Manchopper in….Manchester (Manchester Central FC)

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Result: Manchester Central 1-2 Beechfield United (Manchester League Division 1)

Venue: Manchester Regional Arena (Saturday 31st December 2016, 1pm)

Att: 28 (hc)

The last game of the year comes on the last day of the year. Who says football has to stop at all? Not me, that’s for sure! In fact there shouldn’t be multiple leagues, there should just be one huge division where every club plays each other at their own behest, whenever and wherever they want. No, I’m just kidding. But could you imagine the utter carnage? Oh, er, where was I again…? Ah, yes! The Regional Athletics Arena was the NYE party venue of choice. The event? The reborn Manchester Central versus Beechfield United in the Manchester League Division 1.

With an early afternoon kick-off (1pm) scheduled, thus an early-ish start was needed. After beginning the journey on the much-loved replacement bus service into Manchester Piccadilly, my first task was to secure tickets down to London for next week. I’ll leave you in suspense regarding the destination for now, just for the drama. Anyway, with tickets eventually sorted, I headed out onto the mean streets of Manchester City Centre before taking refuge in the, previously infamous, B Lounge.

To the City

To the City

'B Lounge'

‘B Lounge’

The Bank

The Bank

After being nice and changing my order as to not rush a barrel change, I soon downed a Coors ahead of moving down towards Market Street where I was to meet Dan. Before leaving though, I was wished a “Happy New Year” by one of the bar staff which, incidentally, was the only time this happened during the day. So, cheers for that!

Next stop was The Bank which, you may have guessed, is housed within an old bank. The big plus point in here though, wasn’t the décor. Nor was it the carpets as, you know, it’s not a Wetherspoons. It is, however, a free house and there was Punk IPA on draught. Oh, the joys! The £4.80 price tag was actually not that bad, considering what I was expecting but there was little going on here and Dan had informed me he’d arrived in town. However, I’d be slightly delayed in meeting him due to the spotting of a ‘Spoons right next door to the uni buildings. The Waterhouse actually had Asahi, the Japanese beer, on and so it was third time lucky in getting a pint of it, following two previous failed attempts. It wasn’t bad either but, sadly, there wasn’t much time to enjoy it.

Manchester

Manchester

He's still there!

He’s still there!

The Waterhouse

The Waterhouse

After meeting Dan over in Market Street, I decided I’d be nice and give him the option of where we should visit next. The choice was the historic Mr. Thomas’ Chop House or the underground bar Corbières, which had last been visited almost a year to the day previously as part of a Lost Boyos-inspired tour of the city ahead of Manchester United vs Swansea City. Anyway, Dan plumped for the latter only for us to soon discover it was still shut for another 20 minutes. As it happened, the Chop House was just round the corner and…well, you can probably guess what happened.

Of course, after a quick pint of Amstel in the Chop House, I still reckoned it’d be polite to honour Dan’s decision and head to Corbières. After assuring Dan there was nothing dodgy on his horizon, we headed down into the underworld for a couple of halves. With time against us, though, we had to be swift and headed back to Piccadilly for our respective transports; me on the tram, Dan on the bus. A mini Top Gear-esque challenge was on! Not the shitty new version ones though.

Chop House

Chop House

Corbieres

Corbieres

As it happened, I was defeated due to the walk up from the stop and arrived at the Etihad Campus with around 10 minutes to kick-off. The Regional Athletics Arena sits right alongside its more famed big sister and currently plays home to Manchester’s ‘third’ club. It had been the home of Northwich Manchester Villa over the last season prior to their demise. Some fun was had with Gibbo exploring unknown indoor arenas during a visit there earlier this year!

The Manchester Regional Arena must be the largest amateur ground in (at least) the area, as I think the likes of Millmoor and the Withdean are still used on occasion. It is an all-seater, multi-purpose ground that was previously home to the Manchester City Women’s team and some youth teams before the construction of the Academy. It does have an athletics track surrounding the pitch, but this doesn’t really matter as you can pretty much walk around as you please. Three stands, the two sides and left hand end, are of similar size, with the right-hand stand being the large and offering good views over the pitch. As for Manchester Central FC…

History Lesson:

The name of Manchester Central was originally used by a club playing at Alexandra Park during the late 1800’s. According to Central it is, therefore, unlikely that Newton Heath did, in fact, consider the name for their name change prior to becoming Manchester United and there is no real factual evidence to say they ever did, only written hearsay from later historical pieces. The original club folded around the turn of the century.

The more famed Manchester Central were originally formed in 1928 by a Manchester City director and the owner of Belle Vue Leisure Park, with the pair feeling East Manchester needed a League club following MCFC’s departure from the area. The club played at the Belle Vue Athletics/Speedway Stadium and originally joined the Lancashire Combination. After a 7th placed finish they applied for the Football League, but failed to achieve a place.

History

History

After finishing as ’29-’30 Combination runners-up another failed Football League application followed, this despite the fact the club were getting crowds around the 8,000 mark at times. The following year saw a third application be unsuccessful and the club pulled out of the Combination to focus on the Cheshire County League, where their reserve side was competing.

But drama followed. After later being accepted for a Third Division North place later that close season following Wigan Borough’s resignation, they were subsequently denied once more by a complaint by United and City, who said a third Manchester club would be detrimental to the overall support. Following this, the original Central resigned from the Cheshire County League after a single season and folded soon after.

They're back!

They’re back!

Central then went missing from the history books through until 2015 when the club “reformed” as a youth-based outfit, fielding u21’s as the top age group. Their first fixture for 84 years was against Irlam in the Cheshire u21 League. After largely playing at Platt Lane during their first season, the club decided to move into the Regional Athletics Arena, alongside the City of Manchester Stadium, and enter an open-age outfit into the Manchester League Division 1. They currently sit in 4th.

New club, familiar venue

New club, familiar venue

After heading through the gate, I was immediately greeted with the non-league dogs duo (minus dogs this time, shockingly) which is always a good bonus, especially when it comes to being awarded a sticker! The game got underway and it isn’t much of an understatement to say the first half was the better of the two. All the action came during it, beginning with Central taking the lead fairly early on, Cory Knight coolly slotting beyond the visiting GK. 1-0.

Around five minutes later and we were all square once more. Beechfield had begun to really get going after a sluggish start and earned a free-kick. The resulting ball in was headed into the net from the centre of goal by Kurtis Lee and it was all to play for again. Despite the equaliser, though, it was Central that looked to be the more likely of the two sides to retake the lead.

Early Stages

Watching intently…

Match Action

Match Action

Pen save

Pen save

However, with around 35 minutes played, it was Beechfield who would turn it around, Lee’s second of the game securing them the lead at the break. This was despite the fact Central missed a great chance to level the scores right at the end of the half, a penalty being fairly comfortably kept out by the Beechfield #1. Half-Time: 1-2.

To be honest, it was mostly a case of Beechfield being really solid and taking their chances, with Central guilty of being wasteful in good positions. However, the second half saw little of anything in the way of chances. The only two of note I can think of was an effort flying over for the hosts and a fine save by the Central ‘keeper with around 15 to play to keep his side in the contest.

From a distance

From a distance

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

As it was, there was to be no addition to the score-line and it was the Salford-based club who ran out the deserved victors in this clash. After bidding goodbye to NLD, Dan and I headed back into Manchester, once again in competition with myself coming out on top on this occasion due to our journeys taking us back to Piccadilly for more ticket purchases. This one is for a Scottish team who have, in their old guise, played in England before folding. Any guesses?

Anyway, that was that. A good day out and about around Manchester and a half-decent game to boot. It was then swiftly home ahead of getting ready for the celebrations later in the evening. Next up on Monday is a trip to wherever the weather allows…!!

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RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 4

Manchopper in….Parrswood

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Result: Parrswood Celtic 2-2 Moston Brook (Lancashire & Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: Rushford Park (Wednesday 6th April 2016, 6.15pm)

Att: 10 (approx.)

