Manchopper in….Chesterfield

Result: Chesterfield 1-1 Billericay Town (FA Cup First Round)

Venue: Proact Stadium (Saturday 10th November 2018, 3pm)

Att: 2,952

As the FA Cup reached its “proper” rounds, I’d be returning to watch Chesterfield and see if they could keep their run going in the famous competition. Having seen them overcome AFC Fylde at the Coasters’ Mill Farm home a couple of weeks back, the Spireites now faced opposition from the same level at home, though these would hail from the southern section of the National League’s regional split and bring with them a fair amount of previous infamy. Yes, the opinion-splitting Billericay Town were travelling up to Derbyshire to face up against a Chesterfield side competing in the Cup as a non-league side for the first time. An interesting tie in theory.

Having set out at 9am, I was arriving into Chesterfield station at a little before 11 and after a bit of recon and getting of bearings around the town, I navigated my way to the market area where I would come across one of the pair of Wetherspoon outlets in the town; the Portland Hotel. Being sure of these being open, I decided it would be the safest bet to begin with, so in I popped for a Punk IPA whilst sorting out something of a plan for the rest of the day. Somewhat helpfully, my next stop proved to be just across the square in the form of the fittingly named Market. Having not truly had a real look at what they had on, I spied Stella and decided on that before heading into the corner a whole £4.10 lighter and bemoaning my rushed decision as I perused over the taps I’d missed. Ah.

Chesterfield

Portland Hotel ‘Spoons

Market

Next along was a bit of a visit-on-the-fly as it were as I came across the interesting looking entrance to the Golden Fleece and looking as though something old and hidden lay in wait somewhere at the end of the alleyway beneath the arches bearing the pub’s name, I reckoned I’d give it a go. It was nice enough, though sadly very much a modern gastropub sort of place, though that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my stop for what it was, it just wasn’t what I’d built an image of. That’ll teach me, I guess, though at least the Amstel (£3.70) was good. Following this, I did get to seek out what is apparently Chesterfield’s oldest pub, The Royal Oak, sat down a little side road just opposite, hidden behind the modern market building. A small, cosy place, it also enabled me to watch a bit of the early kick-off in the Cup between Maidenhead Utd and Portsmouth, with Pompey, whom I began this season for real with a visit to, running out comfortable 4-0 winners in the end whilst I supped away at a pint of Thatcher’s (£3.30).

From there, I decided on a quick back-track towards the simply named Chesterfield Alehouse and, lo-and-behold, it does exactly what it says on the…sign. A small place, it has a good selection on as well as the usual bottle/can offerings, though the bar is up a few small steps, so probably best to send someone else if worse for wear! Anyway, I opted for a pint of the Mallinson’s Amarillo Pale Ale – resisting the urge to burst into cheesy song and dance under fear of breaching the peace – which came in at just £3. Can’t complain at that, though I reckoned I must have looked a little weird having overheard the F1 practice, gotten up and back up the steps to see what was going on, only for there to be no TV in sight and was now stood there looking a bit out of place and, quite likely, a bit weird. Regardless, I finished up and initially made my way off towards the next pub en route, the Barley Mow – which had just been the victim of a paint bombing or something and therefore the staff were busy on clean up duty outside. Despite this, I was still served a Dark Fruits swiftly before deciding I’d be smart for once and grab the bus to the ground instead of trying to navigate anywhere off track. This failed, as the bus didn’t turn up (at least on time) and so I walked the 20 minutes up to the ground instead, which also gave me a look at a few options to break up the walk on the way back. Swings and roundabouts.

To the Golden Fleece

Royal Oak

Chesterfield Ale House

Chesterfield is a market town and borough in Derbyshire on the confluence of the rivers Rother and Hipper and the foot of the Pennine Peak District, and is the second largest ‘town’ in the county. It can trace its roots back to a briefly occupied Roman fort from 1AD, though after this was abandoned, an Anglo-Saxon settlement rose up, though the Roman influence remains in its name, with the words in Old English of ceaster (Roman fort) and feld (grazing field) coming together to form what has become Chesterfield. It sits on a coalfield, though little evidence of the mining exists now, despite it running into the 1980’s as an economically important site, with its parish church of St. Mary and All Saints being its most famous landmark, on account of its 14th-century crooked spire, the origins of which are disputed. Originally within the Hundred of Scarsdale, the town received its town charter in 1204 from King John and was designated a ‘free borough’, giving it the same freedoms as nearby Nottingham & Derby and in 1266 it was the site of the imaginatively titled Battle of Chesterfield, in which a force of rebel barons was defeated by the Royalist army.

