It’s official, the Colls cup run is now well and truly underway after a less than convincing away victory at Dinnington Town. Only another 13 wins and Wembley will play host to what will be the most memorable match in FA Cup Final history; the Flatcap Derby between Atherton Collieries and Atherton Laburnum Rovers on the 11th May 2013.
I was watching Colls v Formby on the Monday evening when Emil asked who wanted to go on the coach to Dinnington on Saturday. I didn’t have a clue where Dinnington was, but at only £7 for coach travel and admission, you could not complain at all. Count me in.
A casual 10 minute stroll across Atherton and I arrived at Alder Street with plenty of time to spare. I was greeted by the sight of Dave painting the perimeter fences. The Colls players sitting down on the kerbside waiting for the coach… and more importantly, the sun was shining.
With 15 minutes to waste until the coach arrived I wandered around the ground which was being prepared for the afternoons fixture; Oldham Boro v West Didsbury & Chorlton. It was then that I was put in charge of putting the corner flags into the pitch. I think it is safe to say that after 16 years of hard work I have finally found my level at a football club.
The executive coach pulled up just around the corner from the ground, so we marched around… well, most of us did. “Vice Chairman Bod” had fallen off a kerb at 02:00 in the morning and twisted his ankle in the process. As a result he spent the whole day hobbling about. He eventually made it to the coach at we departed sunny Atherton at 11:30 on the dot.
The players sat at the back of the coach, and I plonked myself down at the front of the coach alongside Vincent. The journey was a smooth and entertaining one, and we managed to travel a whole half a mile before we had to stop. We pit stopped on the main road outside Jaspers house so we could get a bottle opener for the journey. Got to love away days! It didn’t take too long to get into enemy territory, and it was surprisingly still sunny! Towards the end of the journey we could see Rotherham on the left with Millmoor and the brand new New York Stadium, and if you looked to your right, you could also see The Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield.
We arrived in the small, boring and ultimately uneventful town of Dinnington at around 13:10. After nearly crashing into the car park wall the coach pulled up, and we went to explore the local area. There was nobody around whatsoever, it was like we had been driven in to the middle of nowhere, and now we had to survive for a day. As a group we strolled up the path to the ground itself; which had its doors open. It was then the news was broken to us. There was no bar. That’s right, there was no bar.
A bloke came out to greet us, where he was immediately questioned on why there was no bar and more to the point, why hadn’t we been informed before travelling? He told us there was only one pub within walking distance… before then adding that it shut four weeks ago. Well this was going to be a fantastic pre match build up wasn’t it. We were in Yorkshire with nothing to do. We were obviously going to be hunted by the locals and burnt at the stake. Fearing for our lives, and being the pessimists we are, we ignored him and walked to the pub anyway.
It turned out the pub was open, much to the delight of everybody!
Behind the bar we found a woman who looked like the hotel receptionist off hit comedy show Benidorm. My assessment of her is that she is definitely in the wrong job. I think she would be more suited to a tourism office role within the town of Dinnington. When questioned on what there is to do in and around Dinnington, the she paused for a few seconds before saying, “Nothing much happens around here. There’s a nightclub that opens at 11 though!” – Sorted. Talk about selling your home town to visitors!
After buying all the beer in the establishment between us, the Dinnington Tourism representative then revealed that it was her first day open since the place had been treated for asbestos, and with that bombshell, we made a swift exit to the front of the pub.
An hour and a half of basking in the rich Rotherham sunshine passed before we decided it was time to make a move back to the ground. En route to Phoenix Park I saw a bus going to Doncaster, and was tempted to go for the day, but I decided I’d stay with the Colls Ultras.
Phoenix Park is the most basic ground I have visited on my travels so far. The capacity of the ground is 2,000, and I’d estimate that there are around 100-200 seats on offer. This is achieved through a very small covered stand behind the far goal, and another similar sized option on the near touchline. The aforementioned constituted of concrete benches.
We didn’t venture around the ground, and we stationed ourselves next to the locals near the entrance. I got the feeling the local fans weren’t used to having such a loud and boisterous following from an away side, but all was in hand… just.
It was soon time for both teams to come out. Dinnington were in their home strip of yellow shirts with black shorts. Colls were wearing their brand new emerald-green strip, which saw them run out 3-2 winners at Leek last time they wore it. With £1000 and a place in the Preliminary Rounds up for grabs both teams were keen to win.
The game kicked off, and again it was another appalling pitch. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was as bad as Runcorn in pre-season, but they were both shocking in their own special ways. It was aesthetically pleasing, I’ll give them that, but the bounce on it was horrific. As a result of the bobbling pitch Colls found it hard to get their usual passing game flowing and the home team capitalised on this.
