Result: AFC Emley 3-4 Congleton Town (FA Vase Second Qualifying Round)
Venue: The Welfare Ground (Saturday 3rd October 2015, 3pm)
After much deliberation, out of my hands, to do with the destination for today’s game between Matt, the Lost Boyo, & Gibbo, the birthday boy, the final decision became AFC Emley, after initially being headed for Shaw Lane Aquaforce and later Knutsford for a short while. I wasn’t too enamoured by either of the provisional pairing due to the fact I’d already previously visited the two clubs, so when I received the news that Emley would be welcoming the entourage of groundhoppers, including the duo of Tony 1 Leg and Johnny The Rhino, I was more than pleased. Emley had long been a target of mine, but due to its rather out of civilization placing, it wasn’t one I was in a rush to head for.
But today was the day. So, after eventually managing to escape Manchester Oxford Road and its delays, I met with Matt in the concourse of Piccadilly station, where we were soon joined by the trio mentioned above. No sooner had seating arrangements been sorted out, than the party hats were out and Tony and Johnny got to work on two ladies heading over to Harrogate. Also, a lad sitting opposite our group was soon in possession of a hat of his own, to which he seemed mighty happy about and the other guy he was sat next to even found our conversation interesting enough to remove his earphones to listen in.
Upon arriving into Huddersfield, the 1LegOnTheCup duo were separated from their TransPennine beaus and our two new male friends were also headed separate ways, but in differing states of dampness. The one with the hat made sure he took it with him back to his Yorkshire abode in a very dry state, but the other man wasn’t so luck, as Matt went on to knock his can of Fosters all over the helpless fella’s lap. I was even given praise for not swearing by the (not quite) old woman sat next to me upon our disembarkation, though I’m not sure if this was directed at us all or just me. I like to think it was the group, so I took this idea and ran with it. Anyway, after being dumbfounded by the ticket machine that took my ticket but didn’t release it again, I was into Huddersfield itself.
Within a couple of minutes, we’d reached our first stop, the town’s Wetherspoon’s: The Cherry Tree. Here, we had our first, much needed, beverages of the day, whilst Tony tried his best to get the barmaid to show him different tattoos on various parts of her anatomy. Nothing sinister though, I stress! Soon after we’d got our drinks in, we were joined by a new Huddersfield import, Craig, a more recent suffering Crawley Town fan, who ha moved to better pastures in the North, though I question his decision to move to Yorkshire. Anyway, Craig recommended a pub somewhere in the near distance, so we headed there. But, in true fashion when I’m in such company as I found myself today, we ended up in a dingy bar hidden behind some roadworks, The Wellington.
The Wellington was much better inside than out, with its interior decorated with the flags of the countries competing in the Rugby World Cup. Otehrwise, there was little to add colour to the interior of the public house, other than a door stating “Warning: Carbon Dioxide”. I wondered whether this is where people ventured when it got a little too much, after watching a game. Soon enough, we were out of the dingy surroundings that didn’t quite live up to the Duke and were heading over to the bus station for the carriage over to Emley.
Craig, after directing us to the station, soon left us after reaching a helpful sign stating “Stands A-Z”, with an arrow pointing to the concourse. Here is where things began to get wild. As the Gregg’s increased its profits due to our arrival, we also found ourselves entranced with the stand specific tannoy system, which stated the tooo-three-tooo’s route. I don’t think the locals were too impressed by our incessant pressing of the Stand G lady’s button, but there we are. To their relief, I’m sure, the 232 soon arrived, and we were boarding the “Yorkshire Tiger” service, decked out in tiger-print seats. I did spot a Tiger-Blue bus too, which sounded like the late-night version.
After around a half-hours journey into the hills and moors of the West Riding of Yorkshire, we were soon nearing Emley, heralded by the large pole towering above the area. Matt stated he’d heard it was taller than the Eiffel Tower, and was on a mission to discover if this was indeed the case. Meanwhile, I discovered a local delicacy called “German Eggs”. Although, it became apparent tat German Eggs were in fact Gammon, Eggs…This was much to the amusement of the rest of the group and to the local directly in front of us.
So, now insearch of local facts and German Eggs, we disembarked in the buzzing village of…Ah. Well, there isn’t much at all in Emley. Think Emmerdale, but without the drama or the murders (as far as I’m aware). Anyway, we soon found ourselves within the walls of the White Horse Pub, which has a restaurant that’s rendered obsolete for at least half of the year, due to no food being on offer for the other 6 months or so. The locals were quite the welcoming bunch, more interested in quite what we were doing in their village. After explaining why, they still looked dumbstruck, as were the Congleton fans by their surroundings, who soon joined us in the small bar. Anyway, before long we’d exited the White Horse and headed over the road to AFC Emley’s home, The Welfare Ground.
The Welfare Ground is reached via a small passage, and is neighboured by a second pub, the Wentworth. The two are separated by the club’s car park, which has to be survived to reach the turnstiles, where we were relieved of £5 entry and a further £1.50 for the programme. After entering through, we were all collared for a raffle ticket, with prizes ranging from eggs (German?) to a tin of Haggis, probably donated by the game’s sponsors, the Emley Scottish Supporters’ Club. Ooh, stereotyped! Onwards to the bar, which is situated alongside the main stand. The bar is also in the building that houses the changing rooms, with the main stand offering raised seating over the pitch. Behind the end where you enter from is a covered terrace, with the far end open, hard standing, though the small steps of terracing here have been somewhat reclaimed by nature. The ground is three-sided, due to it also being a part of the village cricket ground’s outfield.