Chesterfield’s famed spire

Old station building

Chesterfield

The borough continued to grow out of the town and took in the local areas of New Whittington and Newbold by 1920, whilst the current boundaries were formed up in 1972, when the municipal borough merged with the urban district of Staveley and the parish of Brislington in the rural district. Earlier, the town had benefitted from the arrival of the railway in the form of the George Stephenson begun Chesterfield line, which connected to Derby and Leeds in 1837. During the work Stephenson found a large amount of coal when constructing a tunnel near Clay Cross, which he took advantage of, forming a mineral trading company. He would remain living in the town to his death in 1848 and he is buried there and has a statue of himself outside of the current station. It once had a further two stations, one in Market Place closed in 1951 due to maintenance cost relating to subsidence and stood where the Post Office now does, whilst another at Chesterfield Central closed in 1963 due to the general wind down in services on the Grand Central Railway. Part of the town’s relief road, the A61, traces the route of the railway, with the station itself demolished in 1973 to make room for the aforementioned road. A viaduct where the lines met was demolished in the 1970’s. The town was also home to a tramway between 1882 and 1927, with this seemingly superseded by the railway’s arrival. The town’s canal also once linked the town to the national network, though gradually fell into misuse, though a part was restored in the mid-20th century for leisure use, though is now separate from the network.

Barley Mow

Arriving at the ground

Arriving at the ground, I sorted out a ticket via the office windows which were besieged with fellow latecomers before heading around to the turnstiles and venturing inside. After a visit to the food bar in not wishing to head in whilst the minute’s silence was ongoing, I was soon in possession of a pie (I think steak, but I can’t really remember) and heading to my seat just as the sides spread out to their respective halves. The Proact is a smart, if pretty unspectacular new build ground, built in 2010 on the site of a former glassworks. All stands are of pretty similar size, with the ground holding 10,500 at capacity, though the Main Stand is the larger of the four, with it playing host to the tunnel, changing (and other) facilities, executive boxes and other rooms. It has a curved roof, not too different to that in front of which they played at Fylde, whilst the stand opposite, the East Stand in which I was located for today, shares this feature. It is home to community facilities and a gym, in lieu of the executive side of things. Behind one goal is the South stand, which is apparently where most of the noise is created (though this wasn’t too obvious today) and is thought of as the old Saltergate Kop replacement (apparently), with the North stand down the other end is almost identical, though wasn’t in use today as the small band of Billericay followers from deepest, darkest Essex were located directly opposite me. There’s also a memorial garden to the exterior of the ground, paying tribute to both fans and players who’ve passed, with a further memorial to those lost in action serving their country. That’s the Proact (or Chesterfield FC Stadium if you listen to UEFA) in a nutshell, and this is the story of the Spireites of Chesterfield FC….

History Lesson:

The current incarnation of Chesterfield Football Club was founded in 1919, though than can trace its history back to 1866 and the first of the town’s clubs of that name. Indeed, football in the town may date from a few years earlier in fact whether formal or otherwise, though the 1866 date is more concrete and therefore accepted. The 1866 club was founded as an offshoot of Chesterfield Cricket Club and the two moved in situ to the Recreation Ground on Saltergate until a souring of relations between the two in 1871 – with both clubs now separate entities – saw the football side closed in 1881 after it was turfed out. Many of the players moved to other clubs in the area, including Chesterfield Livingstone and this club took Saltergate as their home. A number also joined another town club, Chesterfield Spital, who would go on to compete in some of the formative years of the FA Cup.

