Thursday, 16 September 2021

Wakefield AFC - Post Office Road


Wakefield AFC
Featherstone Rovers
Millennium Stadium
Post Office Road
Featherstone
Wakefield
WF7 5EN






Ground Number: 997
Wednesday 15th September 2021
Wakefield 5-0 Houghton Main
Sheffield County Senior Premier







WAKEFIELD AFC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club is an extremely new one, having been formed in 2019 to solve the issue of Wakefield being the largest city in the UK without a professional football team. Traditionally a rugby stronghold, the most senior team in the town was imported from nearby Emley and played in the town from 2000 until 2014, being known as Emley, Wakefield-Emley and Wakefield during their time here. They played at two venues - mainly the local rugby ground but also at a smaller ground at Wakefield Hockey Club. Their best finish came in 2008 when they finished 7th in the NPL D1 North but after years of struggle and financial worries, they were dissolved in 2014. The new club was spearheaded by former Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester United and Leyton Orient goalkeeper Chris Turner. They set up home at Featherstone Rovers rugby ground with the ambitious aim to reach the Football League within 15 years, having already got a suitable stadium in place, albeit with tentative plans to build their own. They joined the Sheffield County Senior League upon formation, but the last two seasons were abandoned with the team sitting 9th and 6th in each season.


The club currently plays in Featherstone, home of Featherstone Rovers Rugby Club and with a population of just over 15,000. It is located in the City of Wakefield which is home to just over 348,000 people. This is made up of some 21 wards and local teams within the area include Hemsworth Miners Welfare, Pontefract Collieries and Ossett United. In 2003, it was the safest Labour seat in England but since then, the party's popularity has waned, but they are still the strongest political party with 49 seats to the Conservatives 7. The city district is home to three professional rugby league clubs, the Wakefield Trinity, Castleford Tigers who both play in the Super League and Featherstone Rovers who play in the Championship. The district has a strong heritage of cricket with former Yorkshire and England captain Geoffrey Boycott born in Fitzwilliam and current Yorkshire and England cricketer Tim Bresnan from Pontefract. Other famous people from the area include actor Reece Dinsdale and actress Helen Worth who appeared together in Coronation Street as Joe McIntyre and Gail Platt.


MY VISIT

I'd not done a game with fellow hopper Chris for a while as he had been on holiday in Devon. He was also busy this Friday, meaning that Wednesday was the only opportunity to do a game together was Wednesday. Just as with Tuesday, the options were far less abundant and basically, we had five options, all some distance away. We opted for Wakefield v Houghton Main which had a backup of Wombwell Town v Caribbean Sports. The other discounted options were Field, Leek CSOB and Worcester City. Arrangements were made last Thursday with me researching what Chinese Takeaway to go to - always our pre-match meal of choice. I was stuck at home on Tuesday due to incessant rain and so that gave me the chance to research the club history.

 

The day of the game came and I awoke pretty refreshed despite a short nights sleep after my trip to Heath Hayes last night. I had breakfast and left early for work, fulfilling my aim of getting petrol on the way. I was disappointed with my fuel economy of 42MPG from last night, meaning I might have ended up paying more than my passenger once servicing is taken into account. It wasn't a bad day at work and I got some of this blog done in my lunch break. I finished a few minutes early and it really helped with me there to meet Chris by 4. Amazingly, it was an excellent journey up too, with no delays whatsoever. We were in Featherstone at 6.25, picking up our Chinese from a place called Yummy King. I had my standard order of Thai Green Curry and Salt and Pepper Chips. Both were really good and some of the better Chinese that I've had. The chips scored 25 points on my league table - joint third out of 33 establishments so far. We went in and everyone was really friendly. A number of hoppers including Chris from Groundhop UK. The pitch was in superb condition, no rugby lines too, unlike most others. 


Both sides had a 100% record, Wakefield having beaten High Green Villa 7-2 in their only game, Sadly for Houghton Main, their record was a 100% losing one with a 4-1 loss at Penistone Church Reserves followed up with a 4-2 defeat to Swinton Athletic. Around 12 miles separated the two sides, with Houghton Main playing near Barnsley. Wakefield had the better of the play early on but it was Houghton Main with the first real chance on 10 minutes. A player caught the home keeper out of position but he could only fire over the bar. His team was punished a minute later when Mason Rubie's low drive from outside the area gave Wakefield the lead. Five minutes later, it was 2-0, a header was initially saved by the keeper but Danny Youel followed up from close range. The hosts continued to dominate and they extended their lead on 38 minutes thanks to a cross pitch run and shot from 20 yards by Jake Morrison. On 41 minutes, it was 4-0. A Houghton Main free-kick was well saved and on the break, Owen Kirman gave Wakefield an unassailable lead. The scoring was completed on the hour mark, a long-range shot on the turn following a good through ball lead to Morrison's second. It had been a well-deserved victory but the visitors fought well and had a number of chances near the end. A good crowd of 287 were in attendance, very impressive for England's eleventh tier.

