Result: West Didsbury & Chorlton 4-5 Morpeth Town (FA Vase First Round)
Venue: The Recreation Ground, Brookburn Road (Saturday 31st October 2015, 3pm)
On Hallowe’en, it was an almost certainty that someone was going to enjoy a fairly decent treat. This treat, however, wouldn’t have been of a candy nature, but more of a monetary & advancement in a cup one. As such, it was to be West Didsbury & Chorlton & Morpeth Town, who’d do battle to sudden death.
I began my day joined by my West-sympathising parents, who’d kindly agreed to pay for the vast majority of my day today, thus saving me a hit in the pocket for a weekend. This is always welcome, and as it was the day the dead rise again, a visit to the local haunted pub seemed in order. So, after a short taxi ride, we arrived at the Jackson’s Boat pub, a short 10-minute walk over the Hardy Farm trails.
Sadly, the visit was void of any ghostly activity, and indeed that of the living, so we swiftly moved onwards, over the fields and past the Recreation Ground, and eventually arrived in Chorlton Green, the small chic hub of activity around the corner from West Didsbury’s home. First stop here was the small real ale/bistro-style outlet by the name of “The Parlour”. Again, in keeping with the spookfest, a half of Trick or Treat was sampled. Nothing to shout about again and we continued on our pub crawl.
Next stop was the newly-converted church, Mish Mash. The Mish Mash is, well, a Mish Mash, with doors popping up here and there for no apparent reasons, large mirrors hanging toward the ceiling and more outlandish things dotted about. This was our last of the out of the ordinary bars, before we began to enter the traditional pubs, with the Famous Trevor Arms being first up on the list.
Here, my Liverpool-supporting Mum could watch the remainder of the first period of the game vs Chelsea, within the much more normal surroundings of the Trevor, before next was the Beech, one of the older establishments in the town. Twas in here, that Jose’s team fell apart before my Mum’s ever more joyful celebrations, before the approach of kick-off crept up on us like a killer from a shit horror movie and it was time to head for the Recreation Ground itself, and the big game of the day in the area, as the ex-Manchester League side hosted the Northern League high-flyers.
To reach Brookburn Road you, unsurprisingly, walk down Brookburn Road and head down the small access road at the bottom, which leads you to West’s home. Here, you carry on up the road and are eventually met by a small wooden hut alongside a large metal fence, the latter serves as the car park gate, the former the “turnstile”. The admission today was £6, on account of covering for Morpeth’s travelling fees, which is more than fair enough. I don’t think anyone would begrudge that. After picking up the very decent programme for a further £2, I was into The Recreation Ground.
As some of you will know, I have had a pretty long, if bitty, history watching West, which dates from their time in the Manchester League a few years back, so I’ve seen them rise through the ranks up to the Premier Division of the North West Counties. As such, I do feel a fair affinity for them and always look out for their results on a matchday and you can add into this that I know their Match Secretary, Rob McKay, fairly well too, though I saw little of him today as he was busy on official duties.
Before too long, I’d tucked into my top quality pork pie, while my Dad was busy announcing the sides to the masses in attendance and the teams had exited the dressing rooms and onto the field of play. I headed round to the newest side of the ground behind the dugouts, where there used to be a wall, before ground grading updates and additional academy pitches at the rear ensured Brookburn Rd became a four-sided ground, rather than a three. The Rec is open standing on this touchline and the opposite one, which also serves as a players car-park. Behind the “derelict building end” is a small covered box which serves as a terrace, and behind the far end goal is the clubhouse, accompanied by a small amount of seating in front, and the “Rob Turley Stand”, which offers more covered seating. It’s a tidy ground, that has seen a lot of history in its time…
The club was formed back in 1908 as Christ Church AFC and played in the Manchester Alliance League until 1914. It appears the club disbanded during the war, before re-appearing afterwards and renaming itself West Didsbury AFC in 1920, joining the Lancashire & Cheshire League. Here they remained for a fair period, staying consistently at the higher end of the table, finishing runners-up on four occasions and winning the league’s Rhodes Cup in 1932.
After WWII, the club were still competing in the L&C League, but weren’t quite as successful and were relegated in 1952, but were immediately promoted back the following year. In 1960, they were again relegated from the top division and this time took six years to regain their top flight status. However, they were only shortly back at the L&C’s top table, being relegated again in 1969.
After a second Rhodes Cup success the following year, West were promoted again the season following this success, but two relegations in three years saw West playing in the L&C’s Division 3, where they remained until the late ’80’s, despite a Whitehead Cup success in 1977. West then won both Division Three and Two as champions in 1988 & 1989 respectively. In 2003, the club changed its name to its current title, to reflect its 1997 move to its current Brookburn Road site from Christie Fields. In 2006, they entered the Manchester League Division 1, eventually winning promotion, as champions, in 2011 after winning two Murray Shields prior to this. In the 2011-’12 season, the club competed in the FA Vase for the first time, reaching Round 2 and had their application to join the North West Counties accepted for 2012-’13.
