Di­ary of a Ground Hop­per

The Non-League Football Paper - - SOUTHERN PREMIER SOUTH -

SATUR­DAY DE­CEM­BER 15TH Cleethor­pes Town 1 Os­sett United 1

PIC­TURE the scene: you are walk­ing round a na­ture re­serve on the banks of the Hum­ber in a bit­ingly bit­ter wind. All is well with the world when your knicker elas­tic fi­nally gives up the ghost. You spend the rest of the morn­ing walk­ing un­com­fort­ably with your pants waft­ing some­where just north of your knees. Wel­come to my Satur­day morn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at Alk­bor­ough Flats! Be­fore walk­ing be­comes phys­i­cally im­pos­si­ble, I make the de­ci­sion to dis­card said pants, they can take the strain no more. And this is how I end up go­ing Com­mando in Cleethor­pes. Cleethor­pes Town now play at The Lin­den Homes Club on Clee Road, hav­ing va­cated their ground­share with Grimsby Bor­ough at the Bradley Sta­dium. Con­se­quently, the Owls have be­come an im­por­tant part of the com­mu­nity; they run over 35 teams of dif­fer­ing ages and gen­ders! On the way to the match, I pass Grimsby Town’s lovely ground (also in Cleethor­pes, of course) where Swin­don fans are dis­gorg­ing from their coach for this af­ter­noon’s League Two fix­ture. Not for me, though; these days I en­joy my Non-League foot­ball far too much to con­sider a re­turn to the Pro­fes­sional Game. Ste­wards at Clee Road are al­ready look­ing frozen half to death. The wind chill must be tak­ing the tem­per­a­ture down to well below zero. Even I am a tad chilly so most peo­ple will be al­most hy­pother­mic! I pay £8 at the gate and scam­per to the club­house to es­cape the wind. Just in­side, a row of tables is set out with club sou­venirs and to­day’s pro­gramme (£2). I am also handed a teamsheet; it is all so much more dig­ni­fied when I don’t have to beg. Ev­ery­one is hud­dled in the club­house un­til the last sec­ond. We can de­lay the in­evitable no longer and a line of hand-rub­bing, half-jog­ging fans form a line from bar to pitch­side. Work is on­go­ing at the sta­dium. Cleethor­pes have only been in ex­is­tence since 1998 and now play at North­ern Premier East League level, so it’s a case of slowly but surely to get things right. The wind is whistling round the ground, freez­ing the young ste­wards to the bone. Shel­ter is pro­vided by a glass-en­cased Di­rec­tors’ Box in one cor­ner and small ‘At Cost’ stands be­hind each goal. The far touch­line houses a cov­ered stand and a com­pletely ex­posed tem­po­rary look­ing bank of seats. If the Arc­tic wind doesn’t kill you up there first, you would be whipped to death by the flags at­tached to the scaf­fold­ing! Un­sur­pris­ingly, no one sits there. This is my first view­ing of Os­sett United, the team formed by newly merged Os­sett Town and Os­sett Al­bion. They bring quite a few fans with them too, who seem im­pressed with the early foot­ball. The style of play is fast, skil­ful and a joy to watch. And then they sud­denly and in­ex­pli­ca­bly stop play­ing foot­ball. The rest of the match is scrappy in ap­palling con­di­tions. All credit to the 329 peo­ple who es­chew the warmth of shop­ping malls and cosy front rooms to witness this hard-fought draw. Now, where can I get some new un­der­crack­ers... PRE-MATCH INFO: 9, WEL­COME: 8, FA­CIL­I­TIES: 7, FOOD: 6, CHARM: 4, PRO­GRAMME: 6, HOME TEAM RE­SPECT: 4, HOME FANS: 6, MATCH: 4.5, OVER­ALL TRIP: 7.5, OF­FI­CIALS: 8, ATT: 329

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