|Date||Saturday 22nd December 2007|
|League||North West Counties League Division Two|
|Result||Stone Dominoes||2||2||Ashton Town||HT||0||0||Att||67|
|Brown 46, Skellern 78||Howard 67, Smith 69|
|Entrance £5 Programme £1.00|
Stone Dominoes are the southern most members of the North West Counties League, relegated from division one quite spectacularly last year, and now bouncing from their free fall bungee drop about halfway down division two. This is a special season for the Dominoes, though, as it is their first back at their true home near Yarnfield, just North of Stone. For the last four seasons they have shared with their neighbours from up the road, Meir KA, northern most members of the Midland Combination, on account of having no floodlights.
A bit like the other two Step Six clubs in North Staffordshire, Norton Utd (1989) and Meir KA (1972) Stone Dominoes are a relatively recent arrival, founded in 1987. (If you count the dots on the dominoes in the pic they do read 1-9-8-7). Actually the first team only date back to 1995, the club having a strong tradition of youth football, which started at its foundation Founded in 1987 at St. Dominics Catholic Church Scouts Group in Stone, with a team of 8 year olds, by Chairman Bob Bowers, for his youngest son Daniel and his friends from St. Dominics, Stone and St Josephs College in Trent Vale, Stoke on Trent. The name was chosen by the boys, therefore Stone St. Dominics became Stone Dominoes F.C.
Springbank Park is down Yarnfield Lane, a quiet country lane off the busy A34 trunk road. It is west of Stone towards the village of Yarnfield. It is, you could say, in the middle of nowhere, and the site occupies a huge area of land. One enters into capacious gravel car parks and thence through ‘Vinnie’s Gate’ which is the turnstile, which takes you into a whole complex of football pitches.
The close season saw impressive work done of the Springbank Park complex including floodlights, a new covered terrace, and new pitch surround. That was just to the official ground. Refurbishments had obviously been made to the whole complex as you could see from the gleaming red bins and chrome surrounding bars, which were evident round each pitch, as well as dugouts. Three pitches face you length ways to your right as you come in with a cosy clubhouse to the left.
The clubhouse reminds me more of a cricket pavilion, with its covered veranda housing about 10 armchairs amongst other, standard chairs. Inside was where you can buy traditional football food, hot drinks and cans of alcohol.
Coming out of the clubhouse brings you to a junior pitch, much shorter with smaller goals, as shown above. Obviously for the under 11s or similar. You can see the main ground’s floodlights just beyond. From here you take a left, through a newly looking walkway to the main pitch.
It was a miserable day, with relentless rain, fog and bad light forcing me to ring the club to check it was on. Even though I got the all clear the tenacity of the downpour made me wonder if the ground would end up too waterlogged. It wasn’t too bad as it happens and the pitch was billiard table perfect with just a sheen of moisture giving away the recent precipitation.
Today’s visitors were Ashton Town, lying in 14th to Stone’s 11th (out of 18). They are one of two clubs in the division from Ashton-in-Makerfield in Wigan, the other being Ashton Athletic, recently promoted from a step seven Manchester league. This Ashton were founded as Makerfield Mill FC in 1953, and were founder members of the NWCL in 1982, just missing one season since, when they had to play in a Manchester league while work was carried out on their ground.
Everything about Springbank Park smacks of newness. It is a one stand ground at present with a new covered terrace spanning the whole length of one side. You can still just about smell the unlacquered wooden beams for the stand and also the uprights for the surrounding bar, whose chrome glistened with water droplets hanging on to its underside. The terrace rises two steps up and has 52 seats in a quartet of 13s bang in the middle. Four suits of seats, like in a pack of cards. Cards? Dominoes? Is this a theme?
Either end has a walkway behind the new perimater bar and then a man-made mudbank. Whether these mudbanks are preparation for more stands or whether they were made to stop the ball being lost so often, I don’t know. A grass bank lies on the other long side, behind the dugouts, roughly the same height as the other two, but this one looks a bit more naturally formed.
This is the dugouts and the long side
Despite the slick pitch the quality of football was excellent early on and I was particularly taken with Stone’s passing movements. Down the left they looked a couple of divisions better than step six. Having read their program notes now I realise that it seems to be a common theme for the Dominoes to play excellent football, but not convert this into goals. It was the same story again today as they should have had Ashton done and dusted by the hour.
However, a blitz of activity in two minutes completely turned the game to Ashton’s favour, after a really soft equaliser. To be fair, Stone’s opener was also scrappy, but it was nevertheless symbolic of their previous superiority. They did manage to collect a point and missed a sitter on 90 to grab all three, but they will be kicking themselves. The way they played should have them up there with New Mills at the top.
* Coincidentally another small Ashton lays claim to not just one but two non-league teams, again of similar standard. Ashton in East Manchester has Curzon Ashton and Ashton United both in the Unibond.
**Sporting Lisbon’s Estàdio da Luz was so named because it was in an area called Luz, which also just happened to mean light. So Sunderland’s naming of their new stadium seems to me as arbitrary as calling it the Stadium of Hackney. It is like a foreign team naming a stadium the Stadium of Stone (if there was such a venue in Stone), thinking that it is so called because it is made out of stone.
More photos of Springbank Park here