Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sheffield - Coach & Horses Ground

Sheffield FC
Coach & Horses Ground
Sheffield Road
S18 2GD

0844 887 1857
Official Website

Ground Number: 356
Tuesday 15th April 2014
Sheffield 2-3 Halesowen Town
NPL D1 South

For the second part of my football and Coronation Street trip I wanted to go to an NPL game if possible. I had been to a lot of the grounds and the only one that really fitted the bill was Sheffield FC. It was also a tiny bit closer to home, which would aid me as I had a 4am start the next day. Another bonus was that I could park up at the ground, walk into Dronfield where the club is based and get a train into the excellent city of Sheffield, with it's wealth of good pubs, food places and shops.

Sheffield FC are the worlds oldest football club, having been formed in 1857. They played in local leagues, mainly the Yorkshire league for most of their history, before joining the NCEL Division 1  in 1982. They won the league in 1989 and gained promotion to the League's Premier Division. However, despite finishing 9th in their first season at this level, they were demoted due to lack of floodlights. This was soon remedied and they won the league in their first season back. Mixed seasons at the new level continued, but they survived and eventually prospered, gaining promotion to their current league, the NPL Division 1 South in 2008. Since then they have finished in the top half every season since, and have missed out in the playoffs on a couple of occasions. Their record finish of 4th came in 2012. In the early days of the FA Cup they reached the Quarter Finals on more than one occasion, and in modern times they have made the 4th Qualifying Round on a couple of occasions, which is impressive for their league status. They won the FA Amateur Cup in 1904 and were FA Vase finalists in 1977, losing to Billericay Town after a replay. In their short time in the FA Trophy they have made the 3rd Qualifying Round on 2 occasions. This season they were having a disappointing time, lying 15th in the table at the time of the game, and on course for their worst finish in this league yet.

Halesowen Town were having a great time of it meanwhile, sitting proudly at the top of the league. I had seen them narrowly win at Bedworth earlier in the season. I had also been to their ground for a game, when Stourbridge beat Glossop North End 3-0 in the 2006 FA Cup season.  They were also one of the older football clubs around, having been formed in 1873.  They joined the Southern League, and have flitted around the First and Premier Divisions in the time since. That was until they transferred to the NPL Division 1 South last season. Their highest league placing was in 1996, when they finished 2nd in the Southern Premier. They have recked the FA Cup 1st Round on a number of occasions, most recently in 2004/05 when they lost to Yeading. The Middlesex club went on to play QPR that season before merging with Hayes FC in 2007.  They have got to the FA Trophy 3rd Round on a couple of occasions and won the FA Vase 2 seasons in a row in the early part of the 1980's. They had former Kidderminster player Iyseden Christie in their current squad and have had Steffan Moore and well known names turn out for them in the past.

I woke up at 7.30, having a bath and a healthy breakfast of a packet of crisps. I checked out of my hotel at 8.20, and it took me till 9.10 to drive the 8 miles into Manchester, so it was just as well that I left enough time. I parked up and walked to the set of Coronation Street, arriving around 50 minutes before the start of my tour. I killed time by sitting in the old staff canteen and having an all day breakfast roll.

The tour itself was very good, though it was a bit annoying that you couldn't take pictures of the inside sets. We saw Carla's flat, the Platt's living room, the Underworld knicker factory and the barge that Ken Barlow had his affair on amongst other things. And if course the Rovers Return, where you could get a professional photo taken of you behind the Rovers Bar. It cost £8.50 to have it on a USB stick, and that was the only thing that I bought in the gift shop as it was quite expensive. Overall though, the tour was excellent and well worth the effort and £16.50 that it cost to go on. And you were allowed to get some pictures of the outside set, so I got a few close ups of the shops and houses, as well as a few selfies.

I was finished about 11.40 and drove to Dronfield Town. The route was beautiful and scenic, though it was very annoying sat behind lorries that drove at half the speed limit. I got to Dronfield at 1.30 and got a few pictures of their ground. It was pretty nice and decent for the level that they play at (NCEL Division 1) I then drove to nearby Sheffield FC for the nights game, but parked up and walked just under a mile to Dronfield train station. Annoyingly it was a 45 minute wait for a train, as they only run at 2 and 15 minutes past the hour, totally pathetic and left me wishing I'd planned for carefully to cater for the unexpected poor service. I killed time by going to a local shop to get a bag of crisps and the local paper which was a special edition to commemorate 25 years since the tragic Hillsborough Disaster. The government of the time are rightly still receiving criticism for the handling of the incident, and it was also them that sold off all the trains, so that they now run for the benefit of the company's shareholders as opposed to the passengers.

I finally got my train just after 3 and from there it was 10 minutes into Sheffield. First port of call was The Rutland Arms, which has received excellent reviews for its cider selection in the pub Mecca that is Sheffield. It was only 5 minutes from the station and I was installed in the bar by 3.20. First off was a pint of 'Ten Years Later' cider , followed by a pint of Tutts Clump, which had travelled around the same distance as me, being that it was from Berkshire. I looked at my train app on my phone and deduced that either 5.45 or 6.05 was the best time to get my train, so I beared it in mind before having a look round the shops.

