Those of you daft enough to have been following my accounts of recent trips around our local Toolstation NCEL League grounds will have noticed that a strong theme runs through them all.
Clubs like Dronfield town, Swallownest, Sheffield FC and Maltby Main all recognise how vital volunteers are to the well-being of a club. That warm welcome, cheery conversation and that world class banter makes you less reticent to part with your hard-earned money, and more importantly, encourages you to come back again – and again. Some people decide that they’d like to get more deeply involved – and the best Non-League clubs embrace them with open arms and a paint brush.
Hallam are one of those clubs. Geoff Kristofferson and his missus were at the Oldest Ground in the World at 8.30 am yesterday, helping the club prepare for their FA Vase Second Round home tie with Hebburn Town. Mrs K was helping Anne Holland, a volunteer at Sandygate for over sixty years – with the catering, and Geoff was helping to ensure that the ground was its usual immaculate self for the visitors heading down from the North East, writes Colin Muncie.
Late heartbreak for @HallamFC1860 today. Thanks to everyone @HallamFC1860 for the usual brilliant welcome from all @TheBootifulGame .Thanks also to @HebburnTown for their part in a fine game.@fudge1787 @BasfordSteve pic.twitter.com/LnismG7aOO
— Colin Muncie (@ColinM1956) November 3, 2018
Having lived in S10 for over thirty years I wasn’t surprised at all that it was windy. This long tenure in the area meant that I had perfected the 51-bus timetable to and from the ground, then the missus decided we were moving. A mate of mine once worked out that if you stayed on the top deck of the 51 bus all afternoon, you could see about six minutes of a Hallam home game. The 51 is a regular feature on the skyline at Sandygate, and one roared past as I surrendered my fiver to gateman, Dave Peck and bought the latest edition of Mike and Andy Jolly’s excellent match day magazine.
The clubhouse at Sandygate was getting busier.
Chairman Steve Basford was busy running off the team sheets on a photocopier in the storeroom, and his multi-tasking wife, Suite Manager Jane, said a quick hello as she checked that Steve was doing the job properly. Steve had a concerned look on his face, though. He’d been expecting three coaches from Hebburn, and two of them had stopped off in Rotherham for, errm, refreshments. Would there be enough food, the Hebburn Secretary asked? Not a problem for Annie, Steve nodded, knowingly.
Former Wednesday Legend, Chris Waddle is a regular at Sandygate. Just last week, he had played a key role in a hugely successful football Fundraiser for a wonderful local Charity, St. Luke’s Hospice. With Chris’ connections to both South Yorkshire and the North East, it was no surprise to see him at the game. I sent a quick photo to TBG Editor, Craig Kendall, who messaged me back in a flash, asking me to grab a word with the great man for our humble magazine. I froze. I don’t have a great record with people of celebrity status, having been traumatised by an attempt at conversation with Noel Gallagher at Luton Airport several years ago.
Noel only granted me two words, the second of which was “Off”, so I stuck with the photograph. I doubt Noel remembers the occasion, but I do, and shiver at the memory of it.
— Colin Muncie (@ColinM1956) November 3, 2018
By this time, the two missing Hebburn Town coaches had turned up, full of fully-hydrated supporters. Although loud, and boisterous, they were well-behaved to a man, and observed the minute’s silence following the tragic events in Leicester with total respect, as we all did. Hallam’s usual Microphone man, Mark Radford, had handed Stadium Announcer duties to Hebburn’s Mick Laffey for the day, and Mick was absolutely terrific, mixing match information with wry humour and an occasional dig at Sunderland FC from “the 148th Division of the Football League”. Priceless stuff.
Hebburn are strongly fancied to go all the way in the FA Vase this year, and they chose to kick up the hill and with the wind in the first half. Gradually, they put their passing game together, but Jack McCarthy and Gareth Griffiths were absolutely immense at the back for the Countrymen, and when the visitors did get through, they found home keeper, Archie Sneath in wonderful form. With superb stops from Michael Richardson, Lee Kerr and Luke Sullivan keeping the game scoreless at the break. That’s not to say Hallam hadn’t threatened, mind, and from one of many delicious left-footed deliveries from Niall Smith, Callum Littlejohn’s header found visiting keeper, Andrew Jennison in the right place at the right time.
Annie’s Cabin did tremendous business at the interval, and I grabbed a cuppa and a chat with Chairman Steve and Joint Treasurer, Sharon Fudge. Sharon always offers a warm welcome to regulars and visitors alike and with her fiscal responsibilities at the club would have been happy enough with the crowd of 260 on the day. Media Contributor, Glenn Poulton was missing yesterday as he was at Hillsborough watching the Mighty Owls, so everyone at TBG would like to wish him a speedy recovery. Geoff brushed past with a smile eating two beautifully-prepared sandwiches – who says men can’t do two things at once?
There were only two Amigos in the Hallam Technical Area yesterday, with Assistant Manager, Dean Bamforth doing his bit for Anglo-Spanish relations in possibly his last overseas trip before we leave the European Union, but Joint Managers, Scott Bates and Stephen Whitehead were in good voice as their side attacked the Plough end in the second half.
Hebburn were imposing themselves on the tie, and Sneath was called on to make another wonderful flying save just after the break. On 65 minutes though, the Hornets threw on 38-year old striker Paul Chow, who had been identified in the Match day programme as one to watch. Paul has no less than three FA Vase winner’s medals, all won with Whitley Bay, and with eight minutes left, Paul flicked home a near post header to put the visitors in front, to the delight of the travelling support. ‘Feed the Chow and he will score,’ they sang.
Hallam weren’t finished, though, not by a long shot, and Steve Smith finished beautifully on 86 minutes to level the game up. Steve had suffered a cut above his right eye in the first half, and you could just about make his bandage out as he disappeared beneath his delighted teammates.
So, a draw and a replay at the Hebburn Sports and Social Club now looked the most likely outcome; that is until the visitors went straight down the other end and grabbed a deflected winner from substitute Jack Robson (87 minutes) to break the Hallam hearts and send the Northern Football League side into the third round, as the excellent referee Chris Reason blew for full time.
A proper Cup Tie then with a sting in the tail, and as we trooped out into the night, Hebburn’s Management Team, Scott Oliver and Chris Thompson shook the hand of every fan – home and away – and wished them well. The beauty of Non-League football in one simple gesture and a credit to the visiting side.
Another 51 bus raced past, with my mate on the top deck.
Hallam’s Joint Manager, Scott Bates cut a disconsolate figure at the end. “In a nutshell I’m absolutely gutted for the lads,” he admitted, “I didn’t think there was much in it to be honest. I don’t think we were at our best, but that’s not taking anything away from the players who worked so hard.”
Scott found the manner of the defeat hard to take. “The sickening thing is how we conceded the second, just 30 seconds after us getting the equalizer. If I was a betting man, I would have backed us to go on and win.”
“That’s taking nothing away from Hebburn; I thought they dealt with our front three really well.”
Hallam other joint manager Stephen Whitehead commented, “I’m gutted for the lads really they have been on a fantastic run of late an the run has to end at some point.
“A well drilled Hebburn town did that an all the best to them in the competition but I think it could have gone either way an if we show a bit more quality in the final third an don’t switch off on the only two occasions we did all day then we probably win the game. We need to bounce back straight away an it’s a pity that there isn’t a midweek game cause you can see in the changing room the lads want to get back to winning ways.”
The Bootiful Game would like to thank everyone at Hallam FC, including Chairman Steve Basford, his wife Anne, Sharon Fudge and all their volunteers for their usual generous welcome yesterday. Thanks also to everyone from Hebburn Town for contributing to a fine afternoon’s football.