Halesowen Town 0 Newcastle Town 0 (8th September 2012)
The West Midlands doesn’t have a reputation for salubrious luxury, and Halesowen isn’t likely to change that any day soon. The football ground was, however, in an area that was at least comfortable, real lawn and replacement windows territory. It made the ugly concrete panel fencing of the exterior of Halesowen’s rural-sounding “The Grove” seem even more brutal, but thankfully it hid a very nice ground within.
Judging by two sides of open terrace, the ground has either experienced much higher crowds than the 222 present on Saturday, or at least expected to. Both end and side were proper terrace, 12-15 steep steps each, genuinely needing the two rows of pro ground style crush barriers. The end terrace only extended two thirds of the width of the pitch, with an encroaching back garden shearing the terrace off at an angle, down to footpath width just beyond the penalty area.
The opposite end was a covered terrace. This was smaller and less steep, but perhaps higher due to its position atop an embankment seemingly following an old slope of the pitch. This made this covered end around two feet above pitch level by one corner flag, and four feet higher at the other. Unusually the players entered and exited the pitch via a path dividing this terrace, with a small blue wrought iron gate providing access to a pitch. So suburban and out of place was this gate that you imagined the residents of a middle class semi somewhere in the town waking up and wondering what happened to the gate at the end of their path.
Least interesting were the five rows of covered seats that made up the Harry Rudge Stand on the western side. Hemmed in by a warehouse yard behind, this narrow side was ok, and there are certainly many worse examples, but it could never be more than functional. One function it didn’t manage though was blocking out the occasional whiff of urine that drifted across for the toilet block at the far end, unless it came from one of the fans in the seats nearby. Next to this stand, beyond the fence was a small pond. Its collection of two floating footballs would increase by 50% before that match was out.
Hmm, the match…
There are plenty of cracking 0-0s played each weekend, but somehow the one you were at never seems to be one of them. It wasn’t a terrible game by any means. There was certainly plenty of attacking intent, and a fair few really good chances. It was just that the Halesowen forwards went through a medley of ways to waste a good chance, from failing to keep control of the ball when attempting to go round a goalkeeper, to lobbing the ball out of the ground with just the keeper to beat. Newcastle Town, for their sins, specialised in mastering the art of poor crossing, although two free kicks in good position – one (not) curled wide and one shot straight at the keeper – showed them taking a full part in a “how not to score” training video too. Had the two penalty shouts for handball been given, one wonders how they’d have been missed too.