Result: Knutsford 0-4 Eagle Sports (Cheshire League Premier Division)
Venue: Manchester Road (Saturday 17th January 2014, 2.00pm)
Att: Around 30 (hc)
After discovering that my long term choice, Chadderton vs AFC Mansfield in the FA Vase, was postponed due to the recent snow/freezing weather, it was time to scour the fixture lists for surviving game. After I’d considered both Northwich Vics vs Padiham & Radcliffe Borough vs Brighouse Town, both grounds I’d previously visited, I received news of a new ground opportunity. The ground was Manchester Road, home of Cheshire League high-flyers Knutsford FC.
The Cheshire side were to entertain Eagle Sports, whom I’ve had previous with this yea with, usually, quite drunken escapades ensuing. However, today was to be a rather more sober day, with my planned trip to Wales the following day (postponed). So, after a rush, I was off towards Warrington at just before 11.30. After arriving at Warrington Central, I took the 15 minute walk over to Bank Quay station where I would continue my trip onwards. After a 20 minute wait, I set off on Leg 2, to Chester, which went smoothly as hoped and I made my last connection to Knutsford just as the doors opened to allow embarkation.
Homeward bound, 45-minutes later, I arrived in the affluent Cheshire town. After coming out of the station & up the heavily gritted steps, I came upon the main road and headed right, through the town centre & past a 17th-centure inn. Noted for a visit after the game, as I had time to spare before my train home.
After passing the McLaren dealership, just as any town has, I was 10 minutes away from Manchester Road, with 10 minutes to kick-off. Luckily, as I turned the corner into the ground, which is signified by a large sign bearing club sponsors, the game was still not imminently starting. So, after paying my £2 admission and a further 50p for the programme, I was into ground number….you know, I have no idea what ground number it is. I’ll have to look it up. A ground-hopper who doesn’t know how many he’s been to. I’m a disgrace to the clan. Manchester Road is accessed up a dirt path up to a car park in front of the entrance, where a guy braves the elements with rocks to hold down his lightweight takings. He was very welcoming considering the brisk wind and all, so a nod to you, sir.
Manchester Road itself features the clubhouse, changing rooms and some benches as you enter. To your left, along the near touchline stands the one and only spectating shelter, a small stand where a small amount of seating is on offer, along with standing room. It was here that the Knutsford Choir had positioned. Behind the far end goal is a grassy area, as is the far,pond-side, touchline which is home to the visiting dugout, with the home one situated within the stand.
Anyway, after a couple of pictures, the teams made their way onto the field, as the sun shone brightly across the field and into the eyes of the away dugout, where I was to stand for the contest. A drum beat accompanied the sides onto the pitch, which I noted was provided by a group of 10 -or so young lads who’d took it upon themselves to come out on a chilly afternoon to become Knutsford ultras. Good on them. They also provided non-stop vocal support for the 90 minutes and boasted a flag. Not bad for a Cheshire League outfit. Anyway, there’s no time like the present to get underway with everyone’s favourite part of the blog, the history bit! Yeahhhh…..
Founded in 1888, Knutsford initially played in friendly games and in local leagues in the Northwich, Sale Manchester & Crewe areas. The first known record of a Knutsford side is a 14-0 win over a Manchester “Aberdeen” side. However, the first recognised league that Knutsford FC competed in was the 1898-’99 Manchester Federation.
Following this, little is known about the clubs history, and it’s thought that they stayed in this league through until 1948, when they became founder members of the Cheshire Association League, where they remain to this day. In fact, Knutsford are the only founder members to still ply their trade in the League. They have won the League on three occasions, 1994-’95 and successively in 2011-’12 & ’12-’13, as well as achieving a further four runners-up spots. In 1949-’50, the club made their only FA Cup appearance. They were thrashed 9-0, at home, by Northwich Victoria. Last season, Knutsford finished in a lowly, by their recent standards, 6th place, missing out on a hat-trick of titles. The following is a link to some further historical bits to do with the club, from their website: http://www.knutsfordfootballclub.co.uk/club/History?id=25414.
Back onto today’s game now and I was already pleased that Manchester Road was one of those grounds that put together my two big hobbies, football and aviation. For that, it goes soaring in my estimations. Sorry.
Anyway, on the field and it was Knutsford who started the slightly brighter of the two teams having the majority of the possession, but failing to test Eagle’s ‘keeper who was facing into the bright sun. They were made to pay for it when they fell behind after 20-ish minutes when #11, Liam Walker, cracked home from just inside the area. 10 minutes before the break, the Sankey-based side doubled their advantage. A fine move including three players worked the ball to the #6, Jon Shakeshaft, who slotted home coolly. Amid all this, there was some good humour shared with the assistant on the Eagle side, where I was standing and a Knutsford player crashing into their dugout too, just to keep the subs awake!
Half-time arrived, and I headed into the clubhouse for some food. Alas, the final pie was sold to the man in front of me. This seemed to be a rare occurrence of selling out that quick, as a further two people cam in for one, only to be as disappointed as me! As it was, I settled for a Tomato & Basil Cup-a-Soup, served in an actual cup(!). It wasn’t just any cup either, oh no. This cup had a ‘tache.
After watching the opening stages of the second half from the warmth of the clubhouse/refreshment bar, including Eagle’s third goal, a header by #5, Richard Chinn, from a left wing corner, I headed back outside to my place next to the dugout, still being hindered by the sunlight. Not too long after I arrived there, Eagle made the points safe, as #9 netted a chip from 40-yards. The ‘keeper was a fair way off his line, but it was judged to perfection. A fine finish. Take a bow, Ged McAllister!
There was still time for Eagle ‘keeper Neil McDermott to pull off a super acrobatic save to preserve his clean sheet and both sides had a goal ruled out for offside, as Eagle kept out the second-placed hosts to record a superb victory. I shot off after the game to ensure I could make the stop off in the aforementioned pub, The White Bear, worthwhile. It’s a thatched inn, with Tudor façade, opposite the McLaren dealership, giving that clash of past & present. Once arrived and after receiving a knowing look from people as I struggled to open the door before dodging some low beams, I got myself a pint of Strongbow and settled in to watch the majority of Soccer Saturday’s second half coverage, before I was forced to leave and head back to Knutsford Station and the train back to Manchester Piccadilly.
After a rain dodging walk across to Oxford Road, I reached my train home just as it pulled in. Bonus! A good, if slightly nippy day out in Cheshire came to an end (luckily for me, the cold doesn’t particularly affect me) and because of the early kick-off, it meant I got home comfortably in time for the evening plans. No, I’m not indulging those facts, nosey….
My Knutsford M.o.M.- The captain, sorry didn’t catch his name.
My Eagle Sports M.o.M.- Craig Hall
Game: 8- A good, entertaining game, which ended up one-sided in the scoreline.
Ground: 7- It’s one of the better Step 7 grounds I’ve visited.
Food: N/A- But an unofficial 7 for the real cup.
Programme: 6- Boosted for going through the effort to produce one.
Fans: 8- As previously mentioned, a rarity at the level, fair play.
Value For Money: 8- Cheap day, costing £16 in all. Can’t complain with that.