 A third game in three days for myself, following on from the Manchester Utd u21 & Rylands games previous. To complete the trifecta of games, I was to tick off a random long term target of mine, only due to me having passed by the ground on numerous occasions on trains while venturing on to other places. Yes I was off to finally tick Rushford Park, the home of Lancs & Cheshire League side Parrswood Celtic.

I decided to head into Manchester on the bus (being the cheapest way) and after making a couple of musical purchases from the HMV in the Arndale (I’m very anti-download and prefer the physical disk), I headed off down Wilmslow Rd to visit a couple of nearby pubs prior to the game, namely the Wetherspoon’s, The Great Central and the Friendship Inn which is just over the road. The latter though was an afterthought visit, as I thought it rude not to pay a short stop. You all agree I’m sure?

My purchases, a little later on.

My purchases, a little later on.

The Great Central

The Great Central

Friendship Inn

Friendship Inn

Anyway, after a small stay in these two pubs and dodging the heavy showers which were blowing in, I eventually headed off towards the ground and headed past the old Fallowfield Station building, which is now a Sainsbury’s as I did so. 25 minutes or so later, I was just about to arrive at the ground when I received a text off usual accomplice Dan which read something along the lines of “I’m at the ground, there’s nothing here”. I then had that horrible thought that there had been a late change of venue, but I wanted a look for myself.

I arrived at Rushford Park to find players putting nets up and a sure fire game in the process of being readied. I also noticed that Dan was nowhere to be found. It turns out he had ended up at another playing fields on a different road, having been sent to a nursery prior to it. That’s his story anyway!! But, eventually we struggled along to get the right direction to allow him to arrive at the ground just in time for kick-off.

There isn’t much to Rushford Park in earnest, with the ground just being a barred off pitch squeezed between the two lines out of Manchester Piccadilly. There is a small building which houses boxing and other activities in a small, community hall like area for sports and that’s about it. But anyway, here’s some history about Parrswood Celtic FC…

History Lesson:

Parrswood Celtic FC was formed in 1963 following a conversation by the two founders in the Parrswood Hotel. The club initially competed in the South Manchester & Wythenshawe League, playing at Fog Lane, Didsbury.

The 1970’s saw Celtic move to Hough Lane until their next move to the Ducie High School, where you could overhear the cheers from Maine Road, such was the close proximity of the school to the old ground. The club, by this time, were competing in the Lancashire & Cheshire League where they achieved promotion to the 1st Division in the late ’80’s.  After a yo-yo period of promotion/relegation through the ’90’s and a further change of home to the Parrswood High School (surrounding a 2-year period at the Manchester University Sports Complex), the club found themselves down in the L&C Division 3.

Entrance to Rushford Park

Entrance to Rushford Park

Changing Rooms

Changing Rooms

2005 saw them promoted back to Division 2 and the next year saw a return to Division 1 as runners-up. They were eventually promoted to the Premier Division in the ’13-’14 season after a 3rd place finish. Last season, Celtic finished up in a respectable 5th place, but this season they are currently sitting in a lowly 10th. At some point they switched to play at Rushford Park, but I can’t find details of when.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Kick-off

Kick-off

Both teams eventually made their way onto the pitch in dribs and drabs and we were soon set to get started. It was a quick start to the action as well, as Parrswood took the lead after just a couple of minutes, #7 breaking clear and finishing from close range. That was the good news for him. The bad news was that, in the process of scoring the goal, he’d pulled his hamstring and had to go off. Impact.

But Moston soon found themselves on level terms once more, as a free-kick was curled into the top corner, giving the ‘keeper no chance. After this, we set off on a lap of the ground where little happened on the pitch, bar a tame shot being cleared off the line for Moston, but that was that in terms of action really in the first half as it all petered out and into a 1-1 half-time score line.

Match Action

Match Action

Equaliser flies in

Equaliser flies in

After a short 5-minute break in between the two 40 minute halves, we were back underway but only for a short time as a heavy hailstorm blew through forcing the teams off the field for no more than a minute or so, before all cleared and the sun shone once more over Rushford Park. As for the game, we got back underway and the action stepped up. It was Parrswood who netted again next, with a low free-kick flying past the statuesque Moston ‘keeper. 2-1 to the home side with around 25 to play.

As it was, this proved to spur Moston on and they were awarded a penalty with around 15 to play, as a push right on the edge of the area was correctly, it appeared from reaction, to have been adjudged inside. Up stepped the taker, but he thumped his strike well wide. A poor penalty and the Brook remained trailing by the odd goal, though the guys in the car pitch side who beeped their horn as the kick was taken looked mighty happy with their tactic!

The heavens open

The heavens open…

...but it soon passed

…but it soon passed

Match Action

Match Action

But, the miss was soon to be rendered somewhat obsolete just minutes later, as Moston did grab their second equaliser of the evening, with a good finish ensuring that both sides would share a hard earned point on the evening, which I’m sure both would suggest was the fair result. Anyway, that’s that, no further action happened and after a boring journey back I could take stock ahead of a return to the big leagues on Saturday. The Etihad awaits…

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RATINGS:

Game: 6- Decent game, definitely had worse.

Ground: 4- Just a barred off pitch, though there is an inside community sports space.

Food: N/A, though there may have been snacks at the bar.

Programme: N/A (Leaflets available!)

Fans: There was only 7 people, I don’t think a rating applies!

Value For Money: 8- Pretty cheap day. Free game, £4 travel and £4.50 “extras”!

Manchopper in….Wesham (AFC Fylde)

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Result: AFC Fylde 5-2 Boston United (Vanarama National North)

Venue: Kellamergh Park (Saturday 5th March 2016, 3pm)

Att: 479

Another Friday night deluge meant that the morning of this very Saturday was spent trying to find an alternative game in the event that Hallam’s game with Dronfield was called off, which appeared likely. A peruse over the fixture list and there was one game which immediately stood out: AFC Fylde vs Boston United, a play off clash in the National North at a ground that’s soon to be departed. Decision made.

One the inevitable news arrived from the Yorkshire club that the game was indeed off, I headed out into Manchester to meet with Dan, with the now irreplaceable Piccadilly Tap the meeting point. I ordered a pint of an old faithful now, Bitburger, and Dan arrived not too long afterwards. After recommending to him to join me in the German beverage, I was confused to when he arrived back with a glass of Prosecco. “I forgot it was a wine” was the vague reason and so he spent the time hiding his swigs while trying to look a little less…well, you know.

Soon enough, the time had whittled away and Dan had endured his last sip and so we headed into Piccadilly for the train towards Blackpool. Of course, our final stop on the outbound route wasn’t to be the coastal resort, but the small towns of Kirkham & Wesham, just within view of the tower and the big one at its more famed neighbour. The journey took just over an hour and was illuminated by the group of Brighton (I think) fans sat directly in front of us who, it turned out, like to rate train toilets on their journeys around the country. This train’s scored about a 4, the best a full marked Chiltern Railways which apparently has a fireplace in it. Nutty stuff.

Dan and his very suitable drink

Dan and his very suitable drink

Arriving at Kirkham & Wesham

Arriving at Kirkham & Wesham

They disembarked at Preston, while we continued a further ten minutes onto K&W. Upon arrival, the plan was to head into Kirkham itself but once my phone’s Maps had decided that we were on the opposite side of the town on a pair of occasions to what we actually were.

After I was beeped at by a bus driver while being on the pavement (I gave him the hand of rage), we decided to sit in the pub nearest the station, the Royal Oak. When arriving at the corner it sat on though, my prior thoughts were proved right. Where one pub sits, there’s usually another next door. The Stanley Arms fit this bill and looked a better bet, so we diverted there. The Royal Oak, though, intrigued me and I kept on saying we were heading there later.

Now in the Stanley, what was found was a friendly welcome and a dear-ish pint, £3.80 for Kronenberg. Not brilliant, but we needed somewhere to wait and the barman was friendly enough that I didn’t really mind. After Harry Kane had apparently turned into a quick equine animal before our eyes on TV and we wondered just what was in this beer, we headed back out to the bus stop at the station for the free AFC Fylde shuttle bus up to the ground. Perfect! It was on time too!

