I moved up to York from London in 1996 and then to Huddersfield in 1997. I wasn’t a bad footballer, I played for the school team and a Sunday Catholic Boys Team which is probably the highest level I played at schoolboy level. We reached the East Midlands Regional Final and I was playing for a Catholic School St Peter and St Paul in Lincoln, although I attended a different school, I qualified being a Catholic. At this time there was a Catholic schools national football competition where any Catholic school could enter a team at various age groups, and we reached the Regional Final. The reason for my “ringer” status was that I was a fairly decent centre half, over six feet tall and very quick, a better option than their incumbent centre half. My school team was pretty good too, I played with Dave “Diddy” Gilbert who made it to the professional game and played second tier football with Grimsby Town, Julian Rose who was a’ keeper on the books of Coventry City before he had an accident, along with a couple of players who had played for Lincoln Boys, Vinny Morris comes to mind. Back to the final, we were playing a team from Derby (East Midlands was Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland) and they had an extremely quick centre forward who had scored a lot of goals during the competition, he was on the books of Derby County, he was short and squat and had a low centre of gravity. He tried to turn me in the first 10 minutes, so I gave him a knee to the thigh and a dead leg. That was the only time I have ever been booked, but he fairly anonymous throughout the rest of the game, he moved out to the wing and I swept up behind the full back a few times. Sadly, we lost the game 1 – 0, we just couldn’t put the ball in at the other end and they scored from a goalmouth scramble following a corner.
So back to moving to Huddersfield…The one sport I was quite decent at was cricket, I was a fast bowler and an opening batsman (although the lads in Huddersfield wouldn’t have known that). In the 80s I had started wearing contact lenses and had damaged my right eye which affected my depth of vision and perspective. I was okay if the ball came at me at speed as it was more of a reaction but anything medium pace or below, I just couldn’t read the flight. So I ended up just being a rapid opening bowler. When I moved to Huddersfield, I wanted to find a cricket club and a colleagues husband played for Shelley Cricket Club where I ended up and enjoyed ten years of cricket through to 2007 before I moved to Leeds. The football club used to play in the field next to the cricket field, so on Saturday’s during April, May, August, and September often saw cricket and football played side by side. The players had to change in the Social Club, cross the road, walk up a hill and a ginnel to the football ground (Shelley Village isn’t very flat, nor is much of Huddersfield). The pitch was on a slope which always reminds me of Bostocks Cup run and the sloping pitch, strange that the game where this journey pauses at Pontefract. Seriously, if you played up hill against the wind then it was difficult to get it out of your penalty area, let alone your half of the pitch. The same could be said of bowling uphill into the wind, which fortunately I didn’t have to do too often.
When thinking about going to watch the football club as part of my journey, I couldn’t believe that Shelley still played on that sloping pitch but that is what I had in my mind. The reality is that where they do actually play is quite mind blowing. I’d seen Shelley play earlier in the season at Nelson, one of the reasons for going to Nelson that weekend was because of my cricketing connections. This Shelley fixture against Garstang was another game with my fast becoming best pal, certainly my regular footballing companion, Paul who I picked up at Huddersfield Railway Station. Two nice pubs at the Railway Station, although goodness knows what they are like at this moment in time as they emerge from lockdown. The Head of Steam is more well-known but the better of the two is the Kings Head, resplendent with a pub sign featuring an image of Jimmy Hendrix, as you turn left out of the station entrance.
We drove out to the ground as the sun was setting, it was in a part of Huddersfield I didn’t really know, and is based what feels like a student campus, in Storthes Hall Park. We turned out of the campus onto an unmade road, well track, would be a better description and drove through the woods for what seemed like quarter of an hour and then the lights of the football ground appeared in the distance. Quite a surreal approach to the ground. The pitch itself is surrounded by trees and set out on a plateau. It is also the home of Huddersfield Ladies Football Club and the clubhouse is modern and well set out. It was a re-arranged game and they hadn’t managed to print the programmes, so we arranged to have the artwork emailed to us and Paul has a friend who can print off batches which he kindly sorted. It’s a ground we will be visiting again at the beginning of the season, we think that it will be quite a spectacular ground in the summer sunshine. The visitors, Garstang had been held up due to an accident on the M62 but the game was still on, and I think we got kicked off around 8:30.
At least the pitch was flat, not like the sloping pitch in the village, but it was windy, with primarily a following crosswind. Garstang had the conditions in their favour in the first half but you could still see that Shelley were the stronger side. However halfway through the first period Daniel Squires caught the defenders square and slotted the ball past the ‘keeper in the twenty-fourth minute to give the visitors the lead. Garstang were rallied by the goal and put more pressure on Paul Day the Shelley ‘keeper but the Shelley defence held out and finished the half the stronger.
Shelley ran out for the second half with the wind at their back and it had started to rain. They dominated possession from the start and their pressure was rewarded when Mathew Waller scored eleven minutes after the break with Antony Brown slotting home a second on sixty-six minutes. Garstang fought back and Hothersall and Squires both hit the woodwork. As the game wore on, Shelley laid siege to the Garstang goal but couldn’t put the ball in the back of net, the closest they came was hitting the woodwork. Garstang were valiant losers and played well on the counter on a few occasions, but Shelley, the better team won, and probably should have scored more.
Tuesday 04 February 2020
North West Counties First Division North
Shelley 2 (Waller 56’, Brown 66’) Garstang 1 (Squires 24’)
Venue: The Stafflex Arena
Shelley: Day, Pownall, Leech, Greenwood (Daffern 69’), Alderton, Waller, Dyson, Keane, O’Keefe (Magida 78’), Billington (Brown 45’), Awty
Unused Substitutes: Bradshaw, Tinker.
Garstang: Kitchen, Hanslip, Richards, Rossall, Basterfield, Joyce, Maddox, Squires, A. Coar, Murphy (Hothersall 68’), Salisbury
Unused substitutes: Dickson, Hartley.