Take That! Ponty Undone By Latest Gary Barlow Hit
So the first weekend in March arrives, and it looks like the postponement weather is finally over! This season has been especially bad, stretching from early December right through to late February. As a result, I’m now left with more grounds I was intending to visit this season than there are games left, so sacrifices will have to be made. Today, I was initially wanting to go to Frickley, as it’s been a while since I saw a Saturday home game there. However, all being well I’ve got two Frickley games lined up for next week. So instead, I took what looks like being my only chance to get to a Ponty Colls home game this season. The fact that it was against Barton Town, with both teams still having plenty to play for, tipped the scales in favour of what I hoped should be an interesting and hard-fought game.
Destination: Skinner Lane, Pontefract, West Yorks, WF8 4QE.
Competition: Northern Counties East League, Division One
Attendance: 61 (with a small number – 15 or so maybe? – from Barton)
Admission: £4.00 (General admission)
Programme: £1.00 (excellent value – 40 pages with only 5 of ad’s!)
Weather: Cold with added mud
Directions: Pontefract Collieries’ ground is situated opposite the racecourse. It is around five minutes walk from the bus station, and right next to Tanshelf rail station. If driving, then note that although its address is Skinner Lane, you actually approach the stadium via Beechnut Lane. Skinner Lane itself is at the rear side of the ground and has no direct route of access.
Off The Pitch: Last week, the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. This week, Skinner Lane, home of Pontefract Collieries. If glamtastic Tiger Feet singer Les Grey were still alive, Skinner Lane would no doubt be his favourite venue – as where non-league football is concerned, at this time of year it is the undisputed home of mud. So don’t wear your best shoes when visiting, and you’ll be fine. Whereas the Liberty Stadium may be a bit more mod-conned, it doesn’t have the great variety of backdrops behind each side of the ground that this place does. And having set off at silly-o’clock last week for a 7-hour journey and a midday kick-off, it was nice this week to leave the house at 2pm and be back home by 5.30. This match saw Pontefract Collieries in 5th place, take on Barton Town in 10th, with five points separating the two teams but Barton having two games in hand, and with both sides still in with a slim chance of promotion.The fully-enclosed football ground has an old brick-built Main Stand, with a clubhouse and changing facilities underneath it. The stand used to bear the legend ‘Pontefract AFC’ across the top, and have wooden bench-style seating, Now, the majority have been replaced with plastic tip-up seats, and more modern Pontefract Collieries signage introduced instead. A later extension to this stand contains a further six rows of tip-up seats. There is also wooden covered standing accommodation for 100 people behind one goal. The other two sides of the ground are currently without cover – a similar cover behind the opposite goal having blown down around ten years ago, and subsequently done away with altogether for safety reasons.
On The Pitch: Unfortunately, though the contest reflected the tightness between the two teams in the league table, it was sadly without much of the quality that has got them there. The game was mostly forgettable – Ponty suffered from some dreadful finishing (not helped by the pitch, which is still fairly grass-free), and there was a lot of arguing with officials and general bickering at the expense of slick football. Mind you, I’d like to see Senor Fabregas and Mister Messi try and master the Skinner Lane pitch at this time of year and not get a bit hot under the collar. The only three real clear-cut chances I can remember all came in the second half. First, the home side rattled the woodwork just past the hour mark, and when the ball was subsequently knocked within spitting distance of the line, it seemed out of desperation more than belief that they appealed for a goal from it. Then, a decent long ball over the top saw Ponty’s no.11 Jason Bentley cut in well from the left, but scuff his shot completely when faced with only the keeper to beat. And just as it looked like the game was entering the proverbial “nil-nil written all over it” stage, Barton had their own mini-period of pressure. From the second of two corners in quick succession, a knock down in the Ponty box saw Gareth Barlow gleefully slot home from close range, with only a minute of normal time remaining. Frustrating for Ponty, but ‘job done’ for the visitors. Ponty have come a long way in the past three years since finishing bottom of the division, but will no doubt be disappointed if they finish outside the top two this year, having been top of the table around Xmas. Barton meanwhile, are quietly putting a decent run together, and of the two sides on show today they currently look the most capable of making up the few points between the chasing pack and second-placed Yorkshire Amateur. Hopefully from a neutral point of view the race will go down to the wire, as once the muddy pitches are out of the way I sense an exciting finish with several games that will be well worth a look in this division.