Manchopper in….Malpas

Result: Malpas 4-0 Eagle Sports (Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: The Oxhays, Malpas Sports Club (Saturday 20th May 2018, 3pm)

Att: 35~

Yes, they’re still playing! After the terrible weather we’ve seen strike the footballing calendar all season long, there haven’t been many leagues struck harder than the Cheshire League. Indeed, they won’t have finished up until the 30th May, leaving players to have 2-3 weeks, tops, off over the summer before reporting back for pre-season. I suspect there may be a few latecomers and, to be honest, you couldn’t blame them. Anyway, to be fair to the teams in the league, there haven’t been too many of the much-maligned walkovers despite the late finish to the season and, as a result, I saw the opportunity to tick off one of the more outlying outposts of the league, Malpas FC’s Oxhays ground, out towards the Welsh borderlands. It did once have a station, but that unhelpful bastard Dr. Richard Beeching put paid to that. Dick.

The weather was bloody good yet again as we rolled into the latter part of May and so I set off over to Warrington where I’d catch the connection down to Chester, before completing the journey out to the village by bus. The trip to Chester went smoothly, and I arrived at just after 11am. With half-an-hour in hand, I paid a visit to my usual Chester drinking hole the Town Crier, which stands opposite the station and was where the bus would leave from outside of. With a pint of Strongbow in hand (cider always seems better on a warm, sunny day doesn’t it?), I awaited its arrival.

Eventually the #41 service pulled in and, after paying a tick over £5 for a return ticket, I was off en route through the city centre’s narrow streets before heading out through the picturesque countryside and small villages of the southern end of the county, heading out towards its border with Shropshire. After passing through the likes of Tattenhall and Christleton (known to me via my soon to be rekindled summer cricket tours), the bus eventually dropped me in the centre of Malpas at just after 12.30pm. When I say the centre, I basically mean the road that goes through it. Malpas is only a small, quaint little village with the sort of shops and other buildings you’d expect, along with the war memorial cross, seen widely in these sorts of places. There was also a nice church and an old fire station that had been converted into a café-bar. No prizes for guessing where I was off to first!

Malpas (“Bad Passage” in Old French) Facts

Malpas

Fire Station bar

Malpas is a small town on the Shropshire/Wales border likely dating from the Mercian era around the 10th century, though does host the old Roman Road to Whitchurch which passes through it. Later, it was mentioned under the name of Depenbech in the Norman “Domesday Book” of 1086 as belonging to Robert Fitzhugh, Baron of Malpas, an ancestor of the Cholmondeley family who still live in the castle that carries their family name. Malpas also once had its own castle, the remnants of which lie in the grounds of the 14th-century St. Oswald’s Church, though there is little obvious to the eye to suggest it existed remaining.

The market town still maintains the medieval layout it had when it received its market charter and was a part of Wales during the late 13th century and has thus avoided major redevelopment. It was also a fairly important place during the Tudor & Stuart eras, with Sir William Brereton (chamberlain of Chester & groom to Henry VIII) beheaded upon a suspected affair with Anne Boleyn (though it’s more likely to have been politically motivated). A second Sir William would then become a key figure in the defeat of the Royalist Irish reinforcements during the Civil War. The local wartime importance continued into the more present times, when the exiled Czech army was encamped in the nearby Cholmondeley Park.

Indeed, first up was the fire station bar, where I met a rather large dog on the way in before ordering a bottle of Amber Ale from Wrexham’s Magic Brewery, which came in at £4.25. With much in the way of time in hand, I remained here for a good 40 minutes or so, whilst watching the end of the “Royal Wedding”, with the bar itself getting into the spirit of things by decking out in some bunting, faces of Princes behind the bar and one of the staff wearing a crown. Another nice couple of touches were the old bucket and helmet located upon the display cabinet behind the bar, harking back to the building’s former life, of course!

Eventually finishing up in here and with the pomp and ceremony at Windsor beginning to wind down, I headed onwards down the road and back towards the cross where, to my horror, I found one of only two remaining pubs in the town shrouded in scaffolding. It couldn’t be shut, not with an hour and a half to kick-off! Luckily, it hadn’t gone the way of the old Red Lion opposite and it was well and truly open for business. A nice pint of Hop House 13 (£3.85)went down nicely, though I think it may be the first time I’ve sat alongside a pub sign indoors!

Polishing that off, it was off up the road and a little closer to the ground. On the way there you find the Vaults, a pub opposite, but below, the village church. Inside I found an unexpected display of football shirts & scarves decorating the rear part of the hostelry, whilst also being slightly in awe of the cabinet displaying a collection of model F1 cars and other memorabilia, including a Kimi Räikkönen one that I was very jealous of. Indeed, I had brief thought of asking how much it’d take to prize it away, but decided against it. I also made acquaintance with the large black dog from before again too, who came over for a couple of strokes and what have you, before leaving for the far more attractive proposition of treats….

Malpas High Street

In the Crown. A fitting stop!

The Vaults’ collections

After finishing my pint of Symonds Cider (£3.50) whilst listening to a soundtrack full of Michael Jackson’s many hits, I set off towards the ground, making a quick detour off up the steps and through the churchyard, just to be nosey more than anything. After passing by a few quaint, old cottages and a field full of horses, I arrived at the gates of the Malpas Sports Club, where the Oxhays ground lies at the rear beyond the cricket pitch which is located immediately outside of the clubhouse/pavilion building. Having spotted a guy near what seemed to be a pay-box, I asked if he was taking for the match, which he was and was given a programme for “free” in return for £3 (effectively £2 in and £1 for the paper). A nice issue and it’s always a pleasant surprise at Cheshire League level to pick one up. From there, I popped into the clubhouse for a pint of Coors (£3.75) to watch some cricket and waste away the remaining time before kick-off, as the footballers warmed up away in the distance.

Church

More quaint things

Pre-match cricket action!

The Oxhays is a in a pleasant setting, alongside fields that run off from the back of the club’s grounds and has view extending out over to the England/Wales border in the distance. It hosts no hard standing, and is only a roped off pitch but, interestingly, does have a decently sized seating stand just to the right of half-way on the near side as you enter. A small grass mound is located off to the side of that, further towards the far end, and there is a slightly raised grassy area off on the far side too. One I’d recommend to leave for a day like today as it looks resplendent in the sun, and with cricket in full flow next door. That’s the Oxhays at Malpas Sports Club then and this is the story of Malpas F.C….

History Lesson:

Malpas Football Club was founded in 1901, but I can’t find anything out about the club prior to them joining the Mid-Cheshire League in 1985. They started off comfortably enough, finishing in mid-table for the first two seasons of their stay here, before the league expanded to become a two-division competition and Malpas were placed in Division 1. Here they began to struggle and finished second bottom twice with the latter occasion, in 1991, seeing them relegated to Division 2.

