Eccleshill United v Yorkshire Amateur
Plumpton Park / Northern Counties East League Division One / 17th February 2016
A couple of weeks ago, we had planned on visiting Eccleshill United on the day of fellow groundhopper George’s birthday. A ridiculous amount of rain seemed to wipe out almost the entirety of the non-league fixture list across the north and so a trip to Eccleshill was postponed and we ended up in Whitchurch instead. But now, I was giving Eccleshill another go – this time on a solo mission.
On the day of the game, I awoke to find it was a wet Wednesday and once again it seemed that Eccleshill’s game was in some doubt with an afternoon pitch inspection pencilled in. In fact the two games I was considering today were both in Bradford (the other option being Bradford Park Avenue v FC United) and both were subject to pitch inspections. I began to suspect that I’d be having a Wednesday night in, until the tweets came through from both Bradford PA and Eccleshill that both games were on. Having visited Bradford Park Avenue before, I opted to go for the uncharted Eccleshill on the northern borders of Bradford. Plus, Eccleshill were taking on my favourite NCEL team: Yorkshire Amateur – a club we visited back in September and who were kind enough to give me a shirt. Obviously, I made sure I was wearing my ‘Ammas’ shirt today.
As soon as confirmation of the game going ahead came through, I gathered my stuff together and was sharpishly out the door. Fancy craft ale for the train was purchased in the new Beer House in Manchester Victoria, but there was just one problem: I had forgotten that the bottle opener on my keyring was now rather defunct (it’s seen a lot of action). So the majority of my train journey was spent trying to key open the bottle, until eventually I broke through by about the time the train was rolling into Halifax. Oh, the euphoria at that moment (although to find my expensive ale was fairly average really).
I never really hear much love for Bradford as a city, but I’ve always been a bit of a fan. I think my liking for the place comes from the fact that the city seems to live on a hill – obviously a feature a lad from the South Wales valleys would appreciate.
Now sticking to standard practice, I began in the Wetherspoons, Turls Green, located in Centenary Square where I indulged in my customary Punk IPA, before making my way up the hill towards one of my favoured Bradfordian drinking hole: Shoulder of Mutton.
“Just making a call to Australia,” came the witty retort from the local sitting next to me in the pub with my phone on charge next to us. He did give me a bit of a scare though when he did mockingly pick up my phone and pretend to answer it. The Shoulder of Mutton is a Sam Smith’s pub, which means that beer is very cheap. This also means you get all sorts in here and many of the locals already seemed to be off their tits. Usefully, the pub is located just around the corner from Bradford Forster Square and it was here I headed next to get the train to Frizinghall – about 5 minutes away on the train.
Apparently there are buses that run from the city centre and go much closer to the ground, but, on looking at the map, I was fairly confident I could walk to the ground from Frizinghall station. Google Maps was telling me it was roughly a 25 minute walk to the ground from the station and I’m usually able to defy Google Maps’ regularly exaggerated approximates. Not today. What I hadn’t bank on was hills. Steep hills. Bloody hell, the walk turned out to be a bit of a killer and I think Google may have actually got its estimate right for a change. What I will say though was the view atop the hill – wow. It felt like I could see most of West Yorkshire, but the sad thing was that the view was offered to me at nighttime and so I didn’t really know what I was looking at. I’ll have to revisit in broad daylight some time.
Eventually the streets flattened and the floodlights of Eccleshill United’s Plumpton Park came into view. I spent a few minutes circling the streets trying to find the actual entrance, before I eventually found the opening to the ground in the midst of a residential area.
I’d misjudged my timings enough that on arriving, I didn’t even have time for a prematch drink, so I ignored the clubhouse (for now) located outside the turnstiles and instead headed straight in for tonight’s NCEL clash.
The ground is basic, but decent enough. On entering you find yourself instantly in the sheltered standing terrace behind the goal with the only other stand in the ground being a larger seating stand alongside the halfway line. My first port of call though was the food/drink cabin in the corner and with no pies on offer here, I opted for a very tasty cheese burger and some hot chocolate to combat the cold February night.
With the teams now kicking off, I spotted a familiar face queuing behind me at the food cabin. When we had visited Yorkshire Amateur, I commented on my blog how well Mark and Sean at the club had looked after us and it seemed that Sean had decided to brave the Wednesday evening game to support his club. Of course, I flashed him what I was wearing (my Yorkshire Amateur shirt! Don’t think dirty!)
It didn’t take long for Eccleshill to take the lead, as a ball out wide was simply rolled across the box to Luke Harrop, who powerfully sidefooted into the roof of the net followed by a shoddy somersault celebration onto the floor. 1-0 to the Eagles and my Ammas pals looked gutted.
However, Yorkshire Amateur’s equaliser was a moment of absolute brilliance. Joel Hughes received the ball 25 yards from goal, before inching forward and then sending a lob over the keeper from outside the box. The keeper was left grasping at thin air. 1-1.
Then, it struck again: the Lost Boyos goalkeeper curse. For the fourth time this season a goalkeeper had been struck down with an injury in my presence (the 2nd time in 2 days too actually). This time it was Ammas keeper Danny King who’d fall victim to the curse with a quite serious sounding shoulder injury. And so, once again on my travels, an outfield player was forced between the sticks in a game and it seemed that that was the cue for the floodgates to open.
