League Two Table
Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
Battle of the Welfares
By: Chris Smith
IT was a welcome return to non-league football last night after a telephone call to Armthorpe Welfare confirmed that the game was on. Their opponents were Nostell Miners Welfare in a league fixture, based in Crofton village outside of Wakefield.
Nostell had called to say there was heavy snow in their area but aside from heavy rain earlier in South Yorkshire, there was nothing to suggest the game wouldn’t be going ahead. Having asked the Armthorpe secretary to save me a programme (which he kindly did), I looked forward to an unexpected game.
There is definitely something about a midweek match away from the stress of either watching or hanging on for news of your own team’s result. I’m looking forward to some balmy spring evening fixtures in a few months (hopefully not in vain).
Armthorpe started third in the table, albeit some way behind Bridlington and Rainworth. Their last two away games have seen draws at Scarborough (remember them) and Bridlington (who before last night had only dropped points in four of their last twenty two fixtures). Before this, it had been an unblemished eight straight league away wins. Their home form has been patchier with five wins, two draws and three defeats. Despite this, it has been a fantastic campaign for them despite acts of vandalism at the ground. Their FA Vase fourth round replay at Wroxham was postponed through snow last Saturday. The FA Vase offers a trip to Wembley. Nostell, meanwhile, had won six and lost eleven of their twenty games.
A hardy crowd of 41 congregated and I elected to have the much missed home made pie and peas to swell the club coffers. I wasn’t disappointed and gorged myself just in time for kick off. I bumped into Steve, a fellow Thorne resident, groundhopper and Donny Rovers season ticket holder. As ever, when I saw Steve, he looked sorrowfully at me and opined that he couldn’t see Grimsby getting out of trouble. It never ceases to amaze me how much our troubles are noticed by other clubs’ fans and how it saddens them. Let’s hope things get better as a result of the ejection of certain players on Monday.
Armthorpe started brightly with a series of quick attacks as Nostell struggled to hold back the tide. This was evident in the shouting on the pitch. And I mean shouting, something that was noticed by other spectators. It’s something we’ve missed at Town. Aside from the usual pleasantries, there was some er, forthright soul searching. For about twenty five minutes, Nostell barely got a look in and we awaited the first Armthorpe goal. One header went over the bar and a shot was banjoed well over in a manner not dissimilar, so I’m told, to our penalty at Aldershot.
Then the game changed, with Nostell causing problems for the home defence. I don’t know why Armthorpe’s home form has been indifferent as it isn’t as if the home crowd get on their back. A few crosses went into the penalty area but weren’t connected with. My favourite moment was when the home keeper shouted at his defender, after a mix up, "Get out of the f****** way!" Excellent!
After play down the right wing, a cross came over which Nostell’s number four met completely unmarked and in plenty of space, only to shoot straight at the home keeper. Another shot was well tipped over the bar and the keeper was also called into action to catch a header although it was directed straight at him. Nevertheless, Nostell had managed some chances on target, which Armthorpe hadn’t for all of their early dominance.
One other thing I noted was that the referee explained his decisions to the players. One home player was fouled as he ran up his right wing but managed to get the ball and continue. The official blew for a free kick which one player commended but the one with the ball criticised, presumably hoping for an advantage to be played. "You were going nowhere" said the ref by explanation. A beatific smile of innocence in a climbing incident was met with "Your hands were all over his head".
A police helicopter hovered overhead but was thought to be looking for a local miscreant rather than a Nostell firm seeking to big it up by arriving after kick off having terrorised the high street.
Half Time Armthorpe 0 Nostell 0
Nostell had finished the first half well on top, but the game got the goal it needed on around 50 minutes with Liam Hardy converting from a narrow angle. Whether it was meant as a shot, who cares? The home team now had their tails up and Walker then had two shots in quick succession which the Nostell keeper did well to keep out. However, after good wing play on the right, Paul Ashton scored a good goal to slightly flatter Armthorpe. The third goal was excellent, a powerful shot by Walker who had been denied earlier in the half, and a lesson in how to finish. A fourth goal was added in the last minute. To be fair, Nostell didn’t give up and scored a consolation a minute later, apparently a good effort, when the home keeper was unsighted. I say apparently, as so was I due to a chuntering Nostell fan that had started pacing up and down the touchline before returning to his missus, sat just to my right, and telling her all about their positional faults (the football team’s positional faults-honestly, what are you like!) His positional fault blocked my view. When he got out of earshot, his missus would mutter "Give over" or "Shut up". I had the feeling the earache would be reciprocated on the short (but would feel like longer) journey home.
What I was impressed with was watching Step 5 players receive a cross, bring it down and control it. One or two Armthorpe players exhibited more skills than our very own mercenaries. I’m not convinced some of ours could compete at this level.
Full Time Armthorpe 4 Nostell 1
Whilst it was far from an epic performance from the home team, they still managed a convincing scoreline. An excellent night’s entertainment.
Eddie, Ponte Mariner, will no doubt be pleased. He has an issue with Nostell, thinking that they don’t really meet Step 5 ground requirements. Their seating, when Goolemariner and I went there a few seasons back, consisted of those white patio chairs you get at Mediterranean hotels. In fact, the seating area is just a large patio. I actually liked the ground, which forms part of the Crofton Community Centre, and the idea that you can move your seat around as the mood takes you appeals to me. For those who like a drink, you can watch the game whilst imbibing. Doesn’t sound too bad to me.
Nostell are just above the relegation places, but well clear of bottom Brodsworth Welfare who boast just two points from twenty three games and a goal difference of minus ninety two. Good for them for carrying on and it shows that there is always someone worse off thsn yourself.
The better news for Armthorpe was that top place Bridlington were surprisingly humbled by struggling Parkgate, four two at home.
Whether a move up to the Unibond League is financially viable for them is another matter, but they certainly have an exciting young side who last finished runners up at this level in 1987/88.
My faith in the game has been restored.
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