Result: Winsford United 2-2 Barnton (North West Counties League Premier Division)
Venue: Barton Stadium (Monday 29th August 2016, 3pm)
Bank Holidays are, of course, a hot bed of football. Therefore, it was quite surprising that the fixture list was pretty vacant around the North West Non-League scene. However, one game that stood out from the “crowd” of the North West Counties fixtures, namely the Cheshire derby between Winsford United and Barnton. It would be a fourth visit to the Barton Stadium for myself, having been twice while watching Trafford in addition to an 1874 Northwich game a couple of years ago.
After a train journey through Liverpool South Parkway, I arrived into Winsford around an hour earlier than expected, due to the surprising efficiency of the train services! After almost knocking a cyclist off a bike while avoiding glass on a footpath (who’s at fault in that circumstance?), I arrived outside the, still deserted, Barton Stadium while heading to the main road. Unfortunately, the neighbouring pub was shut, so I set off down the fairly steep hill to the canal-side Red Lion.
After eventually settling on a pretty pricey pint of Rothaus at around £4.80, I headed out onto the outside seating area to bask in the, rarely sighted, Bank Holiday sunshine. It was here that my plans changed and I decided I couldn’t really be bothered moving on to any more pubs and thus decided to remain where I was for the better part of my two hours pre-match. There wasn’t really much to speak of in here, other than it is a pretty pleasant place, so let’s move the clock onwards toward 3pm shall we?
After heading back up the incline, I arrived back at the Barton Stadium turnstiles, which had a few people still heading through. One of these was a Barnton committee man, who turned down the chance to pay for me when given the chance by the operator. Boo. So, I was left to fend for myself and £6 (plus £2 programme) later and I was into the Barton for the fourth time.
The Barton Stadium is one of those grounds that I like due to its sort of traditional/different clash. The stands are of the old-style appearance, with the Main Stand being all-seater and being perched around the half-way mark. It also houses the bar, shop (railings) and café. The opposite covered terrace area runs the majority of the length of the pitch, though will challenge tall(er) people with its small roof, though warnings are given! Both ends of the ground are set back a distance, due to the ground being a former greyhound racing venue, though the track & its floodlights are now gone.
Does the history of the club feature a lot of…Wins? Get it? Wins as in Winsford? Oh, I’m wasted… Anyway, here’s the history of Winsford United:
Winsford United FC was formed in 1883, first playing as Over Wanderers and competing in the Welsh Combination Football League. After a few years, the club changed its name to the current title and moved to its current location, then the Great Western Playing Fields. Their early honours came in the form of 2x Cheshire Amateur Cups (1901 & ’03).
After producing a few players to Football League clubs, Winsford United folded, but reformed fairly swiftly in 1913, though the reformation was short lived due to the outbreak of WWI. After the war’s end the club, under Mr R.G. Barton (from whom the current stadium’s name is derived), became a founder of the Cheshire League, winning the 1920-’21 title.
After a period of little success leading up to WWII, the period afterwards saw Winsford pick up regular silverware, with crowds in Non-League regularly numbering in the thousands. Televised football is bad. The regular silverware was picked up in the form of the Cheshire League Cup, which was won on four occasions up to the 1960’s (’50, ’56, ’60), the 1958 -’59 Cheshire Senior Cup (vs Ellesmere Port Town in front of 12,000 at Gresty Road) & Winsford became the 1960-’61 Inter-League Champions.
The 1970’s-early ’80’s saw further success on the pitch, with a second Cheshire League title arriving in 1977. In addition, a further four Cheshire League Cups were won (’77, ’79, ’80 & ’81 ), along with a second Cheshire Senior Cup (1980). 1982 saw Winsford become founder members of the North West Counties League before, in 1987, they joined the Northern Premier League’s new Division One, following a 7th place finish.
Success in the later 1980’s eluded the club, though, but the 1990’s proved a happier hunting ground, with more trophies featuring in the cabinet, namely three Mid-Cheshire Senior Cups (’92, ’93, ’95), a third Cheshire Senior Cup in ’93 too. 1993 proved particularly successful, with the two aforementioned Cheshire Cups being joined by the NPL Challenge Cup and President’s Cup. Their 2nd place also meant promotion to the NPL Premier was attained.
