Kidsgrove's FA Cup History
It was back in 1995 while playing in the North West Counties League (NWCL) that we undertook our first venture in the FA Cup. This was a trip to Hinckley Athletic (now merged into Hinckley United). Kidsgrove struggled to compete with their well-financed hosts and succumbed 3-1 despite a brave performance. Craig Brookes had the honour of scoring Athletic’s first ever FA Cup goal, while the manager that day was none other than Peter Ward, in his first spell in charge.
The following season, Kidsgrove were drawn at home in the Preliminary Round but were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Chester-le-StreetTown, in a rare game against northern opposition.
Many Grove supporters will have very fond memories of the 1997/98 season as Jimmy Wallace assembled a side that won the North West Counties League and reached the semi-finals of the FA Vase, scoring exactly 200 goals in a season that spanned 71 games. Unfortunately, he was unable to extend his magic to the FA Cup, but Athletic were unlucky to bow out to higher-league WhitleyBay. Having drawn the home match 1-1 thanks to a goal from Paul Kiely, we made the long journey to the North East for the replay and drew 3-3, Kiely again scoring, along with Craig Walklett and Steve Colclough, only to lose 5-3 on penalty kicks.
There then followed a bleak number of years as Kidsgrove sought and failed to produce their first win in the competition. A Scott Dundas goal could not prevent a 2-1 defeat at Sutton Coldfield in 1998/99, while an inexperienced side were well beaten at Wellingborough Town the season after. Any hopes that the new millennium may bring a change in fortunes were quickly dispelled as Athletic were dumped out in an Extra-Preliminary Round Replay 3-1 at home to Pelsall Villa after drawing the initial match 1-1. Things didn’t get any better during 2001/02, as a disastrous afternoon in Nottinghamshire saw ArnoldTown beat us 4-1 with Darren Twigg scoring at both ends. Promotion to the Northern Premier League at the end of the season meant that we never won an FA Cup game while members of the NWCL.
At the tenth time of asking, on 31st August 2002, the fans were finally able to celebrate a victory as goals from Steve Tobin (2), Martin MacDonald and Danny Worthington saw us triumph 4-1 at home to Buxton. This set up a tricky away match at Alfreton Town, who were surging their way through the leagues, but a solitary strike from Twigg was enough to pull off a shock win. The goal almost didn’t stand – with the linesman having raised his flag for offside before realising that Twigg had in fact flicked the ball on to himself!
This success handed Kidsgrove a place in the 2nd Qualifying Round for the first time, and the reward was another trip to Hinckley, this time United. This proved to be a step too far as we were soundly beaten 3-0.
After this brief upturn in fortunes, normal service was resumed in 2003/04 with a 3-1 home defeat to Rugby United, and then matters sunk even lower with an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at home to local rivals Newcastle Town, who were still playing in the NWCL.
Grove then managed a run of seven seasons in which we always managed to record at least one win per year in the competition. Julian Ward and Glyn Hancock were the scorers as we earned a 2-2 draw at Stourbridge in a Sunday FA Cup clash in August 2005. The same players found the net again in the replay along with Adam Vickers, Matt Rhead and Wayne Johnson as Kidsgrove won 5-2. We were drawn at home to Leamington in the next round, losing 1-0 in front of a crowd of 429. This stood as Athletic’s highest FA Cup attendance until 2012.
The 2006/07 campaign began in comfortable fashion with a 2-0 success over Spalding United in the Preliminary Round. This set up a local derby with LeekTown, at that time a league above Kidsgrove in the Northern Premier League Premier Division. The teams fought out a goalless draw at Clough Hall, but Michael Lennon’s goal in the replay was enough to send us through to a 2nd Qualifying Round clash with Rothwell Town, much to the delight of the travelling support. In this game, we recorded our biggest win in the FA Cup, with a 6-0 thrashing of the visitors from Northamptonshire, as the prolific strike force of Lennon and Rhead helped themselves to a hat-trick each.
With Athletic into the 3rd Qualifying Round for the first time, the draw threw up an intriguing trip to Haverhill Rovers. The Suffolk-based side competed two levels below Kidsgrove in the First Division of the Eastern Counties League, but had recorded some impressive results, and would earn promotion at the end of the season. Having led 1-0 at the break through Aaron Rey, the game was delayed for 25 minutes during the second half after a serious injury to Haverhill’s Paul Abbott. The incident seemed to unsettle the team greatly and on the resumption, the home side hit back with two late goals, to send Kidsgrove out.
