Sunday, 9 December 2018

08/12/18 Review: Gresley vs Pontefract Collieries

Gresley 0-4 Pontefract Collieries (Evo-Stik East Division)
Moat Ground

If alien lifeforms landed on earth and asked me to show them what non-league football was like, I'd take them to the Moat Ground in hope of a repeat of yesterday's match between Gresley and Pontefract Collieries- it really was the epitome of "proper" football and within the confines of a ground that I can only truly describe as wonderfully tatty, this Saturday's Evo-Stik East action was not to be sniffed at in terms of goals even if the weather did its best to stop it.

Not much to look at from the outside
My original plans for the day had got me set for a double, with Ellesmere Rangers versus Stone Dominoes looking like a great basement battle to start me off before a trip up to Wales and Flint Town's Cup tie with Bala Town, however the weather gods were not with me and with early confirmation of the match in Shropshire being cancelled, I decided to look east of my Stoke-on-Trent abode where I would be drawn back to my old love, the Evo-Stik leagues. Being as I'd already made my way to sixteen Evo-Stik grounds so far, I certainly didn't need any motivation to jump in my little red car and drive over to Swadlincote, a wee little town that sits upon the borders of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. I wouldn't be the only Yorkshireman in town though and with yesterday's high-flying West Riding opponents coming in to this one with four wins on the bounce and thirteen goals in the process, the Colls will tell you the sky is currently the limit and a win could (and did) see them go second behind Morpeth Town. The hosts knew that they would be in for a tough day and knowing they'd face the league's topscorer to date in Eli Hey, I suspected them to suffer this time out- 1-3 was my pre-match prediction.

A first outing to Harry's bar for the Colls
According to the highly active matchday announcer this would be the first league meeting between the two clubs, which was hardly a surprise after Pontefract spent last season in the North East Counties League. At time of my arrival, the sun was shining on the Moat Ground and I looked forward to a second consecutive new ground in as many Saturdays, having been in the region last weekend for Basford United against Scarborough in the Premier Division bout. The Moat is very red, to say the least, and as I entered I couldn't help but think that if I walked in on this day ten years ago I would get the exact same image. I love it when a club doesn't feel obliged to move with the times and as a community football club embedded in the Church Gresley sector of Swadlincote, I would honestly say that I would be proud of that red paintwork if this was my local club. Yes, parts of the ground looked like they were a health and safety nightmare waiting to happen, yes, the pitch was as uneven as the possession stats for a Barcelona match and yes, this is the sort of ground that if you take your girlfriend to she'd probably ask to wait in the car, but it is a classic and one that I'm pleased to finally visit. If you could image a ground that crosses somewhere between the Old Spotted Dog in Clapton and a larger version of Bridlington Town's Queensgate Park, that's about the level we're at here if I was to compare it to previously visited grounds.
I'd take my chances with the fire, I reckon!
Anyway, enough about the ground, I was here for a football match and at 3pm sharp we were underway. With the pitch still grassy at the start of play, Ponte got the match underway the stronger of the two sides and a fifth minute penalty gave Vaughan Redford the chance to open the scoring. He stepped up and calmly slotted home meaning another poor start for the hosts, who were 0-4 down by half-time in their last game, away at Marske United. Gresley 0-1 Pontefract. The Moatmen had certainly made a stiff start to the match and as I sat perching on the even stiffer wooden seats over on the opposite side from the more modern main stand, I began to wonder if the match would even last ninety minutes as the heavens started to open up. The Colls remained on the ascendancy despite the rain starting to drizzle down and with Eli Hey, who looks like a tall Kingsley James, showing glimpses of quality it seemed like a second goal was coming. Gresley were starting to become frustrated and their captain took it out as he raged out at the officials- something that none of us will have ever witnessed at a non-league match. "Fuckin' linesman, get your fuckin' flag up!” balls out Jamie Barrett as Redford looked likely to get his second in the 16th minute. Near where I was sat, the less stressed out Gresley left-back took a moment to turn to Brian, a fan, and ask him how his birthday was? He simply replied with, "it was better than going away to Marske with you lot". Classic.

