Venue: Clay Lane (Wednesday 14th May 2015, 7pm)
Att: 35 (hc)
I wasn’t really planning on attending a game during the week if I’m honest, despite having toyed with the idea of going to this very match when it was to be played at the hosts usual home at Banky Lane, Mersey Valley Sports Club. But, on the Tuesday evening, I saw the game had been moved to Clay Lane and, upon further inspection, I noted the ground met my requirement of a barred off pitch, thus constituting a “ground” in my book. So, I was away and to the beaches.
Well, the beaches may not have actually existed, but I was determined, nonetheless, to do this ground. This determination was tested when I lost my bus ticket and had to buy another one just for the travel tonight. But, as all hardened groundhoppers will attest to, this is nothing but a minor issue and not enough to stop a venture in its tracks, dear friends, oh no.
After Dan had also confirmed his attendance, I boarded a bus and changed onto an Altrincham bound one upon arrival at Stretford Arndale and treated myself to a tour of Stretford’s subway system. Lovely. On exiting, I boarded a rather packed bus for the majority of my journey. Half way to the destination, I decided to check up on Dan’s progress, the last time I’d done so, he’d informed me he was stuck in traffic en route. This time, he informed me he’d arrived in Sale. Then it dawned on me that I too was in Sale and upon turning my head 90 degrees, it turned out we were on the same bus without either of us realising. This didn’t bode well for the rest of the trip…
As it was, after a further connection from Alty to around the corner from the ground, we took a Google Maps identified short cut. Of course, as usually happens with my shortcuts, a fence put paid to it and consigned us to he full 15 minute walk round the ground, which we arrived upon by a see-through fence. To our pleasure, the game hadn’t got underway at 6.30 (as previously advertised on Full-Time) and it was obvious that a 7pm start time was taking place. With the late evening sunshine beating down on both sides and a lone female jogger doing laps of the pitch, Dan and I took our place to the rear of the near end goalmouth, nearest the car park. This will be known as the “hedge end” due to a hedge being there. Imaginative, I know.
Soon enough, the sides were ready to go, as was the official. Note, official, as linesman are definitely lesser spotted this low down in the system. Indeed, this season was the first of the reformed Altrincham Reserve side, with none gracing hallowed turf since 2007. But it has been a successful one, with the side finishing as runners-up in the league to the all-conquering Wythenshawe Town and taking the second promotion spot in doing so. There is a dedicated page to the Robins’ Ressies on their site, with all the appearance stats for the side listed here: http://www.altrinchamfc.co.uk/reserves.htm. A big congratulations to the management team of Craig Malbon and Chris Rowley and all the players on this achievement.
The ground at Clay Lane is basic, bar the changing facilities, it would seem, with just the barred off pitch being flanked by a pair of dugouts, one on each side, and grassy areas to stand on. The whole ground is open, so best to leave this one to a nice, dry day. Of course, as stated earlier, this isn’t the usual home of Alty’s Reserves, nor any club as far as I’m aware, so look out for it with a hawk-eye. Bar this, the pitch is towered over by the Hale Country Club, in whose grounds it stands, and is located opposite Bowden RUFC, for those interested in the egg chucking game. As you may have guessed from that, I’m not one.
For now then, the actual football game got underway, with Irlam storming out of the blocks, with the sun providing an assist to their efforts, glaring into the face of the Robins’ keeper. But, you can’t solely blame the sun for Alty’s apparent lackadaisical start to the game. Irlam Reserves swarmed them and were quickly two up, their #9, John Main and #11, Kyle Davies, both scoring from close range. First, Main got a shot away, neatly tucking one just inside the far post. Almost immediately, Davies doubled the advantage, breaking clear and rounding the ‘keeper before having the easiest of tasks presented to him as he slotted into the unguarded net.
If this was bad for Alty, it got even worse a couple of minutes later. Main again was the main man(oh dear), as he took full advantage of a defensive mix up to nip in ahead of the ‘keeper to claim the ball, before again having the pleasure of a gaping onion bag presented to him 3-0, game over you felt.
After this mad start to the match, it settled down somewhat, as Alty got to grips and Irlam were happy to sit back on their 3-goal advantage, and this was how it remained at the break.
The second period got underway, and Dan and I set off on a lap of the ground. Well, almost, as it turns out the far side near the road isn’t the easiest to gaian access to, although we did find a member of Curzon Ashton’s memorable campaign just gone, Matt Warburton, making his way out. I remember Matt from his days as a 16-year-old in Trafford’s reserve side and I always thought he was a talent. Never really given a chance at the club, he plied his trade in local football, before gaining his break and pushing on with Curzon. A top player and lad, it’s just a bit of a downer that he’s been out for most of the season after suffering a bad injury during a Curzon home game. Anyway, after a chat with Matt, the ball going behind the net gave him a perfect excuse to escape my grasp(!) and we went on our way round.
Passing a few truck tyres dotted here and there, we made our way to the far end and, by now, Alty had grabbed one back, the #10 finishing off a move, slotting into the net. They almost had another too, when the Irlam GK’s kick failed to reach safety and a shot from midfield drifted over him and appeared to be going in. This was definitely the thought going through the mind of one player who exclaimed “YESSS!”, just as the ball bounced up off the bare goalmouth and over the bar. No-one was quite sure how, but 3-1 it remained!
As the match was coming to a close and Alty’s dominance of the second period waned, #14, substitute Gaz Meredith picked the ball up just past halfway. He had a look up and pinged one from 35-yards that looped over the ‘keeper and just under the bar. WHAT A SUPERB GOAL! One that his namesake Billy would’ve been proud of! It was a strike worthy of winning any match, even if this one was just adding gloss to an already secured three points.
The referee ended the game soon after and both sides just looked happy to have gotten a bit of a dead rubber out of the way, especially Alty. Irlam, though, will feel they have proved a lot going into next season and I’m sure they will be right up there for the title. On the basis of this performance, they deserve to be. So, we set off on the mile and a half walk back towards this season’s title winners Wythenshawe Town’s ground, where I bid a good evening to Dan who headed off for town, whereas I faced a 25 minute wait for my bus back and a further connection after that, finally getting in at 10.30pm, such is the life eh?
My Altrincham Reserves M.o.M.- I give it the #10 for scoring!
My Irlam Reserves M.o.M.- John Main
Game: 7- Entertaining game, good quality too.
Ground: 5- Very basic, open.
Fans: 3- Just because there aren’t any “fans” really.
Value For Money: 8- If I hadn’t have paid for 2 tickets, it’d have been 10, but you know….