New Crofton – the home of Nostell Miners Welfare – dates back to the 1900’s when the village was constructed primarily for the families of the miners working at the nearby Nostell Colliery. There’s a winding wheel as you turn into Spring Lane, and another larger and beautiful example of a headstock wheel in the corner of the car park. Access to the Welfare Ground at Nostell Miners Welfare is gained through the Crofton Community Centre, and the corridor en route to the turnstile provides a terrific insight into the rich history of almost a thousand years of mining at Nostell. The “Family Pit”- so called because of the benevolent welfare schemes offered by the owners, the Winn family, for whom the nearby Nostell Priory was built – closed in 1987, and is now a nature park; but the Community centre remains; a modern, multi-sport facility which is deservedly proud of its heritage.
The information boards in the Centre testify to the fact that the original welfare was noted for the occasional fisticuffs on a Saturday night, and the respective squads from Nostell Miners Welfare and Swallownest briefly recreated that tradition as the full-time whistle blew yesterday – but more of that later, writes Colin Muncie for the Bootiful Game.
The cheery Committee member and volunteer gateman relieved me of my fiver at the turnstile, and sold me a copy of the excellent match day programme. I’d noticed that the upcoming home fixture with local rivals AFC Emley had been re-arranged for next Friday evening. The reverse fixture in Kirklees a couple of weeks ago had attracted a crowd of over 200, and had been a cracking game to boot. We agreed that Friday night local derbies were well worth serious consideration in the endless pursuit of getting folk through the gates, and we wish Nostell well with this initiative.
There’s a terrific, elevated vantage point over the Welfare Ground pitch for seated and standing spectators alike, so I bought my cuppa and watched the warm up for yesterday’s Toolstation NCEL Division One clash. Nostell had given a start to recent signing striker Andy Horbury (from AFC Emley) but Joint Managers Simon Houghton and Jason Dodsworth had seen their plans disrupted losing regular Gary Stevens to injury. Worse was to follow for Swallownest, as planned starter, defender Lloyd Gelsthorpe pulled up with a back injury during the warm up forcing Manager Jordan Stocks and Assistant Joel Evans to call on Mitch Kent – already struggling with a foot injury – at right back.
As the game started, Nostell seized the early initiative, with lively, speedy and tricky winger Joe Wood giving the hobbling Kent a torrid time, resulting in an early yellow for the visiting defender; and Adam Hayton pulling the strings for the third placed side. In the tenth minute, a high ball dropped into the Swallownest box, and as it bounced, it seemed innocuous enough as goalkeeper Josh Lill came to collect; Nostell’s Jack Owen hadn’t given it up though, and headed the ball clear of the Swallownest keeper’s outstretched arms before turning the ball home.
The home side was edging the contest in the early minutes, and Jay Evison saw yellow halfway through the first period for a challenge on Nostell’s Billy Mole. The visitors started to force themselves into the contest, with Josh Statham going close twice with head and foot, but with half-time approaching, the home side put a serious headlock on the three points with a second goal, with Wood again at the heart of the move. His pace and trickery took him clear on the left, and his killer ball into the danger area was expertly converted from close range by Owen to give him his 16th of the season. There was just time for Brad Kilburn to receive a yellow card for a foul on Ollie Grady.
Half-time came and went, and it was immediately clear that Jordan Stocks had switched to a back three, with Adam Daughtrey replacing the injured Kent. Swallownest immediately got on the front foot, and started to play some good football in and around the box, with support now for front man Alex Lill. The visitors were now on top, but as time ran out, Swallownest couldn’t capitalise on the few clear chances they created, with home Captain Rhys Meynell and keeper Matt Brooke in great form. Jordan threw Jason Short and Nathan Morritt on in search of the gaol which would have set up a frantic finale; Short went close twice, with his first effort kicked off the line, and a thundering left foot half volley from Ash Cooper crashed against the bar with Jason Dodsworth desperately trying to get his side up the pitch. The challenges became more and more tasty, with the referee working hard to keep control, but despite having the lion’s share of that second half the final whistle blew to send the visitors home empty handed and keep Nostell in touch with the top two, Grimsby Borough and Campion, who both won.
Both sides had developed such a strong affection for each other that they had to be physically separated by the respective Managers as they lived up to that reputation described in the heritage centre; but no harm was done, and both squads shook hands after a full-blooded ninety minutes.
A crowd of 93 watched the clash.
Nostell’s Joint Manager, Jason Dodsworth, admitted that his pre-match planning had gone out of the window, but that his side had adjusted well. “I’m really happy to get the win today,” he told TBG. “It wasn’t a classic but the result is all that matters. We lost three players before the game including our keeper Gary Stevens so had to play Matt Brooke – who was also injured but did a great job for us today.”
“We got two up at half-time and defended really well again to keep another clean sheet,” Jason told us. “I always say it’s about the 16 – not 11 – players and today proved that. We were put under some pressure in the second-half, but defensively we were quality again and limited them to few real clear-cut chances.”
“We move on to next week now.”
Swallownest Manager Jordan Stocks cut a disconsolate figure after the game. “Frustrated doesn’t come close!!!” he admitted. “Today I thought we played well and – to a degree – dominated; but football at this level is sometimes fine margins. We applied some good pressure with four or five good chances, but we just couldn’t breach a stubborn well drilled side.”
Jordan bemoaned the manner of the two goals which decided the contest, but is understandably upbeat about his young squad. “On the other hand, we showed our naivety by gifting two shocking goals by any standard,” he conceded. “But that’s why we are tenth and not at the right end. We are a good side – and a brilliant bunch – but we need to cut the mistakes out.”
“If we do that, we won’t be far off where we want to be.”
Assistant Manager, Joel Evans didn’t think that there was much in the contest. “Today’s game was lost through our own costly errors,” he acknowledged. “You can’t give a team who are third in the League a two goal start and expect to win. However, I thought the game itself lacked any real cut chances and both teams cancelled each other out.”
Looking at the bigger picture, Joel told TBG, “The bottom line is though, that we have lost and if we are to finish in the top ten, we need to start getting points on the board.”
“We go again next week against Glasshoughton who will again be another tough test.”