Ellistown – Tuesday November 15th 2011 (468)

'The Christmas Tree market has always proved to be a nice little earner for the club groundsman...'

Having recently rekindled my love affair with Barrow Town, what joy to find that their recent FA Cup run has thrown up a backlog of away fixtures, and here’s another one right on my doorstep. The lad is up for it too, and we set off on a draughty Tuesday night for the 20-mile drive to Ellistown for this East Midlands Counties League fixture.

Although brought up in neighbouring Sileby, where I occasionally watched the local Sileby Town side who competed on the ‘Reccy’ in the Leicestershire Senior League, it wasn’t until I moved to Barrow in 1968 and found my new house to be less than 100 yards from Barrow’s own ‘Reccy’ that I took to local football in a big way. I joined all the other village urchins on the grassy bank behind the goal, where we attempted to become a kop choir mirroring the Anfield model. Maybe a few less people, but we were still fiercely loyal.

When I became old enough to use the nearby pub, I was surprised to see quite a few of the Barrow players in there BEFORE the game. Indeed, legend had it that one of the strikers – I forget his name – always drank a gallon prior to the match to ensure that when he clattered into the opposition defenders, he wouldn’t feel a thing. Sadly his calculations as to the whereabouts of the goal net were often a little awry too.

We rarely traveled away, which is why grounds like Ellistown – fellow Senior League stalwarts of old – are still new to me. And probably explains why I can’t find it, despite poring over maps before setting out. I remember it being between Ellistown village and neighbouring Bagworth, and by a process of elimination, we stumble across the floodlights and pull into the car park prior to kick-off.

Entry fee for me and the lad, plus two programmes, is a paltry £6 in total. Not bad when you think of the price for most grounds are charging for variable entertainment. Mind you in 1968 it was free. No programmes though.

The Terrace Road ground is situated behind Battram Bowls Club. No less than twelve floodlight pylons light up the pitch which is surrounded primarily by flat standing, the only cover being a two-row covered stand straddling the half way line. Directly opposite is a larger seated stand with no roof. Only the hardy sit here on a windy November night. There’s a snack bar in front of the club-house with chips on offer. We check out the small clubhouse bar, but there’s nothing of any beery interest.

As usual we are positioned behind the goal, where the lad prepares to take up his self-appointed ball-boy duties. The Ellistown custodian is especially chatty and gives us a run-down of the enduring hamstring injury which restricts his movements and eventually leads to him leaving the pitch on 40, albeit with a clean sheet intact. His replacement, another portly gentleman who declines to converse with us, is beaten more or less as soon as he comes on and Barrow are one-up.

The second half resembles a game of tennis, with the ball swinging from end-to-end. Every time Barrow think they’ve sealed it, Ellistown peg them back and it’s not until the previously wasteful Barrow number 10 discovers how to pass the ball into the net – identical strikes within five minutes of each other – that the game looks settled. Even then Ellistown bring it back to 3-4 but despite a previously erratic display by the referee, he manages to blow up right on time and Barrow have another three points.

The lad is feeling something like a lucky charm, as he has yet to see Barrow beaten. Maybe in a few year’s time he’ll be scootering down to the Leicestershire village of his own accord, to join the local village youths cheering their new heroes on. Either that or he’ll be in the pub. Somebody has to keep the players company….

Programme: Given away on the turnstile. A rigid little number with not much reading matter in it. Managed to get the dates wrong on the cover…

Floodlight pylons: I refer you to the answer I gave some paragraphs earlier…

Parakeets: More chance of a barn owl

Club Shop: Nope

Toilets: Not too sure as I wasn’t caught short

Music the players run out to: A muted rendition of ‘Right Here, Right Now’

Kop Choir: No

Away fans: a few faces I remembered from ‘Old Boy’ days – and us two, of course!

What’s in a name? Ellistown’s Ross ‘Davy Jones’ Locker. I presume the Ellistown manager can always rely on the support of Sunny Loyal, but Paul Leaver might well have his own agenda…. George Himan seems a cheerful sort, though. I wonder if Barrow’s Michael Paparozzi bought his camera.

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