FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round: Penistone Church FC vs Pontefract Collieries FC

Penistone Church FC vs Pontefract Collieries FC

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round

Saturday 15th August 2015

The Memorial Ground, Penistone, South Yorkshire

August. A time for early-season optimism, the transfer rumour mill and…the FA Cup?

It’s been 77 long days since the domestic season ended with Arsenal lifting the famous old trophy at Wembley. With nothing but the triumphant English women (and their predictably underwhelming male under-21 counterparts) to satisfy the agonisingly long football-less summer, the early start to the 2015/16 season came as welcome respite last weekend.

It’s funny what can happen in those few short months. An opening day defeat for the cup holders created viral videos of Gooners in meltdown; seemingly the taste of Wembley success doesn’t last long for some.

For the hundreds of non-league sides kicking off their domestic cup campaign this weekend, though, it’s still a time to dream. Afterall, First Qualifying is just a couple of wins away…

It’s a time when even the most ardent non-league fan needs their road atlas, ground guide and a healthy dose of ‘Ask Siri’. Jarrow Roofing, Sporting Khalsa, Pegasus Juniors (hardly seems fair) and Holker Old Boys are all in action this weekend, dreaming of a cup run.

Norton & Stockton Ancients (established 1959) head to Heaton Stannington while Hillingdon Borough’s road to Wembley starts against Wembley FC. These are just a handful of the hundreds of subplots happening up and down the country this afternoon.

The choice for me was a simple one. A local derby between Penistone Church and Pontefract Collieries represented a meeting of two sides based just a few miles away from the birthplace of each of my Yorkshire parents. Born in 1957 and 1960 respectively, they fall either side of the definition ‘ancient’ in the Norton and Stockton area.

Match day at The Memorial Ground (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

Match day at The Memorial Ground (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

“Our dreams start in August,” Club Secretary Dave Hampshire tells me pre-match. He’s kindly agreed to meet me for a chat before the game and we discuss the build-up on the phone and via email in the week before. “I’ve just had a knee replacement so you won’t miss me. I’ll be the one on crutches.”

True to his word, I find him in the busy clubhouse half an hour before kick-off. I feel a little guilty disturbing him to introduce myself. He’s just sat down.

I’m here with my two young children and wife; it’s taking some getting used to saying that, as we finally tied the knot three weeks ago after eleven years together. She jokes that she’s had long enough to get used to my obsession to accept going from our local church to Penistone Church in three short weeks. It’s just £10 for all four of us this afternoon.

Dave and I find a quiet-ish corner in a cordoned off section of the clubhouse and he beckons the kids in to share the complimentary biscuits when I point them out. Aged six and three, they’ve brought their own notepads to record an account of today’s match; although they’re quickly handed over to mum on the sight of custard creams.

“When I took over in 1991, we’d got nothing,” Dave tells me. “We were dead on our feet and owed money all over but we’ve turned it around and here we are now in the FA Cup.”

Established in 1906, Penistone Church are a side with upward momentum. A 9th placed finish in the Northern Counties East League Division One last season was the best in the club’s history and gives them a platform to push for promotion into the NCEL Premier League; the division today’s visitors reached in May after 15 consecutive years on the tenth rung of the league ladder.

A healthy crowd at The Memorial Ground (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

A healthy crowd at The Memorial Ground (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

“At the age of five I was a mascot. I’ve played here, was groundsman, I’ve been manager of both the First Team and Second Team. I actually became Secretary by default as the former Secretary was very ill and had just six months to live. He handed me a case and I’ve been in this position ever since.

“The only people that used to visit regularly were bailiffs. We got a good treasurer in Jim Hinchcliffe about ten years ago, installed an astroturf pitch in 1999 to bring in some income and invested in the Clubhouse from there. Everything you see, we’ve paid for ourselves. We’ve done it through hard work and help from volunteers. This is what you do at grassroots. This is what you are.”

Penistone Church FC’s story is an impressive one. Situated off a side road from the pretty market town centre, the busy Clubhouse does feel like a community hub; it’s open every night of the week and is getting bookings as a function room following a recent refurbishment.

