Result: Chadderton 0-5 AFC Mansfield (FA Vase 4th Round)
Venue: MCA Stadium, Andrew Street (Saturday 24th January 2015, 3.00pm)
At the third time of asking, it was finally all systems go for this FA Vase 4th Round clash. Chadderton, of the North West Counties First Division, entertained their visitors, the recently formed, AFC Mansfield of the Northern Counties First Division. Both sides compete at the same level and stood at similar places in their respective tables so a close contest looked to be on the cards. To reach this round, the home side had dispatched Newcastle Benfield from the supposedly stronger Northern League. I think this league has lost its aura over the last couple of seasons, personally.
As for me, it was disappointment the previous week as this contest was called off due to the cold weather, then relief in midweek as the snow meant the match once again fell foul of the wintry conditions. So, finally, I was heading through the well trodden (or ridden, I suppose) bus routes towards Manchester City Centre for my connection onwards towards Oldham and Chadderton itself, accompanied by the playing out loud of the ‘Frozen’ hit ‘Let It Go’ from the back of the bus. If that doesn’t make you afraid of Manchester, I don’t know what will.
So, after just an hour and 20 minutes, I disembarked the 24 bus at Chadderton precinct, just off the main Broadway road. On the way I had passed by the new FC United ground at Broadhurst Park. It looks like it promises to be quite the home for the Red Rebels, but the place was still a building site, suggesting a fair way to go yet.
After arriving with an hour to kick-off, I decided to head to a public house nearby to catch the end of the Blackburn Rovers vs Swansea City FA Cup tie on the Beeb. I remembered from previous visits that there was a pub just around the corner, literally, from the ground itself so it was for here that I headed.
Yes indeed, the Spring Vale Inn was my stop off point and after purchasing a half of Strongbow to nurse through half an hour of the game, I noted just how nice the place seemed. From outside, it may not look much cop, but inside it was a welcoming place with music and TV both providing backing to games of pool and darts containing varying degrees of skill. Anyway, as Blackburn netted their third to secure their passage through to the next round of the famous cup, I headed off to see which of the two sides would progress in the FA Cup’s junior cousin.
The ground is literally a minute’s walk away from the pub and upon arrival, I was greeted by a friendly man manning the gate. On this occasion, it actually is a gate due to the fact that the car park is inside the ground and you can pay directly from your window as you drive in. There was a turnstile too, but this was rendered obsolete for the moment. After paying my £5 fee and explaining that I’d been reserved a programme by the Chadderton manager Ste Patterson via the medium of twitter (what did we do without it?!) and he kindly handed over my copy. Ste had said to go find him upon arrival, but due to the timing of it, I thought I’d bet not disturb his preparations! I may not be welcome again if I’d messed up the club’s cup run!
After being directed by the helpful gateman towards the clubhouse I made my way into Andrew Street. Upon entering the ground, you are slightly to the right of the pitch, behind the goal. The clubhouse is immediately on your left. The recently refurbished clubhouse, reached by climbing a set of stairs, is quite impressive and shows the improvements that Chadderton have just embarked on implementing to their ground. The building in which it’s housed is also home to the dressing rooms and food hut. To the left of this is the one and only stand in the ground. An old fashioned mix of benched seating and terracing (the terracing looking a slightly later addition) which is all covered and where the traveling army and majority of attendees in full had congregated today.
Directly along the near touchline is the aforementioned car park and dugouts. The dugouts are a new construction and you can still see the foundations from the old ones just in front of them. To the rear of the ground is a raised hard standing area which affords a good view of the game (if not for a setting sun) and a piece of cleared wasteland which is destined to become an academy training area, thanks to the donation by a local “Lancaster Club” to Chaddy. Capacity is around 1500. In fact, talking of the Avro Lancaster Bomber, now seems a good time to delve into the history of Chadderton Football Club, and their few celebrity players!
Formed in 1947 as Millbrow FC, the club started life in the Oldham Amateur League under three different names: Millbrow, North Chadderton Amateurs and latterly Chadderton FC. The club won the league’s Challenge Cup in 1955 before switching to the Manchester Amateur League the following season where the club immediately lifted the title. After again winning the title in 1962-’63, Chadderton joined the Manchester League winning the Division 2 title at the first attempt and with it promotion to Division 1.
In their first Division 1 season, the club won the Murray Shield before lifting the League title in 1967. The club followed these successes with a Manchester Challenge Trophy triumph in 1972 and just failed to retain it the following season, ending as runners-up. In 1980 the club made another step up, this time joining the Lancashire Combination, immediately finishing as runners-up in their first season at the level.
