Sometimes you see a line in a match report or a Tweet on a club timeline that makes you wish you’d written it. Take, for example, this piece of genius from the Scottish League One bottom side Stenhousemuir FC’s Twitter feed during their stunning 2-0 away win at League Leaders Arbroath yesterday. The home side had been awarded a 40th minute penalty at Gayfield, a cute ground which hugs the Angus coastline and up stepped the home striker – who missed. Cue the Stenhousemuir site, “Bobby Linn puts his penalty over the stand – and into the sea.” Perfect.
It wasn’t quite as tidal at Sandygate yesterday, but it came pretty close. I’d been in touch with Hallam’s Anne Holland and Mike Jolly in the hours before the game just checking that it would be on. Both were confident it would be, and both were right – just. There’s no such thing as a free lunch at Hallam, though, so Mike asked me if I’d do a match report to go alongside the usual fine material produced by their own band of volunteers.
It was wet and windy in S10 as we rocked up at the Oldest Football Ground in the World, and after a catch up with John Wiseman, and a natter with our esteemed editor Craig Kendall (it says here) we caught up on the warm-ups. You can find Craig’s excellent match photographs on the Bootiful Game website.
Both camps felt that the conditions would make for an even keener contest than was already anticipated, and a big crowd was building, helped by the early kick off at Bramall Lane. The traffic round Shoreham Street is quite light on match days, as we know, so there was plenty of time to make the transit from S2 to Sandygate and many did, including a couple of despondent Millers. Ian Robinson, our only high-calibre writer, was also there with a contingent from Handsworth Parramore, and David Hirst turned up to watch the game too.
Hallam kept new signing Ryan Carroll in reserve at the start, but still offered plenty of firepower in Jake Currie, Sam Smith (14 for the season) and Keiran Watson (27 goals). The visitors were without Alex Nightingale, Mitch Ward and the suspended Ash Cooper – three big losses but in a high–quality squad, others always step up.
The pitch was heavy, the wind swirling and the rain came and went as the game got underway. It was Swallownest who started on the front foot, and Richie Williams went close with an early chance which was blocked.
Claire Hobson, the visiting Manager of Social Eyes FC and Rotherham fanatic had described the Will Vaulks sending off at Bramall Lane earlier as a ‘game changer,’ and after eight minutes at Sandygate a similar crucial decision put the brakes on Swallownest’s bright start. Hallam’s Sam Smith looked to break clear on the right, and there was a coming together with Swallownest keeper Josh Lill. Smith looked to be heading away from goal, there wasn’t much contact, and the referee didn’t flag, but to be fair to referee Justin Carpenter, he took his time before showing a straight red to Josh. Swallownest’s Jordan Stocks was clearly unhappy with the call, and received a lecture from the referee before hauling off Jay Short and sending on substitute goalkeeper Spencer Bingley, who immediately produced a brilliant save from Niall Smith’s curling free kick. One for another look on the match highlights on Hallam’s You Tube Channel.
Despite the setback, Swallownest continued to play some excellent football, with Ollie Grady calling the shots in midfield, and Alex Lill and Nathan Morritt causing problems for Hallam at the back. In fact, Lill almost put the visitors in front after a long ball down the right had evaded home ‘keeper Archie Sneath, but Alex Varley made a crucial intervention to divert Alex’s strike for a corner.
The conditions continued to hamper both sides, with a series of yellow cards breaking up play to the audible irritation of the home support. With half-time approaching, though, the home side took the lead. Another fine left wing cross from Niall Smith almost evaded Swallownest ‘keeper Spencer Bingley, who just managed to push the ball onto the cross bar, but Keiran Watson reacted quickly to head home on 41 minutes.
Almost immediately, Swallownest were denied a wonderful equalising goal by an offside flag after a beautiful, one-touch passing move down the right was expertly converted by Lill. There was time for another yellow card for Swallownest’s Luke Beedham before referee – and former steelman – Carpenter blew for half time. Jordan Stocks and Joel Evans would have been delighted with their side in that first period, and whilst Scott Bates and Dean Bamforth will have been disappointed by the display, they had that all important one goal lead.
Hallam’s terrific Treasurer Sharon Fudge stopped by for a chat, and reported another fabulous crowd of 296 at Sandygate, with Annie doing a roaring trade at the cabin.
