As I am growing up I am having to take more responsibility for myself and constantly find hours of my day wasted by other people. On this occasion I had to travel all the way up to York just to let in the bloke from Sky so he could set up the broadband; he would be with me anytime between 13:00 and 18:00. While I was strolling around my house, playing football and drinking tea (what else can you do when you have no internet connection) I received a message from one of my groundhopping pals, Paul.
He invited me along to a match contested by two sides I had never heard of, in a competition that sounded slightly bizarre and in a town I thought sounded like a condiment. Admittedly, I paid little attention to the message as time was ticking and the bloke from Sky still hadn’t arrived. The engineer then kindly phoned me and informed me my address didn’t exist, to which I replied “It does. I’m sat here now in the living room.”
Having had a break for his dinner my new friend arrived and proceeded to install our fibre optic; up there with the essentials in life along with water, oxygen and electronic dance music. I started to get my hopes up and told Paul I would be making an appearance for the match in the evening, arranging to meet him at Cattal train station at 17:45.
Living in a new part of York, I did balls my timings up slightly and underestimated just how long the walk over to the train station was. A whole 28 minutes of my life was wasted as I found myself jogging over Lendal Bridge, breaking into a sweat in order to catch the rattling train that heads towards Harrogate. I was only on it for a couple of stops and soon arrived in Cattal; a limb of Yorkshire that had seemingly been amputated from civilisation.
I stepped off the train and was met by a grey bearded man who was in charge of the station. You’re not allowed off the platform until the train has departed and only then can you begin to move when he had opened the gate over the level crossing. Like Gollum, he led me over the tracks and into the safety of the car park on the other side. This was service at it’s finest; I felt like one of the Railway Children.
Paul was a bit late in picking me up but I didn’t moan when he arrived. I never moan. When he did arrive, I immediately began quizzing him on where we were actually heading and what I could expect. “It’s a place called Bramham and they’re playing the Malt Shovel; a pub team”.
That’s right. My life is now scraping the barrel that much I have started watching pub teams. Not to worry though, this wasn’t any old pub team. It wasn’t quite the one put together by Carlsberg a few years ago that showcased the talents of Bobby Charlton, Peter Reid and Bryan Robson together but it would do. This pub team boasted players from Garforth Town and Selby Town; allegedly. Arguably, this made them the favourites for this years Barkston Ash FA Cup. Barkston Ash, for those of you wondering, is a small parish close to Selby. It is that small in fact I have absolutely no idea how it has it’s own FA.
We made it to Bramham a couple of minutes before the scheduled kick off at 18:15. This small parish town has a population of around 1,700 and lies on the old Roman road York and Tadcaster through to Ilkley. Not many people were around and the only sign of activity seemed to be the number of yellow road signs that were advising of the upcoming Leeds Festival that is held two miles away at Bramham Park.
I was a bit gutted that we had arrived a couple of weeks too early for Leeds Fest as my favourite band Two Door Cinema Club are in the lineup and I haven’t seen them for years following their sudden hiatus. In fact, the last time I saw them was a cold, wet Thursday night in Blackpool when they were supported by Circa Waves. I wagged college for the day and thought I had got away with it… until my tutor turned up at the gig as her son was the bassist in the support act! I was duly rumbled before then being told to go out and enjoy myself and not bother coming in the following day.
No such issues tonight, it wasn’t going to be a wild one.
Arriving at Freely Lane there were a few cars in the car park and on the road which was serving as an overflow. The facilities were extremely basic, with just a community hall acting as the changing rooms. There were a sprinkling of groundhoppers on hand, all of them knew each other and Paul was most definitely in his element. AFC Totton enthusiast Adrian must still have thought he was on the south coast as he was stood on the other side of the pitch in his shorts; a decision that he would later come to regret.
Now, I must stress, Adrian had not travelled up from Totton just to watch this cup match, he actually does live locally. It was only when we walked over to join him that I realised him and Paul were secretly following this competition from start to finish and had in fact watched Malt Shovel the week before. I suppose it’s their equivalent of my obsession with the Bolton Hospital Cup.
Bramham FC was founded in 1907 and they used to compete in the Harrogate & District League. As of this season they are now members of the York Minster League and currently play in Division Four of the competition alongside their opponents for this match, Malt Shovel. This puts both sides at Division 14 of English football; rock and roll!
Malt Shovel had thrashed the footballing giants Cawood FC 4-2 in the previous round and that would be their winning margin again this time around. They progressed thanks to a double from Chris Coxon and further goals from Wayne Brook and Jake Raistrick.
It could and should have been more for Malt Shovel especially seeing as though they hit an early penalty straight over the bar and onto the bonnet of a parked up van. Matthew Mallinson and Lee Campbell grabbed a goal each for Bramham but they never looked like winning and it would have been a one of the biggest injustices in Barkston Ash Cup history if they would have progressed.
I was very happy when the final whistle sounded as I was cold, bored and couldn’t wait to get back to my new house to catch the night’s Olympics coverage.
Ultimately, I had stooped down to a level of football I never thought I would and after much debate I have counted this as a ground. It has changing rooms and the crowd was double figures (just) so for those of you who say it’s not a ground… I’m going to put my fingers in my ears and sing some Malt Shovel FC songs…
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 16 miles from York
- ADMISSION: Free
- PROGRAMME PRICE: Absolutely not