Thursday, 5 October 2017

Port In A Storm

Sandiacre Town  2  South Normanton Athletic  3

Derbyshire Senior Cup – First Round

I can’t recall having to set my satellite navigation to get to one of the senior non-league grounds of Derbyshire before.

But, a short notice change of plan found me in the position whereby I was busy dialling in the postcode for Sandiacre Town’s St Giles Park ground, and that got me wracking my brains as to when it was I last paid a visit to the club that sits right on the Country boundary with Nottinghamshire. I certainly wouldn’t have known the way from memory.

I had every intention of heading to Selston tonight to watch their game with Blaby & Whetstone Athletic, the first competitive game under the new floodlights, but the game was called off due an issue with the said candles. I had to find a back-up game.

A number of options were available, but Sandiacre did appeal as they have recently returned to Step 7 and from what I’d been reading, they’d done some work to tidy up the ground.  But more detail on the history of the club later.

The Revamped Terrace
I worked it out though, it was the day after Boxing Day in 2005, heavy snow had been falling all across the area and games were inevitably being postponed. I was of the view that day that nothing would be on, but a message appeared on what was the old Football Mitoo site saying the game against Kimberley Town was definitely on.

Myself and Senior Hatt had a ride down, and the club indeed confirmed upon arrival that the game was being played despite the pitch being covered in snow. The referee it seemed was happy as long as the lines were kept clear. The only problem was, Kimberley’s players had gambled on the fact it would be off so hadn’t bothered to travel, so some frantic late phone calls were made to get them to the ground.

It Was White Last Time
The game kicked off late, but then more snow came, and we had the bizarre sight of club officials clearing the lines as the game went on. It was as though the referee had made his mind up and nothing was going to stop him from finishing the game. It did finish 2-1, and my overriding memory other than the snow and the treacherous journey home was an almighty punch up between the two sides.

I also remember that those of us desperate for a football fix had swooped on Sandiacre that day, so a few familiar faces were on show, but again, more on that later.

So, the history of Sandacre Town, who are 40 years old this season, is a short but eventful one. They came to prominence in the mid-Eighties when they joined the Central Midlands League, with their most successful season being in 1992-93 when they won the Premier Division and were elevated to the Supreme Division.

Warm Up
They had a mixed number of seasons in the CML but eventually left the league in 2007 and took a demotion to the Midlands Regional Alliance. But, at the start of the 2016-17 they returned to Step 7 after a ten year gap by joining the Nottinghamshire Senior League, where they remain.

Why the Notts Senior and not back to the Central Midlands? Not sure, but I commented recently on geographical footprints at Step 7, that may well be the answer, especially when you are sat on the A52 and minutes from the centre of Nottingham.

Anyway, they are now back at the level they first attained in 1993, and with that they are now competing in both the FA Vase and the Derbyshire Senior Cup, and a very welcome addition they are too.

From memory, and also bearing in mind the ground was covered in snow when I last went, my first impressions of St Giles Park were that it has definitely had a facelift. The clubhouse is smart and modern looking, while the railings around the pitch look freshly painted. Much of the overgrown grass and foliage has also been removed from the ground surrounds

The club has always had a covered terrace behind the goal, but from what I recall it was a little bit battered and worn, but nowadays it looks re-clad and smart. Money and time has clearly been invested in the ground, and while still fairly basic, it is definitely a smart enclosure and probably isn’t too far away from the standard required to get it to the next level.

Autumnal Setting
The club has also had floodlights for a long time now, and were one of the first of the ‘new wave’ of clubs joining the CML who obtained them in the nineties.

So what about the game?

Considering South Normanton Athletic are two leagues higher up the pyramid than their hosts, it came as no surprise that they took a two goal lead, but in fairness to Sandiacre they grew in confidence, pulled a goal back and then forced a deserved equaliser.

With the game scheduled to go straight to penalties, myself and my companion for the evening, Dave Woodings of 5,000+ grounds fame, were contemplating  a shoot out when some sustained pressure resulted in a late winner for Athletic.

It was probably the right outcome on the balance of the game, but in fairness to Sandiacre they belied the gap in divisions and should be really encouraged by the performance they put on.

Now then, that game against Kimberley in 2005, I was having a cup of tea with Dave at half time when a chap walked up to us.

“Are you regulars here” he said

“No, just neutral” was the reply

“I’ve not been here for years, last time I was here, it was around Christmas, pitch was covered in snow and they were sweeping the lines during the game, can’t remember who it was against though” he went on to say

“Kimberley Town mate, I remember it well….” was where the conversation finished.

It was a case of ‘Any port in a storm’ that day, I’d like to think the rejuvenated Sandiacre Town will become more than that to us neutrals going forward. At the very least, I don’t want to have to use a Sat Nav next time….

Turn Left In 200 Yards.....

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