Result: Hyde United 0-1 Northwich Victoria (FA Cup Second Qualifying Round)
Venue: Ewen Fields (Saturday 26th September 2015, 3pm)
Still following the path of the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup, I returned to the western side of Manchester, again to watch a team decked out in red. This time, however, it wasn’t Abbey Hey who I was headed for but Hyde United, who were to entertain their old rivals Northwich Victoria at their Ewen Fields home. With both sides having had well documented “falls from grace” in recent years, but with both having good form to speak of, this game had all the makings of an exciting cup tie.
So, after heading the usual way through Manchester’s rail system, I eventually found myself on the Rose Hill Marple-bound service from Manchester Piccadilly, alighting at Hyde Central station, after seeing a number of fans heading for Premier League games that, no doubt, the ticket for would have cost more than my whole day in Hyde was to.
So, after exiting Hyde Central station, I crossed back under the line and headed down the road and past the interchange, reaching the town hall and centre where I found my first stop of the day, the Last Orders Inn. The Last Orders looks a nice institution from the exterior and this is the case within. The place was packed, mostly with Blues’ fans watching their early kick-off against Tottenham Hotspur. After purchasing a pint of Strongbow for £2.70, I settled in to watch the first half of the game here, though did have to rein myself in when Spurs equalised. I may be mad, but I’m not stupid!
Anyway, after a mostly uneventful stop here, I headed down the road and more towards the location of Ewen Fields. Having scouted out “The Sportsman” pub, I surmised I’d head for there. It was only heading for there that I came across the “Old Town House”, and it reminded me of the time I last visited when I said I’d go in next time I came. But, I reckoned I’d stay on plan and head for the Sportsman. Alas, the Sportsman was dead. I poked my head in and it looked empty, so I headed back to the Old Town House which had advertised the game outside, and was accompanied there by a £3 Desperados for the second period of City v Spurs. I loved Hyde’s cheapness as a town!
As I witnessed Spurs take City apart in another Blue dominated pub, I was struggling to keep my emotions in check by the time the Londoners went 4-1 up, so it was lucky I was at the back where no one could witness my fist-pumping. Anyway, with beer finished and Premier League football removed from my mind for the remainder of the afternoon it was on to Ewen Field and my live footy fix of the day.
The walk onwards took a further 10 minutes to reach the ground, including a surprisingly steep section on the approach to the stadium. But, I was soon entering the car park through a small gateway and heading over to the turnstiles, where there was a small queue. Happily, these were all for the concessionary ‘stile, so I had a free run through the £10 entrance and was into Hyde United’s home. After purchasing my copy of “The Tigers”, the official programme of, well, The Tigers for £2.50, I made my way to see the teamsheet, on the wall of the Main Stand. Here, a home fan told me teamsheets were available from the programme seller, but I couldn’t see them, nor was I too arsed. But, it was a kind gesture, nonetheless.
I could have bought a seat for a further £1, but I took the easy decision to avoid this, as it’s usually waived for Premier Cup games, at least it was last time I was here, when I met the legendary Bruno Silva. Top fella is Bruno. Enough about Brasilian goalkeepers for now, though and more about English non-league grounds. Ewen Fields is a characterful ground, featuring five stands. The Main Stand, which you enter behind, is partnered on the near touchline by the “famous” Shed End, which is neither a shed, nor an end.
Opposite these is a large raised covered terrace, that runs the majority of the far touchline, with both ends being populated by further covered raised terracing, with the far end housing the newer of the two. But, it is tainted with the name of “The Lad Bible Stand”. You do wonder who thought this was a good idea. Anyway, here’s the history of the Tigers, happily Lad Bible-less…
An original Hyde FC was formed in 1885, later merging with Hyde St. George’s to enter the Lancashire Combination. But, they had folded by 1917 due to “war reaction”, before Hyde United was formed in 1919 after demands for a club were made. The United suffix derived from a match between two local groups who were instrumental in the club’s founding. The club’s first season was spent in the Lancashire & Cheshire Federation, but an immediate switch to the Manchester League was made, with Hyde having won five titles by 1930, alongside two Gilgryst Cups. In 1930, Hyde joined the Cheshire County League, where they won the league’s Challenge Cup in 1934, before the club became very successful during the period just after the Second World War.
After winning the 1946 Cheshire Senior Cup and 1953 Cheshire League Cup, they won a league and cup double in 1954 and made the 1955 title theirs too. After being beaten by Bill Shankly’s Workington side in the 1954 FA Cup 1st Round, Hyde became founder members of the Northern Premier League in 1968. After a short stay, the club returned after just two seasons to the Cheshire County League. They went on to add to their success in this league by winning a further League Cup in 1973, before having a successful 1980-’81, finishing runners-up and winning the Cheshire Senior Cup and League Challenge Shield.
A year later, the club swept all before them in the Cheshire League and were elected to the NPL again. During their first ear back here, they reached the FA Cup first round again, losing to Burnley and reached the NPL League Cup Final, losing on pens to South Liverpool. They got their hands on the trophy in 1986 via a 1-0 victory over Marine, before a new Main Stand and the infamous baspoturf pitch were installed after the Bradford City disaster.
