Quickly finishing our pint, Norman and I realised we were having a drink next to four members of the “English Defence League” not the sort of people you want to converse about your favourite Indian restaurantor if they enjoyed India v Pakistan in the cricket. It had looked like such a nice pub pre-match.

The day had started frantically enough, sat on the train at Leeds Station wondering why my friend Norman had failed to turn up. With a mere 20 seconds to spare he bundled onto the train, out of breathe and gasping for air but he had arrived and we were on our way to Bradford.

Since returning from holiday it has been difficult to find time to watch match highlights never mind a whole 90 minutes. That would all change today, starting a new campaign/mission – money permitting each weekend I will endeavour to visit a football club in Yorkshire regardless of quality or division. Sort of inspired by Danny Last’s European Football Weekends, you could call these Yorkshire Football Weekends.

This season I have taken in the sights of Giuseley AFC, Huddersfield Town and Sheffield United. Today would see my first attendance at a Evo-Stick Northern Premier League game. Bradford Park Avenue taking on Kendal Town, both teams sitting mid-table but only a good run away from a play-off place. It promised to be a well fought game.

We found the ground with relative ease, and with even less effort we found our way into the King’s Head pub. While enjoying two delicious pints of lager we watched on as Man United came back from 2-0 down to win 4-2 and in the process witnessed the best and worst of football. Rooney’s free-kick had the pub nodding in approval, the pissed up United fan jumping around turning the air blue did not get the same appreciation.

With twenty minutes to kick-off we made our way down to the stadium, paid the reasonable £8 entrance fee, perused the club shop adding another £8.70 to the clubs biscuit tin. We had a quick walk round the ground, it’s of a decent standard for a team in the seventh tier of English football; much better than I found at Giuseley earlier on in the season.

One stand sits along the side of the pitch which I think would hold about 1000/1500 people when full. There is also plenty of space to stand around the sides. Doing a full tour of the ground we took our seats minutes before kick-off. The home fans were in jovial spirit, the sun was out. All signs pointed towards an enjoyable day.

Forget formations and tactics the first thing that stood out straight from kick-off was the number 3. Not because of anything he did on the pitch, it was his fantastic hair. You just knew he thought quite a lot of himself, anyway back to the football.

Kendal set out in a flat 4-4-2, Bradford PA started in 4-5-1 – from the grumbles in the stands it seemed the #9 Matty James was a striker but had been asked to play in the middle of the park. Avenue started the much better of the two sides. Aidan Savory had impressed with his ability to hold the ball up, with the five men playing behind him all willing to support the loan striker, it wasn’t long before Avenue took the lead.

Captain Rob O’Brien linked up well with Savory down the left. O’Brien made the byline found Savory with the cut back, the striker remained composed and drilled the ball off the near post and past Kendal’s keeper. “We only score from headers and penalties..”  had been the complaint of nearby home fans, today’s game would be enough to banish those thoughts for a while. The same fans later remarked “Who needs Barcelona!”

Avenue were looking inspired and soon made it two nil, Kendal failed to clear another attack and this time the ball fell to O’Brien outside the box. The midfield acted quickly and placed the ball into the corner with power and accuracy. Only 27 minutes has passed and the Kendal defence were all at sea, they actually looked like they were having a mid-match meeting when the ball was played down the channel and squared to Nicky Boshell unmarked he had the easy task of making it 3-0. Kendal’s goalkeeper was going absolutely mental shouting at all ten outfield players. It was to get worse.

Once again the Kendal defence were at sixes and sevens a poor half clearance fell to Adam Clayton standing 20 yards from goal, controlling the ball well he lashed a fantastic shot past the keeper’s outstretched arm. A wonder-goal to cap off a superb first half performance. Still eight minutes of the half remained and Avenue looked like they could rack up a cricket score.

Unfortunately there was to be a slight blemish for Avenue before the half-time whistle. Kendal broke away and steamed in on goal. John Lamb rushed out his goal and seemed to do enough to clear the danger. Well that’s what we thought. Mr Lawrence the referee for the day saw it otherwise and awarded Kendal a penalty. Right back Kieran Walmsley converted calmly and gave his team the smallest of lifelines before half-time.

It would have been rude not to sample the local delicacies that Bradford Park Avenue had to offer; chips…gravy…pork pie…job done. Avenue had started to tire at the end of the first half and Kendal came out the second half the better team but they obviously didn’t have the quality to really threaten. The second half was never going to live up to the excitement of the first but with ten minutes to go the referee made it interesting.

Kendal’s number 9 Gary McEvatt did his best dying swan impression and went down in the box, a nothing challenge, for a second I thought the referee was booking McEvatt for diving. How wrong could I be, he had awarded a penalty. Walmsley converted again and the score was 4-2. Avenue were soon down to 10 men when James Knowles was given his second yellow for a nothing challenge on McEvatt.

However this was to be Avenue’s day. Three minutes from time the ref awarded Avenue a free-kick just outside the box. Substitute Henry McStay shrugged off the interest from the left-back with the brilliant hair Martin Drury, he then stepped up to curl the free-kick past David Newnes and high into the Kendal net, Avenue won 5-2 and McStay’s goal was a superb ending to a superb game.

Savoring up the last few moments of atmosphere we managed to steal a quick picture in the home dugout and we headed back up the hill to the King’s Head. A nice local pub, funny that when a saw “English Defence League – West Yorkshire Division” on the back of a hoodie my first though was – What sport is that? “No Surrender to Al-Qaeda” quickly gave me my answer.

Each week the club I visit will receive points out of ten in five categories.

PRICE: 8/10
FACILITIES: 8/10
ATMOSPHERE: 6.5/10
FOOD: 8/10
OVERALL: 7.5/10

 

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7 comments

April 3rd, 2011

Great stuff. Just a shame about the running track – and the right wing knuckle draggers.

Andrew

April 3rd, 2011

It was only a five lane running track so didn’t take away the “atmosphere”. And you can’t let some mindless numpties spoil your day

April 4th, 2011

[...] Lastly something a little off beat. Danny Last’s excellent European Football Weekend’s have featured here before, but now Andrew Gibney has started his own Yorkshire Football Weekend’s. A brilliant idea we think, follow his first adventure here [...]

April 4th, 2011

I didn’t think the running track detracted that much from the event. Also, difficult to argue it shouldn’t be there in lower league grounds as who can afford a dedicated stadium with an average gate of less than 1000?

April 4th, 2011

[...] The game itself was a bit of a thriller with Bradford Park Avenue finishing the first half with a four goal to one lead. The standard of football was actually really high, with some good first touches and a commitment to playing the football along the ground with short passes in the channels and some smart runs off the ball. The second half was a little more disappointing as the non-league fitness levels caught up with the players and the game started to break down and fall into long ball tennis in patches. We did see another two goals in the second half, including a free kick taken from outside the penalty area that was remarkably similar to the one Wayne Rooney had scored for Man Utd earlier int he day at Upton Park. The final score finished 5-2 to Bradford Park Avenue. You can check out a full match report at Andrew’s football website. [...]

Lee

April 5th, 2011

If your ever in the Doncaster area, I will happily enjoy some pre match beers with you. (If you are venturing higher than non league I could lay my hands on a couple of free tickets for the Rovers v Preston game next tuesday)

April 30th, 2011

[...] was never in the Yorkshire Football Weekend constitution to return to any ground that had been reviewed in the same season that was until Bradford Park Avenue finished 3rd in the Evo-Stik Premier Division and were paired [...]

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