Manchopper in….Rotherham

Result: Rotherham United 3-2 Bury (EFL League 1)

Venue: New York Stadium (Saturday 9th September 2017, 3pm)

Att: 7,848

My “92” trail continues at something of a snail’s pace. Having said that, my initial season’s target is still on, though it’s not quite going as I’d planned. You see, my initial plans had me buying a fair way in advance and working my way, within reason, from the South and back up North, leaving both the stupidly dear and easy to reach remaining to do. But these best laid plans were to fall into ruin when I remembered that the first few trips wouldn’t be able to fit the bill, with my railcard running out just prior to this weekend and thus me being left out to dry. But, with this now renewed, these glamour destinations await on the horizon…..in some form.

For this week, though, my Northern stop-gap would be the New York Stadium, current home of Rotherham United. Having already visited their former home, Millmoor, at the beginning of the year in what was something of an eerie experience, I felt the New York Stadium would definitely be more of a standard trip, without overgrown and leaking stands. The weather leading up to the game was definitely testing the latter out though! Anyway, having renewed my card and bought my tickets, it was off the South Yorkshire once more.

Dodging the heavy showers to the west of the Pennines, the East side of the mountain range was experiencing fairer weather, with broken sunshine an improvement on thundery showers as I arrived into Rotherham town centre at just after midday. I was now left with a dilemma. What would I do for the next two-and-a….oh okay, it’s the pubs again, via a bit of a look around near the church.

From the train

Rotherham

After a backtrack, I began  my “crawl” with a visit to the Plough, located near the Tesco and a rather stand-out blue clock commemorating a Coronation (I think, I can’ remember now). The Plough was mad cheap too, a pint of Grolsch in here costing a smidgeon over £2 which, I mused, must be the reason it’s so popular with the punters during an early afternoon. However, I was soon to discover these town-centre prices were common place!

Following dual-watching the Test Match and the Man City-Liverpool game via the well-placed screens, it was time to head onwards and a little closer to the ground, which incidentally must be one of the only new-build’s to be as close )if not closer) to the town centre than the old one. Obviously this negates the need to leave a chunk of time to walk on up to the ground (a la Coventry) and leaves more time for the more important matters of putting money into the local economy. This is how I reason my drinking anyway…

The Plough & lovely “Coronation” Clock

Corn Low

Inside the Mailcoach

Next up was the Corn Low, complete with cash machine for those who need more cash on the fly. Not that this should be a regular occurrence, with my pint of Carlsberg costing about £1.80. Yes a whole one-pound-and-eighty pence. Unfortunately, the ‘Spoons-but-not style of pub isn’t really my thing and so it was quickly polished off before a slight detour off and down the neighbouring road to the Mailcoach which would turn out to be a good choice as this was my favourite pub of the trip.

Despite being open somewhat, the Mailcoach still maintains an air of the traditional to it, helped along by the dim lighting and lamps along the top of the bar. The pint of Somersby at, again, just over £2 also helped matters, but I had little time to enjoy it in here before having to move onwards to tick off the second of the Rotherham ‘Spoons offerings, the Bluecoat, which meant it was back uphill. I was looking forward to this one, with it being housed in an old schoolhouse, so I was intrigued to how this would turn out. Sadly, you’d never have guessed the above, with little in the way of character remaining. A quick Punk IPA sufficed before I swiftly exited. Shame.

The Bluecoat

Cutler’s Arms

New York Tavern

With kick-off getting ever nearer, I felt it was time I’d head down into the valley (you can see the ground from around the ‘Spoons) and towards the New York Tavern, which I felt had to be visited given the name of the ground after all. However, as I approached the end of the lane leading down the hill, I came face-to-face with the Cutler’s Arms, a large traditional pub which is a definite favourite for the home support. After a bit of a wait and with time beginning to beat me, a very, very quick Corona (my dearest drink of the day at £3.20) was downed before a brief visit to the New York to end up the trip, though I did somewhat regret my choice of half an Estrella. Not my greatest choice, as it’s not one I’d usually go for but hey, when in Rotherham.

With twenty minutes until kick-off, I reckoned it was just about time to head for the ground. After being thanked on my way out of the tavern by a guy outside (I assume he runs it and wasn’t just saying it), I got lost near a dual-carriageway before back-tracking on myself by following the crowds which made me wonder why I hadn’t just done that in the first place. Anyway, upon getting to the road leading to the ground, I purchased a programme from the seller here for £3 and headed off towards the away end I’d be populating today, having bought my ticket from Bury (Gigg Lane blog here) the prior week. I was happy I had too when I saw the queue for the away ticket booth!

Scanning in without any issues, I bypassed the food bar for the moment with it being pretty busy and headed up into the seats. Taking up a spot at the back, this provides good views of the immediate area back up the hill and towards the town centre, with the three church spires towering above. Soon after I’d got in, the two sides made their way out from the tunnel on half-way and onto the New York Stadium pitch.

Heading in….

The ground itself is a smart ground and one that feels big enough without being overly so as to leave it devoid of atmosphere. Dating from 2012 when the Millers moved back to the town after a spell at the Don Valley in Sheffield following their departure from Millmoor after 101 years, it houses four all-seated stands. The Main, West Stand houses the boxes and tunnel and all that comes with it, and is the largest stand in the ground. Opposite is the smallest stand, the East Stand, which enables the view mentioned above. Both ends are fairly identical, with a scoreboard housed in a corner at each. The floodlights protrude over the field from the rooves of both sides, with Perspex glass used around the ground to allow for more light to enter. With that out-of-the-way, here’s the story of Rotherham United F.C.

History Lesson:

Rotherham United F.C. was founded in 1925 following a merger between Rotherham Town and Rotherham County, the latter dating from 1870 since its formation as Thornhill F.C. in that year. Rotherham Town, meanwhile, were the leading side in the area, having competed in the Football League while Thornhill (latterly United) were competing in the Sheffield & Hallamshire League. By the turn of the century, however, Town had resigned from the League and folded, with a new club under the same name later forming in the Midland League. Thornhill would go on to greater things, taking on the mantle of the town’s premier club and becoming Rotherham County F.C. The club’s finished first and second in the 1911-’12 Midland League but it became apparent the town couldn’t support two pro sides and the merger duly followed, soon re-elected to the Football League as Rotherham United F.C.

After pre-war struggles (including having to re-apply for the League in 1931), 1946 saw United win the Third Division North Cup before finishing runners-up three times in succession (’47-’49). 1951 saw them take the Division Three North title and 1955 saw them achieve their highest ever league position, third in the Second Division, with only goal average denying the Millers a place in the top-flight after finishing equal on points with Birmingham and Luton. 1961 saw the club lose out in the inaugural League Cup Final (over two legs), despite winning the opening leg versus Aston Villa at Millmoor. They’d go on to lose 3-2 on aggregate.

New York Stadium

Remaining in the Second Division until 1968, the club entered a decline that saw them in Division Four by 1973. In 1975, they were promoted back to Division Three (now nationalised) which saw them able to take the Division 3 title in 1981. After relegations in ’83 &’88, United were back in Division 4. 1989 saw the club take the Division 4 title, but their stay in the third division would last just two seasons. After finishing runners-up in Division 4 in 1992, the club were able to take a spot in Division 2 upon the creation of the Premiership. They’d remain here for five seasons before relegation in 1997, though they did win the 1996 Football League Trophy at Wembley.

2000 saw Rotherham return to Division Two as Division Three runners-up and then went on to be promoted as Division Two runners-up the following season. They’d remain in Division One for four seasons, through to its renaming as the Championship, but were relegated to League One in 2005. After staving off relegation again the next season, a ten-point deduction left the club with a large issue ahead of the following season. 2007 saw the club drop to League 2 and despite spending a large part of ’07-’08 in the promotion race, another ten-point deduction proved fatal to their hopes. A 17-point deduction and departure from Millmoor followed in 2008-’09, 2010 saw Rotherham reach the play-off final at the “new” Wembley, but they’d lose out on that occasion to Dagenham & Redbridge.

The old from the new

2013 saw the club return to Rotherham after their spell at the Don Valley and they immediately achieved success, finishing League 2 as runners-up and getting promoted as a result. 2014 ended with the Millers in the League One play-offs, where they’d defeat Leyton Orient on penalties to return to the Championship. Last season would see Rotherham relegated from the Championship after finishing bottom of the table, returning to League 1 for this season.

