the real fa cup

Magic Of The Mug

Magic Of The Mug Keeps Barton On The Cup Trail

Never mind moving the goalposts – Barton Town Old Boys went the whole hog and re-positioned the pitch! They rotated their hallowed turf through 90 degrees, enabling them to sell the land behind the western goal for housing. That deal, concluded in 2007, helped continue the expansion of Barton on Humber, which many see as a developing dormitory town to Hull, just across the river.

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It also generated the cash to pay for new stands, a club house, floodlights and more. Victory over Nostell Miners Welfare in Saturday’s FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round added another £1,500 to the pot, money that makes a difference to Barton and that Nostell could ill-afford to miss out on.

Nostell, near Wakefield, is famous for its Priory stately pile but not any more for the colliery, which closed in 1987. Club officials told of some eve-of-match coverage on Sky Sports in which the presenters admitted their ignorance of the club’s “MW” suffix, providing proof, if true, that the mining industry and the culture it supported have been all but obliterated and that some “journalists” really need to get out more. The Nostell team is not the only one to survive in spite of the demise of the community from which it was born, but that’s another story.

Nostell officials also lamented the loss of key players to football neighbours who pay money, whereas their club doesn’t. There’s a trend among clubs in the Northern Counties East League to launch a team at under–19 level, which provides opportunities for local kids to come through, bringing with them the family and friends to boost the crowd.

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Barton report that under-19 attendances usually exceed gates for the first team, whose players come from much further afield. But both sides still worry about emerging starlets being enticed away for a relatively lucrative run out with some of the bigger fish. Barton raided the youth ranks for this tie with five regular choices unavailable because parent club North Ferriby United, newly promoted to Conference North, doesn’t want them cup-tied.

Club Secretary Pete Mitchell had joked that spectators turning up five minutes early would be in time for a place on the bench – or maybe he was serious at a club which is typical of so many others for the ability of the members to multi-task. Through the course of the afternoon Pete could be spotted running round with a notebook, pinning up team sheets, serving behind the bar, communicating the result of the match, watching some of the action, chatting to supporters and sponsors and apologising for having to disappear into his office to negotiate hiring out the clubhouse for a forthcoming Christening. Pete oozes passion for football and talks about Barton’s main failing being the inability to “put the ball in the onion bag.”

He’s in his 38th season, having played for Barton Town and then moved into management, administration and the rest of it. Club Treasurer Denis Cox dates back rather longer. Now 86, his history is with the Barton Old Boys club, who merged with Town in 1995. A third club, Barton United, folded around 20 years ago and Denis says his father always used to talk about a few more clubs from way back.

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Graham Hastings, played for United from the age of eight. These days he’s a volunteer without portfolio – variously selling raffle tickets, match admission and programmes. How many in today then? About 80? No, a bit less than that.

There are competing attractions. Barton Town Cricket Club is just over the fence and with a big match against the league leaders have probably pinched 10 or 15 football fans. There’s a music festival in the town centre, featuring some highly-rated local bands. And the local baker is on holiday, meaning no pies in the clubhouse and an excuse to go back soon.

The culture of all hands on deck doesn’t stop at the touchline. A substitution after Barton broke the deadlock saw a central midfielder replaced by a central striker with right back slotting into midfield, left wing to right back, right wing to left wing and the starting central striker pushed wide right.

Barton troubled Nostell with their pace on the flanks, the strong wind holding up passes hoisted out from midfield. Alex Sherwood should have scored in the opening minutes but slid his shot wide when one-on-one with Nostell keeper Lee McGrath. Luke Thompson was twice denied as McGrath stood his ground to produce great saves, one from a tight angle in the first half and then after the break a stooping header from six yards.

Nostell’s never-say-die attitude was exemplified by a breath-taking block from Matthew Patterson, who flung himself at the ball on the six-yard line after Gareth Owen had evaded McGrath and thumped a shot towards the open goal. At the other end the visitors saw a header tipped over and a couple of shots fly narrowly wide with the wind at their backs. Turned round, they struggled to escape from their own half and didn’t test Ben White until it was too late. By the time Danny Critchlow powered in a shot which White could only push into the roof of the net, Nostell were left with a only couple of minutes to find an equaliser.

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Ryan Cooper, scorer of Barton’s first goal, was perhaps lucky to still be on the pitch after collecting a painful knock on his right foot while bursting from midfield in the first half. But when Nostell struggled to clear from a throw-in he seized on the ball just inside the penalty area, drilled a shot goalwards and found a nick off a defender, only slight but enough to finally beat McGrath low to his right.

A slice of good fortune, but a couple of home fans would say it was masterminded by their bizarre ritual of placing a mug on the wall behind the away goal. The tactic originated “a while back” and arose, as one might expect, from someone putting the mug where they would not forget to take it back to the clubhouse. Then Barton scored and a mug became the 12th man, or maybe the 13th as on Saturday the blue mug was subbed at half time, with a red one in place by the time Cooper struck.

There was nothing fortunate about Barton’s second goal as Ash Dexter rose unchallenged to meet Thompson’s corner and plant a header back across the goalmouth and into the net.

Coach Ian Durnian admitted to being quietly pleased with the outcome. A former youngster with Leeds United and Scunthorpe United, Ian’s construction company built the clubhouse and he now helps Manager Dave Anderson and Assistant Manager Mally Parker with rebuilding the team. The new faces brought in to replace Ferriby’s absentees, plus the dozen or so youngsters who cheered the victors from the field, provide foundations on which to do that.

Barton Town Old Boys 2-1 Nostell Miners’ Welfare
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round 1

Words and Pictures courtesy and copyright of Phil Ascough, whose new book, ‘Never Mind The Tigers – The Ultimate Hull City Quiz Book’, is published by The History Press and available from September 2.

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