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Main Maim Barton
By: Chris Smith
AFTER a turgid draw at Northampton, a trip to the conscience of football was required and a scan of the non-league fixtures showed that Rossington Main were at home last night.
Rossington is in the southwest part of Doncaster and another pit village that has managed to keep its local team going despite all the hardships of the last few decades. They play in the Koolsport North Counties East Division One, or Level 6 of the pyramid.
The journey down to the ground from Doncaster station is 7 miles by loser cruiser but it did afford me the chance to look at an attempt by some miscreants on the way to get into the Guinness Book of Records for most chavs in a bus shelter. Perhaps we can solve the housing crisis by letting the chavs have the bus shelters they so obviously crave and those sleeping on the streets can have their houses instead. Just a thought...
I'd been to Rossington not long after I moved back up North and remember the game as a morning kick off, against Pontefract I think, probably because of an international game that afternoon. My memories then were of a ground that had seen far better days although I was conscious of why that would be. However, it was still a stark contrast to the obviously more wealthy non-league clubs I had seen when living around London.
I do remember they issued a good programme, and last night’s didn't disappoint with colour all the way through, plenty of stats for saddoes like me and just the right amount to read. There is a section dealing with players from both clubs who have gone on to play for league clubs, and seeing Darren Mansaram’s name gave me a jolt although I soon recovered. A snip at a quid as was the admission of £4. I had a chat with the gateman and declared my allegiance to Grimsby who he said had given Rosso a good game. I searched my mind for a game between Town and Main before it became clear he meant Grimsby Borough. I had also been trying to remember when we last gave anyone a game as well! Having ascertained then that there was nosh in the ground, I made my way in. No guesses for the fare I selected and needless to say I wasn't disappointed.
Despite getting crowds of around 50, a lot of effort has been put in to improving the ground. A good kitchen has been fitted and there is now merchandise on sale (polo shirts and hats) in addition to the badges, one of which I collected on my first visit. Just think again; crowds of 50 and yet the club has floodlights, produces souvenirs and has a good friendly catering operation. A wander around the ground showed it was smarter than I remembered. As you go in from the turnstile, there is a small stand of seats to your right and then a covered terrace to your left with a further covered row of seats towards the end of the stand. The dugouts are in front as well so you can pick up the vibes of frustration or elation, depending on who you support. It is possible to walk around the ground and there is a small stand of seats opposite the entrance.
I was conscious of the opposition tonight being relatively local to us in the form of Barton Town Old Boys. Whilst Rossington have been playing at this level for some time (and beating Grimsby Town’s record with only one top half finish since 1993/4), Barton Town OB have gone from Lincolnshire League to Humber League before going through the two divisions of what is still known as the Central Midlands League in short order. They have looked good enough to get promoted to Level 5 in both seasons at Level 6 but have fallen away in the second half although finishing well placed.
I was particularly interested to meet up with Pete Mitchell who is the secretary of Barton Town OB. I recalled that one of our managers at the frozen food factory where I worked in Grimsby two decades ago lived in Barton and was involved with the local club. Rejoicing in the same name, I wondered if he was one and the same person. It turned out he was and he hasn't changed much. I last saw Pete in 1986 when I last worked in Grimsby and I had a full head of hair then, except when it wasn't a number one crop. I wish I could say the same now. I now have what I call an involuntary number one and I don't mean the embarrassing sort brought on by too much cider.
I spent an enjoyable few minutes chatting to Pete before kick off. Pete actually follows Man City and was unfortunate enough to manage a factory of Town fans when we had a good side, and when we turned City over 4 1 in 1985. I left the job and my team behind to find better work down south and it was only the pay that made me leave as I recall it as a happy time with some really good laughs with everyone. Some of my ex workmates are still there and I saw them in the Lower Findus against Bath. On my last day, Pete swallowed his pride and presented me with a Town cap, home shirt, pint of milk and a copy of the Guardian which were my trademarks then. The only thing I've ditched is the Guardian. It was a touching moment from all of my friends there.
That’s tenuous Grimsby connection number two!
Unfortunately, there are big and littler fish at this level (connection number three?) and Barton have lost several players to Bridlington over the summer as they are able to pay more, helped by having Scarborough as tenants and two 1,000 plus gates in derbies with them. Barton were also injury hit tonight. Pete told me that the ground is Unibond League standard (Levels 3 to 4) and now just needs a team to go with it. This investment in the ground, and bear in mind the size of Barton, was made possible through good sponsorship. They actually turned the playing area around by ninety degrees as well as building new stands. I'm sure Grimsby Town could learn a lot from Barton’s obvious commercial nous.
