As the motto on their opponents’ club crest states: ‘No Battle, No Victory.’
Sheffield United’s development squad did both at the Flamingo Land Stadium, standing toe to toe with a physically superior team before securing, what on paper at least, was a comfortable win.
But, in the grand scheme of things, any hardships Travis Binnion’s squad endured on Saturday afternoon, paled into insignificance compared to those Scarborough Athletic and their supporters have been forced to endure over the past 10 seasons. A fact Mick Wadsworth was quick to acknowledge following the east coast club’s long-awaited homecoming.
“It’s a wonderful moment,” he said. “If you look at the demise of the club, from when they went out of the league, to the problems and issues they had with the ground and the covenant, this that and the other. Having to go to Bridlington will have been a tough haul. But the people who have kept the club going all these years and who have travelled to support them have, in a sense, got some reward.”
Wadsworth knows all about football in Scarborough having spent two-and-half seasons managing the town’s team before it was dissolved after amassing a £2.5m debt. With politicking and red tape preventing Athletic, formed in response to the High Court’s winding-up order, from using the now demolished McCain Stadium, they had spent their entire existence staging ‘home’ fixtures in nearby Bridlington. Until last weekend when United, handpicked because of the two club’s connections, dispatched some of their most talented youngsters to help celebrate the opening of this new ground.
“It’s a nice sight and, from what it looks like, there is room to develop it as well which would be important if they get back up the leagues,” Wadsworth, now a senior development coach at United’s Steelphalt Academy, said. “It’s fantastic and I’m absolutely delighted, delighted, to see them back. It’s just wonderful for the town. In my long and varied carrier, I can honestly say here was one of my happiest times. It was nice working in Scarborough and trying to achieve what we did.”
“It was a quiet-ish afternoon for me,” Wadsworth continued. “Because that’s my role here, to be more in the background.”
United, who 24 hours earlier had held an open training session at a nearby rugby club, took the lead when Matty Turnbull sliced Kieran Wallace’s cross into his own net. Jimmy Beadle, a former Scarborough FC player, scrambled home an equaliser on the stroke of half-time before further efforts from Rhys Norrington-Davies and Jake Wright (2) ensured it was United who triumphed.
Wright, who spent last term on loan at York City, Southport and Gateshead, appears ready to enjoy a spell in the Football League. Likewise Jordan Hallam who twice drew fine close-range saves from Tom Turnbull. Regan Slater, who provided United with a combative edge in midfield, sent a low drive fizzing just past the post as Binnion, flanked by Wadsworth, John Dungworth and Jamie Annerson on the touchline, watched his side build another spell of pressure.
Earlier Kevin McCabe, United’s co-owner, had been invited to address the crowd before kick-off by Athletic chairman Trevor Bull. The visitors, whose technical superiority and willingness to engage told during the closing stages of the game, have shared countless players and staff with their hosts over the years. Several, including Jason Rockett and Wadsworth, were present to help Athletic celebrate their homecoming.
“It’s not good having to travel like they have,” Wadsworth said. “In my time at Gretna, we were playing 80 miles away and it’s a soulless job. I did go to a game at Bridlington a few years ago, when they were winning a promotion. Again the atmosphere and the numbers of people who had gone across. That struck me. It’s been a really good day for everyone. We’re delighted to be the team they played after coming home.”