Result: Westfields 1-1 Curzon Ashton (FA Cup 1st Round)
Venue: allpay. park (Saturday 5th November 2016, 3pm)
As the draw for the FA Cup First Round was going on live on BBC 1 a couple of weeks ago, it would be fair to say that, personally, I found it very drab. There really wasn’t too much in terms of really interesting fixtures to choose from, so when the above game was eventually created by the dynamic duo of…well, I can’t remember, though I think David James was involved, my destination for first round day was easily decided. To Hereford & Westfields FC it was!
Having booked my train tickets to Hereford whilst en route to Charnock Richard (bet that sentence hasn’t been uttered often), the journey was pretty easy. Following my arrival at Manchester Piccadilly, I decided that 10am was a little early to get on the beers and so plumped for a bottled water in the Mayfield, whilst I waited for the Welsh-bound train to arrive. I soon wished I hadn’t, as it cost the princely sum of £2.20 (or something in that ballpark). For water. Madness.
Anyway, with the shock put behind me, it was soon time to head down to the platform, with the chance to use the newly installed ticket gates for the first time. How exciting. After some Rotherham-bound fans had trouble in finding the correct tickets, including one who tried to put his receipt through the machine, I was eventually released and before long, we were rolling through the Cheshire countryside, heading towards Crewe. Ah, Crewe; how I’ve missed you.
After passing by the grounds of the Alex, Stockport County, Shrewsbury Town, Whitchurch Alport and the famed Parrswood Celtic (in no particular order), we were eventually arriving into the city of Hereford, with the floodlights of Edgar Street soon taking my attention. Indeed, a seed was planted in my mind to maybe, just maybe, head there instead. But no, Westfields vs Curzon was the big game and to be honest and with no disrespect intended to Westfields or their ground, it was less likely I’d head down here again to do allpay. park, solely on the basis of travel distance & price! Anyway, I’m rambling a little, so off into the city I headed for an explore.
Granted, I didn’t want to really look around too much as yet, as I figured I’d leave that for when I do the club that carries the city’s name. So, I decided to stay fairly linier and just head straight toward the ground. Having headed out into Commercial Road, I quickly picked up on a couple of pubs that were advertising cheap drinks. However, I reckoned I’d save these for later and instead headed into the ‘Spoons, The King’s Fee. I was a bit shit and after a quick Punk IPA, I beat a hasty exit.
After heading for the imposing-looking, but sadly shut, The Kerry, I settled on the idea of heading closer to the ground itself, with the intention of getting there nice & early as to beat the crowds. After a short walk, I came upon the Herdsman, but couldn’t navigate my way through the door and as to avoid further embarrassment, instead found myself at the Oxford Arms, housed in an old-looking building. The Oxford Arms seemed a stronghold of fans of the Bulls and again the thought to divert floated into my mind. A pint of Stella soon quelled the voices and I was soon past Edgar Street and heading over a poorly designed roundabout crossing, before finding myself at the Widemarsh Common and with TV trucks in full view.
Following a greeting from the two stewards manning the car-park, I arrived at the turnstiles just after purchasing my programme from a young lad outside the ground, for the standard £1.50. A further £10 later and I was a step closer to my bicentenary. allpay. park became ground 196.
allpay. park itself is a fairly simple, tidy ground. It houses two stands, the all-seater main stand sitting on the half-way line & the smaller stand on the opposite touchline is located more towards the end from which you enter. Both ends are open, hard standing as is the remainder of the ground, with the clubhouse, food hut and other facilities being located in the smart-looking building alongside the turnstiles, in the corner of the ground.
After deciding to buy a portion of chips for £1-ish before the small hutch was overcome by the masses, I headed for the tent in the designated bar (table) area and the unmistakable sounds of the Curzon fans.
I quickly went over to greet Aaron, who’d been busy on media duties in the run up to the game, but had now edged over into pure fan mode for the day. He also bought me a drink and by virtue of his twitter tick, I think that means he’s the most famous person to buy me anything. Cheers! After heading over to the Curzon contingent for pre-match entertainment and with almost all those who I’d joined at York in the previous round in attendance too, all the ingredients were there for an interesting match, though a few of us were left looking foolish after waiting for a toilet, only to find out it was a urinal cubicle, thanks to the woman alongside us! On that note and with the clock approaching 3pm, it was time to head to the far side and join the ranks of the Nash fans. But first…
Westfields FC were formed in 1966 after a group of ‘local lads’ were so enamoured with England’s World Cup win that they formed their own side to play in friendly fixtures against other local & works teams. One of the original members are still involved with the club today, holding the positions of Chief Executive & Secretary.
Following their early existence as a friendlies only side, they transitioned into Sunday League, winning their first trophy against the fantastically named Danish Bacon. In 1973, Westfields transitioned into the Worcester & District League, where they remained for five years before moving up once more and joining the West Midlands Regional League whilst now playing at Rotherwas, having moved from the playing fields they formerly called home.
