Monday 3rd May 2021 18.30
Hope Valley League Division A
Stretfield Sports 12 (TWELVE) Pilsley Community 0 HT: 5-0 Att: c15
2,5,18,25,30,50,58,75,80,82,85,90 + 2 missed pens
from Bradwell Sports Club & Pavillion
This game was a triumph of hope over adversity. I headed out into the peak in torrential wind and rain, more than expecting the game to be called off, and rather than relenting, the rain seemed to increase, the further I delved into the National Park. I’d overheard at another Hope Valley Ground that, amusingly, the team used to be called Bradwell Sports, playing at the Stretfield Sports Club and that now they were Strefield Sports playing at the Bradwell Sports Club. Due to a lack of info on the internet I can’t confirm or deny this tidbit.
Bradwell is slap bang in the middle of the Peak District, well known for its superb ice cream, and near Hope itself and Castleton, which is beyond Hope. The population was 1,416 at the last census, considerably more than the eight citizens recorded in 1086. It was recorded in the Domesday book as being held by Leofing. It’s a great drive to Bradwell, as with most Hope Valley League venues, even in driving rain; and it was this fact that spurred me on, knowing an inevitable P-P was awaiting me. Twitter accounts don’t tend to be very active at this level, so there was no way of finding out ahead of time. The League website did list a game nearby that was now off though.
The ground is just off the main B6049 road, going out of Bradwell to the north and lies right next to the fast flowing Bradwell Brook, an offshoot of the River Noe which starts at the top of the Hope Valley. It’s an extremely rural location with the car park behind a dry stone wall, albeit not particularly dry tonight.
The clubhouse looked fairly new and smart; tonight had a few folk keeping shelter under its awning, while a few players practised. Asking if the game was still on, nobody knew, as the ref hadn’t arrived yet and was running 10 minutes late. I sat in my car waiting for the ref to step out of his car to announce the game postoned, but at around 18.45, 15 minutes after the scheduled kick off, amazingly, he led the players out for kick off.
The ground is nicely enclosed on the two sides by the Stretfield Road (B6049) and Bradwell Brook, fronted by trees. A tennis court and club house sit behind one goal with more trees and a cottage behind the other. The one structure in the ground looked like a cross between a stand and a dugout, and it was understandly full to bursting, with what I assumed were playing staff, so wasn’t really an option to take cover from the rain.
As such there was no escaping the elements. It was difficult to tell how many spectators there were, as I couldn’t distinguish between fans and playing staff. At most 15, and at worst around four, all groundhoppers, one of whom was taking scant cover between two bushes, in front of the brook. Conditions really were atrocious with the freezing cold wind adding to the torture of severe bouts of further rain. The game may have started but I figured it was unlikely to end. You prayed for the heavy rain to stop, believing that it couldn’t possibly keep up its intensity, only for it to step up yet another gear. Beautiful as the Peak can be in nice weather, it can be as bleak as anything in a storm.
This was a top v bottom encounter in the strangely titled Division A of the Hope Valley League – the second tier. Despite the conditions, Stretfield went ahead almost immediately with a close range volley and made it two shortly after, when a free kick eluded everybody to swing into the corner. Traffic was one way all half, as Stretfield scored five and had a penalty well saved. I must admit I thought it was 4-0 at half time, one goal completely passed me by, despite watching for the full half. It’s the only time at a match where I’ve come away thinking the score was something different to the official score. Arrogantly, I assumed the Hope Valley League website had made a mistake when they posted it as 12-0 at the end, rather than 11-0.
Yes, a further seven goals followed after the break, plus another saved penalty. Some of the goals were really well taken, especially the glancing near-post header to make it 12, right at the end. The rain finally relented after about 70 minutes; seeing the sun poking out from the rain clouds and a rainbow appear was like seeing an oasis in the desert. Although by this time I was actually shaking with the cold, not helped by being completely drenched. It gave me a Vietnam style flashback to the open terrace at Fratton Park circa 1989 (you weren’t there man!).