Saturday, 12 September 2015

Thackley 2 Abbey Hey 2

FA Cup, first qualifying round
Attendance: 86

I don’t like to overgoogle grounds before I visit them so when I went down to the woods today I was sure of a big surprise and what a pleasant one it was. Thackley’s Dennyfields – named after a long-serving groundsman George Denny and located in northern Bradford – is a gem and one of the most appealing grounds in Yorkshire.

The wooded, rural setting with grazing horses just visible between trees on the far side along with a main stand with wooden bench seating were reminiscent of Esh Winning. A tower on a slight hill catches the eye. It’s the top of a ventilation shaft for the Skipton to Leeds railway line. While nipping out to get a panorama pic (and missing the third goal, damn it) I came across an old turnstile in the bushes which I guess must provided access to the ground in a previous configuration.

The sound of church bells drifted over the arena for much of the match. The noticeboard beside the tea bar had just two notices: one about the half-time draw and the other reading: “Honey for sale. See Geoff (gateman).” It’s that kind of of place, dearly cherished and with a strong sense of community. “I’ve been looking after Andy’s ferrets all week ...” I overheard a fella saying on his phone.

The Lancashire versus Yorkshire angle to the game was part of its appeal. Both sides came into the match having achieved good wins in the previous round: Thackley away to Northern Leaguers Ashington and Abbey Hey (from Manchester and step 5 like Thackley) knocking out last season’s top Cup giantkillers, Warrington Town.

Abbey Hey took the lead following a goalkeeping slip and went two up just before half-time when a winger jinked his way skilfully to the byline and checked the ball back for Hardy to whack in from close range. Two Abbey fans whirred their rattles. Yes: rattles at a football match albeit apologetically small ones. The retro, Northern League-like feel of the occasion got better and better. The pair later unfurled a banner. Always good to see the first one on the FA Cup trail: ‘Abbey Hey: Isle of Man 2015’, it read with reference to the club’s pre-season match.

To their credit Thackley stuck at it and were rewarded with a headed goal by Garrod on 69 mins. The Dennyboys equalised eight minutes later when the Abbey keeper spilt a cross and Bentham stroked home. Thereafter both sides went hell for leather for the winner but it didn’t come. A string of fine saves by the Thackley goalie kept them in the tie. Great game, great ground, great afternoon. (Abbey Hey won the replay 1-0).

Famous old boy: Thackley's star alumni is ex-Bradford City beanpole, Ian Ormondroyd.

New kids in town: I heard on the radio that none of the players in todays Man U/Liverpool match came from the city they were representing. Football without tribalism is barely football at all.

Dennyfields is very photogenic and the weather was superb today so the pics were very good, though I say it myself. Too many to display within the text, though. Click here go to the full album.

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