The Royal Oak

The Royal Oak

In the Stanley Arms

In the Stanley Arms

After picking up more fans at the Lane Ends pub which is nearer the new ground and passing said construction, we passed through the small village of Wrea Green, with its village green cricket pitch being readied and along the country lanes before finally passing the Ribby Hall caravan park and pulling up outside the Birley Arms pub which sits on the corner of the ground’s access road. Of course, it would be rude not to pop in now wouldn’t it?

Upon entering the Birley Arms, Dan and I were immediately hit by a wall of noise. This was the travelling band of Pilgrims and they were certainly ensuring their presence was known! What was good as well is that they were of no issue to anyone and were really creating a good atmosphere in here and letting everyone know just how much they hated Lincoln (City and not United or Moorlands Railway, I presume!).

After my first choice of beer was off (again, how many times!), I eventually ended up with a pint of San Miguel so not a bad substitute. With the Boston fans still going strong throughout our 20 minute stay here, I figured that they were probably some of the better pre-game fans I’d come across so far this year, though I haven’t come across many…Anyway, that’s not the point, I now liked Boston too but I always tend to side with the home team in such games if I don’t really have a connection with either. A draw then?

The Birley Arms

The Birley Arms

On the walk

AFC Fylde

Almost in

Almost in

Eventually, it was time to head up to the ground. A short walk on a pathway around the road leads you past a large admission board which must be the biggest around?! Anyway, with our admission fees in no doubt, we continued onwards up to the Kellamergh Park turnstiles and I was soon through and into the ground itself, albeit £12 lighter. After purchasing the programme for £2, I was heading over towards the relative safety of “Fuller’s Bar” when I turned to see an unfortunate visiting fan be smacked in the face by a ball which was really travelling. The player who’s stray shot struck the supporter rushed straight over to him to check he was ok, so full marks there too. I believe he was, so all were good to go on.

Dan joined me in Fuller’s Bar as the players went through the latter stages of their warm-ups and watched as Fylde’s giant seagull mascot prowled the field. I imagine this is the first time that any seagull had ever “prowled” be it real or otherwise. Anyway, dubious avian varieties aside, Kellarmergh Park is a nice, neat ground an it  will be a shame to see it meet its demise at the close of this season. It has two seating stands, the smaller stand which runs most of the near touchline (as it appears from the turnstiles behind the goal, as you may have guessed from the earlier accident). Alongside the turnstiles is a more recent all-seater stand, with a raised terrace standing opposite. The far touchline is open hard standing, on a small terrace. As for the club itself, well…

History Lesson:

AFC Fylde were formed in 1988, after an amalgamation of Kirkham Town and Wesham FC. Now Kirkham & Wesham, the club was carrying the name of a previous club who competed in the West Lancashire League in the run up to WWI. Now competing in the same league some 70-odd years later, the club inherited the place of Kirkham Town in Division 1.

Relegated to Division 2 in 1990, Kirkham were to have a small yo-yo period, being promoted in ’93 before suffering the drop once more in 1995. They were immediately promoted the following year as runners-up, this was the promotion that sent Kirkham on their way. After restructuring of the league into the Premier Division and Division 1, K&W went on to dominate the Premier Division.

Between 1999-2000 and their exit in 2007, the club won the league on seven of the eight seasons, only failing in 2003. They also won four out of six Lancashire FA Shields during the period between 2000 & 2006, including a hat-trik of wins from 2004-’06. The club (representing the Lancashire FA) have also won the Northern Counties Cup on three occasions (05, ’06, ’07).

Today's Game

Today’s Game

Fuller's Bar (after former manager, Mick

Fuller’s Bar (after former manager, Mick)

Following their acceptance into the North West Counties for 2007-’08, Kirkham & Wesham won the Division 2 trophy (at a game I attended), and finished runners-up in the league. This was topped though, as K&W won the FA Vase at Wembley, beating, now fellow National North side) Lowestoft Town 2-1, via a young Matt Walwyn’s brace. On account of finishing as divisional runners-up, the club were promoted to the Premier Division and became AFC Fylde.

After winning the division at the first attempt, Fylde were promoted to the Northern Premier League Division 1 North. 2011 saw the club lose out in the play-off final, but after current boss Dave Challinor took the reigns, the club overturned a 16-point deficit to win the NPL1N title. Their first season in the Premier saw the club again reach the play-off semis but lost out to eventual winners Hednesford Town, despite goalkeeper Ben Hinchcliffe scoring from range.

2014 saw a very successful season for the Coasters as they won the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy, the NPL League Cup and gained promotion to the Conference North via the play-offs and a final win on penalties over Ashton United, with Hinchcliffe again at the fore as he netted the winning spot-kick. Last season, the club’s first campaign in the Conference North, saw Fylde end as runners-up but lost out in the play-off semi to eventual winners, Guiseley.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

The sides entered the field from the tunnel immediately alongside the turnstiles and were soon underway. Almost from the off, it looked as though both sides were going for it which provided us with a lot of hope that a good game was going to be in the offing and both team’s fans seemed to find this the same way, launching into vocal support early on.

Indeed, it took Matty Hughes just five minutes to open the scoring, heading home a left-wing ball and sending the home side a goal up, though it didn’t last too long as a further five minutes was all that separated the opener and Boston’s equaliser and what a strike it was. Dayle Southwell smashed a free-kick past Matt Urwin, the home ‘keeper, and straight into the top corner. I was even more delighted than he was as I managed to capture the goal on camera. It’s the small things.

But Fylde grew more on top after they had been pegged back, with a pair of good saves by Fabian Spiess keeping the scoreline level and Boston suffered a further blow when Southwell was forced off injured. It was little surprise, then, when Fylde again silenced the visiting support. James Hardy worked to get clear of the Pilgrims’ defence, and he fired home from the edge of the area. 2-1 and time for chips. Not bad either, £2.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Equalising goal!

Equalising goal!

The second half got underway with United on the attack and looking to claw themselves back onto level terms once more. But it was Fylde who netted again, with Speiss unlucky to see another good stop fall to the feet of Josh Langley, who took his time and finished calmly. But Boston weren’t done yet and about five minutes later, they were back in the game, Mark Jones looping a header past Urwin. 3-2 and all to play for!

Well it was for all of a minute! Richie Baker received the ball from the pacey front man Bohan Dixon and crashing his shot across Speiss and into the far corner. You felt that was that and it certainly seemed a foregone conclusion when Boston sub Cameron Johnson was sent off just after entering the fray. It was a reckless challenge, though I felt he was unlucky to get the red card.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Baker than smashed the woodwork with a superb effort from range and Joens bundled wide at the other end when it looked easier to score as both sides looked to net again and as the game entered its final ten minutes, it began a Fylde onslaught on the Boston goal. Speiss was outstanding and without him, it could easily have been eight. He was eventually beaten at the death, though, Dion Charles converting from close range after being denied moments earlier. So, 5-2 and full-time. To Fuller’s!

A pint of Kronenberg was ordered here £3.40 and after a muse of a Fylde team photo, I noticed Ritchie Allen in the pic and went on a long-winded talk of how much I like Ritchie Allen. This was before I turned 90 degrees and saw Ritchie Allen himself in civvies. Good job I didn’t  slate him! Being in the clubhouse also gave me the opportunity to speak to Fylde’s Bradley Barnes, who I remember from his time (& mine in very differing ways!) at Trafford moons ago. Not that it was mutual…

Full-Time Score

Full-Time Score

Brad and I in Fuller's

Brad and I in Fuller’s

All Aboard

All Aboard

“Huh, I don’t remember you, but I remember him!” to quote the Fylde midfield maestro. Ah well, after ensuring him I definitely was there by varying means, we had the rarity of a player/manchopper picture for the blog and were on our way back out for the bus back to Kirkham & Wesham station, this time via Lytham, the windmill and a different looking Moss Side!

