Manchopper in…Stockport (Stockport Sports)

160px-Stockport_Sports_F.C._logoSelby_Town_FC_logo

Result: Stockport Sports 5-5 Selby Town AET (FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round)

Venue: Stockport Sports Village (Saturday 6th September 2014, 3.00pm)

Att: 57

After seeing the draws for the FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round, and having already decided to stay local due to the impending Barnet trip being on the horizon, I saw that Stockport Sports were scheduled to entertain Selby Town of the Northern Counties East League on the first step (really) on the “Road to Wembley”. I had been to Stockport/Woodley Sports on numerous occasions in the past whilst following Trafford & also as a neutral on a few, rather chilly, occasions as well, so I knew the paths to the ground well enough. The same could not be said for Dan Watkinson, who was scheduled to join me. After assuring me he knew the way, he got lost somewhere within the adjoining town/village of Bredbury!

As for me, I had decided to get the train up to the ground, after realising the relative cheapness (thanks to my railcard) & close proximity to the ground, of Woodley Station, which is around a 15 minute walk away from the Stockport Sports Village (SSV), formerly the Neil Rourke Memorial Stadium (after the late member of the Woodley Sports FC committee) After getting slightly lost near some old cottages down some narrow lanes I was directed down by Google Maps, before exiting out on a rather busy main road just a couple of minutes from where my “shortcut” had led me. Great.

10minutes later, and I was arriving down the access road towards the new-ish gym/sports complex which comprises the SSV. You make your way around the “Woodley Sports Bowling Section”, and towards the turnstile to the immediate left of the gym building. Once there, I paid my £5 for entry, plus a further £1.50 for the programme (which, I have to say, is very good quality) & made my way into the ground in the right hand corner. To your left is a covered half seating, half terraced stand, which runs behind the near end goal which you enter from behind. In front of you, on the right hand side, is the all-seated, raised Main Stand, with the “Saxon Suite” bar at the top of it. This is situated towards the far end goal and runs up to the half-way line. Both the opposite side, and behind the far goal are situated further numerous artificial pitches, one of which was featuring a Stockport Town friendly. These are the side who  applied, unsuccessfully, to join the North West Counties League (NWCFL)  for this season, and, currently, are playing in friendlies. But, due to the reported animosity between both the featured club and Town, we best not dwell on them! Yet… The SSV Stadium has a capacity of 2384, with 192 able to be seated.

History Lesson:

Founded in 1970 as Woodley Athletic, the club initially played in the Lancashire & Cheshire League, working their way up the divisions by winning the Division 3 & 2 ain successive season, then being promoted as Division 1 runners-up three seasons later. After winning the Division A title at the first attempt, the club later played in the Manchester League and during their time in this league, changed their name to Woodley Sports FC. After winning the Division 1 in 1991-’92, they then finished as runners-up in the Premier Division the following year.

After ground improvements, Woodley were accepted into the NWCFL in 1996 and added floodlights in 1998, enabling the club to enter cup competition, their first FA Cup tie resulting in a 2-1 success at home to Ossett Albion.. In 1999, the club won the Division 2, pipping Curzon Ashton, to gain promotion to Division One. At the beginning of their fourth season in this league, the club’s new 200-seat stand was erected & in use. 2004 saw the club lift the Cheshire Senior Cup, defeating Witton Albion via a streaker, becoming the first Counties club to lift the trophy.
After the FA’s pyramid restructuring, Woodley were awarded a place in the Northern Premier League (NPL) new Division 1, finishing their first season as Chairman’s Cup finalists. The following season saw the installation of a synthetic pitch for the first time as part of a new scheme, funded by local investment. New lights, additional seating & facilities were added and on the back of this, made the play-offs the following season, but lost out to, the now defunct, Gresley Rovers. During that season, they sold Liam Dickinson to Stockport County.
The club’s future was in doubt in 2008-09, when Stockport County’s administration left the club being owed £150,000. Fortunately, they had unearthed Antoni Sarcevic, and sold him instead, to Crewe Alexandra.
At the end of 2011-12, the club were relegated back to the NWCFL after being told their ground wasn’t up to the required standard, at the time.
In 2012, the club dropped the Woodley Sports name & “Steelmen” nickname to play under the name of Stockport Sports, “The Saxons”, and with a worldwide talent academy structure in place, the club enticed Peter Withe, the former England international to manage the club. However, this lasted 7 months. Last season, the club attained an 11th place finish in the NWCFL Premier Division

Honours:

