Result: Nantwich Town 0-1 Trafford (Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division)
Venue: The Weaver Stadium (Saturday 5th April 2014, 3.00pm)
Another Saturday, another match day, and another new ground was beckoning for me as I set off at a little before midday from Urmston Station and headed in towards Manchester. It was nice to have some decent weather for once, not too hot, but at least it was dry, which is something of a rarity in the city! Anyway, Nantwich was my destination, and their new-ish home, The Weaver Stadium, was to be my ticket to completing the Evo-Stik Premier Division in one season.
Manchester on a Saturday, especially the train stations, can unfurl some strange sights such as an Andy Lonergan Bolton Wanderers replica shirt (which I am sure is the only one in existence outside of the Trotters’ club shop), along with a few stragglers heading to Aintree for the Grand National in all sorts of weird and wonderful attire. At a little after half one we were departing Piccadilly and were soon rattling along towards Cheshire and it’s many cows. In fact, earlier this season, when I had travelled down to Stafford, I had seen some cows stood on top of other cows, which was definitely up there with strangest things I’ve seen. After passing close to Edgeley Park and Gresty Road, and through Crewe station, which is rather nice with it’s…different…décor, the train was soon pulling into Nantwich after just under an hour’s journey, which wasn’t too bad.
After disembarking and walking across the level crossing, I remembered I actually didn’t know where the ground was. Yep, I had travelled to Nantwich, and didn’t actually know where I was going exactly. Luckily I had my trusty (I use this word lightly) Google Maps in my pocket, and it came about that the quickest way to the ground, which was on the far side of the town, was to take a trip through the centre. And what a great place Nantwich proved to be! Buildings adorned with Tudor timber framework were dotted around the town centre, dominated by both the Crown hotel and the Grade-1 listed St.Mary’s church, which was my next checkpoint. Nantwich is, apparently, second only to Chester in wealth of historic buildings I was told proudly, and the town dates back to Roman-times when it was used to supply salt to the garrisons stationed at Stoke-on-Trent and, more famously, Chester.
Knowing I had an hour to spare after the game, I went on a bit of a scouting mission and found a few ‘watering holes’ on the direct route back to the station. As a rule, I don’t like to venture off the beaten track as it were, as my, ahem, cleverness gets the better of me, and I tend to get horribly lost when deciding something looks a good shortcut option. The places in question were the Crown itself, The Railway adjoining the station, and The White Horse halfway between each. After passing through the ‘Oat Market’ section of the town (do people get their oats here?), I headed down ‘High Street’, which incidentally is the shortest and most un-high High Street known to man. From here I head back onto Waterlode, the main artery through the town and after around five minutes, I began to see the tell-tale sign of a football ground, the floodlights poking their head above the parapet (well, trees, but it sounded more poetic).
After crossing the road bridge over the River Weaver, I found myself at a crossing and a road leading to a large car park, with the ground set at the rear of it. After weaving my way along the short lane and through the car park, I arrived at the turnstiles, where I parted with £9 for entry. Once inside, there is a further stand selling both tickets of some sort and programmes. After purchasing one of the latter at a price of £2, I made my way round to the far side of the ground for the covered terrace which seemed to be where the home fans were stood. Knowing of their vocality in previous games, I thought this would be the best place to watch the game from.
The game was all set to start as I got there, with a quick look around the ground showing the Main Stand directly in front of me. This is the stand from which you enter to the right of, and which houses the club shop (a real shop, not a small hutch), and the kitchen which had a fair range on offer. The clubhouse is reachable via the doors at the rear of the top of the stand.The Main Stand is all seated, with open standing on either side of it and behind both goals. The Weaver Stadium has a capacity of 3,500 with 300 of these able to be seated. The club’s nickname, The Dabbers, interestingly seems to originate from the concept of dipping, which was used in the tanneries of the own, which are now long gone. The locals are also known as Dabbers, but you must be born in the boundaries to be considered a fully blown Dabber! Unless you are a Nantwich legend of course!
Nantwich Town were formed in 1884 as Nantwich F.C., and initially played friendly and cup matches before joining the Shropshire & District League. After no success to speak of, they joined the Combination, before hosting Liverpool’s first ever FA Cup tie (the Reds won 4-0). Nantwich also had spells in the Cheshire League, North Staffs & District, Crewe & District, Manchester(?) and Lancashire Combination Leagues up until the outbreak of WWI, still without any successes.
After the war, the club won the Crewe Amateur Combination in 1947, before becoming founder members of the Cheshire County League, where they struggled for the most part, but they did have a record 5,121 attendees watching them entertain Winsford United in the Cheshire Senior Cup, which they won in 1933 for their first silverware. After WWII, the Dabbers joined the new Mid-Cheshire League, and in 1952 they joined the inaugural FA Youth Cup. They drew Manchester United in Round 2, and lost 23-0 at the Cliff in a close contest! Although with names such as Duncan Edwards in the side, this was a rather difficult tie to say the least!