Dinnington were unlucky not to be leading after the opening exchanges with wave after wave of attack on the Colls defence. It took until the 24th minute for the visitors to get their first shot on target when Gary Burnett broke through.
After a fairly tedious and boring affair, the referee called for half time.
A few of us went into the community centre/library/school/changing rooms that were backing on to the ground. Here we watched the Olympic Football Final between Mexico and Brazil whilst enjoying some sandwiches and a brew. The bloke who was in charge of the food was really hospitable much like the majority of the people involved with running the club up at Dinnington.
I decided to have another brew before heading out for the second half; but I was told I didn’t miss anything. Luckily for us the second half was a bit more open, but was still played at a frantic pace. The game had also become far more physical as the referee failed to control both sets of players.
The first opportunity of the second half fell to Paul Atherton. He unleashed a great shot from the edge of the box and the keeper just about managed to keep hold of it. Moments later Gary Burnett looked odds on to put the visitors in front, but he missed an open net after thinking he had less time than he did. A bit more composure of a shout from a team mate and it would have been 1-0.
It was now time for me to test the pies at Dinnington, I was really hoping they could redeem themselves, but no. They dug themselves in even more of a hole to be honest. I approached the rather basic and shabby looking pie hut where I was greeted by an old woman and a bloke who I’m presuming was her son. I asked for a pie. The bloke informed me they were out of pies. With disappointment setting on my face I conceded that I’d have to make do with a sausage roll or pasty.
“What flavour pastys do you do mate?”
Judging by his reaction you’d have thought I’d weed on his counter or something.
“What do you mean flavour? Pastys are pastys. Pastys don’t have flavours. Let me see if we have any sweet and sour ones for you.”
I was totally gobsmacked. How dare somebody lecture me on pastys and pies. Especially when they come from the totally pasty uneducated county of Yorkshire.
After rattling off a list of different flavoured pastys which are available back home he reluctantly turned around to his heater (sponsored by Pukka) and pulled out a whopping pasty*, I knew I’d certainly be full after eating this! *Pie flavour still unknown
I toddled back off to my perch with the other Colls fans and tucked into my pasty. Not happy, but the performance on the pitch was soon going to put a smile back on my face!
Although the Dinnington squad didn’t appear to be the most athletic outfit (being as kind as I can!), they carried on battling and looked dangerous every time they broke on the counter. Craig Ward was putting a great performance in at right back, and bravely cut out many of the attacks. Phil Williams was giving as good as he got in the midfield with the opposition out to get him.
On 66 minutes Gary Burnett scored a fantastic goal. He picked the ball up outside the area and beat three Dinnington defenders with his diagonal weaving run. With the keeper to beat from a tight angle he placed it into the bottom left hand corner and it bobbled into the back of the net.
Up the other end of the field it was time for Dinningtons versatile defender Ben Rosser to completely lose his marbles. He went in for a challenge with Simon Howard, next thing we know, Rosser is charging towards Howard. A rugby tackle and strangle followed before Rosser had to be restrained by 4 other Colls players. Now if this had been in the Premier League he would have been banned for 10 matches. Guess what the referee did? Nothing. Not even a free kick or a booking. I can honestly say it was the funniest thing I have EVER seen at a football match.
After all that excitement the match continued with Colls in search of the goal which would seal their place in the next round. They came close to getting the goal in the 82nd minute but a fantastic double save from the aptly named Luke Hands denied Burnett and then Paul Townshend.
Keeper Hands could do nothing though however to prevent substitute Paul Prescott from scoring on his debut to take Colls into the next round of The FA Cup.
After the match we all went for a few more drinks down at The Squirrel, and the players soon joined us. It had been a strange but very good day out for the club, both on and off the pitch, and they will be looking for more success in the cup when Congleton Town are the visitors on Saturday 25th August.
Overall it had been a good day out, and we somehow survived. I will not be rushing back to Dinnington though, and unless something drastic happens I will not be visiting Phoenix Park again.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND – 85.4 miles
- ADMISSION – £7 for travel and admission combined
- PROGRAMME PRICE – £1
- PIE – N/A
You won’t have to attend Dinnington Town F.C. again, they shut down at the end of the season. I live in the neigbouring village of Anston, but will have to come to the defence of my friends in Dinnington who have gone through some hard times and have never recovered fully from the pit closure. I had some great nights out in Dinnington in the early 80’s before all the pubs closed along with the colliery.
Aye, we found out at Colls that they had packed it in. I look back now having been to more matches and see that it wasn’t a bad day out at all. We loved the Squirrel Pub! No team should have to pack up due to vandalism.