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.

Manchopper in….Ashton-in-Makerfield (Ashton Town FC)

Ashton_Town_AFC_logobacup borough

Result: Ashton Town 1-2 Bacup Borough (North West Counties Division 1)

Venue: Edge Green Street (Saturday 30th April 2016, 3pm)

Att: 41.

I’ll go this week. Nah, it’s close, I’ll go another time. This week then. No, I’m off there instead. This was the usual thought process which I went through when I had floated the idea to myself of visiting Ashton-in-Makerfield. Whether it be Town or Athletic, either way I’d find some sort of excuse or reason why I would need to visit somewhere else first. But today was D-Day. Today, I was to visit Ashton, finally, in the shape of Town’s Edge Green Street.

After a touch of rain (surprise), it was a certainty the game was a-ok and off to Ashton I set via the usual medium of Manchester’s stations. After heading back on myself slightly, it was off to Wigan where I had a short wait until my connection set off for Bryn, the closest (and slightly Welsh sounding) station to Ashton. After such an exciting paragraph, dare you read on?

For those brave souls that have managed to survive the excitement, I set off on the half-hour or so walk towards the ground but, as I’m sure you can all understand, I was desperately in need of a drink as I arrived onto the main road and found my salvation in the shape of the Caledonian Hotel. The Caledonian is a large building and is the only pub (as far as Google Maps would tell me anyhow) within the near vicinity of the ground, as you don’t really venture too near the town itself. So, to the Caledonian it was!

The Caledonian

The Caledonian

Edge Green Street

Edge Green Street

The pub itself is rather large, but it was fairly empty on this early afternoon, with only a few punters in the lounge area and little care for the Bolton game on TV. I think I was the only person who gave half a damn or even noticed that Bolton scored, and with the group’s conversation turning more towards Ashton Athletic, I figured that I might as well head over to the ground anyway, as the time was now approaching 2.30pm. Finishing the San Miguel pint, I made my way around towards the ground.

Eventually after horseshoeing back around, I cam upon a small dirt-path lane which happened to be the fabled Edge Green Street and soon my eyes were drawn to the turnstile block at the foot of the road. Upon reaching said block, I handed over my £5 entry, plus a further £1 for the programme. I did, however, turn down the offer of the gateman to buy a key-ring for a further £2. With the time just at about the half-hour, I reckoned I might as well head for the clubhouse and a further beer.

Ashton Town AFC

Ashton Town AFC

Clubhouse

Clubhouse

Today's posters

Today’s posters

“Can’t see Bud on here mate, only Stella. Ah, £2 will do.” My sort of barman! So, with a £2 bottle of Bud to keep me company for the run up to kick-off, I took a seat to be accompanied by, unfortunately, Final Score which I’m sure we can all agree is just nothing on Soccer Saturday. Soon enough and buoyed by the aroma of chips filling the air around the clubhouse, it was time to head out into the fresh, South Lancashire afternoon for kick-off.

Edge Green Street is a funny little ground. It’s “main” stand is a fairly small one, which sits spanning the half-way line and a third of both ends. It has just a couple of rows of seats and a row of covered standing within and is joined on the far touchline by a seating stand, which is set slightly back from the “main” stand and looks a bit out of place if anything, as it sits toward the near-end goal-line. Both ends are open, hard standing as is the near touchline where the dugouts and dressing rooms are located. The clubhouse also offers a bit of covered standing. As for Ashton Town as a club, well…

History Lesson:

The current Ashton Town were formed in 1953, but an Ashton Town AFC were in competition before that, playing in the Lancashire Combination from 1903. After promotion in their first season in Division 2, they were relegated straight away and by 1911 had withdrew from the league and folded.

1953 saw the aforementioned new club begin life as Makerfield Mill FC and after a short spell in the Wigan Sunday School League, played in the St.Helen’s Amateur League for three years, winning a Liverpool FA Shield (1957) and the Division 2 shortly before joining the Warrington & District League in 1958. After lifting the W&D League Division 1 in both 1960 & ’61, 1962, as well as the 1961 Wigan Cup, Town were forced out of their original home of Windsor Road due to redevelopment and it was then the club resurrected the name of Ashton Town AFC.

Signage

Signage

Terracing

Terracing

After a spell on public parks on Whithill St. in Bryn, which saw a further two W&D League titles won in ’63 & ’64, the club purchased land on Edge Green Street which was previously home to Stubshaw Cross Rovers. This became the club’s home and the club began redevelopment, with a further two Warrington & District titles added to the collection in 1965 & 1970 as well as the attractively named “Stubshaw Cross medal competition” in 1967. The clubhouse was opened in 1969 by Roger Hunt (Liverpool & England) and there’s a plaque behind the bar to commemorate this. 1971 saw the club join the Lancashire Combination before moving over to the Cheshire League in 1978 for a four season spell until the formation of the North West Counties.

Town joined the new league and have remained as members ever since, bar one season (’85-’86), when the club played in the Manchester League to allow ground updates to be undertaken to remain at Counties level. They have always remained in the lower tier, spanning both Division 3 and Division 2 following the two divisions merging in 1987. Their latest silverware was in 2013, in the shape of the Atherton Cup.

