Result: Mellor 1-1 Milton (Lancashire & Cheshire AFL Premier Division)
Venue: Wood Lane (Saturday 17th August 2019, 2pm)
Att: 11 (hc)
A week without Cup football rolled around early on in the season and, as a result, I didnt have much of an idea of where to head for. This feeling was exacerbated by the, at times, torrential downpours in the days leading up to Saturday, meaning games further down the leagues could be in a bit of bother. As a result, it was better to head for somewhere that had a confirmatory twitter account etc., correct? Well, this is me you’re on about….
As I said earlier, with not having any concrete plans laid out, I headed into Manchester during the morning and allowed my own feelings to guide my decision. To be bold and travel a fair bit yonder, or be lazy and remain close to home. Well, after asking for a few ideas and coming across some myself, I narrowed it down to a couple of options – Heywood St. James of the Manchester League or Mellor of the Lancs & Cheshire League and the opening day up in Marple. One had a good, working account and it was there I wasn’t headed. I balanced risk for reward and plumped for it, after a, Hyde was there as a fall-back!
Finishing off my wait-covering pint of Boddies in the Hourglass within Piccadilly, I paid the due visit to the ticket office for tickets to the Rose Hill station that Marple plays host to, with this being a short walk away from the ground. You see, I’d decided to be my own match official for the day and carry out a personal pitch inspection….yes, I really am that sad! However, the train journey overall showed that the rain and ground wetness had greatly reduced to next to nothing – that is until we arrived into Marple, where it was puddle central. Either there’d just been a brief downpour just before my arrival, or the place doesn’t drain overly well. Whatever the case, I was beginning to think Hyde’s plastic offering would be on the cards.
Making my way along the Middlewood footpath that takes you from the station to the ground and beyond, I dodged many a manure pile and more than enough puddles to get to the ground and *squelch, squelch, squelch*. The grass around the pitch was sodden but, to my surprise, the playing area itself was pretty solid and I expected football – after all, there was still 2 hours to kick off…well, one actually, as it turned out it was a 2 o’clock start, which I only found out in checking the full-time site as I settled in at the far end of town with a first pint. Brilliant scenes. At least both the Navigation was a decent boozer to begin with and I opted for a pint of the Robinson’s Helle Lager, though the price tag of £4.50 was quite surprising. Having said that, the £4.70 Stella in my second stop, the Bull’s Head, was similar but, again, it was a nice enough place to wile away the remaining time.
Marple is a small town in the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport in Greater Manchester and lies just to the south east of the hat-making town. Historically a part of Cheshire, it lies upon the Peak Forest Canal which hosts the Marple Aqueduct and Roman Lakes lie to the North. The Middlewood Way runs along the old rail line from Rose Hill Marple to Macclesfield, some 9 miles away. The first time Marple was mention was as Merpel – believed to be derived from the Old English maere pill. meaning ‘the stream at the boundary’. The area is believed to have been inhabited for several millennia, with nearby standing stones and tumuli and further excavations around Mellor proving this.
However, despite being within the Macclesfield Forest area for the most part, it was not mentioned in the Domesday Book and wasn’t until an 1122 land deed. It remained rural through to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, with farming, linen weaving and hat making being the larger industries, before Samuel Oldknow brought in lime kilns and mills in the late 1700’s. Around the same time, by the English Civil War, Marple had become the dominant force in the area, with the Lord of Marple Hall and Lord President of the High Court of Justice, John Bradshawe, being one of the first signees of King Charles I’s death warrant.
These, in turn, led to the growth of Marple through terraced houses for workers and a village centre with private businesses springing up within it. Oldknow also introduced aspen trees to the area and was influential in the building of both the Macclesfield and aforementioned Peak Forest canals, whilst the 1800-built Aqueduct carries this over the River Goyt and was the work of canal and railway building pioneer Benjamin Outram, but cost the lives of seven workers. These fell into disrepair as a result of the railway’s later arrival and growth in the 1920’s, but have since been restored as part of the Cheshire Ring, for narrowboats etc. Frequent bus routes from the cotton centres of Stockport and Manchester continued Marple’s growth as an urban district, and it annexed the Derbyshire parish of Ludworth and Mellor in 1936 into its Cheshire-based location. It has also been home to the late Manchester music mogul Tony WIlson, as well as Timmy Mallett. The more you know.
