Sunday, 30 August 2009

Sheffield FC v Flixton Preliminary Round Saturday 29th August 2009

For my next game I picked a visit to a club that were firmly on my wish-list when I decided to embark on this football journey, Sheffield FC. They are famous for being the world's oldest football club, founded in 1857, three years ahead of their local rivals Hallam. They currently play in Division One South of the Unibond League, a couple of divisions higher than last fortnight's winners Penrith. The home team had a bye to this stage of the cup, their opponents Flixton had triumphed with an eye-catching 6-4 replay win at Winsford United and hail from the Premier Division of the North West Counties Football League which is effectively just one level below their hosts.

Doing my advance research, I discovered that Sheffield actually play in Dronfield which is 8 miles south of the Steel City with a handy direct rail connection. Arriving in Sheffield, I had about 45 minutes to spare before my connection which hopefully would give me time to put on my football coupon and enjoy a quick pint in The Howard, a favoured watering hole from previous visits to the city. Leaving the station, Sheaf Square which was completed in 2006 gives an excellent first impression of the city with its huge steel water feature. In the background, Park Hill pays homage to less happier times.

Unfortunately South Yorkshire Police have lost none of their legendary charm, a request for directions the nearest bookies was met with a surly "I'm from Leeds" in reply. If you find yourself being beaten to death in Ladbrookes on a match day, don't expect a speedy response.
A later advertising sign at the match had me wondering if they had branched out with their own business concern.

By the time I had finally located a betting shop and completed the coupon, at the third attempt due to lack of practice, time was short so the idea of a drink in Sheffield was abandoned and it was straight on to Dronfield.

Dronfield, at least the part I saw, turned out to be a fine looking town with the stone houses looking resplendent in the afternoon sun.

A brisk 15 minute walk took me up Sheffield Road to The Bright Finance Stadium and the convenient Coach and Horses pub right outside, time for that pint at last. It would have been churlish to ignore the real ales on offer, so a pint of Jaipur was secured and I can heartily recommend it.

Suitably refreshed, I entered the ground and was impressed with what I saw. The club bought the ground, along with the pub, in 2001 and it is the first time in their history they have owned their own ground and they have made a good job of modernising whilst retaining some character. Having obtained a programme, club badge and the day's team sheet I gave the ground the once over.

The teams took to the field from a an expandable tunnel which is in keeping with football at a higher level, in sharp contrast to the retro scoreboard in the far corner.

With the game underway, Sheffield immediately took the initiative and after a break down the flank, forced the first corner of the game.

From the corner, Will Senior rose smartly to nod home and Sheffield were 1-0 up after just 2 minutes.

For the remainder of the half, Sheffield dominated the possession working the ball to their wide men and Flixton managed to valiantly resist the barrage of crosses into the box as the home side looked for a second goal.

The halftime whistle came with the score still at 1-0. I obtained some excellent pie, peas & gravy and took a seat behind the goal to enjoy my snack. This turned out not to be the wisest idea as the substitutes were using the same goal for target practice and a wayward shot rebounded off the back of the stand straight onto the back of my head. Thankfully the pie was not dropped and the fellow was good enough to come over afterwards and ask if I was OK.

It didn't take long for the hosts to double their advantage. On the 56th minute a penalty was given for a head-high challenge in the Flixton penalty area, I personally would felt an indirect free-kick would have been appropriate and Jordan Eagars confidently slotted home the spot-kick.

Five minutes later substitute Leon Wainman was unfortunate to see his header come back off the underside of the bar from close range following a wide free-kick, quite possibly his first touch of the game.

Flixton survived another scare, soon after, with James Jowesey in goal saving from point blank range during a goalmouth scramble.

The pressure finally told on Flixton when Danny McDonnell received his marching orders for a second yellow card. The subsequent free kick from out wide was whipped in low and Greg Wright cannily skipped in front of the keeper to poke home from close range.

The fourth goal was not far behind, from a corner after Wainman was denied by a superb diving save from the under-siege Jowsey. The subsequent corner was volleyed against the post and kindly fell to Greg Wright for his second again from close range.

Shortly after, Wainman completed a hat-trick of tough luck hitting the outside of the post having broken clear and beaten the keeper.
At this point, Flixton sadly lost their discipline completely and a serious of petulant challenges led to a rash of yellow cards, culminating in Luke Scarry and Stephen Boardman also receiving their marching orders just before the final whistle.

It was a thoroughly deserved win and one which rewards Sheffield with a home time against FC United of Manchester in the next round, the oldest club against one of the newest and I would expect a capacity crowd for that one.

There was time for a couple more pints after the match and it was nice to see the home players enjoying a few beers there too.

Now its time for me to wade through the Sunday papers and work out who is playing who in the next round for my next trip in a fortnights time.

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