The club would spend the next two seasons in the Second Division before being crown as 1992-’93 champions and returning to the top division. However, they again struggled upon promotion and finished 11th, 15th, 15th and 16th out of the 16 First Division teams, with the last-placed finished resulting in a second relegation in 1997. This began a long spell in the second level of the Mid-Cheshire League which saw them remain there right through to 2007 and the league’s dropping of the “Mid” part of the name, becoming simply the Cheshire League. By that time, Malpas were again really struggling and had finished second-bottom of the last two-seasons, despite having a brief upturn in form in the early part of the millennium which saw them record a 4th and 3rd place finish in consecutive seasons; 2001-’02 and ’02-’03 respectively.

Malpas Sports Club

Memorabilia

When the Cheshire League split into three divisions in 2014 (consisting of the Premier Division, League 1 and League 2), Malpas were placed in League 1 having finished 4th at the end of the previous season, a distinct improvement on recent campaigns. 2014-’15 saw them immediately promoted from the League 1 as runners-up and they duly took their place in the Premier Division, where they remain to this day. Having finished towards the wrong end of the 16-strong division for their first two years – finishing 12th and 13th, they are looking at their highest ever league finish, with 3rd looking likely, but the runners-up spot looking more than a possibility also.

After having a chat with the Eagle player-manager, Rob, in the loos (the first time I think that’s ever happened to me) where I was told to expect them to have a bit of a struggle, the players made their way around the boundary of the cricket field and under the rope surrounding the football pitch. After engaging in the usual pleasantries and observing a minute’s silence for the late manager of Cheshire League side Egerton FC, the ex-Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers and former England international defender JLloyd Samuel, who was tragically killed in a road accident a couple of days earlier.

With a somewhat sobering atmosphere still hanging over the Oxhays despite the sun beating down, the game got underway, with second-place chasing Malpas quickly hitting their stride against the under-strength visitors. Indeed, they were two-up within the first ten minutes, the first coming courtesy of the #9, skipper Alex Hughes, who took full advantage of some poor defending to fire in, despite the ‘keeper getting a fair bit on it. The second arrived following another piece of dubious defending, which saw an awful mix-up seized upon by Hughes and he lifted the ball over the ‘keeper nicely to give the hosts a comfortable early advantage.

Match Action

Match Action

Leaving my early spot on the pitch-side mound and heading off on a lap of the ground, I would only witness further domination by the strong Malpas outfit. Hughes went close again after the referee awarded a good advantage following a likely foul and this gave the striker a great chance to grab his second of the game but, on this occasion, he scuffed wastefully wide. This seemed to stir the Eagle side into life somewhat and they began to come into the game around the 20 minute mark and saw two quick-fire chances go begging. Firstly, a low ball in found player-manager Hope whose effort crawled wide of the mark, before a good ball from the left-wing found the Eagle #9 who met it pretty well but saw his header end up also going wayward.

Penalty is converted by Parry

Match Action

The visitors were punished for these missed chances to get back into the game not long before the break when the Eagle ‘keeper brought down the Malpas attacker and the penalty was duly awarded with little in the way of complaints coming the referee’s way. The spot-kick was confidently dispatched by Ben Parry to send the sides in at the break with the hosts looking comfortable and odds-on to take another three points.

As I was in the stand during the break, I was approached by a guy who asked if I was ‘at the East Manchester game a couple of years (ago)’. How he saw me, never mind remembered me from that game, given the horrendous weather endured there which saw the all-weather pitch begin to get waterlogged, was beyond me! Anyway, after agreeing that our respective soakings would never be forgotten, I spoke to Mark for the remainder of the break and the beginning of the second half too, which duly saw Malpas continue to dominate the game against their youthful-looking opponents.

The ever-dangerous Hughes beat a challenge and forced the Eagle ‘keeper into a stop early on in the half, before his strike-partner, wearing the #10 shirt, chipped narrowly over the bar. However, the two would link up for the fourth goal shortly afterwards, when the latter played in the former to finish nicely and complete his hat-trick (he’s since made it four hat-tricks in three games) after a swift counter-attack saw the visiting defence overwhelmed. From there, though, the game would settle down somewhat and chances would begin to dry up somewhat. I reckoned I should leave Mark in peace for a while(!) and went over to the far side to say a quick “Hello” to Mark and Colin on the Eagle bench before continuing on around towards the cricket pitch and the exit.

Match Action

Benches watch on intently

‘Keeper keeps his clean sheet intact

Malpas almost netted a fifth late on, which brought a decent stop out of the visiting ‘keeper “Aaron” (I deduced that from the shouts afterwards) Lee, before Eagle almost grabbed a consolation late-on in the play, when the under-worked home ‘keeper was alert enough to pull off a pair of decent late stops, the latter denying the #9 again from close range following a corner, to preserve his and his side’s clean-sheet and put the cherry on top of a fine performance from the hosts. The full-time whistle blew shortly afterwards, to put an end to a testing day for Eagle.

As I was heading back towards Malpas and trying to figure out the best place to spend the next hour or so before the bus home, a “beep” from behind caused me to stop. It turned out to be Mark who offered to drop me at a station on the way back, which ended up being as far as Wilmslow, with it being not far from his home. This duly made things a hell of a lot easier, though provided the unfortunate opportunity to hear Chelsea score their eventual winner in the FA Cup Final. Such is life!

Mark dropped me right outside the station and refused to take any money for his troubles and I can only thank him for doing so (so if you do by chance find and read this; Cheers!), though I then messed up by overhearing a train to Piccadilly was due in as I arrived and so jumped on without taking a minute to think of where it was going. It only went via the Airport with a 15 minute stop there, whilst the trains I looked at getting were all but direct back to the city. Damn.

Back in Manchester (Doll not pictured!).

Upon arriving into the Airport station, I then found I had a couple of connections I could catch to swiftly get back. Unfortunately, one pulled out just as I arrived and the other seemed to be out of reach, with the bridge over only seeming to be accessible via a one-way escalator system. With signage proving less than helpful in my quest, I soon got lost and ended up returning, tail between legs, to the train I’d just got off. What. An. Arse. Anyway, I eventually got back to Piccadilly, though did miss my connection in the end and thus was left with an hour to wait and this obviously meant a call into the Piccadilly Tap was called for. The highlight of this little sojourn? The sight of a PCSO being made to have a picture with a naked doll by a hen party. I shared a look with a punter opposite and the doorman too. No ideas were offered up!

