Sunday, 5 March 2017

04/03/17 Review: Kidsgrove Athletic vs Basford United

Kidsgrove Athletic 2-1 Basford United (Evo-Stik First Division South)
The Novus Stadium

Little did I expect this morning that I would be revisiting one of my favourite and most local grounds from last season, however the cruel fate of waterlogged pitches across the Midlands put an end to my hope of visiting Pershall Park in Eccleshall and in fact any other ground that I was yet to tick of my list- meaning that a second outing to Kidsgrove Athletic's Novus Stadium was on the cards for me this afternoon.
Love this place
To any ground-hopper, especially those mad enough to attempt the non-league grounds, the weather is quite possibly the only thing that can stop us from getting out and about to the grounds. As 2pm approached, I was left with the option of revisiting one of five nearby venues that I'd already ticked off my never-ending list. With a choice between Leek Town, Newcastle Town, Stafford Town, Nantwich Town (all of the Towns!) and Kidsgrove Athletic, I went for the latter on this occasion and I was yet again glad to have been on-hand to cheer on The Grove. With a mere 11 miles to drive from my home in the south of Stoke, I was soon at the Novus Stadium and I was just in time to pop into the bar for a pint. Top notch!

Pre-match atmosphere summed up as "electrical"
Last time I was at the Novus, I witnessed the hosts give Tividale a 4-0 pasting and I quite frankly fell in love with the ground, fans and club- so much so, that I even gave it my highly prestigious "Home Away From Home" Award in my end of season review from 2015/16. The away side, Basford United, are a side that I have only seen once before today- and that was in their 0-5 loss in the Play-off Semi-Final match against eventual winners Coalville Town. At the start of play, the travelling side sat in 6th place and were 10 points above a rising Grove squad- but with confidence in the home side I predicted a 2-1 victory for the Stoke-based team (which, for the record, is only the second time in over 60 matches that I've correctly predicted a score!).

6th vs 10th
Right, on to the action, and in the early proceedings there was plenty of it. Grove started on the upper-foot and with just 5 minutes Aaron Johns was embracing with his team-mates to celebrate the opener. After he received a truly delightful cross-field pass from the right-hand side on a counter, he skillfully twisted his way into a shooting position, before curling a ball towards goal and perfectly placed over the keeper. Kidsgrove 1-0 Basford. With the first goal in their favour, it was now up to the Blues to capitalise and do their best to build a late push for the play-offs. In attack, the hosts looked spot-on and played some great technical passes across the midfield, but they always looked likely to concede if pressed too hard by Basford. With another goal just around the corner, my attention turned to a Grove substitute and former Silkmen forward Ben Mills, who was parading up and down the touchline warming-up, whilst applauding himself in the process! The ex-Macc player, who never scored in his few appearances in the Cheshire side's relegation season from League Two, has spent time at many of my local sides including Newcastle, Leek, Altrincham and the mighty Stafford Rangers. As a Silkmen fan and resident of Stoke myself, I was itching to see him come on.
Nice hat
With 24 minutes on the clock, the red shirts of Basford had a reason to celebrate as they hit home an equaliser. A long ball was hit up towards the Basford strikers and they were fortunate enough to find themselves two-on-one with the opposition's centre-back. As Dixon used his strength to hold off Grove's only defence, Kieran Wells ran in on goal and slid the ball home past former Vale number one, Chris Martin. Kidsgrove 1-1 Basford. The Grove bench erupted with shouts for offside, whilst some players on the pitch felt like the centre-back had been fouled by Dixon. Either way, the goal stood and this would prove to be the first of many occasions where the Lino's decision would be questioned in the traditional non-league fashion- copious amounts of swearing and general verbal abuse. One classic example came after the man down the line gave Grove a goal-kick, even though Martin clearly felt as though he'd kept the ball in play. After a good minute or so of the Ref arguing with the players about it, the Blues keeper burst out at the linesman with "oi, lino you ignorant fuck. Do your fucking job!"

The Grove bench even had an early warning out the language they were using towards Mr Nield
On the away bench, it appeared that Martin Carruthers and Cameron Nind were also getting rather frustrated and one rant that stuck in my mind was towards Riece Bertram whilst play was temporarily suspended. As Bertram appeared to ignore his Manager's instruction, Carruthers shouted "tell that deaf cunt to fucking hook it", which of course led to lots of jeers from the crowd. With all of this going on, I also spotted that Harry "wind-up merchant" Clayton was having a great time making fart noises as Basford took set-pieces and doing all that he could to be a handful for his opponents. With half-time now upon us, I started to walk around to the other side of the ground in anticipation of a HT pint with the fans. Despite Aaron Johns looking very strong out on the left and providing some great attacking motion for the home-side, it would be all-square at the break.

I hope this isn't the Fire Exit!
After supping my Lager it was time to get back out there and with Johns so far being the star player, I decided to move around to the opposite seating stand so that I could be nearby to see if he continued to play well. The second-half brought about quite a few chances for captain Ant Malbon and he appeared to be having one of those days- first chipping over from close-range, before then skying a good chance from a Kyle Diskin cross. Stood over to my right was Grove Chairman Mick Fitzjohn and just in-front of me was the club photographer and video man, and they were all getting a bit nervous as Grove squandered a few decent chances. Surely enough, an extra striker joined the fold and it would be Ben Mills who would replace my player of the match Aaron Johns for the final ten minutes. Despite playing out on the left, he was looking like a decent target man for the Blues and with time ticking away he seemed to be a good choice off the bench. Basford could have nicked it themselves with a couple of counters and set-pieces, but it was Marc Grocott for the hosts who went close a couple of times. As we surged into the last minutes of the game, there was to be a last-ditched winner and with Ant Malbon showing the characteristics of a bulldog trying to keep a hold of a bone, it was to be his great run down the right that would provide it. He held off several United defenders, shielding the ball and running with it until making it into the box. Having shot many times in the game with no success, this time Malbs picked a perfect pass into Clayton and he rifled the winner in for the Grove. Kidsgrove 2-1 Basford.

A great win for the home-side, who move up to 9th place
Following this 3 points gained over their Nottinghamshire opposition, Athletic are now just 7 points away from the play-offs- despite having played as many as four more games at this stage than some of their league rivals. Still, a win is a win and it means that the side can go into their match with Stamford next weekend with high hopes, whilst Basford will have to get back on the horse on Tuesday for a tough Integro Cup match against higher-opposition in Grantham Town. As with my previous trip to the Novus, I'd had a great time today and will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on their end to the season. In the meantime, I will be at an FA Trophy or FA Vase game next Saturday- depending on if Macc beat Dulwich in their Tuesday night replay!

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