Result: Prestwich Heys 2-2 Royton Town (FBT Manchester League Premier Division)
Venue: Adie Moran Park (Tuesday 25th August 2015, 6.30pm)
Att: 68 (approx.)
A first foray of the season into the Step 7 FBT Manchester League Premier Division, saw me heading up towards Bury, to Adie Moran Park, home of Prestwich Heys FC. Heys, who narrowly missed out on promotion to the North West Counties League last season due to the cocks at the FA, once again have their sights firmly set on the pyramid system and I felt it was time to see just what they had been doing to reach it.
So, giving myself a good two hours to get through Manchester and onwards, it quickly attempted to unravel as I first managed to buy the wrong bus ticket, the jobsworth driver refusing to change it, the journey taking almost twice as long as it should, meaning a missed connection and a walk over to Shudehill Interchange for a further bus to Whitefield, where Heys’ Adie Moran Park is located. AMP is the second “ground” I’ve seen Heys play at, as I’d also seen them play a friendly against Lancs Amateur League side, Prestwich FC at the site of their former Grimshaws home. Though, I only lasted a half before boredom set in and I left for Abbey Hey!
After being joined by Dan, we boarded the 96 service and, within a further half hour, we’d arrived at the reservoir down the road from Sandgate Road, the former name of the ground. A short walk later, and we were at the gates of Heys. Dan hadn’t bargained on there being an entrance fee for the game, so I bailed him out on the condition of a programme for a future game! After paying said entrance fee of £2, plus a further quid for the “Touchliner” programme, I had gained access to the ground.
Adie Moran Park is a fully enclosed ground, bordered by concrete walls and turnstile. There is one covered standing area, which is situated to the immediate right of the turnstile, behind the right-hand goal. The clubhouse/food bar and changing rooms sit down the left hand touchline, with the clubhouse in particular, though small, a rather smart construction. The rest of the ground is open hard standing, though there are seats available from in front of the clubhouse, if you do want to sit. There is also indications that seating is on its way, as there a few red ones on the far touchline, awaiting construction. Now for the history of the Heys…
Prestwich Heys AFC were formed back in 1938 when a meeting at Heys Road Boys’ School led to an “old boys association” being formed. One man at the meeting was to go under the press guise of “Touchliner”, so there’s the connection with the programme, I guess!
Despite WWII, the association flourished with the football arm, Heys Old Boys AFC, being particularly strong, winning its first honours in 1943, whilst competing in the Prestwich & Whitefield League, in the shape of the Woodward Shield, which was repeated for the next three seasons. The side went on to progress through the Bury Amateur League and into the South Lancashire League, winning three titles here in 1960, ’61 & ’64. The club, now known as Prestwich Heys, also lifted the prestigious Lancashire Amateur Cup in 1967, followed by the one and only Lancashire Combination Grand Slam during 1970-’71, with all four trophies being brought back to Grimshaw’s Park.
As Heys,the club began to gain a reputation as a strong side, reaching the last eight of the FA Amateur Cup, including defeating Sutton United the week before the latter hosted Leeds United in the FA Cup. But, the 1970’s also brought restructure, with professionalism entering the lower leagues and Heys gradually entered the ranks of the semi-pro’s after winning the 1972 Manchester Amateur Cup. A such, a move from the Cheshire County League to the new North West Counties League was undertaken.
Later ground grading issues would see the club drop to the Manchester League for 1986, the club won its first silverware for 15 years, when they won the 1988 Manchester League First Division. Just a few years later, the Bury Council forced out of their Grimshaws home to move to their current home on Sandgate Road.
