One hundred and twenty-five years after the first game of football was organised in the High Peak, New Mills AFC finally made it to a Step Four league, winning the Vodkat Premier by an eleven-point margin after two second-placed finishes in the previous two seasons. But then geography intervened. Enfield 1893, champions of the Essex Senior League, were ruled out of promotion by an Isthmian League ground inspector. In the reshuffle which followed, Ossett Albion, newly relegated from the Evostik North, were reprieved on a points-per-game formula, filling the space earmarked for New Mills. One failed appeal later, the Millers were placed in Division One South, leaving them with trips to Grantham Town, Market Drayton, Romulus and Sheffield FC rather than any of the six clubs from Greater Manchester who play in Division One North, including one, Woodley Sports, who even share their SK postcode.
I take up a seat next to three men in yellow and black scarves. “£6.50 for a friendly?” says one. “It’s not right. I’ve told them it’s not. I had the grandkids with me but I wasn’t paying £3 for a game like this. Sent them home, and that’s £6 you’ve lost there.” The few dozen fans who’ve made the journey over the border from Bala Town gather at the entrance to the bar as their team are put through their paces in the afternoon sun.
Two down with quarter of an hour to play, the Welsh Premier League side flick on the turbo switch, Chris Mason finally drawing Procter off his line before slipping the ball under the goalkeeper's body. Mark Jones levels from close range but the keeper responds with three fast saves before a cross bobbles off a defender and Lee Hunt slams in the winner via a post, the crossbar and a bounce on the line.