They have since been very successful, immediately winning a promotion/cup double, as Formby were relegated allowing 3rd placed West a place in the Premier Division, which they celebrated with an underdog win against Abbey Hey in the Division 1 Cup, a game I attended. Last season, West finished up in a fairly underwhelming 16th place in the NWCFL Premier Division, as manager Andy Nelson bowed out into retirement to be replaced by his assistant, Steve Settle for this season.
The game got underway and it was a competitive start, with both sides creating chances, but it was the North Eastern “Highwaymen” (who are incidentally sponsored by a taxi firm, awkward) who took the lead, James Novak’s left wing cross drifting over West’s custodian Hayden Buckley-Smith and into the net, via the far post. A fortunate goal, but they soon showed they weren’t here to mess about, as they quickly added three further goals to their tally before the break.
10 minutes or so later, Jordan Fry finished off a scramble in the box to double Town’s advantage, and after 25 minutes, you felt they’d sown the game up. Myself and Dan Watkinson had just started off on a lap of the ground as Chris Smailes thundered a header off the bar and the ball bounced down and over the line.
Despite West trying their very best to get back into the game, they, somewhat unfairly, found themselves four-nil down with Michael Chilton poking in. 4-0 at the break it was then, though West were nowhere near four goals worse than their visitors. Take nothing away from Morpeth, however, who’d taken their chances when they came.
I dodged a further drink at the break, due to me trying to nurse the alcohol levels during the game, as the match appeared to be in that nice period where it’s slightly hazy and everything seems great, apart from my Dad shouting abuse at the ref for no apparent reason. Back to the game, and at 4-0, there was no chance of a comeback, right? No chance at all! Well, wait for this.
After an hour, the game still stood at 4-0 and if you were in the Premier League you’d have had people leaving at the point where Matty Kay netted for 1-4. Then, it was 2-4 as Ash Woods slotted in, before Kay made it 3-4 as he advanced into the area before slotting home from an extreme angle. Suddenly, the excitement was radiating from the home support, just as the nerves were from those clad in amber and black winter attire.
It looked as though West had used up their energy as the game entered stoppage time, and it looked as though Morpeth would be progressing, despite a scare. But then, probably my favourite Coventry Sphinx-dual registered NWCFL player Nic Evangelinos turned on his skill, released the enigmatic Rick Gleave, who went on a run that Atlas would have struggled to stop, before slotting under the advancing Niall Harrison, and sparking raucous scenes of celebration from those of a West persuasion both on and off the pitch. Extra-Time it was the….oh, hang on a minute..
GOAL! 5-4! But to who? Well, if you’d missed the “result” at the beginning of this blog you’ll be in a minority in suspense right now…It was Morpeth! Kick-off was taken, up the other end went Morpeth and Chilton was the hero of the hour as he rose like the proverbial salmon, to head past the helpless Buckley-Smith and into the corner, to send Morpeth through and break West hearts. In one instance came the proof that football is both brilliant, but dismaying too depending on which side of the fight you are on.
What a game, and the whistle finally went to end what must have been the tie of the round, and full credit to both sides, but especially to West who gave a great account of, not only themselves, but also the NWCFL against the supposed stronger Northern League side. However, I must also give a mention here to all those connected with Morpeth who I came across. If you do come across a more friendly club than these bunch, you’ll do well. Tremendous and I only hope it was easier to reach their ground than it is!
After a quick stop off in the clubhouse, it was off back to Chorlton Green and the Bowling Green Pub, where a large contingent of Morpeth players, supporters and staff were congregated. I again met up with Morpeth’s sub Lee McAndrew, whom I’d pent a brief period speaking to during his warm up and after again disturbing him, this time from buying pints wished him and his side all the best in the next round and going forward, before moving onto the Horse & Jockey for the last stop, where we were called ugly and generally bullied by a group of 7-8 year olds, especially poor Dan, before leaving back in a taxi, before I realised I’d left my bag there and began to go into something of a panic, before having to phone up and explain my predicament and hope it was still tucked under the table. It was….and relax.
So, a great day at a great club, meeting people from another great club, and an absolutely brilliant game that is probably a one in every 500 occurrence. Cheers to all, especially my parents for allowing me to do it for next to nothing!! Thanks again, but it’s back to the big time next weekend, as I continue my FA Competitions with a visit to Coventry City’s Ricoh Arena in the FA Cup. If it’s anything like this game, I’ll be suitably satisfied!
Game: 10- Had everything. Need I say more?
Ground: 6- Rather basic, but it’s a nice setting.
Fans: 7- A pretty decent bunch down at West.
Programme: 8- A really good production, considering the level.
Food: 9- The pork pie was immense!
Value For Money: 10- I wonder why?!