The Non-League Paper’s Diary of a Groundhopper – Saturday January 25: Shelley 5 Chadderton 0
It’s been a rain-free week, so hopefully there’s no pitch problems to worry about. The plan today is to head to an Under-18’s at Sheffield Wednesday – against Forest – followed by a leisurely cross-country drive to Golcar United in the North West Counties League.
Until Tuesday, Golcar hadn’t played a home game for months thanks to problems with their pitch. Having played midweek, and with no rain since, the club don’t foresee any problems. The Twittersphere is alive with confident ‘see-you-soon’ messages from the Huddersfield club.
After a fairly drab goal-apiece youth match, I arrive at Longfield Avenue to find the gates locked!! Apparently, the match referee disagrees with Golcar that the pitch is playable. The Fox is nearly screaming with frustration: this is the second time this has happened to him this season!
It is now a case of ‘what next?’ The problem with me heading north is that I have done most of the grounds up here, so I resign myself to a revisit this afternoon. The Fox nipped to Penistone the last time Golcar thwarted him, so he isn’t thrilled when I tell him they are at home again today.
A quick search of the excellent NWCL website finds Shelley at home to Chadderton, followed by a look at Twitter to confirm the match is definitely on. Off we go, swearing profusely at Golcar as we speed away.
Shelley play at the Stafflex Arena tucked away in the leafy surrounds of Storthes Hall’s extensive grounds. It certainly isn’t easy to find! If you intend visiting, follow the club’s postcode into the hall grounds along the one way road.
Ignore all signs to sports complexes until you reach a rutted turn off to your left signed to The Stafflex. Keep going through some woods to the large car park at the end of the long track. Good luck!
I pay £5 at the entrance window and am directed to a table on the terrace for my programme. Shelley have enlisted some special helpers today: three enthusiastic lads from Disability Sport Yorkshire and the Employability Project greet the fans cheerfully as they purchase the programme and collect a teamsheet. Well done, gentlemen: it was a pleasure to meet you.
The stadium is really quirky. Fans enter onto a raised walkway and decking. Up here is a sports bar type clubhouse complete with food hatch. Below is a mixture of steep terracing and covered seating. The pitch is way below, accessed by steps to the perimeter track.
And the whole ground is surrounded by woodland and practice pitches. It’s a Hopper’s dream, really, and the first time I have seen it in daylight.
My burger and chips are excellent. I am so hungry, I may have to sample one of the pies at half time as well! I take my place on the grass opposite the main stand to watch the game.
Right from the start, it is obvious that if the NWCL First Division North were to award points for whinging at officials, these two sides would have been promoted long ago!
Despite fielding Paul Scholes’s son, Arron – why do we always think famous players’ siblings and offspring are going to be world class players too? – Chadderton are soon under the kosh. Their goalkeeper keeps them in it in the first half, keeping the score down to just a single goal.
The second half is a bit of a rout. Shelley score four more really lovely goals to boost my goal average, which has taken a bit of a pounding lately. Who needs Golcar United anyway? Yep, The Fox and I do!
Pre-Match info: 9.5
Home Team Respect: 1
Home Fans: 7
Overall Trip: 7
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