Sat 7 Jan 2012, Tadcaster Albion v Retford United (NCEL Prem)

Match Details: Tadcaster Albion 0 – 3 Retford United (NCEL Prem)
Pre-Match Build Up: Tadcaster and water are inseparable. The quality and availability of the local H2O is what lead to the town becoming a hotbed for brewing. The River Wharfe whooshes right through the centre of it. Ideal for industry, but also the reason why two days before this game the car park at Taddy Albion was flooded with water, as the river banks nearby became submerged. Thankfully though, it peaked without effecting the pitch at all, and by Saturday its levels were two metres lower and all was well again. Nevertheless, I thought I’d best ring up and check first – would I be safe wearing suede trainers today?

Destination: The Park, Ings Lane, Tadcaster, North Yorks, LS24 9AY
Competition: Northern Counties East League, Premier Division
Kick Off: 3pm
Admission: £5
Attendance: 226
Programme: £1 (enamel badges and scarves/hats also available on the turnstile)
The River Wharfe, with the football ground visible towards the top left of the picture
Directions: The unwritten football traveller’s bible sums Tadcaster up as “a right bugger to get to” by public transport, which is perhaps why it doesn’t seem to be one of the more popular destinations for casual visits by internet football reviewers. Andy Edwards’ ‘Getting To Football’ website suggests first travelling by train to York, and from there getting a Yorkshire Coastliner bus which takes 25 minutes to do the remaining 10 miles to Taddy. Approaching from the south or west though, you’ll probably find it easier to get a bus to Taddy from Leeds, which again is Yorkshire Coastliner, and takes only slightly longer at around 35 minutes journey time. Aside from its out-of-the-way-ness, buses run every half hour though, so it’s not like you have to aim for any rigid timetable of coming and going. And once you hit Tadcaster, the town is fairly compact, with the bus station being around a 5-minute walk to the footy ground (turn left into Bridge Street; go over the river bridge and then second left into New Street, left at the end of New Street (this is Ings Lane, though is unmarked) and then the ground is almost immediately on your left.
Arriving in Taddy nice and early in order to double-check first hand that the game was definitely on, the next hour was spent investigating the local area’s main tourist hotspots!…

John Smith's Brewery Tadcaster North Yorkshire

 With a John Smith’s and a Sam Smith’s brewery situated within spitting distance of each other, beer in Tadcaster is plentiful and also cheap, thanks to it being subsidised by around 50% in the local pubs. In the Angel on the high street (marginally the nearest pub to the ground), a round consisting of a pint of bitter and a pint of mild came in at under £3 total! So the fact that Taddy is ideal for supping a few pre-game ales makes it all the more of a shame that public transport is so inconvenient. The town did once come very close to getting a train link many years ago – in fact there is a railway viaduct still standing. This was built in anticipation of an alternative Leeds-York rail line following its route through Taddy, but sadly it never happened.
Also close by, is the site of Tadcaster Albion’s former ground – in their early days in the late 19th and early 20th Century, they went under the name John Smith’s (being formed by employees of the firm) and played over the road from the brewery on the same site as the cricket club. The location is still used by the town’s cricket and bowls clubs, with a football pitch still present to the left of these:
Following a slightly longer than anticipated sojourn in the alehouse (how was I to know it would be subsidised?), by the time we arrived back at the ground, the predicted (by me at least) biggest crowd of the day in the NCEL was packed into Ings Lane in anticipation for a clash between the current top two sides in the league table. Queues at the turnstiles beyond kick-off, programmes a sell-out, and nay room in t’ clubhouse to swing a badger – it was certainly a bumper afternoon for the home club (bouyed no doubt by Leeds not playing today, as several familar faces were spotted milling around supporting Tadcaster on their day off).
Off The Pitch: The set up at Taddy is basic, but does the job nicely for their current level of football. Although it maybe looks a bit ramshackle from the outside, the clubhouse is one of the nicest set-out you’ll come across. Its main feature is the large windowed front, which was added to the existing building more recently and enables a great view of the pitch from indoors. Unsurprisingly, quite a few spectators seemed to prefer to watch the game from in here rather than venture out into the cold.

