February 2014 will be remembered for it’s ridiculous weather, the Costa Rican general election and of course the Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, the biggest talking point was our trip to the beautiful coastal resort of Bridlington to watch the mighty Scarborough Athletic take on the mighty Belper Town.
Originally, we were due to be going to Darlington v Curzon Ashton, but this was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. We had three options remaining; stay in York and watch them take on Cheltenham, travel to Tadcaster Albion v Garforth Town or head for the seaside. Joe argued that we should stay in York, but I correctly pointed out that the match would finish 0-0 at Bootham Crescent as it always does. Aaron wasn’t too bothered where we ended up, though didn’t fancy a trip to Bridlington as he’d already been there once. Eventually, I got my way and we were soon on the winding road east. What a decision it was.
Bridlington appeared to be one of the only parts of the UK that had survived record breaking winds and flooding. It still was extremely wild though with hurricane force winds threatening to blow us off the roads. It didn’t really seem like the type of weather to go for a dip in the sea, but I really wanted one. I’d already won the battle of which match to attend, I would have been pushing my luck if I was allowed to go to the beach too.
We arrived in Bridlington quite early, and followed a Scarborough supporters bus into the car park at Queensgate. A bright yellow double decker donning the words Shoreline Suncruisers. The form of transport used by the Boro fans wouldn’t have been out of place in the middle of Mumbai. There were Boro fans dangling out of windows, balancing on the roof and others holding on for their lives. It appeared there was quite a thirst amongst supporters to follow their side despite residing 20 miles from their town.
There was a sizeable queue at the turnstile as we entered the ground. The place was certainly different, sitting in the shadow of the neighbouring gas works which forms a rugged and industrial background to the football.
A large main stand stretches the length of the pitch, consisting of seating and standing. The top corner of this stand which has the terracing was extremely blustery on this visit as it protruded above the wall at the far end which sheltered most of the ground. Opposite the main stand is the Bus Shelter which offers covered standing room for a handful of fans. There is also a shed to the side of the goal at the far end of the ground.
These settings however were a far cry away from what the fans at Scarborough would like. Ten years previously to this visit, the Scarborough fans witnessed their side face Chelsea at home in the FA Cup. 5,379 people were in attendance to see the likes of Lampard, Terry and Hasselbaink knock Scarborough out of the cup, 1-0. Just three years after that, everything changed.
In 2007, Scarborough FC were wound up in court after a debt of £2.5 million had been accumulated. It was hoped that the club’s debt could have been wiped if they could sell their home, the McCain Stadium to developers. However, a covenant was in place stating that the site could only be used for sport activities. Unable to convince the local council to change the covenant, the plans to move ground and receive much needed income fell through. One of the oldest football clubs in the country had disappeared after 128 years, and it was now down to the fans to form a new club for the town.
In fact, two clubs were formed from the ashes of Scarborough FC. The Seadogs Trust formed Scarborough Athletic FC, whilst another set of supporters set up Scarborough Town FC. Athletic moved down the road to Bridlington and Town stayed in Scarborough, playing at the McCain Sports Ground, putting their efforts into nurturing young local talent which had been at Scarborough FC.
Scarborough Town began life in the Teesside Football League Division Two, where they won promotion in their first campaign. The following season, the club won the Wearside League and gained promotion into the NCEL Division One. However, issues with planning permission led to the league annulling their membership, meaning they didn’t compete for the 2010-11 season. The 2011-12 season saw Town move into the Humber Premier League Division One. Again, they won their league at the first time of asking. The 2012-13 season turned out to be the clubs last, with postponements and ground grading problems leading to the club opting to fold.
By this stage, Athletic had already secured a bigger fan base and had began life in the NCEL Division One. In 2008/09, the club gained promotion into the Premier Division before a further promotion occurred in the 2012/13 season.
We were all looking forward to seeing Athletic ply their trade in the NPL Division One North, but somebody at The FA opted to stick them into the South section. We could argue all day and night as to whether this decision was correct or not, but they were in the South division, meaning it was something a bit different for me. The visitors for this match were Belper Town who found themselves in fourth place, five places ahead of Scarborough.
I purchased a matchday programme named the Boro Review from a hut close to the turnstiles. I think it cost me £2, and it was horrific. I appreciate any effort done towards a programme, but for a club of Scarborough’s size to produce something which was pixelated, ineligible and failing to provide basic information throughout was highly disappointing. It did have some good articles in it, but the basics were lacking.
Most of the home fans were keeping warm and having a drink in the Seasiders Bar. It was quite a large clubhouse, but there were that many supporters in there it was hard to find somewhere to sit. We ended up crashing in the corner of the room next to a make shift club shop, amongst a collection of dart boards. If the club would have put some music on it may have felt a bit like a really rubbish nightclub. People were walking around with stamps on their hands, including ourselves, and I felt like I was on a night out in Leigh… although that may be quite insulting towards Bridlington.