By the 13th minute it was 2-1 to the home team. A quick freekick played down the right wing was followed up with a powerful cross across the six yard box, which was then finished by Jermaine Springer.
The inexperienced keeper seemed to give the home team confidence and the first half soon became as one-sided a half of football as you are ever going to see. In the 25th minute it was 3-1 to Eccleshill and I’m not sure any goalie would have saved this one. A 20 yard dipping drive from Andy Cooper flew straight in the top corner past the makeshift keeper.
2 minutes later it was 4-1 to Eccleshill when the keeper made a decent save from a shot fired in from the edge of the box, but failed to claw it away from the danger zone. In ran Matt Storr to fire home from close range to add a fourth.
The small contingent who had headed over to watch the Ammas tonight looking utterly shellshocked as their team were torn apart. Sean went on to explain that Yorkshire Amateur have become a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ team this season and I recalled how brilliantly that had played when we saw them last. I left the lads to see out the half as I went for a wander of the ground.
The away team hung on in there until the end of the first half and as the two teams headed towards the changing rooms, I headed out the gate and into the club bar.
Half-time: Eccleshill United 4 – 1 Yorkshire Amateur.
I was first into the traditional club bar and last out of there as half-time seemed to fly by; I’m sure the teams wanted to go out early just to get things over and done with with the result looking virtually sewn up.
More hot chocolate was purchased to keep me ticking over and Yorkshire Amateur also seemed to be ticking over a lot smoother with them seeming to be far more organised. That was until the 59th minute when Cooper made it 5-1 with another drilled shot from outside the area.
The goal to make it 6-1 was a tad fortuitous with Eccleshill’s attacker breaking into the box and his shot deflecting onto the bar and back to Harrop, who tapped into an open net.
The night’s scoring eventually finished in the 75th minute and it was Yorkshire Amateur who would grab themselves a consolation goal. After a freekick was whipped into the box, the ball was eventually scrambled in by Thomas Rose.
There was still a bit of time left when I committed the sickening act of leaving early – this was for train-catching purposes. Fortunately, I missed little action and the score remained as it was.
Full-time: Eccleshill United 6 – 2 Yorkshire Amateur.
Once again, I had got my timings way off and my idea that it would only take 20 minutes to get down the hill to station were misjudged. I realised my misjudgment quickly enough, but this meant a run was needed; in fairness, I’d done little (no) exercise on my week off so far, so this was probably needed. I arrived back at Frizinghall station moments before the train rolled up and so I felt straight back onto it and was soon on my way back to Bradford.
With about 45 minutes to go until the train back to Manchester, I headed to The Queen pub next to Bradford Interchange station. An interesting place it seems. A place I can imagine being quite a lively and imposing place on a Friday or Saturday night. But on this Wednesday night the bar was rather dead, apart from the odd one or two FC United fans arriving back from the Bradford PA game and waiting for the train back to Manchester like myself.
“I thought you were eyeing me up mate,” came the sudden voice to my right. I found a balding middle-aged man and I thought I was suddenly getting started on by someone, despite having no idea what he was talking about. It soon turned out he wasn’t up for fighting me…
“I thought you were giving me the eye mate…and I’ve had a few drinks and clearly got brave.”
“Oh…” He definitely didn’t want a fight.
“Don’t worry mate, I’ll leave you alone now. My wife is away all week though, so…anyway…” And off he went. I went off and hid in the corner from him until I had to leave the bar. My new friend continued to stumble around the bar falling into tables whilst he mumbled his way through some FC United chants.
I made it back to Manchester safely anyway.
Eccleshill United seemed a decent and humble club and they looked a good team on the night. I suppose the goals were the highlight of the evening and goals are good for other reasons for the rest of the Lost Boyos season…
For those unaware, I received a message recently (when walking by the canal in Burscough actually) from Brad of the ‘Northern Premier League Facebook Group‘ (or ‘The NPL Group’); this message was asking whether I would want to put together a Lost Boyos FC team and play the NPL Group in a charity match featuring players and fans alike. A good cause and a chance to have a kickabout – I wasn’t going to say no. The cause: we’re donating for the British Heart Foundation in tribute to Jordan Burndred, the young Leek Town footballer who sadly passed away in the summer. I felt that I could probably do a bit more for the charity than just kick a ball about, so for the past couple of weeks I’ve been putting 50p towards the charity for every goal I see on my travels. It seems making such a pledge has led to me witnessing several goal gluts since, meaning I’ve witnessed plenty of fun games as well as knowing I’m donating money to a worth cause. I won’t hammer on about it every blog, but felt the charity needed a shoutout soon, so if you want to donate anything at all, then here’s the link (and that’s the end of my Bob Geldof moment).
Onwards to Stafford next…
Highlights: Shoulder of Mutton, plenty of goals, Joel Hughes’ goal.
Low Points: lack of a good bottle opener, middle-aged men trying their luck…
See all my photos from my trip to Eccleshill United here.