Sunday 6th March 2022 ko 11:30
North West Counties Counties League- Division One North
STEETON 2 (Jeffrey 33 Townend 88)
Briggs sent off 90 (2nd booking)
ASHTON TOWN 1 (D Hill 15)
Van-Aston sent off 81 (violent conduct)
If Saturday on the North West Counties Hop had been about 4 old-style grounds, then Sunday was about visiting two of the newest in the league. We headed to Keighley and oddly two clubs playing locally- Steeton and Silsden do have something else in common than West Yorkshire.
It’s that both clubs have played home games at Keighley RLFC’s Cougar Park while they found grounds that would fulfil Step 6 ground gradings. Another oddity is that Silesden play in the parallel Northern Counties East to the North West Counties League, and turned down the chance to host a hop game a few years ago. I suppose the border has to be somewhere…..
Steeton gave up Summerhill Avenue in 2018 and moved to Cougar Park to graduate from the West Riding County Amateur League but their stay was only to be for 2 seasons, the rugby club served them notice of eviction effective at the end of the 2019/20 season. At that point the club faced mandatory relegation back to the Amateur League if they’d had to return to Summerhill Avenue, but were fortunate that Bradford Council saw the club’s predicament as an opportunity.
They opted to revamp the Marley Stadium on the outskirts of Keighley, and spent £280,000 on the site, which included relaying the 3G playing surface, improving the floodlights, and providing a stands to allow a Step 6 compliant facility, that also allows for continued community use. The club moved in last season.
Once again my role was to form part of the “Advance Party” and with some hoppers only attending this leg of the hop there were still ticket and programme packs to distribute. It didn’t take a genius to work out that these two games would see very high attendances; new grounds to the league, and lack of fixture competition saw to that. For the record Steeton’s programme was remarkable, so good in fact it put some professional clubs’ efforts to shame.
The car park filled quickly, and the hoppers’ coach parked in a space that didn’t seem possible. I looked around fully expecting the club to flounder, but I took a look around from the entrance, saw that everything that needed to move was. It was clearly that while Marley Stadium may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect football ground, Steeton AFC do know how to get the best out of it.
We treated to an entertaining game too. It’s fair to say that I hold Ashton Town in the highest regard since they were superb hosts back in 2017 while struggling with a stand-in goalkeeper, and facing imminent relegation. I do wonder though whether they hate the sight of me, they lost that game, took a hiding on the 2019 hop at Lower Breck and lost once again here.
My only fig-leaf here is that they did take the lead through Deklan Hill’s thunderbolt, and on another day could have nicked a point. The fat that they didn’t was probably due to Steeton being a tiny bit sharper, and the visitors losing Ethan Van-Aston, who saw red for a flying elbow. By the time Steeton’s Andrew Briggs joined him it was too little, too late.
Just the one game to go…