So there ends yet another trip and the season is FINALLY almost at it a close. Two weeks remain, with a trip to North Wales up next, followed by my first ever trip down to Wembley the following year and a possible bonus game that same weekend too. As for this trip, well, Malpas is a delight. A really nice little place that is almost a throwback in time to a point. The pubs are decent, the village is pretty, the only real issue is the transport in getting there isn’t the best if you don’t drive. But it’s not all that bad, I guess. The game was a little boring on account of it not being too competitive for long periods, the ground was fairly basic (unsurprisingly), though a stand and a programme is more than many have for the level. The weather just topped the whole trip off, making it all the more enjoyable. Anyway, that’s that for this venture and a trip to the seaside is on the horizon….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Food: N/A (cold snacks in clubhouse/pavilion)

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Denton

Result: Denton Town 3-3 Eagle Sports (Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: Whittles Park (Monday 7th May 2018, 3pm)

Att: 28 (hc)

After a pair of costly and longer-range trips over the previous two days of the Bank Holiday weekend, I was looking for somewhere a little cheaper and closer to home to round off the three days of football. As such, when I came across the fact that Denton Town were welcoming Eagle Sports to their Whittles Park home on the Monday afternoon, the decision was made all the more easy. So on a fairly sweltering late morning, I boarded a bus into Manchester, before catching the connecting service from Piccadilly Gardens over towards Denton, not far from Hyde, in the Eastern side of the city.

Dan would be joining me also, though he would be arriving slightly later than me. This was probably for the best too from his point of view, as I made the fatal error of sitting at the front of the bus there, thus baking in the ever-rising temperatures and ending up something resembling a melting ice-lolly come my eventual arrival into the centre of Denton after a 35 minute sauna session. Luckily, I had a pair of pubs standing immediately opposite, the first of which, the large George Fitzpatrick, had bottles of the fine Hooper’s alcoholic Dandelion & Burdock in chilled bottles. With ice on it, it was the perfect tonic. Don’t have tonic with it though, I stress.

The famous Denton Rock

Denton

First two stops (right)

With the day starting off on a cheap note (the travel and first drink coming in at around £7.30 combined), Dan joined me in here before we headed across the way shortly after his arrival and into the very traditional Red Lion. In here, I found the lesser-spotted Boddington’s on offer and, being not too far from the former Boddy’s brewery, decided I ought to indulge in the nectar. At just £2.10 for a pint, it was a bloody bargain!

From here, we caught the bus from outside the pub and travelled a few stops down the road to the end of Prince Edward Avenue, the road to take to reach Whittles Park. The ground is signposted off of the main road too, so there’s little chance of getting lost, as long as you follow the road. After a short walk of around ten minutes or so, we arrived at the gates of the ground and upon heading in for no charge (free entry, not a blag), we took up a spot in the ground’s “stand”. Now, you may have noticed I’ve put stand there in quotes. That, dear reader, is because the “stand” is more a few tree stumps in a concentrated area! Alongside is the patioed, smart clubhouse that was re-constructed a few years ago, shortly after my first visit here. It’s certainly brighter and more airy than its predecessor, and is adorned by pictures, trophies and other paraphernalia from the club’s almost 100-year history.

En route

Arriving at the ground

Bar a little bit of paving to either side of the clubhouse area, the remainder of the ground is surrounded by grassy areas only, meaning it’s probably best to make sure to visit on a day like today, rather than a soggy one, though most of the ground isn’t exactly too easily accessible, with long grass towards and behind the far end being almost impassable. The far side isn’t much more pruned either, though is something of an improvement. The near end doesn’t really exist and backs onto a fence almost immediately after the goal, with a sharp dip down into a field behind giving views down the hill towards the northern end of Hyde and Dukinfield. The pitch is barred off on both sides, with the far end open and the other, as said earlier, just a fence. So, that’s Denton Town’s Whittles Park in a nutshell, and here’s a bit of back-story to the club….

History Lesson:

Denton Town Football Club was founded in 1920 as Bradford Parish F.C. by the rector of Christ Church in the Bradford area of Greater Manchester, close to where Manchester City now play, with some of the Bradford Colliery seams now covered by the City of Manchester Stadium itself. During their inaugural season, the club competed in the Manchester YMCA league and with an average age of just 17, became League and League Cup winners in their first year, whilst playing at the David Lewis Recreation Ground also known as, far more interestingly, Donkey Common.

The following year saw the club join the Openshaw & District League and went undefeated during the league season, taking the title whilst also lifting the league’s League Cup, securing a second double in both of their first two seasons, no mean feat. They then went on to join the Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur Football League in 1922 and entered the lower ‘A’ (later 2nd) Division. Again, the club enjoyed immediate success, winning their divisional title whilst also taking an astonishing 17 coachloads of (apparently around 800)supporters to Urmston for the league’s Rhodes Cup Final, where they also defeated West Didsbury, securing another double for the club.

Wall of history

The following season saw the club in the L&C First Division, which they immediately won and defended their Rhodes Cup title successfully, meaning yet another double, keeping up their record of winning one in every season of their existence. They soon lost this record though and after winning the Hellawell Shield & Clayton Charity Competition Cup in 1926, would be made to wait until 1933 for their (sort of) next silverware, being joint winners of the Manchester & Salford Medical Charities Cup, but really until 1937, with that coming in the form of the Wray Cup and this was their first honour at their new, enclosed, Ashton Moss Athletic Ground. 1938 saw the doubles return, with the club lifting their second L&C Division 1 title whilst also achieving their third Rhodes Cup win. These would be their final successes before the outbreak of WWII.

The club would soon be forced to leave their new home due to bomb damage come the end of the war and move into the Melland Playing Fields in Gorton. However, they still won the title in both of the first two seasons post-war and 1950 saw another Rhodes Cup won with 1953 seeing a Cup double in the form of the Wray Cup returning for a third time whilst Bradford Parish also won the prestigious Lancashire Amateur Cup at Accrington Stanley’s Peel Park, overcoming Morecambe GSOB by 3-1. 1954 saw them defend the Wray Cup and a hat-trick of these was secured the next season. 1956 saw silverware continue to arrive at the club, in the form of their fifth L&C league title and also their first S.E. Wooley Aggregate Trophy success. This latter trophy was won for a second time in 1959 and the following 1959-’60 season rounded off the decade as it had been all the way through, with a sixth L&C Championship being won.

Clubhouse

The Sixties began well, with 1961 seeing their seventh (but what would turn out to be penultimate) Lancs & Cheshire title being won, whilst the Whitehead Cup was won for a second, but final, time. The next season saw the Wray Cup & Rhodes Cup again be lifted by Parish, with the decade seeing two more of the latter (1965 & ’66) and one of the former (1967) arrive before a spell without success would finally be experienced.

Only a single Rhodes Cup (1982), S.E. Woolam Aggregate Trophy (1982) & Wray Cup (1991) would be won in the years leading up to Bradford Parish’s name change to Denton Town F.C. in 1994 and the newly named club moved to their current Whittles Park home the following year. Their first silverware at the new ground arrived immediately, the end of that ’95-’96 season saw the ninth Rhodes Cup be won, but that would be it for a further decade, until 2006 saw the S.E. Woolam Trophy lifted for a fifth time and the Whitehead Cup a third. The next campaign saw the double wins return, with another undefeated league season seeing them lift their eight and last Lancs & Cheshire League title whilst also attaining a tenth Rhodes Cup.