In 1982, Chaddy became founder members of the North West Counties League (NWCFL) following the merger of the Lancashire Combination and the Cheshire County League. In 1990, the club gained promotion to the Division 1 after finishing third, but were immediately relegated the following season. They bounced back two seasons later, but were relegated a further six seasons (’98-’99) later due to ground grading issues.
After a few good cup runs in the mid 00’s and the club finished last season in 13th place in the NWCFL Division 1. Biggest name players of Chadderton’s past include David Platt of Arsenal and England fame and Take That star Mark Owen, who played for the club during his uninsured, not as valuable leg days!
Back to current times now and the teams were soon back out onto the playing area for the beginning of their next stop on the road to Wembley. AFC Mansfield, under the guidance of the best named manager in football, Rudy Funk, started brightly and had the ball in the net after 15 minutes. The offside flag, however, denied them an opener. The opening stages also included me getting a touch of the match ball and being thanked for retrieving it by, quite possibly, the politest right-back in football. AFC Mansfield’s #2, your thanks didn’t go unnoticed!
Chaddy’s reprieve lasted mere moments when the Bulls won a left wing corner and their skipper, Chris Timons headed home at the near post, his delight clear in the subsequent celebration. And it was two just after the half hour, when the impressive Ryan Williams broke the offside trap, rounded Chadderton custodian Dale Latham before rolling the ball into the unguarded net.
Chadderton almost got right back into the contest with two great chances before the break. First, Matt Russell (who looked more like a scrum half with his headgear)’s corner was headed goal-wards by James Curley, but his header was well saved on his goal-line by Mansfield ‘keeper Jason White, the rebound somehow evading a Chaddy centre back who looked certain to net. White then pulled off a superb save moments later. I was queuing for a pie when Dillan O’Connor picked up the ball in the inside right channel. From here he progressed forward before hammering an effort that looked destined for the top corner. But White had other ideas, flinging himself to his right to fingertip the ball onto the crossbar and out of play. O’Connor could count himself desperately unlucky to have not found the net, but full marks to White for a superb save. Half-Time, 2-0 and I finished off my scrumptious Meat & Potato pie for a £1. A POUND!!! Pound Bakery eat your heart out! Chadderton FC just bettered your produce! (Ed: I’ve never sampled nor set foot in a pound bakery. I just reckon this is most likely true!).
After a quick respite inside the clubhouse to check up on the half time scores in the FA Cup, including Chelsea serenely progressing into Round 5, we were all set for the second period.
It was Chadderton who started on the front foot, throwing everything at their visitors in an attempt to get back into the tie. They had their chances, again Curley at the forefront of the chances, but Mansfield showed them how to finish when they quickly countered, a long ball out to Williams allowed him to run at the defence and deliver for forward Craig Mitchell who slide-volleyed home. 3-0, game over.
Mansfield dominated from then on, with Chadderton coming to the realisation that their dream, record breaking run was over. The visitors were on the lookout for more goals and should’ve had more than the two they added. Williams was, yet again, the provider for number four as he again linked with Mitchell, the latter nodding home from close range, before sub Jordan Vilums cross floated in off the far post. I’m sure he’ll claim it was a expertly executed chip though. Ronaldinho-esque, circa 2002!
Mitchell twice went agonisingly close to achieving a hat-trick, but he wasn’t to get the elusive third, but it mattered little as the Bulls deservedly went through, their fans who were in good support throughout for their team being sent home happy. Chadderton just didn’t turn up in their true form on the day but, in my opinion, neither were they five goals worse than their opponents. Mansfield took their chances, Chadderton didn’t simple.
On the way back home, I encountered one of those people who likes to tell everyone about their day out in Boots and about the quote “Asian woman who walked in at closing time EVEN THOUGH I said the shop was closing!”. This made my mind up to get the first bus I could even though this ended up being an around the houses service back to Piccadilly, including a driver/passenger argument over payment (the driver was right) before normality was restored on the final leg of the journey.
A good day out was had by myself at Chaddy, a nice welcoming club, with all staff/volunteers helpful and good at the roles they carry out. I sincerely hope their plans all go well and the ground continues getting its facelift. It’s one that’s grown on me since my first visit!
My Chadderton M.o.M.- James Curley
My AFC Mansfield M.o.M.- Ryan Williams
Game: 7- An entertaining contest, with a fair few goals.
Ground: 7- One that’s improving and has character to it.
Fans: 6- The fans of the homes side are few and far between. Hopefully this cup run has sparked interest.
Food: 8- The £1 pie was superb! Well worth getting one, if only for the price!
Programme: 7- A good issue, printed in full colour, hence the £2 fee.
Value For Money: 8- Good game, cheap travel and day out. All in all, cost of around £12.50.