Destination: The Rigid Group Stadium (aka Flaxley Road Ground), Richard Street, Selby, North Yorks
Competition: Northern Counties East League, Premier Division
Weather: Mild and sunny
Programme: £2 (32 pages / 9 of ad’s) Nice and colourful, with quite a bit of original content in terms of match reports / photos, etc. But given that it’s more expensive than most (all?) prog’s in this league, I would’ve rather had something interesting to read relating to the home club than a slightly puzzling full-page Carlos Tevez profile (unless he’s about to sign for Selby?), and it also uses a Scarborough profile which ends a year ago and so predates Rudy Funk being installed as manager. Decent effort overall though, including bits and bobs on Selby’s Reserves and the various divisions of the York League.
Directions: The ground is a little under a mile from the adjoining bus and rail stations and easy to find – with local landmark Selby Abbey directly in front of you, sling a left down the main street until you get to Scott Road, which is a right turn off the main street. Then a couple of hundred yards down Scott Road, turn left down Richard Street. The ground is directly at the end of here. The ground seems to be totally unsignposted – probably because Richard Street is a small residential street and a dead end. If you’re travelling by car, then instead of turning down Richard Street take the left turn just before it, which leads you to a small car park just by the ground.
Pre-Match Build Up: This time last year I think the big freeze was just setting in – as by the first week in December, I was able to photograph Frickley Athletic’s ground buried under four feet of snow in sub-zero temperatures. Today, I walked through the gates at Flaxley Road for the NCEL Premier Division’s big local(-ish) clash of the day, to be greeted by Selby Town’s very own in-house masterchef happily frying burgers to welcome happy punters into the glorious Norf Yorkshire sunshine. Half the home fans arrived by bike, and there was a bloke sat behind one goal on a deckchair wearing just his underpants (don’t worry, he was soon carted off to get changed into his referee’s outfit). I think the effects on global warming of all that hairspray used in the 1980s must finally be starting to kick in. Meanwhile, things were really hotting up in the race for the Baris NCEL title too, with today’s visitors from the Athletic of Scarborough looking as good a bet as any at this stage of the season for that crown. But Selby, despite currently being at the opposite end of the league table, looked set to provide a stern test today. Having had a recent turn around of form following a change of manager to Dave Heard and the subsequent arrival of some new players, then holding current table-toppers Bridlington Town to a 2-2 draw in their last home game, a sizzling contest was on the cards.
Off The Pitch: Formed in 1919, before moving to their current Flaxley Road home in the 1950s, Selby Town played around half a mile away at Portholme Road, on what is known locally as ‘The Bowling Green’. Still in use as a football pitch today, like any self-respecting football traveller I made my way up to the current ground via the former one, where today there were two teams warming up for a 2pm kick-off in what could well have been a York & District League match (without checking, I think at least one club from that league is still using it as their ‘home’ pitch). Then onto Flaxley Road, or as it is now known due to sponsorship, the ‘Rigid Group Stadium’. Having been purpose-built for the club, its layout features open terracing along each side of the pitch. On the dugout side, this is just a minimum narrow area of flat hard-standing, while on the ‘clubhouse side’, there is a more developed banked, stepped area – complete with some well popularised bicycle parking space! At the ends of the ground, one goal has a small amount of covered terracing directly behind it, while the opposite end is completely covered all the way along, with around two thirds given over to wooden bench seating, and the final third housing another covered standing area. Straddling the halfway line at one side is the clubhouse, which has a bar, snack bar, entertainment area, and a small programme shop within it. It was absolutely heaving today, with the usual large compliment of travelling Scarborough fans eating and drinking merrily while Leeds annihilated Burnley by two goals to one on the TV screen behind them. I was pretty starving too after the journey, so gabbed a tray of chips from the tea hatch for £1.30 which did the job nicely. The programme shop seemed to have been temporarily turned into a programme table, due to the slinging of this year’s Xmas tree and packed up boxes of decorations into it instead. So as it was a bit sardines in this area, I quickly handed over £3.50 for one of Selby’s new-design pin badges, and then headed back out into the open air to take a few pictures of the ground before kick-off. Voila:-
On The Pitch: Scarborough have had a slight blip just lately – or should I say a slight Blott, as losing their leading goalscorer Ryan Blott through suspension has coincided with them taking just one point from their last two league games. Mind you, their opponents in these games have been Staveley and Retford, so two tough games even with a full strength team, and nothing to worry about unduly in itself. More worrying I think for Scarborough would be the way they started this match, which was far too sluggish and hestitant, and within five minutes Selby had cut through their defence with one of their gaffer’s sons, Craig Heard, slotting home a right-wing cross for a relatively easy opener. Possession was fairly even after this, though Scarborough really couldn’t seem to string any significant passing movements together, and Selby looked the more competent of the two sides. With plenty of quality players (including recent new/re-signing Dean Windass up front), it was inevitable that the visitors would get a few chances though, and just before the half hour mark Curtis Bernard bagged an equaliser for them. Not to be deterred, Selby didn’t let this set-back bother them, and two minutes before the interval were back in front with early tactical substitute Fran Pariente hitting a close-range shot across Boro keeper Kevin Martin, who got a hand to the ball but was unable to keep it out of the net.
The second half began pretty much as the first half had ended, with Selby good value for their lead. If Scarborough were a bike, then they were one with a wonky wheel, and a chain which kept slipping off the cogs far too often. To borrow a few of Ron Manager’s words of wisdom which are appropriate here, if one of the keys to a successful side is the ability to win when you’re not playing well, then Scarborough personified this today. For 60 minutes, they looked frequently out of sorts, but had managed to stay in the game. The last half hour though saw things gradually fall into place – Bernard scored his second goal of the game with an excellent spin-and-shoot, then Windass headed home from a corner to put Boro into the lead – and once behind, Selby seemed to run out of steam and stopped putting pressure on the visitors, which had been a telling factor up till then. In the final ten minutes of the game, Boro sub Bill Law hit a fine left foot shot from the edge of the area which rocketed past the helpless Selby keeper, and then Curtis Bernard topped off a fine individual performance by bagging his hat-trick. So Scarborough had ultimately come from behind to see off a spirited Selby side, which had been the better team for two-thirds of the match, and look a much better side than their league position suggests. On this evidence, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Selby put a few good results together in the second half of the season, while Scarborough need to up their consistency if they are to fulfill their potential this campaign. Meanwhile, another Scarborough demolition took place this week, with the somewhat sadder news that while Athletic are forced to groundshare in Bridlington until the local Pie In The Sky Stadium comes to fruition, the old Seamer Road ‘McCain’ ground of the former Scarborough FC is finally no more: http://www.scarborougheveningnews.co.uk/news/local/final_whistle_at_the_mccain_1_3992299
P.S. Some medium-definition video highlights from today’s game can be found on YouTube at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5ZzaG3orWA (if you want to skip to the goals, the first one is on 2 minutes, then the 3rd onwards from 7 minutes… I think the filmer was maybe having a jimmy riddle during the 2nd goal? Makes a change from me usually being the one that misses a netbuster going in.)