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Parkgate FC
Parkgate FC

Pain Relief

By: Chris Smith
Date: 27/10/2009

A BIT of light relief again today. I thought about going down to Bournemouth like the Muppet that I am but with half term and everything, there weren’t any cheap rail or coach fares, so it was a matter of picking a local game.

Having already done Goole and Frickley a few times this season, and tainted Armthorpe, who were also at home, I decided to select another victim.

Parkgate play in Rawmarsh which is a part of greater Rotherham, a bit of a contradiction in terms I suppose. They were at home to Hallam, a team I have seen several times before, and it would be a new ground so off I went. It’s a good job I remembered the name of the ground, but a shame I left the piece of paper with the club’s telephone number on it behind, and hadn’t committed the ground directions to memory.

Anyway, fast forward (something Town could do with) and I’m on the stopper to Rotherham. The last leg of the journey to Rawmarsh is on a local chavcab although I saw the term "loser cruiser" applied to buses the other day so will use this in future. I remembered the bus number, but not where to get off. Hold on though, got the Sheffield A to Z on me. Now where is there a football ground marked? Ah, here. Oh, hang on, here as well, and here. And they’re nowhere near each other. S***! Where’s that telephone number? In front of the telly where I’d written it down whilst leering at the soccerettes on Soccer AM. Two for the price of one if I remember correctly, as if I could forget! Now where was I? Buggered if I know, that’s where.

I got off at Rawmarsh shopping centre, although everything seemed to be closed, sign of the times and all that, and picked my first promising ground. Except it wasn’t. A park pitch after walking down a dead end road. No, not Blundell Avenue before you try and crack the funnies. That’s my job and one I’m failing at. Mmm, the ground is the Roundwood Sport’s complex and there’s the Roundwood golf course. Nahhhhh! Just a pavilion marked there. Naaahhhh! Leisure centre and sports ground? That looks promising. Sorted! Walk in the other direction, down another long winding cul-de-sac and there’s the floodlights I think. But no entry.

Cue another walk round a few blocks and at last, the entrance to Roundwood Golf Course. And the pavilion which is the headquarters for the golf, bowls, cricket and football clubs. Oh, and the bus stop I could have got off about 45 minutes earlier was bang opposite. Doh! Glad I left early. I had visions of walking into Parkgate itself where there is a Stadium Way, but no stadium. That really would have been the final insult. The problem as well was hardly anybody was about given that the sky was darker than a Town fan’s mood. As I wandered around, I was convinced the net curtains would be twitching with the inhabitants sniggering and saying "There’s another lost groundhopper-sad w*****!" as they put another notch on their wall.

Apparently, the complex was put up in the 1970s and looks top notch. I went in with the golf course to my left, a quick turn past the cricket pitch and the pavilion bang in front. There were then signs for football spectators. I looked for one for useless w*****s, couldn’t find it and opted for the football one, and praise be, an open turnstile beckoned. Despite wandering around Rawmarsh, I was still the first paying customer and parted with a fiver and picked up my very good programme for £1.20. I thought I might end up scribbling something about the game and asked for a team sheet whereupon the obliging steward copied one out for me. I remember asking for a team sheet at the Oldham home friendly in 2008 and being looked at as though I’d grown a second head so this response at Parkgate was very welcome.

A tenuous Grimsby connection now. The gateman had played at Blundell Park! For Wolves Juniors in the Northern Intermediate League, but a connection nonetheless. Nothing else jumped out of the programme at me so I had a shufti around the ground. Apart from a factory to your left, looking from the sheltered part of the ground, there is a nice view of rolling Yorkshire hills. The playing surface was pristine, bound by hedges to the left and a rather well appointed housing estate to the right. A ball was lobbed back into the ground from here in the first half, when the Hallam goalkeeper cleared out of his area, managed to miss the houses (it was easier to hit them and it would then have bounced back into the ground), and instead punted it into a garden. At least the ball boys didn’t have to ask for it back. I suppose it would be a good trick as a goalie to find out if there were any crabby neighbours and deliberately hoof the ball in their gardens and laugh at the poor lads as they approached the purple faced victim for the tenth time that afternoon...

The sheltered area is small and the left of this houses standing fans with seats to the right. What took my eye were a few rows of white wooden seats with what appeared to be two wooden benches at the back. Closer inspection showed they had been presented by Rotherham Charity Cup Competitions in remembrance of committee members. Nice and quirky and ideal for some of the local kids who had freebies which had been distributed to a local school to increase support which averages about 50, although they had about 200 when they beat Scarborough 4 3 recently. Someone saw me scribbling in a pad and asked if I was a scout. Do I look like a do-gooding teenager? Seriously, I should have been a bit more quick thinking, said I was with Man Utd and had developed a right old thirst, was that a bar over there and my, how I could talk and the stories I could tell when I’d had a few.