1x Lancashire & Cheshire AFL Division 3 (C) Title
1x Lancashire & Cheshire AFL Division 2 (B) Title
1x Lancashire & Cheshire AFL Division A Title
1x Manchester League Division 1 Title
2x Stockport & District Senior Cups
2x Rhodes Cups
1x S.E. Woolam Aggregate Trophy
1x Whitehead Cup
2x Wray Cups
1x Gilgryst Cup
1x Cheshire Senior Cup

Anyway, the two sides, who both play at the same level, were making their way out to the pitch for the tie, with Woodley playing in their all white, Selby in all red.
The game began as it was meant to go on, with Sports racing into a two goal lead. First, skipper Alex Crowe fired in after just three minutes and, four minutes later, Justin Pickering netted a fine strike fro 30-plus yards, which floated over the goalkeeper and into the top corner.
2-0, and cruising. Or, so it seemed. Selby had other ideas, though, and hit back immediately, as Jamie Forrester arrived unmarked from six-yards to divert a free-kick into the net via the slightest of touches. 10 minutes later, and it was two-a-piece, as Davison Banda’s touch appeared to be heading for an own goal, until Ryan Robinson applied the final touch on the goal-line to spare the right-back’s blushes. Selby then went on to complete a remarkable turnaround before the break, when Jack Binns received the ball 25 yards out, took a touch and rifled the the ball into the top corner past the full stretch Jack Cookson.
At the break, I headed to the refreshment bar or “the Hatch” as it is known and ordered some chips. As I went to have a look at the programme, I realised that others were coming and getting their orders completed before me. Now, having paid already, I wanted chips. So, the young lady serving looked rather surprised I was still there then remembered why I was and re-laid the news to her colleagues in the back! On receipt of my fried potatoes, I was given an apology for the wait, which really wasn’t a problem.
So, after the, much needed, break we began again, and for a while, it appeared the game had settled into a normal flow. That is until sub Sam Marshall was upended in the Selby box and Ben Halfacre stepped up to confidently level the scores from the spot.
From then on, it stayed a bit cagey, with neither side wanting to lose, it appeared. But on 90 minutes, Marshall again tricked his way into the box and was again upended to the dismay of the Selby defenders. Halfacre, whose (I think It was his girlfriend, or if it wasn’t she was certainly animated about him) girlfriend in the stand was the most animated I have ever seen a player’s partner in a match, again stepped up and again directed the penalty into the bottom right-hand corner but less convincingly then his first, this one trickling under the keeper’s body.
I was now contemplating my luck at no extra time, so a quicker journey home when, with pretty much the last chance of added time in the 90, the ball fell to Selby sub Matty Start who, ahem, started celebrations by rifling into the roof of the net form 16 yards. Sensational!! 4-4!!
Extra-Time beckoned then, and after a goalless and mostly chanceless first period, the second period looked to be petering out into a replay when, just after Marcos Fortuna had rattled the woodwork for the home side, and with five minutes or so remaining, Selby looked to have won it. Selby won a free-kick on the right wing. The ball was floated into the mix, cleared, but only half-cleared and the ball was returned from the opposite side onto the head of Ryan O’Reilly who directed the ball home. 5-4, and surely that was it!
But, you’d be mad to think this game would follow any sort of normal path. The last minute was no exception, when Justin Pickering received the ball 25 yards from goal and unleashed a stinging daisy cutter which nestled in the far bottom corner to spark madness once again in the small band of hardy souls who turned up to a, sadly undervalued, side and were rewarded with the best game of the day. BY FAR. They deserve more credit than they get, in my opinion, and the surface is a much better one than a few years ago now, so there is no excuse to get out of a visit to the Saxons!
After the game, I discovered the main road did indeed cut off 10 minutes (thanks, Google Maps…) and I was back at Woodley station just in time for the train back to Manchester Piccadilly. A top day out, at a top club. Looking forwards to returning in the near future! Credit to both sides, Stockport Sports & Selby Town for their respective parts in a cracking game, and well done to Selby for their victory in the resultant replay in Yorkshire (3-1).

My Stockport Sports M.o.M.- Justin Pickering
My Selby Town M.o.M.- Ryan Robinson

RATINGS:
Game: 10- Don’t get much better than that. For a fiver too!!
Ground: 7- Is a smart venue now, and looks very impressive.
Fans: 5- There aren’t many “fans” but, the people at the club are great.
Food: 7- Chips were very good, and worth the price (£1.50, I think!)
Programme: 8- A great effort for a Counties club, puts some “higher” clubs to shame.
Value For Money: 10- Good entry, travel, programme, food and best game this season!
Referee: 8- Thought the ref had a good game. Two definite penalties, and got most things spot on.

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