Thursday, 23 September 2010

Stocksbridge Park Steels 3 – 5 Halifax Town; 21/09/10.


The two Whitby home matches showed a Town side going under continuous improvement. ITV Calendar had little to film in the first half of the FA Cup 1QR, but after that we were treated to a for-crying-out-loud volume of missed chances as we powered forward, forward and forward. Including Holland missing an open goal from two yards. Deano then came on, and shortly after Metcalfe smashed one in from the other side of the box, before crossing it to Deano for him to hit a header in over the 'keeper. 2–0, and Ashton United away in the next round this Saturday. The league match on the Saturday after was what the last match would've been like if we had a better clue as a strike force. A Deano hat-trick with his first full 90 minutes in five months. 5–1 with two goals from Holland in between. Perfect day out watching football, one which more of the 200,000 Calderdale residents should take notice of.

I've now moved out and am in Leeds. Instead of going to another freshers night, the logical thing was to take the journey to South Yorkshire to see Stocksbridge put up a worthy fight against us, having beaten FC United 4–1 away in FC United's spate of fanbase-destroying performances. I was kindly given a lift down to Stocksbridge just after the sun had set, and we drive around the side of a hill above a valley completely covered by a steel works. On the hill towards the ground is a small turret overlooking it that features in the Park Steels badge, and one of the last available parking places is found for us a mile later.

Having a ground with two small stands shouldn't be much to shout about, but Stocksbridge's looks great. The clubhouse opens out onto the road as a regular inn and on the other side stands at the top of an open terrace at the corner of the pitch, beside which is a small covered terrace and a covered stand with wooden seating, the building made of steel, as would be expected. Despite the hill it's on, the pitch is flat and well-kept and the grassy slopes at the sides show the slope. A final length of the pitch is cordoned off by a temporary fence because it also plays host to cricket, albeit one much better looking than the plastic tape at Mickelover. The place looks great, and all the dustbin-cabins you get elsewhere that pose as outhouses etc are out of sight. The programme I have been given quickly loses its single staple and then mysteriously vanishes from my back pocket. I will see it in 50 years' time, rolled up in an old milk bottle while on a holiday in Tromsø.

The match was incredible. It has to be one of the merriest away days around. Stocksbridge immediately turn out to be likely candidates and keep it in our half, taking a handful of minutes to shoot a ball past Senior from one corner of the box to the other corner of the net, showing their worth as a side. We show ours in the next movement down the pitch, as Holland is felled and then perfectly places his 20-yard free kick just out of goalkeeper Ogden's reach. A few minutes later Metcalfe heads to Deano over several yards who heads in return past Oggy's reach. So much character within so little time, and games like this don't have to peter out after 10 minutes of end-to-end hi-jinks.

Half an hour in Stocksbridge capitalised after several bodies in the box following a free kick to them saw the ball go into the other net, Phil Senior still stuck at the other post. Their striker Mike Ward made it 3–2 following a penalty decision I couldn't quite see, but if Aspin doesn't think much of the decision, then neither do I. Stocksbridge in front at half time with a comeback of their own that turned the Halifax-centric run of play into another footballing tug-o-war. All the time, Stocksbridge players roly-polying about on the floor following half the tackles, followed by lamb-like frolicking as soon as the whistle was blown. Three yellow cards came in quick succession in between the Stocksbridge response goals, but our opportunities were more numerous and there was no reason to feel worried.

I had abandoned all hope in ever seeing a free kick fly in again, but a second one did into the second-half, this time Metcalfe impressing with the satisfying sight and sound of his own freekick bouncing past the line after hitting the bar . . . and the following goals were just as impressive! After that Town had resurfaced and it was on the verge of becoming a frustrating search for a winner when Holland lobbed the 'keeper from the far corner of the left hand side of the box, a lob far too quick for any defender to run after.

The referee really wasn't that bad when you account for how many fail to crack down on anti-football from the opposition. So I regret ever complaining on hindsight. Though Stocksbridge were a dangerous side worthy of the higher echelons of a mid-table ranking, being 13th and the top scorers in the league as proof, they also had the propensity for being a dirty side as I had been warned by my FCUM-supporting pal prior to the game. Mainly in their art of doing forward rolls following any tackle that looked slightly good enough for one. Their Ludlum was sent off as a warning to the rest of them, and a few minutes later Garner's cross-shot eased the tension of two-way traffic, sealing a fantastic 3–5 victory for us as Stocksbridge pleaded Phil Senior to give them an equaliser. But the icing on the cake was Stocksbridge's manager being sent off in the final minutes!

Let us recap. They scored, we responded with two, they responded with two to take the lead, and we responded with three at a time that would finally bury the most resilient of oppositions. Noice.

Another mention goes out to the craic us Shaymen had on the grassy banking during the second half. The 'keeper Oggy, very pleased for Stocksbridge to have taken the lead again at 3–2, decided to non-verbally acknowledge us all calling out his name and giving him banter. Not sure if he'll want to do it again in a hurry, which is a shame as it was good while it lasted. His greatest trick as a goalkeeper was a goal kick as we went "aaaAAAAAaaaaaaaAAAAAAA—YOU! SHI—oh, wait," as he ran up and then performed a feint. He did that at FC United's game, too. Good lad.

And then there were the 13-year-old Stocksbridge locals who angrily started squealing at the middle-aged Shaymen at the top of the grassy bank, and the banter us Shaymen gave as they whinged back almost as if they were being genuinely persecuted. An actual young Stocksbridge fan laughed at them too, reminding them it was their first ever match at the Look Local Stadium and that they shouldn't get carried away. I suppose the Halifax Town fixture can draw kids like this, as I knew all too well from Clitheroe.

Wonderful warm, still night (last year it got cold three weeks earlier), and a performance from the Shaymen up there with Wrexham, both Colwyns last season, Droylsden etc etc. We have improved vastly and it'll be a push for any team to make me this proud, or to come back in a better way. Once again further proof that Aspin has become a master at making 11 men work with fluidity so well, that not one player can be particularly called out as a star man. The last few weeks has definitely shown us the improvement we were promised. So worth it you wouldn't believe.

Stocksbridge Park Steels 3 – 5 Halifax Town; att. 658
Ground: 8/10
Pitch: 9/10
Programme: 7/10
Talent: 1/10
Non-partisan entertainment: 10/10


Post a Comment