The game got underway with it quickly became apparent this would be an open contest. Both sides had early sightings of goal, with the Millers slowly growing in ascendancy, Will Vaulks and Richard Wood both forcing saves out of Bury’s ‘keeper, Joe Murphy, before Ryan Williams forced the visiting stopper to save well from his fizzing drive. It looked only a matter of time, however, until the opener would arrive for the Millers.

Indeed this did arrive after twenty minutes, a long ball forward found Kiefer Moore who looked to have all the time in the world to bring the ball down, control it and set himself before sliding the ball beyond Murphy. One-nil to the Millers and it looked as though it may be a long day for the visiting Shakers fans, a couple of whom got talking about Millmoor and who currently/recently plays/played there. I couldn’t resist a quick plug!

Match Action

Moore celebrates his first

Taylor then fired into the side-netting after being forced wide in rounding Murphy as Rotherham looked to double their advantage, but then, against the run of play, the visitors grabbed a leveller. Ryan Lowe provided the cross from the left-flank and journeyman striker Jermaine Beckford arrived to stoop his header beyond home debutant Marek Rodak, the on-loan Fulham ‘keeper having little chance.

Half-Time was spent in fruitless (or should that be pie-less?) pursuit of food back down in the concourse and, left empty-handed, I headed back up for the second-half, though I did see a couple arrive back at their seats with a couple of said pastries, though I’ve no idea where these were found! Anyway before long the second half was about to start, but not before I got excited by a rainbow and the fact I could only see it whilst in sunglasses. I quickly got a poll going with the guys near me to who could see it with glasses and those without. The results were….all could see it, as could I without the aid of shades. Ah.

Around ten minutes into the second period, the Millers regained their lead, a ball to the back-post finding the head of Moore and he planted his header across Murphy and into the net. Two-one to the hosts and Moore had both of the home side’s goals. After a number of other chances to kill the game off, Rotherham would again find themselves punished for their inability to provide that killer touch.

Match Action

Cameron about to score…

Scramble

Following on from a set-piece, the ball was delivered back into the box and after a flick on, Bury’s centre-half Nathan Cameron found himself in the right place to nod beyond the ‘keeper to once again level up the scores. Two-two and all to play for once again. This time, Bury looked to have gained more of a foothold and the game looked to be petering out into a draw and a point-a-piece for both teams.

Rotherham did go close with around ten minutes to go, when Anthony Forde’s effort looked to be cleared from almost on the line but then, with stoppage time looming, Rotherham grabbed the final, decisive goal. The ball began with Rodak and his ball forward found its way through to Richie Towell. The man on-loan from Brighton then struck a perfectly directed effort that skimmed across the surface of the New York Stadium and into the bottom corner to send the home fans mad. This time there was no time for Bury to respond and it was time to cue New York, New York. Full-Time: Millers 3-2 Shakers.

After finding my way in now blocked off by stewards allied with metal fences, I eventually figured out how to get away from the stadium and headed back for the town. This time, it was straight back to the station….well, almost. With a good twenty minutes until my train back, a visit to the Bridge, just across from the station itself and neighbour to the “Chapel on the Bridge” was called for. A bottle of alcoholic Dandelion and Burdock was refreshing and enjoyed before it was finally time to depart South Yorkshire and head home.

“No Dickheads”

An easy, problem-free journey back was undertaken to end off the day. All in all, it had been a decent day. Rotherham is a decent place, which is easy on the pocket (outside of match tickets) and the ground is a nice one to visit. The game too was entertaining and you can’t beat a late winner as a neutral (sorry Bury fans)! As for next week, it’s back on the FA Cup trail with a rare trip up to the North East, featuring a possible giant-killing against famed giant-killers….

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 7

Food: N/A (not about when I got there)

Programme: 9

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Oldham

oldham_athletic_new_badgeport_vale_logo-svg

Result: Oldham Athletic 0-0 Port Vale (EFL League 1)

Venue: Boundary Park (Monday 2nd January 2017, 3pm)

Att: 3,451

After the bangs and noise that welcomed the New Year, I was certainly hoping my footballing year would begin in much the same vein. Following another chilly evening, my original plan of heading to Kidsgrove Athletic was put on the backburner, as a pitch inspection was to be required. An early inspection was passed, but with a further one penned in for 1pm, I decided I wasn’t going to risk it and instead remain closer to home. With little option on the whole, I was left with a revisit to Boundary Park as my number one pick. So, Oldham vs Port Vale it was.

Had I looked at the two teams respective goal stats (Oldham at home, Vale away), then I almost certainly wouldn’t have gone! Alas, due to the rushed nature of the trip I hadn’t and, as such, headed over to Oldham via the medium of rail replacement bus to Manchester before the train from Victoria station to Mills Hill, a 35-minute walk from Boundary Park.

Arriving into Mills Hill at around 12.30, I undertook the walk down towards the ground, dodging the icy surfaces as I went. After getting slightly lost down near Chadderton FC’s Andrew Street, having taken the wrong road initially, I eventually arrived outside the Latics’ home, with its lovely, vintage italic signage, at just after half-past-one. After purchasing a programme from the seller outside the main building, I quizzed him on where the cheapest area on the side was. “Probably the paddock, but there isn’t any sun there, so it will be cold” was his answer. With the temperatures not much above five degrees anyway and with sunlight at a premium after 3pm too, I wasn’t too fussed by this!

Vale Arrive

Vale arrive

Luckily, there were no Royton fans out!

There were no Royton fans out for trouble!

With programme bagged, I headed off to the main road linking Oldham & Royton, foregoing the Flaming Grill pub on the corner, as they are all pretty much standard offerings wherever they are. As such, my first stop was to be the Old Grey Mare which, of the pubs along the road to the ground, is the closest. This pub seemed to be a popular one for fans of both teams, with Latics and Valiants fans mixing nicely. It’s pretty cheap too, a pint of Strongbow costing £2.75. I did bore fairly quickly, though and with the hour quickly ending, I decided to squeeze in the next pub along, the White Hart, before backtracking for the game.

The White Hart wasn’t quite so economical, with a pint of San Miguel making me lighter of £3.75, but no real qualms with that. With the uninspiring ‘Boro-Leicester game coming to its end on TV, I thought to myself “My game can’t be any worse than this!”. Oh, how wrong I could be…

Old Grey Mare

Old Grey Mare

White Hart

White Hart

Heading to the Park

Heading to the Park

Pint finished, I headed off and back down the hill to Oldham’s stadium. After looking for the paddock turnstile in vain, I gave up and handed over £20, preferring a spot in the Main Stand over the rest of the ground, having already sat near the away end on my previous visit a couple of years back. Boundary Park is a fairly modern looking ground to me, bar the Main Stand, with the new stand opposite accentuating this opinion somewhat and all stands are, unsurprisingly, all seater. As for Oldham Athletic’s story…

History Lesson:

Oldham Athletic Football Club was formed in 1895 under the Pine Villa FC name, but changed to its current identity just four years later. The club immediately became professional at this time and competed, initially, in the Lancashire Combination (won in 1907) and later the Lancashire League. They gained a place in the Football League for 1907-’08 and after three seasons in Division 2, the Latics gained promotion to Division 1 as runners-up.

1915 saw Oldham come the closest they have ever done to winning the league, missing out by just one point. Following the First World War, Oldham found it harder to rekindle their pre-war success and returned to Division 2 in 1923. It would be 68 years until they were to return to the top-flight. In fact, it was to get worse as 1935 saw the club drop into the Third Division North and here they remained through to the outbreak of WWII. Throughout wartime, the club competed in the Northern League until August of 1946.

Boundary Park. Nice lettering.

Boundary Park. Nice lettering.

1950 saw the Latics appoint former England skipper George Hardwick as boss and 1953 saw the club earn promotion back to Division 2, though their stay here was only brief, a disappointing season seeing the club finish bottom and immediately return to Division 3 North. After a few seasons of struggle – the club regularly finishing in the bottom half- they went on to become founder members of the new Fourth Division in 1959.

After having to reapply for re-election to the League in 1960, the club survived at the expense of Gateshead. 1963 saw Oldham back in Division 3, but after a period of inconsistency here, they dropped back to the bottom rung in 1969. Jimmy Frizzell, a man who has a bar named after him in the ground, took over during season 1969-’70 and guided the club to promotion the following year. 1974 saw the club finish as Division 3 champions and return to Division 2 for the first time in 21 years.

Frizzell left in 1982 and was replaced by Joe Royle. 1987 saw the Latics miss out on promotion through the play-offs, after a 4th-placed finish. They had more misfortune in 1990 as they lost out to Nottingham Forest in the 1990 League Cup Final at Wembley. However, they had success the following year as they won the Second Division title and earned promotion to Division 1. After a 17th placed finish back in the top-tier, the club went on to become a founder member of the new Premiership. After two seasons, Oldham suffered the drop and Royle left for Everton.