Their first season was successful, with Winsford finishing as runners-up but, from then on, it was more of a struggle and they were eventually relegated after finishing bottom in 2000. Their drop continued as they were immediately relegated from Division One and after just two years back in the NWCFL Division One, they found themselves back in Division 2 for Season ’03-’04. The decline was arrested here and Winsford went on to win back promotion, as Champions, in 2007.
Despite fluctuating league form over the last few seasons, the club have continued to have recent success in the Mid-Cheshire Senior Cup, winning it in 2008, 2013 & 2014 along with the 2011 NWCFL Challenge Cup. Last season, the Blues recorded a 14th placed finish.
The game got underway after a minutes silence for a long-term Winsford fan, though a couple of guys decided their conversations were more important. I’m pretty sure they were of the Blues persuasion too which was strange and also a bit of a shame and I wasn’t the only one of this thought, as a few shushes were given out.
Anyway, the game itself but was something of a slow burner through its early stages, with both sides testing each others flanks, finding some joy but not coming too close to the target. The first real chance of the game fell to Barnton and their, only recently, former Winsford player Jon Jones, but he was denied by a good save from the advancing Michael Langley.
Jones again spurned a great chance soon after as the visitors put the pressure on the hosts, but the Blues grew into the game as the half wore on and came agonisingly close to opening the scoring when Winsford skipper James Rothwell collected a poor clearance by Barnton ‘keeper Matt Conkie, but his chip from range smashed against the crossbar, much to the disapproval of his own #1!
Eventually a goal did arrive, with the opener coming around five minutes before the break. I had just exited the café with my portion of chips (£1.50 and decent too) to see Barnton forming up to attack a free-kick. I thought to myself “It would be a good end to the half if this ends in a goal”. Needless to say, my Nostradamus-esque thoughts came true and the free-kick ended up within Chris Smith’s vicinity and he knocked the ball over the line to give his side the lead at the interval. 0-1.
Following a quick visit into the clubhouse for no other reason than wanting to go back in there during a Winsford game for the first time in around four years, the game was soon back underway and with the sun now blazing down with a fair amount of heat, I decided to sit in the stand and enjoy what will soon be gone, replaced with snow and minus temperatures. Don’t you just love it?
Home custodian Langley was again the busier of the two ‘keepers during the early stages of a half, denying two good chances as Barnton sought to secure their lead. He was, eventually, beaten for a second time, as Lee Vaughan found himself clear of the defence and he slotted beyond Langley and into the bottom corner. At this point and 2-0 down, it looked like curtains for Winsford.
But, just as it seemed all over, Winsford began to get a focus on the game again, with the half mirroring what had gone before somewhat. This time, though, the Blues would find the net with Steve Jenyons nodding on a free-kick from the left-wing. 1-2 and game on once more!
They did need a little luck to remain in the contest though, as a Barnton forward rattled the crossbar when he probably ought to have netted and a fine goal-line clearance denied a certain goal, but they took full advantage of the misses by going right down the other end and a trip on the marauding runner gave the referee no option but to point to the spot. Kyle Riley stepped up and confidently drove the ball into the bottom corner, sending Conkie the wrong way in the process.
From then on in, it was all Winsford with Barnton, who looked on to take all three points just 20 minutes earlier, now struggling to hold on for one. But, despite chances coming their way, all were spurned and the game ended in a share of the spoils. Having a train leaving at five past five, I was indebted to the referee for keeping good time throughout the contest and giving me just enough time to rock up back at Winsford station and head back to Liverpool(ish) and the train onwards home.
Once again, this journey went pretty faultlessly, though having to stand in a sweatbox wasn’t the most welcoming of happenings. Luckily, this only lasted for one stop as it turned out and it was business as usual on Northern, as the delay racked up nine minutes by the time I got off back at Urmston. Ah Northern, it had to happen didn’t it? Anyway, I was able to join my parents for a trip-ending drink in the Bevano Lounge (which is something of a second home on a fine day…or not it doesn’t really matter) and that was that. So….
Closing Thoughts are that Winsford as a town seems a nice place, despite the fact I only saw a little part of it. The weather was finally good for a Bank Holiday Monday and the game was more than decent to go with it and the result was probably about right on balance. It was also good to see the ex-Eagle contingent at Barnton once more. Now, it’s onwards to the FA Cup, once more, this Saturday….
Value For Money: 6