Result: Irlam 1-0 Selby Town (FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round)
Venue: Silver Street (Saturday 10th September 2016, 3pm)
The FA Vase quest got underway on this fine Saturday for the vast majority of teams up and down the nation. For me, the venue was to be one of the more local clubs to my HQ, yet one that had eluded these pages up until this point. However, as Irlam were to take on Selby Town, whom I had a good day out watching during the mid-part of last season. So, with decision made early on and with little in terms of planning required, I looked forward to one of the easier trips, if not the easiest, of this season.
With the trip being so local, it meant that I had time to watch the first half of the Manchester Derby at home before heading over to catch the train to Irlam. A short 10 minute ride later and I found my way heading down the lengthy access road from the station to the main road heading through the town. Having already blogged the majority of the centre pubs of Irlam during my Irlam Steel FC blog, I decided, therefore, to embark on the 1.5 mile walk towards Silver Street and stop off at the only pub near the ground, according to my Maps sources, the Tiger Moth.
The Tiger Moth sits just round the corner from Irlam’s ground, around a 5-minute walk away, so is very convenient as a stopping off point. Unsurprisingly its location within a housing estate, means the Tiger Moth is a decent rough and tough boozer. With it being Derby Day, the pub’s punters were split into two rooms, one full of the blue persuasion and the other the red. I picked the correct one, though the set-up was still unbeknownst to me at the time and spent the last 10 minutes of the game along with a £2.50 Bud.
If I’d had spent long enough in there, my stamp card would have meant a free drink eventually. I did decide to bail out before the end, just in case of shenanigans and headed over to Silver Street ahead of the bigger game of the day. Unbelievably, there was little sign of an FA competition being in town, which is always a shame, especially considering the club had attracted 200+ on the previous Friday evening. Of course, the derby would have had a large effect on this, but it’s always a shame when the majority of locals can’t spare a bit longer for their real local team.
Anyway, high and mighty statement out of the way, I arrived at Silver Street with around a half-hour to kick-off. Arriving this early also meant I was able to grab one of the small amount of programmes, situated on the opposite side of the turnstile from the guy collecting the entrance fee. A little thing I always like about Irlam is the fact that, upon handing over your money, you are always thanked for your support. It’s the small things!
I headed straight for the clubhouse and having not eaten yet prior to arrival, I figured this would be a good place to start. Indeed there were pasties & sausage rolls on offer, and I plumped for a sausage roll for £1 and not the 70p which was advertised. This would have been more of a fitting price too, as there really was nothing to it and it was finished off within a minute. I did, however, meet Selby’s twitter-meister Elliot again in here, though the lack of beer on draught wasn’t much to his liking. There was some on offer, though in cans or bottles (I can’t remember which) and this sufficed as we headed out into the sun-bathed ground.
Silver Street is a simple ground, and its construction is a bit on the strange side. This being because the two stands and facilities are all located in one corner of the stadium. The “Main” Stand is a combination of seating and standing, with the small covered terrace situated nearer the clubhouse & changing rooms/tunnel. The seating area runs towards half-way and is flanked by a small amount of open terracing behind the dugouts. Behind the goal is a larger covered standing area, with the far touch-line and behind the far goal being open hard standing. As for Irlam’s story….
Irlam FC was formed in 1969 under the name of Mitchell Shackleton FC, as a works team of engineering firm Mitchell, Shackleton and Company. This club is not connected to the former NPL & Counties side Irlam Town (folded 1995). Mitchells originally competed in the Eccles & District Amateur League in 1970, financed as part of the larger Mitchell Shackleton sports club, but upon the social club’s closure, the football side became a self-financed entity by the time they entered the Manchester League.
The club won Division 3 in 1974 and Division 2 the following year as they swiftly advanced through the ranks of the Manchester Amateur League. Following a league restructure, the club were placed in the interestingly named “Industrial ‘B’ Division”, in which they were runners-up in 1980. 1984 saw the club finish as Industrial Division ‘A’ runners-up, but did win the league’s Gosling Cup. After finishing as runners-up again in 1986, the club moved into the Manchester League for 1989-’90.
