Working Class Football
Alfreton Town 2-2 Peterborough Sports (National League North)
I’m shattered after getting home from Wembley at 1am, the McDonalds at Watford Gap prior to midnight could possibly have been avoided, but I’m ready to go at it again, back to the day job, no beers tonight, just me, my laptop and a couple of mobile phones.
I’m off to Alfreton Town in Derbyshire, a club I’ve been to on a couple of occasions previously. I actually ran the line there once during a closed doors friendly between them and Grantham Town who I was coaching at. In fact that’s probably the last time I was there, way back in 2013.
It’s a National League North game and Peterborough Sports are in town. I know the name but have never seen them play, they’ve climbed up the divisions in recent years and have a bit of cash I’m told, but are relatively small fodder at this level, Alfreton meanwhile have been at step six of the English pyramid for a good eight years since relegation from what was known back then as the Conference.
I leave Nottingham at 5:15pm as I’m told to be at the ground (which is an hour away at most) an hour before kick-off, not trusting the traffic, I hit the ring road before coming to an infuriating standstill, trudging up to Junction 26 which I finally reach near 6pm.
Thankfully the M1 is a doddle before coming off at J28, hitting the A38 and following the sat nav to North Street which is just before you get into the town’s centre. Parking at the ground is £3 so as I’m early, I decide to park on street, there’s roads stating ‘no football parking’ but North Street itself looks good, I stick the Merc outside someone’s semi-detached house and hope they’re not peering out the window annoyed.
As I walk through the gates, I ask the stewards where to get my pass and they point me to a nice bloke in a tie who sends me through to reception, from there my names on the list and I’m told I can sit anywhere I like, I’ve plenty of time so grab a coffee and a quick steak pie as I’m dinnerless tonight.
The ground is open ended behind one goal with a slight slope down and low covered stands painted largely red with blue seats. It’s quaint and leafy and more importantly proper grass surface, although the tannoy is pretty loud in playing their chart classics.
I set myself up five seats high on the halfway line opposite the tunnel and dugouts before realising the one seat I’ve picked is directly in front of an 82 year old season ticket holder’s pre-reserved space.
We get chatting and turns out he played for Heanor and Eastwood in the 1960’s, he’s had the same spot for seven or eight years and was one of those who previously stood behind the goal on the terraces.
As the old boy points out a few to watch, he tells me there’s an Egyptian on show, Matt Rhead who I know, and about a boy called Clackstone who can throw.
As the game gets under way it’s soon apparent this is no England v Germany, I moaned the night previous about the lack of intensity at Wembley, I cannot fault the players endeavours tonight, head, kick, chase, tackle, repeat, it’s a hot potato going from one centre half to another.
Far from pretty it’s feisty, gutsy and horrible viewing, X-rated in parts as the Referee battles to keep peace, proper non-league football in England, no tit for tat, just gerrit forward and put a tackle in.
The fitness levels impress me, the odd player has trickery and skill, but it’s largely no necessity to have quality on the ball, more a need to be able to hold your own, in physique, effort and determination.
It’s actually a non-league classic which ends with an injury time leveller. Alfreton have a late first half lead which they probably, but for a couple of scares on the break, deserved. Fraser Preston dancing his way through the Turbines defence to score, he’s like a young John Robertson, fat arse, short and stocky but has some quality, Scottish too.
In the second half, it’s more of the same, Alfreton with more of the so called possession, scrapping relatively better than their visitors, but a corner on the counter-attack which is headed in unmarked by Fryatt and suddenly it’s the away side on top.
Peterborough push on for a winner and with three minutes remaining an Alfreton player decides to fly like superman to punch the ball inside his own box, Lawlor steps up, scores and sends the travelling army of nine or ten, into raptures. Smash and grab? Not quite, Peterborough have deserved their lead and have probably been the better side on the night, overall.
But still late drama to come, as the fourth official signals five minutes, a soft free kick conceded was played into the box and whilst Matt Rhead was credited for the goal, it soon becomes clear that Dom Smith got the last touch with a header to save his sides bacon.
Whilst most of Alfreton’s best work came through their impressive right winger Preston, the number seven deservedly winning the home sides man of the match, the veteran centre forward Matt Rhead was a constant menace, screaming for every decision and having a right old ding-dong with Peterborough’s centre halves.
In return, defenders Dan Lawlor and Richard Jones, who I remember from their days playing for Stamford, were equally up for the scrap, whilst the trickery of Dion Sembie-Ferris and Ky Marsh Brown although in minimal splatters, could be very effective if given time and space, something they didn’t have much of, although both had chances to score.
I was told ticket prices for Alfreton Town without concessions are £15, but the old boys season ticket who sat near me said his works out around £7 a game which I think is a snip.
What I love about the level is an honesty and pride in what they do, from steward to catering staff, Chairman to player, fan to fan, it’s a real community which is built on an ethos of hard work for not really much profit, other than ones love for the game.
The football was, let’s face it, crap, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t even more enjoyable than seeing the talented superstars which I witnessed on Monday night, because whilst between England and Germany I left the stadium, felt thinking at least one of those teams could have done more, on Tuesday night at Alfreton, I walked away from North Street, knowing that everyone of those players on the night, gave their absolute 110% for a point a piece which leaves both teams eleventh and twelfth respectively in the sixth tier of English football.
Alfreton Town: George Willis, Josh Clackstone, George Cantrill (Connor Branson 65), Ahmed Salam (Lewis Whitham 65), Dom Smith, Dwayne Wiley, Fraser Preston, Adam Lund, Matt Rhead, Danny Preston, Bailey Hobson.
Peterborough Sports: Peter Crook, Ryan Fryatt, Richard Jones (Lewis Hilliard 65), Nathan Fox, Dan Lawlor, Lamine Kaba Sherif (Michael Gash 65), Josh McCammon (Abduramane Sano-Sani 75), Connor Kennedy, Mark Jones, Ky Marsh Brown, Dion Sembie-Ferris.
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 27th September 2022, Impact Arena, Alfreton (att 363).