Result: AVRO 7-1 Elton Vale (Manchester League Premier Division)
Venue: Ten Acres Lane (Saturday 4th March 2017, 2.30pm)
Att: 40 (approx.)
Here we go again. Yet another wet week meant I once more found myself looking at fixture lists and trying to pick out any random 3G venues that may be thrown up. Sadly, the vast majority were ruled out quickly as per them not meeting my strict minimum criteria (see Royton Town for that)! But then, from the darkness, a shining beacon of hope came forth to light the way. This was in the form of AVRO FC of the Manchester League and their alternative home venue at Ten Acres Lane. Saviours!
As such, the Newton Heath located complex would be my visited venue for the weekend with a lower-end-of-the-table Premier Division clash between AVRO and Elton Vale the feature. Now to be honest, after the terrible weather of the prior week which blighted the aforementioned trip up to Royton, I was somewhat apprehensive of actually going to the game, with a slight cold not aiding the part of me pushing to go. But with bright sunlight greeting me on the morning of the fixture, I figured I might as well go as it wasn’t exactly breaking the bank.
After catching the bus through to Manchester and the, ahem, glorious Piccadilly Gardens, I was soon en route up towards the Ten Acres Sports Complex. But, of course, there had to be a stop on the way and, luckily, the bus to the ground stopped right outside the nearest pub to the ground: the Bradford Inn in Miles Platting, around a five minutes bus ride away. It looked easy. I couldn’t miss it. Oh, hang on. It’s me, isn’t it? Of course I could miss it and I did. Shocker.
After a quick backtrack I was soon back at the pub and headed in. The Bradford is your quintessential estate establishment with the usual locals you’d expect within. Nothing bad there, though, as it all makes for an experience. I couldn’t complain about the price either, a pint of Joseph Holt’s Crystal Gold costing the strange amount of £2.41, which was swiftly handed over to the friendly woman behind the bar, after a double check on the price!
To be honest, there was little to report on in here, as the Manchester Utd-Bournemouth game had just gone through the break and the big talking points had already dissipated within by the point I arrived and, with the clock nearing the reported kick-off time of 2pm, I decided I ought to go grab the bus onwards.
After disembarking at the foot of Ten Acres Lane itself, it’s only a short walk to the gates of the complex, where I was surprised to find a large crowd awaiting the fixture from my viewpoint on the road. All looked set for a good atmosphere, though I reckoned it looked too good to be true. Sadly, it was as the vast majority were there to watch a kids tournament finish up. It also quickly became apparent that the two-o’clock kick-off wasn’t going to happen. Argh.
After the young’uns had completed their games and headed off along with pretty much everyone else there at that point, it finally allowed the two teams onto the pitch. I said a quick “hello” to AVRO’s Matt Landregan who I know, somewhat, from his time at Trafford before he went to get on with the pre-match routines. With nowhere really to go, I was left to watch the warm-ups in full which I never find the most thrilling of tasks. Even the sun had disappeared behind some rather grey clouds by this point and all looked to be on a bit of a downer.
Eventually, the two finished their preparations, with one AVRO defender revealing he was wearing the number 3 shirt to some amusement from a couple of guys watching, before he then anointed himself “Maldini” for the next 90 minutes! The referees soon joined the teams before going through a boot check, making sure the goals were taped up securely and a minutes silence for (I presume) the Elton Vale secretary who sadly passed away in the week leading up to the game. Then, at 2.38pm, we were eventually underway!
I won’t go through AVRO’s history again, as this can be found in my blog about my visit to their usual Broadway home here. (NB: The club will be moving from here shortly, with Oldham Boro’s old Whitebank Stadium becoming their new ground.)
Ten Acres Lane is your normal, bland, artificial venue. There is one paved, railed area for spectators running the length of the Sports Centre side of the pitch, though you can head all the way around the cage (pretty much) if the gates are open, as the small path is fairly firm underfoot. But, as for any real distinguishable features? You won’t find any here. It is the home of the National Taekwondo Centre, though, so there is that, I guess.
Anyway, I digress. Back onto on-field matters and the early part of the contest seemed to suggest this would be a close contest between the third-bottom and second-bottom sides respectively. It was AVRO who struck first, though, with the tall centre-mid Michael Stockdale getting clear of the defence before slotting beyond the Vale ‘keeper.
Elton Vale, though, struck back quickly with a great strike by Jack Barlow who, after inheriting the ball off the back of some questionable defending, advanced towards the edge of the area before unleashing a tremendous effort which flew across the helpless home custodian and into the top corner. A great goal to level up the scores but this high point was never to come close to being matched, sadly, for the visitors.
After a period of stalemate in the game, the hosts missed a good chance to retake the lead when some very abject defending gifted the ball to Stockdale who was only denied a second by a decent goal-line block, which made some amends for the earlier error that led to the opener.
However, AVRO then had one of those match deciding spells wherein they managed to find the net three times within the space of around five minutes. Firstly, the impressive #7, Mason Dunkerley (?) drove a low shot under the ‘keeper for 2-1, before netting a second shortly after from around the edge of the area (I’m guessing as I only saw the ball in the net!). The #9, James Hampson, then got in on the act, being released through the defence to fire under the advancing, under-fire, ‘keeper.
Elton Vale, understandably, looked deflated by now and letting a fifth in before the break would have done little to help matters, as Hampson grabbed his second of the game benefitting from another error in the defence which allowed Landregan to lay it on a plate for his strike partner. Half-Time: 5-1. The previous time I had this score-line at the interval was at Brentford-Eastleigh in early January and on that occasion, no further goals were added. I hoped this wasn’t to be the case again!
After spending half-time having a quick peruse of the corridor in a vain search for “facilities”, I remained in the warmth of the entrance atrium taking a welcome relief from the surprisingly bracing wind before the second half got underway, refraining from purchasing refreshments from the vending machines on account they were twice the price of the tea bar at Royton the previous week. There it was 50p for a tea. I’m tight like that, you see!
With the second half underway, I headed back up the steps to the pitch to watch what amounted to little more than two teams looking to see out the rest of the game. AVRO did add a sixth around fifteen minutes in, when Stockdale again found himself clear in the box and he confidently clipped the ball over the diving ‘keeper and into the far side-netting. Clinical.
With very little to speak of in the way of chances, the game did get a bit boring with only some showboating and skillage (yes, it is a word ok?) keeping the watching crowds (Elton Vale-inclined spectators probably not included) entertained, especially a group of youths near me who took great delight in either celebrating them when they worked, or mocking them when they didn’t. Savage. Anyway, a late strike was added by Landregan as he chipped the ball over the oncoming GK with class, much to the delight of the youths before the ref brought the contest to a close at a stonking 7-1.
After congratulating Matt on his goal and the win, I departed in haste to head down the road once more to grab the bus back, just about avoiding the oncoming rain. Soon back in Manchester, another kind bus change saw me soon heading home, again dodging the occasional heavy showers on the way. Not too bad a day, really, for a game on a bland pitch in the midst of a sports complex. However, back onto the “real” ground trail next week with a trip to another ground that will soon be lost….
Food: N/A (bar vending machines)
Value For Money: 8