On Monday 16th July 2012 I went to the oldest football ground in the world, Sandygate, to watch Hallam FC play Manchester City Under 18’s in a Pre Season Friendly match.
I had previously visited Hallam FC 3 times before, watching them beat Pickering Town 3-0 in the league before seeing defeats against Burscough and Atherton Collieries in the FA Cup. I always enjoy my trips to watch the local non-league sides and when we saw they were playing the Premier League champions we decided to make another visit!
Hallam were formed in 1860 and are therefore the 2nd oldest club in the world after nearby Sheffield FC. However, they have played at Sandygate since their formation which makes it the oldest ground in the world while Sheffield FC have moved multiple times. Despite these claims to fame, the club have struggled to have much success in their long history and they are currently playing in the North East Counties Division 1, step 10 of the football pyramid.
We arrived around half an hour before kick off and had a walk around and of course taking plenty of photographs before taking our seats in the stand. Since our last visit, the club had received a windfall from a benefactor who had left the club money in his will, and they had used some of this to make improvements to the ground which means it is now an excellent standard for the level which the club play at. The most noticeable improvement is the new clubhouse next to the large, all seated stand which runs along the side of the pitch. A new bar area has been built where fans can chat before and after the game and it is a very nice set up.
Over 300 supporters had turned out to watch Hallam take on Manchester City’s stars of tomorrow in what was sure to be an interesting game, just to see how the City players coped with the sloping pitch if nothing else! A few famous faces had turned up for the game, including former Premiership referee and honorary club President Uriah Rennie and former England international Chris Waddle. I had a picture with Waddle and he was friendly and happy to have the photo. Former Chesterfield assistant manager Scott Sellars was also in attendance as he is in charge of the Manchester City Under 18’s team.
The game got underway and City nearly took the lead in the opening minute courtesy of some comedy defending from the home side. First, an overhit backpass left the goalkeeper struggling to clear the ball and he played it straight to a City player, whose cross was almost turned in to the net by the same Hallam defender but the goalkeeper managed to grab the ball before it could cross the line.
After a shaky start, Hallam got in to the game and created a couple of good chances to take the lead. An early corner was headed on to the crossbar and the rebound was nodded just over but it certainly showed the young City players that they wouldn’t have it all their own way.
It should have been 1-0 to the home side not long later when the ball dropped to Hallam’s Herve Serazano in front of goal but he blazed his effort well wide of the target.
After a few missed opportunities from the non-league team, City’s players began to grow in confidence and after a couple shots off target, they broke the deadlock on the 19th minute through Brazilian trialist Rinan Silva Gorne. The attacker broke through on goal and after his first shot was parried by the ‘keeper, Gorne met the rebound and rolled the ball in to the empty net to put the visitors ahead.
The Brazilian almost doubled his tally a couple of minutes later but his shot from the edge of the area was well saved and held by the Hallam goalkeeper.
The game was end to end in the final few minutes of the half and Hallam had a couple of dangerous crosses right in front of the goal but no one could get on the end of them and the danger was eventually dealt with by the defenders. Manchester City then had a glorious opportunity to double their lead on the 41st minute when Dominic McHale broke through on goal but his attempted lob was well stopped by Hallam’s substitute goalkeeper.
At half time I thought it might become a bit of a landslide in the second half with City shooting down hill and the Hallam players tiring. However, this wasn’t the case and Hallam grabbed a deserved equaliser on the 54th minute when the home side played yet another dangerous cross in front of goal and Ben Kistell, who was left unmarked at the far post, put the ball in to the open goal to level the scores, much to the delight of many of the supporters in the ground.
City looked annoyed at conceding but they almost regained the lead soon after the restart when they broke through on goal but the Hallam keeper did brilliantly to knock the ball away from the attacker’s feet before a Hallam defender blocked the second shot well to keep the game level.
Both sides had good spells just after the hour mark and both had chances to take the lead but failed to do so. As the game went on City began to look more dangerous and they came close when Jack Byrne’s free kick bounced off the cross bar.
With little over 10 minutes left to play, City did take the lead after a poor goal kick gifted the ball to City’s Sinan Bytqi who fired the ball low and hard in to the bottom corner to earn the victory for his side.
Hallam pushed for an equaliser in the final few minutes and even had a header cleared off the line late on but in the end they couldn’t find a breakthrough and the game ended 2-1 to Manchester City’s Under 18’s.
It was an entertaining game and a good way to start to 2012/13 season. I always enjoy my trips to Sandygate and that was probably my favourite trip to the ground so far.
After the game I saw City’s Rinan Silva Gorne, the Brazilian trialist who had scored the opening goal at the side of the pitch and had a picture with him. Hopefully he will be playing for City’s first team in a few years and I can say I met him at Hallam FC!
Hallam 1-2 Manchester City
Gorne ’19, Kistell ’54, Bytqi ’79Naylor, Carnall, Coy, Serazano, Adgie, Carr, Thompson, Smith, Whittington, Eckhardt, Moseley O’Brien, Elfitouril, Swan, Jones, Smith-Brown, Byrne, Horsefield, Celina, Gorne, Bytqi, McHale Attendance: 300