Thursday, 17 February 2011


27 February 2010
Gresley 1  Whitehawk 3
FA Vase, Quarter Final
Attendance: 861
View all photographs (73)

Gresley’s Moat Ground had long been on my ‘hit list’ of grounds to visit, particularly since a move away from its tight confines has long been on the agenda of the Football Club.

Given the small size of the village of Church Gresley it is remarkable that the former Gresley Rovers FC managed to sustain a long spell in the Southern League (including six seasons in its Premier Division) and then the Northern Premier (Unibond) League over seventeen seasons. Unfortunately financial mismanagement by the previous regime and a six figure debt saw the club liquidated at the end of the 2008/09 season, and replaced by a new incarnation, minus the ‘Rovers’ suffix.

Accordingly, the new club had to start life several steps further down the non-League Football Pyramid, in the East Midlands Counties League, hence their participation in the FA Vase. Gresley’s opponents were Brighton-based Whitehawk, currently top of the Sussex County League, and looking a good bet for promotion.

The Moat Ground dates from 1909 and is hemmed in by the surrounding housing, with the covered areas behind each goal particularly narrow, as I discovered whilst trying to work my way through the bumper 861-strong crowd (more than four times Gresley’s usual attendance) with two cameras and a rucksack!

After a week of snow and torrential rain, the weather relented for just long enough for the tie to take place, but returned with a vengeance during the match, becoming increasingly wet and gloomy. Scott Kirkwood gave the Hawks a 17th minute lead and they looked set go in ahead at half-time before Matt Hill scored directly from a corner kick in first half stoppage time. Kicking down the slope in the second half, the equaliser gave Gresley some imputus, but Whitehawk soon regained their composure and ran out comfortable winners with two second half Wes Tate goals (pictured with Joint Manager George Parris).

Something I always endeavour in my photographs is to capture the essence of the occasion, and in particular to highlight all the volunteers who work so tirelessly behind the scenes. I think I achieved the latter to some degree at Gresley. A big thanks to all those who made me feel so welcome … and were happy to pose for the camera.

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