1884 saw the name of Chesterfield Football Club return to the pages of history and to Saltergate. Later becoming Chesterfield Town, the club turned professional in 1891 and won several local trophies and entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1892, wearing a sort (but more colour correct) of current day Windsor-esque Union Flag kit. They would join the Midland League in 1896 and three years later successfully applied for a place in the Football League’s Second Division, finishing their first season in 7th. However, things soon turned sour, with the club finishing bottom three seasons in a row from 1907, before not achieving re-election in 1909 and returning back to the Midland League. Chesterfield Town would enter voluntary liquidation in 1915 and after being re-formed during WWI by a local restaurant owner and fielding teams consisting of “guest” League players, the club was found guilty of illegal payments to players two years later and subsequently folded.

The current club came into being in 1919, formed by the local council and named Chesterfield Municipal initially. Returning to the Midland League ranks, the club won the title in its first season, though they were soon forced to sever ties with the council after pressure from the FA and Football League – who were against council-run clubs – and a name change followed, with the club returning back to the Chesterfield F.C. name in 1920. A year later, the club became a founder member of the Third Division North of the League and won the title in 1931, though would be relegated from Division 2 a further two years later. However, a second title would arrive at Saltergate in 1936, with Chesterfield remaining in the Second Division through to the outbreak of WWII. Post-war, the club achieved their best ever league finish of 4th in 1947 and on the back of this relative success, several players departed the club and they were relegated back into the third-tier in 1951. Later placed in the Third Division national upon restructuring of the lower divisions into national ones rather than regional in 1958, Gordon Banks made his Spireites debut that season prior to being sold on to Leicester City for £7,000. Things on-field didn’t improve for the club though and they were relegated to the Fourth Division in 1961.

Chesterfield FC

They would spend the next eight campaigns in the League’s bottom division, before earning promotion back to Division Three in 1970 as champions. They added the Anglo-Scottish Cup of 1981 to their trophy cabinet prior to a further relegation in 1984 which ended a 14-year stay. However, their absence would only be brief as they returned at the first attempt, again as Division 4 champions in 1985, though would then have to bailed out of financial issues by the council soon afterwards, a period which also resulted in the club having to sell off their training ground and things on the field began to worsen again too, with the dreaded drop again being suffered in 1989. Missing out in the play-off final of Division 4 to Cambridge United the next season, the club were back in Division 3 by 1992 on account of the re-designation of the league pyramid due to the formation of the Premier League, with Chesterfield going on to achieve promotion to Division 2 in 1995 via the play-offs after victories over “rivals” Mansfield Town and latterly Bury in the final. 1997 saw the Spireites reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where they would bow out to Middlesbrough after a replay. However, things again turned for the worse both on and off-field, with relegation back to Division 3 being suffered in 2000, before financial irregularities apparently stemming from the chairman at the time saw the club docked nine-points after he tried to avoid paying a transfer fee, which had been agreed by the FA, to Chester City. Amid the mounting evidence of fraud, the club was sold to a ‘supporters society’, with administration following and the (by now) former chairman imprisoned. Despite all of this, Chesterfield still managed to grab the third automatic promotion spot and returned to Division 2 once again.

The club would remain in the third-tier through to 2007, when relegation returned to haunt them once more, though they did reach the League Trophy semi-finals that year. 2010 saw the Spireites leave their long-term Saltergate home for pastures new at the Proact Stadium and the move to their shiny, new ground seemed to prove dividends immediately, as Chesterfield lifted the ‘League 2’ title in 2011, their first season at the new ground, and won the 2012 EFL Trophy the following season., defeating Swindon Town 2-0. However, their league fortunes weren’t as fortuitous, with relegation being suffered the next year, but they again recovered swiftly to bounce straight back up as 2014 League 2 champs. They would record a 6th placed finish the following year, though were comfortably dispatched by Preston North End in the play-off semis and, once again, off-field ructions saw investment desperately required and despite administration being avoided, Gary Caldwell, who’d been installed around the time in place of Danny Wilson, was dismissed with the worst record of a Chesterfield boss, with Jack Lester – a club legend with the #14 shirt retired in his honour, even – brought in as replacement. Unfortunately from the Spireites point of view, he couldn’t save the club from the drop out of the League for the first time since the current incarnation came into being. They’ve started this season rather sluggishly and find themselves languishing down the wrong end of the table under Martin Allen.