Outdated honours list

After winning yet another Wray Cup in 2008, Denton signed off from the Lancashire and Cheshire League and joined the Cheshire League, playing in the Division 2 after a successful application. Here, Town finished 12th in their first season, before rocketing up to 3rd in 2010 prior to lifting the 2011 title and achieving promotion to Division 1. They have remained here ever since, through its name change to the Premier Division in 2014 and despite struggling for the majority of their spell there (finishing third-bottom in 2014 & ’15 & second-bottom in 2016), things again took an upturn last year, as they finished 3rd. Alas, there was to be no repeat of their Division 2 title win afterwards, the club guaranteed to finish bottom come the end of the season, though restructuring of the pyramid will likely see them retain their spot in the top division.

The game got underway and after just three minutes or so we had our first goal and it was the bottom side, the hosts, who took the lead with a barnstorming strike from 25 yards by Godfred Amankwaa flying into the top corner past the helpless Eagle ‘keeper who could do nothing about it and, indeed, didn’t even attempt to. One-nil to Denton and it looked like that goal-fest I’ve been waiting on for quite a while could finally be on the cards!

It looked to be the case even more so soon after when Eagle grabbed themselves an equaliser. A ball through the defence found its way to Ged McAllister and the striker coolly slotted the ball beyond the ‘keeper and into the net. One-a-piece in around ten minutes and it was game on once more and both sides continued to trade chances, with Denton seeing a big rebound head towards the Eagle goal, which was eventually required to be cleared off the line, with the visitors responding with a low ball across goal that just evaded McAllister once again.

Match Action from the “stand”

Match Action

Match Action

But it was Denton who would begin to gain control of the game from around the 20 minute mark, and Amankwaa would net his second goal of the game mid-way through the half from right out on the side of the box, his low drive somehow squirming its way through the Eagle ‘keeper and into the far corner. They looked to have all but sewn the game up shortly before half-time, when a long-ball over the top, allied with some slack defending, allowed Antonio Din Chin to steal in at the back-post and nod the ball over the line. Three-one going in at the break and for Dan and I, it was off to the bar! It was….”smashing”.

Getting a Magners each for just £4, we awaited the second half in the comfort of the very smart Geoff Gable Lounge, whilst also grabbing a couple of the cardboard leaflets that were put out on the tables as a sort of programme. Sadly, pies were a no-go today as, apparently, I was told by the guy who seemed to be doing pretty much every job under the sun (no pun intended) today, “It’s the first time he hasn’t put any in all season” as we looked at an empty pie oven forlornly warming air. Ah well, the football was soon getting started up once more.

It was Denton who again started the stronger of the sides after the break and almost made it four when a free-kick took an awkward bounce in front of the visiting gloveman, who recovered just enough to block the ball with his legs and it was eventually cleared by his defenders. This proved a crucial moment too as, around half-way through the second period, the ever-threatening McAllister found himself one-on-one after latching onto a long ball forward and he again showed confidence to lift the ball over the advancing Town number one to reduce the arrears to a single goal once again.

Shorts action

Match Action

Match Action

Ryan Bishop then forced a decent stop out of the home ‘keeper with a rocket of a shot from all of 30 yards, the rebound just evading the hat-trick seeking McAllister, and Eagle now found themselves well and truly on the front-foot and almost levelled in pretty cheeky circumstances, knocking a quick-free kick towards goal with the ‘keeper recovering in the nick of time to control the ball on the line before it crossed.

In between the few water breaks here and there, the Sankey-based visitors were now all over their hosts and thought they had levelled in stoppage time, when a long-ball forward saw McAllister and the ‘keeper jump for the ball together, the ball evading both and ending up in the net, but the referee adjudged that the striker had jumped into his opponent rather than against him, and awarded a free-kick to Denton.

However, he then went from zero-to-hero in the eyes of the Eagle team when a trip was committed in the area and the referee had little option to point to the spot and award the penalty. Of course, it was McAllister who would be stepping up with the chance to complete his hat-trick and the Eagle comeback to secure an away point with what would be the last meaningful kick of the game. He did just that, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way and unerringly finding the bottom right-hand corner to earn his side a share of the spoils, much to the chagrin of the hosts after the whistle, who felt hard done by, apparently due to previous happenings going against them too it seemed. Be that as it may, they couldn’t have many complaints with the awarding of today’s penalty and that was that. 3-3, full-time.

McAllister completes his hat-trick

A great game and Eagle player-manager Rob Hope invited us pair of hangers-on to the Fletcher’s Arms for a post-match pint, though this one would be definitely more responsible than other occasions….

Anyway, after being given some directions by a couple of locals, Dan and I headed off towards the pub, though came across Cock first. No, I mean the Cock Inn, deary me. Anyway, a quick pint of Moretti (£3.30) was had in here, before abuse was aimed at me specifically out a red/burgundy Jaguar car just on the corner by a few players from a football team from somewhere. Good job I couldn’t work out who they were….!

Colin (Rob’s Dad and Chairman, Treasurer and groundsman at Eagle) soon dropped the rapscallions off at the Fletcher’s before kindly returning for us and taking us down there, saving a good ten minute walk. After enjoying a pint of Beck’s (by far the dearest of the day at £4.10) in the carvery-style pub’s beer garden with a few of the lads, where I learnt a number of the team weren’t available having been the worse for wear after a day at the Welsh Cup Final the previous afternoon (plus a few that played were too….Robbo?), it was time to return back towards Denton town centre and its many watering holes. Helped out by a seemingly non-timetabled bus turning up on our walk there, we headed up to the pairing of pubs that came along first, the Carter’s Arms and the Chapel House. The former didn’t look any great shakes and so to the larger, Edwardian-style Chapel House it was, where a pint of Holt’s Crystal Lager came in at the strangely priced £2.73. Why always Holt’s?!

Cock Hotel

Fletcher’s Arms

Chapel House

From there, it was a short walk down the road to the next one up, the Toll Point. This was a nice enough little pub too and a quick pint of Dark Fruits (£2.70) was had in here before a final pint was had in the Gardener’s Arms back opposite the bus stop. In here, I had the horror of finding that I’d pretty much exhausted my cash and not really wanting to dip into using my card asked what I could get for about £2.50. “Foster’s” was the answer. I went cold. But, beer is beer and I went for it anyway. It wasn’t too bad either, though the fact it was my eighth beverage of the day may have helped matters somewhat!

