Result: Salford City 2-1 Radcliffe Borough (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)
Venue: Moor Lane (Friday 26th December 2014, 3.00pm)
Boxing Day morning began with a little trepidation, as I logged on to “Twitter” for the usual mid-winter postponement check. Granted, I had some alternatives set up in case my first choice fell victim to the wet and rather chilly weather, but as it happened I needn’t have worried. The news filtered through from Salford City’s Moor Lane that it was game on!
It was soon after that I was venturing out into the chilly, but still rather mild for this tie of year, Manchester air and boarded the 255 service to Piccadilly Gardens. With my leather jacket making a welcome return to the fold, I was feeling rather pleased with my choice as the sun shone through the windows, giving the illusion of warmth. Soon enough, I’d pulled into the bus station and made the short 5 minute hop over to Shudehill Interchange in the Northern Quarter of the city. Once here, I had a 20 minute or so wait for the 98 service onwards towards Moor Lane. Sadly, I decided it wasn’t enough time to warrant a rushed trip to the Lower Turk’s Head opposite, though I was given a small chuckle when I saw some apartments above a kebab shop termed as being “luxury”. This wasn’t quite the word I’d use to describe them, however.
Anyway, now on board my connection service, I was at the junction of Moor Lane after around a 25 minute journey. With little to no public houses within the near vicinity, I had already made the decision to head straight for the ground. With small signposts aiding me, I found myself cutting up the, almost, appropriately named Nevile Road (with the connection to the “Class of 92”, you see, and soon enough was stood outside a pair of gates emblazoned in newly panted “SCFC”. It happens that this is the back end of the ground, there is also a turnstile on the opposite side of the ground, on Moor Lane itself. Anyway, after handing over my £7 entrance fee, and a further £1.50 for the “Red Ammie” programme, I entered into the home of the Ammies.
Moor Lane is a familiar stomping ground for me, having been a regular visitor when following Trafford in both the North West Counties and Northern Premier League. Though Trafford have had the better of the recent times, finding themselves a league above Salford, at time of writing, and having beaten them to the Counties title beforehand, it appears that, sooner rather than later, the positions are going to change.
That is all for the future, though. So, back to the present before we delve into the past. Despite being a familiar ground to me, as I stated previously, Moor Lane has undergone quite the facelift and smartening up process following their famous investors input. It seems I may be in the minority in saying so, but I think that anything like this is good for the non-league game. Not only does it provide much needed publicity for the lower leagues, but it can also help the club in question in turn, and this is clearly shown in Salford’s attendances this season which, I stand to be corrected, are much better on average than last season’s. It still features two stands, the main, old stand and a smaller covered terraced on the opposite side. Both goal ends are open, with one serving as the club car park. Cover your windows! Moor Lane has a capacity of around 1,400.
With a new, smart clubhouse, changing rooms area (far removed from the old ones in the back of the stand!) and fresh facelift for both stands, Moor Lane is looking resplendent again and is attracting a good atmosphere now, with the larger crowds and much more merchandise on show in the stands. It was the former for where I headed first, and I got myself a £3 Kopparberg, before settling in to watch the latter stages of the Chelsea-West Ham game on TV. With 30 minutes to go to kick-off, and both the bar and ground filling up nicely, and camera crew still filming the upcoming documentary in attendance, it seems the best time to delve into the history of, “The Ammies”, Salford City Football Club.
Formed in 1940 under the name Salford Central, the club competed in local leagues, progressing up these rather steadily, climbing the Salford City Amateur League as Runners-up’s in Division 2 and 1 (twice) as well as lifting one Challenge Cup, in 1951, their first silverware. The club then switched to the Manchester Amateur League where, under the name Salford Amateurs (where the Ammies nickname derives), they won one honour, the Hulme Celtic Cup in 1964, then the Manchester League where they were more successful, winning the First Division and Murray Shield in 1969 an then lifting four Premier Division titles in 5 years, between 1975 and 1979. On the cup front during this period, the club lifted three Lancashire Amateur Cups (’71,’73,’75), two Manchester Challenge Trophies (’75 &’76) and two Manchester Intermediate Cups (’78 &’79). In 1977, the club also attained the, rather princely, title of “Champion of Champions”.
Leading up to 1980, the club committee put in lots of work to improve facilities, resulting in admittance to the Cheshire League. However, this stay lasted just two seasons, when the hard work paid off. With the amalgamation of the Lancashire Combination and Cheshire League, the North West Counties League (NWCFL) was born, and the Ammies took their chance to progress into the pyramid.