OAFC

OAFC

1997 saw further decline as Oldham dropped into Division 2. A large managerial turnover wasn’t helping matters and the club continued to disappoint on the pitch. Iain Dowie joined in 2002 as manager and led the club to the play-offs, where they lost out once more. After the short-term owner pulled out of the club at the end of the season and despite the club managing to stave off folding, the debts and threat of liquidation took its toll for the next few years.

2007 saw better things for Oldham as they narrowly missed out on promotion, losing in the play-off semis, though this is as good as it’s got league-wise in recent years. Lee Johnson took over in 2013, becoming the youngest league manager at the time, though his reign didn’t last too long. Last season saw another struggle, with the club looking doomed to relegation to League 2 for a long while. But, following the (brief) return of John Sheridan, the club managed to remain in League 1 with a 17th placed finish. (I watched them at Scunthorpe during the latter part of that season). They currently sit in the drop zone once more, under the stewardship of Steve Robinson.

Before kick-off, I decided I may as well go for a pie now and headed for the food bar within the concourse. Once here, I didn’t take much notice of the menu, as many are often wrong, and instead asked the girl serving what they had on. As she reeled off said list in full, I replied “So, what’s up there then?!” to which she replied “Yep, but I don’t like saying look on the wall”. Good stuff that! I plumped for the Steak & Ale option (£3) and headed up to the seats.

The teams came out not too long after and we were underway.  The first half of the game wasn’t all that bad, in between Anthony Grant being on the floor and it was the home side who looked the slightly more likely to open the scoring throughout, despite their lowly league position. Vale, under the guidance of caretaker boss Michael Brown, following the departure of Bruno Ribeiro shortly before the game, looked a little devoid of ideas.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

After Ryan Taylor spurned a great chance for the visitors, Oldham’s on-loan Crystal Palace forward Freddie Ladapo, dangerous throughout his time on the pitch, came closest in the first half, his effort striking the foot of the near post when one-on-one with Vale stopper Ben Alnwick. Vale’s best chance came when Sam Kelly’s stoppage-time free-kick forced Alnwick’s opposite number Connor Ripley into a fine stop, the gloveman tipping the set-piece over the bar. Half-time, 0-0.

The second half got underway and despite the Latics dominating the game, they never truly looked like they had that cutting edge to force an opener, more to do with a lack of confidence to take on a shot more than anything it seemed. But, when sub Carl Winchester timed his jump to perfection to meet a ball in, Boundary Park was on the brink of erupting into cheers, only to see Alnwick somehow claw the ball away, despite falling in the opposite direction somewhat. It was a great save and even drew acclaim from a few voices around me.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

As the game drew to a close, Taylor forced Ripley into a sharp low save down at his left-hand post from a dangerous looking free-kick, before the big chance of the game came in the 91st minute. Another Latics sub, Billy McKay, worked hard to steal the ball away from a defender in the area and wriggle into space before scuffing a shot towards goal. Despite it looking for all the world a goal, Alnwick got his fingertips to it and diverted it onto the woodwork and out for a corner. 0-0, game over. When I came to write this blog, I thought the game was truly shit. In hindsight, it was decent (rose-tinted glasses?), but my run of no 0-0 was over.

After the game, I headed out down the tunnel-esque steps from the stand and onto the street, before cutting through the park, past the small ground which sits alongside Boundary Park and out onto the correct road this time. After just a thirty-minute walk through the chilly Oldham night, I could see Mills Hill station coming into view. But, with 25 minutes until my train, what was I supposed to do? Sit on the station and freeze? OH NO! To the Rose of Lancaster it was!

The Rose of Lancaster

The Rose of Lancaster

A swift bottle of Corona was downed here before I was forced back out into the chill but, thankfully, the train pulled in as I set foot on the platform. I was back in Manchester within fifteen minutes, but now had an hour to my replacement bus back, just when it couldn’t get any worse. I decided to waste this away by pointlessly hopping on and off trams around the city centre, as per my rail ticket allowed, until I wimped out and got to the station with 20 minutes left, eventually finding the bus hidden within a long queue. Ah, the rail network.

So, a bit of a “meh” day overall. There wasn’t too much excitement to be had nor seen around the town or indeed at the game, but I guess it could have been worse. No it could, ok? Anyway, Saturday sees a move onto the FA Cup and a trip down to the “smoke” You could say my destination will be ‘buzzing’…

dsc03575

RATINGS:

Game: 4

Ground: 6

Programme: 6

Food: 6

Value For Money: 3

 

 

Manchopper in….Scunthorpe

Scunthorpe_United_FC_logo.svgbadge

Result: Scunthorpe United 1-1 Oldham Athletic

Venue: Glanford Park (Saturday 27th February 2016, 3pm)

Att: 4,180

Continuing on my mini-quest to do grounds that are soon to be demolished/rebuilt, it was onto the northern part of Lincolnshire and, more specifically, Glanford Park the home of Scunthorpe United. After doing West Ham’ Boleyn & Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge in the not too distant past, it was the third part of this movement.

After meeting Richard, who was heading to the game and having the high life in the Glanford Park restaurant andt passing through Manchester relatively quickly, I was soon heading over to Scunthorpe on what should have been a direct train. Sadly, TransPennine decided that this wasn’t the case and terminated the service in Sheffield, meaning a speedy navigation of the station was needed in order to catch another quick service through.

After making it in the nick of time, I was no on a train that was seemingly more populated by Oldham fans, with a number displaying their colours in the ways of shirts and scarves. After an uneventful further journey through, it was into the drizzly Lincolnshire air and onwards into the town centre, with the first stop being the Honest Lawyer, as it was for most of the Oldham fans who’d also disembarked.

To Scunthorpe

To Scunthorpe

The Honest Lawyer

The Honest Lawyer

Blue Bell

Blue Bell

I was first in, luckily, and therefore had the choice of the bar. Well, I thought I did, but both my first and second choices of Staropramen and Magners were both off the table due to a “busy night last night”. Settling on a pint of Worthington’s , I settled in for the first period of West Ham vs Sunderland, as the Latics fans filled the small bar area.

Soon, I decided that I was fed up of the game and wanted to head further into the town and to the Wetherspoons, the Blue Bell. Unfortunately, this Spoons seemed to be an older pub that they’d bought and was pretty featureless for that reason. After a swift Punk IPA in here, I figured better times would be discovered around the corner in Class 6. No, no Johnson-themed things here, just a bar. Honest.

Arriving into Class 6, I found that it was a modern type of drinking hole with curved bench seats running round the back wall and TV’s showing the latter stages of the first half of the game from the Boleyn. Now joined in situ by a Desperado’s, I figured I could waste off a half-hour or so in here and then make my way to the ground early. After doing the first part of that statement, I almost gave myself a scare by  leaving my bag behind for a brief moment, before rectifying my error and heading up the road and past the site of the Iron’s old home (now a Sainsbury’s). But then The Royal took my fancy.

Class 6

Class 6

The Royal

The Royal

Pricey Purchase

Pricey Purchase

The Royal is a hotel and as such I knew what to expect from the prices here. As was proven when I decided to try a Hooch and received the charge of £4.40. Needless to say, the Royal was a nice place to sit in for a short while, but with time now pressing on, it was time to head down the hill and to the main objective.

I eventually arrived at Glanford Park around 20 minutes later, after successfully negotiating the car park of the neighbouring shopping park (one reason, apparently, why the club is selling up the site they currently play on). After heading round to the terraced end, I paid my entrance fee of £18 before handing over a further £3 for the award-winning programme to a lady standing at a table. Very non-league!

Glanford Park is a strange ground to my eyes. It looks and is set out like a much older ground in my opinion and belies its relatively recent age. It has three all seater stands, with the Main Stand hosting the hospitality boxes and the away fans being situated at the end where the railway had taken me past the ground earlier in the day. This stand is complete with an old-style scoreboard too.

After the Scunny Bunny mascot had gone all evil and decided to take it upon himself to save kids’ penalties on the pitch, it was time for the main event. The visitors’ fans, whom I’d toyed with the idea of joining in with before noting the prices, were in good voice and seemed in optimistic mood, with their recent form providing hope. Scunthorpe, though, will not be giving Glanford Park a triumphant send off this season, sitting 14th, and here is the story of the Iron so far…

History Lesson:

Scunthorpe United was formed in 1899, later merging with Lindsey United to become Scunthorpe & Lindsey Utd. They then joined the Midland League in 1912, which was won in 1927 and again in 1939. After an earlier application to join the Football League was rejected, the club went on to apply every year from 1945 until their eventual election in 1950.

