Result: Wilmslow Albion 1-2 Leek Town Reserves (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: Oakwood Farm (Saturday 18th July 2015, 3pm)
Att: 25 (approx.)
Every now and again, your best laid plans don’t end up coming to fruition. This was certainly the case as my long term planned venture down to Stone Dominoes fell by the wayside as I had been roped into doing an hour at my school’s Summer Fayre during the early afternoon. Thus being the case, I was left looking for a hasty alternative. After considering Beechfield United, who now play at the Salford Sports Village, I was left with one choice: Wilmslow Albion of the FBT Manchester League.
Having seen just prior to my raffle station that Stone vs Wythenshawe had been called off, leading me to be quite smug due to the circumstances falling in my favour, I completed my hour and set off towards Manchester and latterly the Airport on the rattler, before I met Dan (yes, again!) at the bus terminal. Eventually. By this, I mean he had got the 200 but, unlike myself who is used to Airport bus routes, he was unaware of the fact there are two 200’s and he was off in the wrong direction. See, it’s not just me who gets lost….or is it a catchable thing?
Anyway, with us reunited, we boarded a bee-themed bus towards Styal village, before disembarking just through the main part of it, well within earshot of the runways at the neighbouring international gateway. Styal is a quintessential Cheshire village, with it being pretty much what people from other areas of the country would imagine it to look. With big houses, tudor framed buildings, and a local bbq, it really is a far cry from the inner city towns, just a few miles away.
After a short walk, we arrived at the gates of Oakwood Farm, (which stands opposite the entrance to Quarry Bank Mill, which is a National Trust site and well worth a visit), which is clearly marked by white signs baring the name of the club and lies beside the cricket ground and an artificial pitch.
But, we weren’t on the trail of history or culture today, oh no. We were on the footballing track. So, having arrived just in time for kick-off, we made our way onto the dugout side of the pitch, which also features a small covered standing area in the middle, though you can’t see either corner on that side of the pitch from it! Anyway, at least they’ve bothered to do one. The rest of the ground is open standing, with grassy areas on the main surrounding the barred off pitch, though there is a smart clubhouse and patio-like area situated behind the near end goal from which you enter behind.
So, with the ground now described and the teams on the pitch and all set to go, it’s time to have a look into the history of the Cheshire-based, Manchester League side , Wilmslow Albion FC….
Founded in 1919, Wilmslow Albion spent the majority of their early existence in the South West Lancashire League, with success coming in the form of two league shield’s in 1938 & 1940 & a Brown Cup in 1937. The club’s best league finish was as runners-up in 1929. Wilmslow also lifted two Altrincham Senior Cups during this period, in 1938 & ’39.
The club then moved into the Mid-Cheshire League and their first success was the 1961 League Cup. Following a runners-up finish, the club moved into the Manchester League, where they came close to folding, but a merger with Lindow FC and a name change to Wilmslow Town saw the club survive and go on to compete next in the Lancashire & Cheshire AFL, playing at the brilliantly named Old Carnival Field.
A split with Town saw the Albion name revived, thanks to a merger with another side, this time Dean Vale in 1976. The “new” Albion joined the Lancashire & Cheshire Division 3, with quick promotions to Division 1 achieved and despite a blip when the club dropped back to Division 2, the club continued to progress, with 1982-’83 season being a complete success. The club won the Division 2, the SE Woolam Aggregate Trophy and came runners-up in the Rhodes Cup.
The Macclesfield FA Cup was lifted in 1984, before Albion moved into their current Oakwood Farm home in February 1986. 1988 saw Albion rejoin the Mid-Cheshire League, winning the Second Division at the first attempt, as well as winning a third straight Macclesfield FA Cup. This trophy was also to be the club’s next silverware after nine barren years, and the club moved back to the Manchester League for Season 1998-’99.
In the Manchester League, the club have lifted a number of honours, including the Division 3 title in 2001, two Division 2 titles (2002 & 2003), a pair of Murray Shields in 2001 & 2002 and the 2000 Open Trophy. Last season, Wilmslow suffered a poor season, culminating in relegation from the Premier Division to Division 1.
Back onto the present day and Wilmslow were entertaining Leigh Athletic….or Leek Town. No-one seemed quite sure, with Leek being reported on some pages, but Wilmslow’s twitter showing the opponents as the former. However, kits came to our rescue, after Dan had almost been collected by a wayward pass, a shout of “Heads!” just alerting him in time, and allowing me a close up look at a player. Not that this is a past time I indulge in, but this proved that, yes, it was a Leek Town side who were providing the opposition. (Afterwards I discovered it was the Leek Reserve side).
After an entertaining period, which saw Wilmslow have the better of the early chances, the deadlock was finally broken with around 10 minutes to the break. A corner was cleared out to around 25-yards from goal. The defence would have been half relieved to see the ball falling to a centre half, so could be forgiven for thinking there was no immediate danger to their goal. Alas, they were horrifically wrong, as #5, George Swaine, struck the ball flush on the volley and it flew into the bottom corner. Judging by his celebration, he hadn’t scored one like that before, and the thoughts of a Wilmslow defender showed he shared these sentiments!
The break arrived, and I headed into the bar, where something came upon me and made me ask for a bitter. I have absolutely no idea why this request came out of my mouth. Thankfully, the barman informed me that it was cans only for today, so I sailed for the safe haven of a Magners. With a glass accompanying the can, Dan and I were about to exit for the second period after being “entertained” by a re-run of “Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway”, when I heard someone enquire about a sausage sandwich. The sandwich, well, barm, was brought forward and I plumped for one myself, for the princely some of just £1.
So, suitably fed and watered, we headed for the stand, where I discovered the view wasn’t the best and so our stay was a brief one as we retreated back to the sunbathed grass. After a largely substitute truncated half, Leek added a second, when the impressive Conor Prince broke clear and neatly slotted in. There was time for Wilmslow to grab a deserved goal too, my first home goal of the season, as the forward planted an effort into the bottom corner, after I’d retrieved the ball and, as such, claimed an assist. But, Leek’s Ressies held on to begin their pre-season with a solid win.
After the game, my stress-free travel continued, with the bus arriving at the bus stop no more than five minutes after Dan and I had arrived at the flowery and countryfied stop. After the short ride back to the airport, I bid goodbye to Dan who headed back into Manchester on a Stagecoach, whereas I hopped straight on a train, just as it was pulling out, and arrived back into Oxford Road with just 25 minutes until my final leg of the journey. I hope this bodes well for the season!
Game: 6- Entertaining, decent pre-season game.
Ground: 6- A decent one for the level Wilmslow compete at.
Fans: 5- No “fans” per se, more volunteers and the like.
Food: 7- Was well worth the £1 price tag.
Value For Money: 8- Free game, £5 travel, £3.50-ish refreshments. Not bad at all.