Match Details: Bay Athletic 2 – Otley Town 1 (WRCFA, Challenge Cup Final)
Destination: WRCFA HQ, Fleet Lane, Woodlesford, Leeds, LS26 8NX
Competition: West Riding County FA, Challenge Cup (Final)
Kick Off: 7.30pm
Admission: £4 (including free programme)
Directions: Pretty easy to locate, bar the caveat of if you’ve never been before, the actual sign on Fleet Lane which directs you to turn off for the West Riding County FA and Rothwell Juniors is actually a small one. Mind, if you miss it, you’ll work out almost immediately that you’ve gone too far and need to turn round again. For those using public transport, it’s around a mile from Woodlesford rail station, or you can get a bus from Wakefield, Castleford or Leeds, which will drop you at the Midland Hotel near the end of Fleet Lane and is then maybe half a mile’s walk away. The 446 bus takes about 25 minutes from Wakefield, or half an hour from Leeds. Alternatively, the 167/168 runs between Leeds and Castleford and goes past Woodlesford railway station, with the 168 also going as far as the Midland Hotel/Fleet Lane junction. The ground itself is then a a few hundred yards down Fleet Lane, with the turn off on the left hand side.
Off The Pitch: Fleet Lane is the location of the headquarters of the local West Riding County FA, and comprises a nicely maintained pitch and several office buildings (and a car park). Next door is the home of Rothwell Juniors FC, who have a few small pitches of their own (and probably a car park). The County FA pitch is fully post-and-railed off, with a long seated stand down one side of the pitch, and dugouts on the opposite side. It also now has hard-standing all the way round it, and is a fitting location for events such as these.
On The Pitch: Having hot-footed it from a poor last league game at Wakefield FC’s College Grove venue earlier in the day, thankfully this game was a lot better. This year’s Challenge Cup Final pitted Bay Athletic of the West Riding County Amateur League against Otley Town of the West Yorkshire League. From Huddersfield, Bay were formed in 1972 at the Bay Horse pub, and played in the Huddersfield & District League until 1995, at which point they stepped up to the WRCAL. Over the last few years, Bay have been the top dogs in that league, and are known for consistently having a very strong side. However, despite having won four WRCAL titles in the past five years, and reaching the final of the WRCFA Challenge Cup in 2004 and 2006, they had yet to win this competition. Their opponents, Otley Town, have been cup specialists this year, and their end of season run-in sees them in no less than three cup finals, of which this was the first to be played. Although the club has won the West Yorkshire League once previously, their current stint in its Premier Division has only been since 2008, following promotion as Division One champions, so they are seen more as a club on the up than an established one with the current team.
Tonight we got a very evenly-matched game, witnessed by in excess of 300 spectators, of which the majority were partisan to one team or the other and with both clubs appearing to have brought similar sized followings with them. With Bay having a slight edge in the first half, they took the lead on 31 minutes through Nick Jagger, whose header from a corner maybe took a slight deflection on its way into the Otley net. Otley came out for the second half with renewed vigour though, and had the upper hand for the opening period, during which they won a penalty for handball, and equalised through Sam Dexter’s spot kick.
After that, the game really could have gone either way, with both sides searching for a winner and going close on several occasions. In my view though, the trump card was played by the Bay manager Richard Spychalski, who brought on right-sided substitute Steven Perrin at this stage, and simultaneously got the constantly impressive Danny Naidole to switch roles and play less at left wing and more at centre-forward. With increased fluidity, Bay looked a constant threat going forward. The winning goal came 8 minutes from the end, with an overlapping Tom Brown breaking down the right wing and being fed by Perrin. Both Jagger and Naidole came in at the back of the Otley defence, but it was first man Jagger who got the decisive header once more and sealed Bay’s first ever lifting of the trophy.
In just over a week’s time, Bay take on Albion Sports in a game that will most likely decide which of the two teams the WRCA League title goes to this season. Meanwhile, Otley still have the West Yorkshire League Cup to go for in a final which will be played against Boroughbridge at Wakefield’s College Grove on 5th May, and the Wharfedale & District Cup final on May 18th at Pool FC’s ground versus Ilkley Town – the winning of either of which would be more consolation to them than the fact that they pushed Bay hard in a good game tonight I expect!