The Sheffield area truly is a hotbed of non-league football, and the game below the EFL is booming. Here, we take a look at how the sides closest to home are faring.
Around a mile from Endcliffe and Ranmoor is Hallam’s Sandygate home – the world’s oldest football ground according to the Guinness Book of Records. The Countrymen compete in the Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Division One – the 10th tier – They have achieved a top-half finish in each of the last three seasons, so ninth place represents a solid start to this campaign. Their current four match winning sequence has included a victory at higher-ranked Bootle in the Buildbase FA Vase.
There are four other teams within a 15 mile radius of our city plying their trade in Hallam’s division, meaning plenty of local derbies. Worsbrough Bridge Athletic (south of Barnsley) and Dronfield Town (a ten minute train ride south) are flying high in third and fourth respectively, while to the east Swallownest are 15th and Parkgate 19th in the 20-team league. Both enjoyed good progress in the Vase, and the FA Cup in latter’s case.
Only the champions are guaranteed promotion, with second place potentially joining them.
Stepping up into the NCEL Premier Division, we have three clubs within the same distance of the Steel City. Maltby Main have hit the ground running in third place, and recently saw their home FA Cup tie against Frickley Athletic live streamed on the BBC Sport website; some welcome exposure despite a narrow 2-1 reverse. Moving north, Penistone Church are seventh in only their second season in the ninth tier, whilst to the south, Staveley Miners Welfare are 13th, though have only played four league fixtures due to a terrific FA Cup run which was only halted in the Second Qualifying Round by National League North outfit Guiseley.
These sides will need to finish top to join our two current representatives in the Evo-Stik First Division East – the eighth tier.
Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest football club, play their home matches in Dronfield, and are currently ninth owing to a five game unbeaten run. In the other direction, Stocksbridge Park Steels are 12th. These two sides have already met twice this term – Stocksbridge winning 3-2 at home in the league before Sheffield gained a measure of revenge with a 3-1 triumph in the Integro League Cup.
A play-off system is in place in this division, so it promises to be competitive until the last kick.
We’ll be keeping close tabs on these clubs ahead of Non-League Day on 13 October.