The second Yorkshire Football Weekend did not start well. Once arriving in South Emsall with around an hour to go before kick-off we discovered the local pub at the station “The Plough” was temporarily closed. Gasping for a pint we decided to head towards the ground.

After a delightful ten minute stroll in the sun Norman and I arrived at the Tech 5 stadium, home of Frickley Athletic. Establish back in 1910 as part of the Frickley Colliery, the mines may be gone but there was still a very nice quaint feel about the club as we entered the ground.

Earlier in the week I had arranged to meet with Mark Ainge one of Frickley’s committee members. After being introduced to Mark we went outside to have a few words about the club, behind us the fans were beginning to arrive and there was a sense of tension around the ground, this was a very important game for both clubs.

With only six games remaining Frickley find themselves in the relegation zone. Burscough sit in 18th with 39 points and although two points doesn’t seem the biggest of margins Frickley’s run-in doesn’t look pretty – with FC United of Manchester and Halifax Town still to play, points would be at a premium. Relegation would be catastrophic for a club that in 2005 were on the verge of playing in the Conference North – or so they thought.

Frickley had finished second, they would face North Ferriby in the play-off semi-finals, and promotion would have been a fantastic boost to a club that once played in the Vauxhall Conference. Unfortunately the officials of the Conference North had other ideas. The day of the first playoff game Frickley were told the ground was not up to Conference North standards and regardless of the result they would not be allowed promotion.

North Ferriby went on to win the game on penalties but lost in the final to Farsley Celtic. The devastating blow to Frickley Athletic could have sent the club into a downward spiral. A club that had survived through the fiercest miners’ strike the country had seen weren’t going to be beaten. Mark passionately told me. “We doubled our efforts! Since then we’ve done so much work on the ground, people probably don’t notice it.”

The club have made nearly all the changes that the Conference North had marked the club down for; Crush barriers, extra turnstiles and exits and the removal of grass banks. The only thing outstanding is the brightness of the floodlight, something easily solved if needed.  After hearing all the efforts the club have made it was clear to see why everyone was so tense. Relegation to the Evo-Stik First Division would set the club back two years, a disaster at this level.

From the first kick you could just tell this game would have everything non-league football is famous for. Frickley set up in a 4-4-2 with Ashley Longstaff the big number 9 partnered with the youthful looking number 10 Jack Watts. Chasetown – who needed a victory to stay in contention in the play-off race – set up in a 3-5-2 which at times looked more like a back five.

With nine players in the midfield it was very congested start. This lead to quite a few long balls being launched up to the two big burly number 9’s on each side. Pre-match Mark Ainge had picked out Ashley Longstaff as one of the players to watch “he doesn’t score tap-ins” and Longstaff did come closest to opening the scoring, a great side foot volley from ten yards flashed over the bar, which is just as well as he was shooting towards his own net. This was the closest the striker would come to scoring. I hope we caught him on a bad day, quite frankly he was awful. Apart from a few flailing elbows towards his markers face which were very effective, he did very little. No surprise he only has 6 goals this season.

Despite not having the better of the play it was Chasetown that took the lead and it was the second player Mark had picked out that was to fault. Chasetown won a corner; Richard Davies played the in swinger looking to catch out Ben Simpson in the Frickley net. The high cross looped to the back post, Simpson lost it in the sun and the ball hit the net. A crushing blow to the home side that had started the better side.

Luckily the Frickley player’s heads didn’t drop and due to the good play of Ashley Burbeary and Jack Watts they were on the ascendency. Burbeary was causing problems down the left, Chasetown’s management were constantly shouting at the defence to keep him tracked. With half an hour gone Burbeary had lost his man and managed to get a good shot away, the effort was well struck but straight at the keeper.

Half time was coming fast and Frickley turned up the pressure, Burbeary smashed a free-kick off the post and the fans were starting to get anxious. The goal would come though, after a scramble in the box the ball fell to Grant Darley and without thinking he smashed the ball hard and low, Ryan Price had no chance. Frickley deserved to draw level and it’s always great to score just before the break.

