Result: Whalley Range 1-1 Gorse Hill (Lancashire & Cheshire AFL Premier Division)
Venue: King’s Road (Wednesday 2nd April 2014)
Att: 12 (hc)
Many of you will be familiar with the location of Maine Road FC and their Brantingham Road Stadium, but what you may not be aware of is the presence of another football club just on the other side of Wilbraham Road. This is Whalley Range AFC, an amateur football club with a fairly impressive ground for their level. But not that you’d know it was there! There is absolutely no sign of a football ground anywhere in the vicinity, no signs, nothing. Until you get around halfway down King’s Road and you come upon some red and black gates set back slightly in between some houses. This, as the banner hanging above states, is the home of Whalley Range.
King’s Road is made up of two pitches. One, the main pitch is directly in front of you as you enter through the small car park, and is a fully barred off pitch with adjoining brick-built dressing rooms and clubhouse, down to Range being an FA Charter Standard Club, and therefore receiving funding for these, rather impressive, ground improvements. There is no seating, per se, although on the small paved area outside the structure are two picnic tables, and a row of 6 chairs positioned under the slight cover the roof gives you, which was handy for the evening ion question, which was rather drizzly. Next to this is one of the rarest sights in amateur football. A fully operating match day kitchen, with full menu (I noticed curry and chips were £2). Now, this may be in a steel container, but fair play to them for doing this. The near end of the ground features what I call the two ‘skeleton stands’ which appear to be earmarked to be stands in future, the far end is where the second pitch is situated, which regularly features another game of one of Range’s four open age sides. However, this wasn’t the case this evening unfortunately. The far side is where the away dugout is situated (the dugouts are separated by the pitch, one on the near side, one on the far side) but behind this is overgrown with grass. The ground is surrounded by housing on all sides, so restricts their chances of growing he ground, if they were ever to wish to do so.
Whalley Range have been in existence since 1900, and have won many honours during their existence. Playing in the Lancashire Amateur League from 1903, they won 6 titles, 4 Aggregate Trophies and a Challenge Cup title during their time there. They then moved into the Lancs & Cheshire League, and won the second division in ’86-’87 to be promoted to Division 1.After one season in the Division One, they joined the Manchester League where they spent 15 seasons, with a high of third in the Division One, before they left and went back into the Lancashire and Cheshire League. Since their promotion from Division 2 (which became Division One at the creation of the Premier Division) in 2007-’08 the club have won the league title on each occasion since from 2008-’09 through to last season. They look good odds to win again this season, but face competition from AFC Oldham 2005 who, incidentally, play on the astroturf near Curzon Ashton’s ground.
For tonight’s game, I missed kick-off at 6.15pm ( I thought it was 6.30), and missed the Gorse Hill opener. I stood undercover for the first half, near a grid which water began to trickle into, which prompted a guy stood next to me to say “I thought you were pissing in the grid then!” You could understand why, because it really did sound like it! After a good laugh, I asked him what the score was, and he confirmed it was 1-0 to Gorse Hill, but no sooner had he done so than Range number 9 “Smiffy” arrived at the back post to level the scores.
That was it in terms of chances for the first half, so I went into the clubhouse, which features a ‘proper’ bar and comfortable sofas along with a decent sized television, which tonight was featuring Alan McInally talking about Chelsea, so no-one was taking much interest. Someone then exclaimed, “Bloody Hell are they starting already?!”, and indeed they were after a half-time consisting of just four minutes. Ah, amateur football!
The second half you’d have thought would’ve improved the game, but no, this wasn’t the case. The players weren’t helped by the wet, muddy pitch but the two sides created almost nothing of note, which Whalley Range’s manager wasn’t too pleased about, and he wasn’t shy in venting his frustration. As the game entered it’s final minutes with darkness well and truly set in, and car headlights now illuminating the pitch “Smiffy” almost won the game for his side but just couldn’t get enough power on his shot and the ‘keeper made the stop to secure his side a very, very good point against the mighty Range. And so, the end of the game came, with most quite happy with it being the case, but it was a good job they kicked off those 15 minutes earlier, otherwise there would’ve been bad light stopped play!
My Whalley Range M.o.M.- Number 9
My Gorse HilL M.o.M.- Number 11 (that’s very statistically correct!)
Game: 4- Poor really.
Ground: 6- Good quality for the level
Food: N/A (Didn’t expect any so had already ate.)
Fans: 5- Wasn’t any really, just committee and friends and relatives
Value For Money: 5- Just average really.
Referee: 6- Made a few errors, but took no mouth.