Eventually, we arrived back and after hopping off, it was decided that, with 20 minutes or so to wait for the train home, that there was definitely time to pop into the Royal Oak. We certainly made an impression as the moment we entered, the lights went out and cue the “50p in the meter” jokes. Soon enough, the power was restored and after dodging the drunk at the bar who was determined he’d wound up the barman (who was having none of it), I had a quick half of something or other, before heading back down to the station.

Out in Manchester!

Out in Manchester!

After the announcement of a broken train, we hopped off at Preston via a contingency plan and grabbed another back to Manchester Oxford Road to get home easily. That was until the train I was getting rolled in and I spotted Cappy, who I’m off to Berwick with the next week, in the rear carriage. He was off drinking with a couple of mates and asked if I’d like to join them. Of course, after much persuasion, I was joining them in Manchester’s pubs, namely the “rock/metal” place, The Salisbury, the Thirsty Scholar (which sits under the railway) and latterly the Lass O’Gowrie where I sampled a Manchester Pilsner or something, I can’t remember now…. Anyway, a good end to the night saw me end up on the last train back and get a sample of what’s to come at Berwick. Oh God….

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RATINGS:

Game: 8- Really entertaining game, lots of goals!

Ground: 7- For reasons already stated.

Food: 7- A good portion and tasty too.

Programme: 6- An ok issue, nothing to write home about though, but only £2 so not complaining at all.

Fans: 8- A good atmosphere generated by the home fans too, especially alongside the visitors in the 2nd period.

Value For Money: 8- Just a top day out all round. Good pubs, people and game!

 

Manchopper in….Manchester (Manchester Gregorians FC)

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Result: Manchester Gregorians 1-1 Old Altrinchamians (FBT Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: Platt Lane Complex (Tuesday 1st September 2015, 6.30pm)

Att: 24 (hc)

Transfer Deadline Day?  No, not dramatic enough. What you need, is Manchester League Football! So, another Tuesday evening saw another football match to go to. Not only that, but it’s the last one before returning to work after a 4-and-a-half week break. So, when the last game of the Manchester League to be  played midweek was to be at the Platt Lane Complex near Rusholme, it was an offer that I couldn’t pass up.

So, at just before six, I was on the 15 bus towards Manchester, getting off in Moss Side for the short walk over to the ex-Manchester City training and academy site, now owned and used by the Man Met Uni.

It was due to be an easy connection getting me there about 5 minutes prior to kick-off but, as I’m sure we all know, the British public transport system isn’t exactly great at most times. I mean it’s not bad, but it usually abysmal; especially so when it comes to the buses.

Maine Road

Maine Road

The Platt Lane Complex

The Platt Lane Complex

Platt Lane

Platt Lane

Seating

Seating

So, as I traipsed down Upper Chorlton Road looking behind me for the every 5-minute scheduled 111, it was little surprise that I passed Maine Road and the still being built estate upon the former site of the old ground without the bus passing me. Indeed, after 15 minutes, the Platt Lane pitch nearest to the Lane itself came into view, as did the players and the game kicked off just as the ref blew his whistle. Time-keeping on point!

I had to walk to the far end gates, before backtracking on myself to get to the pitch, passing a guy having a barney with security over car parking restrictions. Before long, I’d  reached the pitch and met with Dan for tonight’s game and introduced him to the delights of Platt Lane, myself having visited once before, a couple of years back, when Gregs had entertained Prestwich Heys on a fairly bracing late-autumn afternoon. On that occasion, the sides clashed on the neighbouring, usually used, 3G pitch and five goals were scored, with the visitors coming out on top. Were we likely to have a repeat on our hands tonight, as Old Alts provided the opposition?

Breaking the rules!

Breaking the rules!

The Platt Lane building

The Platt Lane building

Visiting Dressing Room

Visiting Dressing Room

"Stand"!

“Stand”!

Having seen the Alts the previous week, I had to say that I wasn’t too hopeful, as they didn’t look a free-flowing side, more a hard-working defensive team. Gregs, on the other hand, looked very dangerous going forward early on and looked like they would probably net the opener and go on to get more, if there wasn’t any dismissals. But what were the chances of that hey? Anyway, before we get into the game, here’s the history of the Manchester Gregorians:

History Lesson:

Manchester Gregorians FC was formed by ex-pupils of the St.Gregory’s RC High School in Ardwick. The current side started life in 1959, though they were preceded by an Old Gregorians side in the 1940’s and ’50’s who played on and off during those years, with the current Gregs taking on the Old Gregorians name upon their (re?)formation, later becoming just Gregorians, before adding the “Manchester” prefix in 2009.

They began competing in the Manchester Junior Catholic League before switching after three seasons to the Lancashire Amateur League, where Gregs won a number of honours, including a strangely successful season in 1977-’78, when each of Gregs’ six teams won their respective divisions, plus the League Aggregate Cup (First and Reserves Points) & League Trophy (most points for all teams combined).

Hmmmm...

Hmmmm…

The usual pitch, The Maine Pitch.

The usual pitch, The Maine Pitch.

After remaining here for a long while, the club eventually switched to Manchester League for 2005-’06. Since the move was undertaken, the club has continued their success with them winning the Premier Division & Lancashire Amateur Shield in 2009 and again in 2011. They also won the Northern Counties FA Senior Cup in 2010, whilst representing the Lancashire FA. Since then, the club has been a solid mid-table outfit, finishing 10th in both of the last two seasons.

Back onto today’s game then and, as said earlier, it looked as though it would be the hosts who’d net first, with their #11 looking most threatening with his physique and pace combining menacingly. But, as it was, it was to be his strike partner, #9 who’d net, firing in from inside the area, low to the ‘keeper’s left. 1-0.

It looked as though Alts would be in for a long night, as they just hadn’t got going to that point and I think I commented something along those lines. But, all-knowing football man that I am, I was completely wrong. The goal seemed to stir the Alts into action and after a couple of wayward efforts, a breakaway attack was illegally stopped on the edge of the area by #5. As last man, he had to go. RED and he was heading back to the changing rooms. #3 stepped over the free-kick and duly whipped it into the corner. 1-1. The ‘keeper was far from impressed, I’d say, as he let out a frustrated “F*CK’S SAKE!!!

Gregs celebrate the opener

Gregs celebrate the opener

Match Action

Match Action

OFF!

OFF!

GOAL! 1-1.

GOAL! 1-1.

After a quick meeting with Jonny Keen, who was out doing some interviewing and such for the impressive Non-League Mag (look out for my pics too, perhaps?) with some Gregs people, it was time for a lap of the gro….oh, yeah. Problem was, it only has one side for spectators, hard standing, with TV gantry and a stand. Well, I say stand, it’s actually just an overhanging roof. But it’s close enough to a stand, damn it! The other parts of the ground are fenced off, 3G style, with roads running alongside the far touchline and behind near-end goal. Far end is lots of trees and assorted shrubbery.

Anyway, the second half was a very cagey affair with next to nothing in terms of clear cut chances, with the only one I remember of note being a shot from 25 yards that was tipped over the bar well by the visiting custodian. Despite a couple of half-hearted penalty shouts, a shot going over the road and some late pressure asserted by the 11 of Alts vs the 10 of Gregs, the home side held on pretty comfortably to take a deserved point from a tight contest.

Match Action

Match Action

Starting from the back.

Starting from the back.

Match Action

Match Action

From what I’ve seen, Alts will be one of those sides who are very difficult to beat, with Gregs looking decent before they went down to 10. I’d imagine both are destined for mid-table, with Alts being happy with that, I’d imagine, having just been promoted from the First Division.

The Dome

The Dome

Leaving the Lane

Leaving the Lane

As for me and Dan, we’d just missed the bus due to ref loving the football under the ever darkening skies, we walked back towards Moss Side, before getting the 111 through to Manchester for our respective changes home. Nice to see more of the Manchester League, which is always improving in my opinion. All the best to both clubs for the season, and I’m sure I’ll see both again before too long!

