In which Bardsey are reunited with the West Yorkshire League championship trophy, having been pipped last year by Beeston St.Anthony’s and a three-point gap.
Destination: The Ings, Lodge Lane, Wetherby, West Yorks, LS22 5HA
Competition: West Yorkshire League, Premier Division
Admission: No charge (Step 7 of non-league)
Attendance: 80-100 (head-count)
Pre-Match Build Up: That the West Yorkshire League title had come down to the last day, made today’s choice of game an easy one. By the river on Wetherby Ings, Wetherby Athletic were home to league leaders Bardsey, with Bardsey simply needing a win to be sure of winning the title. Elsewhere, Oxenhope Rec played host to Leeds City, with Oxenhope needing to better Bardsey’s result to secure the title themselves. Meanwhile, a win for Leeds City would see them finish runners-up.
One slight problem was that it had been lashing it down since dawn in the Wakefield area. Checking the fixtures for the first time at 10.30am, Rothwell’s game against Field already bore the ‘Postponed’ addendum. A spot of shopping in Leeds around midday was laced with frequent checks of the full-time FA website to make sure, though thankfully the further north we got, the less the rain got. News filtered through that Oxenhope’s game had been moved to Marley stadium in Keighley, but luckily one of our party had also heard from one of the clubs involved at Wetherby, and the pitch up there was expected to be absolutely fine. Hurrah!
Off The Pitch: Wetherby Athletic are a recent addition to the ranks of the West Yorkshire League’s Premier Division, having been promoted from Division One at the end of the 2010-11 season, finished 11th last year and sitting in roughly the same spot this season. Based next to the River Wharfe’s banks in the centre of the town, the Ings are a sprawl of open playing fields, two of which have been roped off and tended for football and rugby use. Each pitch is railed, but with no cover. A distant view of the football pitch can be had though from the nearby Sports Association clubhouse, which was build around 10 years ago and comprises changing rooms, kitchen, snack bar and a a nice spacious function room/bar area. There is also a medium sized car park for road travellers. Access by public transport is a little more tricky, as there is no railway station in Wetherby. Best bet is probably the X98/X99 bus which runs to and from Leeds every half hour, and takes around 40 minutes travel time. the ground is then less than five minutes walk, heading back across the canal bridge, and turning right by the sign marked for the Sports Association. Wetherby is a nice little town with plenty of pubs and food shops, so worth spending a bit of extra time in for a pre or post-game wander.
On The Pitch: A good crowd had gathered today – a mixture of partisan supporters, friends and family members, WYL officials, neutrals, groundhoppers, passing ramblers, local newspaper reporters, and a few curious locals such as the one who asked me ‘Who’s playing, is it a cup final? As we don’t normally get this many people watching.’ When the game kicked off, a quick head-count suggested around 80 spectators champing at the bit, with this peaking around the 100 mark at various times during the game. From the whistle, Bardsey got to work, attacking down both flanks and with today’s front-two of Robert Dickinson and Daniel Maw like a pair of ferrets on speed from the off. The breakthrough goal though came from a corner around ten minutes in, with returning stalwart centre-half Micheal Mills getting the final touch after his partner Stewart Berry had seen his own header come back off the bar. Around the 30-minute mark Bardsey doubled their lead, with a through-ball from Robert Dickinson finding Maw on the left hand side of the box. Maw cooly rounded the keeper before slotting home ahead of two onrushing defenders. Relaxed, but never complacent, Bardsey pressed to further increase the margin, Dickinson going close on a couple of occasions, but for once he was not able to get his name on the scoresheet. For their part, Wetherby had a couple of close-calls in each half, but overall the result had never really looked in doubt and Bardsey ran out 2-0 winners. Elsewhere, Oxenhope got done 4-0 by Leeds City, so it is Leeds City who take the runners-up slot, with Bardsey champions by three points this season. After a short speech by a representative of the West Yorks League, captain-for-the-day Robert Dickinson, and club captain Jamie Thomson (sidelined today through suspension) were presented with the silver trophy, and given at least a fortnight off by their gaffer. Just rewards.
Number 4 Michael Mills bundles in the opening goal for Bardsey
Daniel Maw rounds the Wetherby keeper to put Bardsey 2-0 up
The goal’s that way, Wetherby!
Championes: Based at Bardsey Sports Club which was opened in 1974, and having entered the West Yorkshire League in the 1990s, Bardsey have now won the league title four times, including three out of the last four campaigns. They were promoted to the Premier Division for the first time in 1996, and have remained there ever since, with a runners-up slot in 2003-04 signalling the start of their association with the top end of the table. With their pre-season starting even earlier than most professional clubs do, you can be sure that they’ll be taking the matter of defending the title next season very seriously indeed. – And no wonder their manager Lee Barraclough only allowed them to celebrate with three cans of Fosters and a bottle of cheap champagne between 14 of them! That they also play some of the most entertaining football to watch around the local non-leagues, makes them doubly worthy winners of today’s silverware in my book.
Meanwhile over in the West Riding County Amateur League, Huddersfield-based Bay Athletic sealed their sixth title in eight years. Bay will be moving to a new ground at Northfield Hall next season, which boasts a snack bar, new clubhouse and new changing rooms.
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