'Record-breaking' crowd turns out at world’s oldest football ground in Sheffield for Hallam FC thriller
What’s believed to be a record-breaking crowd turned out at the world's oldest football ground to watch a non-league match in English football's tenth tier.
No fewer than 1,128 fans packed into Sandygate on Tuesday afternoon for Hallam FC’s clash against fellow high-flyers Brigg Town, with just two points separating the teams before kick-off.
The home side, who began the day second in the Northern Counties East Football League Division One and one place above their opponents, won 3-1 thanks to a brace from goal machine Iren Wilson and Craig Mitchell’s late effort.
The result moves them top of the league.
“We have got the stats guys looking at it this evening but we think for a league game it is (a new attendance record),” said Hallam FC commercial director Steve Basford, who was as delighted as he was shell-shocked.
The club’s former chairman, who stepped down in 2020, added: "I have been here for 12 years and it certainly is in that time.
"We are stunned. We expected for it to be six, seven or eight at a real push but 1,000 is out of this world.”
Around 1,000 spectators are believed to have been cheering on Craig Denton’s side.
Steve praised the atmosphere inside the ground and added: “It just shows how much people are desperate to see this kind of football again.
"It’s been an absolutely amazing day, it’s made our Christmas really. A lot of people needed something to look forward to.
"Today was absolutely incredible.
"It’s taken a while to get to this point but we have created this really nice family atmosphere, that’s why the crowds are what they are.”
The Countrymen have a reputation for providing entertainment, having scored 87 goals already this season, and a ding-dong affair meant supporters got plenty of value for money once again.
Hallam were pegged back just after the break after Wilson had put them in front early in the first half.
The striker then bagged his twentieth league goal of the campaign to restore his team’s lead before Mitchell extended their advantage and a late Brigg goal set up a tense finish.
“The last eight or nine minutes seemed to go on forever,” added Steve.
“It was such a huge game, you talk about six-pointers.
"I think we deserved it, they were a very good side but we were on top most of the game. We are just scoring so many goals at the minute.”
Defeat for the Countrymen’s promotion rivals North Ferriby, who boast several former English Football League players in their ranks, means Hallam will end 2021 in the division’s sole automatic promotion spot.
Tuesday was the fourth time this year they have been cheered on by more than 600 supporters.
It’s a far cry from the days when the Crosspool-based club, who are supported by a team of around 30 volunteers, struggled to muster 60 spectators through the turnstiles for some midweek games.
"It’s huge,” Steve said of the bolstered gate receipts.
“We need to move to the next level now, which is absolutely brilliant.
"If we get promoted then this could be a regular thing.”
A new bar, as well as new toilet facilities, may need to be built in the near future to keep up with increased demand.
"These are fantastic problems to have,” added Steve.