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The Main Event: It begins with art deco and ends with The Kinks. First though, a more sombre air surrounded today’s game for those behind the scenes at the home club, as this week had seen the sad passing of one of its most dedicated Committee members in recent times. Roger Horsfall had spent 15 years as a do-everything volunteer at the club, including a stint as treasurer. Although I didn’t know him personally, as non-league football relies on this type of person to constantly keep it going, I can imagine his role at the club, as well offer my condolences for the loss on a peronal level. The following weekend would see the club stage a special charity game, both in Roger’s memory and in aid of Cancer Research, making an appropriate and fitting send off.
Destination: The Welfare Ground, Crofton Community Centre, Middle Lane, New Crofton, Wakefield, West Yorks, Wf4 1LB.
Competition: Northern Counties East League, Premier Division
Weather: Chilly and overcast
Programme: £1 (28 pages / 3 of ad’s) also available, some nice enamel pin badges @ £3.50
Directions: The nearest major rail+bus stations to the ground are in Wakefield, which is around four miles away. From Wakey, the 194/5/6 bus runs frequently to the ground (alight at the Slipper pub in New Crofton, and take the left turn down Middle Lane just in front of it). Follow Middle Lane to the end and you arrive at Crofton Community Centre, with some outdoor sports pitches to the right and the Miners Welfare football ground on the left. Apart from The Slipper, beer-slurping types will also be interested in the Lord Of The Manor pub (with real ale and an open fire) which can be found a couple of hundred yards before it on the Wakefield side of New Crofton.
Off The Pitch: Dating from before 1900, Nostell Colliery was situated midway between the two villages of Nostell and Crofton, with the area that became known as ‘New Crofton’ being the one chosen for building the pit workers’ houses in, once coal mining increased in the early 20th Century. The first football club representing the pit that I’ve come across seemed to go under the name of ‘Nostell Employees’, and took part in local league football before the First World War. The direct lineage to the current Nostell Miners Welfare club goes back to the 1920s though, when the newly-formed Miners Welfare Acossciation purchased some land for it, including the section where the current ground is situated, and the new Nostell Miners Welfare FC began. The club remained in local league football though (variously the Wakefield & District and West Yorkshire Leagues), until making the step up to the Northern Counties East League in 2006.
The Welfare Ground is a nice multi-purpose set-up, with the main football enclosure sharing the overall complex with Crofton Community Centre and a few outside pitches. Within the Community Centre are various function rooms, including a social club which has a bar, seating area, and is also blessed with a full-size snooker table (free to use, by the looks of it). Elsewhere there are a series of wall displays detailing the history of mining in the area, so if you’ve never been before it’s worth getting down there early and having a shufty of these.
A rainbow appears over the outside pitch as Nostell MW Thirds take on Wrenthorpe
Nostell MW have a variety of teams in operation, and today the Third team were taking on Wrenthorpe in the Wakefield & District League’s Second Division. With a 2pm kick-off, I started with a pint in the clubhouse (no hand-pulled beer though sadly at the moment, just keg stuff) and a scan of their Sky TV screens, which were showing the dinner time Premier League match between Stoke and Blackburn. Despite having without doubt the best-named player on the pitch in DIY-favourite Mr.Formica, Blackburn were heading for another defeat (Formica seemed to be having problems coping with the surface). A more attractive proposition though was to have a gander at the first half of Nostell Thirds’ game with Wrenthorpe. This was a much closer affair, but after a goalless first half hour, Nostell were awarded a penalty and took a one-nil lead into the break (eventually winning 3-0 and leaving the visitors still without a point so far this season). Down at the main pitch, Retford had brought a decent amount of travelling fans with them, and helped register Nostell’s biggest attendance of the season thus far. Since entering the NCEL, the main off-field developments at the Welfare Ground have been the enclosing of the pitch with a high wall on three sides, and the development of the spectator accommodation at the top of the banking which makes up the fourth side of the pitch. Split between seating and standing (and pictured below), this area provides a good elevated view of the play, as well as some overhead protection from the elements.
On The Pitch: Retford came into this game as one of the frontrunners in the NCEL Premier Division this season, though having suffered their first league defeat in nine games last time out, at Thackley. Nostell meanwhile have had a mixed season up till now, sitting just below mid-table, but seem always likely to give the top sides a good game.
Nostell made an impressive start today, forcing a right-wing corner in the fifth minute, from which Josh Hope lept like something which jumps and heads a football well (surely it can’t be a salmon though, can it?), and before any of the Retford backline could react, the ball was already bursting the net. This was never going to be the type of game where a one-nil lead could easily be held on to though, and with Retford playing a hugely effective two-touch style of play in midfield, Nostell spent much of the next half hour on the back foot. Retford forced an equaliser on 22 minutes through Warren Hatfield, then managed to forge into a 3-1 lead before the break, courtesy of Hatfield’s second and another from Chris Baugh.
During the half-time interval, everyone piled into the club house to get warm, watch the skyprinter half-time scores on TV, and also to marvel at Nostell’s very hi-tech half-time draw process – no, not a long-standing committee member in a flat cap, but instead a computerised machine which whizzes through the digits before deciding on what I think was a six-figure number as the winner. Naturally, it was a bloke in a flat cap that won it though.
Back on the football field, the second half was pretty even, but it was Retford who got the all-important next goal, Adam Scott the scorer from a free-kick on the hour mark. Although all-but-beaten, Nostell closed the game by putting together some neat passing moves of their own, and getting a goal back from a James Eyles penalty on 83 minutes. Marauding skipper David Watts would’ve caused the Retford fans to have an anxious end to the game, had his third goal for Nostell not also been effectively the last kick of the game. As soon as Retford restarted play, the final whistle blew. It’s not often you hear away fans singing the name of an opposition player, but on the way out the Retford fans all seemed to be humming “Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa – David Watts” in acknowledgement of Nostell’s totally modtastically named captain. Bet he’s never heard that one before, eh lads?! I, of course, tut-tutted at their un-originality, whilst going off to gaze at the Crofton sunset till the end of the day with an apeman from the village green preservation society. Another good advertisement for the NCEL had been witnessed today though, with a cracking contest in a nice setting. The referee must have been decent an’ all, as I can’t remember him doing anything wrong. God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety (aka Wigan’s current midfield).