Manchopper in….Oldham (AVRO FC)

Result: AVRO 1-2 Lower Breck (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Whitebank Stadium (Saturday 1st July 2017, 2.30pm)

Att: 35 (approx.)

Happy new season! Well, if you are happy to count pre-season games that is. If you are, then welcome along to the party. And hell even if you’re not of that persuasion, you’re free to come along anyway! I need all the help I can get!

Where to begin? Well, having had only a few games to choose from, the decision was fairly simple. Having already whittled down the options by weeding out those played on school pitches with no defined spectator area (my limit of a “ground”), the only real option was a pretty intriguing one: a visit to the newly refurbished Whitebank Stadium in Oldham. The ground is the former home of Oldham Boro FC & Oldham RLFC and now plays host to Manchester League side AVRO, who make the most of the shiny, newly-installed facilities and 4G surface.

Having pre-arranged a meet with Gibbo and Zach of Atherton Colls fame, I headed into Oldham via the novelty (for me) of the tramways and arrived bright and early before midday. It was only then the thought came to me “Why have I got here so early?” Anyway, I had and I now had the best part of a two-and-a-half hours to waste away in the North Manchester township.

Oldham

Molino Lounge facade

With time to waste, I headed into the owl-filled town centre and to my first stop-off of the day, the Molino Lounge, which is a café-bar set-up which, by the brickwork and décor within, appeared to be built around an old police station façade. It was a cool detail and I was happy enough to while away a half-hour in here along with a pint of Cruiser Pale Ale before heading onwards up the high street.

After heading on past a guy selling something “the shops want(ed) £40 for, I’m after £5”, I found myself at the doors of a nice-looking pub at the far-end of town called The Snipe. The Snipe definitely seemed the locals’ popular pub and it was pretty packed inside. With most pints priced at well less than £3, I figured it wasn’t too hard to work out the reason why (though I later found this was largely the main for the town). Anyway, I settled on a pint of Greene King’s IPA and grabbed a table next to a large, furry, white dog.

The IPA didn’t quite match my prior expectations of how I remembered it and, not too enamoured, downed it fairly quickly before heading back out into the bustling market street and back towards the large parish church that towers over the centre. Eventually, I arrived outside the doors of both the Hare & Hounds and the Last Orders. Of course, it’d be rude to only visit one, I’m sure you’d agree?

The Snipe

Hare & Hounds/Last Orders

Visiting the former first, I was immediately quite enamoured by the fact Blondie’s “Atomic” was being played, due to me having fond memories of it as the soundtrack to the ‘Eat Football, Sleep Football, drink Coca-Cola’ advert around the ’98 World Cup. Anyway, after a quick Strongbow, I headed over the way and found the latter to be far more popular with the punters during the early afternoon session.

Whilst supping away at the cheapest San Miguel I’ve ever had so far, I received a text from Gibbo telling me to head over to Whittles, where the guys were having their pre-match beverage. Not wishing to keep anyone waiting, I swiftly finished off and headed back to the tram stop for the minute’s journey down the track, during which I was to see my furry friend from the Snipe once again!

After getting a bit lost looking for Whittles (despite it being right in front of me as I got off), I soon sorted out my directional sense and met up with the Colls duo, who had also met Ipswich fan and regular hopper Mark along the way. Joining the party with a final San Miguel, it wasn’t long until Gibbo and Zach left Mark and I to find somewhere to retrieve some cash from and Mark was left with the duty of securing us a cab via the medium of bar staff. I was left with no task, which is usually for the best.

As the clock ticked ever closer towards kick-off, Mark and I began to worry that we hadn’t seen the others in a fair bit of time and began to hope all was ok. Indeed, it turned out finding a cash machine isn’t the easiest of tasks around that part of Oldham, but we were all sorted and ready to go onwards to the Whitebank Stadium for the big game of the day: AVRO vs Lower Breck of the Liverpool County League. This would also be the third different venue I’d seen AVRO play at (having visited them at both the Lancaster Club and Ten Acres Lane), as well as having already been to Lower Breck’s home complex at Walton Hall, which you can also read about here.

Gibbo leads us in

After a swift taxi journey, we arrived alongside the Lower Breck coach at the car park of the ground before heading through the perimeter fencing into the ground itself. It’s decent enough too. In addition to the aforementioned 4G surface, there is a small refreshment bar and two stands. The “Main Stand” is slightly raised above the pitch at the near end of the ground and is all-seater, while a smaller stand consisting of a couple of rows of benched seats is located directly opposite. The rest of the ground consists of open, hard-standing. So with little else to talk about, here’s a bit of back-story, once again, about AVRO FC….

History Lesson:

AVRO FC was formed in 1936 as a works outfit for the AVRO aviation company, playing in the grounds of the 16th-century Failsworth Lodge (latterly the Lancaster Club). The AVRO company founder, Mr. A. V. Roe, built his first aircraft from 1909 and became a major player for the RAF from 1914 onwards, building the AVRO 540 in Newton Heath before purchasing a smaller factory in Failsworth, where the Lancaster Club is/was located. 1936 saw the Lodge purchased by the AVRO works manager prior to the company opening their main Chadderton factory, where they churned out the likes of the Anson, the famed Lancaster and latterly the Vulcan bombers.

The Lancaster Club

In 1950, the Lodge was opened up to all personnel of AVRO (now BAe Systems) and took on the Lancaster Club name, with the sporting arm continuing on. The club joined the Manchester League and won the Division 1 Championship in 1989 but lasted just three seasons in the Premier Division before being relegated in 1992 and departing the league in 1995. They then embarked on what appears to be a three-year sabbatical before re-joining the league in 1998. They again won Division 2 in 2004 and promotion to Division 1, but were again relegated after three seasons.

