Northern Counties East League, First Division
Pontefract Collieries are not having a good season. They are the lowest ranked club in non-league football in Yorkshire, have garnered a mere nine points and haven’t won in the League since the opening day. If ever the season needed a highlight this was it and the final home fixture against Scarborough Athletic – or the continental-sounding “Scarbourgh” as the programme insisted on called them – provided the opportunity.
As FC United of Manchester are to the likes of Wakefield and Leeds are to Cheltenham so are Athletic to Collieries: unsually celebrated visitors. Athletic were formed at the start of the season following the folding of Scarborough of Football League fame. The original club’s passing was a low-key affair, media-wise, at least. I recall that the Yorkshire Post ran a picture of a young lad supposedly playing his drum outside the chained gates for the last time. He looked far from distraught though; as if he was in the paper for finding a lost dog than illustrating the demise of a football club.
Stewards were on hand at Pontefract to wave me to a free parking place and when I tendered a £20 to the sole turnstile man he commented on “how they’re rich in Scarborough” before giving me £16 change. After that it seemed churlish not to buy a raffle ticket to add to that which served as match ticket. The turnstile man naturally assumed I was from the seaside since Collieries average home attendance is seldom more than double the number of players on the pitch and Scarborough usually bring 300 or so with them.
The ‘hospitality room’ looked anything but hospitable – more like a torture chamber, in fact (see pic). The heavy steel door spoke volumes of the security problems encountered by the Colls. Their ground has a history of theft, arson and vandalism. It can only be a matter of time before the seats in the main stand (which came from Maine Road) are lifted. To add to the problem, subsidence from a colliery causes one of the perimeter walls to lean outwards. The club’s roots are more obvious in other ways. There’s a spoil heap behind the main stand and, high above the opposite touchline, long, eeriely creaking freight trains pass by periodically. In the old days they would’ve transported coal to the power stations at Ferrybridge, the cooling towers of which you can see in the far distance behind one of the goals.
As for the game, Athletic scored two early goals and I expected a cricket score but it never happened. Colls got one goals back and could’ve levelled it had they taken two guilt-edged chances. Meanwhile, at the other end, their goalie made three great saves. Two sendings off, one for each side, added to a first class afternoon’s entertainment. Colls went down yet again – but they went down fighting. Still, at least they don’t have relegation to worry about. Scarborough, meanwhile, can look to Aldershot – after today just one point from a return to the League – as a role model.
Top hats: “Whitby are one down if anyone’s interested,” announced a Seadog to his mates. I wasn’t – but was interested in a score update from Reading (also 1-0 down - to Fulham) offered to me by a man with a radio who had spotted my Reading wooly hat. “What are you doing down here?”, he then asked. Difficult to sum up, really, without sounding like a complete nerd (I already looked like one). I thought I had the most unlikely headgear in the ground until I saw the Colls coach sporting a Miami Dolphins pom-pom hat. Macho and unmacho at the same time.
For video clip plus three large pics click here.