Tarmac Silverlands Stadium
A bit of a rarity these days as I was out and about to see two Evo-Stik Premier sides that I'd never watched before yesterday. My Tuesday night venture across the Staffordshire Moorlands into the Peak District would see me cross off my thirteenth ground in this division as I went to Buxton to witness The Bucks take on The Ducks in a highly-anticipated first league game of the season- about time!
Not only was this my first trip to Silverlands, but the same could also be said for last season's Evo-Stik North Southern Division champs and for Barnsley outfit Shaw Lane this would be a chance for back-to-back victories in the league after disposing of Hednesford Town at the weekend. The hosts were on a high too and after thrashing in-form Stafford Rangers 4-1 in their own backyard on Saturday they would hope to build momentum as they returned home to their familiar surroundings in the high-altitude Derbyshire market town. My route from Stoke for this one was pretty smooth-going, aside from dodging sheep that trotted on to the Macclesfield Road between Leek and Flash, and naturally I was happy to have made it in plenty of time to check out the ground and have think about who I fancied to win the day. I found myself plunging straight into the modern-styled clubhouse bar and in the meantime I got nattering to a couple of chaps about the game- where I gained some valuable knowledge ahead of the tie. The track-suited Buck fan openly stated that "it's a big game when you know more of the opposition players than your own", which is something that I will be able to somewhat sympathise with on Bank Holiday Monday as I'll make my way to Chester to see my beloved Silkmen take on their Cheshire rivals whose side contains no less than four Macc players from the past couple of seasons. Gotta love the transfer shenanigans of non-league football!
Based on the similar starts that the sides had made, I expected that this would be a closer tie than it was last night and just before the match I guessed that The Bucks would gain a narrow 2-1 win tonight in front of the 300 or so in attendance for this one. With the weather looking dull, the pitch in fine fettle and the sides coming out in blue and red kits respectively, I was ready for kick-off and took my pint out to a bench opposing the Main Stand so that I could be in prime position for the opening exchanges. The first ten minutes were 50-50 and although there was plenty of meaty tackles sliding in, there was little in the way of goalmouth action and when the visitors fizzled a cross from the left into the danger area I jumped-up hoping that we'd be treated to a first strike at goal, but this was not the case as the ball eventually surpassed everybody and went out for a goal kick. Buxton's side form last season had a good league run and were unlucky not to reach the play-offs, finishing just 2 places and 3 points outside of the sacred zone, but based on how they'd started tonight I wasn't convinced that they'd reach those lofty heights again in 2017/18 and when Joe McGee struck a long-ranger wide on the quarter-hour mark you could sense that this wasn't going to be the classic that I'd craved.
Last season I trekked all the way out to Matlock Town's Causeway Lane to endure a 0-0 game between the Gladiators and Ilkeston and with this one looking likely to follow a similar pattern I sat wondering if I should make trips to this area of the world simply for the scenery and long-walks, rather than the so far poor-standard of football. My fortunes, and those of the travelling fans, would be turned though as Nicky Walker entered the field as an early sub forced on by an injury to Gav Rothery. As Alpha Kaba slipped in the centre of the Buxton midfield his opposing number 8, Spencer Harris, took the ball forward and unleashed Walker who ran into the box and tucked the ball home just about past Jan Budtz in the home goal. Buxton 0-1 Shaw Lane. Walker was one of the aforementioned players returning to his former employers at Silverlands and there was more than one or two groans as the announcer confirmed the scorer as The Ducks took the advantage towards half-time. Despite two minutes added time at the conclusion of the first-half, if anything Buxton looked likely to concede a second and it would be up to Martin McIntosh to rouse his side going forth into the final 45.
During the break I popped back into the bar for a second pint and my attention was caught by the large variety of fans in the room. As well as a couple of Stoke City jerseys on display by young fans, I also saw a chap in a Macc Town jacket (legend!) and even a polo-shirt donning the Yeovil Town logo. Alongside myself wearing a bright orange Greuther Furth top and Dundalk scarf there was many in Buxton and Shaw Lane gear too, which is always nice to see. I did pop in to the club store to study the large array of merchandise on display, but in the end I couldn't tempt myself to add to my gigantic scarf collection and resisted parting with my remaining cash on this occasion. Back outside it had turned dark by now and the game was ready to resume- with The Bucks looking to get back in it. They made a decent start and got themselves in the thick of it with some goalmouth pressure to start the second-half, but at the other end they looked suspect again as Budtz fluffed his clearance out for a corner to Aquaforce. By this time I'd had a good wander around the ground and I made my way into the grandstand in time to see the second and final goal of the game. Spencer Harris had pulled the strings to grab an assist in the first-half and this time it would be his turn to test out the less than comfortable looking number 1 for The Bucks. From 25-yards or so on the break, Harris hit a decent strike towards the goal and I can only assume that it caught Budtz out as he got a weak hand on the ball as he dived into his right-hand corner, only for the ball to ripple off of his glove and roll into the net and seal an agonising moment for the hosts. Buxton 0-2 Shaw Lane.
The frustration of the fans was emulated on the field too and after Liam Hardy rugby-tackled the Shaw Lane keeper out of his own box, we almost saw a third goal after Alex Byrne finished well on the break- thankfully this one was denied by the lino as he revealed his offside flag to the relief of the home fans. Hardy continued to try to get his team back in it and in the 70th minute he tested Jon Stewart after beating the defenders with a delicate touch before poking the ball straight at the on-rushing keeper. Stewart continued to twist the metaphorical knife in towards the end of the match by delaying his goal-kicks to the extreme and he eventually fell foul for his time-wasting technique as he entered the book.
I fear that had Buxton seen 20 minutes of injury-time at the end of the second-half that they wouldn't have scored last night and when the board eventually read out for 5 minutes of stoppages, Buxton pressed one last time for a consolation. On 90+5 minutes and what was basically the last touch, Hardy had the ball crossed into him and his hefty finish from 6-yards out rose high and thundered on to the bar, therefore summarising what sort of evening The Bucks had been through on this occasion. Credit is due to the away side as the final whistle handed them another victory for the season, with the defence looking very solid and substitute returnee Nicky Walker standing out for me as the best player on the field in an otherwise fairly flare-ridden affair. Overall I did enjoy the game and I must pay my compliments to the great set-up that Buxton have got at Silverlands, but with some awesome games witnessed at this level such as my trip to Dales Lane to see Rushall beat Grantham last season and a 3-2 March classic at Coles Lane between Sutton Coldfield and Marine this one won't live as long in the memory I'm afraid. My next trip will be tonight and I'll be keeping it local with a short-hike to either Florence FC or Foley Meir for my first Staffordshire County Senior League- with the write-up to follow as always.
|13 down, 11 to go!|
|Swanky Clubhouse alert|
|Please, please, please, not another goalless game in the Peaks!|
|A picture says a thousand words...|
|The Beers to Goals Ratio was too low for my liking|
|Time running out now for the Buxton boys|
|Cheers Bucks and Ducks alike, enjoy the rest of the season|