New signage needed

After just one season, AVRO returned to the Manchester League’s top-flight as Division 1 runners-up and have since won the Premier Division on two successive occasions in 2010 & 2011. Last season saw the club finish up in 13th place, as they bid goodbye to their long-time, historic home.

Onto the game and it was your quintessential pre-season match-up. Not much really happened in terms of action, bar the goals, though the game itself was definitely a watchable one. To be honest, I can’t remember much of note in the first-half whatsoever and, after heading around the ground on the obligatory lap of the pitch, we arrived back at the stand for the start of the second-half. I was just hoping to avoid an immediate nil-nil by this point!

Match Action

Assistant Action

The second-half put these fears to rest as Lower Breck took the lead early on in the half, former Cammell Laird man Jamie Henders smartly finishing off a move by placing the ball into the far corner of the net. Soon, though, AVRO were level in fairly similar circumstances, a shot from just inside the area by AVRO player-manager Lee O’Brien beating the visiting ‘keeper and levelling up the scores at one-a-piece.

Both teams looked evenly matched throughout this contest, with AVRO sporting a couple of guys I know from their time at Trafford in Matt Landregan & Melford Knight. Both had some game time in this game as AVRO look to turn their sights towards the semi-pro game. They had their chances to move into the lead as the second half progressed as well, a low shot being well kept out by the Breck ‘keeper.

Match Action

Stoppage

The game settled down a little for the next ten minutes or so until the winner arrived with just a few minutes left on the clock and what a strike it was! A free-kick was awarded around 35-yards out and with the keeper well off his line and stranded, Paul Mooney saw his opportunity and took a quick one. The ball looped over the back-tracking home custodian and into the net to secure Breck the win in this clash. Full-Time, 1-2 and the Liverpool side took the bragging rights in this friendly rivalry.

With taxi again sorted out prior to the end of the match, our group headed back outside and were soon back in the town centre. Here, Mark left us to head on home, while Zach, Gibbo and myself headed on to the first of Oldham’s two Wetherspoons, the Squire Knott before Zach would bid us farewell before we went onwards to the Up Steps Inn, which is the better of the two in my opinion, with it having a few little booths to separate you from the usual chaos!

Second Spoons

Owls

Upon finishing up our Punk IPA’s, I decided I still wanted to head to the Ashton Arms, the pub I’d had to leave out of my pre-match plans. Also, it was just around the corner from the tram stop, so it was to here we’d head for the final stop-off of the day while watching Leigh lose in the rugby to some French outfit. I didn’t really care. Anyway, after our final pint in here, it was time to leave Oldham and it had been a surprisingly good day in the town.

After originally agreeing to Gibbo’s suggestion of a further pint out in Manchester, I came to my senses and decide this probably wasn’t quite the best idea and so I remained on the tram back towards home before switching onwards to the bus back while trying to stave off the inevitable spectre of sleep as I went. Luckily, I was successful in my quest!

All in all, as I said earlier, a much better day than I’d previously expected in the run-up to the game had been had. Oldham as a town is decent enough pub-wise and it was good to catch-up with the guys who I’d either not met up with for a while, nor met before at all. A new ground allied to this meant a fine start to the season and now it’s onwards to the Bradford derby clash on Saturday….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 8

 

Manchopper in….Newton Heath (Ten Acres Lane)

Result: AVRO 7-1 Elton Vale (Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: Ten Acres Lane (Saturday 4th March 2017, 2.30pm)

Att: 40 (approx.)

Here we go again. Yet another wet week meant I once more found myself looking at fixture lists and trying to pick out any random 3G venues that may be thrown up. Sadly, the vast majority were ruled out quickly as per them not meeting my strict minimum criteria (see Royton Town for that)! But then, from the darkness, a shining beacon of hope came forth to light the way. This was in the form of AVRO FC of the Manchester League and their alternative home venue at Ten Acres Lane. Saviours!

As such, the Newton Heath located complex would be my visited venue for the weekend with a lower-end-of-the-table Premier Division clash between AVRO and Elton Vale the feature. Now to be honest, after the terrible weather of the prior week which blighted the aforementioned trip up to Royton, I was somewhat apprehensive of actually going to the game, with a slight cold not aiding the part of me pushing to go. But with bright sunlight greeting me on the morning of the fixture, I figured I might as well go as it wasn’t exactly breaking the bank.

After catching the bus through to Manchester and the, ahem, glorious Piccadilly Gardens, I was soon en route up towards the Ten Acres Sports Complex. But, of course, there had to be a stop on the way and, luckily, the bus to the ground stopped right outside the nearest pub to the ground: the Bradford Inn in Miles Platting, around a five minutes bus ride away. It looked easy. I couldn’t miss it. Oh, hang on. It’s me, isn’t it? Of course I could miss it and I did. Shocker.

Bradford Inn

The strangely priced pint.

After a quick backtrack I was soon back at the pub and headed in. The Bradford is your quintessential estate establishment with the usual locals you’d expect within. Nothing bad there, though, as it all makes for an experience. I couldn’t complain about the price either, a pint of Joseph Holt’s Crystal Gold costing the strange amount of £2.41, which was swiftly handed over to the friendly woman behind the bar, after a double check on the price!

To be honest, there was little to report on in here, as the Manchester Utd-Bournemouth game had just gone through the break and the big talking points had already dissipated within by the point I arrived and, with the clock nearing the reported kick-off time of 2pm, I decided I ought to go grab the bus onwards.

After disembarking at the foot of Ten Acres Lane itself, it’s only a short walk to the gates of the complex, where I was surprised to find a large crowd awaiting the fixture from my viewpoint on the road. All looked set for a good atmosphere, though I reckoned it looked too good to be true. Sadly, it was as the vast majority were there to watch a kids tournament finish up. It also quickly became apparent that the two-o’clock kick-off wasn’t going to happen. Argh.

