Saturday 18th February 2017 ko 15.00
National League North
GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY 1 (Jarman 32p)
GLOUCESTER CITY 1 (Avery 67)
If you want to visit a club with history, you, really do need to head over the River Trent, and over the border to Lincolnshire. Gainsborough Trinity’s Northolme ground is claimed to be the oldest football ground in use by one club, a claim I’d imagine based around Hallam’s Sandygate Ground being used by Crookes WMC and Fulwood when Hallam went into abeyance in the 1930’s. But with all due respect to the second oldest football club in the world, there’s far more to enjoy at Gainsborough Trinity.
For a start, you are visiting a former Football League ground. Trinity were formed in 1873 as Gainsborough Recreationalists, but soon adopted the name of the Holy Trinity Church in the town, after all the vicar George Langton Hodgkinson was the club’s founder! Sadly that isn’t the church you can see in the photos, that’s All Saints Parish Church!
The club were founder members of the Midland League in 1889, and after winning it in 1891, were elected into the Football League in 1896 beating existing League members Crewe Alexandra and Port Vale in the ballot. They entered Division Two, and their first game was against a little regarded team from Manchester called Newton Heath, I wonder what ever happened to them?
The club whilst based at the Northolme did have to play some home fixtures at the now demolished Bowling Green Ground, and at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank, which is how Maidenhead United can claim their York Road ground is the oldest in the world in continuous use. It was a struggle to maintain league status in a small town, despite creating a history where they managed to be the same division as the likes of Bristol City and Liverpool, they had to apply for re-election in 1911 and 1912, failing in the second year, to be replaced by, painfully, by Lincoln City.
They returned to the Midland League and despite continuing to apply to return to the Football League, not least when the League expanded to include Divisions 3 North and South, they were never successful, and their last attempt in 1976 saw them gain just a solitary vote.
Now with that knowledge you may find the first 2 minutes of my visit to the Northolme surprising. I’d just procured a teamsheet when an almighty cheer emanated from the bar. It was the fans celebrating Lincoln’s late winner in the FA Cup away at Burnley. Some things are more important than old rivalries!
The modern Northolme has little or nothing left from Trinity’s time in the League, but it is a mighty impressive ground, but if you look closely you can still see where how cricket used to be the pre-eminant sport here. Just look at the newer houses behind the open end, and the gap behind the covered stand along the touchline. This was solely a cricket ground from it’s opening in 1850 and Trinity’s formation in 1873.
But enjoy the friendly people, and love the quirks, because heck a football ground OUGHT to have a sheiling painted blue and white and pressed into service as a sweet shop! I normally hate celebration music played when then home team scores, it feels contrived, rather like the man paid to wave a flag when Arsenal score, but somehow
The Marcels’ Doo Wop version of Blue Moon works for them.
The only trouble is that Trinity are struggling at Step 2. This game saw them just a point above the relegation zone and with a new manager, Dave Frecklington swapping a promotion tilt with Spalding for a dice with demotion here.
Unsurprisingly it wasn’t a game to remember, it was one for Gainsborough to grind out any positive result they could. That they did, scoring through Nathan Jarman’s first-half penalty, but could have so easily taken the win. Gloucester equalised, Sam Avery stabbing home after Joe Hanks’ free kick, but did Darren Mullings impede keeper Tom Nicholsin? When you’re looking over your shoulder you seldom get the benefit of the doubt in decisions like these.
The sun began to set, the temperature dropped, and the match ended with referee .Anthony Tankard bearing the brunt of the home fans’ frustrations. I took my leave but before I reached my car, parked in a side street, I glanced back at the ground. And if you really know me I only ever do that for the most exceptional of stadia.