Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stocksbridge Park Steels FC

Stocksbridge Park Steels 4 Brigg Town 0 - Northern Premier League, Division One South

Stocksbridge is a town in the metropolitan borough of the City of Sheffield. In 2007 the population of the town including Deepcar and Bolsterstone was nearly 14,000. Deepcar is a village adjoining the eastern end of Stocksbridge. To the south are the villages of Bolsterstone, site of a manor house; and further south is Ewden Village, a navvy village established in the early 20th century during the construction of the Sheffield reservoirs. Oughtibridge is a village to the south east, on the main road to Sheffield, in the Upper Don Valley. The village of Wharncliffe Side is located on the main road between Deepcar and Oughtibridge. Midhopestones (or Nether Midhope), and Upper Midhope (or Over Midhope) are small villages in the western half of the ward, close to the northern border, and near to Midhope and Langsett reservoirs. A handful of Stocksbridge families can claim descent from those named in such documents as the Poll Tax Returns of 1379 and Hearth Tax Returns of 1672 in Bolsterstone, Bradfield, Hunshelf and Midhope. Of the family names recorded in the 1779 Waldershelf Valuation, some descendants can probably trace an unbroken line through more than 200 years. Hundreds more can certainly claim to have descended from those who were drawn to this area by the prospect of work in the new industries of the last 150 years. The Censuses of 1851 to 1891 show that they came from every part of the British Isles and from almost every County in England.

Stocksbridge Park Steels FC was formed in 1986 as the result of the merger of Stocksbridge Works, the works team of the local British Steel plant, with another local club, Oxley Park Sports F.C. The new club was immediately admitted to the Northern Counties East League Division Two, the works club having previously played in Division Three of the same league. The Steels spent five seasons in Division Two before being placed in Division One when the lower division was discontinued upon league re-organisation in 1991. In the same year Mick Horne was appointed as the club's manager, and he led the team to the championship of Division One in the 1991–92 season. In Stocksbridge's first season in the Premier Division the team finished near the bottom of the table, but in the 1993–94 season the Steels became Northern Counties East League champions. The club failed to gain promotion to the Northern Premier League, however, as their stadium did not meet the required standard. The club finished second in the division two seasons later, losing the championship on goal difference to Hatfield Main, and on this occasion were admitted to the Northern Premier League Division One. In the 2008–09 season, the club once again qualified for the play-offs and defeated Belper Town in the final to gain promotion to the Northern Premier League Premier Division for the first time. The Steels spent five years in the Premier Division, never finishing out of the bottom half of the table and were relegated at the end of the 2013–14 season.

From the centre of Sheffield there are regular bus services to Stocksbridge. In daylight as I experienced, there is some wonderful scenery to view as the bus winds its way through the South Yorkshire countryside. The journey takes around an hour. The 57 bus service drops you off just a few minutes away from Bracken Moor.

On arrival at the ground I was greeted by a friendly club official, who then invited me into the ground, showing me where all the facilities were. After taking my initial batch of photographs I adjourned to the clubhouse. The licenced bar upstairs offers a good view of the ground and I was delighted to find real ale on sale. A good pint of Ye Olde English Ale (4.6%) from the local Bradfield Brewery was enjoyed. This seasonal beer from the brewery’s selection offers a light copper coloured traditional English ale. Full bodied with a citrus and spice aroma leaving a long dry aftertaste. I later bumped into the same official who was surprised to learn of the real ale as he “only drank wine”. I expect that he will include this fact the next time he welcomes a visitor to the club. Solid refreshment in the form of pie, peas and gravy was also enjoyed along with mint sauce which is often standard at clubs in this particular part of the country.

The Bracken Moor ground is unusual in its layout. There is terracing behind the goal at the Bracken Moor Lane end of the ground. This includes a substantial covered area. Along the side of the ground available to spectators, there is a covered seated stand. The other end of the ground hosts a flat standing area with steep grass banking behind. The remaining side of the ground is fenced off with a training facility behind. This was once where the football ground and cricket pitch merged and the old scoreboard is still visible.

Both sides had endured a difficult season, particularly Brigg Town who were rooted to the bottom of the table with only three wins all season. One of these victories was against Stocksbridge Park Steels! There was to be no repeat of this though, as the home side steadily grew in confidence as the match progressed. A fine lobbed goal in the first period was supplemented by three further strikes in the second half. In the covered area behind the goal, Roxy the dog intently studied every movement of the ball, barking in delight at every shot on the Bracken Moor Lane end goal.

The match ended at 21:36 which was precisely the time of the SL bus for which the stop is outside the turnstile. The bus was on time and was just pulling away when I flagged it down. I and a couple of others from the match were grateful to the driver for stopping and saving us a further 20 minute wait. However, I soon realised that if another spectator had not left the ground earlier to catch this bus, it may not have stopped and we might not have been as fortunate! Stocksbridge Park Steels is a very friendly club and visitors are sure to receive a warm welcome.

Attendance: 102
Admission: £7:00
Programme: £1:50
Tea: £1:00
Pie, Peas & Gravy: £3:00
Real Ale: £2:70

For a full set of photographs click here


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