Arriving at Ten Acres Lane.

The late, great Johan Cruyff’s wise words.

After the young’uns had completed their games and headed off along with pretty much everyone else there at that point, it finally allowed the two teams onto the pitch. I said a quick “hello” to AVRO’s Matt Landregan who I know, somewhat, from his time at Trafford before he went to get on with the pre-match routines. With nowhere really to go, I was left to watch the warm-ups in full which I never find the most thrilling of tasks. Even the sun had disappeared behind some rather grey clouds by this point and all looked to be on a bit of a downer.

Eventually, the two finished their preparations, with one AVRO defender revealing he was wearing the number 3 shirt to some amusement from a couple of guys watching, before he then anointed himself “Maldini” for the next 90 minutes! The referees soon joined the teams before going through a boot check, making sure the goals were taped up securely and a minutes silence for (I presume) the Elton Vale secretary who sadly passed away in the week leading up to the game. Then, at 2.38pm, we were eventually underway!

I won’t go through AVRO’s history again, as this can be found in my blog about my visit to their usual Broadway home here. (NB: The club will be moving from here shortly, with Oldham Boro’s old Whitebank Stadium becoming their new ground.)

Ten Acres Lane is your normal, bland, artificial venue. There is one paved, railed area for spectators running the length of the Sports Centre side of the pitch, though you can head all the way around the cage (pretty much) if the gates are open, as the small path is fairly firm underfoot. But, as for any real distinguishable features? You won’t find any here. It is the home of the National Taekwondo Centre, though, so there is that, I guess.

Match Action

Match Action

Anyway, I digress. Back onto on-field matters and the early part of the contest seemed to suggest this would be a close contest between the third-bottom and second-bottom sides respectively. It was AVRO who struck first, though, with the tall centre-mid Michael Stockdale getting clear of the defence before slotting beyond the Vale ‘keeper.

Elton Vale, though, struck back quickly with a great strike by Jack Barlow who, after inheriting the ball off the back of some questionable defending, advanced towards the edge of the area before unleashing a tremendous effort which flew across the helpless home custodian and into the top corner. A great goal to level up the scores but this high point was never to come close to being matched, sadly, for the visitors.

After a period of stalemate in the game, the hosts missed a good chance to retake the lead when some very abject defending gifted the ball to Stockdale who was only denied a second by a decent goal-line block, which made some amends for the earlier error that led to the opener.

However, AVRO then had one of those match deciding spells wherein they managed to find the net three times within the space of around five minutes. Firstly, the impressive #7, Mason Dunkerley (?)  drove a low shot under the ‘keeper for 2-1, before netting a second shortly after from around the edge of the area (I’m guessing as I only saw the ball in the net!). The #9, James Hampson, then got in on the act, being released through the defence to fire under the advancing, under-fire, ‘keeper.

At Close Quarters!

Match Action

Elton Vale, understandably, looked deflated by now and letting a fifth in before the break would have done little to help matters, as Hampson grabbed his second of the game benefitting from another error in the defence which allowed Landregan to lay it on a plate for his strike partner. Half-Time: 5-1. The previous time I had this score-line at the interval was at Brentford-Eastleigh in early January and on that occasion, no further goals were added. I hoped this wasn’t to be the case again!

After spending half-time having a quick peruse of the corridor in a vain search for “facilities”, I remained in the warmth of the entrance atrium taking a welcome relief from the surprisingly bracing wind before the second half got underway, refraining from purchasing refreshments from the vending machines on account they were twice the price of the tea bar at Royton the previous week. There it was 50p for a tea. I’m tight like that, you see!

With the second half underway, I headed back up the steps to the pitch to watch what amounted to little more than two teams looking to see out the rest of the game. AVRO did add a sixth around fifteen minutes in, when Stockdale again found himself clear in the box and he confidently clipped the ball over the diving ‘keeper and into the far side-netting. Clinical.

The paved spectators’ area

Match Action

In the far distance, Stockdale nets his second!

With very little to speak of in the way of chances, the game did get a bit boring with only some showboating and skillage (yes, it is a word ok?) keeping the watching crowds (Elton Vale-inclined spectators probably not included) entertained, especially a group of youths near me who took great delight in either celebrating them when they worked, or mocking them when they didn’t. Savage. Anyway, a late strike was added by Landregan as he chipped the ball over the oncoming GK with class, much to the delight of the youths before the ref brought the contest to a close at a stonking 7-1.

After congratulating Matt on his goal and the win, I departed in haste to head down the road once more to grab the bus back, just about avoiding the oncoming rain. Soon back in Manchester, another kind bus change saw me soon heading home, again dodging the occasional heavy showers on the way. Not too bad a day, really, for a game on a bland pitch in the midst of a sports complex. However, back onto the “real” ground trail next week with a trip to another ground that will soon be lost….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 2

Food: N/A (bar vending machines)

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 8

 

Manchopper in….Royton

royton-townwalshaw_badge_400x400

Result: Royton Town 0-3 Walshaw Sports (Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: The Oldham Academy North (Saturday 25th February 2017, 3.15pm)

Att: 22 (hc)

With heavy rain in the preceding days putting pay to the majority of fixture lists in the English lower leagues I, along with many others I presume, was left to pick through the pieces that remained from the destruction. Of course, being in England (especially Manchester), you always have a safety net lined up and this week’s one was the Oldham Academy North’s 3G pitch which plays host to Royton Town FC of the Manchester League’s Premier Division.

