Result: Warrington Town 6-1 Prescot Cables (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)
Venue: Cantilever Park (Saturday 19th April 2016, 3pm)
I’d been to Cantilever Park on numerous occasions back in my days of watching Trafford, but never had a game at this ground had so much riding on it. That’s because, today, Warrington Town had the big chance to secure their place in the Evo-Stik Premier Division for next season after dominating the North section. Could they do it? Well, if you’ve somehow missed the “result” line above or missed the result via the numerous media outlets, let me keep you in suspense.
As for myself, I set off into Warrington at just before 11.30, arriving just 20 minutes later. From there, it was into the town centre and firstly to the Hop Pole pub, which is the first one you come to after leaving Central station. The Hop Pole would serve as a base for me to figure out where to head before making the walk to the ground and in the company of a Corona and the off-putting sight of George Michael looking to be singing to “Hotel California” (a radio/TV channel mix), I laid my plans for the foray around the town.
Plans set, I headed out of the Pole, and slightly out of the centre to one of the two Wetherspoons that Warrington plays host to. The Looking Glass was apparently the better of the two so I’d heard, so I decided to follow the tips and head for that. A good decision, as the Looking Glass is certainly an interesting building, set out over two floors and with a distinct architecture to it.
But alas, as I sat down with an IPA, it wasn’t long until one of those people with a most annoying, high volume laugh began to unleash it upon the other unsuspecting punters in the pub. It was so annoying, in fact, that I just couldn’t stay in there as it was ongoing and I don’t think I was alone, as quite a few people took their leave at the same time as me. Coincidence? Possibly, but it was a bit inconsiderate to be so loud.
Luckily, the next pub on my list was right next door and is a slightly famed one. The Lower Angel’s claim to fame is a picture that hangs on the wall in the bar area of the 130-year-old pub. Yes, as the “Famous Grouse” plaque states, the picture shows a Victorian-time man and boy with a “ghostly face” looking at them through a window. Spooky. But, not to be put off, I remained in there and ordered one of the guest ales the pub had an offer today, an Elizabeth Rose from the Ossett Brewery. Pretty decent too.
Unfortunately, my stay here had to be a short one, as I had to keep making progress towards the far side of the town centre and thus towards the ground. So, the next stop was The Feathers, a craft ale pub that has apparently been reopened as such quite recently. But it’s certainly not cheap, with my pint of San Miguel costing me no less than £4.20!! So, having been sufficiently put off having another one by pure inflation, I nursed the pint whilst watching the first half of Norwich-Sunderland.
Eventually, though, it was time to leave and head down the long main road alongside the River Mersey to Cantilever Park. After 20 minutes I was arriving at the big Union Flag house that signifies your turning point. Not a bad marker as you can’t miss it! A further five minutes or so from here and the home of the Wire comes into view in earnest. Upon arrival and getting the usual strange looks while taking pictures, I had to then find the steward who had my ticket to gain entry.
After sorting this out, the gate steward headed off to speak to Town’s chairman Toby Macormac whom I’d sorted the arrangement with. Eventually, the steward came back and said “in you come!” Can’t beat a name on the gate happening! Cheers!! I also have to say that everyone was very helpful, so again thanks!
Cantilever Park is a nice little ground, featuring three stands and is overlooked by the bridge which lends its name to the ground. The “main” all seater stand is situated on the far touchline and sits on half-way. A covered terrace sits behind the far goal and another sits alongside the clubhouse, snack bar and other facilities on the near touchline and is located towards the far end too. The social club roof also provides a small amount of cover. The near end is open and is home to a 3G pitch. The changing room/hospitality building sits towards the near corner, between the turnstiles and social club.
With an hour still to go to kick-off (I arrived early so not to get in the way of the stewards etc), I headed into the function room area within Warrington’s social club. I wasn’t having another drink just yet, though, and instead had a look through the impressive, glossy programme which is certainly a fine effort. Eventually, though, time was ticking by and I headed back out to now find the ground pretty full. As such, I decided this was the time to find some food and so the snack bar was sought, as was a £2 steak pie, which was well worth it.
Soon enough, the players were finishing their warm-ups and heading inside the changing room building for their final pep-talks. But, before kick-off, there came the biggest moment seen so far…A BOAT!! Yes, a boat just appeared behind the main stand on the far side and trundled its merry way along the river. As you can tell from this, I’m very easily pleased/impressed! Enough of the boat now, and as the players make their way back onto the field for kick-off, along with the Warrington Legend, who, earlier, I did see unmasked (controversy!), here’s a spot of history about the Wires…
Warrington Town FC was founded 1949 as Stockton Heath Albion and played in the Warrington & District League until 1953 whereupon they moved into the Mid-Cheshire League. 1953, ’54 & ’55 saw the club win three straight Mid-Cheshire League Cups and 1960 saw Albion win the Mid-Cheshire League title. The club also featured a player by the name of Roger Hunt during this period, but I doubt anyone’s heard of him….
1961 saw the club adopt the Warrington Town FC name and they became founder members of the Cheshire County League Division 2 in 1978, before becoming founders of the North West Counties League Division 3 upon the CCL’s merging into it in 5 years later. After earning promotion as runners-up in the first season, they remained in Division 2 until 1987 when another runners-up placing saw Town promoted to Division 1. The Wire also reached the semi-finals of the FA Vase in 1986 and the final of the competition in 1987, losing to St.Helen’s Town.
