Saturday 4th April 2015 ko 16.45
Northern Counties East League Premier Division
SHAW LANE AQUAFORCE 1 (Denton 38)
HEANOR TOWN 0
Imagine if you will, you were from Barnsley and a keen Sheffield Wednesday fan. You’ve started and built a successful water meter business, so you decide to rent an executive box at Hillsborough. You’ve won the game of life, and are metaphorically munching the prawn sandwiches at your favourite club, but there’s something missing.
You feel divorced from the game you love so you take the money you were spending on that box, and put it into the Sunday League side at the end of the street, that you once bought a new strip (Sheffield Wednesday colours of course!) for. Of course that is Shaw Lane’s story, and the suffix Aquaforce is owner Craig Wood’s business.
The club play on a complex that includes the cricket ground that saw the likes of Dickie Bird play, and Michael Parkinson keep a young Geoff Boycott out of the side, and I bet the latter had a word or two to say about that! The football shares with Barnsley RUFC which may have been the cause of the problems Aquaforce are having with their pitch.
Games have been switched to Barnsley’s Oakwell due to regular waterlogging, and the pitch required herculean effects to get it playable and it was made quite clear that if we’d have seen any significant overnight rain we’d have lost the fixture.
We had pretty much the same problems with the staging as we did with Grimsby Borough. The club don’t own the ground, and so all catering takings went to the owners, not the club, and when an authority decides these things from afar, the imagination is managed away. I fielded plenty of questions along the lines of “Will the catering be better at Penistone?” No refection on Shaw Lane, just the reality of the situation they find themselves in.
Where Mr Wood’s generosity is obvious is on the pitch. When you can afford the likes of Luke O’Brien (ex-Oxford United, Gateshead) at full back, and have rocketed through the Sheffield and Hallamshire League followed by the NCEL first division you expect them to sweep all before them at home.
Except struggling Heanor made them work for it. We’d enjoyed their fans’ company, videoing all the games on the hop, and running the @NCELHOP15 Twitter feed. Their club were beaten by Sam Denton’s powerful strike following a free kick, and after that there was more muscle on show than finesse.
I half strolled, half staggered back to Godfrey and the coach, it was 7 games down and one to go after all. I glanced over to that historic cricket pitch thought for a minute, and reflected on our good fortune, and the efforts than the club had made to get the game on. As in all things you need time, skill and desire to make things happen, and I suspect that is how Craig Wood feels about the club he built.