As more and more games fell foul of the wetness throughout the morning, I decided I would play it safe and head up to Oldham and tick-off a “ground” that falls just the right side of my rules. The reason? It has a taped off area for spectators. That’s it, just a little bit of bright yellow tape. Now to be honest, I’ve mulled over this one for a while and whether it really warranted a blog but, as there was that designated area, which was still on the artificial grass even, I figured it just about made the cut. So, what of the day?

Well, it wasn’t an inspiring one. It began with a smelly bus ride into Manchester, before escaping the weather once more and travelling up on a “classic” graffiti-decorated First service up towards Boundary Park. Once within sight of the ground, I quickly debussed and made a hasty track for the Brewers Fayre pub which sits a couple of minutes away from the League One Latics’ home.

I quickly realised that Oldham must be at home due to the traffic in the streets around the ground, so was a little more optimistic that the pub would have an atmosphere that, I figured, my game would lack. I did, however, make a bad mistake by deciding on a “short-cut”, which turned out to only make things worse as I was soon squelching over the corner of the neighbouring playing fields and clambering up a small, soft mud banking to get there!

A quick, much-needed stop...

A quick, much-needed stop…

I survived this climb of Everest proportions and took perceived refuge in the Clayton Green. Once inside, I quickly got to the bar and was soon in possession of a pint of Beck’s for £3.45. I took my plastic pot and thought I ought to have a check about who was in town, having already overheard the accents and reckoning they were from somewhere in London as, you know, I’m obviously some sort of genius. So, who was in town?

Millwall. “I was expecting chairs and tables to be thrown!” came a quote from somewhere inside after the fans had exited and headed off to Boundary Park. There was nothing of the sort from this group, though, with no signs of any trouble flaring which was good. Alas, there was little atmosphere either, with the rain probably dampening that too as well as the Oldham area, as I braved the elements once more and headed up for my game. Interestingly, I was the only one in the Clayton Green who headed this way….

Arriving at the Oldham Academy North

Arriving at the Oldham Academy North

The spectator area

The spectator area

A five-minute walk saw me arrive at the gates to the Academy and I was soon gaining access through the main entrance to the Sports Centre. After heading out through the rear doors to the pitch area, the players from Walshaw followed soon after to join their Royton counterparts on the pitch and we were all set. So, about the ground. There’s a pitch. There’s the aforementioned tape. There’s a mill which towers over the venue gaining it some character, but otherwise there’s little to get the pulse racing. Nothing to do with the club, just the venue in pretty uninspiring and unfortunately, the action on the pitch didn’t do anything to warm the cockles either. Anyway, before I get too down on things, here’s a bit about Royton Town’s story…

History Lesson:

Royton Town Football Club began life as the Stotts Benham works side in the Rochdale Alliance League, before changing its name to Royton Town. The club won the “Rochdale Alliance Premier League treble” and went unbeaten for two-and-a-half seasons before moving up to the Lancashire Amateur League in 1994. The club spent seven years here before transferring into the Manchester League in 2001.

The club have competed in the top-tier of the league since they joined, bar the first season where they won the First Division. After just two seasons, Royton won the Premier Division before drifting into a lower-mid table outfit for the next few years. Their best season since was last time out as the club recorded a runners-up placing in the Premier Division and they currently sit in third-place this season.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The game got underway and, before long, the rain came in and made for an unpleasant experience for those watching, playing, coaching and officiating en masse. It definitely didn’t help the gameplay, as both sets of players, understandably, found things hard going. For the first half-hour, I think it would be fair to say that very, very little happened bar a couple of half-chances for the visitors, crafted chiefly by their quicksilver #11.

It was, though, unsurprising that Walshaw went in at the break ahead. A low ball into the box was turned in at the back-post by an unfortunate defender for an own-goal and that was pretty much that. Everyone without an umbrella was wet, cold and, those connected with Walshaw excepted, miserable. Half-Time: 0-1 and it was off to the indoor tea-bar within the main building for some warmth and a dry off.

Some local sports heroes

Some local sports heroes

Queue for Toany's!

Queue for Toany’s!

The raised area

The raised area

After purchasing a cup of tea for the princely sum of 50p from Toany’s, it was soon time to head back outside. Begrudgingly. I did think about watching the second half from the slightly raised, paved area on the academy side of the pitch, but the cage made that impossible. So, back to the tape it was, though a watching, very damp dog was keeping a bit of cheer going on a very dour day.

On the pitch, Walshaw came out of the blocks quickly and took the game, once more, to their higher-placed hosts. Indeed, they looked to have doubled their advantage not too long after the restart, but the officials judged the ball to have not crossed the line, following a crisp drive smashing down off the crossbar. This was followed by Sports’ Jonathan Hunter somehow managing to strike the post when one-on-one and you wondered whether the visitors would regret these misses when the hosts got it together somewhat.

As it was, Royton never got it together and looked nothing like a third-placed team. Indeed, it looked like a complete role-reversal with Walshaw dominating the ninety minutes, their hipster beard bearing ‘keeper only being forced into one save of note when he palmed away a decent drive. Eventually, though, Walshaw got their deserved second when Hunter atoned for his earlier slip-up to net at the second attempt after his initial drive had been kept out. Boundary Park was also audibly going mad on the occasions of Connor Ripley’s double penalty save exploits.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Gately celebrates his goal

Gately celebrates his goal

This goal didn’t mean Walshaw were going to retreat into their shell, though, as they continued to come at the out-of-sorts Royton the centre-back going close with a header before they netted a third late on, a close range finish by Connor Gately into the largely unguarded net serving the coup de grace to the hosts. A good day for Connors in Oldham! Full-Time: 0-3 and a convincing win in a strange contest. Royton are obviously a good side (being 3rd in the table) but they just didn’t turn up on the day and were convincingly outplayed by their mid-table opponents.