As we went our separate ways, Pete kindly furnished me with a few compoes for a Barton home game which I'm really looking forward to using. From what I know of his club and I've seen plenty of their programmes, it is well run and very friendly, so I'm sure I'll be urging you to get yourselves down there after my visit.
The gateman had assured me that Rossington tried to play proper football despite coming unstuck now and then. They came into the match on the back of a 4 4 draw at Bottesford and a 7 0 defeat by Sheffield in the Sheffield and Hallamshire Cup, despite playing well.
Barton took the game to Main in the early stages with their number ten dancing through their penalty area and defence before taking the ball too wide to fashion a chance. Main had a chance around 12 minutes and five minutes later, two corners led to the Barton keeper saving twice, the second being from a high shot. Barton’s number ten then went at the Main defence before going too wide but a narrow angle shot bought a good save. However, Main struck on 22 minutes when a good shot from Jason Stokes beat the Barton keeper.
Main were now playing some good football and it was no surprise when the second goal was scored on 28 minutes after a bad Barton defensive mistake let Jake Vernon add to the tally. Barton were showing some good touches on the ball and had looked a useful side in the opening twenty minutes but were now struggling to get back into the game. Barton’s keeper was tested by Dean Thornton and Main went close with a header just before half time.
Half Time Rossington 2 Barton 0
Pete was downcast at half time, a feeling I know only too well! Despite Main having dominated the previous twenty minutes, I was aware of a few rumblings among a few home supporters which surprised me. After all, here they were, two nil up against a useful Barton side, and they are moaning about the odd missed tackle. It reminded me of a miserable old fan in the Pontoon in 1982, when we were beating Blackburn 5 0, who said with five minutes to go "Come on Town you can still lose this b******" Said bloke also stood near a gangway so he could complain about his toes being crushed as the younger element, myself included, surged and bounced up and down when celebrating goals.
Barton came out meaning business at the start of the second half with a rebound from a saved point blank header resulting in a shot screwed wide. Around the hour mark, Barton had a penalty shout turned down, to howls from the away fans, and a player needed subsequent treatment. Main had lost their way a bit, and Barton were again showing some nice touches, but Jason Stokes got his second and Main’s third with a delightful shot that just evaded Barton’s keeper in the 63rd minute.
There was no way back for Barton now, although I wasn't aware of heads dropping as I am with another certain team. Despite an almost assured win, I was still aware of one or two disgruntled comments from the Main faithful even before Barton had a chance well saved with about a quarter of an hour left. Barton’s Shaun Day put in one good cross that was wastefully headed over and the number fourteen broke through on another occasion, offside not being given, (Adrian Forbes are you reading?) before his shot was well saved by Main’s keeper.
There was time for a player to be sent off in the last few minutes although I don't know why, and then, with little added extra time, it was good to see a game end when it should. One of the things I first liked about non-league football was that games didn't seem to drag on as they did at the professional level although it has crept in over the last few seasons.
A highly entertaining game from my perspective with both teams playing a passing game. One of the better games I have seen this season.
Full Time Rossington 3 Barton 0
I saw Pete before I left and he is one of those stalwarts who put a lot of unpaid effort into making sure games like this go ahead as do those at Main.
A larger than usual crowd of 80 saw this match and as I said my goodbyes in the tea bar afterwards, I mentioned the odd grumble I'd heard and had been surprised by. The immediate response was "That'll be Tibby or Maxie!" There is a Maxie on the committee, according to the programme. Shame on you! Talking of the programme, it even mentions the kitchen staff by name as well in what is a nice touch. Becky, thanks for the pie and peas! I also like being asked whether I enjoyed my visit as the gateman did.
Main are continuing to improve the ground and I fully recommend this as a place to visit. I'll also be paying a visit to Barton’s Marsh Lane ground in the near future and would wish both teams all the best for the rest of the season.
For the record, Barton stay 10th and Main 13th in an eighteen team division. Barton are strong at home but need to gather more away points if they are to be promoted. Main won't be struggling this year on last night’s performance.
That’s it for pleasure-business at Lincoln on Saturday. See you there!
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