Toll Point

Gardener’s Arms from across the square

The bus back into Manchester was easily taken before a trip back home for a couple more was had to round off the day in style. So, what of Denton? Well, the ground is tidy enough (if you ignore the overgrown grass at the far end) and the town is bloody cheap when it comes to the (in Father Jack voice) DRINK! The game had been a fun one and the ground being on the flight path to Manchester Airport always appeals to my geeky side too. Can’t complain about the weather either! So, that rounds off the early May Bank Holiday weekend, and it’s onto next week for another pair of games, which will likely see me at a title-deciding game (or something alike) somewhere, before heading down to the “Smoke” for the final time this season and to Selhurst Park. Got to get there before the bane of my life that is ground “improvements” begin….

RATINGS:

Game: 9

Ground: 5

Food: N/A (chocs and the like were on, pies usually too)

Programme: 2 (Not really one, just a basic history card, free)

Value For Money: 10

 

 

Manchopper in….Orford

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.

Beer & football is a known quantity by now…

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.

The Orford Hotel

Final Stop: The Blackburne Arms…

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.

Funfair that sound tracked the match

Some wood fitness stuff. I passed.

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…

History Lesson:

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.

Nice bridge. Didn’t lead anywhere though.

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.

Match Action

Match Action

View from the covered area

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.

Battling.

Match Action

Orford FC. And some disposed corner flags.

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.

The Jolly Falstaff

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…

 

RATINGS:

Game: 3

Ground: 3

Food: N/A (vending machines available in foyer)

Programme: 5 (bonus point for just issuing!)

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Lostock Gralam

Result: Lostock Gralam 0-3 AFC Macclesfield (Cheshire League 1)

Venue: The Park Stadium (Monday 1st May 2017, 3pm)

Att: 20 (approx.)

With the season drawing to a close, it was time to delve back down into the lower levels of the pyramid. As such, a fine choice looked to be Lostock Gralam of the Cheshire League’s League 1 and so, after some deliberation, it was to their Park Stadium that I was headed for.

Heading into Manchester before midday, I had a good half-hour before my train down to Lostock Gralam. So, with me deciding it’d be a waste of 30 minutes otherwise, I headed for Piccadilly Station’s Hourglass Bar for a pint of their Löwenbrau beer. Despite its £4.80 price tag, I’m always more than happy to indulge in its fineness.

After having it brought to me after an issue with the pipes, I spent the half-hour I had watching the departure boards and watching my train head closer and closer to the top of the screen and, eventually, my train headed to within the final ten minutes to its departure and I headed down to the platform and onto my borderline prehistoric rattler down to the Cheshire village.

I eventually arrived at shortly after 1pm and headed immediately for the first pub of the day , the Watermead. The Watermead was your standard new-build Marston’s pub, so there was little to get the pulse racing. This was accentuated by the £3.90 pint of Shipyard. Oh, ‘Spoons, how I yearn for you and your cheap beers. Anyway, bar this, there was little to complain about, but  I soon got a bit fed up and headed back up the road towards the ground.

Lostock Gralam

The Watermead

Sadly, the ground neighbouring Slow and Easy was closed pre-match and so I headed for the ground directly through the car park. Again, with a good hour until kick-off, I soon got restless here and scouted out a wine bar close by. I assured the guy at the gate I’d be returning after he asked “Are you leaving now?!”, and headed back out onto the road. Unfortunately,  I was denied a further pre-match beer by this place being shut-up and so I turned back, tail between my legs, and returned to the Park Stadium. Despite this un-fruitful detour, I did get to snap a couple of pictures of the town’s canal moorings. You’ve got to find the positives somewhere, eh?!

Shame the canal side bar was shut

Arriving back at the ground

I ended up back at the ground with a good half-hour to kick-off, though this passed fairly quickly due to weather being on the warm side for once! So it wasn’t long until the sides headed into the dressing rooms ahead of kick-off, with one player from the home side claiming that “(the pitch) suits us more than it does them”. Would he be correct? Well, you should know by now. If not, then the drama has just been upped.

As for the Park Stadium, well, it’s simplistic. That’s not to say it’s not a lovely ground though. The far end is an open, grassy area, so probably not too friendly come rainy days. In fact, the whole ground lacks hard standing, but there is some respite in a small, covered standing area towards the far end on the near side touchline as you enter. The pub end is populated by the modern changing rooms/refreshment bar (plus a few tables) with a grass mound running the length of the far side of the pitch. With that out of the way, here’s a bit about Lostock Gralam’s story…

History Lesson:

Lostock Gralam FC was founded in 1892, thus making the club one of the oldest in the county of Cheshire and the club have played at the Park Stadium for over a century. The club also helped to establish the Mid-Cheshire League upon its formation in 1948 and have continued their presence within it since.

The club won the Mid-Cheshire League in  1951, ’52 & ’53, completing a hat-trick of league titles, but had to wait a decade for their next triumph. However, they would go on to record a further trio of consecutive titles between 1966 & ’68, before bowing out of the league at the close of the ’74-’75 season, not reappearing until the ’93-’94 season, after almost a twenty year hiatus.

Shiny new clubhouse

LGFC

Following a Division 2 title win in 1997, and subsequent relegation in ’99, In recent years, the Grey Lambs (with perhaps one of the sweetest club badges of all time) won the Cheshire League’s Division 2 in 2010 to return to the league’s top-flight. They remained here through until 2014 when they were promoted to the Division One once more, but were relegated again the following season back to Division 2 and finished fifth, before being awarded a place in the newly formed “League 1”, the second tier of the newly created three-tier system in the Cheshire League.

The game got underway and it quickly became apparent that the visitors would be the dominant force during this fixture. Despite there being little in terms of pure action during the first period, it was Macclesfield who took the lead, Lee Quinlan managing to force a header from around 12 yards beyond the Gralam GK, despite him getting a decent hand to it. So the visitors led 0-1 and looked fairly comfortable.

Slightly earlier on, I had overheard someone mention the name of Paul Dickov. Now, I hadn’t thought much of it, past his involvement in the charity game on the coming Sunday (7th May) against AFC Macc. But, on the quintessential lap of the ground, I spotted the City play-off legend watching the contest on the far side. So, having got somewhat used to seeing Mancunian footballing legends at lower league levels (see my Prestwich Heys blog for another), I headed over to try to secure a snap with the former Oldham and Doncaster manager. Dickov couldn’t have been more courteous and after a quick chat, I left him to watch the team his son competes for net their second of the afternoon.

Match Action

Match Action

Meeting Paul Dickov. Top Guy!

Having mostly dominated the first half, in terms of the final third, it was unsurprising that Macc would go on to double their lead as the ball was forced in by #9 Jay Burgess whilst he was lying on the ground and surrounded by a couple of defenders in a similar position. It was a pretty scrappy goal, but they all count. Two-nil to Macclesfield and half-time was quickly upon us. I headed for the refreshment bar and purchased a mug of tomato soup for just £1 to accompany me through the break.

Half-Time refreshment!

