Tuesday 1st February
Northern Counties East League Premier Division
Liversedge 2 Armthorpe Welfare 2
Tea Hut purchases: None (had my tea at home)
Weather: Dry, calm evening, reasonably mild
Parking: Club car park, easy getaway
After the recent episodes of relentless torrential rain and ice station temperatures tonights weather offered a rare opportunity for a football match in the West Riding of Yorkshire. It was almost mild really, certainly a hell of a lot warmer than recent weeks up here. I had my ready meal of Marks and Spencers spaghetti bolognese and set out in a south easterly direction in the Match Shed, this evenings route-plan took me through Sowerby Bridge and Halifax before passing Baliff Bridge on the road heading out for Heckmondwike, proper West Yorkshire country which seemed to offer a charasmatic wide range of hardy local pubs and various welcoming eateries. Plenty of choice but not many punters on a dark Tuesday night, everywhere looked dead. The Clayborn Ground is down Quaker Lane, more of a tight little track than a lane really, its dark and riddled with some major potholes, the Match Shed was certainly not impressed, fortunately if you take the lane off Hightown Road its not too long and you are soon welcomed by the brightly lit ground and the adjoining car park. It was about 35 minutes before kick off and some of the players were still only arriving, obviously we would be encountering a slightly delayed kick off. A big tall guy dressed in Armthorpe kit popped out from the clubhouse to check his car was properly locked, I recognised him as that well known centre forward of numerous different league clubs Leo Fortune West, quite a capture for the Doncaster based side, especially when they had another household-name league player in tonights side, Ben Muirhead of ex Bradford City and Rochdale fame. I spent another 15 minutes sat in the parked up Match Shed, I'd invested in a small flask which cost me 3 quid in a sale, rather than fork out for hot drinks from the tea hut I was now 'how-you-say' economising by bringing my hot drink with me for a fraction of the cost, I'm pleased to say the new Match Flask performed admirably. It was glasses on and into the ground, I liked the Clayborn Ground straight away.The clubhouse and tea hut are set back on a rise overlooking the sweeping vista of the stadium from above the corner flag. To one side is a stone built covered terrace behind the nets, down the nearest touchline is the Stuart Silverwood stand a longish seated stand with 3 rows of seating, this side of the ground is slightly raised above pitch level so the views are excellent. The far end and opposite touchline are just hard standing but you get a nice outlook from this area as you can watch the action with the backdrop of the nice looking clubhouse sitting majestically in the distance. I bet this place is really good on a nice bright afternoon, the lights on the far horizon sweeping across miles and miles of open country must make for some very good views for sure. That tea hut I mentioned is called 'Half-Timers' and seemed to have a good reputation, sadly I was still full from my spaghetti bolognese which I'd backed up with a big wedge of ice cream for dessert. There were quite a few locals tucking into trays of hot food or slurping cups of tea, with cheeseburgers at £1.60 and pie & peas only a couple of pounds it seemed good value. My programme was £1.50 and it was a decent enough read, the cover emphasises a 100 years of Liversedge football with team picures of various squads going back over the years. The slightly delayed kick off only pegged out to 5 minutes so we were soon on our way and the game quickly swung into end to end action. Armthorpes very loud, very mouthy goalkeeper come captain, Jamie Green was soon into full flow, it proved to be a little bit too much flow in the 11th minute when he brought down Liversedge striker Ben Hardy right on the edge of the area. Jamie got himself a yellow card, Ben Hardy got up took the free kick and got himself a goal, 1-0 to Liversedge. Strangely the game fizzled out a bit after that, it got very scrappy for around 20 minutes with neither side looking decisive or confident, things picked up nearer half time but nobody expected what a rip-roaring second half lay ahead. The 'Half Timers' tea hut served out more grub for the locals at the break and we were soon back to the action and what action it was!Armthorpe absolutely battered Liversedge and created some glorious openings and clear cut scoring opportunities, however, try as they might, they couldn't get the ball in the net, defenders, the keeper, the woodwork, you name it, everything got in the way and somehow Liversedge held onto the lead. We were halfway through the second half before the dam burst, the pressure was just too much for plucky Liversedge, Adam Jones bagged Armthorpe a 68th minute scruffy looking but well deserved equaliser and most people thought the visitors would now go on to bag a good few more. Surely Liversedge would capitulate totally. What made this such a super match was the way Liversedge turned the tide and actually started to have a go back at Armthorpe, soon a good few chances were being created at the other end of the pitch as well. It was end to end attacking and a credit to the league, superb entertainment, this jumpers for goalposts playground special had more drama in store, both sides scored again and we finally ended up with an honourable 2-2 draw, to be honest it could have been 10 all, it was that good. Tensions inevitably came to the fore as the final whistle approached and a few hard challenges were going in, the small band of flat cappers supporting Liversedge were almost on the pitch such was the excitement, this has to be the best game I've seen so far this season, a a great night out at the Clayborn Ground for sure.