting the woodwork in the first minute, but from there on in it was plain sailing for the away team.
It took 7 minutes for Bradford PA to open the scoring with Ryan Marshall sending a 20 yard shot flying into the bottom corner, before Marshall scored again 13 minutes later to make it 2 – 0.
We began to have a bit of a wander of the ground and was then stopped by a Snapchat sent to me of one of my #NoFlatCapNoParty stickers in the ground; clearly, a Lost Boyos fan was in attendance tonight. It was soon revealed to me who the fan was when a young Park Avenue fan, Callum, stopped me saying that he’d been following my adventures since I visited Park Avenue’s Horsfall Stadium earlier in the year. He was soon sent away though when one of the Bradford PA staff ordered him to go get the management some coffee – it seemed that as well as being Bradford’s main ball boy, young Callum is the club’s tea collector too.
The first half scoring was finished off in the 44th minute when the brilliantly named Chib Chilaka turned and finished to make it 3-0. Shortly after the 3rd, the half-time whistle was blowing as we completed a full lap of Throstle Nest.
Half-time: Bradford Park Avenue 3 – 0 Albion Sports.
There was time for a quick drink in the bar, where we were briefly joined by Joe, but it wasn’t long before we were back pitchside and expecting more goals to come.
There were a series of chances for the away team at the start of the half, but haphazard striking denied Bradford bolstering their lead. Chib Chilaka was the main guilty party after heading clear of the defence only to launch his effort on goal flying over the bar.
It would be Chilaka who would set up Bradford PA’s 4th goal, as his pass played in Michael Potts, who beat a defender before firing into the top corner. 4 – 0 to Avenue. It wasn’t 4 for long though, as a 5th goal went in and it was Chilaka who would grab his second of the evening with a big header from a cross from the right.
To make his connection from Manchester to Urmston, George had to get an earlier train and so with 20 minutes to go in the game he began pondering whether to stay until the final whistle; George’s internal debate (it seemed he really didn’t like the idea of leaving early) went on for the majority of the second half and he was almost at a decision when BPA made it 6 when Craig King’s shot sneaked under the goalie.
By the 7th goal, George had decided to head home and so I stayed by myself to watch the closing ten minutes. The 7th goal would come courtesy of an international footballer too: Jason St Juste of Saint Kitts and Nevis fame. It would be St Juste who would latch on and finish a brilliant Avenue passing move.
George had done well to go ten minutes from the end as the final ten minutes offered little of interest and we would have to be content with the evening’s mere seven goal haul.
Full-time: Albion Sports 0 – 7 Bradford Park Avenue.
I decided that I’d call an end to my evening too and so instead of joining Bradford PA fans in postmatch jubilation drinks, I zig-zagged my way back through the housing estate to New Pudsey station.
Throstle Nest is a decent enough ground and I’m sure I’ll return one day to watch the homeowners, Farsley Celtic, play there. Plus, you can’t complain about 7 goals for £5 entry. Ground 199 done and now onwards to the big one on Friday night: ground no.200.
Highlights: pub crawl through Farsley, plenty of goals.
Low Points: getting lost in Yorkshire suburbia, not very ‘Albion Sports’.