The second half got underway and it was certainly more open and entertaining than the first. Lostock had their chances, though these came through their set-pieces. Firstly, they came oh so close to forcing their way back into the game with their #5 having an effort cleared off the line following a corner, before Macc went straight down the other end and forced a great chance to end the game as a contest, the ref pulling the game back for a spot-kick.

Up stepped the #11, but his kick was comfortably saved by the home custodian, though Macc’s disappointment was fairly short-lived as they would soon add their third, Jack Banister stealing the ball from a defender in the corner of the pitch before advancing into the area and finishing confidently; Nil-three and the points were, almost certainly, heading back to Macclesfield. Well Woodley, but you know.

Mound action. Only suitable for dry days.

Nice stand here. Love that stand.

View from said stand

The action wasn’t to finish there, though, as Lostock lost their sub to an apparent elbow, before skipper #5 again went so close to grabbing a consolation, seeing his 20-yard free-kick come back off the upright with the visiting ‘keeper beaten. Here endeth the action on the whole and Macc saw out the remaining fifteen minutes in comfort to secure the points.

Following the game, I headed for the Slow and Easy which had, mercifully, opened during the first half and thus spared me a good forty minute wait at Lostock Gralam station. Having headed inside, I was denied a pint of Staropramen’s Praha and so settled for Carling’s Cider which was ok. What was decent, though, was the fact I was allowed to dip into the post-match chips laid on for the players in here, courtesy of one of the Grey Lambs’ staff, so thanks for that.

Badge emblazoned door

In the Slow and Easy

Sadly, there wasn’t many of either side that took advantage of the post-match food, bar a few of the visiting side, and so it was soon time to head out and away from the Bank Holiday favourite ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ on the TV. I arrived back at the station just as the train back to Piccadilly rolled in. Timed to perfection once again!

My journey back was spent reading the Non-League Paper I’d picked up en route to the game and the Farsley Celtic programme from the prior Saturday, as well as marvelling over Knutsford being the capital of the world, considering how many had got off on the way and then got back on as I returned. (K)nuts!

Bar the crazy Knutsford popularity, the journey back was largely uneventful, though all my connections worked like clockwork (a rarity) to allow me to get back a good hour earlier than I expected.

So, a good day was had in Lostock Gralam. Yes there isn’t much to the village, but it’s a pleasant little place and ground, with the added bonus of it being on the airport flight path to add to my sadness! The game was decent enough and meeting Paul Dickov, scorer of one of the goals that has stuck with me from my earlier footballing memories made it all the more worthwhile. Next week sees the penultimate weekend of my 2016-’17 season. Writing this at almost 10pm, you have as much of an idea where I’m headed as I do!

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 5

Food: 3 (Soup)

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 7

 

 

Manchopper in….Padgate (Bennett’s Recreation Centre)

Result: Greenalls Padgate St. Oswald’s Reserves 3-2 Eagle Sports Reserves (Cheshire League Reserve Division 1)

Venue: Bennett’s Recreation Centre (Thursday 13th April 2017, 6.30pm)

Att: 22 (hc)

It’s very rare for me to delve into reserve exclusive football, and even more so to blog about it. But with Greenalls Padgate’s Reserve side having their own separate home to their first team (who play at the Tetley Walker ground about a mile away), then this was one that had to be done. Along with the silly thing I have of ticking off grounds I regularly see from the train.

So, having set off at just before 6pm, I arrived in Padgate at around a quarter past the hour and that, to me, meant time for a swift one in the nearby Stocks Hotel. The Stocks is a decent little place and is located nicely so you don’t have to be left on the desolate station platform. Anyway, a quick pint of Kronenbourg was had while a couple of guys were providing entertainment on the pool table.

I wasn’t too fussed about making kick-off, arriving at the ground about five minutes into the game. The Bennett’s Recreation Centre pitches sit toward the rear of the park they’re situated within and are around a five-minute walk from Padgate station. There are a pair of venues here, a fully railed off pitch and another non-railed pitch that does, however, feature a small concrete terrace. It was the fully railed off pitch being in use today and I arrived with the score-line remaining at 0-0. For history of GPSO, see the blog on their first team from a couple of seasons back here.

The Stocks

Arriving at the Bennett’s Rec

The second “ground”

As for the game itself, it was a pretty decent one. It looked as though Eagle had taken the lead (or at very least had a good shout of a pen) when a goal-bound header was blocked on the line, via various parts of the defender’s anatomy, including his hand. The referee, though, waved away all claims and the game continued on. As did I, dodging the odd pile of dog muck on the way to greet the Eagle bunch on the far side of the pitch.

But, it was the visitors who did take the lead shortly afterwards when, with around 25 minutes on the clock, tall striker Ben White was released down the inside right and drove an effort into the far side-netting, just within the post. However, the lead didn’t last too long, with Greenalls fighting back strongly and storming into the lead with two quick fire goals.

Firstly, a bit of hectic defending led to the ball not being cleared away and the Greenalls #9 unleashing a fine volley into the corner. This was doubled a couple of minutes later when, after some good play down the left, a low ball in saw the Eagle ‘keeper enter into no man’s land and #11 being on hand to slot in from about eight yards. The Reserve derby was heating up well and truly now.

Match Action

Match Action

One for the cameras!

Then came the flash point of the game when the referee decided to not blow the whistle at his lips despite being about to award what was a clear free-kick to the visitors. This allowed the hosts to break forward at speed again down the left and the same result occurred with the #11 arriving to knock the ball over the line at the back-post. Half-Time, 3-1 to Greenalls Padgate and the Eagle ‘keeper treated himself to a cigarette no longer than 20 seconds after the whistle had gone!

The second half was more of a turgid affair, with the grass cuttings on the pitch, combined with tiring legs, meaning the game was played at a slower pace. However, it was the visitors who largely dominated it and they got themselves back in the game when Adam Deakin forced the ball in at the second attempt. This spurred the visitors on to claim a pint and they did go close to a leveller on two occasions via a deflected drive going just wide and a fine save by the Padgate ‘keeper denying what looked a certain goalbound header.

Match Action

Match Action

I did miss the last ten minutes as I gambled on there being no further goals (I was right in my thought process) and got the early train back to spare myself an hour and a half wait post-match. So, nothing too exciting bar the game being a decent one, so it’s off to the big leagues on Friday with Huddersfield Town the venue.

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 3

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 8

 

Manchopper in….Poynton

BADGE_400x400logo

Result: Poynton A-A Rudheath Social (Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: Poynton Sports Club (Saturday 21st May 2016, 1pm)

Att: 21 (hc)

Ah yes, an early summer match at the end of the season. A lovely game, in pleasant weather, to round out a footballing season that has featured too much weather issues than I care to remember. Well, we can dream…

A late(ish) night text conversation with Rob saw us decide on a trip over to the small Cheshire town of Poynton, not too far from Stockport, with his preference for a Cheshire League fixture drawing us away from the likes of Southport Hesketh etc. Come Saturday morning, the day was relatively nice, i.e. no different than any other overcast morning and with the rain holding off, all looked set for our final match.