The club won the Division 3 North in 1958 before being relegated in 1964. After a four year tenure, the club were relegated to the Fourth Division, before achieving promotion back to Division 3 four years later. Continuing a yo-yo existence, the Iron were relegated after a season and spent a decade in the fourth tier before achieving promotion again in 1983. After only a season (again) in the third tier, the club dropped back down and remained here until changing their home.

Arriving at Glanford Park

Arriving at Glanford Park

Guard of Honour

Guard of Honour

After leaving the Old Showground in 1988, the club arrived at Glanford Park. Being promoted over a decade later through the play-offs, the club were immediately relegated back to Division 3 in 2000. 2005 saw another promotion from the now-named League 2 to League 1, despite having almost lost League status the year before. After Brian Laws left the club, then-physio Nigel Atkins was given the job. They went on to win promotion to the Championship at the end of that season (2007). Again, their first season at a higher level was their only one, but they immediatey bounced back via the play-offs.

2011 saw another relegation back to League 1 suffered and since then, Scunthorpe haven’t troubled the upper-echelons of the table, usually ending up in a lower-mid table position, including last season’s finishing spot of 16th place.

The game got underway and nothing really happened until a good save from a free-kick by visiting ‘keeper Joel Coleman. Oldham returned fire with both Carl Winchester & Joe Mills going close but it was Scunthorpe who came closest, Iron striker Paddy Madden rattling the crossbar. The half the fizzled out through to half-time, where I had to settle for a Steak Pie (which I assumed from the pitch side hoardings was a Pukka) after my initial selection of a Lincolnshire hot dog had sold out (more first choice disappointments!).

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The second half got underway and I was watching the trains pass by over the away end and hoping that they weren’t all ending up at Sheffield. The game improved during the second half with United still providing the better chances, but Oldham holding firm quite comfortably. Coleman pulled off another pair of pretty comfortable stops to ensure the Latics remained level and set up the big moment of the game to that point.

A quick attack from Oldham ended up with the ball finding Danny Lafferty at the back-post and the front man couldn’t miss as he fired past the home custodian to send the travelling support into jubilation and chants of “We are staying up!” soon followed. It looked as though they would be on for the three points, but with Scunthorpe now throwing all at them, could they hold on?

No. An advance down the left flank saw the ball in fly along the six-yard line. Both ‘keeper and defence failed to claim the ball and as such it fell to Kyle Wootton at the back post who had the simple task of finishing into the rather unguarded net, though the resulting cheer (or lack of) pretty much summed up how the home support felt about the game and the impending result.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Full-time soon followed without any real further action and I quickly exited the ground and headed back into the town. After thinking about and spurning the chance to have a further drink before the train home, I decided to head straight for the station, as the Hotel near the railway looked to be either shut or a bit Bates-y. Either way, it didn’t look to welcoming and I was more than happy to wile away the half-hour in the waiting room.

The journey back was rather uneventful, bar a few guys who’d been to Grimsby commenting on how welcoming the club was to the press, rather than some down in the southern areas who were “like the Gestappo” apparently. While I doubt they are quite that bad, you do wonder why some clubs are like that and, it seems, less like Grimsby. Too big for their boots, perhaps?

Anyway, that was pretty much that. As for the day as a whole, I did enjoy Scunthorpe and I did sort of like the ground too as it was a bit different and everyone seemed friendly enough. Now it’s on to Hallam next week…as long as this weather subsides….

DSC01737

RATINGS:

Game: 5- Not a great game, but not awful.

Ground: 5- Looks older than what it is.

Fans: 6- Small vocal backing at the rear of the terrace was the main bit.

Programme: 8- Interesting articles and a good read overall.

Food: 6- Average Pukka.

Value For Money: 5- OK game, OK ground. Good town.

 

Manchopper in….Doncaster

 

Doncaster_Rovers_FCScunthorpe_United_FC
Result: Doncaster Rovers 5-2 Scunthorpe United

Venue: Keepmoat Stadium (Sunday 4th May 2015, 12.15pm)

Att: 9,394

A second venture over the border into the county of the White Rose beckoned over the May Day Weekend, following a second “Manchopper Draw” decision. This time, the eventual winner was The Vikings of Donny, Doncaster Rovers. Having stated the previous day when in the company of the Football Spoon & Dan Watkinson that I’d never been to either Sheffield or Leeds station, I was visiting both within 24 hours of each other.

On another dank, drizzly morning, I set off at just after 9am. Firstly, I had to head West to Warrington Central station, to catch the Express through to Yorkshire, before coming right back on myself via Manchester, Stalybridge and finally Leeds. With the rain now abated I took my place on a very smart looking Northern Rail train (nothing like those we slum on in the Red Rose county), my late arrival cutting my waiting time, and set off on the half-hour-or-so leg onwards to Doncaster.

After another trouble free journey, I set off on a half-hour walk from station to ground, which was accomplished without getting lost, in some minor miracle. Upon arrival, I lapped the ground to have a look at the surrounding area and, after seeing a few Power rangers (I think), came across none other than a walking, talking slice of pizza.  Now I can assure you, I was free of substances at that moment! The unexpected appearance of the pepperoni coming around the corner meant here was no picture sadly!

Arriving at a soggy Keepmoat Stadium

Arriving at a soggy Keepmoat Stadium

After ensuring I was still sane, I came across the cash only turnstile, where I handed over the cut price £15 entrance fee and entered into the concourse of,,,,,then I realised I had absolutely no  idea where in the ground I actually was! Only after purchasing the matchday programme “RTID” for the standard £3 did I discover I was in the end of the ground which houses the big screen, which is pretty much no more than a glorified advertisement slot. The opposite end is the scoreboard end, which today housed the travelling Iron fans. To the right and left are two stands which mirror each other, the right hand flank from my position also houses the family area, and the left houses the tunnel and dressing rooms areas beneath it.

Family Stand

Family Stand

Visiting Fans

Visiting Fans

To be fair, there isn’t a whole lot interesting about the Keepmoat. That is until you look up. The floodlights are quite  something, protruding as they do from out of the roof of the four corners. It’s a very smart looking stadium, don’t get me wrong, it’s just a bit too bowl like for my liking. Onto the history then of the Rovers….

History Lesson:

The club formed in 1879, in somewhat comical circumstances. A local railway worker gathered some of his mates together, played the “Yorkshire Deaf and Dumb Institute”, then they walked back, had a rest (and probably a pint) and decided to play some more. They came up with the name Doncaster Rovers and thus the club was born.

After playing Rawmarsh in their first competitive game under the guise, Donny quickly became the main team in town, having their first professionals, apparently, in the late 1880’s. They first entered the FA Cup in 1888, losing to Rotherham United and became founder members of the Midland League in 1891, finishing the inaugural season as runners-up and the following season featured the club playing in the Midland League’s top tier and winning the Sheffield & Hallamshire Cup for the first time, by beating Sheffield Utd at Bramall Lane. They were to win two Midland League titles, coming in 1897 and 1899.

The club were elected to the football league in 1901, as replacements of New Brighton Tower. Their first season in the League saw them finish 7th in Division 2, before being voted out a year later in favour of Bradford City, having finished in the bottom three. After one season in the Midland League, they were re-elected. Just three seasons later, they were back out and after a few unspectacular seasons back in the Midland League (bar a second S&H Senior Cup), the original club went into liquidation and despite a new club being formed for the 1914-’15 season, the First world War broke out, ending all football as the Army took over Donny’s ground.

After the war, the club rejoined the Midland League at a temporary venue, Bennetthorpe Ground. After two seasons, they moved to Belle Vue, finished runners-up, won the Wharncliffe Charity Cup and were re-elected to the Football League, this time in Division 3 North for 1923-’24, replacing Stalybridge Celtic. Their first game back was a 0-0 against Wigan Borough. After a spell of both mediocrity and relative success, the club finally won the Division in 1935, being promoted to Division 2, but lasted just two seasons before dropping back.

After WWII, Doncaster competed in the longest ever football match. The contest, against Stockport County in the Division 3 (North) Cup, saw a 2-2 result after 90 minutes. After a further 10 minutes of extra-time each way, the game was to continue until a winner was determined, as per the rules of the day. This conspired to go on for 203 minutes in total, before with darkness falling, the game was halted. Legend has it that fans left the ground and had their dinner before returning to watch the remainder!

