The Non-League Paper’s Diary of a Groundhopper – Tuesday February 4: Skelmsedale United 2 v Rylands 3
After being stung by the weather the last couple of Saturdays on the trot, I am not even bothering to research any clubs without a Plastic Fantastic pitch for my game tonight. The Groundhopper can do without the hassle, thank you very much!
My eye alights on Skelmersdale United against Rylands in the North West Counties Premier Division being played on 3G. The Lancashire club moved grounds while I wasn’t looking! I must admit to being a bit lax when it comes to this sort of thing; so lax, I would be thrown out of the Groundhopping Club if there was such a thing.
I set off nice and early to avoid the worst of the traffic. Everything goes smoothly until I grind to a halt on the M6 with 20 miles to go to my destination. “Report of Obstruction” read the signs.
I am guessing that many football followers travel a great many miles along the highways and byways of Britain. And I am guessing that many of you will have seen such signs as “Report of Obstruction” and “Report of Pedestrians” hundreds of times on our motorways.
And now may I take a stab in the dark at exactly how many pedestrians you have seen casually wandering along the motorway, stopping for a chat as they mooch along looking at the scenery and maybe grabbing a sandwich to munch? None, I bet! And the same goes for obstructions. Just take a note and let me know, why don’t you?
Anyway, it takes me twice as long to drive the last four junctions of the motorway as it does the first 70 miles from my house. And guess how many obstructions I pass? You’ve got it! Still, because of my something-must-go-wrong attitude, I arrive at the JMO Sports Park in plenty of time before the 8pm kick-off.
The huge car park is nearly full. This complex has two full-sized pitches, a 9-a-side pitch, three 7-a-side pitches and five 5-a-side pitches. In these days of incredibly short funds for football clubs, this has to be the way forward to raise revenues?
I know many of you do not like watching football on artificial surfaces but what would you rather have: the situation at Tonbridge Angels last week when everyone had travelled miles only for the match to be called off late?
Work is still ongoing at the complex, so it’s a bit tricky to find the entrance to the ground. Apparently, the club hope to have a dedicated turnstile for the main pitch very soon but for now, spectators have to skirt the car park and building works to access the main entrance.
A man at a table in a doorway collects £6 and another guy’s shout reminds me he is selling tonight’s programme (£2). While I am waiting by the office for the teamsheets to be printed out, tonight’s programme sells out. Rather enterprisingly, a box of the original issue appears (from December 2019) and are sold off for £1. Of course, I have to buy one of those as well!
The bar is busy with a mixture of fans here for the game and other users of the facility. Huge sausage rolls are on sale as well as a few pies. It’s not particularly well laid out, as people queueing for alcohol block the way of people wanting the sugar and milk for hot drinks. It is a test of everyone’s courteous nature but all goes very smoothly.
Spectators pass through a door at the rear of the bar and emerge onto a wooden decking behind one goal (and behind a thick green fence). I totter down a ramp to the perimeter path and walk right round the pitch to the covered terrace, the open terrace and the covered seats. Building work is very obvious on this side of the stadium.
The game is excellent. The youths of Skem keep up an almost constant, good-natured stream of support for their heroes even though they see them lose by the odd goal in five.
The football is generally very good: fast and technically adept, which is another feature of Plastic Fantastic I like as a Groundhopper.
Defenders learn how to defend properly and don’t just slide through their opponents to give away needless free kicks. IMHO…
Pre-Match info: 8.5
Home Team Respect: 4
Home Fans: 8
Overall Trip: 7
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