In 1961-’62 the club lifted the Mid-Cheshire League Cup for the first time, and followed this in 1963-’64, when the club won a treble of Mid-Cheshire League & League Cup and the Cheshire Amateur Cup. Nantwich rejoined the Cheshire League in 1968, won another Cheshire Senior Cup in 1976, by beating Runcorn 5-4. In 1981, a crowd of over 1,000 saw Nantwich clinch the Cheshire League by beating runners-up Hyde United. In 1982, the Dabbers became North West Counties League founders, but immediately finished bottom and were relegated to Division 2. Here they remained apart from a season in Division 3 (1986), until 1989 when they were promoted back to Division 1. In ’95 Nantwich beat today’s visitors Trafford in the NWCFL League Cup Final atoning for their ’93 loss.
In 2005-’06 the club lifted the FA Vase at St.Andrews via a 3-1 win over Hillingdon United. The following season saw the club finish third and secure promotion to the Northern Premier League, and left their Jackson Avenue ground at the end of the campaign for the Weaver. 2007-’08 saw the Dabbers finish third and secure a play-off place where they beat Sheffield in the final on penalties to secure promotion to the NPL Premier Division. They also won the Cheshire Senior Cup again during that season, beating Altrincham, again on penalties. In 2008-’09, the club again finished third in a new league, but lost to Ilkeston Town in the Play-Off final. They achieved another Cheshire Senior Cup success in 2011-12, their last silverware to date, although they did reach the FA Cup first round for the first time ever, losing 6-0 to MK Dons. The club finished last season in 14th place, and appointed Ashton United manager Danny Johnson for the ’13-’14 season.
Johnson is also an ex-Trafford manager, so would have wanted to get one over on his old side. However, the game was something of an end-of-season damp squib, though both sets of supporters did their best to help the atmosphere. Alas, this didn’t inspire the teams, who played at an almost chanceless first period, where the only chances were for Trafford’s ex-pro Simon Hackney and a stinging drive from Andy Pearson who also saw a back heel cleared off the line for the hosts, though the Dabbers did have the better of the half.
Mercifully, the break arrived and after spending just over £3 on pie, chips, peas and gravy, I made my way back over to the terracing and out of the wind which was now just beginning to pick up in earnest and blow in some rather dark looking clouds.
The second period was something of an improvement, though to be honest, it didn’t have much to do to beat it. Nantwich had the best chances especially when Aaron Burns rattled the crossbar and Steve Foster fired the rebound straight at the Trafford goalkeeper. I was now standing behind the goal and making my way towards the exit with 10 minutes left when this occurred, and I mentioned something about it summing up the game, when Trafford won a corner. The Nantwich custodian flapped horribly at the cross, a looping header was put back in the mix and Trafford captain Martyn Andrews flicked it into the net via the post to at least give the punters a goal. Trafford’s Payne then missed a great chance to win it late on when he fired wastefully wide, but it mattered little as the referee blew to end a pretty uninspiring contest. With drizzle beginning to fall a little heavier from the aforementioned clouds, I beat a hasty retreat up the road and back towards the town centre, past a road sign for a ‘Secret Bunker’ which seems to defeat the object! As expected, I had just over an hour, and headed towards the Railway Hotel to ensure I couldn’t miss my train. Well, hopefully.
Looking at the hotel form the outside, you would never guess that inside the walls are adorned with all sorts of Beatles memorabilia, guitars, birth certificates, anything Beatles related is up there. Fantastic! A bonus was that the Railway was showing the Chelsea game, so after sitting with a Rekorderlig and watching the first half of the game at Stamford Bridge and listening to people regale about their losses in the big race at Aintree, I set off for the platform and the train back to Manchester.
By 7.30pm, I was back in Piccadilly Station and, if you remember earlier, I was mentioning about weird and wonderful sights. Well, when you have someone walking past you in a full banana suit and no-one bats an eyelid, you know it has been a special sporting day! Neigh!
My Nantwich Town M.o.M.- Aaron Burns
My Trafford M.o.M.- Martyn Andrews
Game: 4- Poor for the most part and uneventful.
Ground: 7-Smart what is there, but a little open behind both goals.
Programme: 6- A decent effort, about average for the league.
Fans: 8- A good group, who add some atmosphere to the contests wherever they go. Missed the drum though!
Food: 9- Really tasty all round.
Value For Money: 7- A good day out in a nice town, shame the game wasn’t the best though.
Referee: 8- Had a fair game, but really, didn’t have a whole lot to do.
NANTWICH TOWN: 1.Steve James, 2.Sam Wilson, 3.Andy White, 4.Andy Keogh, 5.Earl Davis, 6.Andy Pearson, 7.Nick Haughton, 8.Mark Jones(c), 9.Aaron Burns, 10.Ben Deegan, 11.Max Harrop. SUBS: 12.Steve Foster(p), 14.Peter Green(p), 15.Alex Meaney(p), 16.Harry Clayton, 17.Josh Eastwood.
TRAFFORD: 1.Tom Read, 2.Rees Welsh, 3.Andy Smart, 4.Steve Mason, 5.Nia Bayunu, 6.Tom Schofield, 7.Simon Hackney, 8.Martyn Andrews(c)(1), 9.Shelton Payne, 10.Rory Fallon, 11.Paul Ashton. SUBS: 12.Chris Palmer, 14.Mark Derbyshire, 15.James Moore, 16.Luke Heron, 17.Callum Jones.