Result: Chapel Town 3-3 Walshaw Sports
Venue: Rowton Park (Saturday 16th May 2015, 2.30pm)
Att: 35 (hc)
You may have read this title and thought “Why have you bothered going to some out of the way French town?”. Despite the name, Chapel is actually closer to Manchester than Buxton is, the name translating to “Chapel in the Forest”. Hence, this isn’t a random Manchester League French outpost, robbing the sides of an exotic trip. Regardless, Chapel is one of the more scenic places that the Manchester League takes in, especially when you consider some of the places that sit alongside it…
Anyway, Chapel is a long term target of mine, ever since I passed it on my way into Buxton last season. I saw that it looked more like a ground than I expected, which always stayed in my mind, and when the opportunity finally arose, I wasn’t going to pass it up. After enticing Matt Harrison to take his LostBoyos bandwagon to Chapel too, there was no going back.
Matt, was joined by Joe Gibbons and Rob McKay (of Atherton Colls and West Didsbury & Chorlton fame), and the three arrived around an hour earlier than I did, to go on the now usual pub crawl. At 11.30-ish, I rolled into Chapel with Dan Watkinson, who joined me on the later trip. Chapel was declared “The Capital of the Peak” by a large black sign on the platforms, however it wasn’t quite what you’d imagine in a capital city, unless you were in the Shetlands or somewhere like that. After a long walk down the access road leading from station to town, we soon came upon the Roebuck pub, where Matt had informed me that the holy trinity were stationed. Though, just as we walked into the porch, they were leaving, apparently due to Joe’s lack of love for the hostelry’s offering of ale. So, it was over the road to the Royal Oak. This is where things really got interesting!
After a rather normal initial stay, Matt spotted a character making his way towards the door, and, true to his talents, he attracted the homeless Santa-like man towards us, but not before he burst through the door with “BOO! Did I scare you?!” This, Ladies & Gentlemen, was Neville. It turned out later on, that Neville was the local drunk, but who apparently had a “stunning wife” according to the barmaid of our next stop, the New Inn, who also were all too aware of Neville and his…charm. Matt had documented more about Neville and his quips in his blog, which can be found here: https://lostboyos.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/lost-in-chapel-en-le-frith/ .Have a look, you won’t be disappointed!
So, after escaping the clutches of Neville and his walking stick, whom he questioned to whether the flash of the camera had scared it, on account of the stick having a bird’s head, we headed to the aforementioned New Inn. I was the only member of the group who seemed to escape any sort of quips from Nev, which is either because I am too normal or just not interesting enough. Probably the latter. After a drink in the pleasant surroundings of the Inn, we obtained directions to the football ground, after hearing how the community helped to gain funds for the club to build themselves a clubhouse, which is always good to hear.
After a short 10 minute walk from pub to ground, we made our way up to the perimeter wall surrounding the ground, via a dirt path that skirts around the outside of Chapel CC, who were in the process of playing Hollingworth CC. After a quick trip into the clubhouse, the two sides were soon outside again and onto the field of play, ready to do battle. By now, Gibbo had become rather excited by the appearance of the two sides’ kits, which were black & white striped for the visitors and yellow and blue for the home team. This clearly related to the Flat Cap Derby and meant Gibbo was rooting for Walshaw, or Colls, as he referred to them from then on in. The ground itself at Rowton Park features very little, a small amount of hard standing around the immediate perimeter is being reclaimed by grass, and a covered-terrace like structure on the far side, which I’m unsure is a stand or not.
A Chapel side was first formed in 1921, playing in the Manchester League. In 1958, Chapel United merged with Chapel Celtic to become Chapel Town Athletic FC. This club played in the Manchester League for a further 7 years, before spells in both the local Fairfield and Hope Valley Leagues followed. In the 1960’s Chapel Town moved from their Memorial Park ground to the current Rowton Park, which is now owned by the club solely. They re-joined the Manchester League in 2005, and won the Division 1 title in 2007-’08. After two seasons in the Premier Division, the club was relegated before winning the Division 1 for the second time in 2014, but after spending this season back in the Premier, the club have again been demoted to Division one after attaining just 10 points all season. (including this game).
The game soon got underway, and the already relegated home side took an early lead, when Chapel’s #9 charged down the goalkeeper’s clearance before slotting into the empty net. Cue Matt unveiling his “I’d rather be a Chapel than a Church!” chant.
Walshaw weren’t chasing the runners-up spot for nothing though, and soon began to be on the front foot. In amongst us having a conversation with the (retiring after 8 years) manager of Chapel, who explained he stayed out of the dugout so he didn’t get into any unsavoury slanging matches with opposition coaches, Walshaw went ahead. First, they drew level when #10 scrambled the ball in from close range, before #11 put them into the lead beating the offside trap before firing in. 2-1. Walshaw went in 3-1 up at the break after #9 scored a tap in, with a Northern Rail train providing a backdrop, which made us excited for some reason.
At the break, I got the classic combination of Strongbow & Wispa to keep me fed & watered, before having a look at the collection of shirts decorating the walls of the clubhouse. These featured the likes of Juan Veron, David Beckham and big Emile.
Soon, it was back outside, and we went for a trip to the far side of the ground, near where a covered terrace like structure houses both dugouts. It was also observed how much more picturesque the ground seems from these angles, rather than the clubhouse side of the ground with views of the valley more prevalent from the far side.
Chapel got back into the game when #8 finished a nice move, before Rob left us to purchase more beer and missed the late, dramatic equaliser, when Chapel’s #9 grabbed his second with a lovely side-foot volley to ensure his manager’s 8-year tenure ended with a point.
Afterwards, we decided to head for some red-ball action. Turned out, though, that the hard-nosed toff barman wasn’t fond of us having cans, though decided nit to say anything until we’d headed out. Nice one mate. Maybe if you’d mentioned it, we’d have been happy to do so. Despite the one negative person (best words to describe people like that), I had the inside track of the game when I went to visit the facilities and made my cricket interview journalist debut, by quizzing a Chapel player on whether he was confident on defending 130. “I’d have liked a few more.” was the response, and I wished him all the best with the defence. Not everyone here was a male extremity then.
After watching Hollingworth almost make a mess of the chase, falling to 30-6, (they won eventually), Rob, Dan and myself headed off for the train, with Matt and Gibbo having beat a hasty exit to make the one an hour earlier. Nothing of note came about on the journey back, and I bid farewell to both Dan and Rob, who went off to join the earlier departures at the Piccadilly Tap, at Piccadilly, and I headed home, being very unsociable.
Overall, it was an entertaining day, especially with Neville and his strangeness adding to the occasion. The ground was lesser than I’d imagined, but it was scenic and rather nice overall, but don’t go on a we day is my tip. So, just two weeks of the season left, before the long off season of four weeks…..
My Chapel Town M.o.M.- The #9 for two goals.
My Walshaw Sports M.o.M.- The #10.
Game: 8- Entertaining end of season contest.
Ground: 5- Basic, surroundings make up for it.
Fans: 4- Don’t think there was much backing for the home side, bar us!
Food: 7- I like Wispa.
Value For Money: 8- A quite decent day overall money wise. (£9 travel, £3 refreshment, and other beers.)