Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Stocksbridge Park Steels 1 Hucknall Town 0
Tea hut purchase: Tomato soup with pepper 70p
Weather: Periods of drizzle, cold and grey
Parking: On the road beside the ground, easy exit
The Match Shed route-plan headed down from the Pennine fells, skirted the east side of Greater Manchester and then took the snaking Woodhead Pass before descending down to the western approaches towards Sheffield. Some way into the trip whilst casually listening to the radio cronies slaughter Man U's Gary Neville at West Brom, Frugal Glenn announced he had no money for todays game and we needed to find a cash till! Why he came unprepared or didn't mention this when I picked him up is beyond me (but we are talking Frugal Glenn here), I now had to take the Match Shed into the nearest town before we hit the rural slopes into Yorkshire. And so I found myself parked up in a back street behind Ashton Under Lyne market on New Years Day dinner-time. A couple of dodgy looking smokers were propped up outside The Bog Inn pub, I presumed they thought I was an undercover drugs officer or doing a bit of new years kerb crawling. Frugal took twenty bloody minutes to reappear with his twenty quid survival fund, in the interim I had to listen to the best part of a Dusty Springfield Greatest Hits LP blasting out from the Bog Inn juke box. Not a happy bunny. Back on the road the weather soon started to worsen, a misty gloom appeared and the temperature went into freefall, five minutes later it was snowing, oh no, not again surely, nothing had been forecast, this wasn't the best scenario for getting through the Woodhead Pass, it got quite thick at one point but fortunately it didn't seem to be sticking. The Match Shed safely did the business (no mean feat considering its a total wuss in any kind of icy conditions) and we were soon taking the turn off down the valley into Stocksbridge.I was watching out for the right turn up Nanny Hill which leads up the far side of the valley, unfortunately it wasn't marked and the Match Shed went up and down the road through the town a few times, one thing I noticed is the sheer size of the massive steel works partially hidden by houses and shops, it goes on for ages, I always knew this was a steel place but the size of the place is astounding. I eventually found Nanny Hill (the Match Shed doesn't dig modernistic tools such as Sat-Nav) and once past the cemetary we were soon at the hilltop Bracken Moor ground, home of The Steels. After being ripped off by various clubs over recent weeks it was nice to see Stocksbridge only charging £7 admission for Evo-Stik NPL Premier League football, excellent value and a credit to this homely little club in such diificult times. The programme made a refreshing change as well, it actually had something to read in it and they priced it about right at £1.50. Good start. It was now 2.20pm and drizzling with rain, we decided to hit the upstairs bar in the splendid looking clubhouse. It was a bit like walking into some remote locals pub when they all stop what they're doing and look around at the intruders. The place was well frequented with young and old furtively playing dominoes and cards amongst all the pints of foaming ale, not to mention the last bit of West Brom v Manchester United and the Referee on the flat screen TV. Me and Frugal found a quite corner and took in the atmosphere. Come match time one has to say that Stocksbridge have a great little ground, it may only have 3 accessible sides but its packed with great views, a superb imposing clubhouse and a cracking main stand. The place is so good even the local Mayor came along (or should it be Mayoress for a lady)? She was obviously enticed by the reputation of a very hard to beat bunch of rough and ready visitors from Hucknall Town, plus the infinite volumes of hot sausgage rolls at half time. The lady was sat pretty much next to Frugal Glenn in the stand, he was going to get her autograph but didn't have a pen.The conditions for the game were unfortunately grim, this was a greasy grey day in South Yorkshire, all damp, cold and stark. Stocksbridge Park Steels have been struggling a bit this season, locked in the bottom 4 with 18 points they needed a win today, the visitors from Hucknall were doing better, currently in 8th position they would be looking at todays fixture with a view to taking some points back home.The first half produced some pacy football with a decent level of quality on show. Both sides tested each other and it was a finely balanced 45 minutes, despite being caught offside time and time again, Stocksbridge got the vital goal when Colin Marrison stabbed home a 34th minute opener. Somebody catching the eye was Steels striker Jack Muldoon who looked fast, keen and more than competent at this level, he provided some outstanding examples of attacking play and went on to be a major thorn in Hucknalls side throughout the game. H-T 1-0. I went along to a very well run tea hut in the half time interval, it was inside the clubhouse room set aside for the club shop. My favourite Pukka Pies were available at £1.70 each or £2.40 with mushy peas and gravy but I've overdosed on the Pukka's already over this festive period (anybody else get them for Christmas)? I decided to be a bit more reserved and opted for a hot tomato soup sprinkled with pepper, it was fantastic and really warming (plus it was sensibly priced at 70p). The Steels had a plan to hold onto that half time lead but Hucknall absolutely battered them in the second period. Wave upon wave of attacks rained down on the home keeper, Hucknall were on fire.How Stocksbridge survived this onslaught is testament to the superb performance of Ben Scott the Steels keeper, he was out of this world, no matter what Hucknall threw at him, and it was a lot, he stood firm and kept his line intact. Remarkable quality goalkeeping of the highest order. No wonder Tommy Brookbanks the Hucknall Manager was continually throwing his hands up in the air, the Steels keeper kept them in the match. A tremendous result and a very valuable 3 points for the home side but I have to say it was hard on a Hucknall side who deserved at the very least a point for that really forthright attacking effort in the second half. All in all a good visit to a great little ground and a more than decent match. Back in the Match Shed for the return trip it wasn't long before drizzle turned to sleet and then on the Woodhead Pass, snow, thank goodness it still wasn't sticking despite being -1 on the temperature display, gosh its black as hell on that pass. Eventually we dropped down and took a route via Stalybridge, we actually passed the Stalybridge Celtic venue of Bower Fold, the lights were still on from their afternoon encounter with Hyde, nice to get a value for money game in again, I'd certainly recommend Stocksbridge Park Steels place for those yet to give it a go.