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Match Details: Worksop Town 2 – Frickley Athletic 1 (NPL Prem)
Destination: ‘The Windsor Foodservice Stadium’, Sandy Lane, Worksop, Notts, S80 1TJ
Competition: Evo-Stik (aka Northern Premier) League,Premier Division
Weather: Mild but breezy
Directions: Due to the lack of public transport on Boxing Day, I went down by car to this one, so can’t give you any real directions other than to say the ground is near the centre of town, and though there is only a small car park at the ground, there are several nearby side streets where you can sling your match-hunting vehicle.
Pre-Match Build Up: When the fixtures were announced back in the summer, Worksop v Frickley on Boxing Day was one that I’d earmarked for attending – though given the previous two winters, I wasn’t holding out much hope of it actually taking place. Much surprise then that temperatures this week were upwards of 10 degrees, and aside from it being a tad windy, about as good a dose of ‘scorchio’ weather as you could hope for in late December.
Off The Pitch: This was my first visit to Sandy Lane, a ground which was built from new on a former quarry site in the early 1990s, and was then home to Worksop Town until their much reported dispute with the ground’s owners in 2008, forcing them to spend the next three seasons groundsharing respectively at Hucknall, Ilkeston and Retford. Then during the close season of 2011, the ground was bought by Windsor Foodservices Chairman, Peter Whitehead, who as well as relocating his own NCEL Division One side, Sheffield Parramore, to Worksop, invited Worksop Town to move back and groundshare at their old home – an offer which they readily accepted. So we now arrive at the situation as it is today, with Town effectively tenants at what was once their own stadium, and any hapless football addicts in Worksop able to see twice as many games of football should they so wish! Since the move back, Town have been getting fairly healthily-sized crowds – not quite at the level as when they were resident here in the 1990s, but certainly a lot higher than last season when sharing at Retford.
The close season also saw a few improvements made to the ground, to bring it back up to Step 3 standard following its three years of inactivity at that level (most notably, the concrete pitch perimeter wall had been demolished so needed replacing). Most of the layout remains as it was beforehand though, and overall Sandy Lane presents a very well-maintained and accommodating set-up. Upon entering through the turnstiles, you’re immediately next to the clubhouse. Also at this end of the ground is a separate tea-serving hatch, and the club shop-in-a-portacabin. The latter has an impressive selection of merchandise, including scarves, hats, badges, replica kit, and a selection of boxes of old football programmes.
The pitchside layout sees some form of covered accommodation present at all four sides of the ground: At the near end there is a small covered terrace (as pictured directly below), while the opposite goal has a seated stand behind it with room for around 200 people. Along one side of the pitch nearest the dressing rooms, there is a ‘main’ stand (which you can also see part of to the right of the picture below), which I would guess can accommodate around 250 people. Then on the opposite, dugout side, there are two small seated stands, each holding around 50 seats, and between them some stepped terracing as well. The main stand (second pic below) is also of a slightly unusual appearance, having a raised roof which was done in order to fit in some executive/press boxes at each end of it. The somewhat haphazard and makeshift nature of the ground helps give it character, containing an appealing mix of new and older-looking elements. It is a ground which feels more lived-in than its 20-year-history would otherwise suggest, and is well worth a visit.
Also worth a mention is that the club’s concessionary admission rates currently include half-price entry for the unemployed – always a nice gesture to see in the current climate. Infact the only off-the-pitch aspect which I found slightly disappointing was – as is often the case at this level of football – the match programme, which as such I always feel is an opportunity missed to connect with readers and give a feel of what makes the home club tick. Today’s offering from Worksop though, had just two pages of any narrative regarding current happenings in Tigerland, and no player or backroom staff coverage or input. Aside from this, the club seems to have settled fairly comfortably back to life at Sandy Lane, which has been reported as a three-year arrangement initially.
On The Pitch: Today witnessed a generally entertaining and competitive/end-to-end game, though as it wore on, an increasing lack of consistency or authority by the referee threatened to allow player (and spectator!) handbags to break out instead. The first half had seen both sides with a few chances each. Frickley had two well-positioned free-kicks that were ineffectively wasted by James Ashmore, while Worksop always looked pacy going forwards and had brought out a couple of fine saves from Stephen Dickinson in the opposition goal. Then on the stroke of half-time, another free-kick on the edge of the box for Frickley saw Asmore get it absolutely bang on with his third attempt, curling an exquisite shot round the wall and past Jon Worsnop in the home goal, to give the away side a 1-0 lead at the break.
Worksop then came bounding out of the traps from the word go following the change of ends, urged on by a home support who made plenty of noise and contributed admirably to the highly charged atmosphere. It took them less than 10 minutes to draw level, with a break down the right-wing seeing Owain Warlow connect perfectly with a cross and finish the move off from close range. The next 15 minutes saw nether team manage to get the upper hand. Then with 20 minutes remaining, Frickley defender Mark Gray received a second booking and with it his marching orders. Away manager Peter Rinkcavage immediately sacrificed one of his two front men to bring on a replacement body in defence, and from here on in, it was very much a case of could Frickley hold out for a draw.
This looked to be the outcome as play moved into stoppage time. Then Frickley managed to fashion a break upfield themselves. In an attempt to maybe pull off an unlikely win themselves however, they were caught in possession deep in the Worksop half, and this lead to a swift breakaway by the home side. In the end a bit of (mis) fortune proved decisive, as Stuart Ludlam had the chance to guide the ball back to keeper Dickinson, but his header fell short and Gary King nipped in and prodded the ball home to the delight of the home fans. On balance, a draw would have been a fair result, so Frickley can take credit from managing to hold out right up to the death. And in turn, Worksop should be applauded for their persistance right to the end, which ultimately bagged them all three precious points today.