After winning the Division 3 again the following season, followed by immediate relegation, the club won the Division again two seasons later, with players such as Harry Gregg in the side along with another player by the name of Alick Jeffrey. Apparently, he too was to join Gregg at Manchester Utd, but a leg break ended his hopes of a move. Of course, in the long run, it may have saved his life….

In 1998, Rovers dropped out of the Football League, with the fans organising a funeral procession past their Belle Vue ground. Their then owner, Ken Richardson, was later found guilty of trying to burn the ground down for cash. The club managed to recover from this, win two consecutive Conference Cups (1998 & ’99) and after a five year hiatus, won the Play-off Final and, in doing so, returned to Division 3. This was immediately won at the end of their first season back in the League. In 2006, Donny beat both Manchester City and Aston Villa in the League Cup, before bowing out to Arsenal on penalties in the quarter final, after Gilberto had equalised in stoppage time in extra time. The Keepmoat was then completed at the end of this year, with the first game being played there on New Years Day against Huddersfield Town, with Mark McCammon netting the first ever goal at the venue.

In 2007, the club won the Football League trophy in Cardiff, by beating Bristol Rovers 3-2 AET, the club’s first major trophy. The following season saw the club return to the second tier, via a 1-0 play-off final win over Leeds United at Wembley. In 2010, the club became the first team to survive the drop having been bottom at Christmas, but two seasons later, the club were relegated back to League 1, despite the signings of El-Hadji Diouf, Frederic Piquionne, Carl Ikeme, Pascal Chimbonda, Herita Ilunga and Habib Beye.

2013 saw the club dramatically return to the Championship at the first time of asking, in now famous fashion. Needing to win to achieve automatic promotion, they conceded a penalty with five minutes remaining at Brentford. Up stepped Marcello Trotta, he hit the bar, Rovers broke, Coppinger scored and Donny were champions ahead of AFC Bournemouth. Despite the signing of famed footballer Louis Tomlinson, the club’s stay in the Championship lasted 1 year, with the club returning to League One for this season.

Today's Programme

Today’s Programme

Sitting in my seat, the build up to the game included keeping a close eye on wayward shots from the Donny players who were busy testing Stephen Bywater. Then, it was time for the MAAAIIINNN EVENT. The two sides entered the pitch, whereupon a minutes applause was to take place for the anniversary of Rovers fan Ray Dunning, who sadly passed away a year ago to the day at Leicester City. Strangely, as the applause started, you could feel a change in the atmosphere and the sun broke through the clouds for the first time all day. It was like Ray had made his entrance and it definitely inspired his team on.

Paul Dickov’s Rovers side started on the front foot and it was little surprise when they took the lead after just 10 minutes, Kyle Bennett’s free-kick being headed past his own ‘keeper by Neill Canavan. Down my end, and it was almost level immediately, as Scunny’s Dutch forward Kevin Van Veen looked to go down a little easy under pressure, the ball fell to Neal Bishop, but with the goal gaping, he crashed his shot off the bar.

Harry Forrester was causing all sorts of problems for the Iron defence, who were anything but. It was exciting for Donny Dog, who ended up carrying Pukka Pies up the stand and began banging on the rear to start a chant off! The Dog also had a companion in the shape of a dinosaur-cum-dragon thing. I’m not sure why that was there, even more so than the pizza.

First goal.

First goal.

Donny Dog joins in the chants

Donny Dog joins in the chants

Nathan Tyson buries his first pen.

Nathan Tyson buries his first pen.

Anyway, Forrester was instrumental in the second goal, his ball to Bennett setting up the cross and eventual header from Nathan Tyson to double the Vikings’ lead. Then, with me heading down to the food bar, something tod me to stop. I took heed and was rewarded with a third goal, as skipper Rob Jones towered above everyone to meet the outstanding Forrester’s corner. 3-0, game over.

After spending the whole break queuing up at the criminally understaffed food bar (those working there were already rushed about), I came back out into the daylight just as the sides got the second period underway. About five minutes into the half, and Scunthorpe gave their fans something to cheer as Kevin van Veen netted the scrappiest of scrappy goals to reduce to arrears to two. Though, the fans got a bit ovrer excited, the flare was lit, thrown on the pitch and a few got thrown out as it all got needlessly unsavoury. But, no need to dwell on the minority, back onto the game…

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

van Veen almost doubled his tally when his shot was cleared off the line, but Nathan Tyson was given the opportunity to show van Veen how to do it, when that man Forrester caused all sorts of trouble down the left, won a penalty, but despite his efforts and begging, Tyson was the man to take it. Up he stepped, and sent the Iron stopper, Luke Daniels, the wrong way. 4-1. Just two minutes later, Forrester was agin brought down in the area, and Tyson had the chance for his hat-trick, and this time Forrester accepted defeat. The striker completed his hat-trick by smashing his spot-kick down the middle of Daniels goal for 5-1.

Tyson celebrates after completing his hat-trick

Tyson celebrates after completing his hat-trick

Paul Dickov watches on

Paul Dickov watches on

From then on, the game began to settle down as the substitutes began to take the flow away and the home fans began to serenade both Dickov and his assistant, Brian Horton, with chants of “*insert name*, What’s the Score?!”, to which both responded by holding up five fingers and a thumb. But there was still time for Iron youngster Hakeem Adelakun to grab a consolation. His cross-cum-shot from a free-kick deceived the young Slovakian home ‘keeper Marko Marosi and ended up in the net. Moments later, the ref signalled the end of the game and I set off, with the intention of catching the train direct to Manchester, completely forgetting I had to go via Leeds, which rendered my jogging after getting lost (shock, horror) around the lake, obsolete.

After finally arriving, rather angry at myself, at the station and despite the efforts of a handful of Iron fans to get me arrested on the basis I was a Doncaster fan, I was soon on the train back to Leeds, wonderfully separate from those who’d been stuck on the earlier train back. After arriving at Leeds, I had a 20 minute wait for the carriage back to Manchester and finally onwards to home. A great day, despite not seeing much of the town itself, and well worth the effort of getting to. Thanks to both sides for serving up a treat of football entertainment for us all.

My Doncaster Rovers M.o.M.- Harry Forrester (individual performance of the season) Mention to Nathan Tyson.
My Scunthorpe United M.o.M.- Luke Daniels

RATINGS:

Game: 9- Enterainment from start to finish.
Ground: 7- Tidy, smart, lacking in character, though the floodlights are decent.
Food: 6- Chips were ok, but £2.50 a bit steep (though all in League are tbf).
Programme: 8- Another fine issue from a league club. All he info you’d want and more.
Fans: 8- Some of the better I’ve heard at league level this season, though not loads of competition.
Value For Money: 8- Game was great, programme worth price ok travel (£14.50).

Manchopper in….Rochdale

Rochdale_AFC_logoFleetwood Town FC

Result: Rochdale 0-2 Fleetwood Town (SkyBet Football League 1)

Venue: Spotland (Sunday 29th December 2014, 3.00pm)

Att: 3,123

To round off 2014, I had decided to go full circle. 2013 had been rounded off with a trip to Spotland to see Rochdale defeat Bristol Rovers by 2-0, as both sides were destined to depart League 2, though in completely contrasting directions.

This time, I was heading back up to the North Manchester town to see the Dale, now plying their trade in League 1, entertain their fellow promoted side from last term, Fleetwood Town. The latter were to have their day in the sun at Wembley, as they secured promotion via the play-off route thanks to Antoni Sarcevic (previously of Woodley Sports) and his fine strike.

Alas, there was to be no sighting of him today, I was to discover. I set off though, at just after midday, and headed into Manchester for my bus connection. Of course, due to the day it was Sunday services, thus making the timings a little more difficult. But fear not, as a seasoned traveller in the dangerous world of public transport, I was not to be denied.

On the way, I met with Rob McKay, the West Didsbury & Chorlton Match Secretary, who was making his way to the Etihad Stadium. After a chat about all things non-league, especially attendances, we parted ways in St. Peter’s Square, and I headed to Shudehill for my second bus of the day. Soon enough, the 17 bus pulled in and I was off towards Rochdale.

50 minutes or so later, I arrived into the interchange and there I waited for the local service to dump me directly outside Spotland Stadium. After being safely delivered, I headed for the Dale Bar where I was to meet up with Ian Wright. No, not that Ian Wright, but a loyal Dale fan. Ian said he’d keep an eye out for me, so off I headed to the bar and as I was waiting for service a voice next to me called “Manchopper?”. It happened that Ian was stood next to me for a bit and had weighed me up “in portrait” to ensure it was me and probably not to confuse someone massively by calling them a name as above!