The only covered accommodation comes in the form of two not-quite-matching seated stands behind one goal. These being a fairly standard one with tip-up seats, and to its right in the picture above, a pretty unusual beast with half a dozen rows of more elevated bench-style seating. This is actually a mobile stand, with wheels underneath it enabling the possibility of having it towed around (which could give a whole new meaning to the notion of ‘changing ends at half-time’). Despite – or possibly because of – its unusual nature, I rather liked this contraption except for one thing – the seats all have some padded material on them, which is a nice touch if its dry. Sadly today, with the recent downpoorage, they resembled sitting on a damp sponge. So bring a waterproof covering if you wanna sit at Taddy in the best seats in wet weather.

With the potential for decent-sized crowds, to go with their recent good form on the pitch, Taddy have stated their aim of applying for promotion to step 4, should they finish top of the NCEL at the end of the season. They have acknowledged that some improvement work will need to be done on the ground, though offhand I can’t see there being much that would need doing as it seems pretty well equipped overall.

On The Pitch: Having seen both these sides play at Nostell within the last few weeks, although Tadcaster beat Nostell by a higher scoreline, I was hugely impressed by Retford’s overall performance and style of play, so I expected that’d Taddy would have their work cut out today if they were to shift the visitors from their current table-topping perch. For the opening period this contest was a bit like watching two heavyweight boxers slugging it out till their opponent drops their guard enough to leave an opening to exploit. Credit to the home side though, who made a really good fist of things early on. They hurried and pressured Retford, meaning that the visitors were unable to play their preferred passing game, and it was the home side who had the balance of possession in this opening period. For all their endevours though, bar a couple of close efforts which fizzed accross the Retford six-yard box, Taddy never really created any clear cut chances, and knowing what Retford were capable of, as the sides entered the break goalless, I still fancied Retford to edge this one.
The second half was more even, as gradually Retford began to force a few more openings, and generally get the upper hand. The deadlock was finally broken just past the hour mark. As Retford broke down the inside-left channel, the home keeper came out to meet the onrusher, ended up in a heap on the floor, and I was half expecting a free-kick to be awarded in Tadcaster’s favour. However play continued, the ball fell to Warren Hatfield, and from a central position just inside the area he carefully placed his shot in the right hand corner of the goal beyond the reach of a defender on the line with the goalkeeper still in no-man’s-land. Ten minutes later, another break down the left this time saw Carl Haslam weave inside a defender then hit a low shot under the keeper for two-nil.
Retford manager Brett Marshall then brought on substitute Lee Mellon for the final quarter of an hour. Mellon is a player I’d seen play a couple of times earlier this season for Maltby, where he tended to run around a bit like a headless chicken in an attempt do everything on his own, picking up red and yellow cards too easily which ultimately cancelled out any positive effect he was having. However today, used as a late substitute, Mellon was exactly what was needed to close the game out, with the energy to put himself about a bit and prevent Taddy getting any foothold in the closing stages. A minute from time, Retford iced the cake with Carl Haslam bagging his second goal of the game and Retford’s third. Tadcaster had only conceded four goals at home all season before today, which made the scoreline all the more impressive. Retford looked good value for their position at the top of the NCEL Premier Division, gradually grinding away at Taddy, then twisting the screw once they’d got their chance to do so. The lack of money for wages is always a great leveller at this kind of, er ‘level’, though it certainly seems to be helping the competetiveness of the NCEL. Whilst those watching the Barclay’s Premier League wet their knickers whenever it looks like any more than two teams may be involved in the fight for the title, meanwhile in the far superior world of non-league football, the Baris NCEL Premier Division is currently a seven (or maybe even nine?) horse race. For now though, I doff my flatcap in the direction of the Retford United backroom staff, who have got together a team which is currently playing some top notch football, while oozing team spirit and commitment. Long way to go yet, but so far so good this season in Badger-land.

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