Result: Stockport County 1-2 Harrogate Town (Vanarama National North)
Venue: Edgeley Park (Saturday 26th December 2015, 3pm)
As rain once again ravaged vast areas of the North of England, it was obvious that the football fixture list would take a further hammering over the festive period, starting with the Boxing Day games. Of course, it goes without saying that it pales in significance to the issues that others are facing due to the wet weather and I’d like to pass on my well wishes to all those affected by the storms and the flooding aftermaths around the regions.
As for myself if there was football to be found, I was determined to find it. However, it looked like it was going to be a fruitless endeavour as game after game fell by the wayside and with public transport restrictions limiting me to the Manchester area, I was soon panicking until one club and one club alone came to the rescue of myself and, I’m sure, many others. That club was Stockport County and I felt it rude not to head over to Edgeley Park for the Boxing Day derby clash with…Harrogate Town. Oh.
So, with demons to exorcise at Edgeley following its place in the double 0-0 tragedy 18 months earlier (where I watched two 0-0’s in a day) I headed over to Stockport via the bus straight into the town centre, which I’m saving for when I go to Stockport Town as Woodley is a bit shit. Heading over on the bus did mean I had to endure some wannabe Vanilla Ices at the back of the top deck for a short while, which is always something that makes me cringe badly. Just no.
The highlights of Stockport include the large railway viaduct that dominates the area around the town centre, and towers above the Stockport pyramid. The pyramid houses the tomb of the pharaoh Ulysses II, who ruled Egypt around 90 BC. His body was brought over as part of a Manchester University display in the early 1900’s and was interred under the pyramid afterwards. Interested? Well you shouldn’t be, because that was all made up.
Upon hopping off the bus at the station by the side of the Hat Museum, I knew that Edgeley had a few pubs of its own in the high street so, after passing by the Stockport Plaza (where I’d been to the panto in the line of duty the previous week) numerous times in trying to negotiate my way out of the, not so confusing to anyone but me, centre I eventually undertook the short 10 minute walk towards the ground, negotiating the hill and ending up at the Armoury, which when I visited last year was busy with visiting Alty fans, but today was a home stronghold.
The Armoury was a friendly place, but with little happening in here I soon departed to Edgeley’s main shopping street and was a bit put off by most of the pubs appearances. Eventually, thanks to the football ground map site’s recommendation of the Royal Oak, it was here that I visited to watch the second half of Manchester United’s game at Stoke. It was a pretty good choice and I can safely say it is likely the better of the remaining four or so bars in the area. Not long before I headed back out and over to Edgeley Park itself, the County drum made an appearance and, needless to say, I expected it would be the first of many times I’d see (or hear) from this through the next couple of hours or so. I’d noticed I hadn’t seen many away fans as of yet and was hoping they’d stayed in Stockport itself and not got held up by the sinkhole in the motorway.
Before the final whistle was blown in the aberration on the TV, I exited the Royal Oak and headed over the road to County’s home. After a couple of pictures of the exterior of the Main Stand, I headed over to the turnstile providing access to the Cheadle End, as I fancied getting a different viewpoint of Edgeley Park rather than the usual Main Stand position I’d taken on my previous visits. As such, I was soon lighter by the tune of £15 and was soon handing over a further £3, but not before I’d asked the guy on the gate where the programmes where being sold, only for him to point over to a booth joined by a large “Programmes sold here” sign. “Somewhere over there usually mate.” The nice thing was, it wasn’t even said in jest!
Anyway, another Manchopper faux pas out of the way and I was into the ground in earnest. You also get a ticket upon entry, for those who like that sort of thing. Edgeley Park is one of those grounds that I forget how much I like until I’m physically back there. It has the Main ” “Danny Bergara” Stand, which is an old-fashioned all seated stand, the Popular Stand on the opposite side which is a smaller all seater stand which runs the length of the pitch. The far end is the open Railway End, a terrace, and then there is the largest stand in the ground, the Cheadle End, which is almost a two-tiered stand. As for Stockport County as a club, well….
Formed in 1883 as Heaton Norris Rovers by members of the Wycliffe Congregational Church, the club played its first recorded game the next year. Nicknamed “The Hatters” the name derives from the town’s famed Victorian industry, with the Hat Museum a staple of the town’s touristic trade. The club initially played in the Lancashire League until 1900 when they were admitted into the 2nd Division of the Football League and moved to their current home in 1902 from their former Green Lane ground.
After a highly unsuccessful first stint in the League, they undertook a two-year hiatus in which they competed in the Lancashire Combination, which they won, and the Midland League from where they re-joined the Football League. After finishing up bottom in 1921, County were placed in the newly formed Third Division North. They won this to lift their first Football League title. Apparently, as in this case, each time Stockport have won a Football League Division they play Lincoln City in the final game of the season. Spooky.
After relegation back to the 3rd Division North in 1926, the club remained here until 1937 when they lifted the 3rd North title again, but not before enduring the loss of their old Main Stand and all the historical information during a 1935 fire. Unfortunately for the club, they were relegated again the following season. During the years of WWII, Stockport played in the wartime league known as the Northern Regional League where positions were based on goal average, due to teams playing differing totals of matches. County finished 35th in the first season!
The 1950’s saw the regional Third Divisions combined to National Third & Fourth Divisions. On account of their 3rd placed finish the prior season, County were placed in Division 3 for 1958-’59, but as before were relegated again. After finishing bottom of the Football League in 1965, County survived re-election, the then chairman introduced the club’s current colours, replacing their black and white strip. It seemed to work, as County were promoted to seasons later by winning the 4th Division, though this was tempered by their resulting,almost inevitable, relegation in 1970.
