Monday, 19 August 2019

Road to Wembley #1

...with a difference: the Women's FA Cup.

As most of you may know if you follow me on social media, I enjoy watching football played by both men and women at all different levels, though mostly non-league. Basically, if there's a game on and I can get to it, I'll watch it! The level/ step in the pyramid and gender does not bother me.

I'm deciding to do my Road to Wembley for the women's version of the competition, because it's not so much of a common thing to do for the women's game, considering it being completed repeatedly by spectators of the men's cup.

Despite it feeling more of an attainable challenge then the men's (tickets will be cheaper and easier to obtain in the latter rounds), it presents other challenges such as the amount of teams (300) in the competition, compared to the men's 736. This will inevitably make it difficult in some rounds to find a game near where I'm based (Preston, Lancashire), without it costing an absolute fortune on the train.

Since 'getting into football' just a couple of years ago, I quickly decided the FA Cup is my favourite and most exciting competition. I love the idea of the 'big' teams getting drawn against 'small' teams and the notion of the non-league teams coming out on top. Despite the league teams in the men's competition often not fielding their strongest side making these 'giant killings' less of a spectacle, the concept is still there and gives the non-league clubs some satisfaction, I'm sure!

I will write a blog entry about each round and my rules for it to 'count' is that I have to go to one from each round, whether that be the main date or a replay fixture. I'm sure throughout the season there will be things I have to commit to on a Sunday which I can't get out of, therefore disallowing me to attend the main fixture day.

Round dates
The first round already posed a slight problem, because the nearest one to me was postponed (Mossley Hill) and the second nearest to me was in Fitzwilliam, a small mining village near Hemsworth, a modest 62 miles away. It's also the birthplace of English cricketing legend Geoffrey Boycott. This was the tie I chose and there I set off on my 2.5 hour trip into Yorkshire to watch Wakefield Trinity LFC take on fellow Yorkshire contestants Farsley Celtic LFC, in this extra preliminary round of the cup.

Fitzwilliam
The trains were unnervingly on time and the travel felt like it had gone much too smoothly for my liking. On the train, it costs £14.25 for a day return with a 26-30 railcard. Without a card it would cost around £21. I got the the MDC Stadium (also home to Hemsworth Minors Welfare FC) about thirty minutes before kick off. I like to have time to spare to take in the ground, take some photographs, soak up the atmosphere and look for good vantage points for photo opportunities throughout the game.

Exterior
Entrance
The entry fee was a charity donation and despite being unsure what the charity was, I paid my dues and entered. With the ground being in a place so small and for an extra preliminary round on the Women's FA Cup, I thought that there would be about forty spectators. How wrong I was as I set foot into the ground: it was bustling, with a great atmosphere. The attendance on the club's Twitter feed was later announced as 171. A great start to the competitive season.

Even Terry the Terrier made an appearance!
I found a spot near the half way line, just in front of the clubhouse and changing rooms, which is on the left as you walk in. I always like to get some pictures from this angle, because it's usually opposite the dugouts and often makes for a good photo (in my opinion). Most of the crowd were congregated here, too. I watched about twenty minutes from there and then started on my slow half lap clockwise around the ground.

The ground is railed off with hard standing on all four sides. There's a seated stand on the opposite long side, next to a neat looking dugout boasting brand new Wakefield Trinity LFC signage- which at first before arriving, from my Google image search, I thought was another stand. One of the ends behind the goal was lined with trees, the other backed onto Hemsworth Cricket Club. You could see the pavilion and scoreboard from the ground, too.

The seated stand

The crowd along the side with clubhouse/ bar
The cricket pavilion/ scoreboard behind the ground
The game kicked off in a timely manner and I was a little concerned for the hosts when Farsley scored in the second minute. Despite this early lead, Wakefield only conceded two more, both of which were in the first half. In the second half, the possession equalled out and Wakefield created several chances, though unfortunately failed to get anything passed Farsley's defence or keeper. This resulted in Wakefield's hopes of Wembley being delayed until next season.

The view from the entrance side
Overall, a good choice of game and ground for my first of my Road to Wembley mission. It was well worth the travel and Wakefield Trinity LFC seemed like it had something really good going for it as a club, with a great community spirit. You wouldn't have thought it was their first ever competitive fixture either, as there was some great play within the team against the more established Farsley Celtic. I'm sure Trinity will continue to develop and grow in the future and I hope to visit again at a later date.

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