I did strike up a good conversation, however, and was advised to keep an eye on the Hallam number ten, Simon Asquith, who is currently interesting Alfreton (an ambitious Blue Square North side), Boston United and H*ll City. Simon was one of the Koolsport Northern Counties East Premier League leading scorers with seven goals in eight games but if you added in cup competitions, had seventeen goals in fourteen. This sounded promising and I took some notes at a game for the first time.

The players entered the pitch on the left from the pavilion and the game commenced. Four minutes in and Parkgate drew first blood when a Hallam defensive mix up allowed the home team to poke home with a lack of communication between the goalkeeper and his defenders appearing to be the cause. Sound familiar? Not that Hallam seemed too dispirited as they equalised two minutes later with none other than Simon Asquith shooting home after good movement. This prompted a shall we say, forthright response from the Parkgate manager, expressing his disappointment with his players having already expressed his disbelief at the officials (from the second minute if I recall correctly). I love games at this level, you can hear EVERYTHING. On six minutes, the linesman broke wind. No I didn’t hear that, you know what I mean.

Hallam were then under pressure for most of the first half, and contributed to their problems with what I term Grimsbyesque defending. In fact I considered not mentioning some techniques as I was afraid, in these health and safety conscious days that some Town players might try these at home (or away for that matter). On about 22 minutes, Hallam managed to concede a corner when a defender chested it out without really being under pressure. I’m not sure I recall ever having seen this before. About two minutes later, a poor slow back pass by a defender almost managed to beat his keeper who cleared off his own line. A few minutes later, Hallam’s Crane committed one of the most unsubtle shoves I’ve seen and conceded a free kick which Kay put over the bar. Parkgate’s number seven beat Hallam’s keeper and sadly the post just after the half hour and forced a corner a minute later. Mark Caine, who had scored Parkgate’s first goal, was fouled in the 34th minute and Lee McMahon coolly converted the penalty. According to the programme, he joined in the summer and is the fitness coach. We could do with one of those.

Hallam weren’t providing any service for their forwards so Asquith didn’t get a chance to shine although he had now scored his eighteenth goal in fifteen games. Sign him up!

Half Time Parkgate 2 Hallam 1

Hallam took advantage of the half time break to wrest some control of the game. Early on, Asquith picked up a good ball but was well tackled as he tried to tee himself up for a shot when it would have been better to let fly. He was getting himself into good positions and certainly knows how to distribute the ball although his team mates didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength. Hallam duly equalised on the hour when Preece (?) crossed for Keir Hannity to plant a lovely header. Hannity, Hallam’s number eleven, really caught my eye as well in the second half and did well to go round a Parkgate defender on the left and turn a few times along the left side of the touchline before pulling back a perfect ball that went to Reynolds who shot just over. The Parkgate manager was catching my ear and the Hallam equaliser had been met with an exasperated bellow of "After all we talked about before the f****** game!" So now I know how they’ve been conceding.

Had Hannity and Asquith been given more of the ball, Hallam could have gone on to win the game, especially when Parkgate’s penalty taker was sent off for a second bookable offence. It looked as though the curse of Grimsby association was working its foul purpose on the home side.

In a surreal turn of events, a Hallam fan assuming I was writing for the local rag asked me to make sure I said how fed up they were about the constant chopping of the team. So, if any of you are actually reading this and happen to go by the Crosspool area of Sheffield, please go in the bar at Sandygate (oldest continuously used football ground in the world), and give their committee a piece of your mind.

Apparently, one of the problems faced by Hallam is that there is a high turnover of players so they aren’t used to playing with each other and hence the lack of fluency. Asquith actually played for Parkgate last year and the Hallam manager has been part of Parkgate’s set up as well and took him along when he changed sides.

Despite losing a man, Parkgate did force some good saves from Hallam’s keeper, Ben Brunt, with about 10 minutes to go. A free kick to the away team in the dying minutes from in their own half led to an optimistic shout of "Get it to Simon’s feet". Given the bunching of players towards the Parkgate goal, I would have defied Beckham in his prime to get anywhere near. Asquith also planted a header straight at the Parkgate keeper later and was beaten to a cross by the keeper at the end. Apparently, he has been carrying an injury since midweek, so scoring a goal and showing some good skills despite this augurs well for his future.

Full Time Parkgate 2 Hallam 2

An enjoyable game and a good afternoon out at a friendly club and a good chat with both sets of fans in what turned out to be a crowd of 73. Unbelievably, given that it siled down just before kick off, the game was played in warm unbroken sunshine. It was a perfect afternoon for a game and I was also grateful to have the sense of detachment from the disappointment unfolding at Bournemouth. As one of the Parkgate officials said, the result didn’t matter, it was only a game. At this level, having a club is enough. For the record, Parkgate remain in 16th place out of twenty whilst Hallam move up a spot to seventeenth at Step 5 in the non-league pyramid.

I was treated to Parkgate’s young scallies giving it "Green Army!" on the way out for a final piece of entertainment. I’ll certainly come back here, hopefully not with GTFC.

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