DSC00333

RATINGS:

Game: 5- Average, cagey after the red.
Ground: 3- Basic, ex-u-16 pitch, with superb surface though. No fault to the club.
Fans: 4- Officials, really.
Programme: N/A
Food: N/A (though there is hot drinks machines and snack machines)
Value For Money: 8- Just travel of £4.10 paid.

Manchopper in….Barnsley (Shaw Lane Aquaforce FC)

 

Shaw Lane AquaforceGlasshoughton Welfare
Result: Shaw Lane Aquaforce 9-0 Glasshoughton Welfare

Venue: Shaw Lane Stadium (Saturday 3rd May 2015, 3.00pm)

Att: 219

With the season drawing to a close and options becoming ever more limited by the day, it was time to open the net wider and search for new places to visit whilst the weather is supposedly at one of its better times. Well, the latter didn’t play ball as I visited a Manchopper Draw decided Barnsley, and the Northern Counties East Champions, Shaw Lane Aquaforce.

After discovering that the Football Spoon had too randomly drawn out a Barnsley area club, Athersley Recreation, in his own “die of destiny”, we met up on Urmston Station at just before half-eleven on the first weekend of May, in drizzly and not too pleasant weather. After a short journey into Manchester and onwards to Piccadilly Station, we met Dan who was again joining me on another Venture, with the lure of a new ground clearly being too much to resist.

So, after travelling into Sheffield on a packed train that was surely giving First some decent profits, we alighted at the South Yorkshire City fir our connection onwards to Barnsley. It was on the Northern Rail service that we had the (mis)fortune to sit alongside a group of women drinking from plastic penises. At one in the afternoon. Now, if that wasn’t worrying enough, the fact that two of the women were easily into their fifties was very much an eye opener….

Arriving at Shaw Lane

Arriving at Shaw Lane

Arriving at Shaw Lane

Arriving at Shaw Lane

After this off-putting sight, I was quite happy to disembark as soon as Barnsley came into sight. Surprise, surprise, it was still raining as Dan and I bid a temporary farewell to Football Spoon as we headed off in opposite directions in the town. Within 30 minutes, even with a longer detour, we had arrived at Shaw Lane and after being informed that Barnsley Cricket Club, who play next door, was where Sir Geoffrey Boycott was picked up by Yorkshire we decided to watch a bit of red ball action. No prima donna cricketers here, they were still out in the rain. No injuries sustained.

Barnsley Cricket Club

Barnsley Cricket Club

Barnsley CC Stand

Barnsley CC Stand

Turnstile

Turnstile and club/programme shop (look closely)

After watching about 12 overs of willow and leather, and seeing a first ever Yorkshire League wicket, we left the damp stand and headed for the football stadium just around the corner of the Social Club-type building that stands within the sports club. The ground itself also hosts Barnsley RUFC and as such, the pitch wasn’t in the best of nick. It wasn’t awful by any means, but it was suffering the effects. We noted this after we’d handed over just £4 for entry, plus £1.50 for the attractive-looking programme. The Shaw Lane Stadium (I wonder why it isn’t the Aquaforce Stadium) is a tidy little ground, hosting two stands, with one being assigned, colour coded, to each club. The main stand is decked out in red seats, in homage to the rugby club with the smaller terrace behind the left hand goal being home to blue/white seats, reflecting the Sheffield Wednesday-like kit of the Force. (Their founder was an Owls fan). The side from which you enter is open, bar the overhanging roof, which provides a small amount of cover. The right hand end is non-existent as Shaw Lane is still a three-sided ground.

As I alluded to earlier, their kit is based upon Sheffield Wednesday’s kit and has been the case from their formation. Here is a little more history of the Aquaforce…

History Lesson:

The club was, effectively, only founded in 2012, but has been in existence in junior football since 1991, playing at Shaw Lane. In the next decade, the club continued to grow, eventually becoming part of the larger Shaw Lane Community Sports Group. The club merged with Worsborough Common in 2011 to become Aquaforce Barnsley FC (Aquaforce being a business name). The club took Worsborough’s place in the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League Division 1, where promotion was immediately achieved, before merging with Barugh FC in the summer of 2012, to form Shaw Lane Aquaforce.

Programme

Programme

In their first season under the guise, the club won the S&H League Premier Division at the first attempt, thus achieving promotion to the Northern Counties East League Division 1. Their first season at this level again ended in success, with the club finishing runners-up and again being promoted to the NCEL Premier Division. Again, after just one season in the Prem, the club have just been promoted to the Northern Premier League, winning this season’s championship deservedly by all accounts. It’s likely they will compete in the Division 1 South, where they will face the likes of a local clash with Sheffield, the world’s oldest club. The club also reached the Quarter Final of the FA Vase, where they were vanquished, in a replay, by eventual finalists (as I write), Glossop North End.

Guard of Honour

Guard of Honour

Getting underway

Getting underway

As the visitors, Glasshoughton, entered the pitch, they lined up to give the champions a guard of honour, which was a nice touch by the bottom club, who required a 21-0 win to stay up. Needless to say, the odds on them achieving this feat were probably less than putting a man on the Sun. As the cringey strains of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” blared out over the speakers (never bettered since Jenson Button’s version), the teams took their places on the field of play and we were soon, mercifully, underway.

Glasshoughton competed well for the first half of the game, threatening their hosts on occasion, even prompting me to comment “How are these bottom?”. Yes, they were poor at finishing, very poor, but apart from that, there was nothing to suggest you were watching the best versus the worst. Yet. After waiting for me to finish my cup of tea, the Aquaforce took a predictable lead, Lee Morris beating the onrushing ‘keeper to the loose ball and neatly finished into an unguarded net. Cue “Can You Feel The Force” from the speakers!

Main Stand

Main Stand

The Wednesday Stand

The Wednesday Stand

An unfortunate own goal put the hosts two up as we headed off for an “almost lap of the ground” and as I got to the tunnel, I was presented with a challenge. “What you after lads?”. “Just a picture of your scoreboard”, I answered. “Oh, that’s fine, here, you can go this way”, said the committee man, pointing to the pitch. So, on the grass I went, snapped my picture before making a hasty retreat before the action returned to the scoreboard end of the ground. It’s the little things that are remembered, and just doing that gives me a great view of the club.

Half Time Score

Back in the main stand, I purchased a sausage roll for £1 from the refreshment area inside the stand itself. It was worth the £1 definitely, though there wasn’t a huge amount of variety in options, but I wasn’t too bothered in that. The second half was getting underway as we….goal! About 15 seconds into the second period and Shaw Lane had their third goal, Danny Frost lifting the ball over the ‘keeper. A lovely goal. This was followed by Glasshoughton having a couple of quick chances where they had the ball cleared off the line and hit the bar. This gave the young Ultras in the stand behind the goal no end of fun as they unleashed their banter and songs upon Glasshoughton’s number 9 who took it all in humour, which is definitely the best way to go! But, alas for Welfare, their heads went down and the Force was unleashed.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The fourth came via a quick free-kick from James Cotterill, who was allowed to take the kick whilst the ‘keeper was still arranging his wall. “Can You Feel The Force?!”. Five, Steve Instead firing home his first goal of the season. His excitement was clear, as he embarked on a half-lap of the pitch before swan diving on half way. Probably the best celebration I’ve seen this season! “Can You Feel The Force?!”.

The last 10 minutes featured no less than four goals. Number Six came via substitute Shane Kelsey, who chipped in from 25 yards after judging the distance to perfection. Goal of the game. “Can You Feel The Force?!”. By now, the announcer was fed up of feeling it, as his voice clearly showed. The seventh came via Chris White’s drive. White was also wearing #7, to the delight of OCD sufferers everywhere. “Can You Feel The Force?!” Jimmy Eyles headed in number 8, “Can You Feel The Force?!”, before Kelsey rounded off the scoring in stoppage time, firing in from the edge of the area past the beleaguered Welfare ‘keeper who was sure to have had a bad back in the morning as he once again had the pick the ball fro his net and “Can You Feel The Force?!” blared out for the last time. Mercifully, the ref blew his whistle to signal a 9-0 win for the Aquaforce. Amazingly, this wasn’t their biggest triumph over poor Glasshoughton this season. Aquaforce won 12-0 at Welfare earlier this campaign!