After meeting with Rob at Piccadilly and him purchasing his ticket (remember this minor detail) off the guy on the platform, we were soon on the rattler bound for Stoke via the Cheshire countryside. After heading through the suburbs and the likes of Cheadle Hulme & Hazel Grove, we pulled into Poynton station which looked like it was stuck in a time warp from the 1940’s. Honestly, the benches bore the station name, a guy took your tickets as you left the station and the waiting room was definitely a throwback.

Poynton Station

Poynton Station

All roads lead to Poynton.

All roads lead to Poynton.

Anyway, our vintage experience over, we took heed of the sign reading “To the village” and headed off down the road and into the “shared space zone” of Poynton town/village Centre. We figured, upon being allowed to cross a road in an unmarked area that “shared space” meant something along the lines of “all traffic must be strangely polite to all others”, as not only was it pedestrians who took advantage of this, but also other vehicles were politely allowed to filter into the flow. Crazy times here!

It was just after 11am and so only one place beckoned: Wetherspoons, of course! The Kingfisher sat in the midst of a shopping precinct housing all sorts of shops and food outlets to serve the fine Poyntonian community. For us, however, sights were set upon the doorway of the Kingfisher and the delights to be found inside. With drinks ordered and purchased we headed over to the “DJ deck” table, as Rob christened it, before his breakfast soon joined us. After talking through a few West Dids-related things (nothing too secretive I assure you), it was off into the high street and the Farmer’s Arms.

Poynton

Poynton

Poynton

Poynton

The Kingfisher

The Kingfisher

The Farmer’s was a nice pub, a mix of traditional pub and restaurant/bar. With Rob not too happy about the fact I’d burdened him with a round of San Miguel’s, we headed outside to make the most of the last of the brightness, before the rain began to arrive. The barman in here was also taken aback by Rob’s revelation of Manchester’s B Lounge Carling prices!

With the rain now falling intermittently and the clock approaching One, we took our leave, with the intention of heading to the game, watching it and heading back to the Cask Lounge before our train home. As you may have figured, these plans came to be scuppered but, blissfully unaware of what was to soon be unleashed upon us, we arrived at the gates of Poynton Sports Club some 5 minutes before the game, to see the pitch still being marked out. There’s not much of the ground to speak of bar the railed off pitch and Clubhouse/social club, and it was the latter where we headed to purchase something to keep us watered.

Poynton Sports Club

Poynton Sports Club

The bar here is quite smart, serving all the sports in the complex, but mostly the cricket and football sections today. As it was, it was still rather empty and with plastic cups in force, we headed out to the pitch where the game was just getting underway. Not much happened bar the goal, a shot across the ‘keeper for Social to take the lead and a home player gave some comedic relief whilst getting booked with the ref not enamouring himself to neither player nor spectator. I, however, was more lenient, as he was an old schoolmate….

The clouds began to roll in shortly after. Then it began to drizzle. Then it rained. It rained some more. Then it pissed it down. Then it became something Noah would have been accustomed to! The deluge absolutely soaked all of us hardy souls and those on the field, who battled on gamely for the next 20 minutes. With only a tree to shelter us, a few fans, smartly, gave up and headed for the bar while our beers got a top-up and one guy soldiered on with his radio out. As you do.

Unaware of what's to come...

Unaware of what’s to come…

Match Action

Match Action

Then, as Rob observed, after 40 minutes plus of not playing one pass through the middle of the pitch, one player tried it and it looked like the parting of the Red Sea as the water flew up and the ref had next to no option, in hindsight, to call the game to a halt. After a very brief consultation, he confirmed game ABANDONED!!!! For me, the THIRD TIME THIS SEASON!!!! Originally, we thought there could have been a brief stoppage to see how the weather went, but it quickly became apparent it was the correct call.

“They were (bleep)-ing hungover too!” observed one Rudheath player, a view that was confirmed by the couple of Poynton players we joined when walking back to cover and warmth away from hypothermia. With the rain still teeming down SIDEWAYS (last word in Family Guy’s Ollie Williams’ voice), we took cover until the rain passed, just in time for us to head over to the station for an earlier train than we expected to get back. On arrival back in the last century, we were puzzled on just how to find access to the footbridge to the other side as was another woman who was just as confused. The brains trust (mine not included) soon found it and we were safely over in time for our service back to Manchester and the FA Cup Final.

Now, remember the ticket from earlier? Well, as we pulled back into Piccadilly and disembarked, I passed through no issues until Rob shouted me to stop for a minute. It turned out his ticket had gone walkabout and he was having some trouble finding it. After a quick peruse through the windows confirmed no ticket, he was soon confronted by a man in civilian clothes who was half-introduced by the Northern ticket officer. In true, terrible ’80’s porn flick tone, he declared “I’M A REVENUE INSPECTOR” and unleashed his weapon. Well, his badge. Even when I spotted we were stood right next to the ticket guy who sold it on the way, this prick was having none of it.

Random picture of match to break up text

Random picture of match to break up text

After being informed he’d need to buy another ticket and handing over a Morrisons receipt, the right one was finally discovered in a sodden state and Rob was released from his prison-like situation and free to roam the streets once again like the terrible danger he is. It was decided we’d head to the Paramount, the ‘Spoons on the corner of Oxford Road to watch the final there which ended up in a few more drinks, though my session ended earlier than expected and I was forced onto Cokes.

After watching United take the cup from under the nose of the dancing Alan Pardew, it was time for me to head off home, but not before I’d reluctantly (not reluctantly at all) agreed to take a free ticket off Rob via West assistant-boss Steve for the England-Turkey friendly the next day. I guess Rob will think twice about joining me again!

So, within the walls of a building that used to be a picture house/theatre, it seemed rather fitting that I could end the day saying: “All’s well that ends well”…..

DSC02462

RATINGS:

Game: 6- Ok, until the abandonment.

Ground: 4- Nice bar, nothing else to it. Pitch looked good though.

Fans: 3- A few.

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 6- It started good and ended up a bit mad!

 

 

Manchopper in….Whaley Bridge

whaley bridgeEagle Sports

Result: Whaley Bridge 1-0 Eagle Sports (Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: Horwich Park (Saturday 14th May 2016, 3pm)

Att:41 (hc)

As the season runs down to the last few, or possibly last, weekend for myself I had put forward the idea of a return to the Peak District for an end of season jaunt, in the shape of last season’s very…different…trip to Chapel-en-le-Frith and Chapel Town FC. Eventually, after a few different things were thrown out there too, it was settled between myself and the ever famed Matt of LostBoyos, that we’d be off to Whaley Bridge.

Matt was going early via New Mills and the tow paths of the canal up to Whaley Bridge, whereas I would be pulling the lazy card and heading straight through to the town on the train, with the full intentions of getting there and visiting one of the number of pubs the town plays host to. I’d been before (though, I didn’t mention this quite as much as in Garforth), so I had a fair idea of where to head. Or so I thought.