Speaking of Mellor, the village lies between the Marple Bridge area and New Mills. It, along with its fellow Marple Urban District members, joined the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport in 1974 and, in turn, Greater Manchester. Its name is uncertain, though may come from the Celtic dialect for ‘bare (or rounded) hill’ and wasn’t listed in the Domesday Book, despite nearby Ludworth (as Ludeourde) being so, and it is possible both were part of the same settlement before splitting at a later date. The Iron Age settlement there saw a 7th or 8th century Saxon church added to the south and St. Thomas Church has the oldest wooden pulpit in Britain (possibly the world), dating from the early 1300’s, whilst its font is 12th-century too. Local legend has it that Mellor Hall was built upon pre-existing foundations of a Norman nobleman and a 13th century hall was found during Iron Age hill fort excavations. William Radcliffe, a name in textile machinery industry is from the area, whilst Mellor superseded its neighbouring Moorend whilst growing from a few houses in the Victorian era to encompass it as a part of itself.
I began the journey over to Wood Lane early as to ensure that there was actually a game and, as I began to approach the Marple Tavern just up the road from said footy stadium, I could hear what I thought (or more likely hoped) were the distant shouts of footballers. Question was, were they 5-a-siders at the nearby college, training or actually getting ready for a game. I approached the gates with a degree of trepidation…only to see two teams decked out in kit and going through their pre-match routines. WE HAD FOOTBALL! To the Marple Tav to celebrate!!
This pub does seem as an estate-looking type from outside, but is more pleasant and open within, and a decent offering on the go too. As such, my celebratory drink was a pint of Hop House, but before I had it in hand, a guy at the bar informed me that the barmaid had gone to fetch a ‘keeper’s jersey for “that big game up the road”. I then informed him that it was to there I was bound for, though did assure him that it said a lot about myself rather than anything else!! I finished up shortly after and made my way back to Wood Lane for a third and final time – but this time safe in the knowledge the journey, and money, hadn’t been wasted.
The ground itself is part of the Marple RUFC grounds, though for some reason it is only to football ground that hosts any furniture, being barred off on three sides, with dugouts on the far side of the field of play. It is also closer to the clubhouse building too than it’s slightly larger counterparts and has a fair grass banking running along the pathway side opposite the dugouts, though watch out for the boggy surroundings if it was anything like today! Also, the area immediately around the clubhouse is flat, hard standing, with the roof providing some slight cover behind the near end goal you enter from behind. That’s Wood Lane and this is the story of Mellor FC….
Founded in 1923, Mellor Football Club was the brainchild of members of the Hambleton family, who hailed from the village just outside Marple, where the club currently find themselves at home. They have played at a number of grounds over the years, having originally come out of Gibb Lane, Mellor, though spent many a-year at Brabyns Park within Marple, prior to a link up with Marple RUFC and a local 6th-form college in the 1990’s, which allowed a move to the club’s current Wood Lane home. After originally having to change within the college campus, 2002 saw the clubhouse/changing rooms building added, allowing for a far easier time of things in that respect.
On the field, the club moved out of local competition and to the Lancashire & Cheshire League in 1962 and have since remained there to this day. However, success has been somewhat few and far between on the silverware front, with the mid-1980’s proving something of a “golden era” for the club as they went on to win the 1986 & 1987 ‘double’ – winning the Division 3 & Division 2 in successive years, whilst also lifting consecutive Rhodes Cups alongside their league successes. However, little else was to follow and, despite having reached the semi-finals of the 1999 Stockport Senior Cup, Mellor almost folded in the close season, but a merger with local Stockport League side Friendship Romiley – who themselves had ambitions to reach the Lancs & Cheshire League – was agreed, with the Mellor F.C. name continuing, with the proviso that the ‘Friendship’ name continue to be emblazoned on the shirt, alongside a new badge.
This merger would be short-lived in some ways, as some ex-Friendship players departed to create a new side and so Mellor F.C. continued on further into the new millennium and achieving greater success as they did so. Mellor would lift the Stockport Senior Cup in 2005 & 2014, the Rhodes Cup in 2012, 2015 & 2017, the latter ensuring another ‘double, as the club also lifted that year’s Premier Division title for the first time, having finished runners-up the year before and despite having spent a number of years away from Wood Lane, at the Stockport Sports Village & Newall Green in Wythenshawe. Last season saw them finish in a rather underwhelming 9th place in the table (out of 12) and lost out in the Stockport Senior Cup Final to High Lane.