It's hard to tell from the pic, but the rain is fairly heavy by now
Between all of this, Colls kept their pressure up and the next person to have a pop would be their impressive right-back Jack Greenhough, who amazingly continued to run up and down that wing as though his feet weren't being sucked into the now inch thick mud surrounding his every step. In the 24th minute Ponte would go for a different approach and with Glyn Cotton finding himself with time and space he struck a low shot from long-range, watching as it beat Oliver Fairbrother in the Gresley goal. Gresley 0-2 Pontefract. Even though it seemed to be getting pretty comfortable for the Colls, it wasn't all going the visitor's way though and after Hey went in the book for manhandling the Gresley keeper, the hosts had a few moments of their own as they attacked the brick wall end. By the way, this is not me complementing the away side for being as solid as a brick wall.

Behind the goal at one end is literally just a big brick wall
After a free-kick tested Ryan Musselwhite, the hosts then went even closer moments later as the resulting corner led to a goal line scramble- Gresley arms raised to claim a goal, but the Ref turned it away. The action from the rest of the half came from above unfortunately and as most of the crowd headed into the Harry's Bar, I slowly but surely walked around the ground trying to get a picture that would show just how bad the weather was. I didn't succeed with anything apart from potential pneumonia and so I gave up and joined the majority in the clubhouse just as the half-time whistle blew. I was almost certain that the match would be ended there and then, but the officials instead decided to run inside to dry off before coming back out to see if there would be a chance of the game restarting.

Almost considered a tea to warm me up 
Half-time lasted roughly twenty minutes whilst Mr Cooke and his assistants assessed the pitch with the officials from both sides. The rain had stopped by now, but in my opinion the damage to the grass had already been done and I'm somewhat surprised that the Ref's whistle blew to start the second half. I only say this because I was feeling bad for the home club who will no have a massive job to get the ground back in good order for the rest of the season. But, either way it did resume and with a two goal lead I'm sure the visitors were chuffed to not have travelled 86 miles each way for nothing. The first fifteen minutes struggled to provide any real footballing moments and with the majority of the players struggling to stay on their feet it became quite humorous as the originally white and red shirts of Gresley's players started to turn pure brown. The first real move of significance in terms of goalmouth action came after a Fairbrother pass was collected by Redford, who then proceeded to hit the post before Hey then had an effort superbly blocked. A minute later, Mike Dunn would add the third goal and the points would certainly heading back to West Yorkshire- the question now was, by how many would they win? Gresley 0-3 Pontefract.

It's not like me to write this, but it was DAAAAAAAMN cold out there
With bad weather there usually comes a few bad tackles and the final half an hour in particular is what I would sum up as "the dirty thirty". Both sides picked up numerous fouls and cards, with the highlight being a last man lunge in the 80th minute which saw Gresley substitute Jake McIntosh see red. The game may not have been quite over yet but with Ponte boasting the league's top scorer, there was always going to be chance of a final goal or two from the visitors. Hey may not have been a scorer on this sodden afternoon in Derbyshire, but he was so heavily involved in most of the blue attacks and this time would be the same again as he rolled the ball in to Nick Guest to add the 84th minute final goal. Gresley 0-4 Pontefract. Needless to say that once the game ended I ran straight back to my car and blasted the heating from my car onto my moist jeans, before making the hour journey home. My next groundhop probably won't be until after Christmas now as I intend to take in an end of year stadium or two down south when I visit family before another year comes to a close. My options so far look like Chelmsford City, East Thurrock, Dagenham & Redbridge or maybe even Millwall. Either way, I'm sure it'll be a dryer outing than my day out at the Moat!


  1. That's a great blog......I have only been to The Moat Ground once to see my team, Altrincham, take on Gresley Rovers in the FA Trophy in 1997.
    There were about 800 in the ground, which felt like about 10,000 & it was a cracking 3-3 draw. Possibly the most iconic non-league ground that I have been to in 46 years watching Alty.

    1. Nice one Brian, cheers! That's very high praise of the ground but you are right about it being iconic. I was a big fan and it's certainly one I'll remember for years to come.