The refreshments area could be found next to the Seasiders Bar, so Joe and Aaron ventured out to find something to eat. The whole system seemed organised enough, and condiments were available at a table towards the end. In practice this worked well, but Joe forgot that sugar and salt tend to look the same. As a result, he put salt in his brew and sprinkled sugar all over his pie, chips and peas.
He blamed his mix up on the blustery conditions, but we didn’t believe him. In an attempt to eradicate any further culinary cock ups we headed to the far end of the ground and sheltered in front of the brick wall which acted as a wind break. It was the best spot of the ground. It was a bit strange really, we could see seagulls struggling to fly, whilst we were stood in complete calmness beneath them.
Thankfully, the clock hit 3 and we could now concentrate on the game in front of us. I had never seen either side play before so didn’t know what to expect.
Scarborough had the first chance of the match when Paul Foot flicked the ball on at the near post. His effort went just wide of the upright and Belper were soon on the attack. Attacking into the wind, you’d have expected the away side to struggle, but they didn’t, partly due to Boro’s awful defending.
On seven minutes, Mark Ward received a throw in to his feet. He looked up and looped a cross into the back post where the league’s top goalscorer Jon Froggatt was unmarked. He planted his header firmly past the Scarborough goalkeeper Jason White to give Belper Town a 1-0 lead.
Belper doubled their advantage on 15 minutes when Scarborough failed to clear their lines. Jason White and Andy Milne scrambled away the low corner from Simon Harrison, but Phil Watt smashed the loose ball into the back of the net from the edge of the six yard box.
Scarborough pulled a goal back on 28 minutes when Chris Bolder carried the ball down the right hand side. Bolder beat James Cullingworth and fired a low ball into the area where Gary Bradshaw slotted home.
The home side finished the half the better of the two sides and equalised on 41 minutes. A corner was carried by the wind towards the back post. Dan White tried to clear the ball, but failed, and Jimmy Beadle was on hand to finish for Boro.
The teams looked to be heading in at half time on level terms, but Belper once again found a way through a frail Scarborough defence. A counter attack saw Colin Marrison thread Froggatt through the defence. With space to run into Froggatt bared down on goal. A rather tame effort followed, but it squeezed under Jason White to make the scoreline 2-3.
As half time approached we strolled back towards the clubhouse. We got asked by a Belper substitute for a few scores as he wanted to know how his accumulator was going on. He seemed as giddy as me when I told him that Bolton were winning 2-1 at home to Bournemouth. I do worry how this substitute will entertain himself next season now that the FA has stipulated that he won’t be allowed to bet on any football competition.
The second half wasn’t as entertaining as the first, but the home fans suddenly appeared to lose the plot and became possessed with anger and frustration, which was ultimately as entertaining for us. We had commented in the first half about how nice and laid back the home fans were, but the 45 minutes which followed made us change our minds. The poor officials were bombarded with abuse for the remainder, the vast majority of which was for no reason whatsoever.
Neither side could really get the ball down to play football in the second half as the wind picked up further. We took refuge in the shed behind the goal.
Scarborough equalised on 81 minutes when Pete Davidson was brought down in the area. Bradshaw stepped up and placed the ball into the bottom right hand corner, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
The game suddenly came to life, and less than two minutes later Belper were awarded a penalty of their own. Foot brought Kieran Wells down as the ball came in, and the referee gave Belper the opportunity to grab all three points. Froggatt took responsibility and the chance to claim a hattrick. A terrible effort went straight down the middle at the goalkeeper to keep the score at 3-3.
We had been spoilt for entertainment, and it still hadn’t finished. Gareth Davies struck the crossbar for Belper and the rebound was smartly saved by White. A corner followed and again White was called into action to claim Scarborough a point.
Unfortunately for us neutrals the match had finished. Despite a quiet second half, it came to life with ten minutes remaining and either side could have won. We didn’t have far to walk to get into the car where we turned the heater on and decided what to do next. I convinced Joe and Aaron to take me to the sea side, where we rightly assumed that we’d be the only people daft enough to go to beach on one of the windiest days since records began.
It was going to be dangerous enough going to the beach in these conditions, but when I looked on google maps for the beach I saw something even more dangerous. It appeared that a large sperm was swimming around the coast just off Bridlington, and it could quite easily attack us if we had a dip in the sea. So, it’s not because it was cold, or because of the wind why we didn’t go in the sea, it’s because we could have been eaten alive by a large sperm.
As for Scarborough Athletic, they were transferred into the North section at the end of the season, and have plans to move back to the town at some stage with help from the local council.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 117 miles
- ADMISSION: £5 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2