The second-half got under way under similar conditions, and the home side dominated possession of the football, but with the visitors continuing their neat passing and movement. Both sides were beginning to look a bit leggy after a tough midweek game on an equally-heavy pitch, and Josh Statham saw yellow for Swallownest, but after 56 minutes another testing cross from left back Niall Smith – the subsequent winner of the home Man of the Match award – found its way over Spencer Bingley and over the line, despite Sam Smith making sure.
Both sides rang the changes, with the excellent Grady and brave Gelsthorpe making way for Blake and Evison for Swallownest, and Ryan Carroll making his debut for the Countrymen. The game lost a lot of its shape before, with a minute left, Bingley’s clearance was quickly recycled to Keiran Watson, who lobbed his second and the home side’s third; harsh on the visitors, but three much needed points for the home side.
Next up for Hallam – fourth and four points off the top of the table – is a home clash with Worsbrough Bridge Athletic on Tuesday night, while Swallownest are on NCEL League Cup Quarter Final duty at Selby Town on Wednesday.
Hallam Joint Manager, Scott Bates, was pleased with the points but not necessarily his side’s performance. “Being honest, we deserved nothing from the game,” Scott admitted. “We never came out of the traps and never laid a finger on them, so they won 3-0. I know we had a tough game on Tuesday, and the majority of those lads started again today.”
“I feel Swallownest played some great football,” Scott acknowledged, “but I felt we were never under the cosh. I thought our back four defended brilliantly, but obviously I’m really happy with three points and clean sheet.”
“I thought it was a scrappy game on a very heavy pitch,” two-goal Keiran Watson told TBG. “I can’t say we really deserved to come in at half-time in front as it was probably the worst, we’d played this season. I think the game going into extra-time at Liversedge in the week maybe took its toll on a few of the lads but in the end, I’m just pleased to come away with 3 points.”
Hallam’s Assistant Manager, Dean Bamforth, was a little more forthright and was generous in his praise for Swallownest. “I thought we were really poor, pal,” Dean said (kind of). “If I’d paid, I’d want my money back, so I apologise to the 300 fantastic supporters who came. We’ve had a few encouraging words, and I hope it sticks. The pitch was sticky and the wind was strong but that didn’t stop a 10-man Swallownest from passing us off the pitch, did it? I suppose the flip side is that it’s a sign of a good team when they play poorly (sic) and win 3-0.”
“All the best to Jordan and his squad,” Dean added. “They were great today.”
Not surprisingly, Swallownest Manager Jordan Stocks felt that the early dismissal made all the difference. “After Tuesday I couldn’t wait for today’s derby and when I saw the conditions, I felt we were in for a cracker,” Jordan told us. “It shaped up that way, but then the referee got star struck by the big crowd and made the most ridiculous decision of a red card I’ve ever seen by sending our ‘keeper off after 8 mins. After that we knew we were up against it – but credit to us, we still played some very good stuff, even scoring a perfectly good goal only to be ruled out for offside.”
“Tonight, I’m proud knowing we’re heading in the right direction as a club,” Jordan insisted. “I’m just frustrated at the officiating level as I’m now without Josh for a number of games; but we go again on Tuesday.”
Assistant Manager, Joel Evans, was equally encouraged by his side’s performance. He told us this morning, “after having a night to reflect and look back, I have nothing but admiration for my players,” Joel said. “To go down to ten men after 8 minutes against a team who are fighting for promotion and are hard to beat with 11 was always going to be an uphill task. I do however believe the referee changed the game with his lack of judgement and decisions and ultimately cost us the points.”
Joel felt that had been a good watch for the crowd. “It was always going to be a fierce challenging game with the weather and being a local derby. I do believe both sets of players conducted themselves in the right manner and demonstrated a good advert for the NCEL. The scoreline was harsh on the lads, but credit to Hallam they took their chances.”
“We go again on Tuesday in another big game for the club and hope to achieve a better outcome and hopefully better refereeing standards.”
Back after a long-term injury, Swallownest defender Lloyd Gelsthorpe felt that they had given the home side a run for their money. “It’s a tough one to take,” he admitted “3-0 on paper looks like a hiding but it was anything but. Going down to 10 men after 10 minutes was always going to be hard against one of the League favourites. We conceded two lucky/sloppy goals and then they killed us in the last 5 minutes with a third. We just have to move on to Tuesday now; it’s another big game away at Selby in the Quarter Final of the League Cup.”
“All the best to Hallam for the rest of the season.”
The Bootiful Game would like to thank everyone at Hallam FC for their kind hospitality, and to both clubs and sets of players for a fine game.