Having thoroughly enjoyed my Non-League day out to Ilkeston F.C., I felt it only right to visit yet another lower tier side, this time historical Sheffield F.C., recognised by FIFA as the world’s oldest club. I took to “The Club’s” ground for the campaign’s last home game, against Belper Town.
Despite the name suggesting otherwise, Sheffield F.C. actually play in Dronfield, a small suburb between Sheffield and Chesterfield. Such is the geographical anomaly of that area, Sheffield’s ground is actually within Derbyshire rather than Yorkshire. The short bus ride to the Coach and Horses Ground gave me barely enough time to contemplate the topographical nuances.
A mere stone’s throw from the ground is a public house by the same name. Filled with a matchday contingent drinking exceptional ales and beers, it made for lovely bank holiday drinking session before kick-off.
Change from a round at the bar provides enough for the entry fee, £4 with a student card. Cracking value, really. Should you have drinking halves you might have change to tackle the merchandise stand, which is just a man with a table. But hey, this is the eighth tier after all. I scrimped enough change together for the matchday programme, which, to be fair, was printed on a good glossy paper. Well worth the two pounds spent.
The game itself was technically a dead rubber, neither side able to reach promotion nor threatened by relegation. A win for Sheffield F.C. would see them enter the table’s top half. Belper Town, two places ahead, would confirm a top half finish with a win at the Coach and Horses.
The away side started the match better. The Nailers clearly had a target to confirm that top half finish on bank holiday Monday. They bossed every play, made real strides to get forward, upsetting the bumper crowd, 296, in attendance. That said, Sheffield F.C. managed to absorb the pressure and shut Belper Town out during the early stages.
Come the half-hour mark, though, the pressure had taken its toll on Sheffield. TVisiting white shirts flooded the box, and Ruben Wiggins-Thomas powered the ball into the back of the net to give Belper the lead. The backline had crumbled and so did the time remaining in the half. Neither side risked aggravating the tentative score line. The two sides went in 0-1 at half time.
As per, half-time provided an opportunity to sample the cuisine on offer. Opting for the chips, I could tell the ground wasn’t in Yorkshire. The gravy was very thin. Not the classic, thicker-than-thick you’d expect. Not terribly impressive.
The interval also allowed me to take in my surroundings. Surprisingly, there were F.C. Köln stickers everywhere. Their presence was a by-product from several hundred German fans visiting the ground a few weeks prior and wanting to pay respect to the club’s heritage and grandeur.
The second-half arrived, for the most part fairly drab. Wiggins-Thomas shone, among the best players on the pitch, but as the game wore on, Sheffield F.C. began to etch their way into it. Enter the last ten minutes and the world’s first football club began racking up the chances. Danny South came closest, having his shot saved off the line; a moment of real agony for the supporters.
The game culminated in a frenzy. Chris Butt, the Sheffield goalkeeper going to the opposite box for a corner. The shot fell at his feet but he blasted it just wide. Another teasing effort, as the team tried to find an equaliser.
The game ended shortly after. Belper Town had earned a top half finish, whereas Sheffield dwindled further into mid-table mediocrity, if you can claim a club with so much history and global appreciation is subject to mediocrity.