Saturday 18th October 2014
FA Trophy Preliminary Round
BRIGG TOWN 0 PADIHAM 0
Tea Hut Stuff: Badly burned Sausage Roll £1.20, Tea £1
Weather: Grey cloud, mild, the odd isolated sunny spell
Parking: On the large club car park
Desperate for the bogs I swung the Match Tank into Thorne Services where the M18 meets the M180 eastbound. Directly behind me was the Padiham team coach full of players, officials and a few supporters supping ale. Luckily I headed them off near WH Smiths and got in the Gents just before the rush. I half expected the lads to sneak a few Whopper type grills back on the coach from the Burger King outlet. Sadly it appears this new nutritional fad sweeping through modern football has even reached non league levels, the players in their smart Padiham FC tops just blanked the burger range completely, bet they had some cold pasta twirls waiting back on the bus? Objective completed I set the Match Tank controls for the far east in the form of deepest North Lincolnshire.
It was soon time for some light lunch. According to Trip Advisor the best fish and chips in the Brigg locality could be found on Chapel Lane next to the post office in the small village of Scawby. Although just a short distance from the M180 and just down the road from both Scunthorpe and Brigg I found Scawby exceedingly difficult to locate. I got there in the end and I must say it was well worth the effort, tremendous stuff, even though the fish and chips plundered some £5.20 from my life savings.
The Match Tank doesn't do fancy luxury frivolities like Sat Nav so I had to remember a Google Maps image of how to get to the Brigg ground. After a few three point turns, plenty of f-words and lots of moaning I spotted the floodlights and what appeared to be the perimeter fence of the club car park. I thought it was strange but the apparent entrance seemed to be directly adjacent to somebodies back garden. I ended up taking the Match Tank down the tight track only to find a locked gate. The real car park entrance turned out to be on the far side of the ground, yet more vehicle reversing got me out of the back gardens before anybody noticed me, I hope, sorry about your rhubarb.
I was pleasantly surprised when the young lad at the turnstile only charged me 6 quid to get in. This is unusually cheap for Evo Stik NPL level football, or... worryingly the young chap took me for a Pensioner? Ok, I've dressed up a bit in the past at the odd night match when hood-winking myself into some of our more expensive non league stadia for the concessionary rate (the old timer disguise also includes voice disfiguration and a limp), today though I was in broad daylight and in no way trying to pull a fast one. I got to thinking 'bloody hell do I really look that old'?
The ground is called The Hawthorns but it doesn't readily resemble its West Brom namesake. Its got some character though, not a lot but enough to keep me happy for the afternoon. The primary focus is the pitch length stand with the red seats, at the corner is a small tea hut full of Pukka Pies and large cups of tea. I'm a big Pukka Pie admirer but I couldn't manage one on top of all those fish and chips so I went for the lesser option of a sausage roll. Sadly the bottom of the roll was incinerated to a dark brown concrete crust and proved difficult to salvage amidst the onlooking presence of nearby spectators.
Both ends of the Brigg ground are uncovered with regulation hard standing. At the playing fields end they've bothered to put netting up above the perimeter fence to stop losing balls from wayward (but probably rare) efforts on goal, the frustrating thing is that the capture netting has become loose just above the fence so every time the netting captures a ball it slips down the net and drops down on the other side of the fence outside the ground, which obviously defeats the whole purpose, for goodness sake fix it. The side of the ground which houses the clubhouse and changing rooms has some rather quirky if a little drab constructions running alongside the pitch, these offer shelter and a good enough view I suppose. In an ideal world that grey pitch side wall could do with with some nice bright paint, I understand the reality that cash, effort and time are not easy to come by and a lot more urgent topics will doubtless take priority.
At least the place has a soul unlike some of the newer flat pack stadiums we see on the non league scene nowadays. Couldn't help but notice that quite a number of folk seemed to enter the ground at half time, probably for free, this included a large troupe of new world skateboarders and a separate bunch of rather loud mouthed 'opinionated' people whom had obviously been influenced by half a dozen pints. Sad for Steve Wilkes the Padiham boss to have to advise these 'opinionated' people to stop picking on one of the young Padiham players doing his best on the pitch, I believe the lad was only 16, all credit to Steve for telling them to lay off.
Onto the game itself. This FA Trophy big-one pitted two sides together who are both firmly rooted in the lower-bottom depth of their respective league tables. Brigg represent the Evo Stik NPL Division 1 South, Padiham represent the Evo Stik NPL Division 1 North. To say the least, both clubs have found actual goals very hard to come by. Surely this one off cup tie would be different, surely one side would free themselves of their shot shy shooting phobia and go net busting crazy, nope, afraid not, not a bloody chance of it. As I write this visit report on a Sunday afternoon, this lot could still be playing now and it would still be 0-0. Don't get me wrong, it was a pretty decent match and both sides showed plenty of determination and a fair bit of skill but when it came to creating genuine chances the Hawthorns Ground was a barren desert of despair. They've got to do it all again in a replay over at Padiham next Wednesday night. At least that date will enforce a conclusion even if they have to do it via extra time and penalties (could be a late night me thinks).