We left just before 10, stopping at McColl's for an energy drink for the way back. Chris tried to get some cash out, but it was declined due to him changing location over the past few days. Obviously, banks have never heard of groundhopping. We listened to Andy Crane on Greatest Hits Radio on the way home. Chris got the 'Guess The Year' competition right with the first song and I was able to confirm it was 1987. This was thanks to a clue about Knightmare, one of my favourite shows as a kid. Due to works on the M1, Waze sent us back via the A1 and it was a good journey home with us getting back to Milton Keynes just after midnight. With Chris having made contact with his bank, we stopped at the BP garage but the cash machine was out of order. With him being out of cash, I drove him to Tesco where it was third time lucky. It would have been nice to fill up with petrol too, being cheaper than back home. However, the 24 hour pay at pump station was closed. I dropped Chris off at 12.20 and headed home. The A418 was still closed with roadworks that were due to be completed at the start of September still ongoing. I was eventually home at 1.20, going to bed within 20 minutes of getting in, with the energy drink from earlier preventing me dropping off for a while. It had been a decent night at a nice club. The signs look good for a successful future for Wakefield and it couldn't happen to a nicer set of people.


THE GROUND

THE MILLENIUM STADIUM might not be as large as its more famous Welsh namesake, but it still boasts a hefty 7,000 capacity. This is made up of a variety of seated stands, plus an uncovered terrace (around 1,500 in capacity). It was great having the freedom of the ground to take photos - had it been a football ground, we'd have probably had to make do with a couple of blocks. It was through this exploration that I found that the stand behind the goal came from Scarborough's McCain Stadium. A decent ground, well worth a visit and better than some in League 1.

The food had it's usual premium prices, but looked very good and portions were large. There were also a couple of bars, but as I was driving, I didn't explore these. The ground is in an area with plenty of pubs and takeaways, the Yummy King Chinese was excellent. Parking was plentiful and I should imagine that the public transport links are good too. The atmosphere was nice and relaxed and it seems that Rugby fans get a far better matchday experience at bigger grounds than football ones do, being able to have a pint watching the game. This would apply to football fans at this level too for a good few years yet.

Heath Hayes - Coppice Colliery Ground


Heath Hayes FC
Coppice Colliery Ground
Newlands Lane
Heath Hayes
Cannock
Staffordshire







Ground Number: 996
Tuesday 14th September 2021
Heath Hayes 1-1 Wednesfield
Midland League D1






HEATH HAYES FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club was established in 1965 as a breakaway club from a local youth side. They played in local Cannock leagues at first, progressing to the Mid Staffordshire and Staffordshire County (South) leagues. They joined the Staffordshire Senior League in 1989 and started off with a run of unspectacular finishes. The league was renamed the Midland League in 1994 but this has no connection to the modern-day league of the same name. They joined the West Midlands (Regional) League in 1996 and were far more successful here, being crowned Division 1 champions in 1998. Following promotion to the Premier Division, their best finishes here were 6th in 2004 and 2005. They joined the Midland Combination following this, winning its Premier Division in 2010. The Midland Alliance was their next home and they spent a number of mediocre seasons here before the league was absorbed into the Midland League. Heath Hayes were placed in the Premier Division but finished bottom in their only season here. They were relegated to Division 1 where they remain to this day. Their best finish was 8th in their debut season. 

Heath Hayes have not had a great deal of success in the FA Cup - in nine campaigns, they have reached the Preliminary Round three times. They've performed better in the FA Vase, reaching the third round in 2007/08 and 2010/11. In local cups, honours include the Staffordshire League Premier Trophy in 1987 and the Staffordshire Senior Trophy on three occasions. The large village of Heath Hayes is located near Cannock and Hednesford. It has a population of just over 14,000 and is often twinned with nearby Wimblebury. 


