Result: Orford 1-1 Windle Labour (Cheshire League 2)
Venue: Orford Jubilee Hub (Saturday 6th May 2017, 3pm)
Att: 35 (peak, hc)
With the season now rapidly approaching its conclusion, my penultimate Saturday saw me staying pretty local. This was originally chosen by one of my random draws, but became even more attractive as a money-saving option, with me discovering Halifax’s play-off semi with Salford was being played on the following afternoon. With a double-header all set up, it was off to the outskirts of Warrington.
Having had the rarity of being able to remain at home almost into the afternoon, I set off for the station, meeting a former colleague of mine as I went. Of course, not wishing to be anti-social, I stopped for a quick chat though soon had to dash to enable me to actually make kick-off!
I arrived into Padgate at just before 1pm (Padgate seems to be the centre of the non-league football world around these parts!) and headed in the general direction of Orford. I say general direction; this actually means that I went the wrong way and, shockingly I know, got lost in the process. Only slightly though, thankfully, and I was soon back on track and heading for my first stop of the day: the Famous King & Queen pub at the foot of the first part of Padgate Lane.
I headed in and had a short wait for service as the bar seemed unattended, though I was able to keep myself from any thoughts of self-service, just about! Eventually the staff arrived back and my Greene King IPA’s price of £2.75 made the wait all the more worthwhile. It’s not a bad pint either, so I’m a bit surprised it is so cheap. Not that I’d recommend upping it mind you…
After watching the blue side of Manchester storm into a commanding lead in their game with Palace, I headed back out onto the streets and for the fifteen minute or so walk onwards up to the Orford Hotel. The issue here came when I was still walking five or so minutes after I should have got there. Once again, my directional sense had failed me and I found myself backtracking, eventually finding myself on the right track and outside the Orford Hotel shortly afterwards.
The Orford is a real throwback sort of pub, split into a number of rooms and set in quite an old building it seems. Anyway, with racing punters in here having a keen eye on their betting slips and, in turn the TV, I instead opted to head into one of said side rooms with a pint of Kronenbourg (£3.30) and stayed for a short time, all the while being watched by portraits on the wall.
After exiting here with a couple of goodbyes as I went, I found myself actually knowing where I was going. Yes, yes, calm down, I know it’s a mighty rare occurrence. Anyway, my final stop was the Blackburne Arms which sits at the side of Orford Park where, for all intents and purpose, the ground is located. There is also a cut through onto the pathway to the hub by the side of the pub just to make things easier. This was taken advantage of as was the barrel of Coors in the pub, again at £3.30. Not too bank-breaking around here.
After wasting away some time in here, what with there being next to nothing at the hub to keep most entertained (unless you bring swimwear), kick-off time was soon upon me and so it was back through the park, which was today hosting a funfair and onwards to the ground.
Now, I do use the term “ground” loosely. As I alluded to earlier, with it being located at the rear of the park, there is little more to it than a couple of dugouts bearing the name of the club and a roped-off pitch. However, there is some hard standing afforded by the Jubilee Hub itself at the near touchline, but that’s pretty much it. I have read somewhere that Orford may move to a different, fully railed pitch for next season, but I don’t know if there’s truth behind it.
Orford do, however, issue a small programme (free of charge) which is a rare touch down at this level, so that’s a nice touch and a decent crowd had turned out down at the pitch for this match, which had the added importance of it being a possible title-winning game for the visitors Windle Labour. The team, who play at the same complex as Pilkington and (soon) St. Helen’s Town, needed just a point to secure the Cheshire League 2 in just their first season at that level. Not a bad achievement. Before we get onto the game, here’s a bit of back story to Orford FC…
Orford Football Club was founded in 1975 as a juniors football club, progressing into open age football once the 3/4 teams the club ran went through the age groups of the Warrington Leagues to reach men’s football. Once the final junior side had made the step, the decision was taken to concentrate solely on open age football from 1989 onwards.
Known as Orford Youth Club the open age side benefited from the full attention winning promotion through the Warrington Sunday League on five successive occasions, winning one championship along the way, until 1996 saw them make the step into Saturday football. This was a successful switch as Orford would go on to win promotion from Division 3 of the Warrington & District League, along with lifting the Depot Cup.
2005 saw the end of a thirty-year stay for the men’s teams at the Orford Youth Club, the club making the move to Orford Park, where they remain to this day, seeing the expansion of the club back into junior football as well as extra open age outfits. 2011 saw Orford become “primary partners” in the redevelopment of Orford Park, with the club making the switch into the Cheshire League for this season, having finished 4th last season in the Warrington & District League’s Premier Division. They currently sit 3rd in the Cheshire League 2.
So, the first half of this game was…well it wasn’t very good. In fact, I can’t think of anything major that happened off the top of my head and it looked the most nailed-on nil-nil you’d ever see. According to Orford’s match report, there was a volley that went over, so thanks for giving me something! Anyway, half-time duly arrived, the nil-nil scoreline still stood and I duly got lost in a men’s changing room while looking for the facilities. Great scenes here.
The second half, thankfully, was a far more watchable affair. To be fair, the game hadn’t been helped by a dust bowl of a pitch more akin to something seen on a cricket field in the sub-continent. The dust was flying up at regular intervals, but both teams did their level best to deal with the conditions the best they could to contrive a decent footballing game out of it.
To be honest, there were two actual chances in the game and they both ended up in the back of the net. Firstly, Ryan Cooke broke clear through the centre of the home defence and he strode into the box before confidently finishing across the Orford GK, into the far side of the net. The visitors had that crucial goal they were looking for.
Windle now had the wind(le) in their sails and almost doubled their lead immediately, the #16 getting into the box and looked to have been taken out before he could force the ball into the net. The referee, however, was not having any of it and pointed for the goal-kick, with the visitors still appealing. Despite this, the title was looking ever more secure.
Orford, though, had something to say about it and levelled soon after. The green-clad hosts won a free-kick around 25 yards out from goal. Liam Moran’s set-piece headed straight into the hands of the Windle keeper, but the visiting custodian’s juggling skills let him down, the ball slipping from his grasp and over the line with Orford’s #8 making absolutely sure on the line. However, the ball had crossed the line before his telling touch.
Following some post goal shenanigans on the touch-line, the game continued on but without anything else of note in truth and the game came to an end with the visitors cheering ringing out above the sounds and shouts of the funfair. Windle Labour were Cheshire League 2 champions and Orford’s own impressive first season at Cheshire League level had fallen just short of a promotion place.
After the game, I headed back for Padgate, just missing out on the earlier train back. Alas, I was forced into a final drink and headed for the nearby Jolly Falstaff, having already visited the station neighbouring Stocks a couple of weeks back. The Jolly Falstaff was another cheap place, with a pint of cider in here setting me back less than the magic £3.
Eventually my time in the Warrington area was over once more and a ten minute walk saw me back at the station for my train back down the line. All in all, the day had been nothing more than I’d expected really. A simple, park-based ground, a close game which wasn’t helped at all by the pitch conditions, some decent ‘places of interest’ (or pubs if you prefer) around and a title win too. Congratulations Windle. Now it’s onto another game with a fair amount riding on it. The Shay awaits…
Food: N/A (vending machines available in foyer)
Programme: 5 (bonus point for just issuing!)
Value For Money: 8