Matt Rhead (9) and Michael Lennon in action at Haverhill Rovers, October 2006
When the draw was made for the early rounds in 2007/08, few could have predicted the chaos that would ensue, in which Kidsgrove got caught up through no fault of their own. Having beaten Oldbury United 3-1 in the Preliminary Round, we were looking forward to a home tie against Barnt Green Spartak who had beaten Willenhall Town. It emerged, however, that Barnt Green had fielded an ineligible player in the game and it was ordered to be replayed. Willenhall took advantage and won this, but by this point the rest of the competition had already played the 1st Qualifying Round and teams were gearing up for the next set of games.
Eventually, Athletic and Willenhall met with Grove emerging victorious 2-0, but were then forced to travel to Rainworth Miners Welfare three days later without a recognised goalkeeper. With defender Wayne Brotherton having to step in, we fell to a disappointing defeat against a side two levels below us in the pyramid.
The 2008/09 campaign began with a 3-0 win over Pilkington XXX, but a good run was not on the cards as a trip to Eastwood Town ended in a 4-0 defeat. Kidsgrove once again overcame lower level opposition in the Preliminary Round the next year, Dave Walker’s goal being enough to see off Alvechurch, but were then caught out again, losing 3-2 at home to AFC Wulfrunians of the West Midlands Regional League.
2010/11 saw us encounter near-neighbours Biddulph Victoria in the Preliminary Round. With their first choice goalkeeper injured, and no replacements available, Vics were forced to field midfielder Steve Brannan, now a Kidsgrove player, in goal. He turned in a fine display as the first match ended goalless. This caused problems in goal for us, and with Steve Intihar unavailable a few days later, both sides named outfield players in goal, defender Dave Harper keeping a clean sheet as Athletic won through 4-0.
This earned us a home tie against FA Cup specialists Chasetown, promoted into the NPL Premier Division the previous season. The difference in levels was not apparent, though, and goals from Dave Walker, Liam Shotton and Adam Beasley capped a fine performance in a 3-0 win at the Seddon Stadium. In the next round, it was an injury-ravaged team that travelled to Solihull Moors of the Conference North, and despite fighting hard, with Shotton turning in a particularly good performance, the home side wrapped up a 2-0 win.
2011/12 marked Kidsgrove’s most successful ever in the competition. Home wins against Atherstone Town and Gornal Athletic were followed by a battling goalless draw at Boston United, who were then beaten 2-0 in the replay on a memorable night of football at the Seddon Stadium courtesy of goals from Sam Hall and a wonder strike from Craig Dove. Long Buckby, previously unbeaten, were defeated 2-1 in a tense game, to set up a clash with Bradford (Park Avenue) at Clough Hall with a place in the First Round Proper at stake. Unfortunately, in front of a crowd of 1,140, Athletic were unable to upset the odds and went out to two second half goals.
Andy Kinsey (10) jumps for the ball in the 0-0 draw at Boston United
If fans had hoped that this would act as a springboard to bigger and better things in the competition, they were to be sadly disappointed as the next four seasons saw early exits, ranging from the disappointing to the ridiculous. Bogey side AFC Wulfrunians returned to end the 2012/13 campaign at the first step, and although Kidsgrove won 3-1 at Market Drayton Town the following year in the Preliminary Round, we were once again eliminated by lower league opposition, this time at Tipton Town in front of a paltry 56 people. A Joe Woolley strike was mere consolation as we fell at Evesham United in 2014/15 before Grove made headlines for all the wrong reasons the following season.
Having secured a 1-1 draw at Midland League side Westfields, thanks to an Ant Malbon penalty, Athletic then raced to a 4-0 half time lead in the replay at the Novus Stadium. Amazingly, Grove then fell apart as the visitors struck back to finish the game 4-4. Andy Kinsey put Kidsgrove back ahead in extra time, but Westfields were not to be denied and struck twice more to record a remarkable 6-5 win.
2016/17 saw an improvement in fortunes: victory over Lye Town in the Preliminary Round set up a trip to local rivals Stafford Rangers. Despite parting company with joint managers Peter Ward and Ant Buckle days before the fixture, Ryan Austin's men recorded a memorable 2-1 win, with Ant Malbon getting both goals. Unfortunately, Grove came unstuck in the following round, deservedly beaten 2-1 at home by Matlock Town. Kidsgrove exited at the same stage last season, eventually being overpowered by a strong Kettering Town side after wins against Trafford and Clitheroe.