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Abandonment at Harworth

By: Chris Smith
Date: 26/11/2010

GIVEN the bad weather forecast, it was time for another game before next weekend was snowed off. Having done a new non-league ground on Sunday, we thought another was in order, so Harworth Colliery FC v Dronfield Town it was.

This fixture was to grace the superbly named Abacus Lighting Central Midlands Football League Buckingham Insurance Supreme Division. Just the title takes up half a programme.

Talking of which, I checked the league site to make sure the game was on and then looked at the club’s web site for a contact and the address. It turns out I rang an official’s home number but he wasn't put out at all and confirmed he'd get the gateman to save two programmes for me.

With that stress addressed, Qatar Mariner and I headed off towards north Nottinghamshire. The ground is on Scrooby Road, which runs to the A638 so it was a straightforward find. Whilst the ground didn't do hot food, it is only five minutes or so from the village centre where is plenty of choice. The chippy which Robert the gateman recommended was excellent, no faint praise from a Codhead like me.

We were congratulating ourselves on a plan coming together, as my relative Hannibal would say, before I jinxed everything by saying "it'll probably be nil nil with a floodlight failure."

Robert informed us that the total home crowd with a few minutes to go was two and lamented the "rubbish" support the village gave the team. This is a real shame as whilst this is Level Seven of the Non-League Pyramid, they have a recently refurbished clubhouse, what look to be state of the art facilities for the players and officials and floodlights. The programme is just the right size and very informative and a snip at a quid. The admission price is a mere three quid. The locals are hardly priced out of the game.

There are two very small stands. The one we were in was made of iron with bolted steel plates to stand on. I did have a go at finding out whether you could make some noise bouncing up and down. If you had heavy boots on and stamped on the plates you could get a respectable "boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom Harworth!" going. Not that this is likely to happen anytime soon.

Oddly enough, a respectable number of spectators turned up, though most were Dronfield fans or neutrals such as ourselves. Included among these were a Hull fan and his missus. Robert himself is a Wednesday fan.

It promised to be a high scoring game with Harworth having scored thirty six and conceded twenty nine in their fourteen games (six wins and two draws). Dronfield had scored fifty one and conceded twenty five in their sixteen matches (eleven wins and two draws) and have plenty of momentum after promotion from the Premier (!) Division last season.

Harworth generally looked the better side in the opening exchanges but Dronfield also showed their mettle and seemed stronger as the first half progressed. It was Dronfield who broke the deadlock with a well struck goal from the edge of the area. Most of the game had been contained in the middle of the pitch so it was a relief to see a goal scored although I tend to favour the home team at these games.

I needn't have feared for my adopted team for the evening as Harworth were awarded a penalty about a minute later. As a Harworth player ran into the Dronfield area, he was clearly fouled. Even I saw it!

What happened next made coming here even more worthwhile as I generally like new experiences. The Harworth player stepped up and shot. "How the f*** did he miss that?" I said as the ball appeared to go wide and with Harworth not having any ex Grimsby players that I knew of in their team.

It appeared that I'd missed something and not just the player as I'd thought. The Harworth team asked the referee to reconsider. Now we thought a corner had been given although I had been sure the goalkeeper hadn't got a touch to it. Finally, the net was inspected and it looked as though there was a hole in the side netting meaning the penalty had been converted and gone through this gap. No wonder we'd been puzzled as the ball had originally looked as though it was going to hit the target.

The goal was therefore allowed and Harworth were level with a pat on the back for the officials for getting together and coming to the right decision. We had to laugh though. Who needs goal line technology when a net inspection can do the trick?

Dronfield were largely on top as half time approached and our gateman friend thought Harworth was lucky to be level. I think it was just about the right score. Whilst it hadn't been a goal fest to date, it'd been absorbing and we looked forward to the second half. At least I hadn't seen a goalless game as I thought might have occurred earlier when everything else seemed to be going too well.

Half Time Harworth 1 Dronfield 1

It was now time to get some warmth in the well appointed clubhouse. There is a lovely memorial to a Harworth sporting hero in here. Tom Simpson won an Olympic medal, was an ex sports personality of the year and Britain’s greatest cyclist of the time. It is a thoughtful display in a large glass cabinet that would grace any museum. I spent a good few minutes admiring this which also explained the memorial stone I had noticed at the entrance to Harworth and Bircotes Social Club.

Tom Simpson died during the 1967 Tour De France as he tried to cycle to the summit of a particularly challenging mountain. A local advised me that he had amphetamines in his system when he died but that Tom had been a hero to him when he was a young child. I did a bit of research into his story later and an excellent article in the Independent (to mark the fortieth anniversary of his death in 2007) suggested this possible contribution to his death had been looked at too much. From what I read, I'd have to agree and the article was moving.

I think it is inspiring and touching that Harworth village has remembered him so fondly.

Before the restart, the clubhouse was plunged into darkness but weren't concerned as the smaller and adjacent floodlit pitch was still lit. However, we soon found out the main pitch lighting had also failed.

The home team had about thirty minutes to get the lights working and we decided to head back inside, being treated to the sight of pool players continuing and succeeding in finishing their game using a cigarette lighter and pressing buttons on mobile phones to illuminate the table.

Offers to the host by patrons to help themselves to any booze and honestly settle up the following day were unsurprisingly not taken seriously. We had to laugh when some small candles came out and groups of lads were addressed with "How romantic, table for two?"

Unfortunately the pitch lights weren't to come back on and the match was abandoned. However, we'd seen plenty of humour, had a warm welcome, forty five minutes of football and an evening somewhere different. I've learned something about British cycling and witnessed the honouring of a local hero. Not bad for four quid. Oh, and two new experiences with a net inspection before allowing a goal and a floodlight failure.

These things happen, and it’s probably my fault for speculating a floodlight failure would happen after our earlier plans came together. I'd certainly pay another visit here but I'll keep my big mouth shut in future (except when I'm singing at Town games!)

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