After the game and feeling as though I’d taken a dip in the nearby River Irk I was that wet-through, I was delighted to find the bus back heading to the stop just as I arrived. Soon on board, it was back past Boundary Park where a few content Latics fans joined and back down to Manchester very uneventfully. That was that. A very uncomfortable day overall, but at least the game improved markedly so credit to the teams, especially Walshaw, for that. With yet more rain forecast for the following weekend, it looks like we could be doing it all again. Oh, the joys of this ‘hopping lark…

dsc03884

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 2

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A (Chocolate and the like was available I think)

Value For Money: 5

 

Manchopper in….Salford (Beechfield United FC)

beechfieldutdUppermillFC

Result: Beechfield United 6-1 Uppermill (Manchester League Division 1)

Venue: Salford Sports Village (Saturday 28th January 2017, 3.15pm)

Att: 15 (approx.)

Another weekend, yet more rain to decimate the local fixture lists. Having been focussed on picking out a nice, cheap, local option, I soon found myself contemplating a Saturday away from the game. With the time passing by midday, I managed to persuade myself it was worth risking the forecast weather and heading over to Salford. However, this wasn’t to watch the, somewhat, famed City today but their close neighbours who sit, pretty much at the foot of a road leading to Moor Lane: Beechfield United.

Beechfield currently call the Salford Sports Village their home and the 3G pitch at the complex gave assurance that there would indeed be a contest today. So after rousing myself swiftly, I headed out towards Manchester and over to Salford Central where I was to undertake the short hop over to Salford Crescent station, which sits around 25 minutes walk from the complex.

After the inevitable delays were encountered, I arrived at a little before 1.30pm and set off through the litter-strewn streets around Middleton. After dodging most of the rain on my journey, I found myself at the gates just as the game kicked-off at 2pm. At least, I thought that was the case until one of the players clad in green and white hoops shouted out “Come on Salford!” which made me shudder and swiftly check my phone. Ah. I now had an hour to wait for the 3pm game! That, dear reader, is why you should double check everything, even when in haste I guess!

Looks...scenic

Looks…scenic

Salford Sports Village

Salford Sports Village

This isn't right!

This isn’t right!

Anyway, the second half of the Salford Vics 3rds game yielded a further five goals including a stunning strike for the visiting side despite them falling to defeat, and then it was on to the Main Event. Beechfield and Uppermill players came out onto the cage-surrounded pitch in dribs and drabs from the changing rooms within the main building and after a quick warm-up, the ref decided he really ought to join them and we were eventually ready to get going fifteen minutes behind schedule.

The Salford Sports Village is a rather large complex, with the building housing all sorts of community facilities i.e. a library, a coffee shop (closed today, sadly) and a gym amongst others. Outside also sees grass pitches, on a fairly soggy field this afternoon, to the rear with the 3G main, full-sized pitch being joined by a few smaller ones nearer the road and adjacent to the car park. The pitch itself is fully railed off, but spare goals hamper any efforts to do laps, so I didn’t bother. As for Beechfield United…

History Lesson:

Beechfield United Football Club was formed in 1980 and the club took its name from the Beechfield housing estate in Swinton, where Beechy originally played their fixtures. After just one season there, which saw the ground tarred with vandalism, the club moved to Brookhouse in Eccles before finding a more permanent, long term home in Beechfarm. Here they remained from 1982 until their move into the Manchester League in 2008 from the Lancashire & Cheshire League, which they won in the 2007-’08 season as precursor to their move.

Beechfield were promoted from Division 1 of the Manchester League in 2012 as runners-up to Wythenshawe Town. However, Beechy were to drop back to the league’s second tier after just a single season and have remained there until time of writing. Last season saw the club finish up in 9th place in the table (out of 13), but this season has been a stronger showing and despite them sitting 9th once more, this is now out of nineteen sides.

The game got underway with the two sides looking fairly well matched. This….didn’t last long. Beechfield soon showed they were the overall better side and stormed into a commanding lead before the break. The first arrived after around 20 minutes, with Jamie Sinnott squaring for Alfie Belcher to fire in off the inside of the post from the edge of the area.

Match Action

Match Action

Good stop!

Good stop!

Match Action

Match Action

This seemed to deflate the visitors and Beechfield soon took a stranglehold on the game. As you may expect, then, they soon extended their lead with Sinnott turning scorer, knocking the ball over the line from 12 yards following good work down the wing by the impressive Louis Duff. The intermittent heavy rain showers did nothing to dampen Beechy’s forward forays and they added a third with Belcher and Sinnott again combining to allow the former to net his second of the game, sliding in at the back-post. Cue horns blaring in celebration from the car-park. Half-Time 3-0.

Following a half-time warm in the SSV’s atrium, I headed out into the broken sunshine that had now arrived in the Costa Del Salford and was soon bearing witness to Beechfield’s fourth goal. Well I say that; What I actually mean to say is I missed the goal bar seeing the ball nestle in the far corner of the besieged Uppermill ‘keeper’s net. I am reliably informed by Beechfield’s match report that it was Sinnott who was at hand to net. Cheers for the info!

I was soon to see Sinnott add a third to his tally, as he lobbed home from inside the area before Uppermill got a consolation goal their attitude to the game deserved. A long ball through the high-pressing Beechfield back-line saw Tom Gallagher break clear and he kept his cool to hammer a drive past the slightly-injured Beechfield GK and into the top-corner of the net.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

This “setback” didn’t end the scoring, however, as the hosts added a sixth late on with that man Sinnott again on the score-sheet as he broke through the visiting defence and slotted beyond the glove-man for 6-1 and that was how we ended up. Uppermill would have been quite pleased to hear the whistle, I’d say, as this was easily one of the most one-sided games I’ve seen in the last couple of years. Credit to them for not giving in though.

