Result: Uppermill 3-2 Heywood St. James (Manchester League Division 1)
Venue: Churchill Playing Fields #2 (Saturday 13th August 2016, 2pm)
Att: 20 (approx.)
After the heights of the FA Cup last weekend, for this very weekend , I was to return to the exterior of the pyramid and back into the Manchester League with a trip into the hills. Greenfield was to be my destination, but the club I was to visit did not share its based town’s name. Indeed, I was off to watch Uppermill FC play Heywood St. James in the First Division of the League, with both teams seeking their first triumph of the new season.
But first, as is the norm on most trips, the first leg of the journey consisted of the transit through Manchester, with the next change over being at Stalybridge. Upon arrival, it was discovered I’d have around 50 minutes until the train onwards to Greenfield. So, very unfortunately, I was forced into another visit to the Buffet Bar on the station. A pint of Punk IPA was a fine accompaniment, despite the £4.50 price tag and enforced plastic “glass”.
It was handy that the train left from the platform directly outside the bar, so there was no rushing whatsoever. Eventually, though, the clock ticked round to ten-past one and it was time to move on to Greenfield, which sits next along the line from Mossley. On arrival in the town, I bypassed The Railway, which the group behind me headed for and headed onwards to the Marstons-chain pub, The Kingfisher.
Greenfield seems a pleasant little town, with hills towering above it in all directions. But, with only 40 minutes until the scheduled kick-off time, there was little time to explore and so the Kingfisher would be my pre-match stop-off point, which proved a good decision, as my pint of San Miguel was soon joined by a free third of a pint which, I assume, was the remainder of the barrel. Either way, cheers!
With 15 minutes to kick-off, I made my way towards the Churchill Fields, passing by the site of an old, now non-existent, mill (any guesses what it is now?) arriving just as the home team were making the way out onto the field. As the game was about to begin, the attendance stood at a staggering two. This thankfully raised up, through double figures and into a more normal figure, discounting those who passed by the ground only watching a couple of minutes and the kids practising bike riding. They don’t count, and I’m sure sleep will be lost over this.
The Churchill Playing Fields is, pretty much, just what the name suggests. The barred-off pitch sits nearest the access road and dressing rooms, with the ground lying next to a, rather large, hill and below the railway line (just visible for those who like that sort of thing). It is quite picturesque with the other side being bordered by banks of trees. Other than the two dugouts, there isn’t much else to describe here. Before we get to the game, here’s a little bit about the history of Uppermill FC…
Uppermill FC was founded in 1923, with their first “major” honour I can find coming in the shape of the Ashton District League’s Birkby Cup in 1951-’52. This was soon joined by the League title in 1956, before a switch into the Huddersfield & District League was undertaken and the Division 4 title arrived in 1963, followed by the Division 3 the next year. They then appear to have yo-yo’d between the divisions, winning the Division 3 on a further two occasions prior to the 1990’s (1978 & ’86) & were also Division 2 runners-up in 1980.
The 2000’s & 2010’s have been fairly kind to Uppermill, with the club winning a number of honours over the past decade-and-a-half. 2003 saw Division 3 won for a third time, with the Division 2 being won for the first, and so far only, time in 2005. The momentum continued, with Uppermill becoming Division 1 runners-up in 2008, before finally lifting the title in 2013, with this being a precursor to a switch into the Manchester League.
The club’s first season in the Manchester League saw Uppermill playing in the Division 1, where they finished up in a respectable 9th position. The following year saw them achieve promotion as Division 1 runners-up, but their one season stay in the Premier Division, last season, saw the club have a major struggle, finishing bottom with just eight points and one win to their name.
Soon after my arrival, the referee got us underway, with the away side attacking the “Children’s Centre” End. During the early stages, Heywood had all the play and it seemed as though they would be dominating this game, with the home ‘keeper’s question of “Who’s the new guy in midfield?” being answered with “If you don’t know, just shout new guy!” probably showing their slight disjointedness. This view seemed to be cemented somewhat when Heywood’s #10 curled a lovely effort into the top corner with Uppermill’s Hari Woski-Cawthorne rooted to the spot. 0-1.
This seemed to awake the home team from their slumber and they began to create chances and put pressure on their visitors. Eventually, this paid off with Nick Warhurst knocking in the rebound, following a save from the initial shot. Uppermill were level and appeared to be in the ascendancy. But, on the stroke of half-time, a collision between HSJ’s #10 and Woski Cawthorne in the area led to a free-kick for Uppermill and, unfortunately for the former, a suspected broken ankle. The referee shrewdly called for half-time and the sides headed in all-square with an ambulance on its way for the stricken player.
During the break, I got talking to Yorkshire-based ‘hopper Malcolm, who was a veteran of all sorts of levels of football and had tasked himself with getting through the remaining grounds of leagues around this level ASAP and I was able to give him a few new ones to add to his list, following the usual pre-season ground switches. Malcolm was also pleased with his cheap entry ticket towards the end of last season at Chesterfield and recommended there to me, so guess where’s on the hit-list now?
Following the injured player’s removal from the pitch to a place in the line of fire of his own goal, we were back underway and even the ambulance got caught in the questionable placing trap, as it pulled up directly behind the onion bag, but luckily wasn’t hit until its departure. Back on the pitch, the action continued with Uppermill going ahead through apparent “new guy” Danny Mills’ finish, following a ball through the middle.
With the home team winning 2-1, this seemed to spur on Heywood and they began to come onto the front foot in the match once more. They drew back level as a corner from the right flank was hit towards goal, with the #14 making absolutely sure, poking the ball into the roof of the net. 2-2 with fifteen to play.
For the remainder of the game, I re-joined Malcolm and shared the view that a draw was the probable fair result and that seemed to be the way the game was meandering as it approached its 90th minute. But, a late spell of pressure saw Uppermill hit the crossbar, before winning a succession of corners. The latter of these saw a ball in from the left flicked on by skipper Nathan Boote and his header proved the vital touch as it went straight through the gaggle of players in the area and into the far corner of the net. 3-2, full-time.
Following the game, I bid goodbye to Malcolm and headed off along the canal passageway, this time, opting for this more scenic route than that of the house-lined roadway. After heading back past the Kingfisher and its adjoining narrow boat-mooring I arrived back at the stairs leading back up to street level and headed uphill to the aforementioned Railway Inn for a final drink before jumping on the train back to Staly-vegas. The pint of Millstone’s Tiger Rut was a beaut and I implore you to try it. If you don’t like it, then I never said that last sentence, ok?
After a cosplay gaggle of golfers/polo players entered the Railway, I took that as my cue to leave, though I’m sure it wasn’t a hallucination. After having to show my ticket to both guards on the platform (one didn’t care, the other OTT), the train back eventually arrived a little late, but this only made the connection slightly shorter back at ‘bridge. Thus meaning that the whole journey back was trouble-free and quick, for once, so let’s hope this is something that continues through the season and isn’t a false dawn.
Closing Thoughts- All in all, for some reason I can’t really figure out, Uppermill/Greenfield was one of my favourite days out that I’ve been on for a while. Whether it was the laid-back feel of the whole day and the easiness of the trip, I’m not sure, but it just seemed to be one that registered well with me, other than the unfortunate injury of course. I echo my sentiments to the guy at the time and wish him all the best in having a quick, full recovery.
Game: 7- A good game, plenty of chances and a late winner to add to it.
Ground: 4- Very simplistic, as expected, though the hills around add a nice background to it.
Value For Money: 7- A few quid travel, free game so most expenditure goes on those ever present “extras”…