So, back inside the bar, it was onto the cider for me and an old favourite, Woodpecker! Lovely. Somewhere in the meantime, Gibbo had gone on to decide that his shower curtain birthday present, decorated with ducks, would be more worthy of being a poncho. And it was. Thus the legend of Duckman was born. Now, I can’t do it justice on these pages, so f you want to read into the myth yourselves, then this is the place to do it: Duckman hath cometh
So, it was onto the game, but first it was over to the “café” for some food. I got some chips and a sausage roll combo for £.50 only, and quickly ate the pretty good produce. Matt was just as complimentary, if not more so, of his local delicacy, which was a turnip and carrot meaty-type thing. It must taste better than it looked to my eye, but then, I despise turnip. A terrible thing. anyway, here’s the history of AFC Emley…
The club was formed in 2005 after the village’s old team, Emley AFC, moved to Wakefield in 2000 after 97 years, to become Wakefield-Emley and later Wakefield FC. The club is now defunct.
The current Emley started out in the West Yorkshire League, being promoted from Division 1 at the first attempt, finishing third. This brought the club into the Northern Counties East League Division 1, where they’ve competed ever since, finishing no lower than 13th, their first season. Their best finish was 5th, which they attained last time out.
So, back onto the game, and it was played out at a decent pace early on, though there wasn’t much in the shape of goal-mouth action until Matt and I headed off on a “lap” of the Welfare Ground, whereupon the visiting Bears from Congleton took the lead. A low ball in saw the ‘keeper make an initial block, but he was unable to stop the rebound being bundled in, much to the delight of the Bears forward who whooped away in front of us. 0-1, and this was how it remained until the break.
The rest of the half was spent with Gibbo ribbing certain former Atherton LR players about their former lives on the, from his viewpoint, “dark side” of Atherton. But, on the pitch, the main recipient of the barrage, Bears keeper Farrimond, was almost beaten when left one-on-one with an Emley forward, but the chance was wasted and the visitors headed in with their lead intact.
After a quick sojourn in the bar, it was back out for the second period, where the home side almost immediately drew level. If the first goal was ugly, then this was repulsive. An even worse scramble ended with another one bundled into the turnstile end net. 1-a-piece, via a disputed goal/own-goal. And it was soon two, but this goal was much more pleasant on the eye, as hotshot Ashley Flynn fired home from the edge of the area, for 2-1 to the home side. But the best was yet to come from Flynn, and from Emley.
Flynn, after a good passing move, picked the ball up just outside the box, advanced slightly, before delightfully chipping Farrimond from 20-yards, to cue manic celebrations, including the Emley manager pegging down the touchline, Mourinho-esque, to join in with his players down in the corner.
But, Emley hadn’t counted on Congleton coming back from 3-1 with 20 minutes-or-so to play. But come back was what they did. Declan Fletcher initiated the comeback, slotting in from inside the area, before they levelled after Fletcher was this time denied by the home custodian, but then coolly squared the ball to the onrushing Scott McGowan to slot into the back of the net. 3-3!
By now, it looked like extra-time was on the cards, and discussions turned to this. Matt and Gibbo were more than happy for the extra half-hour, whereas I was hoping for a winner in 90-minutes. Congleton won a corner as I stated I’d go for a winner here. Duly, Fletcher obliged, powering a towering header into the corner, sending the small band of black-and-white clad fans behind the goal into jubilation.
That was that, as goal updates came raining in from West Didsbury and Chorlton’s 15-1 win over Dinnington Town in the Vase. 3-4, and what a game. After Gibbo and Matt partook in some on-field after match photography, it was to the Wentworth, where Matt finally got his confirmation, from the barmaid, that the Emley Moor tower was indeed taller than the French one. With this fact safely tucked within our brains, we finished off our drinks and headed for the bus back into Huddersfield.
After being semi-complimented by some of the Bears players on their way to the coach outside the newsagents with a sign bearing “newspapers sold here”, we were back into town and on to our next stop, the station bar by the name of the King’s Head, which is located round the back from the, now closed, George Hotel, where Rugby League was founded.
The King’s Head looks like it’s still undergoing decorating, with bare walls and floors but someone has decided to throw some tables in there and open early. The toilets being the best decorated part of the pub. It certainly is a strange one, but it more than fitted in with what had gone before today. Soon enough, we were on the train back to Manchester, where the ever compelling Duckman ended up pulling an Ulster girl with his Quacking charm.
Back in Manchester, it was onto the Piccadilly Tap, where I had an hour to waste before my train back home. Here, you can go to the bathroom and learn something interesting upon the blackboard.
After ordering a half of something or other, the time eventually dwindled off and I bid goodbye to my “colleagues” and set off into the night of the City Centre and over to Oxford Road again, which was much more settled than earlier in the day. I must have looked the worse for wear though, as I shut my eyes for about a minute on the train, when the conductor came over to me and asked if I was ok, and where I was headed. Being in something of sound mind, he left me to my journey.
So, the story of the day in a small village north of Huddersfield comes to an end. I challenge anyone to go to Emley and have a more dramatic, action-packed, duck-filled experience than we all had on this day. If you do, you may just end up being Quackers. Okay, enough of the duck puns now…
Game: 8- End to end, 7 goals, comebacks, glorious chips. Brilliant.
Ground: 7- A nice, characterful ground.
Fans: 8- A great bunch, and some of the best I’ve come across in my travels.
Programme: 6- Not a bad effort, considering the level.
Food: 7- A decent offering, very economical helps the rating,
Value For Money: 8- To be honest, I’d lost track on how much it all cost.