Dave continues: “We’ve got under-7s right through to under-18s. We take 250 to 300 kids off the streets every week. We’ve just started a girls’ team and we have two over-35s and an over-45s side. It’s a proper community club.

“This is our second season at step 6 football after our first season in NCEL Division One last year. We played in the FA Vase last season but this is the first time we’ve been eligible for the FA Cup.”

I ask him how he’s feeling ahead of the game, and how he rates the side standing in their way:

“Excited. Very excited. We played them on GroundHop day on Easter Saturday night. We had a crowd of 511 here and they thumped us 7-0,” he laughs. “A bit of revenge is on the cards. It was a fantastic day but a bit of an embarrassing score.”

I ask him where a day like today ranks after a quarter of a century as Secretary and a lifetime affiliated with his local side: “The highest,” he says, without hesitation.

“It’s our dream. There have been steps along the way. The first day becoming solvent was a massive day in my time as Secretary when we finally didn’t owe anyone money. Then we got floodlights which we’d talked about for years. Someone told me that we needed a five-year plan. I said we’ve had a five-year plan for the last 25 years!”

“To get into the North East Counties was another step and now today…it’s every player’s dream. I only played in it once but I can say I played in the FA Cup. And these lads are just loving it and for us as a Club, it’s just fantastic.”

“All around Penistone today, the number of people that have shouted ‘Good luck Dave!’…” he says, before momentarily trailing off. “I’m getting a bit overwhelmed by it all now!” he admits, as a little emotion flickers in his voice.

We leave it there as kick-off is fast approaching and he’s clearly in-demand. The teams are heading out from the retractable tunnel adjoining the clubhouse and we head to the small terraced side of the ground to take our places for kick-off.

A few last minute checks...

A few last minute checks…

...and we're ready for kick-off.

…and we’re ready for kick-off.

In previous matches at this level I’ve noticed the majority of home fans gathering towards the end their side are attacking in each half. The majority of today’s 220 are instead in the half Penistone are defending. I’m hopeful it’s more for convenience to the clubhouse than fear of another ‘GroundHop Day’.

As the game kicks off, an FA Cup cake is paraded through the stands; it’s today’s raffle prize along with a bottle of wine. It proves popular at £1 a strip as the Club make the most of almost double their average gate.

The opening quarter of an hour is competitive, with both sides playing decent football without carving out too many chances. The first real opportunity falls to the visitors, with the lively looking Aaron Moxam forcing a decent save out of Rhodes. Another chance comes soon after and the ‘keeper saves well with his feet.

“Who kicked that out of the ground, Dad?” asks Jacob as a Penistone player clears the small fence on the opposite side of the pitch. His blow-by-blow account is missing the odd ‘blow’ as he tries to note down everything he sees. My daughter scribbles studiously as she repeats the same question.

The home side glance a header wide and play a dangerous cross through the box not long before the break but struggle to create anything more.

Dave is sat in the VIP area we chatted in pre-match enjoying a sandwich at half-time as I queue to grab a couple of hot dogs for the kids. “Competitive first half,” I say as I head back outside. We agree that they played well in an evenly matched 45 minutes. It must come as some relief given the 3-0 deficit they trailed by on the way to conceding seven at Easter.

It almost gets much better immediately after the break. Andy Ring, Penistone’s main threat in the first half, broke through a static defence to face former Barnsley ‘keeper Craig Parry. With both men waiting for the other to make a move, Ring’s attempt to round Parry was pushed behind for a corner by the experienced stopper who refused to go to ground.

Andy Ring comes close to opening the scoring.

Andy Ring comes close to opening the scoring. (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

Ring reached double figures last season after more than a decade at Stocksbridge where he scored over 100 times in more than 300 appearances. The veteran looked a strong and reliable target man throughout the match, if perhaps lacking the pace and trickery of Ponte’s Moxam, who would break the deadlock soon after.

Receiving the ball in the box, Moxam held off pressure from Penistone captain Howes and slipped the ball beyond the advancing Rhodes. It was a clinical finish and an illustration of the difference between the teams in a game that Penistone were beginning to look like getting on top of.

Aaron Moxam celebrates the opener (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

Aaron Moxam celebrates the opener (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

No heads dropped for the home side as they continued to push. Looking dangerous down the left with Howes showing plenty of attacking intent from full back, Church continued to work hard to find the ever-willing Ring up front.