The walk back was a brisk one as I raced to make the train back to Oxford Road station and get back in swift time. The score-line was worth the trip as it turned out, but little else was. The ground was, obviously, bland there was nothing much to anywhere, including the surrounding area. You may have noticed a distinct lack of pubs in this blog. The reason? There wasn’t one for about a mile in each direction at least! There was a hotel, but it looked quite shut and undergoing a refit. So, if you like a beer, don’t set off too early here! Next week could be…different…

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RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 2

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 9

 

Manchopper in….Elton

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Result: Elton Vale 3-3 Hindsford (Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: Elton Vale Sports Club (Saturday 21st January 2017, 2pm)

Att: 43

NOTE: There’s nothing rude, nor funny, about the name of this blog.

I’d promised Elton Vale early this season that I’d pay them a visit at some point during their 2016-’17 Manchester League Premier campaign. As such, and with a few costly trips coming up in the near future, their match-up with Hindsford in this very week provided a fine opportunity to save some money with a cheap game, as well as ticking off ground 203.

After connecting through Bolton on the buses, I arrived into Elton at around twenty-past one. It turns out you actually disembark outside fellow Manchester League outfit Westbury’s ground, having earlier passed another of the league’s members, Breightmet United, on the way over. Clubs are plentiful around here. With a little time in hand and with The Wellington pub sitting on the corner of the road I was required to walk upon to reach the Elton Vale Sports Club, I thought it’d be quite rude not to pop in.

The Wellington is fairly deceiving from the outside. To me it appeared to be a bit of a dingy place with little going for it that would attract you in. However once you enter the porch, a different view of the place greets you, with the drinking hole seemingly being Greene King’s equivalent to the Hungry Horse-type pubs . Today, though, the food wasn’t too much of an issue and I settled for a pint of the GK’s IPA for the pretty economical £2.70. Not bad at all either.

The Wellington

The Wellington

Heading to the ground

Heading to the ground

After watching Swansea storm into the lead at Liverpool, ahead of their eventual triumph at Anfield, I headed off and up towards the ground, (which Swansea fan and celeb blogger Matt ‘Lost Boyo’ termed as sounding like “a house of an old man named Elton as if he thought it funny to name his house after himself) which sits less than 10 minutes away. There is a bus route from Manchester that drops you right outside, pretty much, too.

Anyway; after heading through the gates and past the signs declaring I was in the right place, I followed the lane heading to the rear of the clubhouse where the football pitch sits. There isn’t much to the ground outside of the clubhouse, which is more than decent and also houses a small tea/food bar which I took full advantage of later in the day. The pitch is fully railed off, with a very slight grass mound behind the far goal and a small amount of hard standing either side of each dugout. As for Elton Vale FC themselves…

History Lesson:

Elton Vale Football Club was formed in 1957 as Elton Fold FC, following the removal of funding by the Bury Gas Company to their own works team. After a changing room meeting, the new club was formed and took a place in the Bury Amateur League, with Elton winning their first game via an impressive 8-1 triumph over Radcliffe Borough. The club’s first silverware arrived in 1961 as Elton Fold won the Kenyon Cup and the club finished 1962 in their Bury Amateur League-best position of runners-up.

1964 saw the club enter the Manchester League, where they were to remain for the next decade, playing in the league’s second tier throughout their tenure. Following this, they returned to the Bury Amateur League for a period of success, winning the 1978 title and three cup triumphs at Gigg Lane. Their next step was to join the higher-level Bolton Combination in 1983, with promotion to the top-flight taking four years to achieve. In that time, the Fold moved into their new home on Elton Vale Road. Their first Bolton Combination silverware, though, was to arrive only in 1993 in the form of the Premier Cup and this was followed by a League title the following year.

Elton Vale Sports Club

Elton Vale Sports Club

1995 saw the club back in the Manchester League. Along with an immediate promotion to the top division, the club also won the prestigious Lancashire Amateur Trophy. 2002 saw the Fold take on the title of Elton Vale FC but still retain their original nick-name as a hark-back to their history. The name change looked to be a bad omen, though, as they were relegated in only their second season carrying the moniker, but 2008 saw them bounce back to the Premier Division, finishing 4th. 2010 saw another drop suffered, before a quick yo-yo existence between 2014 & 16 saw Vale promoted, relegated and promoted again, the latter as Division 1 runners-up last season. They currently sit toward the bottom of the Premier Division table, finding themselves 14th out of 15 clubs.

The game got underway and was played at a fairly decent place from the off, albeit with chances at a premium. Despite this, it was Hindsford who looked the more threatening in the early stages with their #9 looking particularly threatening. However, when they eventually did take the lead, it was a low drive from the edge of the area by Chris Hopwood which went under the Vale ‘keeper and into the corner.

From then on, Vale seemed to up their game and began to take the initiative from the Tonics. Indeed, it happened to be little surprise when they levelled up the scores just before the break, with the ball finding its way out onto the right-side of the area where Chris Baines drove a hard effort across the visiting ‘keeper and found the net despite the Hindsford custodian getting a good amount of his hand to it.

Match Action

Match Action

"Through the trees!"

“Through the trees!”

High-vis 'keeper

High-vis ‘keeper

Half-Time soon arrived and I headed off to the clubhouse after overhearing someone talking about pies. This is almost like a buzzword now and so off I rushed to beat the queues. On arrival, I was greeted by the lady serving before being told the selection that was on. Meat & Potato sounded the best to me today, so with peas and gravy added, I went off to demolish that, whilst hoping the teams weren’t in too much of a rush to get going again. £1.70, again, wasn’t a bank-breaker either.

