Staffordshire County League Premier

Redgate Clayton 1

(Ben Rowley)

Newcastle Town Reserves 0

Attendance: 85 (approx. headcount)

Clayton Community Centre

Home for the weekend usually involves a couple of things. Obviously seeing family is the main reason but I also have to reserve a few hours of my time for my other true love, football. More importantly if Crewe Alexandra are playing then of course I wouldn’t miss it.

The final day of League Two meant that all 12 fixtures were kicking off at 17:30, presenting me with a few options to make the day into a double header. Tranmere against Aldershot was a great choice. Their 12:15 play off semi final would have given me a chance to tick off a new ground and make it back to Crewe in good time.

After opting against a trip to Prenton Park, I decided to stay close to home and visit and tick off a different ground, a ground that I drive past every time I get on the motorway to go back to the south coast- Redgate Clayton FC.

Their 14:30 kick off against Newcastle Town Reserves was as good a game as any to tick the Clayton Community Centre off, and my dad was up for it too, making the day even better.

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The Ground

Just off a roundabout close to the M6, lies a small team plying their trade in the Staffordshire County Senior League Premier Division, level 11 on the English Football Pyramid. The league feeds into the North West Counties league and the Midlands League and below it is two more divisions (Division One and Division Two, split into north and south).

Redgate Clayton play at the Clayton Community Centre, next to Northwood Garden Centre, hardly the glitz and glam of Old Trafford but still a wonderful place for football. We arrived about 15 minutes before kick off; the car park was pretty full so we parked on the roadside. Unbeknown to myself and used to watching the Hampshire League (Level 11 also) for free, I didn’t think we would have to pay, however after going through the turnstile, we were met by a £2 charge, not that I am totally against paying and all for supporting local clubs but it was slightly unexpected.

You enter the ground behind the goal, the clubhouse on the right and the pitch directly in front. The clubhouse was cosy and offered a good range of food and drinks and I was able to take a glance of the team sheet thanks to somebody involved with the home side. There was also a couple of screens displaying Premier League games, when Stoke kicked off at Bournemouth, a few of the spectators migrated into the clubhouse but I am always content with highlights, very rarely sitting down to watch a Premier League game from start to finish.

The pitch was a bit bumpy in parts but the grass looked good, especially at this late stage of the season. The barrier around the pitch was good enough to lean on and one odd feature were the dugouts were situated opposite each other on the half way line. This didn’t seem to cause any problems but there must be a reason why more grounds don’t have this format.

One thing I would love to see at the ground would be the installation of floodlights, not only would this enable Redgate to have night fixtures but it would probably allow the team to train their in the evenings, maybe allow youth teams to train/play on the pitch and make it more of a community sports facility.

Going further the ground has the potential to develop into a decent North West Counties ground, should they have the permission to make the improvements and successfully apply for promotion (if that is what the club want, after all, many clubs at this level are content with not going any higher).

In terms of recommending people to visit, there is little on offer to make the trip worthwhile, unless you are local to the area with an interest in local football. It takes a certain type of person to be able to go and watch some Level 11 action.

For fans of local football, there was a name in the Newcastle line up in the form of Jack Van Der Laan. Anyone who has been in the area for some time and followed the local teams will see an obvious family connection with former Port Vale midfielder Robin Van Der Laan who played at Vale Park in the 1990’s.

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The Game

Redgate Clayton ended their season with a narrow 1-0 victory over near neighbours Newcastle Town Reserves.

Just 1.3 miles separate the two sides geographically but it was Ben Rowley’s second half header that was enough to separate the two teams on the pitch and secure all three points for the Gate.

The first chance of the game fell to Redgate’s James Gartside, who saw his shot deflected into the hands of Town ‘keeper Ryan Williams.

Rowley then had a chance to open the scoring, placing his shot wide after Harvey Collins fluffed his clearance straight into the path of the Redgate number nine.

The hosts were dominating in attack as Newcastle couldn’t create any noteworthy chances up the other end. Rowley skipped through and managed to evade challenges of a couple of Town defenders before cutting the ball back to Dan Skelton to shoot but his effort was deflected out for a corner.

Williams was forced into making a couple of good saves to keep the game goalless, the first coming from Gartside’s overhead kick that was heading for the bottom corner before Williams scooped it away for a corner.

‘Gate were probing and Williams produced another great save before the interval to tip Lewis Seymour’s header over the bar.

Newcastle’s first chance of the game came just after the restart. Dan Needham fizzed a searching ball low across the face of goal and Connor Jackson missed an easy tap in at the back post that would have put his side ahead.

It wasn’t long into the second half that the game saw the first goal, and the eventual winner. From a corner drifted in from the right side, Rowley bent his run into the box and attacked the ball at pace at the near post to rifle his header into the back of the net. In the build up to the set piece, left-winger Seymour had cut inside and shanked a shot with his right foot that was deflected out for a corner.

David Dale made a triple substitution that included a change in goalkeeper, Williams making way for Owen Wyatt. Louis Downs and Lewis Grocott replaced Jackson and Sam Bryant as ‘Castle went all out to force their way back into the game.

The visitors were struggling to find a breakthrough in attack, with none of the forwards linking up well to cause the Clayton backline any issues.

Rich Leech fed a nice ball into Rowley who made strides into the box before firing a low shot that Wyatt did well to hold on to. Wyatt was alert again as Skelton floated a shot/cross into the box that may have just dipped under the crossbar and in but the visiting ‘keeper took no chances and tipped the ball over for a corner.

As the game ticked on and the three points looked safe, Redgate continued to apply pressure on the Newcastle defence but the shooting left plenty to be desired as substitute Shaun Searle put one wide moments before Gartside and Rowley both wasted chances with the cars and the clubhouse in more danger than the back of the net.

2016/17 Games: 130

2016/17 Grounds: 68 (11)

Total Grounds Visited: 158 (42)

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