Here come the teams...

Here come the teams…

Handshakes

Handshakes

The game got underway with both sides being fairly well matched and with the home side just edging the opening stages. But, it was to be the visitors who would break the deadlock with the first clear chance of the game after fifteen minutes, Yves Zama receiving the ball and firing just inside the post from the edge of the box. 0-1. “Good start for you guys!” I said to the Bacup ‘keeper Josh Harris, who responded with a knowing “We don’t score many”. Cautious response.

The game continued to be a pretty tight affair, with both teams engaging in a midfield battle for the most part, but this claimed goalscorer Zama, who apparently fell with a badly twisted ankle. Indeed, he certainly sounded in some pain, so here’s hoping he’s ok. After a lengthy stoppage for treatment, he was carried off to the dressing rooms and we were back underway and on the stroke of half-time Karl Dailey levelled for the home side, scooping the ball unorthodoxly wide of Bacup’s custodian and into the net. 1-1 at the break and time for chips.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The small £1 portion of chips was soon emptied from the tray and after what seemed a slightly shortened half-time, calls of “they’re back out” filtered through the clubhouse and so out we all went to watch the second period. It was certainly more action packed than the first, with the first few chances off target, but Harris made the big save of the game so far, keeping out a low shot with his feet. Bacup should have taken the lead soon after when the striker broke clear, unselfishly squared the ball to his strike partner but, from two yards and the empty net gaping, he put it over. My miss of the season so far. Sorry.

From then on, though, it was largely the visitors who were on the front foot and looked to have a great chance to retake the lead after around an hour when the Ashton #2 was unfortunate to slip at the wrong moment and he ball to be pinned underneath him and against his hands. Penalty. His anguish was clear, as he shouted into his shirt, but he was soon to be on the other side of a mood swing as Town ‘keeper Joe Clements pulled off a superb save from the spot-kick.

This began a short period where Clements became unbeatable, tipping over a dipping header in the nick of time, before wonderfully saving a point blank effort when it looked for all the world it was going in. It looked as though his heroics were going to secure his side a point, at least, and you felt it was one of those games were one side miss all the chances thrown at them before the other team takes theirs.

SAVED!!!

SAVED!!!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

After another couple of chances were spurned by Bacup, it looked as though their best bets to win the game were behind them. “See, told you we don’t score!” repeated Harris after one such miss. But then, in the 90th minute, a ball into the Ashton area wasn’t dealt with and it was Bacup’s Anthony Hall who rose highest to leave Clements with no chance to spark jubilation within the Borough ranks. 1-2, game over and after wishing Harris & his side all the best, it was time to head back to Bryn.

Upon arrival, I had a quick flick through the programme to pass the time. Not too much in terms of club articles, but far from the worst that’s for sure. I don’t want to sound like I’m pulling it down either, because it was a good issue nonetheless. Also, of particular note, was the page regarding the club’s chosen charity: Joseph’s Goal. Joseph’s Goal is a charity raising funds for research into Non-Keotic Hyperglycinemia (NKH), a debilitating illness which young Joseph was diagnosed with. Joseph has also been mascot for Wigan Athletic in their FA Cup Final win and in conjunction with Town have a “Latics Legends vs Dutch Legends” game at Edge Green Street in aid of the charity. Read more about the charity here.

So, having passed the time nicely, the programme was stowed safely away for the trip back home via the same mediums used on the way. I won’t excite you again, I promise. As for Ashton Town as a club, I found them to be a thoroughly welcoming club and one who look a decent outfit on the pitch. As the programme alludes to, they were as high as third until the weather came around in earnest, so the proof is there. Hopefully they do well next season. Cheers, I don’t know why I left it so long!…

DSC02340

RATINGS:

Game: 6- Not a bad game at all, should have been more goals, but missed chances kept it closer.

Ground: 6- Nice little ground, bit of a charm to it.

Food: 5- Nice enough, economical portion though, but for £1, I can’t really complain too much!

Programme: 6- Already stated, decent issue, well worth £1.

Fans: 5- Not doing explanations any more. 5, 5, everyone gets a five as the memes say!

Value For Money: 8- Cheap travel, food, programme & beer! Usual £5 entry. Good cheap day!

Manchopper in….Flixton (Unicorn Athletic)

unicornLitherland_REMYCA_F.C._logo

Result: Unicorn Athletic 4-0 Litherland REMYCA Dev. (Cheshire League 2)

Venue: Valley Road (Tuesday 12th April 2016, 6.30pm)

Att: 15 (approx.)

Another trip to Flixton’s Valley Road for yet another club. Yes, after the tenures there of Flixton, Northwich Vics and Northwich Flixton Villa, it’s now the turn of Unicorn Athletic to take advantage of the ex-Unibond League ground. The Cheshire League 2 side currently share the ground with Manchester League outfit Wythenshawe Amateurs and will continue to utilise the ground going forwards.