After gaining promotion from Division 1 to the Premier Division at the second attempt, the Mitchells remained in the Premier Division until their eventual switch into the North West Counties League in 2008, over a spell of 17 years, only flirting with relegation on three occasions (’94, ’98, ’06), the latter the final year under the club’s then moniker Irlam Mitchell Shackleton, which the side had been known as since 2001. The club was even stripped of the 2003 title due to player issues.
2004 saw the club lift the Manchester Challenge Trophy and after changing their name to their current title in 2006 and an 8th placed finish in 2007-’08, the club made the switch into the pyramid system. A respectable 8th placed finish was attained and from then on, Irlam continued to consolidate their position in the Division 1. Last season saw Irlam achieve promotion as runners-up, coming ever closer to their (sort of) predecessors high point.
The highlight of the game came before the start as the Selby Town players were making their way off the pitch and one player decided this was the time to unleash his fine pre-match speech “Don’t start f*****g slow, Don’t start f*****g…..” before realising there was no word he’d readied, so after an awkward silence came up with “sh*t!” After seeing me finding this highly amusing, he shrugged and admitted something along the lines of “I had to say something, otherwise it was going to be slow again!”
With that out of the way, the players returned to the field ready to do battle. Unfortunately, the battle was more of a skirmish and never really got going throughout the 90 minutes. Selby edged the first half on the whole, getting the best of the early changes, none more so when a ball across the area looked destined to be knocked over the line from a few yards, only for the forward to make no contact with the ball whatsoever and the chance was gone.
It continued to look as though the lower ranked side from Yorkshire would be taking the lead, as they forced the home keeper into a pair of good saves, but Irlam’s first real chance, in the 35th minute, showed what can happen when you have an uber-confident striker, Christian Lawlor pouncing upon a loose ball in the area to knock home from around eight yards, much to the chagrin of the Selby defence, who felt that the final through-ball meant Lawlor was in an offside position. The officials didn’t agree and the goal stood. 1-0.
As I was heading around the ground, I bumped into former West Didsbury & Chorlton boss and all-round footballing legend, Andy Nelson, who was watching the game in an “unofficial” capacity today. This was a good thing for the visitors as if geographical laws fell apart to allow this fixture to be a North West Counties league game, then the cursing between the ranks of the Robins, in particular a couple of players, would have seen them landed in some hot water! As you can probably tell, the fact these things are notable enough to go in the blog shows how little action went on in the game, as the half came to an end with the score remaining 1-0.
The second half was even more uneventful than the first, though this period saw the home side marginally on top, forcing the Robins’ stopper into a couple of decent stops early on. But as was the story of the game, chances were at a premium and little happened for Selby’s webmaster Elliot to keep everyone abreast of on the many media outlets. Selby did have more luck as the game progressed into the latter stages, with Irlam looking to see out the match.
Despite this, they couldn’t fashion any true opportunities and Irlam had a couple of chances to seal the victory in stoppage time, but on both occasions Selby’s impressive ‘keeper Dave Bramley kept them at bay to keep his side in with a slim chance, but it mattered not as Irlam kept their clean sheet intact to ensure their place in the next round, despite the worst excuse for a “fight” on the pitch as one of the home players ran off with the ball, forcing two Selby players to chase him and scrap. Horrible scenes.
Anyway, upon the final whistle, I bid goodbye to Elliot and apologized for my repeated bringing of bad luck on his side (two losses, out of two) and headed off back towards Irlam for the train back. Luckily, the day ended in much easier fashion as Andy pulled up and offered a lift back home, which I gladly accepted. Cheers Andy!
Closing Thoughts: So ends the first step of the Vase venture this season. Next stop sees a return to the Cup trail next week. As for this game, as I said earlier, Irlam is a good club and one that I always like to see have success, I think because I’ve known of their existence for a while, having passed their ground numerous times on the motorway prior to finally visiting for the first time a few years ago. Selby, of course, are a club I like too, having had one of my better all round trips, especially with it being on the fly somewhat. Hopefully, though, the next games will be more action packed…
R.I.P. Dan Wilkinson.
Value For Money: 8