Ground Nº 110 – Silverlands
Wednesday 8th Nov 2006
Unibond First Division Buxton FC 3 Brigg Town 1 HT 0-0 Att: 384
I’ve been to the town of Buxton a few times, living less than 20 miles away. I liked the town, it had a kind of majesterial air to it and the architecture was very grand. It was a very insular place like Leek, cut off a bit from anywhere else. It was only recently I found out what division their football team play in, and that they attract big crowds for their league. I also found out they’re on quite a run; having been promoted as champions from the Northern Counties East Division last season and currently lying second, with only one defeat, in the Unibond First. So I was keen to watch a game at Silverlands.
Their ground is the highest in any league in England at a whopping 1000ft above sea level. Compare that to the highest english league team, West Brom at 552ft! I wonder whether their relatively large crowds of 500+ had something to do with their insularity and the isolation of the place, high up in the Peaks?! Maybe one for the Kempster to look into! Both teams playing tonight have incredibly long histories (I don’t know why but I always make the mistake of assuming most non-league clubs to be relatively new).
Buxton FC were founded in 1877 and started playing at Silverlands in 1884, surely making their ground one of the oldest still in use. Brigg Town FC are even older; in fact they are one of the first clubs to be founded. In the NL Pyramid only Sheffield FC, Hallam, Harefield and Cray Wanderers are older. They were formed in 1864.
Wikipedia amusingly states that Brigg Town are the oldest association football team in Brigg. As claims go it’s not a classic. Just how big is Brigg? I’m sure it was just badly worded but reading on, it doesn’t seem quite as absurd, as in the 19th century Brigg Town was indeed a hotbed of football, having no less than four clubs in the newly established Lincolnshire FA.
The Zebras have survived to this day though, and came to Silverlands lying in mid-table. I had this vague notion that Brigg were FA Vase experts. I looked it up and indeed they had won the Vase in 1996 and 2003. Their hosts were vying for top spot with Stocksbridge Park Steels (the current leaders) and Cammell Laird (like Buxton, only 1 defeat) lying in fourth with games in hand.
Tom picked me up and drove us up the A53 through Leek and on to Buxton. The stretch from Leek to Buxton is worth the drive in itself. It wends a tortuous route atop rugged moorlands, past the spectacular Roaches and the edge of the Peak District. I’d driven this way many a time for trips to Millmoor, Saltergate, Hillsborough and Bramall Lane. It is oft-times enveloped in fog and, unlit, can make the journey eerie, not to say treacherous. Coming back from Saltergate after watching a Monday evening game with Brighton I thought I would be lost to the fog forever in some twilight zone, the cat’s eyes within 10 yards of the front bumper the only guide to stop me and my car flying off the road into a misty grave; though my spirits were kept high, having witnessed another classic goal from Bobby Zamora!
Tom and I arrived near the ground at about 7.25 and parked in a terraced street nearby. The warm bluish glow from the floodlights was so inviting and there was a fair crowd making its way in their direction. It brought back memories of evening games at the Goldstone for some reason. To use the football vernacular Silverlands is a peach of a ground. It’s big for its league. There is a big covered terrace behind one goal which goes a good 10 steps back and holds 1000. To its left, in the middle, is their 500 seater main stand (see first pic); again going back about 12-15 rows and covered. In front of this is a slim terrace with the dugouts.
To the side is the club shop (a hut) and the coffee stand which has one of those canvass awnings hanging down announcing itself as the “Brasserie”. Only in Buxton! If it wasn’t so funny it might be considered pretentious, as Tom succinctly put it.
Opposite the main stand was a covered side terrace. It starts at one end with just one stand and blends smoothly into three or four steps at the other, as if it was made with diligent adherence to a spirit level with the actual pitch sloping. Behind the other goal was a flat path sealed off by a concrete wall. Being a connoisseur of goals (ie the nets and stanchions) I was very pleased to see some quite unusual ones of an old-fashioned bent. They had the black back stanchions that curved downward, strung with large holed white nets. They didn’t go far back which pleased me, a reaction perhaps to the very deep standard goals at most venues.
The club bar sits within the ground next to the big covered terrace. It was packed as we went in for a pint. You could ask for your drink in a plastic pint cup and take it out with you on the terraces. There were even people drinking spirits out there. Another reminder of how rigid and severe league grounds’ rules have become.
The first half was abysmal. It was so bad it was difficult to concentrate on the game for any length of time. Neither keeper had a save to make in the first half. We wandered round the stands and terraces soaking up the atmosphere, which there was plenty of. The Buxton faithful are a noisy lot and chanted throughout the game. Next to the main stand there was a random placing of two park benches (one of which was full to capacity), something you wouldn’t see at a league ground!
Buxton were kicking into the goal in front of the big terrace for the second half, so their was a big migration of fans there. It was like being at a Brighton away game, stood behind a goal with two to three hundred fellow supporters. The noise levels rose and the singing got louder.
Brigg took a surprise lead shortly after the restart: a corner was headed at the near post and looped into the far corner. I looked round but couldn’t see any Brigg fans celebrating. As if incensed at Brigg’s impudence at taking the lead Buxton suddenly upped their game from one of loud hoofs of the ball to nowhere to some accurate passing. An attack came down on the left with the ball being unsuccessfully shepherded out of play for a goal kick by a Brigg defender. It was picked up on the touchline, crossed back to the 6 yard box and buried by Reed. Parity was restored and within 30 seconds of the restart it was 2-1.
A good run to the edge of the Brigg box and deep low cross to the far post found Walker there to hook into the net. The crowd behind the goal went wild. The up-until-now hapless Buxton had turned the game around with apparent ease, the sure sign of a confident team.
Buxton survived some near misses from Brigg before the impressive Reed scored his second to kill the game in the 86th minute. A long cross into the box sat perfect for him to volley home from 12 yards. It was a quality goal and great finale to the game.
I loved Silverlands and would go back. There was a real feel of a community football club there. They could be playing Leek Town next season which would be a local derby definitely worth going to.