My Greatest Game – Jason Dodsworth on Athersley’s shock Senior Cup Final triumph

Athersley Rec celebrate their shock Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup final win over Frickley Athletic in 2014

Athersley Rec’s 2014 Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup Final surprise 1-0 victory over holders and higher league Frickley Athletic at Hillsborough remains arguably the club’s greatest achievement and the competition’s biggest ever shock.

Nostell Miners Welfare joint manager Jason Dodsworth, who was then assistant manager with Sean Margison to Pete Goodlad that year, shares his memories of the Final and Athersley’s 2012-2014 golden era.

Athersley Rec 1-0 Frickley Athletic (Tuesday 6th May 2014)

The Teams

Athersley Recreation: Shaun Penn, Simon Chadburn, Scott Alcock, Declan Welford, Jack Briscoe, Ryan White, Kieron Scargill, Adam White, Joe Thornton (Jason Bentley 82), Lee Bennett, Daniel Joynes (Dane Hodgson 93). Subs unused: Ryan Blackburn, Mathew Bowman, Mathew Thompson.

Frickley Athletic: Ben Simpson, Kasper Amdal, Luke Jeffs, Jack Wakefield (Leon Osborne 50), Sam Denton, Jake Picton, Jimmy Ghaichem (Andy Villermann 50), Luke Sharry, Luke Hinsley, Gavin Allott, Fernando Moke. Subs unused: Joe Davies, Lee Stratford, Jon Hood.

Jason Dodsworth served Athersley Rec for over a decade as assistant manager and then joint manager

“The final is right up there at the top of my memories, alongside getting promoted out of Division One in our first year in the NCEL. The Senior Cup final may not be on top of club’s agendas at the start of seasons, but it was great to win it at a place like Hillsborough and against a team ranked two leagues higher.

“I can remember the run to the final like it was yesterday. We were very lucky to be in the final. The semi-final was pretty straight-forward. We played a team called Oughtilbridge from the County Senior Cup and we beat them 4-0 at home. It was a comfortable game. It was the quarter-final against Houghton Main where we were lucky and I would say we were out at one stage. It was 1-1 at full-time and they went in front in extra-time. We scored to equalise and then beat 5-2 them on penalties. I’ll always remember that because they had a penalty to win it after we had missed. Why I really remember it is because it was the manager’s son who took the penalty and I heard someone shout ‘go on son, win it for your dad’. The lad hit the crossbar and we went onto win it.

“I can’t remember who scored the winning penalty, but we had a fantastic side that year. We had Joe Thornton and Lee Bennett upfront. They had a fantastic year, scoring loads of goals. Something like 60 goals between them and we finished tenth in the (NCEL Premier Division) league. We had Kieran Scargill, Ryan White, Adam White, Scott Alcock, Jason Bentley, Jack Briscoe, Dec Welford. Danny Joynes too and he obviously scored the winner in the final.

“When you look at that year, other clubs were throwing money around and we didn’t have any money. A lot of the lads had played for us for years, but your Lee Bennett’s, Joe Thornton’s, Danny Joynes, Jason Bentley, Ryan White had played for clubs like Ossett Albion in the Northern Premier League. They played for us when they were younger, gone higher and had come back. But even then, your Lee Bennett’s and Joe Thornton’s were always going to go onto bigger things. Lee Bennett is one of the best players I’ve ever managed, he had unbelievable talent. He had everything so you know at a club with limited funds, it is only a matter of time before they go. But I can’t thank them enough for what they did that season.

“Teams like Athersley have a great tradition and we were very lucky to have a fantastic set of lads who all came through the youth ranks together. I don’t think you’ll ever see a group like that again. Ryan White,  Matthew Thompson, Scott Alcock, Nick Gillott, Richard Green, people like that. They all played together when they were young. To add the quality we did, it was inevitable that we would have a great side.

Icon: Joe Thornton was destined for bigger things according to Jason Dodsworth
Jason Dodsworth rates Lee Bennett as one of the best players he has ever managed
Ryan White came through the Athersley Juniors, played in the NPL before coming back to play for the Rec in the NCEL

“Going back to the Final, I don’t think anyone gave us a chance, even Frickley themselves were really confident about beating us. We had no right to go and win it. If I remember rightly, a lot of people after the game were saying it looked like we were the higher ranked side. We were outstanding and we should have won by four or five. Their goalkeeper Ben Simpson had an absolute worldie.

