Saturday 25th September 2021
With various former Doncaster Rovers youth team players currently on the books at Staveley Miners Welfare, it's probably no surprise to anyone that Inkersall Road is somewhere I've been wanting to visit for some time - even if, logistically, it's a pain of a place to get to.
It's been almost 10 years since my previous visit - a 2-0 win under the floodlights over Oadby Town in the 2011/12 season which was during the Trojans' progression to the FA Vase Semi-Finals where they ultimately succumbed to Dunston UTS.
By coincidence this was another FA Vase game; though it resulted in a different outcome as Staveley, despite a last-gasp equaliser, were beaten 5-3 on penalties by dogged and determined fellow NCEL (Premier Division) rivals in Barton Town who defied their early-season struggles and lowly league position and gave a really good account of themselves.
Having been in relatively close proximity in the morning, watching the current crop of DRFC youngsters succumb to something of a chastening 2-0 defeat at Mansfield Town, it made sense to nip just up the road and catch up with some familiar faces.
Charlie Bell, in DRFC's youth set-up as recently as six months ago, has already established himself as a regular starter in Staveley's team and featured at right-back whilst Declan Howe (who was at DRFC about 6-7 years ago before going to the USA on a football scholarship) operated in a centre-forward role. They both had decent games and combined for Staveley's equaliser late on.
Matt Parkin, Rieves Boocock and Myron Gibbons were all named amongst the substitutes,
There was a great zip and zest about things from the outset leading to a frenetic pace as both teams went at one other. Both teams also wanted to get the ball down, be incisive and attacking and the intensity was absolutely excellent - a far cry from large swathes of the game I'd witnessed earlier in the day at Woburn Lane.
It's fair to say Staveley, in blue and white stripes (who were perhaps going into the tie as favourites), were being given a very good game by a hard-working Barton team who've somehow struggled for results in the early stages of the new season - though based on this performance, results will inevitably come at some point for them.
Opportunities were hard to come by at either end during the first 45 minutes though as both teams kept their discipline, maintained their shape and structure (in all but one or two instances) and defended well.
Whilst the visitors looked bright on the ball and when moving it out onto the flanks, Staveley looked dangerous at set-plays and getting deliveries into the box from wide areas and they went close with a header just past the quarter-hour mark.
There wasn't much between the teams whatsoever but with the sun shining, Brett Marshall's team stepped things up a little bit after the re-start and enjoyed a sustained period of pressure during which Bell was involved in several bits of good link-up play, had many touches, and was something of a driving force down the right channel with his sheer energy.
However, the hosts couldn't carve out any golden or gilt-edged chances as such. Howe had one or two openings (and possessed a good hard-working presence) which drew saves, Thomas Poole had another and Barton perhaps went closer through shots by Ben Hincliffe and Mitchell Levi-Lewis at the other end.
A draw was looming but with less than 10 minutes to go, it was the visitors who made a breakthrough when Tom Waudby's run and pass to Harrison Coley allowed the striker to place a low shot past the home 'keeper and into the net to put the visitors on course for progression.
Staveley were never going to throw the towel in though and during the last of four minutes of indicated injury-time (although about six ended up being played), they equalised with Bell providing a pinpoint near-post cross which bounced up perfectly onto Howe's toe-end ahead. The 'keeper was already rooted to the spot in anticipation of collecting the cross and the decisive diversion ensured it ended up in the net instead - provoking wild scenes of celebration.
Remarkably, both teams then had good chances to win it despite there being almost zero time left on the clock and injury-time having already been pretty much completed.
Staveley switched off from the re-start and only a last-ditch block by a defender, at the expense of a corner, spared their blushes. From the resulting flag-kick, the hosts were able to counter-attack and Howe had the ball at his feet past the halfway line and should have squared it to Gibbons who was up and running alongside him in a better position. He didn't square it though and the danger came to pass - with the final whistle soon afterwards ensuring that penalties would happen after all.
Barton converted all of their attempts and a miss early in the shoot-out by Staveley ensured it wouldn't be their day, but overall it was a good, enjoyable football game - great value for just £4 admission with plenty of talented (and many ex-academy players from various clubs) on show.
There is something of a pathway for progression at Staveley and one glance at the career of Adam Lund, who spent a year at Inkersall Road before earning a move to Alfreton Town - for whom he's now flying in the National League North, is evidence of that. The investment that's been put into the club is also apparent - from the 4G surface to the facilities around the ground and it seems like a good place, with a good crop of hungry players who are all on the same page, to be playing football.
It's a significant step-up from youth football; not everyone would be able to hold their own for sure, but fair play to these lads for putting on a good, entertaining contest.