Instead, it would be Moxam who’d wrap the game up in the 73rd minute. His break through this time saw him hold off big centre half Lovell, the man mountain at the back who’d dominated in the air for Penistone, before another sharp finish. It’s harsh on Church and I can’t help feeling for Dave as Moxam wheels away with the game surely won.

Moxam adds a second in the 73rd minute (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

Moxam adds a second in the 73rd minute (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

Like their Secretary, though, there’s no shortage of perseverance. They push on with even more effort, risking a third on the break that would have flattered the visitors, but are unable to find a lifeline back into the game.

We make our way round towards the clubhouse as the final whistle blows. As is common at this level, the players greet friends and family and arrange a post-match drink as they leave the field. I spot a slightly downbeat Dave stood nearby.

“We played well but didn’t take our chances,” he concludes as we catch up after the game. “A shame as that £1500 would have come in handy!” From our chat earlier, there’s little doubt the modest prize money at this level compared with later rounds is still a massive bonus for clubs like Penistone and Pontefract.

“Onto Athersley now in the FA Vase,” he says, a little dejectedly. A busy league campaign awaits before that match in October. His phone rings and we shake hands; I don’t want to disturb him any longer as there are clearly plenty of people wanting to catch up with a man whose dedication to the Club has been rewarded somewhat on this bittersweet historic afternoon.

As we head back through the park towards our car, Lynsey tells me how much she’s enjoyed her ‘big day at Church’. There’s something special about the Club that Dave built and I fancy a promotion push under the guidance of brothers Ian and Duncan Richards with the impressive spirit that seems evident throughout this corner of South Yorkshire.

Elsewhere, Pegasus Juniors bow out, losing 1-0 to Westfields from the division above. Holker Old Boys cause a real upset, though, beating Liversedge of the tier above 4-0. Clearly experience does count for something.

The Emirates FA Cup, as we’ll no doubt have to get used to calling it, is back underway. Unlike The Emirates, though, it’s places like Penistone where you’ll find the real heroes of the FA Cup.

The Penistone squad pre-match. Dave Hampshire is third from the left on the back row. (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

The Penistone squad pre-match. Dave Hampshire is third from the left on the back row. (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

Adam Rhodes surveys his options (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)

Adam Rhodes surveys his options (image courtesy of Andy Nunn)


Many of these images are gratefully reproduced at the courtesy of the excellent Andy Nunn. You can view these images and many more in his Flickr gallery and follow him on Twitter @Andythephoto.

The Underdog Blog Record 2015/16

P 1 W 0 D 0 L 1 F 0 A 2 GD -2

Penistone Church FC vs Pontefract Collieries FC

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round

Saturday 15th August 2015

The Memorial Ground, Penistone, South Yorkshire

Penistone Church                             0           – 2             Pontefract Collieries


                Moxam 53, 73


Penistone Church: 1. Rhodes, 2. Cadzow, 3. Howes (captain), 4. Ellis, 5. Whitehead, 6. Lovell, 7. Richards, 8. Jones (12. Exley 62’), 9. Crossfield (16. Hall 73’), 10. Dickinson (17. Young 73’), 11. Ring

Substitutes: 14. Lee, 15. Briggs.

Pontefract Collieries: 1. Parry, 2. Heeley, 3. Corbett, 4. Forgione, 5. Danville (captain), 6. Robinson (17. Stayley 30’), 7. Radford, 8. Barlow, 9. Williams (14. Catton 55’), 10. Moxam, 11. Whitehouse (16. Jerome 58’).

Substitutes: 12. Marsden, 15. Chappell, 18. Copping.

Referee: Martin Fryer

Att: 220


4 thoughts on “FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round: Penistone Church FC vs Pontefract Collieries FC

  1. Pingback: Welcome to The Underdog Blog | The Underdog Blog

  2. The Penistone Church FC management team is Ian and Duncan Richards. Not Richardson. Both played professional footballer when younger with Blackburn Rovers And Barnsley respectively.


  3. Pingback: FA Cup Sixth Round: Arsenal FC vs Watford FC | The Underdog Blog

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