“Myself and Sean (Margison) had been to watch them before the Final and we set up the board in the changing room and every player had a specific job to do. Everyone did their job to the letter and that is why we won the game so comfortably. Gavin Allott played upfront for Frickley and Scott Alcock did a man-marking job on him and he made sure he didn’t get a kick. He marked him out of the game.

“We missed chance after chance. Adam White hit the crossbar with a fantastic strike from long range. Joe Thornton had one or two chances. Before scoring we had missed some chances, but the goal came from a ball across the box, from I think Joe, and Danny Joynes got on end of it. It took an age to go in. We had been in a lot of Cup Finals over the years on Saturdays and Sundays and we knew we would be hard to beat. I can’t remember too many clear-cut chances Frickley had. 

The Rec in Crew cheer on Athersley during a memorable 2-1 victory at Garforth in 2013

“The celebrations were brilliant. Even though it was a bigger ground, you could still hear the Rec in Crew. They were brilliant for the team wherever we went. There was a good 50 plus at away games. We always got over 100 plus at home games to 250. From those 50 at away games there was always 15 who always used to go out for a good day session. They used to get coaches to away grounds and get there early, 11, 12 o’clock. They’d go around a few boozers there and then go to the game. As a manager and a player it was fantastic to see because they didn’t half get behind the lads. 100% they accounted for some of the results we got. They spurred us on. They had songs about us and you could hear them all the time – banging on seats, singing in the stands. They were brilliant.

“A game at Garforth I remember really well where they were fantastic. Brighouse away too. They used to love going to Staveley. Terry Damms used to have the fans picked up in the Staveley minibus from the local boozers in Staveley before kick off. 

“Some clubs didn’t like it. Emley, for instance. They are a traditional club and they have fans who have watched them for a lot of years. So when you get the Rec in Crew turn up and start taking their seats, it doesn’t go down well. Then you have Daz Bell and the rest of the Rec in Crew walking in the bar and taking the pictures off the wall as well as singing and dancing on the pitch. It was a bit of a culture shock for Emley and I don’t think the rest of the NCEL clubs knew what I had hit them when the Rec in Crew turned up.

“The Rec in Crew were fantastic for Athersley as a club. Daz Bell set the Rec in Crew up, but they didn’t just go to games and get drunk and get behind the lads, they actually raised money for the club as well. They got a stand put in at the ground. They funded that. They bought us a kit and they took a lot of pressure off Pete.

“But in terms of the celebrations after the Final I think they went on until 8am the following morning and remember this was a midweek game. Some of the lads were walking out of the Retro in Town (in Barnsley) and going straight to work. I think I went home at 8am in the morning, but I didn’t go to work as some of us were clever enough to book the day off. 

Athersley Rec founder and general manager Pete Goodlad celebrating at Hillsborough
Pete Goodlad gave Jason Dodsworth his first chance in football

“It was a great night and it was like someone was guiding us. Pete had lost his dad Ged that week. He never missed a game and it was like he was looking down on us. It was emotional for everyone. We always said that it was for his dad.

“What Pete has done for Athersley is unbelievable. He founded it in 1979 with Alan Richardson and what he has built there, plus the time and effort he has put in is remarkable. I don’t think anyone would disagree when I say no-one else could have done it, especially with no financial backer.

Sean Margison and Jason Dodsworth went to watch Frickley before the final

“It is absolutely true that in the first season in the NCEL when we got promoted, the lads, myself, Sean Margison and Pete were paying £5 a week subs. That stopped after the first season. Times change and you have to try to move with them. When you’re paying £5 and another club offers you £20, it is a bit difference. The year we won the Senior Cup, the wage budget was £5 per point for the players. A team like Athersley doesn’t have financial backing and they have to go about it in a different way.

“I’d to wish the new manager Shane Kelsey all the best. It is a fantastic club and fantastic set-up. Pete has created something for everyone in Barnsley, not just Athersley. He has done loads and he definitely deserves some kind of recognition for it, like an MBE. He hasn’t properly been honoured for his work. He’s had a few awards, but he should have more. A lot of his work has gone unnoticed. I’ve seen it first hand.

“I’ve seen the ground develop. Originally on a Saturday we played at Carlton Park, we didn’t play down at the Sheerien Park when I started watching them maybe 15/18 years ago when a lot of my mates played for the first team.

“I played a bit for the reserves and then Pete asked me to get involved and help him. I’m glad I did because I learnt a lot and learnt a lot of good football values. From Pete just asking me to help, football has taken over my life.”

Jason Dodsworth was interviewed by James Grayson.

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