Clubhouse

Clubhouse

On a pedestal

On a pedestal

The second half was underway just as I finished up, so back out into the chilly Bury air went the masses and were duly rewarded (or punished, depending on your point of view) with Mark Chilton diverting a low cross-cum-shot into the bottom corner. The way it bounced off the goal-frame could cause some issues if visibility wasn’t great though, as the ball bounced back off the rear and could…COULD be mistaken for the post at some point. Not today though and Hindsford led once more.

Hindsford then quickly added a third through Ryan Briody’s fizzing drive and at 1-3 it looked all over bar the shouting to be honest. But the hosts showed they had other ideas. After again taking the initiative in the game following a spell of dominance by the visitors that included their two second-half goals, Vale grabbed a goal back from a corner. The whipped ball in wasn’t dealt with and Baines arrived to force the ball over the line from pretty much on it. 2-3 and the Vale players and bench were visibly and audibly confident in their chances.

Just before Vale net their second

Just before Hindsford net their second

Match Action

Match Action

As it proved, they were right to feel this way. With around ten minutes left to play, the ball ended up in the middle of the field and at the feet of Leighton Mills who took a couple of touches before unleashing a fine drive that flew beyond the despairing ‘keeper and into the back of the net sparking wild scenes of jubilation from both those on the pitch and those on the side-lines. The Tonics contingent were left in an angered dismay.

Despite the late sending-off of Elton Vale’s centre-half Richard Young, for what I presume was a second bookable offence, the hosts held on despite a large amount of pressure and a pair of good chances for the visitors to nick all three points. The full-time whistle arrived to end a fine, entertaining game of football and I headed off back toward the bus stop. That was after I’d been surprised by a lime-green Lamborghini heading down the dirt path alongside the club. Elton Vale are clearly paying for their success! (NB: Sarcasm is clearly not dripping all over that statement).

So it was back to Bolton and onwards home uneventfully (if you don’t count the special bus smells you encounter on these fine things). A fine day was had at Elton Vale, with there being far more included than I’d expected, with a nice surprise of food which, at this level, isn’t a given and a fun game to watch. Thanks to both sides for that and now it’s on to the next one which will be at…

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RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 4

Food: 7

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 9

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….Shaw (Heyside FC)

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Result: Heyside 4-0 Govan Athletic (Manchester League Division 1)

Venue: Crompton House School (Saturday 19th November 2016, 2.30pm)

Att: 13 (hc)

“Here comes the rain again” goes the song and it couldn’t have been more in-fitting with the Friday evening ahead of this weekend’s round of games. As it was, it didn’t matter all too much to me, as I had already decided to have a close to home visit for Saturday, but what it did accomplish in doing was to decimate the choices that I had on my list. As all the grass-based clubs fell, one-by-one, by the wayside, I was left with only a few 3G pitches to choose from. So, where was it to be? I’ll leave you in suspense for now (so long as you didn’t take too much notice of the title or first line off this blog. Hmmmm…

Anyway, with fairly regular blog appearance maker Dan having had his shift working at Ewood Park cancelled and confirming his place on this grandest of tours, we set off on our way into Manchester Piccadilly and to the Gardens’ Wetherspoon’s, where our fate was to be decided. Upon arrival, the Spoons was, as expected, packed with United fans ahead of the early kick-off vs Arsenal, but the bar staff were swift in their work and I was soon in possession of a Blue Moon, much to the chagrin of some around me I presume.

So, with beers in the process of being consumed, we decided we should hastily decide our destination. Now, our first random number decision came up with Royton Town, but then I thought ‘Heyside do follow me on twitter so perhaps we ought to go there….’. Random decision soon cast aside, Heyside’s twitter was soon contacted to confirm their game was 100% on and we were on the 182 bus up towards Oldham. Unfortunately, my jeans were claimed by one of many large, muddy puddles along the way, so I just hoped it was devoid of any “dodgy substances”.

First stop in Shaw, the Blue Bell

First stop in Shaw, the Blue Bell

Bar rules.

They don’t take kindly to Armenian cash up here!

45-minutes or so later, we were de-bussing in the small town of Shaw, which sits about a 15 minute walk from the Crompton C of E school where Heyside play their games at the present time. With the Utd-Arsenal game having just kicked-off, Dan and I agreed we should probably look for somewhere to at least watch the first half. Fortunately, right opposite us was the Blue Bell, a large, rather old-looking pub and so for there we headed. A purchase of two bottles for £4.80 went down well too, though the game was a bit of a dud, with only the pretend argument behind us providing much entertainment.

With the half-time whistle having blown, I decided, rather selfishly, that I would like to squeeze in the town’s Wetherspoons, The Shay Wake. It was a pretty standard, modern yet smart ‘Spoons and they had been bloody active in getting their Christmas decorations up! In a continuation of the surprise revelation of the day, I had now visited two Wetherspoons while resisting the urge to have Punk IPA and instead plumped for the Icelandic Einstok. An extra quid, but it’s worthwhile. Well, I think it is. Punk though.

They Shay Wake

They Shay Wake

Looking down on the town

Looking down on the town

Our quick visit here was soon over and it was time to walk up to the ground. Luckily, though, we discovered we could get a bus up to the ground and be extremely lazy, though these feelings were somewhat allayed when we encountered the steep incline whilst on said transport! After initially missing our intended stop, we soon backtracked and found ourselves outside the Black Horse. Oh, what an unintentional mistake (very serious voice, clearly). We figured with us being here, we might as well go in and it was a good decision. The Black Horse is your quintessential country-style pub, decorated as you’d probably imagine and with a good pint of Lees’ beer for £3-odd. The stranger thing was, though, the array of aftershaves/deodorants being offered in the toilets! I guess the pulling game must be strong in here during the evenings?

Final pre-match stop. The Black Horse.