We got underway and both sides shared early chances:- a header flying over for the hosts, whilst a fine last-gasp challenge denied a Milton forward an effort at goal. However, Mellor would grab the lead fairly early in proceedings; a fine bit of ‘keeper distribution allowed #9 in down the left and he advanced on goal before sliding across the visiting stopper and into the far corner. He then almost made it two, but was denied by a good save with feet by the ‘keeper this time around, the rebound being headed harmlessly over the bar. Milton would respond around the half-hour mark with their best chance of the half seeing a big goalmouth scramble around the six-yard line, with the visiting players just unable to force the ball into the net and it was eventually claimed by Mellor and cleared from danger.
This missed really ought to have been punished just before the break when a poor back-pass was latched onto by the home #2 and he advanced to be one-on-one with the ‘keeper, only to horribly scuff his attempted shot and the ball was gratefully clutched by the Milton gloveman. Half-time duly arrived a couple of minutes later and after paying a quick visit to the clubhouse (showing the England-Wales rugby union game but with nothing on the go) for a look around – whereupon I met a very friendly large, black dog – it was back out for the second half.
As in the first half, I was again heading off on a lap of the ground, whilst Mellor started brightly and again ought to have doubled their lead early in proceedings, when some good play allowed a low cross to be sent across goal, but the effort at the back post was fired into the side-netting. Milton again responded, #3 firing off two efforts – the first a fizzing drive from 25 yards which flew straight at the home GK, before his second narrowly avoided the crossbar on its way into the car-park. The preceded what could quite possibly be the worst throw in I’ve ever seen live when a Mellor player attempted to take said throw, only to send it backwards in throwing it forwards. Brilliant stuff.
The second-half wasn’t the best of halves it has to be said, but the visitors would grab an equaliser around ten minutes from time, as a loose ball eventually rebounded its way into the path of #14, Sam Johnson, and he finished from close-range to set-up a grandstand finish that never came to pass. In fact, neither side really created a winning chance, the only one that did come would be from a free-kick AND would end up in the net, #10 knocking in from a couple of yards, but would be ruled offside. To be fair, this was nothing more than the original save the rebound came from deserved, the Milton GK pulling off a superb stop to deny #15’s hooked effort. Full-time and a fair 1-1 draw saw a point a-piece to begin the season for both teams.
Post-match, I headed back on the same way I’d travelled to the ground, but this time took a detour out through the surrounding suburban area to find the cut through to the canal side. This was done without issue, until I got there and found it was actually a steep incline up to the towpath and not flat at all. I gambled on scrambling it and, for once, this went well and a couple of minutes later, I arrived at the Ring O’Bells, just the other side of the bridge across the canal itself. I took advantage of their beer terrace too, though seemed to quickly empty it upon arrival – I must be gaining a reputation or something – but nonetheless, I sipped away at an Amstel for a while in the warm mid-afternoon sun before heading back into the town centre itself, just a few minutes down the road.
Once back there, I sought out the Samuel Oldknow which is clearly a Wetherspoons-type place, right? Wrong! Instead, and this is how I completely missed it the first time around, the pub is a tiny ale house with a downstairs area too though, having unknowingly order a Seacider at 7.3% (I thought it’s “Hardcore” tagline was a different drink I consciously avoided), I thought I’d best not attempt to explore down them! Following on from here, I continued the short distance back towards the train station for a visit to the I did plan on also popping into the Beer Traders place on the High street but couldn’t spot it quickly (I’d have had to backtrack slightly) and with time running down to my planned train home, I instead made haste for the station-neighbouring Railway back at Rose Hill.
A quick Sol was enjoyed before grabbing the train back for the short journey to Piccadilly and the onward connections were, of course, no issue – though the conductor on the way back got me just as I was about to get off and couldn’t find my actual ticket quick enough. “Make sure you have the right one next time he said, clearly thinking I was bunking paying. Alas for his thoughts, I came across it seconds after he’d returned to his office and so could flash him on the way off. No, not like that, honestly….
Value For Money: 5