Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League Premier Division
Penistone Church Reserves manager Scott Briggs says the County Senior League were right to introduce the controversial wildcard rule at the beginning of the season.
League leaders Penistone’s mouth-watering showdown with title favourites Swinton Athletic is off as Church have had to play their wildcard due to mounting covid, injuries and suspensions issues.
Church had less than eleven players available.
The wildcard was brought in to help clubs struggling to raise eleven men for a Saturday because of reasons such as covid.
Penistone were an opponent of it but having faced major squad problems this week, Briggs feels the league acted in the best interests of clubs.
“I think we have used it for the right reason as we genuinely were unable to get a team,” Briggs told Non League Yorkshire.
“I know people have disagreed (with the wildcard) and didn’t want it but if it is used properly it is a good thing to have.
“Back in August when the rule was brought in everyone thought there would be disruption in September and October because of covid.
“That didn’t happen (until the omicron variant emerged).
“Every club would have problems at least one if covid hit so the wildcard was there for that reason.
“I rang (Church secretary) Dave (Hampshire) to tell him about (using it) and he said that he wasn’t a fan of it and he voted against it.
“But he said we were using it the right way.
“It is there to be used and it is up to everyone how they use it but you’ve only got it once so you have to to use it wisely.”
Clubs can use the wildcard once a season and they must give 72 hours notice.
Most of the Premier Division clubs used it before Christmas, before omicron arrived on the scene.
Teams at all levels are currently having major problems because of covid and Briggs agrees some sides could rue using their wildcard in 2021.
“I think some clubs could regret using it earlier in the season if they haven’t used it for the right reasons,” he said.
“Covid wasn’t really an issue earlier in the season so some clubs may have used it because of injuries and people on holiday.”
The clash of the top two was a fixture with huge billing and Briggs says it is a shame it had to be postponed.
“Because of the second half performance last Saturday I would have loved to have gone to Swinton this week,” he said.
“There’s not a lot of people go to Swinton and be above them in the league.
“It was a massive game which we were looking forward to.”
Next up for leaders Penistone is the derby clash with Stocksbridge Park Steels at home on the 22nd and Briggs is relishing the rest of the season.
“We have a lot to look forward to,” he said.
“We have to play the rest of the top four twice – we have Swinton twice, we have Dodworth twice and we have Ecclesfield Red Rose twice.
“They are obviously big games.
“I got pulled in the club the other day and got told that we are doing what an AFC Penistone team don’t generally do and that’s go to your Jubilee’s and Houghton Main’s and win.
“Me, Drewy (Chris Drew) and Callum (Lee) have got the changing room how we want it.
“They are playing for each other rather than themselves when last season a couple of them were playing for themselves.
“The changing room has helped this year.
“There’s a togetherness in there and it is nice to be part of.”