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Thursday 18th July 2013 ko 19.30

Pre-Season Friendly

DRONFIELD TOWN 2 (Bradwell 63 Whitehead 80)

STAVELEY MINERS WELFARE 3 (Damms 35 Digiralamo 39 Gurnhill 87)

Att 42 at Gosforth Fields 3G, Bubnell Road, Dronfield Woodhouse, Derbys.

Entry Free

No Programme

I think groundhoppers can be separated into 2 broad categories, the ones that are aware how daft the hobby can be and those who aren’t! Becalmed in M1 traffic half-way through a 130 mile drive to the northern-most tip of Derbyshire to watch a friendly on a plastic pitch in a cage, yes I did question my sanity! I’m sure fellow hopper Lee thought exactly the same thing, as he interrogated the traffic app on his iPhone to supplement the sat-nav’s directions.

The trouble is I quite like this part of the world, despite Notts-born Lee’s immediate prejudices against the county in general. I like the Church of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield famous for its crooked spire, caused apparently caused by the lead that covers the spire, which was added 300 years after it was built in 1362. When the sun shines the south side of the tower heats up, causing the lead there to expand at a greater rate than that of the north side, resulting in unequal expansion and contraction. This was compounded by the weight of the lead (approx. 33 tons) which the spire’s bracing was not originally designed to bear.

The scene changes when you reach Dronfield, the topography becomes more undulating as you reach the beginnings of the Pennines, and the characteristics of the town seem as much South Yorkshire as Derbyshire. That feeling is heightened when you pass the Coach and Horses ground of Sheffield FC, the oldest football club in the world.

These are exciting times for Dronfield FC. They won last season’s Central Midlands League North Division, and have been accepted into the Northern Counties East League. That means ground improvements, and as I write this the floodlights are being erected. Many groundhoppers will remember Stonelow Road from the excellent Central Midlands Hop game the club hosted http://wp.me/p1PehW-zz, although so far organiser Rob Hornby has not managed to convince me to try the local “Delicacy” Pork dripping sandwiches!

This game was played at the Gosforth Fields facility which is used by Dronfield’s reserves, AFC Dronfield, and Dronfield Rugby Club. Around the location there’s been a spate of house building which is proving to be something of a boon for the place as the bar area serves as a pub for the new community! And there are far worse things you can do on a warm Thursday evening than sit on a balcony with a beer and watch two decent sides play football.

I know Staveley from the Northern Counties East hop which I help organise. They were, and are a joy to deal with http://wp.me/p1PehW-EU and above all else I will remember my trip to Gosforth Fields as being the visit where both clubs and officials were notably friendly and willing to help with fripperies as line-ups.

And despite the fact that at half time there were 21 substitutions, it was a good game to watch. Staveley wore Chesterfield FC change kit in the first half and Spireites home kit in the second, and seemed to have a far stronger first half team. They were good value for their half time lead, but Dronfield took control in the second half, and when Steve Whitehead danced through the Staveley defence to equalise it was a fair reflection on the balance of play. That roused Staveley and Tony Gurnhill won the game with a well-taken strike from the right-hand side of the 18-yard box.

It not often I enjoy a trip to such a ground, maybe it was the company, Lee and I got to meet Sheffield-based hopper Mark Hartley, but this was a hugely enjoyable evening out. Maybe it would be a different story on a wet November Saturday?