FA Cup Fever: Just 13 Wins Away From The Final!
Match Details: Thackley 2 – Askern Villa 1 (FA Cup EP Round)
Pre-Match Build Up: Hot on the heels of the excitment that comes with the opening day of the season, is the second biggest day in the footballing calendar – the start of the FA Cup. This year saw the FA Cup get officially underway on Saturday 20th August, although a handful of games were moved to the night before (inlcuding the big ‘streamed live on facebook’ Ascot United v Wembley clash). Of the local games on the Saturday, I decided to pick one of the teams who were making their first ever appearance in the competition – namely Askern Villa, who were making the 30-mile trip from their home just north of Doncaster, to the outskirts of Bradford in order to face Thackley FC.
Thackley is one of many picturesque villages in the surrounding Bradford/Aire Valley countryside, with Thackley FC being set up in 1930 by members of the Thackley Wesleyan Methodist Church, which sits just at the end of Ainsbury Avenue and is pictured above.
Just across the road from the church is Thackley Cricket Club, where there was a match in progress this afternoon and a fair crowd gathered outside the pavillion.
And to maximise the rural effect even more, next door to Thackley FC’s ground is a community farm (though don’t be fooled into thinking the two folk on horseback in the picture below were anything to do with this – horses still remain the preferred mode of transport for many thrifty Bradfordians!).
Directions: So as mentioned above, Thackley is a good ground to visit to for those groundhoppers who like to travel by horse. However, there is also a regular bus service available from either Leeds, Bradford or Shipley, for those of you who like to be all modern instead. The service 760 runs every half hour and will drop you on Leeds Road, next to the intersection with Thackley Road. From here the ground is around 5 minutes walk, passing the Methodist Church on your right and the cricket club on your left. The bus also conveniently stops right by the Great Northern Hotel, which serves hand-pulled Tetley’s ale and shows Sky Sports. A couple of minutes further down the road is another hostelry, named The Shoulder Of Mutton, which was advertising Tetley’s plus two guest beers. However, I didn’t fancy the extra walk, so settled for a fine pint of the Great Northern’s best bitter and a dismayed look at how Arsenal weren’t coping with the new-look Liverpool side on t’telly. I then headed down to Dennyfield shortly after 2pm, happily following the horse trail. Well, at least until I was reminded why you always have to look where you’re walking when following a horse trail, and how it’s usually best to stick to the pavement instead. Anyone coming here by car should note that there is ample parking in the club car park (but that you might have to hose down your tyre tread after visiting).
Destination: Dennyfield, Ainsbury Avenue, Thackley, Bradford, West Yorks, BD10 0TL.
Competition: FA Cup, Extra Preliminary Round
Kick Off: 3pm
Programme: £1 (a commendable effort – obviously a lot of work had gone into making it contain more than just the minimum requirement)
Other purchases: Tea 70p
Weather: Calm and mostly sunny, with just a short spell of light rain later on in the second half
Off The Pitch: Thackley FC boast one of the nicest grounds in the region at this level. A couple of its older structures could benefit from a bit of sprucing up, but any drawbacks are well outweighed by the presence of a decent seated stand, and several areas of stepped terracing rather than just the more usual narrow, single level hard standing. On entering the ground, the first thing you come to is the tea hut (always a good start, design wise!). Next to this is a small covered standing area (first pic below), with a slightly raised step at the back.
Then beyond this (as seen in the next pic) is the seated stand, which sits roughly across the halfway line. This offers a good amount of leg room, and also has some additional space at the back for standing.
Down the far end, behind the goal is one of three similar areas of terracing, containing three concrete steps. The other two are located along the other side of the ground, behind the dugouts. So it’s a well-equipped ground then, with the only real missing feature being some cover over the terracing areas. It did start bucketing it down at one point during the second half today, which prompted a quick dash for the covered side from those of us who had chosen to bask in the ‘sunshine’ up till that point.
On The Pitch: As mentioned earlier, this was Askern’s first ever game in the FA Cup, and just before the game got underway the Askern team posed for a group photo in the centre circle to mark this occasion. Then after that, it was time for the usual handshakes and the game got underway. With Thackley currently top of the NCEL’s Premier Division, and Askern a step below this in the NCEL’s First Division, the gap between the two sides was ceratinly noticeable – for most of the first 45 minutes, Askern just couldn’t get out of their own half. All the action was down the end Thackley were attacking, but for all their endevours, the home side had not managed to fashion out more than a couple of half chances, the best of these falling to Dean Walters, but his shot when clean through sailed agonisingly over the bar. Just when it looked like Askern would manage to hold out till half-time though, the breakthrough finally came on 44 minutes, Nicky Matthews finding himself in some space just inside the box and finishing well when one-on-one with the Askern keeper.
During the half-time break, the club seemed quite happy to allow a few extras from the social club to transfer to the ground and watch the second half for nowt. Indeed, the club is obviously mindful of attracting as much support as it can, and has recently made the very generous offer of free entrance to all league games of anyone who holds a season ticket for any Football League club. My approximate headcounts came out at 63 for the first half and 75 during the second, with an official attendance of 56 being recorded (Bradford City were at home today, which will presumably have affected the number here).
As the game got underway again for ‘Act Two’, it was very much more-of-the-same to begin with. Though Askern did have a bit more of the play, it was Thackley who looked the more likley to score. Five minutes into the half, the home side got a free kick in a decent position just outside the box and slightly left of centre. Though Askern had plenty of time to set up a wall, Thackley’s number 9 Dean Walters planted a peach of a shot direct from the kick, over the keeper and just inside the top corner of the net. You could argue that the goalkeeper was slightly culpable, having been beaten over his head from that distance. So when Thackley got a second free-kick in a very similar position just after this, you’d have thought he’d stay on his line this time. Cue that man Walters again, with an almost copy book effort, which again sailed over the keepers clutches but this time came back off the crossbar. It really could have been all over by now, but aided by a couple of substitutes, Askern kept at it and gradually came back into the game. Eventually they got some reward thanks to a nice break and one-on-one finish from Jay Rollins in the dying embers of the game. However, it was all too little too late, and any hopes of an equaliser for the away side were dashed when the referee blew for time almost immediately following the restart.
So Thackley keep their hopes of Playing at Wembley alive – and no matter that a trip to play Wembley FC in November is more likely than a visit to the twin towers in May, the dream is one step nearer. Just 12 more wins will do it.