Final pre-match stop. The Black Horse.

Cosy.

Cosy Horse.

Stealing a pose.

Stealing a pose.

Anyway, the time was quickly heading towards 2.30 and therefore kick-off for today’s game. Heading pretty much just over the road, we followed the road down through the mud on the rugby pitch, as we unintelligently decided that going on the grass would be a good option and eventually back to the solid concrete. After heading round to the steps, the game go underway as we entered into the cage. So, Heyside vs Govan Athletic in the Manchester League Division 1 was the contest and here’s a bit about the home side’s story…

History Lesson:

Heyside FC was formed in 1975 as Heyside Juniors (the current full club title). After initially playing in local leagues, they have swiftly risen through the Huddersfield & District League since joining in 2004(?). After being relegated to Division 4 in 2009, they were swiftly promoted the next season, as runners-up and again the next season as they reached Division 2. After three seasons, they were promoted after finishing third for the second consecutive year and after one season in the top division, finishing third again, the club switched into the Manchester League for this season after winning the Barlow Cup.

Current home.

Current home.

Crompton House

Crompton House

An interesting side note is this: In 1984 the club answered an add in a European Football Magazine from a club called VV Alverna in the Netherlands, asking for an English Club to tour. A long-term relationship was formed with the two teams visiting each other once every two years. Many friendships were formed and when some of the organising committee from Alverna moved to AWC, the loyalty moved with them. The first trip to AWC took place in 2004 as Heyside Angels took a team over for the first time.

The game was a bit of a slow burner early on, with both teams not really threatening each other too much. A nice touch was Heyside’s manager Geoff coming over to thank us for coming and sorting us out with a free cup of tea each during the break. Cheers Geoff!  It was very welcome on this day too! After around 15 minutes of the first half, Heyside took the lead out of the blue, James Leonard getting up highest at the back post to nod home. 1-0.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Despite a few breaks here and there, neither team really made too much else and the game became a bit of a turgid affair, with little to choose between the teams, despite the two being at opposite ends of the table. 2nd placed Heyside, though, looked the more comfortable and they saw out the rest of the forty-five to take in a slender lead at the break.

During the half-time period and with rain beginning to fall, we headed inside to the Women’s section of the hanging rooms (which were being used for everything today, for some reason) and we were directed to the room where the teas were being served up. With more friendly people being found behind each door it seemed, the choice of coming up to Crompton School seemed a wise one, even if I do say so myself. It was also the first time I’ve been handed my tea by the match referee too, so there’s one to tick-off the bucket list!

Half-Time

Half-Time

Dan's first tea for "20 years".

Dan’s first tea for “20 years”.

With half-time out-of-the-way, we headed back out to the “stand” (over hanging roof), raised up above the pitch and giving a pretty decent view of the game. After finishing off our tea, we briefly headed inside where we were given some info on latest scores before quickly heading back pitchside. Again, this was only a brief stay, as the rain showers turned to snow and so we beat a hasty retreat back to shelter for the remainder of the contest.

The second half was, again, fairly evenly matched with Heyside just about looking in a better position. Indeed, this became much more comfortable when, during a spell of five minutes, they netted three times to put the game to bed. Firstly, Gary Schofield lashed home from the edge of the area after good work down the right, which the committee guy stood next to us said was “his first for three years”! Not a bad finish if that was the case! Then, almost immediately from kick-off, Heyside broke and the ball eventually reached Leonard to chip it over the ‘keeper and notch his second of the game.

Here comes the snow!

Here comes the snow!

Match Action

Match Action

From up on high.

From up on high.

Just before the fourth, another man came out from the depths of the school’s sports section and asked was it still 1-0. His mate answered it was as we, ever the mischievous ones, stayed silent, as the dubious information went as far as a penalty save having occurred in the man’s absence. It was only when number four flew in, Kevan Thorpe’s free-kick catching the ‘keeper out and drifting over his head, that the truth came out!

From there on in, Heyside controlled the game and saw out a clean sheet. The full-time whistle blew and the sides headed back up the stairs with one home player fairly commenting that the result “flattered us”. It was an accurate summary of the game as Govan were far from four goals worse. Despite this, you couldn’t say Heyside didn’t deserve the three points. So, having been offered to join the team after the game back at Heyside Cricket Club after the game, we thought it rude to say no. We were duly offered a lift. What a club!

The players trudge up to cover

The players trudge up to cover

Heyside CC. Bad light may be an issue.

Heyside CC. Bad light may be an issue.

After a short drive, we were soon dropped off in the car park of the sodden cricket club. Inside, however, the place is very smart and looks good. Soccer Saturday on the TV was a bonus too and I purchased a bottle of the Manchester Pale Ale to accompany me through to our bus in around 45 minutes, though this was soon joined by a half of Coors, as myself and Dan were bought a drink by Geoff. Cheers mate, it was very much appreciated. As was the free pie and chips a little later! Crazy stuff.

Unfortunately, it was soon time to head outside for our carriage back to Manchester and after bidding goodbye to Geoff and a few of the other Heyside guys, we headed out into the darkness. Soon enough we were on our way back, concerning people on the top deck as we unveiled a few Heyside-themed songs on the way. Is this the first time this has happened? Possibly. But anyhow, we were soon back in Manchester and stuck on Oxford Road for as long as the journey back from Heyside took. Great roadworks guys.

All in all, what a day and what a club. I have to say, when I got underway that morning, I didn’t expect anything like what we were afforded at Heyside. It’s truly appreciated by us both when a team is so hospitable and goes out of their way as happened throughout. Cheers guys! Next week, it’s back (hopefully) into the semi-pro ranks and the FA Trophy. Here’s a clue: a steam train may be featured….

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RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 3

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 9.