After relegation in 1996, the club bounced back with the First Division and Murray Shield double, largely built on by he record 19 straight wins from the season start. Following a 2003 Goldline Trophy & Gilgryst Cup success in 2003-’04, 2004-’05 saw Heys finally win the Premier Division, which they retained the following season and again during 2006-’07, meaning a hat-trick of titles was attained. This was also joined in the cabinet by the Goldline Trophy, won at the Reebok Stadium via a penalty shoot-out win over another strong amateur side, Charnock Richard. Talk about buses…
Then, tragedy struck, when manager/chairman Adie Moran died on holiday aged just 43. This, as you’d expect caused a number of changes on and off the pitch as the next few seasons went on, but Heys have began to become a strong side again of late, winning the 2015 Kenyon Cup and competing up at the top of the table frequently and, as stated earlier, pushing for a return to the NWCFL, which looks almost certain to happen for 2016-’17, as the FA waive the top-5 finish rule.
Back on to the game at hand and the teams entered the pitch as the sky looked as though it was becoming a little more threatening. With a decent crowd in attendance, the game got underway, with 1st placed Heys and 2nd placed Royton going at it hammer and tongs. Neither side could really get on top, with both having a couple of good early chances. But, just as it looked as though Heys were gaining an advantage, Royton attacked at pace and a long range effort should have been kept out comfortably by the ‘keeper, but to his horror, he dropped the ball over his head and into the net. 0-1.
The same player then missed a golden chance from a handful of yards, when he scuffed with an open net gaping, and Royton dominated the remainder of the first period, but were unable to find a second, but came mighty close, when a rasping drive was excellently tipped over by Heys’ custodian. 0-1 at the break, and this is when things took a turn for the mildly bizarre, as Paul Scholes had took time out of his evening to head down to the first half of a Manchester League contest. Just shows, as that tongue-in-cheek article about meeting women at football said, you never know who you might see and when!
With Scholesey leaving in the rain, me and Dan headed into the clubhouse where I purchased a large hot dog for £2.20. It was a touch pricey at first glance, but the thing was huge and red hot, so was worth the price, just! Anyway, after a short break, the players emerged, once again, into the North Manchester drizzle for the second period.
Within seconds of the restart, Royton were punished for not making their earlier dominance pay, when Heys drew level. A low ball into the middle was slid home from close range by the onrushing forward. One-a-piece, and all to play for. Well, for a short while it was anyway, as Royton, pretty much, went down the other end and retook the lead. After winning a free-kick out wide, the set-piece was swung in and the ball only half cleared to the edge of the area, where the Royton #6 collected the ball, took a touch, before unleashing a low drive in via the inside of the post. He enjoyed it and ran off to the corner flag, punching it over and all his teammates were soon huddled over him. 1-2.
With the intermittent rain still in the air, it appeared Royton were once again beginning to gain the ascendancy in the contest, as Dan seemed to feel too, when I asked him who he thought would score next. “No change”, was his reply. But, oh, look at that. Penalty to Heys. Sub Martin Love stepped up and smashed it high into the top corner of the goal to draw his side level and create a grandstand finish with 10 to play.
But, as it was, despite both sides trying to endeavour to find a winner, neither could quite manage it and the referee, who I thought was ok but a bit too fussy overall, brought the contest to a close, with the draw a fair result over the ninety after both sides had treated the healthy crowd, for a Step 7 game, to a fine evening’s entertainment.
Dan and I exited the ground and headed down to the main road to catch the 135 service to Piccadilly, which appeared to be driven by Jesus. Jesus wasn’t very charitable though, and took £3.10 off me. The bastard. Anyway, soon we were back in the Gardens and I bid goodbye to Dan who headed on his way, whilst I was asked by one woman to help a Chinese woman who was looking for Stratford, but being confused by Stretford. My only thought was how lost they must be then, as I only know two Stratfords, and both are a fair distance from Manchester!
So, she headed on her way to find Stratford, whilst I, for once, knew where I was headed for and was soon heading back in the night for home. Thanks to Prestwich for a good game hosted and I’m sure they’ll be a fine addition to the Counties league very soon.
Game: 8- End to end, pulsating contest.
Ground: 7- Definitely one of the better Step 7 ones about.
Fans: 6- A fair few out for the game
Programme: 5- Quite a simple offering, but at least they both to produce one.
Food: 6- Nice, but a touch costly.
Value For Money: 5- Cost more getting there than it should, cheap entrance & programme, pricey food.