After again reaching the first round of the FA Cup in 1994, the short-lived baspoturf pitch was replaced by grass and saw Hyde play today’s opponents, Northwich Victoria, in a FA Trophy semi-final tie. After managerial upheaval, the club were relegated to the NPL Division One in 2003, but they responded immediately, winning promotion and the title at the first attempt. In 2005, the Tigers won the NPL Premier Division, after much controversy, with Hyde winning the title after an appeal was lodged to the FA, after Farsley Celtic were originally awarded the honour. Due to reasons to do with Spennymoor United’s demise and unplayed fixtures, the FA agreed with Hyde and overturned Farsley’s win, with teams who had still to play Spennymoor twice being awarded a 0-0 win.
Hyde struggled during their time in the Conference North initially, being reprieved from relegation after King’s Lynn’s demise. The Tigers were then officially wound-up in 2009, before bucket collections and other fundraisers raised funds for the decision to be overturned. After a name change to Hyde FC in 2010, with the United suffix being dropped due to a link-up with Manchester City and the club switching from its traditional red to blue, the club avoided relegation on the final day, before Gary Lowe brough the Conference North title to Ewen Fields with a remarkable success. Lowe then shocked most people and resigned after this one season!
After two seasons in the top flight, the last of which saw Hyde become something of a non-league heroic icon due to their likelihood to get tonked every week, the club brought Gary Lowe back after sacking Scott McNiven. Lowe couldn’t save the Tigers from the drop back to the NPL however for this season. Although, back as Hyde United and back in red after the end of the City deal and now under supporters’ ownership, the club look to be on the up once more.
So, back onto the current game then and I made my way round to the far side terrace for the majority of the first period as, for me, this is the best vantage point. It was Vics who began on the front foot, with a couple of chances going begging, the best of which saw Jordan Williams go clear before he was felled by Tigers’ keeper Josh Ollerenshaw, who was on his last appearance before leaving to join the Army apparently, so all the very best to him. Ollerenshaw was carded, the free-kick wasted.
After a Hyde header was saved well down the other end, Williams broke the deadlock, as he beat the offside trap expertly, before keeping his cool and slotting in past Ollerenshaw. 0-1.
Despite goalmouth action being sparse during the first period, it was still a very watchable tie, with both sides getting forward regularly, but both lacking that extra spark up front on the day. Hyde’s most promising opportunity looked to be coming from the spot, when the forward ran through and went down under a challenge. The referee decided there wasn’t enough to force him over and booked the Hyde man for simulation. I thought it slightly harsh, as despite me not thinking it was a pen, nor did I think it was a dive.
Vics almost went 2-0 up shortly before the break, as their winger cut inside but shot narrowly wide, but it was still enough to see the Nomadic side go in at the break ahead.
As for me, it was to the refreshment window which sits in the rear of the main stand. After purchasing some chips for £1.50 and covering them in “bad boy chilli sauce”, it was over to the pub benches that sit outside the Hyde social club. After surviving the assault by acrobatic, cartwheeling girls, my chips and I survived in one piece and soon I was in the shed end, preparing for the second period. The chips are decent, nothing to write home about particularly, but the portion size is good for the price.
I decided to sample the “famous” shed (not an) end for the second period, but gave up after 5 minutes as the view is terrible. Stanchions block your view of the pitch at regular intervals and the vantage point isn’t great either. I think they Hyde flag felt what was to come during the game, as it hung from the wall in front of the Shed limply from one side from the 20-minute mark. To be honest, action was very limited during the second half, with Hyde looking laboured and Vics, understandably, sitting back on their lead.
But, as Hyde pressed forward, so Vics had more room to use. Adam Jones, the Tigers’ centre-back pulled off a terrific tackle to deny a one-on-one chance and despite a couple of goalmouth scrambles late in the game, Hyde never really created anything to speak of, and the game ended 1-0, with a few boos ringing out around the Fields.
So, I headed back towards the station, arriving there 25 minutes before the train was due. It was then that the Cheshire Ring pub called to me. 25 minutes on a platform or in a pub watching a bit of the “only World Cup that matters” according to the sign outside. There was only one answer, really, wasn’t there? A half of Krombacher later, and it was onto the train back to Piccadilly and onwards home without anything noteworthy that I can remember off hand now.
It looks like my FA Cup run will take a break in the next round, as I head for the world’s oldest club, Sheffield. As for the Tigers, they need to find their roar again soon… Ok, I’ll stop now…
Game: 6- Decent game, not much in terms of chances though.
Ground: 7- Ewen fields is a good mix of old and new.
Fans: 6- Decent enough, no qualms there.
Food: 6- Decent again, but nothing outstanding.
Programme: 6- Standard for the level, with the price being that bit more.
Value For Money: 6- All the sixes, almost! Pretty cheap overall, but game not great for a £10.