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Wednesday 11th March 2015 ko 19.30

Staffordshire County Senior League Premier Division

BRERETON SOCIAL 2 (Fulton 36 Cowlishaw 85) Turner missed penalty 16

NORTON UNITED RESERVES 2 (Elliot 54 Davies 64) Mahmood sent off 16 (DOGSO)

Att 22

Entry FREE

No Programme

It’s the lot of the groundhopper that you miss out on some grounds, you spend a lot of time trying to visit grounds with the bulldozer looming, a process nicknamed the “Vulture Job,” but some you are destined never to visit, the hobby is one of very few where you spend your life wishing you were older! The Red Lion Ground was one of those, and when the previous incarnation folded in 2010 I thought I’d lost out. I even managed to avoid Burntwood Town’s one season stint here a couple of years ago!

Brereton was a village but is now subsumed into Rugeley in Staffordshire. Its an area based around coal mining, but now the site of the former Leahall Mine is a huge Amazon distribution centre.

Next time you’re in the pub and when someone offers to buy you a drink with the phrase “What’s your poison?” think of Rugeley. The term refers to the poisoner William Palmer, a GP who in 1856 was convicted of killing 5 people with Strychnine so as to benefit from their life assurance. He was hanged outside Stafford Jail, and famously asked executioner George Smith as he stepped on to the trap,

“Are you sure it’s safe?”

The Red Lion is a typical Step 5/6 football ground in the West Midlands. There’s a bar, with a larger hall adjacent used by the local Royal British Legion. Pitchside there’s cover, seats, and floodlights with the potential to improve the facilities should the need arise.

That doesn’t look likely with this incarnation of Social rock bottom of the division with a mere 3 points and having shipped an alarming 123 goals in 24 league fixtures. It was clear the club are struggling, the committee were working out how to play the officials just before kick-off.

But for all the doom and gloom Social could easily have won this one. The dismissal of Norton’s Haroon Mahmood for denying a goalscoring opportunity was a huge influence, and if Harry Turner had converted the resulting penalty, we may have seen Social double their points tally. As it was Beckham Fulton’s (and I feel old just typing that forename!) thumping drive saw them take the lead, and despite my earlier statistic their defence looked competent.

The romantic in me hoped for a home win but Le Feaver in the Social goal had developed a bad habit, picking up back-passes. One in the first half the referee chose to ignore, but the second saw an indirect free kick awarded, and Liam Elliot profited. Perhaps I shouldn’t have winced when Norton took the lead through Macauley Davies, but Brereton deserved the point they earned when Sam Cowlishaw’s fine drive equalised with just 5 minutes left.

It’s clear that Social will get relegated, there’s too few games left for them to save themselves, but I do hope this version of a club with roots all the way back to 1899 can reroot and grow. If nothing else the Red Lion Ground deserves a better standard of football than the second tier of a county league.