Result: Curzon Ashton 3-2 Hednesford Town (Vanarama National North)
Venue: Tameside Stadium (Saturday 2nd April 2016, 3pm)
After being spurned earlier in the season a trip to Curzon Ashton’s Tameside Stadium home by the weather (a rarity, I know), this first weekend in April gave a second chance for the ground to be given a revisit. Having originally planned to head over to Lincoln for Moorlands Railway’s ground, I though better of the long trip being in neither the frame of mind nor the correct monetary position to do it and decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble. Yet.
So, having been further swayed by the allure of free entry to all via Curzon’s “Community Day” idea, I reckoned that there was no time like the present to return. Despite the weather again threatening to disrupt my best laid plans, it was spurned in its efforts and so I set off during the late morning and with the trains being off through Manchester Victoria, I had to make do with a bus. Which reminded it me just how much I hate them.
But having headed into and back out of Manchester Piccadilly Gardens, I was en route to Tameside, with the rain still falling from the grey skies above. Setting off as early as I had had meant, however, that I was now committed to this game, really, with no viable options to return to in case of a postponement. Luckily, though, the rain began to abate as I arrived outside The Snipe pub, my first stop off for the day.
The Snipe was rather empty, apart from the barmaids and two kids, who seemed to take great delight in sneaking up on me, having a look, before pegging it back to their starting place while getting told off for doing so. Not that it was bothering me in any way, as it actually meant something was going on as the pub itself was dead, so I wasted little time over my pint of Coors and headed back out and around the corner to the Sheldon Arms.
The one thing the Sheldon Arms did to me was to confirm that Ashton was far from a “cheap” place. It wasn’t overpriced, but it certainly wasn’t one of your cut price areas that you can occasionally find outside the city centre. Not to be stopped, though, I was soon in possession of my second pint. After a while of debating the issue with myself, I decided I’d be a bit lazy and miss out the Harvester in the retail park up the road and instead get the bus up to the road which the ground sits on.
So, after doing the above, I made my way down past the cricket club and into the complex which the Tameside Stadium is housed within. I arrived at the gate and informed the guy manning it that I’d arranged previously with Curzon fan and gateman for the day, Aaron Flanagan, that I was ok to come in. “Oh, does Aaron run the club now does he?” came the reply. “Ok, well go and see him and ask him if he runs the club”. Not sure if this was in jest or if the gentlemen was indeed a bit peeved, but either way I did indeed go to Aaron and ask him the above question. It’s only polite, I guess.
Anyway, Aaron informed me there was something of an impromptu pitch inspection that was taking place on the far side, with the liner a bit concerned with the state of the line he was to be running. But soon enough, the ref came over with good news, GAME ON! The liner(s) had indicated they were happy to run the lines and skirt round the boggy patches, as long as no-one two-footed them. Good stuff and in the knowledge we had a game, I headed for the Nash Bar to buy a Kopparberg and watch the end of F1 Practice 3.
Not too long after I was joined in here by Dan who had also been attracted down by the opportunity of a free game at a good level. Unfortunately, the crowd was a disappointment I’d say at just under 330, meaning there was no real gain from the promotion with the weather not aiding the club in there task. Of course, I only speculate, but of course there was some profit to be had if those extras keep coming back. Let’s hope so.
With kick-off fast approaching, it was to the Snack Bar under the stand to purchase some chips for the cheap price of £1.40 before heading out on a lap of the Tameside Stadium during the first period. I was being something less of a neutral for one reason and one reason only on this day and it has nothing to do with the vast, vast majority of those involved with the men from Keys Park. But there is one and it appears the Curzon fans shared my view on this member of the visiting personnel later in the game, as it turned out. But that’s history now….oh…
Curzon Ashton was formed in 1963 as Curzon Amateurs after the merger of local sides Curzon Road and Ashton Amateurs. They joined the Manchester League and after a period of consolidation, went on to become a real force, picking up 3x Manchester Intermediate Cups (1972, ’73, ’74) in the decade before founding the Cheshire League Division 2.
