Match Details: Gainsborough Trinity 2 – Frickley Athletic 0 (FA Cup QR3)
Destination: The Northolme, Gainsborough, Lincs.
Competition: FA Cup, Third Qualifying Round
Admission: £10 (+£1 extra to sample the seats)
Programme: £2.50 (40 pages / 20 of ad’s – very disappointing effort for the price IMO!)
Weather: Fine, with a blazing sun + clear skies
Off The Pitch: Formed way back in 1873 by the vicar at Gainborough Trinity Church, Gainsborough Trinity FC had an early spell in the Midland League (which was effectively Step 1 of non-league at the time), before being accepted into the Football League Division Two just before the turn of the Century. The club has always played at its Northolme location, so this is an ‘ex-league ground’, albeit one which last saw league football 99 years ago. For in 1912, the club was voted out of the league after going through a bad patch on the pitch. Since then, they have remained at non-league level, with the last decade or so seeing a slight upturn as the club moved from the Northern Premier League to the newly-formed Conference North. Besides never having experienced relegation (bar being voted out of the FL), another midly-interesting historical fact is that Trinity were the first club ever to play ‘Manchester United’ in a competetive fixture (following the renaming of the latter from Newton Heath). After struggling a bit in 2010-11, this season has been a good one thus far for Trinity, who currently sit in fourth spot in the league. The previous round of the FA Cup saw them dispatch AFC Fylde following a replay, whereas today’s opponents, Frickley Athletic, arrived on the back of an away replay victory at Conference North club Harrogate Town (itself marking Frickley’s first FA Cup defeat of a team from a higher division than them since their 1980s heyday).
The Northolme is a very tidy looking ground with all four sides of it developed. Its ‘centrepiece’ is ‘The Ping Stand’, which contains the club offices and changing facilities underneath it, and up top houses 500 seats. I had a wander up for a quick inspection of it just before kick-off. It contains a nice elevated view of proceedings, and also seems pretty protected from the elements with a completely encosed roof and some clear side panelling at the back (take note, Garforth!). The club charges an extra quid on top of general admission to use it, so obviously being a tight Yorkshireman I made sure I left well before kick-off (actually, the main reason was that it was directly opposite the sun so not really ideal conditions for using it today).
The rest of this side of the ground contains terracing (pictured above), then on the other side there is a nice large wadge of covered terracing (pictured below). Behind the goals there is stepped terracing at each end, with one lot being roofed over, and the other end completely open. So overall this makes a really good mixture of accommodation for spectators to choose from. There is also a club shop, tea bar, and a supporters club/bar just outside the turnstiles. Can’t really fault any of the layout of this ground at all – even the pitch looked in really good condition – so definitely a nice place to go to as a neutral or an away fan.
On The Pitch: For the first 45 minutes, there was very little to choose between the two sides. Gainsborough had the slight edge on possession and moved the ball around impressively, but a combination of fluffing a couple of decent chances and good saves by Frickley keeper Adam Billard kept them at bay. At the other end, Frickley had less chances than the home side, but still managed to hit the side netting twice and have one shot go very close over the bar. In the second half, it just seemed that the higher fitness/stamina levels of the home side proved decisive. This meant that they had more chances to score than Frickley, who in turn were finding it increasingly difficult to get out of their own half via anything apart from long balls. The opening goal came just before the hour mark, when following a cross from the right wing, a looped header from Darren Stamp dropped just inside the far post and beyond the reach of Billard. A decisive second goal then followed ten minutes later – from where I was stood down the other end of the ground it looked like an own goal, but other reports suggest a Gainsborough player (Ryan Kendall) got the last touch following a central defensive mix-up. Sadly after this, Frickley were unable to create any real clear cut chances, and the home side held out for a 2-0 victory on the day. Gainsborough go into the hat for the final qualifying round and hopes of making the First Round Proper, while Frickley can be proud of a decent little cup run this year, which eventually ran out of steam after facing three games in a row against higher opposition.