Although Frickley had been the better side so far, it was clear to see why they were in their current league position. The sun was causing problems to the two centre backs however the defensive qualities of the full backs weren’t helping. Often caught out of position they were an obvious weak point. Upfront Longstaff was offering very little, his partner Jack Watts was however catching the eye. Good with his feet, a quick turn of pace. He also showed a good footballing brain when asked to hold the ball up. In a league where it is easy to get caught in a game of kick and rush Jack’s abilities were rising to the fore. A few Conference North teams would do well to have a look.

The second half started the same as the first and it was a tight frantic affair, Burbeary and Watts also picked up where they left off andwere linking up well and causing the Chasetown defence problems. As the game continued it began to open up, lots of gaps began to appear in the middle of the park. Most of Frickley’s best play came down the left and fullback James Kay was given a great chance. Sent free down the wing he found his way into the box, seeing a moment of glory he went for the goal where the square ball would have been easier, the Chasetown defender made a great block and the chance was gone.

Time was running out, the play was becoming so stretched that it seemed inevitable a goal would come with both sides throwing everything they had into attack. Chasetown now had 3 men upfront and Frickley were leaving them 1 v 1 at the back looking for a winner. Something was going to give.

A long high ball was played up the field looking to test the Chasetown defence. Striker Jack Watts was on the prowl. A lack of communication between Price and Chris Slater saw the ball bounce, Watts nipped in and the youngster looped the ball over the keeper’s head. What a time to score your first goal for the club. The home fans went crazy; you could see how much it meant to everyone at the club. He may not score a more important goal.

The final whistle brought jubilant scenes for the home fans, a vital three points that would hopefully give the club the boost in confidence they need to stay up. Even though we had only spent a few hours at the club it is hard not to want them to succeed, football needs clubs like this to do well. If only 196 people turn up to watch them play in this division I fear for how many would come if they were to go down.

When mentioning to people we were going to see Frickley Athletic the same response came my way, well more of a noise. A short intake of breathe to indicate it wasn’t a very nice place. Well I have been there, spoke to the fans, watched the players and couldn’t have had a more pleasant day. There was a lovely local feeling about the club, everyone was very welcoming and we will have no hesitations in going back.

When asked to make a prediction before the game committee member Mark Ainge predicted a draw, I’m sure he will be glad he got it wrong. However he did get one prediction spot on. The pies were fantastic!

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

PRICE: 8/10
FACILITIES: 8/10
ATMOSPHERE: 7.5/10
FOOD: 8.5/10
OVERALL: 8/10

 

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7 comments

April 10th, 2011

I really enjoyed the day at Frickley. The ground was really atmospheric and the club felt like a real family. Two thumbs up for the club, but two thumbs down for the local amenities. No pubs were open and we had to sit on the station drinking our cider.

Lee

April 11th, 2011

It’s a shame Frickley don’t get bigger crowds it is quite a big catchment area but Leeds are a big draw around these parts, they work hard in the local community aswell.

Andrew

April 11th, 2011

Another issue I was told that doesn’t help, a bus leaves the village every Saturday for people going to see Man United home or away. I would rather see Frickley 4 times than Man United once. Such a shame, they do a scheme were under 16′s an get a free season ticket too.

Bigger clubs are just too strong a draw though.

April 11th, 2011

[...] Andrew Gibney’s Yorkshire Football Weekend’s continues, find out where his latest adventure took him here [...]

Andrew

April 11th, 2011

Thanks for the link guys

Ken Hill

April 17th, 2011

Andrew,
Pleased you enjoyed your visit to Frickley’s Tech 5 stadium its always good when people say nice things about your club we are always going to struggle budget wise, when you compare our last home gate of 196 to FC Uniteds of over 1700 against us you can see why but we do have a hard working Chairman and back up team. We will keep on battling.
Ken Hill.

April 23rd, 2011

[...] Frickley Athletic v Chasetown – Yorkshire Football Weekends [...]

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