With a drink in hand, Ian invited me over to take a seat with him, his wife Lesley and his son Sam. A teamsheet was passed around, which I was kindly allowed to keep and I slotted into the programme I had purchased at the bar. “The Voice of Spotland is a good issue for £3, the standard price for a league programme in general. After a bit of a chat, Ian and his family bid me farewell, for now, but with the offer of meeting up after the game to go in the bar upstairs. The perks of being a groundhopper!

Anyway, the clock was ticking over towards three-o’clock and kick-off was fast approaching. So, I downed the remainder of Kopparberg in my glass and headed back out into the chilly Lancashire afternoon.

Approaching the gates

Approaching the gates

After paying £15 for a place on the Sandy Lane Terrace (not at all bad for a League 1 game), I was into Spotland for the second time. I stood within the higher reaches of the covered terrace to get a better view, I figured, and ended up in an almost identical place to where I had stood almost 12 months ago to the day. Co-incidence? Yes, of course. What else were you expecting me to say? That it was a spooky thing that I was drawn back to the spot? Ok, stop now I’m scaring myself….

To take my mind off this, I think this is probably the best time to delve into the annuls of Rochdale’s history.

History Lesson:

The current Rochdale A.F.C. was founded in 1907, but there was a previous club (which had no links to the current club) by the same name which ran from 1896-1901. Around this time, the area was predominantly rugby dominated, which meant it took until 1896, and the foundation of the club for an association football club to come into existence, occurring when Rochdale Athletic Club & the Rochdale Athletic Ground Company. they joined the Lancashire Combination.then the Lancashire League, finishing mid-table throughout their existence. The club moved to St.Clement’s, now known as Spotland, from the Athletic Grounds just before their financially induced demise. They folded on 1 January 1901, and 6 years later, the new incarnation of Rochdale A.F.C. came into being.

Nicknamed ‘The Dale’, the club originally plied their trade in the Lancashire Combination, where they recorded two title wins, in 1910-’11 and 1911-’12. Since Dale were accepted into the Football League (FL) in 1921, they have spent an astonishing 77 of its 85 league seasons in the lowest tier, more than any other club. However, they have never been relegated to the Conference, and twice been promoted, in 1969 and 2010. Despite winning no silverware since joining the League, they hold the honour of being one of only two sides from the lowest tier to have competed in the League Cup final, in 1962.

After WWI, the club initially applied to join the newly expanded FL, but were knocked back, until their successful application in 1921, when they were recommended for promotion to the new Third Division North. Their first league fixture was a home tie against Accrington Stanley, which ended in a 6-3 triumph. However, this was arguably the highlight, as the club finished bottom, and had to reapply for membership. In 1923-’24 & 1926-’27 the club finished as Third Division North runners-up, and only picked up further silverware in 1948-’49, in the form of the Lancashire Cup. In 1958, the league was restructured again, which saw the two regional divisional sections combined into the Third and Fourth Divisions, with Rochdale securing a place in the Third Division. However, they were relegated at the end of the season, returning to their usual place in the lower reaches.

They were promoted again in 1969, winning the Lancashire Cup in 1971, before being relegated once again in 1974, and they were not destined to rise the divisions again until 2010, meaning the club played 36 consecutive seasons in the FL’s bottom division, some going as far as to nickname it the ‘Rochdale Division’, due to their stalwartness. This is not helped further by their record of having the lowest average position of any club who have continuously played in the FL. They share the dubious honour (with Hartlepool United) of contesting the most FL seasons without reaching the top two tiers of the League (82 seasons until 2010)).

They finished bottom in ’77-’78, having to reapply for re-election, being successful at the expense of Southport who dropped out. Wigan Athletic replaced them. Again The Dale finished bottom in ’79-’80, but again were re-elected by the narrowest of margins, one vote, over Altrincham. They reached the play-offs in 2001, but lost out to Rushden & Diamonds in the semi-finals.

Following this a period of managerial instability followed, with John Hollins, Paul Simpson, Alan Buckley and Hollins again all given the job but being sacked, all within a 5 year period. Keith Hill was to be appointed, in something of a masterstroke, as he was to become, arguably, Dale’s most successful manager to date. With now Bury manager David Flitcroft as assistant, he led Dale to a 5th-placed finish in 2007-’08, beating Darlington on penalties, before losing to Stockport County 3-2 at Wembley. (Look at those two previous names, and ponder where they are now). 2008-’09 saw Rochdale reach the play-offs again, via a 6th-place finish, but once again were denied in the semi’s (by Gillingham), but it was to be third time lucky in 2009-’10 when Dale beat Northampton Town at Wembley, to end a 41-year wait for promotion.

After suffering relegation back to League 2 in the interim, Keith Hill returned and guided the club back to League 1 last season by attaining automatic promotion via a 3rd place finish.

Main Stand

Main Stand

Willbutts Lane Stand.

Willbutts Lane Stand.

Back to the present day now and, more specifically, the 108-year-old Spotland itself. The ground was filling up nicely now with the terrace already beginning to have it’s regulars housed within it. From this vantage point you have, to the right, the Main Stand which houses the ticket office, ‘clubhouse’ & corporate areas. To the left is the Willbutts Lane Stand, which houses the away followings, so today was mostly empty, bar a few hundred travelling “Cod Army”. Directly opposite the terrace, is the Pearl Street Stand, behind which you will find the car park. Housed in the rear of the stand are some further amenities & a further bar, on the outside of which is a small plaque recording the opening of said facilities by the legendary Nat Lofthouse. Spotland has a current capacity of 10,249, the vast majority of which can be seated.

Pearl Street Stand

Pearl Street Stand

The sides entered the field as the strange Dale mascot got to work, and the game was underway, Dale going close almost immediately. However, this was as good as it got for the home fans as Fleetwood bossed the remainder of the half, both in terms of possession and chances. It was of little surprise to anyone in attendance when they struck first, captain Mark Roberts’ header from Stephen Dobbie’s free-kick creeping in at the far post, the centre-back wheeling away to his fans in delight.

On the stroke of half-time it was two as on-loan Blackburn man Josh Morris slid home a low ball in. Morris had deserved that goal after being a constant threat.  This goal signalled food time, so I headed for the adjoining food hut where I purchased a Steak pie for £2 (I think). Again, it was a high quality piece of culinary. Sufficiently filled and remaining on the terrace, I awaited the beginning of the second period.

Spotland Sunset

Spotland Sunset

Match Action

Match Action

The sky had just turned a shade of pink-orange and the floodlights were taking full effect over the grass below, tended to by the final time by Dale’s groundsman, who was leaving for Qatar, we were informed. Now that’s a culture shock!  As expected, Fleetwood maintained their solid defensive shape, without committing forwards too much, meaning Dale were being invited to attack them more and more. This looked to be a mistake when the referee, who had hardly endeared himself to the home fans before, or indeed any time afterwards, awarded a penalty for holding, McLoughlin the offender, Dale captain Lancashire the perceived victim. To be fair to the defender it looked the proverbial six-of-one, but he was booked and Fleetwood’s Chris Maxwell prepared to face the spot-kick taker Ian Henderson, but his kick rattled the underside of the crossbar and was bundled clear.

The Villain, Ian Henderson

The Villain, Ian Henderson

Cod Army enjoying their win

Cod Army enjoying their win

This seemed to buffet the momentum out of Dale who, despite attacking with more threat than in the first half, never really looked like finding the net and so it was Fleetwood who held out for a much needed win, their first in six matches, no less.

After the final whistle, I headed for the ticket office, the agreed meet up point for the bar, where I met up with Ian once again and was guided to the room. It was surprisingly fuller than I’d imagined, but I battled my way to the bar and with a cider in hand settled in to watch Newcastle v Everton. After seeing Jamie Allen be awarded man of the match, meeting the brilliant Edgar’s Gift pairing Neil & David and their charity’s patron, Dale’s #7, Peter Vincenti, and asking his girlfriend if she enjoyed the perks of being a WAG (involving holding orange juice and bags),I was offered a lift back to Dale town centre with Ian and his family in a taxi. Much appreciated! All superb people.

Me, the Edgar's Gift Pairing and Peter Vincenti.

Me, the Edgar’s Gift Pairing Neil & David and Peter Vincenti.

So, not long after I was heading back towards home with another great day out stored in the memory banks. Football 2014, you’ve been great Here’s to even better football in 2015!