Vintage RAF Aircraft

Vintage RAF Aircraft

Dan and I soon left the ground and the very friendly club behind to head back to the station and meet back up with Football Spoon for the journey home, and we did spot a bride on the way out. After taking the shorter route back to the station, we met up with the aforementioned utensil and were soon back in Sheffield where, after a short wait, we boarded the train onwards to Manchester. Back in Piccadilly, me and Spoony bid goodbye to Dan and we headed back off to Oxford Road & Sainsbury’s. We even shared a romantic meal on the platform whilst waiting for the train Well, it was a chocolate cookie, but you know you’re jealous….

My Shaw Lane Aquaforce M.o.M.- Steve Instead

My Glasshoughton Welfare M.o.M.- Arran Horton

wpid-20150502_153725.jpg

RATINGS:

Game: 8- Entertaining, but one sided. Very one sided.

Ground: 7- Smart, I liked the roof too.

Food: 6- Nice, but only a snack really.

Programme: 8- A really good, professional looking effort.

Fans: 8- The young Aquaforce ultras gave some banter and noise. Glasshoughton’s striker took the brunt, but took it well! All in good humour

Value For Money: 9- Goals, good game, good club and some cricket as a bonus. Top day.

Manchopper in….Flixton (Northwich Victoria)

Result: Northwich Victoria 1-1 Darlington (Evo-Stik NPL 1st Division North)

Venue: Valley Road (Saturday 15th March,3pm)

Att: 292

Today wan’t one of those last minute decisions, as many of my games this season have been. No. This one was planned way back since October, and it was mostly down to the chance to see the former league club, sort of, Darlington. The fact that Northwich Victoria, today’s hosts, were in such good form leading into the fixture was an added bonus, and one that led to the belief that a good, entertaining game could be in the offing.

Darlington arrived in the Woodsend area of Flixton in 2nd place in the table, having been on a decent run themselves despite slipping up against fellow play-off chasers Lancaster City a few weeks prior, whilst Northwich came into the contest on the back of two straight goalless draws coming, curiously, against bottom side Ossett Albion the previous Saturday, and then leaders Curzon Ashton two days later.

I had previously arranged a meet up with Dan Watkinson at the game, and whilst he got there earlier, it was still too late to secure a programme, a good 40 minutes before kick-off, the reason being that only one box of the ordered two had turned up. Not good, and surely a decently large loss of revenue of the club. Upon my arrival, I witnessed something not seen at Valley Road for quite some time. A queue. And quite a significant queue at that, leading from the corner of the car park leading up to the turnstiles, which adjoin the rather smart clubhouse, which is still adorned by a sign bearing the name of the now, sadly, defunct Flixton F.C.

After paying my £7 entrance fee, which is about right for the level, I had entered the ground to find a large, but not too large, number of Darlington fans already spread out around the Valley. I met Dan on one of the park benches situated outside the clubhouse’s french doors, and awaited the kick-off, whilst deciding that, due to the rather blustery conditions which graced us today, the far side ‘bus shelter’ style stand would be our abode for the first half.

If you have not yet read my blog on Vics’ sister outfit Northwich Flixton Villa, allow me to introduce you to the ground. Valley Road is home to two stands. One is the aforementioned ‘bus shelter’ which houses the dressing room areas, and runs the vast majority of the length of the far touchline as you enter, and a small, refurbished (in Flixton’s latter days, you were in serious danger of suffering a lacerated leg or death), seated stand straight ahead of you as you enter, to the left of the clubhouse which is on your right. Both ends behind the goal are open, and this is where the four floodlight pylons are situated, a pair at each end.

Obviously, Northwich Victoria, a Cheshire town’s club, playing in Flixton, a suburb of Manchester, may seem strange to those of you not in touch with the ins-and-outs of Non-League Football, but the history bit may just explain it to you little better!

History Lesson:

Formed in 1874, officially, though some say 1870, Northwich Victoria played their first challenge games in the former year, under both football and rugby codes. In 1876, they played an away game at Farnworth & Appleton F.C. (now Widnes Vikings RLFC) under rugby code, then a home game under association rules, and won both. The first competition entered was the Welsh Cup, which was open to clubs near the Welsh border too, reaching the final twice, but losing on both occasions (1881-’82 & 1888-’89). In 1880, they entered the inaugural Cheshire Challenge Cup (CSC) (now Senior Cup), and won it for the first five seasons, beating Hartford St.John’s, Birkenhead, Crewe Alexandra (twice) and Davenham. They also won it again after four years in 1888-’89. In 1890, the club became founder members of the second incarnation of the Combination, and finished their first season as runners-up.

The club took a step forward by becoming founder members of the English Second Division in 1892, which saw the Trickies turn professional, and finished 7th in their first season, their highest finish ever recorded. During this season, Vics’ Tommy Scanlan scored the first ever penalty-kick in league football, the kick being introduced for that season, and they also signed Manchester City/United’s Welsh legend Billy Meredith. However, despite notable results against Newcastle United (5-3) and Woolwich Arsenal (2-2), the club finished bottom and as a result of the financial implications of pro football, decided not to apply for re-election and dropped back to the Combination as amateurs until 1898 when they left to join the newly formed Cheshire League, finishing runners-up in their second season.

As a result, the club switched to the Manchester League for the 1900-’01 season where they achieved immediate success, finishing runners-up in their first season in the league and won it eventually in 1902-’03 season, before leaving in 1912-’13 for the Lancashire Combination 2nd Division, where they finished their first season fourth, achieving promotion to the 1st Division.

In 1919, the club became founder members of the Cheshire County League, but only won the league title once in their stay (1956-’57) and two runners-up places (’24-’25 & ’47-’48) until they departed in 1968, although they did win a further four CSC’s (’28-’29, ’36-’37, ’49-’50, ’54-’55).

In 1968, Vics were one of a number of clubs to leave the Cheshire League for the newly created Northern Premier League (NPL), but with little success, Vics missing out on the title on goal difference in 1976-’77 to Boston United, but did win the NPL Challenge Cup in ’72-’73, a further three CSC’s in ’71-’72, ’76-’77 & ’78-’79 and a Staffordshire Senior Cup (SSC) in ’78-’79 .Their stay was relatively brief, leaving in 1979 to form the Alliance Premier League (latterly the Conference), where they won cup silverware immediately, a further SSC and the Conference League Cup. In 1983 the club reached the FA Trophy final, but lost 2-1 to Telford United. However, this was avenged the next season when Vics defeated Welsh club Bangor City by the same score line in a replay at the appropriately named Victoria Ground in Stoke. The original tie at Wembley ended 1-1.

The following season saw a 14th Cheshire Cup lifted, but this was their last success until 1989-’90, when the club’s third SSC was won. In 1993, a cup double arrived in the shape of the Conference League Cup & Drinkwise Cup and the next season saw the 15th CSC success but that was to be their last success of the decade, although they did reach the FA Trophy final again in 1996, losing 3-1 to Cheshire rival Macclesfield Town.

But the troubles were to soon begin. After departing Drill Field, their long time home, the club moved into Wincham Park, home of bitter rivals Witton Albion. In 2003-’04,Northwich avoided relegation (brought on by restructuring) due to the demise of Telford United, the demotion of Margate & Hucknall Town not meeting ground grading, and as such stayed at Conference level. During ’04-’05. Vics entered administration. Deducted 10 points, the club still stayed up, but then didn’t as they were demoted anyone on legal grounds.

