Saturday, 31 July 2010

Ground 122: Ron Steel Sports Ground

Formed in 1946, the Boatmen of Dunkirk FC played on council pitches in the Notts Amateur League for their first three decades of existence before getting permission to develop a farmer's field by the banks of the River Trent (it proved a little too close in 2000, when their pitch was flooded). In 1975 they stepped up to the Notts Alliance and in 2008 they joined and won the newly-formed East Midlands Counties League, gaining promotion to the dizzying heights of the Midland Football Alliance.

The Ron Steel Ground is a thirty-minute walk from the summer school I’m working at, along the cycle path to Nottingham City Centre, over Clifton Bridge and down a narrow lane lined with conifers and blackberry bushes. There was a golf course on one side of the stadium, the Trent was close by another, and only a poplar tree border separated the football from a cricket match at Notts United Casuals.

One stand

When I arrived there were already a dozen or so people sitting outside the clubhouse bar watching the players warm up on an adjacent pitch, including a photographer from the local evening paper. “No team photo please, Evening Post man,” ordered the Newark Coach. Fortunately for the paper Dunkirk were more obliging.

Both on and off the pitch. After dominating the first half hour, the home side went behind when a pass back bounced over the keeper’s foot. "Clean sheet, lads, and a nice one-nil," encouraged the visiting bench. A couple of minutes later it was almost two as a long-range shot trundled against the base of the post. But the threatened goal, when it came, was at the other end, quickly followed by a second. “Make sure your heads stay up lads,” shouted the Newark coach.

And the other

At the half-time whistle the crowd split into two queues, one for the kitchen hatch, the other forthe bar. There were framed Wes Morgan and Jake Sheridan (who started their careers at Dunkirk before moving on to bigger things at Nottingham Forest and Notts County) shirts hanging on the wall and Sky Sports News was showing the scores from the day’s other friendly games: Portsmouth 1 Fulham 0, Lyon 2 Celtic 2.

They should have been in Nottingham. The second half was all Dunkirk – 3-1, 4-1 (though Newark did hit the bar with a shot from the kick-off), 5-1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. “It must be heart-breaking for ‘em,” said the Dunkirk committee man as the Newark keeper gave the ball an angry kick back towards the centre spot. “Heads up lads,” came the voice from the visiting bench.

Admission: Free
Date: July 31st 2010

Heads up

No peeking over that fence.

No comments:

Post a Comment