Date: Saturday Aug 14 2010
Ground: O-Kra Stadium, Shaw Lane
Comp: FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Match: Holbrook Sports (step 6) 4 Sleaford Town (step 5) 0 HT: 1-0 ATT: 61
Additional: Entrance £5, Programme £1.00, Coffee/Tea £0.80
O-Kra Stadium in pictures
This was the proper start of the season for me. Despite having been to two games already, the friendly between Newcastle Town and Stoke City (0-6) and the European Cup tie between TNS and Andelecht (1-3) at The Racecourse, they didn’t really count.
The start of the season is marked by a competitive match on a sunny day in August. Being the FA cup was a bonus.
I’d only really heard of Holbrook recently, under the name Miners Welfare. They changed this to Sports this season, maybe on account of there being no miners left to look after. They play in the East Midlands Counties League, which is only in its third season. It was one of two leagues that was added to the existing 14 step six leagues two seasons ago. It was composed from floodlit be-standed clubs from the Central Midlands League, the Leicestershire Senior League and the Northern Counties East League. Holbrook were from the much rated step seven league – the Central Midlands.
They came in to the newly formed league with some very rare sounding clubs such as Graham Street Prims, Greenwood Meadows, Dunkirk and Ibstock United. The club were founded in 1996 as Holbrook Miners Welfare, but a club by the name of Holbrook had been in existence since 1906.
Today’s opponents in this extra preminary round, Sleaford Town, were a division higher in the pyramid at step five, playing in the Eastern Counties Premier League.
Holbrook is a small village a couple of miles south-south-east of Belper. The ground is off the steep country road, Shaw Lane, from the Belper side. It is positioned very high up in reight rural setting.
As you enter the large car park, the bar, refreshments and changing rooms are on the right. Disappointingly, there are no stalls pitchside, to buy hot drinks – you must walk the hundred yards or so back to the clubhouse to consume your drink from a proper mug.
Past the car park you get to the corrugated iron entrance and turnstile, still with the Miners Welfare sign. Without meaning to offend, the ground had the distinct air of one that had just scraped through the step six grading requirements. The one stand, the Robert Parker stand, looked so small I wondered if it had the minimum 50 seats required; but closer inspection revealed three shallow tiers of blue seating, totalling about 75.
The only other structure was quite literally a bus shelter, with a capacity of about five.
Players came on to the pitch via one corner, up a muddy track separate by boarding from the changing rooms. A crowd of 61 eagerly anticipated this early FA tie against a team from a higher division.
Right from the off, Holbrook were the better side, despite the one division difference. They were first to nearly every ball, passed the ball well and generally looked more controlled and confident. Sleaford had a shocker of a game – either that or the standards in the Eastern Counties is woeful. Holbrook went in 1-0 up with a well taken finish. The second came from some superb build up play and the third was a 25 yard curler into the top corner. A scrambled fourth did not flatter them, they could have had more in a very one-sided tie.
And to prove it was no fluke they have since won their next tie 3-1 away at Belper, a step four club. Great performance and good entertainment at a friendly club that has a lot of character. Worth a visit.