Match Details: Pontefract Collieries 2 – Handsworth 3 (NCEL D1)
Manager’s tip of the day – Never turn your back on a goalscorer!
(Faffy Gwindi celebrates Handsworth’s equaliser with an impromptu pile-on boss Russ Eagle; Sam Smith then bagged a last-minute winner for the visitors)
Pre-Match Build Up: On paper this looked like the Match of the Day in the NCEL’s Division One, with first-placed Handsworth visiting second-placed Pontefract Collieries, and both teams level on points at the start of play. Ponty manager Brendan Ormsby echoed this sentiment in the match programme, writing that “If either team can win, they will really fancy their chances of going on to win the title.” It also turned out to be a game well worthy its of top billing.
Destination: Skinner Lane, Pontefract, West Yorks, WF8 4QE.
Competition: Northern Counties East League, Division One
Programme: £1 (20 pages / 3 of adverts)
Weather: Mild and mud-free – a big contrast to this time last year!
For ground details / directions, etc., see previous Ponty Colls report here: https://thedribblingcode.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/sat-5-march-2011-pontefract-collieries-0-barton-town-old-boys-1-ncel-d1/
Off The Pitch: Poor Ponty Colls seem continually battling against the elements at this time of year. On my previous visit, a big chunk of brickwork behind the far goal had disappeared thanks to the March winds, and a couple of years before that, a covered shelter had also gone the same way. This time it was part of the near side perimeter wall that had recently blown down. Credit to the groundstaff who had just finished tidying up with brushes and the like before kick-off. Hope it’s not too big a job to get things back to normal again a.s.a.p. Apart from that, things are pretty much as they were last season – though the pitch is in much better condition thanks to the dry spell we’ve had of late. As usual, the tea bar was doing a brisk trade this afternoon, with a plentiful selection of hot food and drinks available. Pie & Peas seemed to be the order of the day, though having had some dinner just before leaving home, I made do with just a brew instead. Next time, I think I’ll starve me sen before stting off, in the name of ‘Tea Hut Research’! It was also nice to meet up with Ponty Colls’ secretary Rod for the first time, who is researching the club’s rather murky history and trying to piece together the jigsaw of how the club developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Rod also tells me that apparently the club’s first ever chairman (a Scot) based the pitch design directly on that of Hampden Park! And just before kick-off, a minute’s silence was held in remembrance of the six British soldiers (five of whom were from the Yorkshire Regiment, and one from the Duke Of Lancaster’s Regiment) who had lost their lives during the week in Afghanistan. RIP.
On The Pitch: This was one of those games which you luck upon a couple of times a season, in which you couldn’t ask for anything more of it as pure entertainment. And despite a scrappy first half, in which open play was not helped by a combination of the swirly wind, and Ponty’s ‘multi ball’ system which seemed to consist of 2 decent balls and 3 flat ones on the pitch at random. Ponty deserved their 2-0 lead at the break, and were not cruising but certainly looking comfortable. But Handsworth were breathtaking in the second half, and pretty much ran rings round their opponents. After a Sam Smith penalty got them back in the game, a cracker from Faffy Gwindi made it 2-2. And just as it looked like Handsworth had run out of steam, Sam Smith won another lost cause near the left touchline and slotted home from what looked like an impossible angle to send the visiting mob into delirium.
As the winning goal went in, a devastated Ponty boss Brendan Ormsby trudged forlornly round the outside of the pitch looking completely shellshocked. It wasn’t through lack of effort on the home side’s part, as Ponty had put their all in. It just seemed like their gameplan went a bit awry in the second half, and whatever the Handsworth halftime team talk was, it did the trick. By the time it got to 2-2, Ponty seemed to be resorting too quickly to lumping the ball into certain areas of the pitch rather than stringing passing moves together, and also collectively giving Handsworth a bit too much space and time on the ball. But credit to the away side for playing their way out of trouble, rather than panicing and going route 1. Their front three of Sam Smith, Scott Bates and Callum Ward, as well as the aforementioned Faffy Gwindi, all caught the eye today. And having stood on Handsworth’s left side in both halves of the game, I would also pick out left back Richard Tootle, who put in a really solid performance down that flank. Finally, also a rare positive mention on this site for a referee – although he made the inevitable occasional mistake, the man in black today Nigel Haycock I felt put in an excellent display, which helped the game flow and was just the right balance of standing for no nonsense but not blowing his whistle needlessly unless there was a proper foul committed.
The 5 teams at the top of the NCEL D1 are basically separated by one win, so promotion looks like going down to the wire. Handsworth still have to play Glasshoughton twice, but deserve their top billing on this evidence.
P.S. More detailed match reports can be found on Handsworth and Ponty’s own websites here: http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/handsworthfc/s/match-report-21490.html?fixture_id=347024&official=1
And a set of photos from Ponty Arthur here: http://www.whiterosephotos.co.uk/portfolio249785.html