With no Premiership or Championship football during the international break there was a lot of focus on Non League football yesterday as part of the excellent initiative Non League Day.
The idea of which is to improve the attendances of semi professional and amateur games and to show appreciation for the efforts that go into running these clubs without the financial backing of the top teams.
I chose my local team, Worcester City. I like to go a couple of times a year if I can and I always enjoy it. Yesterday was no different.
City welcomed Stalybridge Celtic to St George’s Lane, who prior to the game sat 2 places below them. 1038 was the attendance which is one of the biggest gates of the season and will have proven invaluable to the club who need as much funding as possible.
Worcester City started excellently with some absolutely brilliant passing football and Stalybridge really struggled to get a foothold in the game. City were tearing them apart with a pass and move style that neither I, nor my friends who had come with me, had seen down at St George’s Lane before.
Carl Heeley, City manager, has obviously done a brilliant job and re-signing striker Danny Glover was a masterstroke as he was magnificent yesterday and it was no surprise when he tucked away the goal, after some brilliant build up play, to give City the lead.
The only surprise was that at half time the score was still only 1-0. Stalybridge were struggling to cope with City and were restricted to a few counter attacks. It seemed a question of how many for City.
However, the second half took a very different turn. The referee, up to that point, had been anonymous (just how you like it really). However, early in the second half, he adjudged City’s defender Ayres had dragged back Stalybridge’s attacker and gave a penalty. As Ayres was the last man, the referee had no choice but to send the City man off.
However, it was a clear dive and should have been a booking for the Stalybridge player.
The penalty was stroked home by Pepper and the momentum of the match had switched in that one moment. It was a backs against the wall job for City as their goal was bombarded by Stalybridge. City’s keeper made some brilliant saves to keep them at bay.
After City had soaked up the pressure and regrouped. Carl Heeley brought on Edwards who was a constant threat when he came on and linked up well with Glover to create plenty of chances. A Glover header was clawed out by Stalybridge’s keeper, the Stalybridge goal was under constant pressure but City struggled to hit the target.
As is often the case in football, after constant City pressure, Stalybridge broke away and won a corner. It was swung in and in the last couple of minutes of normal time Platt headed home to score what was probably the winner. It was a sucker punch for City who did not deserve to be behind after being the better team even when down to ten men.
The drama hadn’t finished, though. City were to find themselves down to nine men as the referee lost complete control. City’s Rob Elvins was sent off for a second yellow card after a supposed stamp on a Stalybridge defender who should himself had seen red for the two footed challenge on Elvins.
It all started to boil over as sly kicks were aimed at players after challenges and robust tackles were thrown in.
There was time for City to have a gilt edged chance right at the death with a one on one with the keeper but the attempt was scuffed and the keeper saved easily.
Just before the final whistle Stalybridge were down to ten men. Mitchell Austin with a reckless lunge on the City keeper picking up his second yellow card (in all rights it should have been a straight red)
Final score was Worcester City 1 Stalybridge Celtic 2.
Not the result we wanted but it was an absolutely fantastic day out. The atmosphere was phenomenal (always helps having dodgy refereeing decisions!). The football was unexpectedly high quality and the full experience was an enjoyable one.
To use a cliche it was a “great advert for non league” football. If you’re ever at a loose end on a Saturday, get down to your local club and support them. I can’t guarantee it will be as fun as my day out but you never know!
There are worse ways to spend your day.