MY VISIT

The destination of tonight's game was decided last Thursday after consultation with fellow hopper Anwar. Unlike last Tuesday, the options were not so abundant and so we were limited to two choices within a reasonable budget. These were Ledbury Town & Wisbech Town and Anwar expressed a preference for the latter. I was happy with this but didn't start researching the club history until the day of the game. It was my day off and so I didn't get up until just before 9. I had a shower and got dressed but couldn't go for my usual walk as it was raining all day. The weather looked slightly better in Wisbech with both sides seeming confident that the game would go ahead. Even so, I looked at backups. The weather seemed a lot better near Ledbury so I could go there if an early decision was made. The morning was spent researching the club's history which took longer than expected. I also researched Wakefield FC's history ahead of my visit there tomorrow. A pitch inspection was arranged for 4 PM so I arranged to meet Anwar at 4.15 to give enough time for a decision to be made, Typically, the rain was incessant in Wisbech, so I put in place possible backups at Arnold Town, Heath Hayes, Ledbury Town, Whitton United and Wolves Casuals. The game was, as expected, off when I eventually got to Anwar at 4.25, having had to stop to get petrol. We'd decided on Heath Hayes for our replacement game as the weather looked better that way. Though it was 20 miles further than the other option at Ledbury Town, the journey was a lot quicker and had more backup options. It was a decent journey overall with delays getting onto the M5 and around West Bromwich but otherwise good. We were at our hastily arranged food stop at Pizza Pan in Hednesford at 6.45. I ordered a Kirby Burger and chips for £7. It was pretty nice and I enjoyed it, even though I've had better value elsewhere. It wasn't good enough to escape being recorded under my football expenses though - that only happens when I try something new or exceptional.

 
It was then a 10-minute drive to the ground with us getting there at 7.20 and paying £5 to get in. Heath Hayes were in mixed form. In their last five, they'd beaten Ashby Ivanhoe 4-3 and won 2-1 at AFC Bridgnorth. But they'd lost 1-0 to both Atherstone Town and Chelmsley Town as well as drawing 1-1 at Nuneaton Griff. They were just above Wednesfield in the league. The visitors had been in slightly poorer form during the same period. Despite winning 3-2 at OJM Black Country, they'd lost 2-1 to Cradley Town, 4-1 at Stapenhill and 2-0 to Bilston Town Community. They'd also drawn 1-1 with Wolverhampton Sporting Community. Wednesfield dominated the early stages and should have gone ahead on 9 minutes. A ball was put in but the striker missed when it looked easier to score. They also shot narrowly over on 15 minutes as well as having an effort disallowed for a foul and a shot hacked off the line. Heath Hayes had the occasional moment, generally playing on the break though and coming closest when a free-kick was fired over from just outside the area. The second half started with Wednesfield on top and they had a couple of penalty claims early on. Heath Hayes improved though and they took the lead on 68 minutes when a corner was headed home at the near post by Jay Brown. This saw them have a dominant spell and it took a good save from the Wednesfield keeper to tip a 20 yard shot around the post. Wednesfield had a late rally, coming close with a couple of chances. They equalised right at the death, scoring on the break with a well-worked move and a good low finish from just inside the area by Ben Novis. A fair amount of injury time was played and only a great save from the Heath Hayes keeper prevented the visitors from getting a late winner. No official attendance had been announced when typing this, but I'd estimate around 60.


We left around 9.45. Waze helped greatly getting around the roadworks on the M6 and so we took a back route down to the M42. As ever, we listened to Andy Crane on Greatest Hits Radio on the way back and I got the 'guess the year' correct of 1974. It was mainly due to me remembering watching a programme about the German World Cup of that year and recognising the songs they used. I dropped Anwar off at 11.35, getting home myself at MIdnight. Usually, I'd stay up and wind down but with the broadband down for some reason, I went to bed pretty quickly. It took me a while to get to sleep though, but even so, I felt pretty fresh the next morning. Looking at the games I'd passed up to watch this, Ledbury Town had a thumping 8-0 win over Welland, Holbrook St Michaels triumphed 2-1 at Arnold Town, Whitton United lost 4-0 to Norwich United and Wolverhampton Casuals beat Whitchurch Alport 4-2.


THE GROUND 

THE COPPICE COLLIERY GROUND is a nice place to watch football. All the covered accommodation is on one side as you come in. There are three stands, seating around 200 with another 100 standing. Two other sides are hard standing with the far end officially out of bounds. The ground is surrounded by greenery on two sides and houses on the other two. There is a tea bar serving hot dogs, sausage rolls and drinks whilst the bar serves a selection of cans. There is a large car park at the ground. Nearby is Heath Hayes centre with a range of takeaways and pubs. 

I'd previously visited the ground on Saturday 20th October 2012, prior to Wycombe getting thumped 4-1 at Port Vale. I wish I'd been into groundhopping back then, although I started a year later. From the 11.50 picture taken time and people being in the ground, I assume that there must have been a Midland U21 League game going on, although I can't confirm that fact.