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Friday 29th March 2013 ko 13.45

Northern Counties East League Division One

PONTEFRACT COLLIERIES 2 (Durham 30 Catton 83p)

SELBY TOWN 2 (Gray 2 28p)

Att 424

Entry £5

Programme £1.20

My mate Eddie comes from Pontefract, and its due to him that I’ve wanted to visit for a number of years. He posts on an internet forum as Ponte Carlo, so thanks for your moniker Eddie, you’ve given me a title! That name is self-deprecating, along with the glammed-up names for other towns in the area, Cas-Vegas (Castleford) and Featherly-Hills (Featherstone). There’s nothing wrong with living in an industrial town, the former coal mining industry is obvious, but its clear Eddie has mixed feelings about Pontefract.

Yes, its famous for the Pontefract cake, a liquorice based sweet produced because the local sandy soil is one of the few places in the UK perfect for growing the herbaceous perennial, and there’s Pontefract Castle, famous as where Richard II was murdered, but what does the “Welcome to Pontefract,” sign say at the edge of town? That’s right, “The home of Haribo,” the town’s 2 former liquorice factories are owned by the firm. It all seems rather lacking in subtlety for a town with far more to offer than mere confectionery. Yes, Eddie loves his home town, but hates it all at the same time. That seemed to be running theme for a lot of people I met during the time I spent there.

As groundhop organiser you do like to see a queue of traffic entering a host ground. The club had worked out that the coach would never get down the normal entrance, so down Skinner Lane we went, and the coach party entered the ground from a gate at the far end. It worked beautifully, on an afternoon when 300 plus hoppers saw the very best of Pontefract.

The White Rose Stadium is rickety, with the main stand seemingly having been expanded several times. The railway rumbles away beyond the “Pop” side, with the Haribo factory beyond that. From that side the former Prince of Wales Colliery is clearly visible, and within seconds I fell in love with the place. Why can’t they have grounds like this where I live in Oxford?

The club pulled out all the stops for their big day, and were rewarded with a huge crowd, and the band of volunteers worked like dervishes to sell teamsheets, badges, and chilli-con-carne to their guests. If you bought the chilli or chicken curry maybe you didn’t see how they got it all cooked. I called in to thank the exhausted ladies serving, and found the co-opted slow-cookers plugged into sockets in the hospitality room! Ingenious, and delicious too, I don’t think its possible to lose weight watching Ponte!

The game lived up to the club’s hospitality, but the many who thought Selby would be soft opponents were wide of the mark. They made a dreadful start to the season, but have signed new players and from the go took the game to Ponte. Danny Gray scored twice, once from the spot, and looked good for that lead. Ponte fought back and Durham tapped in after Weatherald’s shot was parried. The second half saw Ponte dominate and eventually justice was done when Andy Catton scored from the penalty spot after Mick Jones had brought down Liam Radford.

It gave a real lift to the home faithful, and I strolled back to the coach a happy man. I’d been part of a big crowd at a great game at a wonderful ground. As a football fan it really doesn’t get any better than that.