Which is all good, as it means the second nearest ground to me will still be home to a club and, of course, means more games to get to. But, for me, this was my first Unicorn game ever and, as such, well worth a blog and that, of course, means pubs must be visited. So, after hopping on the train to Chassen Road I headed down to the Bird I’ th’ Hand pub in Flixton for a half Heineken, which was more “this size” (3 quarters). So, after quickly downing that, it was onwards towards Moorside Road which leads toward the ground, but not before a further quick stop off in the Garrick’s Head pub for a San Miguel, while watching some Women’s Weightlifting for some reason, though the two guys behind me were rather enamoured with the goings on.

Bird I' th' Hand

Bird I’ th’ Hand

Garrick's Head

Garrick’s Head

Spot the ground?

Spot the ground?

After that entertainment, I headed off in earnest towards the ground, joined in transit by my new musical beau, M83. 20 minutes later, I arrived at Woodsend Circle with Valley Road visible at the end of a road leading off of the traffic island. But, of course, I was not heading there just yet as there was still a good hour to kick-off. Instead I was to visit the Fox & Hounds pub, the current “unofficial” clubhouse of Unicorn, as Flixton’s former clubhouse is still shut up for the time being.

After wasting the hour or so in the company of an Amstel and latterly a spot of Motown that had been requested by some other patrons, it was time to leave the pubs and head towards the still Vics’ colour-clad Valley Road and the footballing action. After heading down said road that lends its name to the ground, I met with Dan who’d arrived at exactly the same time as I had. Great minds and all that…

Fox & Hounds

Fox & Hounds

Valley Road

Valley Road

RIP

RIP

Valley Road is still remaining as it has since Flixton’s highest moments and their promotions up the leagues before their eventual downfall and folding. The ground houses a pitch-long “bus stop” style covered area alongside the dressing room building (which still features old Flixton FC boards), faced by the clubhouse, turnstiles and a seating stand on the near side. Both ends are open, hard standing.

Anyway, after heading round to the clubhouse side, we found the turnstile to be locked up, with entry for tonight’s game coming via the access gate alongside instead. Free entry can never be sniffed at, regardless of the level of football and as such, we were both more than pleased! After a short period of waiting around, the rest of the Unicorn side joined their few earlier arriving teammates and opposition on the field and we were soon underway. But before we get into the game in detail, here’s a bit of background information about Unicorn…

History Lesson:

Unicorn Athletic were formed in 1977 and have spent most of their history as a youth football side, only expanding into open-age football in the last few years. Their senior side were latterly competing in the Altrincham & District League and playing at their Smith’s Fields base, competing in the Second Division for the last three years (at least) and finishing third last time out before making the switch over to the Cheshire League 2 for this season, where they currently sit in a lowly 9th out of 12 teams.

Heading in

Heading in

We're underway

We’re underway

The game was an alright one as far as the first half went. The young Litherland side competed for the first half-hour or so in earnest, but soon began to falter under the more physical Unicorn outfit. It was the home side who netted first, with the #6 rising highest to head home a right-wing corner.

This began the period of dominance and Unicorn never really relinquished their position from here. It was little surprise therefore, when their second arrived via a close range finish. At 2-0, it looked all but over. After a good conversation with Unicorn’s manager Dave and being given a sneak peek at their kit for next year plus a few other club snippets (not to be revealed!), it was soon half-time.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

1-0!

1-0!

With next to nothing going on at the ground, it was a merciful happening that the half-time only consisted of a matter of minutes, before both sides re-entered the field in a joint mission to beat the ever encroaching darkness that was beginning to descend on the Valley. For Litherland, though, the light was also fading on their competitiveness in this game, as they almost went three down, only for Unicorn’s #9 to head against the bar from a few yards.

But it was three soon after, with #9 making amends for his earlier miss with a tidy finish and that killed the game off a s a contest for sure. Unicorns defence, though, looked to take their eye off the ball somewhat at 3-0 and Litherland’s youngsters had a couple of good chances to get themselves one back, but both were spurned. They were eventually finished off minutes before the end, with a pretty emphatic finish completing the scoring. 4-0, full-time.

Valley Rd

Valley Rd

Valley Rd

Valley Rd

Not forgotten...

Not forgotten…

So, Dan and I headed off after receiving a thank-you from Dave for turning up (cheers!) and we headed off down the road towards Trafford’s Shawe View ground (where I visited earlier this season) for their second half vs Glossop. After arriving right on the whistle, we were soon discovered by West’s self-quoted “failed author” Jonny, “serving juror” Danny and current Kartel Sports star Jamie. How’s about that then?

The half wasn’t that great, but two goals (including a goal direct from a corner by Trafford’s assistant manager Chris Shuker) added some further entertainment to an evening filled by local football and after bidding goodbye to the above trio upon the game’s conclusion, Dan and I headed off towards Urmston and our respective journeys home.

It does look like Unicorn are set to keep progressing from strength to strength and I for one wish them all the best in their quest to do so, especially with a great name like that!!

DSC02172

RATINGS:

Game: 5- Okay game, quite one-sided.

Ground: 5- Bit dilapidated again at the moment, but can be resurrected at some point to its former glory.

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A- (Some are produced on occasion, though.)

Fans: Not doing that one!

Value For Money: 9- No real negatives to be had.