After a spell of mediocrity, Danny Bergara, the man who the club’s Main Stand is named in honour of, was appointed manager in 1989. Uruguayan Bergara gained promotion with County in 1991 back into Division 3 and reached the FL Trophy final in 1993, but the popular manager was sacked in 1995 following an “altercation” with the chairman at the time. The ’96-’97 season proved a mighty successful one for County, as they finished 2nd in Division 2, gaining promotion, and reached the League Cup Semi-Finals. However, success didn’t last and Stockport were soon back in Division 2.
2003 saw County share Edgeley Park with Sale Sharks RUFC which sparked instability off the pitch and a further relegation in 2006. They had a brief renaissance under Jim Gannon, almost reaching the League 2 play-offs the following year. 2008 did see County promoted through the play-offs, defeating Rochdale at Wembley, but was tempered with the sad news of the passing of former manager Bergara. In his honour, the Main Stand was named after him in 2013 and a Uruguayan flag flies at the Railway End
Then administration set in through 2009 and, as such, things fell away both on and off the field. County returned to League 2 in 2010 before their 106-year stay in the Football League ended the following year. After further management upheaval, County found themselves at Step 2 by 2013 but had regained sole tenancy of Edgeley Park. Last season saw County finish up in 11th place, with Neil Young taking the reigns this season.
For today, I was watching Harrogate for the second time in two weeks, following my visit to Wetherby Road the previous week for their game against Brackley. So, I’d gone from not intending to see Harrogate at all in late December (no, not back in’63) to seeing them on consecutive weekends. I’d brought them luck, I like to think, last weekend, so would this continue again? Well, the players entered the field of play from below the Main Stand and after the usual handshakes we were all set to go.
Continuing from the earlier point above, it certainly seemed as though myself being in attendance was inspiring to those decked out in black and yellow. What do you mean it had nothing to do with me? Ah well, it was a fine start for the Yorkshire side, who opened the scoring in unusual fashion. Jerry Yates broke into the area, but saw his shot blocked out by Andreas Arestidou in the County goal, but he failed to reclaim the ball and Yates, still on the ground, managed to force the ball over the line. 0-1.
Alas for Town, they couldn’t hold onto their lead for long, and it was a debutante who’d grab the equaliser. From a Harrogate corner, the ball was cleared to Delail Brewster on half-way and he outpaced the defence comfortably before expertly sliding the ball beyond Peter Crook in the Town goal. The Everton youngster was off to a good start on his temporary new patch. From this, the game went into a lull with neither side creating too much and County’s fans getting a little annoyed by a number of mislaid and wasteful passes.
They were almost irate when Harrogate came close to retaking the lead, Danny Ellis’ header cannoning back off the crossbar, only for Arestidou to gratefully claim the ball in the resulting scrum. The Hatters faithful then went close to glee as Jonny Margetts was felled in the area for a stonewall penalty. Unfortunately for County and their supporters, Margetts penalty was awful, lacking both power and placement, and was comfortably stopped by Crook who pounced upon the rebound.
Half-time was approaching and I headed over to the crowd control gate, where I’d seen people being granted access through to use the food kiosk on the opposite side, near the Main Stand. When I enquired if I could also go where many had gone before I was greeted with the answer that the food bar on the Cheadle side had ran out of supplies. I don’t know if that was true, but it seems astounding if it is. At least County had fixed the microphone by this point and it did keep working throughout the game after its shaky start!
As for me, I purchased a chicken balti pie for a princely £3.10 and retook my seat half-way up the lower “tier” of the stand. For this half, County were attacking the end I was at and with the more vocal of the support located here, you’d have thought it would make them more dangerous. You’d have thought it, but then the vocal support never really got going in earnest (not that there was much for them to shout about, to be fair), though the drum did get an airing more often during the second period. But, they were to be angered again soon enough.
With around 20 minutes left in the half, Harrogate introduced Jordan Thewlis. Within five minutes of his introduction, Harrogate produced an almost carbon copy of County’s goal. They cleared a corner, quickly cleared the ball toward Thewlis who wanted it more than Chris Smalley and slotted past Arestidou from a tight angle. From where I was, it looked as though the ‘keeper should have done better, but neither Thewlis nor the visiting “Sulphurite” fans in the Popular Stand could care less. County had been torpedoed by the sub (how original). 1-2.
County never really rallied, and their fans were not happy, summed up by one guy walking past me and exclaiming “BOLLOCKS!!!” at the top of his lungs. This, amongst other shouts of discontent is, to the neutral eye and ear, a bit harsh, but then I’m not the one shelling out the cash to watch it week in and out. Back on the pitch and after Crook had kept out Garvin’s late free-kick, the final whistle sounded with a fair few boos ringing out from the home end, but also applause from a large amount of supporters too.
After a quick walk through the darkened streets of Edgeley and back down to Stockport Bus Station, I was soon upon my carriage back home, discovering an extra route that isn’t too bad either. Bonus! As for the day as a whole, I enjoyed my brief stay in Edgeley on the whole, though I’d like to do Stockport in earnest soon. As for the game, there is no doubt that the right result was the one that was attained and good for the group of travelling support who arrived half an hour late, but got that winning goal to make up for it. If only County wasn’t so pricey, I’d definitely return more often as I always find it’s a friendly club. Onwards to FC on Monday…
Game: 5- Average game.
Ground: 8- It’s one that I like. Can’t say exactly why though, but I do!
Fans: 7- I like the passion they have, whichever side of the fence they sit.
Programme: 9- Properly good read, still shows hallmarks of its previous League foray.
Food: 7- Tasty, but pricey for the level. Usually have the Mash for £2!
Value For Money: 7- Pricey entry and food, not a great game either, but the ground makes up for it.