Arriving in Whaley Bridge during the late morning, I made the short walk down to the high street, only to find all the pubs still shut and I began to wonder if there wasn’t some strange ruling that there could be no pubs open on May 14th. around here. Anyway, as I crossed the road to investigate the Goyt, Matt pounced upon my unaware self, arms flailing in a desperate attempt to make himself clearly visible to me, which was apparently very humorous to someone at the roadside.

Arriving in Whaley Bridge

Arriving in Whaley Bridge

The High Street

The High Street

'Whaley Winds'

‘Whaley Winds’

Anyway, now something of Brothers in Arms against the quietness, we went on a lap of the town, after Matt had already completed a few earlier in the day. Then, we did another. And another. And another. And…well, you get the picture. With no sign of life coming from within any watering holes, we decided to head for cock. Come on now, you know I meant THE Cock Inn. Mercifully opening at the quickly approaching midday, we’d found our starting place.

After a couple in here, including a Hawaiian beer by the name of “Big Wave”, which had taken my interest for the reasons of its origin, we headed back down the main road and past the quaint Shotguns and Rifles shop, eventually arriving at the White Hart, which sits on the curve of the road and right in the line of any speeding cars. With only a quick stop in here and with little going on, we headed back on ourselves and up to the Shepherds Arms, which didn’t open up until the strange time of 2pm.

Oh yes.

Oh yes.

Uphill run

Uphill run, Eau Rouge-esque

Over the bridge, we must go...

Over the bridge, we must go…

The Shepherds was a nice, little place with the barmaid asking just what we were doing here, and showing off some decent enough knowledge of Whaley Bridge FC and the Cheshire League as a whole. Though, when she said that she was hoping to get the club to adopt her pub as their base, maybe there’d been some homework getting done. Anyway, with local poetry and sheep posters seen and enjoyed in equal measure (not so much the latter personally, nor the former for that matter) it was time to head for the ground, via a stop in the Co-op for Matt to purchase some Buds for the game, on account that there was no bar at the ground according to our new found expert.

After heading back under the railway and up and over the reservoir, we eventually came upon Horwich Park which stands within the town’s war memorial park. Basically all the ground is is a barred off pitch within the confines of a public park, with a building at the rear housing a small food bar, toilets, changing rooms etc. Not much to it then. As for Whaley Bridge as a football club, though, there is a little more to write about,…

History Lesson:

Football has been played within Whaley Bridge for over a century, with the current club tracing its real roots back to Horwich End, who played in, and won on numerous occasions, the Buxton League during the 1920’s and at the current site since 1926. The current named club formed following the Second World War and took to playing in the New Mills & District League, which was won in 1948 & ’49.

1951 saw Whaley win the local Hospital Cup and Derbyshire Medals and 1955 saw them add the Stockport Shield to their cabinet. Following that success, the club switched to the Manchester League Division 2, finishing runners-up in 1962, whilst winning the league’s Murray Shield. The Division 2 was won in 1964 and after a short spell in Division 1, a switch to the Stockport League followed.

The Stockport League title was lifted in 1968 and again in 1969, with the Derbyshire Cup following the next year. 1971 saw success continue, a third Stockport League title being won alongside the Haslam Cup. The 1970’s continued to be a fine decade for the club, with 1973-’75 seeing the Derbyshire Cup won thrice more. 1975 also saw the club, now playing in the Hope Valley League, take that title along with the Lawrence Cup in a “treble” winning season. The decade was rounded off with a successful Hope Valley League defence in ’76 & a Dore Shield success in 1977.

Whaley Bridge FC

Whaley Bridge FC

Memorial Park

Memorial Park

1981 saw the third Hope Valley title arrive at Horwich Park and also a second Lawrence Cup, before a further Derbyshire Cup was won the year after. After a few years of disarray on the field (and possibly off too), the club settled after relegation from the top flight of the Hope Valley League, and soon returned. 1992 sees a second Dore Shield achieved, before success later in the decade sees the ’97 & ’98 Hope Valley titles arrive, the latter season also sees a further Derbyshire Cup win.

2000 sees another Hope Valley title and Lawrence Cup before the league title is successfully defended the next year as the team became more dominant. The rest of the 2000’s see a further title in 2007 along with further Dore Shields (’02, ’03, ’04, ’09) and Lawrence Cups (’04, ’07). Bridge win the 2010 title and Derbyshire Cup, before winning all 4 of the above trophies the next year as they left for the Cheshire League on a high, success continuing into their first season, 2012, which sees Whaley win both the Cheshire League Division 2 & the Division 2 Cup. Last season, the club finished up in 5th and currently sit 3rd in the Premier Division.

Bridge were entertaining Eagle Sports today, who have become, as regular readers will know, something of an adopted club of mine, following the day in Glan Conwy a couple of years back now. With the game underway after some greetings, I’d begin to give some description of what went on. Unfortunately, the game was a stereotypical end of season game, with next to nothing to speak of happening. The first half featured a low save by Eagle’s ‘keeper Craig Clare, and a resulting clearance off the line, but little else.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Match Action

Match Action

A cock of a different kind...

A cock of a different kind…

After Matt had been trying to compare the home ‘keeper to the one-time Liverpool custodian Doni and a trawl of the memory banks to remember his first name (Alexandre, thanks pointless football knowledge!), we were back underway, with Eagle assistant (and late sub) Mark, complimenting Whaley Bridge on their usage of china mugs and not he plastic shite you usually find at clubs all over the country.

The second half was a vast improvement on the first, with Whaley taking an early lead, through a close range finish by Dan Christie. This spurred Eagle on somewhat and they had the better of the chances for the remainder of the game, but failed to take any that came their way. Whaley’s Will Bailey, not Bill as I originally thought, was brilliant in the centre of midfield and ran the game for them. Matt’s highlight was the big sub Raymond Dwolitka who came on and proceeded to just be a nuisance for the most part. “Ray”, though, had made an impact on us that’s for sure. Full-time, 1-0.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action with Ray!

Match Action with Ray!

So it was back over the reservoir and to the Goyt Inn. The Goyt resembled more of a small house than a pub from the outside, but inside it was a compact, traditional little bar. With our final drinks in Bridge ordered, we whiled away the time through to our return train back to Piccadilly and the Tap for one final stop. Afterwards, Matt headed off to indulge in some Eurovision and I walked over to Oxford Road and, for no apparent reason, just died on the platform as you do….

DSC02415

RATINGS:

Game: 4- Pretty poor game overall, not much excitement.

Ground: 3- Pitch and the facilities building. That’s it.

Fans: 4- Meh.

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A (confectionary available)

Value For Money: 6- Decent day overall and cheap travel make up for it, even despite death.