Pickering Town
Mill Lane Recreation Ground

Ground No. 238
Visited - Saturday 12th September 2011
Result - Pickering Town 5-0 Lincoln Moorlands Railway
Competition - NCEL Premier Division
Attendance - 113

Five years ago I'd never heard of Pickering Town FC, or even the town of Pickering itself, so it was quite impressive to see the number of fans who had come down to cheer them on in their FA Vase quarter final at Nantwich when I made the trip to the Dabbers' old Jackson Avenue ground back in March 2006. Unfortunately for the visitors, they lost 2-0, with Nantwich going on to win the competition, but a good 200 had made the long trip down from North Yorkshire, showing their colours and leaving a good impression, plus the inspiration to make the trip up to Yorkshire to see if this support was replicated at home.

Five seasons and several half planned trips later, then I eventually got around to it, arranging to double up the trip with the opportunity to meet a friend from Scarborough and spend the weekend catching up.

Described as the gateway to the North York Moors, Pickering is a medieval market town, as picturesque as you'd expect from the tourist board's description, with a population of just under 7000. The club were formed in 1888, and spent most of their first centenary playing in local leagues until joining the Yorkshire League in 1972, quickly moving up from Division Three to Division One by the end of their third season. In 1982 they were founder members of the NCEL, which is where they've remained ever since, climbing up to the Premier Division in 1992, and remaining at this level for all but a stint of two years after a brief relegation back to Division One. Unfortunately for the Pikes, the 2011/12 season hadn't been the happiest, and their game against Lincoln Moorlands Railway was already billed as a relegation six pointer, with Town sitting second bottom, yet to win a league game at home so far. Lincoln themselves sat only two places above, but with more than double Pickering's points total, then it was going to be a difficult task ahead for the Yorkshire side.

Driving the short 20 mile trip from Scarborough we arrived at the ground to be greeted by a sign declaring "Pickering Town vs Lincoln MR: Games don't come bigger than this!" A bit tongue in cheek perhaps, with England at home to Spain later in the day more likely to attract the greater attention of the national media, but it was debatable whether the likes of Rooney and co (himself having conveniently picked up a nice little suspension to avoid the drag of having to represent his country) would be as committed as the 22 on show here, and so I was happy to have made the choice of this game instead as we headed first into the town for a wander around and a pint in the Horseshoe Inn before back to the ground.

Donated to the towns people for recreation, the football section of Mill Lane makes up only a small part of the Recreation Ground, with bowls and cricket catered for as well. It's the latter that means the football ground is only three sided, with the club forced to play elsewhere in the early parts of the season, a temporary fence put up along one side when the cricketers take their winter break, making it feel more enclosed than it might otherwise be. There's a good sized car park outside, with turnstiles on both sides of the ground, which was a bit confusing, the main sign pointing us at first down to the set that was closed, meeting a similarly disorientated fan from Grimsby who was wondering if they were waiting to open or to try around the other side instead. We opted for the long walk, which was speeded up by a wasp with a grudge, chasing me halfway down the road before finally giving up and allowing us to continue unhassled into the ground!

The main set of turnstiles allow you in at the near corner, with a covered terrace running immediately to the right for half the width of the pitch, providing cover and a few steps for an elevated view, before the clubhouse and changing rooms take up the rest of this end, picturesque with their ornate design more suited to the bowls and cricket clubs who share them than what you expect to see at football venues. To the left runs hard standing truncated in the middle by the Main Stand which sits centred on the halfway line, raised from the ground and offering good views. At the far end, to the near side of the goal, is another all seated stand, with hard standing running up to the corner where the cricket scoreboard stands next to the unused turnstiles and a set of toilets. Even with the fence in place, the far side is inaccessible for supporters, but with the rest of the facilities well maintained, it doesn't detract from the ground like elsewhere, and a noticeable slope downwards from the cricket pitch helps add a bit of character.

Having had a look round then we popped into the clubhouse for a quick drink before the game began, and speaking to the home fans, none seemed too confident of their chances, their league form to date giving rise for concern. They needn't have worried though, and after a quarrelsome start, the referee awarding several debatable decisions, the home side weathered the early pressure from Lincoln and took the lead in the 12th minute. Picking up the ball on the right hand side Jonathan Birbeck strode into the visitors penalty area as they claimed the offside before firing the ball home off Lincoln defender Stuart King who ended up adding to the misery of an own goal by getting himself booked thanks to being a bit too persistent in his protests against the linesman’s decision. It gave the Pikes the confidence they had presumably been lacking so far this season, and they forced a number of corners before doubling the lead just before the half hour mark thanks to Joel Ramm, who fired home unmarked in the area after good work from Stuart Rice to give the hosts a 2-0 lead, which they carried into the break.

Clearly buzzing from the first half performance, Pickering manager Pete Vasey presumably hadn't needed to say much to his team at half time and they came out early, a good five minutes before Lincoln and the officials made their way back onto the pitch. Waiting around in the cold didn't seem to seize them up though, and 10 minutes after the restart they were 3-0 up, thanks to Jonathan Brown, who forced his way through the Lincoln defence to fire home, the visitors again being vocal in their protests claiming overly physical play by the hosts (nothing wrong in my view, even if it was from down the other end of the ground at the time!). In the 73rd minute they made it 4-0 when Stuart Rice slammed home a deflected free kick, although the biggest talking point came several minutes later when Russell Parker made a two footed lunge on the visitors' Mark McDonagh, being lucky to escape with only a yellow, Lincoln again not being too shy to cause a fracas by surrounding the ref (even if somewhat justified this time). With the night sky having well and truly fallen then the hosts wrapped it up with four minutes left on the clock thanks to substitute Chaz Wrigley who got on the end of a long ball and outpaced the weary visitors' defence to stroke the ball home and seal his sides first home win of the season in emphatic style.

After leaving, we made our way back to Scarborough with no problems at all, catching the England game, which predictably generated more headlines the next morning, contrary to the claims beforehand that this was the weekends main football event!

Overall, it had been good to finally make my way here. Having held the club in high regard for a good five and a half years since that FA Vase game, then visiting didn't change that opinion at all. Even if at 113, the crowd was probably less than those who had followed them down to Cheshire, it didn't detract from what is a genuinely friendly club with a great setup, and a pleasure to have ticked off.

Welcome to Pickering!


The Near End

Looking across the Near End

The Clubhouse

The Changing Rooms

The Far Side

The Far End

The Far End Stand

The Near Side

Ready for Kick Off

The Near Side

The Far End

Second Half

Mill Lane Recreation Ground Panoramic 1
(click here for full size picture)

Mill Lane Recreation Ground Panoramic 2
(click here for full size picture)

Mill Lane Recreation Ground Panoramic 3
(click here for full size picture)


1 comment:

  1. The turnstiles are quite small I bet that it takes a lot of time to enter to the recreation center. Places like this pay per head bookmaking community likes to go.