1990 saw Town promoted as champions to the Northern Premier League Division 1 and reached the 1993 FA Trophy quarter final. The club also sold Liam Watson to Preston North End for a NPL record £60,000, but were relegated in 1997 back to the NWCFL Division 1 and were again relegated the next season to find themselves back in the NWCFL Division 2.
2000 saw Town win the Second Division Trophy and 2001 saw the club back in Division 1 after winning the Second Division. As part of restructuring, a 5th place finish in Division 1 in 2004 was enough tho ensure Wire a place in the NPL Division 1 after the creation of the regional Conference Divisions and upon the NPL Division 1’s own regionalised split in 2007, Warrington were placed in the Southern section. This only lasted a season, though, as they were quickly switched to the North Division.
Here they have remained as a largely mid-table side, but in 2014 Town did finish third and compete in the play-offs, but lost out to Bamber Bridge. 2015 saw Warrington feature in the FA Cup 1st Round and their famous win on TV over Exeter City thanks to Craig Robinson’s early goal. Later that season, Wire lifted their first silverware for 14 years by beating Farsley on penalties to lift the NPL Challenge Cup and this season has, of course, seen the club’s push continue and despite the mid-season departure of Shaun Reid, Warrington have gone on to march towards promotion regardless.
After the usual pleasantries and both teams’ pre-match huddles were completed, we got underway and it soon became apparent that there were little to no nerves within the Yellows’ camp and if any did exist, they were soon tempered as league top-scorer Ciaran Kilheeney slotted in from close range, to send the vocal Warrington support behind me into raptures. They were soon off once more as Scott Metcalfe rifled in from the edge of the area with his right foot, which Scott himself later said “Don’t get many like that with my right”. Not exactly a quote, but along those lines!
Anyway, there wasn’t much to cheer for the travelling Cables support but at least at 2-0 they were still in the game. Well, they were for another 17 minutes, before Ged Kinsella lashed home from point blank range right in front of me, which prompted a younger Wire fan to say he “thought it was coming straight through the net” and hit him in the face. But that was Kinsella’s last action, as he was immediately replaced. This certainly didn’t affect the home side though as they went into the break at 4-0 up. Chris Gahgan, a long-term favourite of mine in the non-league circles, knocked the ball in from close range to all but secure Warrington’s promotion.
So half-time came and went though I did come across Scott’s dad Ray (I know both from Scott’s Trafford days). Ray was still being ultra cautious and saying if Cables get two back they could wobble, though there didn’t look too much threat in that category, though when Cables pulled one back through Rob Doran’s wonderful free-kick, the thought did cross my mind!
But Warrington were having none of it and set about on the offense once more and they soon restored their four goal advantage through Daniel O’Donnell (no, not the 50-something Irish crooner). O’Donnell had received the ball from a cross after a short corner to thump past the helpless Burgess in the Cables goal for 5-1 and only a couple of minutes later came the Yellow’s sixth, Kilheeney converting a rebound, prompting the shout “We’ll be running round Latchford with the cup!” from a Wire fan. (Latchford being the area in which the ground is situated).
After a brief meeting with Rob who was on his photography missions, the game wound down to its conclusion and the final whistle sounded to ensure that Warrington were going up and cued the celebrations, with the players being joined by their kids before the champagne was sprayed of course(!), all to the soundtrack of the usual “We are the Champions” and the lesser used “Movin’ On Up”. But that wasn’t before a pitch invasion and impromptu kid’s football game was curtailed by the PA blaring “Please stay off the pitch until after the presentation!”.
So, on the conclusion of the trophy being lifted and the bubbles being sprayed, I headed into the clubhouse once more, but this time into the smaller of the two rooms that wasn’t open beforehand. Another San Miguel was had for the much cheaper price of £2.60, before I eventually realised that most of the goings on were in the other room and I made my way over to say a well done to Scott and to Ally Brown too, another ex-Trafford man.
Soon after, though, it was time to exit the ground and head back towards the town and Warrington Central station. With the bright sunlight continuing unabated, I wondered when the last time was I’d worn sunglasses for the entirety of a game and most of the day in general, you know, ’cause I’m so interesting like that. Before long, my very interesting self pondering was ended upon my arrival back at the station where the guards who’d checked my ticket on arrival, didn’t care at all on the way back. Must have been too upset at missing the game.
So, here ends our tale. It will be good to see Warrington up in the Prem of the NPL next season and I hope they do well as I always remember that time a few years back when I lost my college pass along with some money and it was all handed in together. Things don’t go forgotten and as such I really wish Warrington all the best in the higher division as Champions….
Game: 7- One sided, but still entertaining with goals raining in.
Ground: 8- Always liked Cantilever and it’s nooks and crannies.
Food: 7- A pretty nice pie, nothing to go overboard on, but definitely OK for £2.
Programme: 9- Has to be one of the better at the level and all presented well too.
Fans: 9- One I can rate finally! Good vocal support and all round decent fan base I always find.
Value For Money: 9- Come on, how can it not be this high?! Bar the overpriced beer in town…