Saturday 22nd February 2014
Evo Stik NPL Premier Division
FRICKLEY ATHLETIC 2 NANTWICH TOWN 0
Tea Hut Stuff: Pie & peas £2.40, tea bag £1
Weather: Bright spells turned to slate grey skies, stayed dry
Parking: Right next to the turnstile
Got lost twice between leaving the M62 at Pontefract and eventually stumbling across South Elmsall the home of Frickley Athletic. I suppose getting around deepest Yorkshire is fine for the locals well familiarised with these parts but it can be quite testing for an outsider, especially if the authorities don't bother putting any road signs up at those important journey stages such as major junctions, key turn-offs and roundabouts. The ridiculous trek through the uncharted, unidentified wilderness was made more difficult by a mass epidemic of badly constructed speed bumps every 20 yards. Has the area been suffering from joyriders partaking in some type of unofficial World Rally Championship? Seems Yorkshire has a growth industry of spending loads of money on completely pointless traffic management infrastructure, you only have to count the dozens of multi million pound matrix gantries they've fitted on the M62 around Leeds to find that out.
Frickley Athletic was once Frickley Colliery and we are in what once was prime mining country. The traditional old-school ground is over looked by what was a big slag heap. They've put some grass over it and since called it a country park. Its complemented with walking trails and a few nice benches one of which was dedicated to a young miner who lost his life on a picket line during Thatcher's decimation of the area during the strikes in the eighties, a touching and polite reminder of the loss, hardship, and strife this part of the UK has suffered. The young miners bench has a first class view of the ground from the serenity of the country park. Hope he gets to see some better games than the dross I witnessed during my visit?
Once inside the ground you can fully appreciate the fine looking grandstand that proudly resides above the rest of the stadium. It is quite set back with access to its blue painted benches easily available from the terraced paddock below. A truly impressive stand in these sad times of flat pack lookalike structures that provide so little ambiance to proper football ground charisma. The up close presence of the stand was probably worth my admission money alone which slightly eases the fact that the football on offer certainly wasn't.
Both ends of the ground are open to the elements with standard hard standing although there is a small disabled hut type cover near the Big Fellas clubhouse. The far touchline across from the grandstand features pitch length covered shallow terracing which is where a dozen noisy Nantwich supporters heartily sang various ditties in accompaniment to a small bloke earnestly banging away at a drum. Don't think the racket was entirely welcomed by the more traditionally orientated Yorkshire folk standing a bit further down the terrace.
The Big Fellas clubhouse and bar is about as big as your average back bedroom and wouldn't fit many big fellas in it at all. There's a couple of tables and a TV and some shelter from the cold. I was actually looking for the Big Fellas snack bar which I then learned was a separate structure on the far side of the grandstand. Plenty of Nantwich supporters seemed to be buying hot food and I joined the queue.
I was taken in by the visually pleasing sight of pie and peas as it seemed to be selling well to the unsuspecting visitors. I handed over my £2.40, added a cup of tea for an extra quid and hurried away to the back of the stand to scoff it. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! In all the time I've been consuming grub from tea huts I can honestly say I have never had a worse or more inedible pie than the sad and sorry monstrosity that was hiding under my mushy peas. It was like a plastic pie rather than one cased in pastry, I couldn't get in the b*stard, I even broke my plastic fork in the process. I had to get my hand into the mound of peas to break through the unidentified casing and when I did I came across only 2 tiny solitary lumps of grisly meat and some traces of dried up gravy. It was obscene, an embarrassment to matchday food and a complete waste of money, I'd been robbed, shame on you Frickley Athletic, this was a disgrace to catering.
I then realised that I had earlier seen only the Nantwich supporters buying food from the tea hut, it appeared that none of the home fans bought food just the odd hot drink, maybe I am wrong but it seemed to be the case at the time? I was going to get a programme but on the basis of what I'd lost at the tea hut I decided to cut my losses and not risk it, my mood had already drifted into the red and we hadn't even got to kick off.
Frickley are just above the drop zone in the NPL Premier Division, Nantwich a bit safer in mid table. The game started at a pace with the visitors applying lots of pressure without getting anything clean on target. For 15 minutes it was quite entertaining but then I started to ascertain that despite lots of possession and attacking Nantwich never really came anywhere close to scoring. Frickley were even worse, their random attacks were few and far between and like Nantwich, the threat on goal was minimal. Neither side had the means of putting the ball in the net and we kind of drifted into this scrappy mish-mash of a match where the misplaced pass, the hoof and the charge became the chosen currency of choice. It all went off the boil very quickly and turned into a drab encounter limited to lots of effort, lots of daft shouting but very little entertainment.
Half time came and went, sadly we got more of the same, I just couldn't see either of these two poor sides scoring. Needless to say Frickley somehow got in the box to win a couple of penalties from some insane defending and duly won the game 2-0. A totally forgettable fixture which left a bad taste in the mouth, in hindsight that's probably more down to the crap pie I tried to eat earlier on. I was quickly back in the Match Tank and headed off in search of the motorway, which again turned out to be easier said than done. Goodbye Frickley, nice stand, shame about the rest of the afternoon!