The game got underway with Billericay having the first chance of the game when Moses Emmanuel forced Chesterfield ‘keeper Callum Burton into a second-minute stop. However, Chesterfield would soon take the advantage, with Will Evans, Marc-Antoine Fortuné and Zavon Hines all seeing efforts on target kept out, before the hosts beat Alan Julian on 17 minutes when Laurence Maguire headed home from the centre of goal following a Joe Rowley free-kick. One-nil and just a couple of weeks to go until the calendar year without a nil-nil is complete!

Match Action

Match (and fellow pic taker) Action

Billericay looked to respond, but found getting efforts through the Chesterfield back-line to truly test Burton hard to come by as the first-half wore on, with Jake Robinson being at the forefront of these attacks. He eventually did force the home stopper into keeping out his headed try in comfortable fashion just after the half-hour, and the South leaders continued to strive to find the net through to half time, Curtis Weston and Sam Deering seeing shots go off-target, before Hines almost doubled the Spireites lead just before the break, but his shot from around six-yards missed the target wastefully. Half-Time, 1-0 and a pretty entertaining contest thus far.

Half-Time came and went with little happening but come the start of the second half, life was quickly breathed into the match when, just seven minutes into the second period, Moses Emmanuel received the ball and unleashed a fine drive from 20+ yards that flew like a dart into the top-corner, leaving Burton with little chance. A fine strike and he definitely enjoyed it. Strangely enough, the game seemed to settle down somewhat afterwards with both teams seeming quite content to almost feel each other out for the next twenty minutes or so until the final quarter of the game rolled around. For now, it seemed like we were in a holding pattern.

Eventually, Chesterfield forced the issue with substitutes, Lee Shaw and Levi Amantchi replacing the rather disappointing duo of Kyel Reid and Fortuné, who I believe I last saw play for Wigan in a Europa League game against Rubin Kazan. Football, eh? Meanwhile, Billericay countered by introducing Jamie O’Hara (who’d been having a bit of a laugh with some fans near the touchline) for goal hero Emmanuel – with the last time I’d seen O’Hara being when he netted for Fulham at Sheffield Wednesday a few years back. Football, eh?!

Match Action

Match Action

These changes seemed to reflect both sides’ ambitions and Chesterfield were going for it in the final part of the game, with Billericay happy to settle on a replay, or nick it on the counter. The latter seemed effective, with Amantchi and Danny Waldren going close for the visitors. Tom Denton was thrown on late into the fray as the hosts looked to nick it, but Zavon Hines’ low effort was as close as they came, while Town almost did take their undisputed place in the Second Round when Maguire cleared a late, dangerous cross which was pretty much the last action. That was that and, much to the annoyance of a couple of guys behind me, Chesterfield were now faced with a trip to Essex in midweek. As for me, it was off to the Spireite over the road (though my camera didn’t want to play ball as I later found out)!

Having had a quick, lovely Mango Cider (£3) in here with the surprising bonus of them serving actual glasses too, I popped into the nearby chain pub named the Donkey Derby for a quick Hooch (£3.70) prior to continuing my route back down the road via the Crown & Anchor (Dark Fruits at £2.80) and the St. Helen’s Inn (Hooch again at £3.40) before continuing on the ten minutes or so back to the station where I had a little longer to wait than expected due to some sort of delay somewhere, but this was soon sorted and I was back in Manchester rather swiftly with little issue and soon on a bus over to meet Dan for a couple of cans at his prior to finally returning home, having got slightly lost in terms of bus stops , but recovered the situation!

Donkey Derby

Crown & Anchor

St Helen’s Inn

That ends the trip to Chesterfield then. It was good to finally get Chesterfield and the Proact done having gone through and past the place many-a-time en route to somewhere else! Day was good and the game was ok though did die somewhat as it went on. The town was fine as was the ground, if a bit too shiny and new with regards to the latter and transport went smoothly enough, despite the small hiccups with the bus on the way and the train on the way back. But can’t complain really. That’s that for another week and, as I said earlier, just two weeks ago until may goalless-less year. Next week is motoring ever nearer….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: 6

Programme: 3 (a well cut back issue I paid out £5 for on Ebay, but a fair cut went to the Legion, so fair enough)

Value For Money: 6

 

 

Manchopper in….Kirkham (AFC Fylde)

 

Result: AFC Fylde 1-3 Chesterfield (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)