Curzon were immediately promoted as runners-up and the next season the club became the first North West club to reach the semi-finals of the FA Vase but lost out to Stamford. The 1980’s saw 5x Manchester Premier Cups won while Curzon went on the found the North West Counties League. Despite finishing up in a relegation position in 1986-’87 season, the club still founded their third league, the Northern Premier.
After avoiding relegation in their first season on account of league expansion, they were eventually relegated in 1997 and were placed in the North East Counties. No, me neither. After finishing second bottom in their sole season, the club moved back into normal territory and the NWCFL. Promotion from Division 2 was attained in 2000 and the club took a place in Division 1 for the season 2000-’01.
They moved from their National Park home of 20 years to the Tameside Stadium in 2005, which was something of a homecoming as their original playing fields stood around the ground’s current location. 2007 saw a second FA Vase semi defeat, to Truro City, but were promoted to the NPL Division 1 as runners up. 2009 saw Curzon’s famous FA Cup run where they vanquished Exeter City at the Tameside 3-2 and were defeated in the play-off final by Newcastle Blue Star, who then went bump.
Current boss John Flanagan took charge in 2011 and guided Curzon to second in the NPL 1North, only to lose to Witton Albion in the play-offs, but 2014 saw Curzon skip the play-offs and win the Division and with it promotion to the NPL Premier. They then went on to beat Ilkeston in the play-offs after only one season in the Division to shoot on up to the National North, where they sit in a solid mid-table place.
Anyway, the first half was pretty unspectacular. It was a pretty cagey affair with chances at a premium, but Curzon were the more threatening of the two in terms of build up play. Ryan Brooke had the better of the chances for Curzon early on, but his header was straight at Hednesford ‘keeper Dan Crane. Later in the half, the visitors had a goal ruled out for a foul on home custodian Cameron Mason and also saw Danny Glover’s free-kick strike the upright narrowly before the break. That was that for the first half, 0-0.
After an uneventful half-time, Dan and I decided to head over to join the Curzon Ultra’s who were massed on the open terrace in front of the bar and which affords a side view of the pitch and the end they were attacking at close hand. It proved a good choice as the Nash flew out of the box and soon found themselves two-up. First, Jordan Wright pursued a loose ball and fired beyond Crane, before Ryan Brooke netted the second, neatly chipping the ball over the advancing Crane. It looked all over bar the shouting.
But Frank Sinclair’s double substitution seemed to turn the tide and I was especially pleased that the Curzon fans joined in with my cheering send-off as they seemed delighted to see one of their former players be one of those replaced! But, it definitely changed the team for the better and what a goal it was that saw them grab a lifeline.
Mason was pretty much minding his own business in his area, as any ‘keeper would, with the ball a good 35 yards out in the middle of the field and with little danger to his net. That it until Paul Ennis lobbed the ball over him and nestled it in the bottom corner! A quite outstanding goal and probably the best of the season so far for me. This spurred on Hednesford and they levelled a couple of minutes later as Jonathan Royle powered a header into the roof of the net to give the struggling Pitmen all the momentum going into the last 20 minutes or so.
Indeed, with Curzon also looking to go for the win by bringing on forwards Cockerline and Norton, this left them a bit less secure at the back and Hednesford spurned a pair of good chances before Joe Guest rattled in a fine strike across the helpless Crane to give Curzon the points. 3-2, full-time.
A fine game came to an end and after quickly thanking Aaron for sorting my ticket-less entry, Dan and I headed back out down the road for the bus back to Manchester. Though, the first plan was to head into the dank-looking Ring o’ Bells pub near the flats at the stop, but it was shut and so it was straight on the bus instead. Dramatic, hey? As for further drama there was none and hereth ends our tale. A good day at a ground that has grown on me as the years have passed, I’m sure ‘ll be back sooner than 2 years next time…
Game: 8- Good, entertaining game. Shame not more took advantage to see it.
Ground: 7- The strange “giraffe” stand still puzzles me. Why so high?!
Programme: 7- A good read.
Food: 7- See above. But change read to something foody.
Fans: 9- Vocal fans at Curzon was a massive change from my last visit and made for a good atmosphere.
Value For Money: 8- Good, free game and a decent day overall.