Result: Elton Vale 3-3 Hindsford (Manchester League Premier Division)
Venue: Elton Vale Sports Club (Saturday 21st January 2017, 2pm)
NOTE: There’s nothing rude, nor funny, about the name of this blog.
I’d promised Elton Vale early this season that I’d pay them a visit at some point during their 2016-’17 Manchester League Premier campaign. As such, and with a few costly trips coming up in the near future, their match-up with Hindsford in this very week provided a fine opportunity to save some money with a cheap game, as well as ticking off ground 203.
After connecting through Bolton on the buses, I arrived into Elton at around twenty-past one. It turns out you actually disembark outside fellow Manchester League outfit Westbury’s ground, having earlier passed another of the league’s members, Breightmet United, on the way over. Clubs are plentiful around here. With a little time in hand and with The Wellington pub sitting on the corner of the road I was required to walk upon to reach the Elton Vale Sports Club, I thought it’d be quite rude not to pop in.
The Wellington is fairly deceiving from the outside. To me it appeared to be a bit of a dingy place with little going for it that would attract you in. However once you enter the porch, a different view of the place greets you, with the drinking hole seemingly being Greene King’s equivalent to the Hungry Horse-type pubs . Today, though, the food wasn’t too much of an issue and I settled for a pint of the GK’s IPA for the pretty economical £2.70. Not bad at all either.
After watching Swansea storm into the lead at Liverpool, ahead of their eventual triumph at Anfield, I headed off and up towards the ground, (which Swansea fan and celeb blogger Matt ‘Lost Boyo’ termed as sounding like “a house of an old man named Elton as if he thought it funny to name his house after himself) which sits less than 10 minutes away. There is a bus route from Manchester that drops you right outside, pretty much, too.
Anyway; after heading through the gates and past the signs declaring I was in the right place, I followed the lane heading to the rear of the clubhouse where the football pitch sits. There isn’t much to the ground outside of the clubhouse, which is more than decent and also houses a small tea/food bar which I took full advantage of later in the day. The pitch is fully railed off, with a very slight grass mound behind the far goal and a small amount of hard standing either side of each dugout. As for Elton Vale FC themselves…
Elton Vale Football Club was formed in 1957 as Elton Fold FC, following the removal of funding by the Bury Gas Company to their own works team. After a changing room meeting, the new club was formed and took a place in the Bury Amateur League, with Elton winning their first game via an impressive 8-1 triumph over Radcliffe Borough. The club’s first silverware arrived in 1961 as Elton Fold won the Kenyon Cup and the club finished 1962 in their Bury Amateur League-best position of runners-up.
1964 saw the club enter the Manchester League, where they were to remain for the next decade, playing in the league’s second tier throughout their tenure. Following this, they returned to the Bury Amateur League for a period of success, winning the 1978 title and three cup triumphs at Gigg Lane. Their next step was to join the higher-level Bolton Combination in 1983, with promotion to the top-flight taking four years to achieve. In that time, the Fold moved into their new home on Elton Vale Road. Their first Bolton Combination silverware, though, was to arrive only in 1993 in the form of the Premier Cup and this was followed by a League title the following year.
1995 saw the club back in the Manchester League. Along with an immediate promotion to the top division, the club also won the prestigious Lancashire Amateur Trophy. 2002 saw the Fold take on the title of Elton Vale FC but still retain their original nick-name as a hark-back to their history. The name change looked to be a bad omen, though, as they were relegated in only their second season carrying the moniker, but 2008 saw them bounce back to the Premier Division, finishing 4th. 2010 saw another drop suffered, before a quick yo-yo existence between 2014 & 16 saw Vale promoted, relegated and promoted again, the latter as Division 1 runners-up last season. They currently sit toward the bottom of the Premier Division table, finding themselves 14th out of 15 clubs.
The game got underway and was played at a fairly decent place from the off, albeit with chances at a premium. Despite this, it was Hindsford who looked the more threatening in the early stages with their #9 looking particularly threatening. However, when they eventually did take the lead, it was a low drive from the edge of the area by Chris Hopwood which went under the Vale ‘keeper and into the corner.
From then on, Vale seemed to up their game and began to take the initiative from the Tonics. Indeed, it happened to be little surprise when they levelled up the scores just before the break, with the ball finding its way out onto the right-side of the area where Chris Baines drove a hard effort across the visiting ‘keeper and found the net despite the Hindsford custodian getting a good amount of his hand to it.
Half-Time soon arrived and I headed off to the clubhouse after overhearing someone talking about pies. This is almost like a buzzword now and so off I rushed to beat the queues. On arrival, I was greeted by the lady serving before being told the selection that was on. Meat & Potato sounded the best to me today, so with peas and gravy added, I went off to demolish that, whilst hoping the teams weren’t in too much of a rush to get going again. £1.70, again, wasn’t a bank-breaker either.
The second half was underway just as I finished up, so back out into the chilly Bury air went the masses and were duly rewarded (or punished, depending on your point of view) with Mark Chilton diverting a low cross-cum-shot into the bottom corner. The way it bounced off the goal-frame could cause some issues if visibility wasn’t great though, as the ball bounced back off the rear and could…COULD be mistaken for the post at some point. Not today though and Hindsford led once more.
Hindsford then quickly added a third through Ryan Briody’s fizzing drive and at 1-3 it looked all over bar the shouting to be honest. But the hosts showed they had other ideas. After again taking the initiative in the game following a spell of dominance by the visitors that included their two second-half goals, Vale grabbed a goal back from a corner. The whipped ball in wasn’t dealt with and Baines arrived to force the ball over the line from pretty much on it. 2-3 and the Vale players and bench were visibly and audibly confident in their chances.
As it proved, they were right to feel this way. With around ten minutes left to play, the ball ended up in the middle of the field and at the feet of Leighton Mills who took a couple of touches before unleashing a fine drive that flew beyond the despairing ‘keeper and into the back of the net sparking wild scenes of jubilation from both those on the pitch and those on the side-lines. The Tonics contingent were left in an angered dismay.
Despite the late sending-off of Elton Vale’s centre-half Richard Young, for what I presume was a second bookable offence, the hosts held on despite a large amount of pressure and a pair of good chances for the visitors to nick all three points. The full-time whistle arrived to end a fine, entertaining game of football and I headed off back toward the bus stop. That was after I’d been surprised by a lime-green Lamborghini heading down the dirt path alongside the club. Elton Vale are clearly paying for their success! (NB: Sarcasm is clearly not dripping all over that statement).
So it was back to Bolton and onwards home uneventfully (if you don’t count the special bus smells you encounter on these fine things). A fine day was had at Elton Vale, with there being far more included than I’d expected, with a nice surprise of food which, at this level, isn’t a given and a fun game to watch. Thanks to both sides for that and now it’s on to the next one which will be at…
Value For Money: 9