STEELERS OVERCOME MINERS IN SHEFFIELD CUP CLASH
Of the four quarter-final ties in the Sheffield Senior Cup, this was probably the most interesting prospect from a neutral point of view. Pitting as it did, Northern Premier League side Stocksbridge Park Steels, against Sheffield County Senior League side South Kirkby Colliery, with effectively 6 steps of the National League System between the two. With Stocksbridge having won the trophy twice in the last four years, it was no real surprise that they still sent out what was basically a full-strength team, meaning that Kirkby would be up against it to continue their already impressive run in the competition this season.
Destination: Millars Walk, Stockingate, South Kirkby, Pontefract, West Yorks.
Competition: Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup, Quarter Final
Programme: None issued
Off The Pitch: Nowadays more a youth and junior-focused club, South Kirkby Colliery were one of the first football teams to form in this region. Dating back to 1885 (four years after the colliery itself was opened), in the early part of the 20th Century they were also the most successful team in the area, regularly taking part in the FA Cup and doing well in the Sheffield Association League. From the early 1930s until the early 1960s, the club then played in the Yorkshire league, where their best finish was runners-up in 1933-34. They have also won the Sheffield Senior Cup twice themselves, in 1929-30 and 1940-41. After dropping out of the Yorkshire League in the 1960s, the club faded into relative obscurity for a while. I am not certain whether the club has kept going continuously in the interim, but currently in their 125th year, as well as the first team, they also field two sides in the Doncaster Senior League (where they were champions three times in the 1990s), and various kids teams.
Their current ground at Millars Walk has been home to the club since 1929. Before this, they played within the colliery grounds, relocating when that area of land was needed by the colliery for tipping.
The ground is a typical Miners Welfare set up, with a clubhouse/social and changing facilities next to the cricket pitch, and then the football pitch over on the far side of that. The pitch is fully railed, and has floodlights (which, if memory serves, used to belong to Scarborough). It also has one covered six-stepped terrace stand, though a second, larger stand, which included changing rooms and was built back in the days when crowds of over a thousand would regularly pack into the ground, is now sadly long gone. On the face of things, there would appear to be enough space to introduce better facilities if the club ever did get the chance to progress to a higher league again in the future though.
Admission tonight was a very reasonable £3, although sadly the much-promised programme failed to materialise. Attendance was officially recorded as 68, though my own and another attendee’s independent head-count suggested the actual figure was around the 100 mark. Mind you, there were a lot of South Kirkby WAGs and kids connected to the club milling around on the night, who probably weren’t included in the official figure.
On The Pitch: A cold night on a sloping pitch with very few away fans present is probably not the easiest situation to deal with. However, Stocksbridge were pretty unconvincing still, and South Kirkby were certainly the more creative of the two sides, with just that lack of cutting edge in front of goal preventing them from causing an upset.
Having watched quite a number of NPL games this season where creativity is in short supply, it was refreshing to see a Kirkby side who weren’t afraid to take players on and implement some of that ancient art of dribbling. Kicking down the slope in the first half, most of their best chances came from free kicks and corners, which they weren’t quite able to capitalize on. At half-time, I would guess both managers were happy with how things were going, with Stocksbridge having seen off the early vigour of a home side who had the downhill advantage. Whereas Kirkby were holding their own and hadn’t conceded, but must also have had in mind that tonight was their best opportunity to win the tie.
After the break, again Kirkby did their best to either keep the ball down or find a forward in space, rather than just hit and hope. As the game wore on though, and obvious tiring legs came into the equation, they did start to find it hard to get out of their own half against a Stocksbridge side who seemed content to play the percentage one or two touch football, and hope something either dropped in their favour or they eventually found a spare man near goal. As the game approached its final quarter there was still nothing to separate the teams. When the breakthrough did eventually come, it was immediately following a long stoppage. Kirkby also made a substitution at this point, and a combination of the two seemed to cause them to lose concentration momentarily. From the restart, all of a sudden Stocksbridge found themselves a man over on the right side of the area. A simple ball was threaded through to Andy Ring, who finished coolly past the keeper into the opposite bottom corner.
Though Kirkby didn’t give up, I sensed they knew the game was all but up at this stage. The tie was put to bed somewhat fortuitously just before time, when Richard Stirrup had a virtual air shot when close in on goal, did a 360 degree spin and found the ball still at his feet, then slotted it in off the post at the second attempt. So the game ended 2-0, and though Stocksbridge were never really in too much danger of conceding, Kirbky can hold their heads up high after this performance and hopefully build on it. Their play tonight was refreshing to watch and suggests a club going in the right direction.