the real fa cup

Handsworth Stop The Poachers

Handsworth Parramore 5-1 Oadby Town
FA Cup Extra preliminary Round, 16 August 2014, att: 110.

As a kid I just wanted to play football, any football. I wasn’t that good really, but I took any advantage to play. Back garden, school fields, on the local Rec until it was too dark to see.

 My junior school had one of the best records in Sheffield school football and my year successfully took the Sheffield schools title, led by future Rotherham United full back and now Grimsby Town manager, Paul Hurst.

Despite scoring two goals in the school trials, I was a bog-liner of Lineker-esque proportions, the nearest I got to playing was when a flu epidemic hit 3/4 players and I was on standby for the match at St John Fisher. Desperately wishing further illness on my classmates, Mr Bennett our teacher and coach informed me on the morning of the game that miraculous recoveries all round had scuppered my hopes. I sat there at my desk, gutted.

With teachers abandoning extra-curricular activities throughout the late 80’s, it wasn’t until my last year of secondary school that an opportunity to play competitively again presented itself. A local junior club had recently been formed and the Dad of one of my classmates had taken on the running of the new Under 16’s side.

 Sadly the limit of my involvement was part of a team at a pre-season 5-a-side tournament on a rare hot day in Hessle, by the Humber Bridge.

In the intervening years my playing of football has scaled back with age and family responsibilities, whilst Handsworth Boys FC has gone from strength to strength and now operate on a much bigger scale with FA Charter Standard Club status. They now have boys teams playing from Under 7’s through to Under 16s and girls teams from Under 9s through to Under 16s. Add in 6 further teams from under 18s through to reserves there is a real chance of progression for the best young talent.

I am not a bitter man, well I am but not in the sense of not getting my chance with Handsworth Boys and there is a sense of genuine pride in what has developed in my own little bit of Sheffield and the potential for the future. 

The senior section of the club was formed in 2003 with players from their own junior set-up and Handsworth FC progressed through the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior Leagues, before earning promotion to the Northern Counties East League Division One in 2010.

Ground improvements were needed at their Olivers Mount base and a two year deadline was given. Unfortunately, despite a promotion and a League Cup win in their second season, Handsworth were unable to take their place in the Premier Division as the club was unable to complete the works. They were demoted back to the County Senior League and the forward momentum was stalled.

Parramore Sports were established in 1936 as the works team of ironfounders, F Parramore & Sons. They played in the works leagues and local amateur leagues of Sheffield and Barnsley until they were promoted to the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League in 1985. In the late 2000s the club moved to the now demolished Don Valley Stadium and joined the Premier Division of the Central Midlands League. They were promoted to the Supreme Division, which they won in 2010–11, earning promotion to Division One of the Northern Counties East League.

Prior to the start of the 2011–12 season Parramore manager Peter Whitehead bought Worksop Town’s disused Sandy Lane ground and moved the club to the town, renaming them Worksop Parramore and renting the ground back to Town. However, with a good set up but low crowds, behind the scenes talks were taking place with Handsworth regarding a merger. The objective was to build the third biggest club in Sheffield. A merger that would benefit both clubs.

Once the merger with Parramore was ratified by the FA, the club took on the Handsworth name and this season took Worksop Parramore’s place in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division. With plans still in progress for a new stadium in Handsworth they are still playing at the Windsor Foodservice Stadium in Worksop, over the border in Nottinghamshire.

As I walked into the ground I saw Handsworth’s Club Development Manager and Assistant Manager, Steve Holmes, walking off the pitch from the pre-match warm up. He warmly welcomed me and was quick to express concern about the Ambers’ prospects for the match. The club had been hit hard by early season injuries and – the bane of non-league clubs at this time of year – player holidays.

However, on the positive side this meant they could promote some of the young players who have come through the ranks, bringing five U19’s players into the matchday squad. The club dream to field a team of home developed players in the amber and black may come around sooner than expected.

 With 4 players missing from the starting XI which had drawn at Thackley midweek (including former Republic of Ireland international, Alan Quinn) and six changes in the squad of fifteen it took Handsworth a little while to settle.

Whilst they made a shaky start, the equally youthful looking Oadby team, surprisingly started with confidence. The Poachers had taken just one point from their opening two United Counties Premier games and had also been forced to ring the changes through injury and absence.

Starting sharply and with good pace from the forwards they got in behind the home back four on a couple of occasions but failed to convert. A combination of good goalkeeping from Andrew Sneath and some scrambled clearances in the box stopped the visitors taking an early lead.

Handsworth gradually worked themselves into the game, building up possession and pressure. This was converted to a lead just after the half hour when a penalty was awarded for handball and rangy striker Sam Smith comfortably stroked the ball home.

This seemed to knock the visitors’ confidence and when a free kick was given away just outside the Oadby penalty area five minutes before half time, the increasingly influential Nicky Travis curled in a pearler into the top corner to leave Oadby’s keeper clutching at thin air.

Handsworth continued to control the game in the second half with Hill lobbing the ball just over the bar from a tight angle, Griffiths going close with a header and Bates missing a good chance. The chances were not confined to one end though and Oadby still caused problems on the break, especially with their pacey forwards. A close range shot was blocked away for a corner and then Putman blazed over from 5 yards with twenty minutes still to play.

A goal at that point might have lifted the visitors and led to a close competitive end.

 Instead, Handsworth punished the visitors. Five minutes later Sam Smith met a great cross, heading into the ground and past the keeper. Two minutes later Lee Hill rode two challenges inside the left corner of the box, he could have easily gone down looking for a penalty but instead nonchalantly slammed the ball across the keeper from a tight angle, leaving it nestling in the top corner.

The visitors were to get on the scoresheet with four minutes left, a handball decision against Luke Fletcher led to a spot kick being confidently put away by Robert Morgan. A deserved consolation, but further pain was to be inflicted in the final minute when Smith was played in down the right channel and calmly slotted between on rushing keeper and the near post for his hat-trick.

Six goals and there could have been many more, along with an on-pitch kerfuffle and some neat football. It provided a great afternoon’s entertainment for the crowd. Oadby and their small band of supporters deserve great credit and hopefully the result won’t knock their confidence too much as they look for their first win following last season’s promotion.

110 people (and a dog) saw a Handsworth club take its first steps in the FA Cup and with many of those born and bred in the Sheffield suburb there was immense pride in what has been achieved and another landmark in the club’s development. It is always going to be tough getting the crowds at Sandy Lane, with a club already in town and some 14 miles between Handsworth and their temporary home. When pushing for promotion in their season before demotion, Handsworth attracted crowds close to 300 at Olivers Mount, figures that Sheffield FC and Stocksbridge PS would be delighted with in the Evo-Stik.

It is CarIton Town away in the Preliminary Round for Handsworth and a chance of further progression. My hope is that  future cup campaigns see them back closer to home and playing in front of the bigger crowds that their football and community development work deserves.

Words & Pictures Ian Rands, who runs Sheffield United blog ‘A United View’.

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