’05-’06 appeared to be a turning of a corner for Vics, as they reached the FA Cup Third Round, and beat Stafford Rangers 3-0 to achieve promotion back to the Conference Premier. The club again almost entered administration in 2007, before being taken over by Jim Rushe, who maintains ownership to this day, but with safety equipment being removed to help with a business involved in the consortium in receivership, this meant the ground was not up to standard and the club was forced to play temporarily at Altrincham’s Moss Lane.

2009 saw Vics enter administration for the second time in five years, with £50,000 in unpaid bills. They were threatened with a double relegation to the NPL, but won an appeal to be placed in the Conference North, but this lasted a season as ongoing financial problems forced the club to drop out of the Conference North to the NPL, but did achieve a little relief in the shape of the first CSC in 15 years.

In 2010, Vics played Unirea Urziceni in a friendly at the Victoria Stadium, the club’s purpose built stadium, losing 1-0. Urziceni are no more unfortunately, the Romanians gaining popularity competing in the Champions’ League in Manchester United’s group.

In 2012, it was announced Vics would be evicted from their own ground as an ‘unknown buyer’ (later revealed as the neighbouring chemical company) had purchased the land, the club forced into becoming nomads before settling for a time at Stafford Rangers’ Marston Road. After a managerial merry-go-round the NPL announced in April 2012 that Vics had been expelled from the league. On appeal, the FA ruled the punishment excessive and the club were instead demoted a division to the Division 1 South, and for the first time ever local rivals Witton Albion began a season in a higher division. After one season in the South, finishing eighth, the club switched to the North for this season.

The club have also had a distinguished history in the FA Cup, in 1883-84, they reached the quarter-final, before being beaten by Blackburn Olympic. In 1892, they beat Liverpool in the Reds’ first ever competition, therefore becoming the first club to eliminate them from the Cup. 1976-’77 saw Northwich reach the Fourth Round in arguably their best Cup run. After beating Rochdale (after two replays), Peterborough United and Watford, they drew Oldham Athletic. With the game being moved to Maine Road, the game drew over 29,000 fans, their largest ever attendance, where they lost 3-1. They have also reached the Second Round on many occasions, in ’79-’80, ’82-’83, ’84-’85, ’87-’88, ’88-’89 ’00-’01 and ’09-’10, when the club’s games at home to Charlton Athletic (a 1-0 win) and Lincoln City (a 3-1 loss) were televised. There was a further third round reached in there too, when they drew Premiership Sunderland, away, in ’05-’06 where Northwich lost 3-0.

After that marathon history effort, back onto today’s game, and it began with Darlington on the front foot, and it was little surprise when they drew first blood. In luminous Pink (or would they prefer Coral?) Steve Thompson outpaced the home defence to fire hard and low past Vics’ ‘keeper Tim Deasy.

Deasy was called into action soon after, when former Durham City danger man David Dowson force him into a stop, and the game settled down somewhat afterwards, with Darlington still on the front foot, with Amar Purewal and Thompson especially looking dangerous, and it was the former who almost doubled both his and his side’s tally, when he rifled in an effort from 20 yards that cannoned back off the crossbar with Deacy beaten. Half-time arrived, with Darlington looking the more likely but Northwich weren’t out of it yet, despite not having a real clear chance in the first period at all.

Half time, and a trip for chips was called for. The kitchen, which is the old clubhouse entrance with a hot serving trolley in it, wanted £1.50, which was a decent price, for the decent portion received. After a quick trip  into the clubhouse to  catch up on the scores, or the Six Nations, your choice, the second half was soon underway, whereupon we decided the best place for this was to be in the sun with the Darlington fans in behind the goal.

With the Vics defence, ‘keeper and referee all being heckled in a fun manner by the Darlo photographer, the home side, now under new-ish manager Jim Gannon, began slightly stronger with a goalmouth scramble ending in a melee of legs and a goal-line clearance by, I think, Joe Tait on the post but this was to deny the inevitable as Vics grabbed a deserved equaliser, when the influential Brian Summerskill, took a corner forced by the tall, powerful substitute Aboubacar Sanogo, and Gary Burnett finished from close range to level the scores.

From here, Vics seemed happy to waste time to the best of their ability, with Deasy quite enjoying riling up a few of the travelling support behind the goal, by strategically standing just under the net so the ball, when thrown would go nicely over his head. Very shrewd! As he endured (or enjoyed I’m not quite sure) a 10-minute rant, which was quite humourous to many, but it should’ve been the fans having the last laugh as Purewal was kept out splendidly by Deasy, and Nathan Fisher, off the bench, blazed wildly over when one-on-one. The game ended in a flashpoint when the visiting star man Thompson was un-ceremonially taken out by Marc Joseph who, quite rightly, received his marching orders.

But, with this being pretty much on the whistle, there was no effect on the game, and both sides ended with a share of the spoils, which on the say was definitely the correct result. I have to say, I was surprised by the lack of noise from the Darlo contingent, maybe due to a lack of travelling numbers for this game(?), but the hardcore ones who made the effort to travel seemed really good, with no airs and graces which was a good thing to see. Vics also seem to be in a false position, and if that side stays together, expect a strong challenge next season, as they look to rise back up the pyramid!

My Northwich Victoria M.o.M.- Brian Summerskill

My Darlington M.o.M.- Stephen Thompson

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Good quality, on a good surface. lack of chance holds it back slightly though.

Ground:7- A 10 to how it was a couple of years back!

Fans:6- There aren’t many travelling from Northwich, but there are some. Think there may have been more neutrals/locals.

Programme: N/A- Who knows?

Food:7- Tasty chips, and a decent sized portion as well.

Value For Money: 6- Not a terrific open game, and only two goals to show.

Referee:7- Had a decent game & got most things right. Was lenient with time wasting tactics though!

TEAMS:

NORTHWICH VICTORIA: 1.Tim Deasy, 2.Chris Smalley, 3.Ryan Schofield, 4.Marc Joseph(sent off), 5.Danny Meadowcroft, 6.Jordan Hadfield, 7.Danny Wisdom(c), 8.Brian Summerskill, 9.Gary Burnett(1), 10.Michael Clarke, 11.Scott Harries. SUBS: 12.Aboubacar Sanogo(p), 14.Callum Henry, 15.Matt Greenwood(p).

DARLINGTON: 1.Mark Bell, 2.Stephen Harrison, 3.Terry Galbraith, 4.Joe Tait, 5.Gary Brown(c), 6.Jordan Robinson, 7.Nathan Fisher 8.Jonny Davis, 9.Amar Purewal, 10.David Dowson, 11.Stephen Thompson(1). SUBS: 12.Steve Johnson, 14.Adam Mitchell, 15.Dale Hopson(p), 16.Lewis Wing, 17. Peter Jameson(GK).

REFEREE: Mr.M.Cunliffe.

 

 

 

Manchopper in….Platt Lane (Manchester Gregorians)

Result: Manchester Gregorians 2-3 Prestwich Heys (FBT Manchester League)

Venue: Platt Lane Complex (MCFC Academy,The Maine Pitch) (Saturday 14th December 2013,2pm)

Att: Around 16 at a count!

For today I had two choices. Either attend another game at Trafford, as they entertained Blyth Spartans, or travel the short distance to Fallowfield, just past the ‘Curry Mile’ to Manchester City’s Academy Complex at Platt Lane, for Manchester Gregorians’ Manchester League game with Prestwich Heys. I have been planning to do another Heys game this season to catch up with ex-Trafford man Chris Mackay who now plies his trade with the club, after missing him earlier in the season, at Old Alts. In keeping with my word that I gave on Twitter the previous day, I was off to the complex situated not too far from City’s old home, Maine Road.

Beforehand, I had discovered, again on Twitter(if you haven’t figured by now, I am something of an addict of the social media site), that FC United‘s Development side were entertaining Hyde’s at a Manchester College Campus in Ardwick. So, this was where my day of football was to begin, after getting horribly lost due to my f*****g phone’s GPS again. I have come to the conclusion that GPS stands for ‘Generally Pretty Sh…. well, you get the picture!