1984 saw the club end up as Division 2 runners-up and achieve promotion to Division 1. Season 1986-’87 ended with the club as First Division Champions, resulting in promotion to the Premier Division. This followed a good run in the FA Vase, where Westfields reached the 5th Round. As an offshoot, Westfields also, apparently, hold the record for Herefordshire Senior County Cup wins & final appearances, whilst also being the only club in the region to win all trophies available at senior county level.
After initially struggling somewhat in the Premier Division, the club eventually got to grips with the level in earnest and at last won a further promotion in 2003, this time to the Midland Alliance, as West Midlands Regional League Premier Division Champions. A move to allpay. park also coincided with their 2003 promotion. As their stay in the Alliance went on, Westfields become more comfortable, somewhat mirroring their prior stay in the West Midlands League. This resulted in a pair of runners-up placings, coming in 2012 & ’13 respectively, before the league expanded into the Midland Football League. Last season saw Westfields record a 16th placed finish in the Premier Division.
The game got underway, wigs and all, with both sides testing each other out early on, but it didn’t take long for the first flash point to arrive. Westfields were on the attack down the Curzon right and made their way into the area via Aiden Thomas. Thomas then went down under…minimal…contact, but there was no doubt about the penalty, Craig Jones showing no nerves as he slotted the ball into Hakan Burton’s bottom left-hand corner.
From then on in though, it was pretty much all Curzon. Despite their control, however, the Nash made little in terms of clear-cut chances, though they did force Westfields’ custodian Keiron Blackburn into a couple of fairly comfortable saves, plus a decent one to block a Niall Cummins effort. Half-Time 1-0 to the lowest-ranked side left in the competition. Was the fairytale to continue?
My half-time consisted of heading back round the ground a couple of times for no apparent reason, before the second-half was soon underway. The half shadowed the first, with Curzon putting Westfields under immense pressure, but rarely breaking through the well-drilled home defence but on the first occasion they did, Iain Howard somehow contrived to hit the woodwork with only the ‘keeper to beat.
Westfields’ number 1 Blackburn was also on top form, pulling off a few good stops when called upon to do so. A low reaction save, again from Curzon dangerman Cummins, was the highlight. The National League North side did have the ball in the net after a goalmouth scramble, but the assistant’s flag spared the home side on that occasion as it appeared luck may have been shining on the Midland League Premier outfit.
But, with the clock ticking over into the last 10 minutes of the game, the visitors began to earn a succession of corners and you felt that this, or a similar set-piece, would be their best way of levelling the tie. Indeed, a corner was to be Westfields’ eventual downfall. A kick from the right fell within the six-yard box and following a further scramble on the line, the ball was eventually forced over the line by former Liverpool-man Adam Morgan. 1-1 and cue the pitch invasion!
The equaliser did spur both sides onwards to try and secure the winner, with Curzon going closest, a header narrowly clearing the crossbar, but the whistle eventually blew with both sides earning their place in the Second Round draw “hat” and both seemingly fairly pleased with the result. A nice touch, also, from Blackburn who applauded the Curzon fans both at the break & at full-time and credit for him to not being distracted by incessant shouts of “‘Keeper” from one member of the travelling support.
*A further well done to the Curzon u13 girls’ side who, I was told by, I presume, a member of the team, won their game in the morning 1-0. I think that is all true from memory, but if not I take full responsibility! I may also be in breach of FA rules soon, knowing how the results publication rules are going…
So, the sides will meet again on the 14th of November for the replay back at the Tameside Stadium and I hope to be able to make it for that to see the climatic (or anti-climatic, perhaps) end to someone’s run. Anyway, for me, it was back off towards Hereford under the guiding lights of Edgar Street. After bidding goodbye to Gibbo & Dylan (I hope that’s the right spelling), who’d kept me up to date on occasion during the game with live scores, I was soon re-tracing my steps back to the station.
With a half-hour or so until my train back to Manchester, it would have been rude not to afford a final stop-off in one of the city’s hostelries. As such, I plumped for the Merton Hotel, a hotel bar, with the pulling point being that pints of Carlsberg were on for £2. Indeed, this was the case and I whiled away my final few minutes in Hereford whilst watching the rugby, before tripping over a step but styling it out in my, probably sole, opinion!
The train back was fairly uneventful, though it was fairly full until Shrewsbury with Welsh fans heading back from their contest. After the usual 40-minute or so journey from Shrewsbury to Crewe was shortened markedly by sleep, I was awoken by the sounds of a topless man running up and down the carriage shouting about Curzon Ashton. I wasn’t expecting to say that five years ago. Anyway, the rest of the journey was a bit calmer as the guy and his companions were distracted by the females on their way to town and thus everything quietened down! Hopefully, there aren’t similar scenes on the 216 after the replay…
Value For Money: 5