I went to Pound Bakery for some cakes, then Poundland for some drinks (I take it you are noticing the usual cheapskate theme here!) I then put Cash Converters in my Sat Nav in hope of picking up some cheap PS2 games. However, I stopped at a bookshop, and picked up a book about dugouts (sad git I know) By the time I got to cash converters I was 5 minutes too late for their 5pm closing time. I decided to go back to the station, but not before going to the Sheffield Tap for a pint of Janet's Jungle Juice. It was one I had had in Rugby before, but was a really nice one, so I didn't mind having it again.

I got back to Dronfield at 6.20 and stopped a local Indian restaurant to get a keema naan, which was great value at only £2. I then made my way to the ground. Seen as it was still over an hour to go till kick off I called in at the Coach and Horses pub near the ground. I saw that they did Lilley's Mango Cider, and seen as it was a pretty low strength one, I had a pint of that. I then went and sat in my car for a while and listened to TalkSPORT, who were previewing the evenings games. At around 7.10 I went into the ground and got a programme. After going round and getting some pictures, I got myself some chips and gravy and a bovril and took a seat in the stand. Below is the match report from the Sheffield FC website.

Sheffield gave a brave second half display on Tuesday, writes Stuart James, but were unable to come away with anything to stop Halesowen Town’s title march. After a fairly muted first half that saw Ben Haseley inevitably add to his goal tally with a 17th minute goal, Club turned in an enthusiastic performance to level through Mark Fereday three minutes after the restart, only to see Haseley give Yeltz the lead once more ten minutes later. The hosts carried on plugging away, and levelled in the 73rd minute from a Brendan Kelly own-goal, but there was to be no denying the visitors who grabbed a vital third from Curtis Tilt just five minutes later. 
There was a flatness to the way Club came out of the blocks, and were under the cosh from the off from Halesowen, with Elliott Turner being denied by Rob Poulter early on after some good work by Ben Haseley. Turner went close once again moments later, with Haseley the provider once more with a blistering run down the right, this time the winger narrowly missed the target.
The breakthrough eventually came with Sheffield caught flat at the back; Neil Mackenzie threaded the ball through a static looking defence, allowing HASELEY to take the ball on and tuck it under Poulter. It could have been worse on 30 minutes, as Iyseden Christie fell afoul of taking the ball an inch too far out of play, and seeing Haseley’s headed finish ruled out.
It was looking like there was only one team interested at this point, and how Yeltz failed to add to their lead is a mystery, as Haseley uncharacteristically blazed an effort over the bar from six yards out following a long throw. 
Whatever was said in the home dressing room at half-time was nothing short of motivational, as Club came out of the blocks with a totally different attitude, and were level inside three minutes. Andrew Gascoigne showed some tenacity on the left flank, winning two fifty-fifty challenges on a storming run, before squaring the ball to FEREDAY who blasted home from just inside the area. 
Halesowen showed what they are made of though and a quality ball from Christie picked out his strike partner, and after twisting and turning Hadfield and Whittaker, HASELEY was calmness personified as he tucked the ball past Poulter to make it 2-1.
The tenaciousness of the hosts was still there for all to see, with Ben Turner having a field time on the right hand side, and it was the right-back’s effort that drew the teams level once again. A burst down the right from Turner saw the ball whipped in, and with KELLY stretching out a foot in an attempt to intercept the cross, all he did was divert the ball into his own net past Sargeant. 
Yeltz tried to pile forward once again, but were thwarted by Rob Poulter on more than one occasion, as he denied Tom Tonks what looked to be a certain goal. There was nothing he could do from the resulting corner, as a goalmouth mêlée found Club unable to clear their ground, giving TILT the easiest of finishes from inches out. 
Sheffield weren’t done however, and table positions and reputations were forgotten in a frantic last ten minutes, but for all their efforts Club couldn’t get the vital breakthrough to level for a third time. 

After the game I made a quick getaway, setting up my phone so that I could listen to Pete Price on Radio City in Liverpool through my car stereo. It meant that I would be using up lots of data as it was online radio, but seen as I have run out of my allowance and now pay £1 a day regardless of how much or how little I use, I was going to get as much value from it as I could. As with other stations, and unsurprisingly seen as they were based in Liverpool, a lot of the conversation was geared towards the Hillsborough anniversary. Usually you get people calling in and trying to wind the presenter up, but these sorts of calls were thin on the ground tonight. I made very good time getting back, and got back to my house just on the stroke of midnight. I couldn't get to sleep till after 1.30 and so only had a couple of hours sleep before I was up at 4am for work.

THE COACH AND HORSES GROUND is quite unique, in that it is in a bowl. a bit like Lewes' Dripping Pan really. 2 sides of it are open, whilst the seated stand is behind the goal and holds around 300. There is further covered terracing along the side for around 500.

The club shop doesn't have a huge range of stuff and is quite pricey, although a lot of the products are pretty smart. The tea bar has a great range and what I had was very nice. There wasn't a clubhouse that I saw, but I've got a feeling that the excellent Coach and Horses pub acts as this, and if so, must be one of the best clubhouses in football. The town is a 10 minute walk away if you fancy a wider range.

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