My Rochdale M.o.M.- Jamie Allen
My Fleetwood Town M.o.M.- Stephen Dobbie

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Not a bad game overall, number of chances.
Ground: 7- Nice ground, with a modern feel, yet still maintains its character.
Food: 8- Very tasty pie, well worth the money if you’re peckish!
Programme: 0- There you go, Ian! 😉 *8 really.
Fans: 6- Quite subdued, not helped by performance level. Tried a few times to get the side going though.
Value For Money: 8- Cheapest in League 1, average programme, good food for price. £5 travel.

Manchopper in….Bury

Bury_FCLuton Town FC

Result: Bury 1-1 Luton Town (FA Cup 2nd Round)

Venue: JD Stadium (Saturday 6th December, 3.00pm)

Att: 2,790

Another FA Cup weekend was in full swing after Blyth Spartans’ Friday evening triumph over Hartlepool United which sealed Paul Murray’s fate, and my destination was a return to Gigg Lane and Bury FC who were entertaining the recent Football League returnees, Luton Town.

So, after a pre-conceived meeting with Dan Watkinson in Manchester Piccadilly, we caught the 135 bus up towards Bury. The service drops you off a 2 minute walk from Gigg..,apologies, the JD Stadium as it is now known. But beforehand, I had decided that I would finally drop in at the finely named Swan & Cemetery, a favoured haunt of both home and visiting support on matchdays. Today was no different, with both teams being represented within the hostelry. The Swan was decorated with Christmas lights, tinsel and the rest of the usual décor hung from the rafters and the fireplace, giving the pub a warm feeling on a rather icy afternoon.

After a Kopparberg for me and an Orange Juice for me cost-cutting companion, we moved onwards, and down the road to the Staff of Life, located on the junction. Inside was pretty full, with the vast majority watching the latter staged of Newcastle-Chelsea on the TV. We decided to take a table just out of sight of the game and gauge the outcomes on the reactions of those in view. Dan, a Chelsea fan, wasn’t too impressed with the outcome, though, as the Toon came out 2-1 victors.

Swan & Cemetery

Swan & Cemetery

Swan & Cemetery

Swan & Cemetery

Swan & Cemetery

Swan & Cemetery

With Strongbow finished, it was onwards to the ground where, upon arrival, we paid the discounted rate of £10 (as u-23 & student) and purchased a programme, a 130th anniversary issue, for £3. It’s well worth it too.
We had, again, previously decided to complete Gi…JD Stadium, by sitting in the East Stand, meaning that we both will have sat in all four stands of the ground. A little anal I know, but still….
Anyway, we took our seats in the “corner” area that connects the East and South stands, and right behind the corner flag. With just a few minutes to kick-off and a problem-free day so far, I joked the only thing missing was a last minute goal-keeper’s equaliser. It was almost prophetic.

The Main Stand

The Main Stand

The East Stand, our viewpoint for today's game

The Les Hart Stand from our viewpoint

As the teams came out and took part in the “Football Remembers” tribute to the Christmas Truce of the Great War, now seems an appropriate time to delve into the history of Bury FC.

History Lesson:

Bury F.C. were formed in 1885, playing at their current home of Gigg…JD Stadium, since Day 1. The club was formed following the amalgamation of Bury Wesleyans and Bury Unitarians football clubs, and their first match, a friendly versus Wigan Athletic ended in a 4-3 victory. In 1887, the first ‘shed’ was built at Gigg Lane (it’s this from now on!) at the cost of £50, though this was written off & never paid. During this year, the club recorded their highest defeat a 10-0 reverse to Blackburn Rovers. Their first floodlit game took place back in 1889, when 7,000 people turned up to see them lose 5-4 to Heywood Central.

1892 saw the first silverware won, the Lancashire Challenge Cup (LCC), before Bury joined the Football League Division 2 in 1894, which was won at the first attempt, with Bury going undefeated all season, before beating Liverpool in a play-off at Stoke City to achieve promotion to the Division 1, where they were to remain until 1912. Bury’s Football League membership is the (unbroken) third longest, after founder members Preston North End and Notts County. The LCC was won again in 1899, 1903, 1906 & the Manchester Cup was also won around these in 1894, 1896, 1897, 1900, 1903 and 1905. The Lancashire Junior Cup was won for the only time in 1890 too.

1900 saw the club win the FA Cup, with a 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Wembley, and this was won again 3 years later, a Cup Final record win, 6-0 over Derby County, which remains to this day. During this latter run, Bury didn’t concede a goal throughout the competition. In 1906, the South Stand was built, the ground was given to the club as a gift from the Earl of Derby in 1922, and two years later the Main Stand was added.

After their second promotion in 1923, the club achieved their highest ever league position, 4th, in the 1926 Division 1. But two years later the club were relegated again, and have not played top flight football since. After further league decline, despite winning the Third Division in 1961, by 1971 the club found themselves in the Fourth Division for the only time. Further cup successes were attained in the shape of more LCC wins coming in 1926, 1958 1983 & 1987, and Manchester Cups in 1925, 1951,1952, 1962 & 1968.

The club recovered with promotions back to the Second tier but in 1998-’99 they were relegated back to the Third tier on goals scored, only the only side to ever have suffered this fate. In 2001-’02, the club were relegated once more into League Two following a spell in administration. In May 2005, the club became the first club to score 1,000 goals in all four tiers of English Football League. They survived relegation to the Conference in ’06-’07 after a final day 0-0 with Stockport County ensured their place in the league. ’08-’09 saw Bury reach the play-offs but lost on penalties to Shrewsbury Town. In 2009, the club won the pre-season ‘Newsquest Cup’ by beating NPL sides FC United, who groundshare at Gigg Lane, and Radcliffe Borough. In 2011 Bury achieved promotion under Richie Barker to the League 1 via a 3-2 win (and an 87th minute Ryan Lowe goal) at champions Chesterfield.

The season before last, Bury were relegated from League One after losing 1-0 to near neighbours Oldham Athletic, finishing 22nd in the league table. Last season, Bury finished in 12th position in the League 2, including my last League visit here, the “Keith Hill Clapping Derby“, christened as such by LostBoyos’ Matt Harrison due to the lack of other entertainment, between the Shakers and Rochdale.

Football Remembers

Football Remembers

Anyway, it was cup day yet again, and both sides were well matched in a even first half, bereft of clear chances. The best of which fell to Bury at the end of the 45, when a mazy run ended with a shot being almost put through his own net by Hatters centre-back Luke Wilkinson, as his clearance narrowly avoided sneaking inside the post. A heart-in-mouth moment for him.

With half-time looming I set off into the concourse for a pie, at £3.60, it’s very pricey but is a tasty one, made by Pukka Pies. Still as a blogger, it is my duty to inform, so I sacrifice my own money for your knowledge. No, no, it’s fine. Don’t worry about me…

Sufficiently warmed, and by now having christened a new dance craze, the “Rafa Dance” done by doing a strange jogging-type arm movement and Rafa Benitez’s “game over” signal a few seasons ago that he was slated for, it’s sure to catch on. Hell, if Gangnam Style can, anything can.

Match Action, and West Stand housing Luton's Fans

Match Action, and West Stand housing Luton’s Fans

The South Stand

The South Stand

It took just five minutes of the second period for the opener to arrive, and it was the Hatters who claimed it, as a tame effort was somehow allowed, by Rob Lainton, to pass through his gloves and legs, Massimo Taibi-like, and Mark Cullen gleefully stabbed home from a yard. It was a horror moment for the young ex-Bolton gloveman, and one that looked to have cost his side the contest and a place in the 3rd Round draw.

With just five minutes of the game remaining, Luton caught Bury on the break and Ricky Miller was desperately unlucky to hit the foot of the post, and this miss came back to haunt the visitors. The referee had just signalled for four added minutes,  when the Shakers won a corner on the left flank. All 11-men went forward, including subs Ryan Lowe, Danny Nardiello and ‘keeper Lainton,  desperate to atone, in some way, for his error.

The corner was swung in and Lainton challenged. The ball dropped around 8-yards out. From the other end, it was a flurry of legs and challenges flying in, with at least one effort being blocked on the line, before the luminous pink spherical object fell to former Manchester United man Nardiello who rifled into the net to send the home fans into delirium and the visiting Hatters fans behind that goal into disbelief. The game ended soon after with both sides living to fight another day. Sadly, as the centenary of that day on the battlefields of Northern Europe is remembered, we are all too aware there were many young men that didn’t.

The Bury players and fans celebrate their stoppage-time leveller.

The Bury players and fans celebrate their stoppage-time leveller.

Scoreboard confirmation of the scoreline.

Scoreboard confirmation of the scoreline.

