Prescot Cables 2 Goole AFC 2 (25th March 2017)
This doesn’t sound the most attractive fixture. Prescot Cables sounds like a factory team who should be playing parks football against the Stag & Hounds 2nd XI on a Sunday morning. Goole, on the other hand, is one of those stereotypically bleak-sounding northern towns, whose name I’d hear when they’d occasionally appear on the football coupon in the 80s, and I’d imagine it being a place of perpetual November, where people had heard of entertainment, but couldn’t remember any since 1973. The sort of place (to borrow a Jimmy Carr joke about Slough) where if you wanted to know what Goole was like in the 70s, go there now.
I’ll probably end up going to Goole before too long, so hopefully it’ll surprise me and be the most vibrant and happening town in this part of the East Yorkshire district, that’s north of Doncaster and Scunthorpe, and west of Hull. Prescot Cables’ ground – the reason I went – would definitely surprise most though. Rather than having a seating unit for 50 people, and a covered terrace area that made you think that somewhere in town, a stop on the No. 18 bus route is missing a shelter, there’s an impressive “League standard” main stand down one side, and a fair-sized covered end terrace. Club name and ground don’t really match up.
The club name was the result of investment by a cable company in the 1920s, which, according to the history in the club programme, even resulted in a change of kit colours to amber & black, the same colour as the company’s insulated cables. The name was dropped in the early 1960s, by adopted again in the 1980s. Why? Perhaps “why not?” is the answer.
It’s hard not to be drawn to the main stand, one of the few genuine “grandstands” in non-league football. True, it’s seen better days, and the seats in the curtailed seated section look like they were retrieved from a skip, but it looks great, the view is superb, with few or the usual pillars that often make such stands better to look at than sit in. It all sits above a club bar/function room, smartly done out, but with quite a long queue for the bar at half time.
The covered terrace behind the goal has several steps of chunky terrace offering a decent view, but the cover only covers half of the terrace – the left half (if you are stood on it) rather than the rear half. Concrete stumps along the front of the uncovered half suggest this half was once covered too. Behind the uncovered section, a patch of grass was big enough to allow some small boys to play out their own match before the adults got round to their kickabout later.
With two good sides, it’s easy to overlook the detail that the other two sides are no more than a footpath with grass banking behind, although this banking does offer a good view, but it’s still very definitely “a ground of two halves”- half Football League, half Sunday League.
It’s fair to say that neither Prescot Cables or Goole are having a good season. In the 22 team Northern Premier League, 1st Division North, they are 20th and 21st respectively, in a division where two go down. With just a point between the two clubs, it was a definite relegation six-pointer.
With Goole being a point behind, with a much worse goal difference, and Prescot Cables having two games in hand, it was a game they really needed to win. They started strongest too, with the home side struggling to get going on this beautiful spring afternoon.
Prescot settled though, and came into the game much more, and by the end of the first half were the dominant side. The score, despite the openness of the game, was still 0-0 though, as the finishing wasn’t exactly composed. With most shots looking more of a danger to low-flying aircraft from down the road at Liverpool Airport, than to either keeper, it wasn’t difficult to see why both were down towards the bottom.
It was almost as of Goole had decided to play for a draw. If so it would seem a bit mad considering the league table, but maybe the thought they could hang on and take their chances in the remaining games. Whatever their thought process was, it took a jolt very early in the 2nd half when a shot from the edge of the box was struck hard, and uncharacteristically for the game so far, arrowed into the far top corner.
On the hour it was 2-0 to the home side, with a shot smashed in from ten yards giving the keeper no chance to more, let alone save it. The players ran to the crowd to celebrate, beer being sent flying, as this looked a critical moment in the season for both clubs. Surely there’d only be one winner now?
That certainly was the way it looked, with Prescot pushing for the third. One excellent chance, with a ball flying across the six yard box, was struck into the outside of the stanchion. A foot the other side and it’s 3-0, and game over for the match, and possibly Goole’s survival hopes too.
That was in the 81st minute. Three minutes later, the game changed. A set piece from Goole was sent in towards the back post. It was nodded back across goal, and with suspicions of offside, the ball was turned it at the back post by a falling attacker, to set up a nervy finish.
There were certainly gaps at the back now, and another good chance for the home side saw a shot go just wide. Would they regret it in this very stretched game?
One thing we were unlikely to see would be the Goole keeper going forward for any late set pieces. He was carrying two injuries – one to his leg which meant the left back had to take all of the goal kicks, and one to his shoulder during the game, which saw him being treated by two Goole physios, both female. Female physios, like people taking their dogs to games (at least three were at this game) are much more common in the non-league game, not that either are a bad thing.
Goole’s attacking late on wasn’t exactly subtle or refined, giving the ball a big welly towards their big buggers up front, but it was effective. A deep cross was aimed towards the penalty spot, and with the ref ignoring appeals for a push/shirt pull on the covering defender, a glancing header sent the ball into the far corner to keep Goole’s season alive. The knot of Goole fans behind the goal went wild, as did the Goole players, and who knows, maybe the whole town of Goole itself.
Disappointment, disbelief even, for the home side, who just a few minutes earlier were thinking they’d taken a massive step towards safety, but were now right back in the mix after a game they should have won easily. Maybe, for me, visiting such an unusual ground, seeing an unusual match was fitting too.