In 1989, and under the Salford City name, the club played at Old Trafford, a forebear of what was to come, as well as installing lights at their home. 1990 saw City play in the FA Cup for the first time, but this celebration of 50 years of existence was tempered with relegation at the end of the campaign. When the league restructured in 1992, the club re-took its place in the Division One.
Despite cementing themselves as regular challengers in the Counties upper echelons, the club found success and silverware surprisingly hard to come by, with only a League Challenge Cup in 2006 to show before, in 2008, they finished as runners-up to local rivals Trafford and were later granted promotion, due to having the best record in the country of 2nd placed sides who’d applied for the step up.
After surviving initial seasons of struggle in the Northern Premier League, the club staged many a memorable survival push, largely thanks to the continued late season signing and goals of Steve Foster.
2013 saw the club vanquished on penalties following an entertaining Manchester Premier Cup Final at Edgeley Park by defending champions Mossley, a game that I attended. Last season, the club finished an inconspicuous 16th place in the Evo-Stik Division One North, before the well publicised investments and take-over by the Manchester United “Class of 92” and latterly businessman Peter Lim, appear to have given Salford the basis to push onwards to the aim of “league football” in the future. The investment also showed in changes on the pitch, the club’s more traditional Tangerine colours ousted in favour of a United-themed red & white home kit, with the away and third also mirroring the Premier League side’s. The club crest was also changed, with the rampant lion changes to a front-facing lions face, to show the forward thinking ambitions of the club.
Back to today, and the sides came out to a smattering of applause, with Radcliffe having a sizable chunk of support in the terraces. The game began in the bright sunshine, so I took the opportunity to undergo my lap of the ground. I was to be happy that I took the chance when I did, as the rains came down towards the half-hour point and remained set in for the evening. As it was, the first half was virtually a closely fought non-event, with both sides creating little, bar Boro’s quick frontman Bevan Burey sprinting clear of the flat-footed Salford back-line before firing wildly off target. Radcliffe’s goalkeeper, Altrincham’s Josh Samberg, was largely untroubled, with only a couple of efforts flying wide of his uprights. The only time he was called into action was to keep out a tame effort from the left of the area.
Half-Time, 0-0. So I headed to the food hut, located in the same building as the clubhouse, but with its own serving hatch. After purchasing a £2 steak pie, a nice one by the way, I checked up on the “scores on the doors” from around the country, before heading back outside to avoid the painful coverage shown on screen.
The second period had just gotten underway as I exited the doors, before retaking y place in the gods of the old, traditional-style main stand. It wasn’t long until the breakthrough arrived. Boro’ had started the brighter, and after forcing a couple of corners, just after the hour mark, centre-back Richard Smith nodded home and ran about seemingly not sure of how to celebrate his strike. He looked to have enjoyed it though, against his former outfit.
However, the lead was to last all of three minutes. Salford broke down the right, and the ball was worked into the area where left-winger Sam Madeley met the cross and expertly diverted the ball into the far corner with his head. 1-1. Madely almost doubled his tally soon after when his effort was saved wellby Samberg, but he wasn’t to be denied for long. From a right-wing corner, the ball dropped within the eighteen-yard box where a poke forward was diverted over the line by Madeley for his and Salford’s second. 2-1.
From there, it was rather plain sailing for City, as they comfortably weathered the storm, both on the pitch and from above to secure a much needed three points and keep up the pressure on Darlington and Northwich Vics at the top of the table.
After the game, I headed back into the clubhouse for another quick drink, and after meeting up again with Radcliffe’s Danny White and Salford’s Martyn Andrews, whom I both know well from their times at Trafford, I was soon on my way back towards the bus stop, where I timed it perfectly to minimise my stay in the chilly evening air. Once back in Manchester Piccadilly, it appeared that there was something falling from the sky. Something frozen. Having been a rather “Frozen”-themed Christmas a day earlier (the Disney film, not actual ice), it appeared that Elsa had weaved her way into the real world. Or, maybe it was just the alcohol and Yorkshire puddings catching up with me. Either way, it was a nice ending to a good day and raised a smile from those in the City Centre.
My Salford City M.o.M.- Ash Dunn
My Radcliffe Borough M.o.M.- Chris Mason.
Game: 6- Not the greatest, but considering the conditions, it wasn’t likely to be.
Ground: 7- It’s improving all the while. Very smart, new services and paint jobs.
Programme: 7- A really good effort, lots of original content, which is always good.
Food: 7- Pie was nice, so happy with that. Price not bad too.
Fans: 6- Rather subdued today, probably down to weather and looked low on numbers in the “ultra” section. Still gave a couple of vocal performances!
Value For Money: 7- Cheap ciders, food decent price, regular admission & programme price. £5-ish travel.