My Bury M.o.M.- Hallam Hope

My Luton Town M.o.M.- Ricky Miller

RATINGS:

Game: 6- Not the greatest for long spells. Picked up towards the end, as per a cup game.

Ground: 7- Many don’t like it, but I do. Maybe it’s the old-style nature of it.

Programme: 8- The extended stats & historical pieces are a gem. Loving it.

Food: 8- The Steak & Ale pie was very good but the price knocks it down a bit.

Fans: 7- There was a fair amount of vocal backing, which lent itself to a decent atmosphere.

Value For Money: 7- Cheap travel £5, Pie £3.60, cut-price £10 admission, £3 programme. Cheaper than the Conference

Referee: 7- Honestly, I don’t really remember, I doubt anyone cares so a seven will do!

Manchopper in….Blackburn (Part 1 of 2 in the double 0-0 tragedy)

Result: Blackburn Rovers 0-0 Yeovil Town (SkyBet Championship)

Venue: Ewood Park (Friday 18th April 2014, 3.00pm)

Att:14,353 (inc.347 visiting)

Part 1 of my Good Friday double header began at a little before midday, as I set off in the blazing sunshine on a packed train towards Manchester. It transpires that many of these people were on their way to a plastic duck race (I kid you not). I had different plans, but as it was, I was to see quite a few ‘ducks’ as the day unfolded.

After changing in town, and again in Salford, I was soon heading up towards the Lancashire hills and mills and before long I had arrived in Blackburn. The train passes Ewood Park on its way into Blackburn station, but it seems to travel forever until it gets there. Indeed you are left with the best part of a 25 minute walk at a good pace to backtrack to the ground. The plan was to grab some fish and chips on the way, being Good Friday and all, but there was pretty much nothing bar a couple of pubs and an Indian restaurant along the main road heading towards the Ewood area of the town. The disappointment of this was slightly lessened by the fact that it was a surprisingly warm day, but having arrived slightly later than planned I sadly had no real time to bask in the warmth, and headed straight for the stadium.

After using my brain (for once) and following someone in a Rovers shirt, I found my way rather simply down a backstreet heading towards the main entrance & club shop. Before hand, I made sure of a programme by buying one off a vendor just outside the ground, who helpfully pointed out where to buy a ticket for the game. This was to be purchased within the shop, where I resisted picking up some merchandise, before parting with £15 and receiving a pass into the ‘Riverside’  stand. With 35 minutes to kick-off I made my way around to the turnstiles, and along the walkway at the front of the stand, which today was populated by a number of families enjoying both the sunshine and watching the Rovers team warming up at close quarters. After a while, I decided it best to go and find my seat. I was somewhat dismayed to find it tucked up near the top of the stand and well out of the brightness illuminating the lower parts of the stand. As kick-off approached, the sad news of West Ham’s Dylan Tombides’ passing filtered through which was just an awful thing to hear about.

Looking around Ewood Park shows the usual, mandatory all-seated stadium. The three other stands, the ‘Bryan Douglas Darwen End’, the ‘Ronnie Clayton Blackburn End’ and the ‘Jack Walker’ Main Stand are all quite newly developed, with the Riverside being the only undeveloped stand in the ground and is quite old fashioned, despite only being a few years older than the other, larger stands. Ewood Park has a capacity of 31,367. The small grouping of hardcore Yeovil fans were clustered in the Darwen End, and there were many vacant seats within the Blackburn fans as well.

The players were soon ready to enter the field from directly in front of me, as I had been given a seat pretty much on the half way line, so now seems a good time to enter the history books for the…..

History Lesson:

Blackburn Rovers was founded in the Leger Hotel in the town in 1875, and the club played its first game in the same year at Church. In 1878, Rovers became founder members of the Lancashire Football Association, and entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1879. They became the first ‘provincial’ side to reach the FA Cup final, but were defeated by Old Etonians in 1882, but won it 2 years later beating Scottish side Queens Park. The played each other again the next season, with Rovers again emerging victorious, and made it a hat-trick with a win over West Brom. For achieving this feat, the club were awarded a special silver shield and were given the unique privilege of having their club crest on their corner flags. In 1888,  Rovers became founders of the football league, and 2 years later won a fourth FA Cup at Kennington Oval (the Oval cricket ground). The following season saw a fifth win.

The early 20th century saw the club struggle for the most part, although they did start in decent fashion with two First Division titles lifted in 1911-’12 & ’13-’14, along with a sixth FA Cup win in 1928, but this was to be their last major trophy for 70 years. They were relegated for the first time in 1936, and after assuming their place in Division 1 after the war, they were soon back in Division 2 in 1948. They were promoted after a decade, and reached the 1960 FA Cup final, where they lost out to Wolves. This was the infamous Dave Whelan broken leg game! This was only brief success, as the club were again relegated in 1966.

Throughout the 1970’s, the club yo-yoed between the 2nd and 3rd Divisions, winning the latter in 1975, but only remained in Division 2 for a further 4 years before being relegated once again. A year later they were promoted again, and this time have never returned to the third tier. In 1987, the club won the Full Members Cup, and in 1989 they reached the 2nd Division play-off final but lost to Crystal Palace over 2 legs. 1990 saw further play-off disappointment, but also saw the club taken over by local businessman, Jack Walker.

After an influx of cash, Rovers were promoted to the new Premiership in 1992 as play-off winners, and followed up a ’94 runners-up place to be champions in 1995, and with it European Cup football, but by 2000, Rovers had been relegated from the top flight. Sadly, Jack Walker died in 2001, and the club honoured him by achieving promotion as runners-up. In 2002, Rovers won their first League Cup at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff with a 2-1 win over Spurs. After a number of mid-table finishes between this success and 2010, the controversial takeover of the club by Indian poultry company Venky’s created unrest in the stands, and the club began to struggle and in 2012 the club was relegated back to the Championship were they remain. Last season, Rovers finished in 8th place.

The game began with Rovers’ Jason Lowe striking the foot of the post just three minutes in, and I thought that we’d be in for a good game. How wrong I was. What followed was possibly one of the most uneventful games I’ve ever seen. In fact, there was hardly even another shot in the first half, as the sides went in goalless at the break.

The second half was no better. Rovers had all the play as Yeovil defended wonderfully well to frustrate their hosts, and restricted them to just a Jordan Rhodes header which went straight at Marek Stech, but could have won it late on when both Joel Grant and Joe Ralls spurned good late chances, and that was it. Full Time. 0-0. Dire. Boos rang out around Ewood, which I did consider rather harsh considering they were playing a team in their division, who had set out to defend and defend only, but there we go. They pay their money and are well entitled to boo if they feel they must. Power to the people!

A quick march back towards Blackburn station saw me bely the 30 minute Google Maps prediction and make it in 20 minutes, but in good time to head back into Manchester for the connection through to game 2 of the day, Stockport County vs. Altrincham.

My Blackburn Rovers M.o.M.- Craig Conway

My Yeovil Town M.o.M.- Luke Ayling

RATINGS:

Game: 3- Dreadful.

Ground: 8- Really enjoyed the ground. One of my faves.

Programme: 8- Not too bad an effort, what you’d expect for the level.

Fans: 6- No real atmosphere generated, and unwarranted (in my opinion) boos at the end

Food: N/A.

Value For Money: 9- 2nd tier football for £15 isn’t too bad at all. Programme standard £3 too.

Referee: 7- Had an easy game, with no big decisions to make. No decisions actually because nothing happened.

TEAMS:

BLACKBURN ROVERS: 1.Paul Robinson, 16.Michael Keane, 5.Grant Hanley(c), 4.Matt Kilgallon, 3.Tommy Spurr, 45.Tom Cairney, 6.Jason Lowe, 17.Lee Williamson, 32.Craig Conway, 39.Rudy Gestede, 11.Jordan Rhodes. SUBS: 13.Simon Eastwood (GK), 2.Todd Kane, 29.Corry Evans(p), 8.David Dunn(p), 15.Luke Varney, 7.Josh King(p), 22.Liam Feeney.

YEOVIL TOWN: 1.Marek Stech, 2.Luke Ayling, 4.Joe Edwards, 5.Byron Webster, 3.Jamie McAllister(c), 15.Shane Duffy, 8.Ruben Palazuelos, 11.Tom Lawrence, 19..Joe Ralls, 21.Liam Davis, 9.James Hayter. SUBS: 25.Chris Dunn(GK), 7.Kevin Dawson, 23.Joel Grant(p), 10.Sam Foley, 18.Matteo Lanzoni, 26.Seth Nana Twumasi.