Arriving in the Campus, where Ardwick FC play, around 30 minutes late, I met up with my usual companion Dan Watkinson once again who would be heading to the Trafford game later in the day. I was also  pleased to see none other than Bruno Silva playing goals, however this turned into something of a horror, when he received the ball, tried to beat the striker bearing down on him with a bit of skill, but this went horribly wrong, and the striker nicked the ball of him and walked it into the empty net. Oops!

This was 1-0, and was how it remained until after half-time, when the same striker planted a looping header beyond the reach of Silva, to double his and his teams tally. FC dominated for much of the remaining 35 minutes, but endured a nervy last five, when they conceded a penalty, and the big, strong mountain of muscle wearing the 11 shirt confidently planted the penalty beyond the United keeper. However the Young Rebels saw out the game to take the points. After getting the bus back to Piccadilly (Ardwick is very easy to reach on bus btw), I bid farewell to Dan and headed off on the short trip to the Blue half of the city.

Upon arrival, you are met with one of the grass pitches adjoining the pavement, and opposite the bus stop, which is directly outside the ground. After walking round to the car-park entrance, you walk straight on past the indoor training facilities, and onto a small path alongside a 3G and the academy pitch. The 3G was to be where the game would be played, the clue being both sides were on it. After the teams had come out,  I had a small catch-up with Chris, who was starting the game on the bench, and observed the minutes silence, which was figured was for another league’s secretary. Chris made his way to the bench, whereupon I had a look round the ground to observe fencing surrounding it, which is commonplace in amateur football on these surfaces, and the indoor 5-a-side complex alongside it, where the dressing rooms are also located. The pitch, known as the ‘Maine Pitch’ actually played very well, but then considering where it is situated, this was of little surprise. So, a little bit of history is called for I think….

History Lesson:

The current Manchester Gregorians F.C. dates from 1959, though there was an Old Gregorians team who pre-dated them, playing sporadically throughout the 1940’s and 50’s. The current club was formed by pupils of the local St. Gregory’s R.C. High School in Ardwick Green, which is located very close to the City Centre. They began by taking on the name of Old Gregorians AFC, playing in the Manchester Junior Catholic League. In 1962, the club stepped up to the Lancashire Amateur League,  where it was successful throughout it’s time, including one season in particular, 1977-’78, when all six of the club’s sides won their respective divisions, the League Aggregate Trophy for most successful 1st and Reserve sides, and the League Trophy for most points per game taking into account all matches played by all its teams.

They remained in the Lancashire Amateur  League until 2005-’06 when they switched into the Manchester League,  dropping the ‘Old’ prefix from their name, becoming simply Gregorians AFC. The club has continued to be successful, winning the league in 2008-’09, whereupon they added the ‘Manchester’ prefix to their name attaining the name they currently carry, and the Northern Counties FA Senior Cup whilst representing the Lancashire County FA in 2009-’10. They also finished as runners-up in 2010-’11 and finished in 8th place in the last campaign.

The game began with little happening, but Gregorians slightly on top, until somewhat against the run of play, Heys broke on the counter started by goalkeeper Andy Jones, the ball was moved forward quickly to release ex-Manchester United player Paul Tierney, who squared the ball to young debutant Lewis Temple who fired confidently high into the net. Seconds later it was two, as the lightning-quick Erike Sousa broke down the right. The winger fed Tierney who rounded Gregs’ keeper Allen Mills before firing in from the tightest of angles.

By now, Heys were well on top, and appeared comfortable. However,  they gave Gregs a lifeline just two minutes later. They won a corner on the right which was whipped in, and Ric Gunby rose highest to head past Jones. 2-1, and that was how it remained until the break, despite Gregs’ impressive Matt Dodwell heading wide as they grabbed the initiative and Danny Eyres forcing a decent stop from Mills down the other end.

At half-time, the spectators headed for  the 5-a-side complex, to escape the perishing, forceful wind. The facilities inside consisted of three vending machines, one offering hot drinks, the other two a variety of snacks. I resisted the temptation of the sweet snacks, but got some much needed warmth off of a hot-chocolate, which was of good quality. I also took a Platt Lane leaflet to commemorate my visit due to the lack of a programme, which wasn’t unexpected. As the teams re-entered the field, the hardy bunch of fans, with 10 at least travelling from Prestwich, headed back outside into the wind, which at this time resembled something out of a disaster movie. Ok, maybe not that bad, but it was quite gusty!

Heys began the second period strongly, with Temple denied by Mills but the home side began to use the conditions, and with the wind at their backs you could hardly blame them, with Matt Klemperer proving a constant threat with his presence, providing a good foil for Dodwell, and in the 70th minute, the midfielder finally got the goal his performance deserved, when in a move very similar to Heys’ first the home side broke from a corner,  with Mills instigating the attack.  Dodwell received the ball on the left, stepped inside and fired past Jones leaving the visiting  ‘keeper no chance with a splendid strike. (I have somewhat made this description up with a bit of help from Heys’ report, as I actually missed the strike itself due to helping to take down the banner on the back of their dugout. This is what good deeds do to you!)

It now seemed as though all the initiative sat with the home side, and Heys introduced all three subs at their disposal, Darius Photiou, who  impressed me at Old Alts earlier in the season, Martin Love, who scored a screamer in the same game, and Chris Mackay, who scores from half-way on occasion. So, something had to give, one way or another!

It seemed as though it was Gregs who would take the points as Tom Ward broke clear and only a superb save by Jones with his legs kept him out. This seemed to dispirit the home side somewhat, and with just two minutes left Heys were awarded a golden opportunity  to take the points when Martin Love progressed into the box and was felled by a clumsy challenge, and the referee had little hesitation in pointing to the spot. This was much to the delight, and somewhat disbelief of the Heys faithful, as the ref had had a bit of a shocker so far, getting quite a lot wrong, and generally talking to players for much longer than he had to, sometimes going into a full-blown conversation. Cue the usual’ We’re here to watch the football, not you’ shout, which on this occasion, was more than justified!

Anyway, as it was, Love dusted himself down, stepped up and fired hard and low past Mills and into his bottom right-hand corner. It was a great spot-kick under pressure, and left the keeper with almost no chance. Heys had further chances to add gloss to the scoreline, when both Sousa and Mackay broke clear and had one-on-one chances but on both occasions Mills denied the wingers with two great saves, to ensure the deficit was just one goal. The whistle blew, and I bid my goodbyes to the Prestwich fans and Chris, who had the audacity to say I’d put him off with a shout as he was running through. I must put more pressure on players than Sir Alex Ferguson did in his time at United! Just kidding Chris!! 🙂

As I grabbed the 111 back to Chorlton and another bus onwards to Urmston, I was able to catch the last few minutes of the Trafford game too, which incidentally finished in a 2-1 success for the ‘North’. 170 minutes of football in one day. I was happy with that!!

My Manchester Gregorians M.o.M- Matt Dodwell

My Prestwich Heys M.o.M.- George Powell

RATINGS:

Game: 9- End to end, it was action packed all the way through.

Ground: 6- Not much to it really, but for what it is, it’s tidy and a quality surface.

Programme: N/A- although the club are looking at producing one later in the season & possibly next season too.

Fans: 10- The couple of Gregs fans/volunteers were very friendly and welcoming.

Food: 7- Well, drink really. Good for a vending machine.

Value For Money: 10- Just £6 all day. £1 for the chocolate, £5 for  transport

Referee: 2- Wasn’t great….Yeah….

TEAMS: (only Prestwich Heys available, other than those Gregs players named above)

PRESTWICH HEYS: 1.Andy Jones, 2.Mark Powell, 3.George Powell, 4.Rick Winstanley, 5.Phil Woodcock(c), 6.Gareth Walsh, 7.Erike Sousa, 8.Jon Lyons, 9.Paul Tierney(1), 10.Lewis Temple(1), 11.Danny Eyres  SUBS: 12.Brad Lyons, 14.Martin Love(p)(1), 15.Chris Mackay(p), 16.Darius Photiou(p) 17.-