Venue: Mill Farm (Saturday 20th October 2018, 3pm)

Att: 1,092

WE HAVE TRAINS!!!!! Yes, for the first time in a good month-an-a-half I could actually train it somewhere in the country. I know, I know, it’s unbelievable for me too! With it being the final round of qualifying for the FA Cup’s “proper rounds”, things were still hamstrung somewhat by the continuing strikes, however one option was doable and, as luck would have it, it was a new ground too – though not a new club. As you should have really figured by now, I was back off to Kirkham & Wesham and AFC Fylde’s new Mill Farm home, having visited their previous home (now academy/women’s ground), Kellamergh Park. Their shiny, relatively new home looked a pretty interesting prospect too, so the decision was made:- to Fylde it was!

Setting off a little earlier than originally planned due to my planned tour of Kirkham giving a very tight schedule otherwise, I headed into Manchester before switching back out towards Preston. A trouble free journey got me to the Lancastrian city in good time and there was little rush in catching what turned out to be a packed service to the tourist hotspot that is the “Vegas of the North”, Blackpool. Rather fortunately, I would be disembarking at the first stop on the route, but not before being asked in jest for a kiss by a guy in return for pressing the ‘door open’ button. I did concede he was, in his words, ‘pretty fit’ though and this was enough to seal the deal! This is clearly the season of random encounters, that’s for sure, which keeps things interesting I suppose!

Arriving into Kirkham & Wesham

Kirkham

The area incorporating Kirkham & Wesham (originally Kirkham-in-Amounderness) is thought to be the oldest inhabitaed area in the Fylde district. It owes its existence to Carr Hill, upon which it was built, which was originally the site of a Roman fort. The two neighbouring towns are situated within the Borough of Fylde. In the 19th century, the remains of a harpooned elk was discovered, pointing to the possibility the are was inhabited from around 8,000 BC. The town itself, though, is pre-Roman era, with its name deriving from the Danish ‘kirk’ (church) & ‘ham’ (settlement) and appeared in the Domesday Book as Chicheham and is described as being located on the Roman road between Ribchester and the River Wyre and latterly had a market charter awarded to it back in 1269-’70 by King Henry III. It remained a small market town through the 15th and 16th centuries, before eventually growing as a thriving textile making area with sailcloth being its mainstay, originally woven in cottages and latterly the Flax Mill, built in the mid-1800’s. Looms ran in the town right through to 2003, with the last of these, dating from the 1920’s, being kept on as a memorial of sorts, just a short way from the station. In 1925, Kirkham’s Church Street became the subject of a pencil drawing by the famed artist L. S. Lowry, and his later artwork named “A Lancashire Village” was created from this sketch. Several housing developments were added to the town through the 20th century, thus adding to the size of town (obviously) and growing the area in stature. The open prison nearby is built on the former RAF base which closed in 1957.

Wesham, meanwhile, is connected to the same parish, though is referred to as a town in its own right. It was reputedly given to the hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem by Cicely, daughter of Roger de Genet and later given by the Lancasters to the Abbey of Cockersand. Upon the dissolution of the monasteries, the area was given/sold to the Westby’s, the area including Medlarghe (later Medlar), Wessham (Wesham) and the separate manor of Bradkirk was later bought up the owner of nearby Ribby Hall. The area is believed to have been settled since medieval times and the bridleway of Mowbreck Lane is a roadway from the era, which led to Treales. The early 1900’s saw the area become home to a new workhouse, which replaced the aging one in Kirkham and this later became a military hospital during WWI and later Wesham General, prior to the remaining buildings later becoming home to the North Lancashire NHS Trust, which they remain as today.

Kirkham

First Stop- The Queen’s Arms

Stables Inn

Emerging from the station, a fifteen minute walk saw me at the far end of the Kirkham high street where I was planning to work back from. This plan would soon have to slightly amended, upon the two pubs up the hill still being shut, so my tour de Kirkham began in the early-doors pub, the Queen’s Arms. A nice enough place to start the day, a pint of Moretti kept me company for the first half-hour of my visit, alongside a few early Hallowe’en decorations. With the two up the way now open and ready to go, I back-tracked on myself and firstly headed into the Stables Inn, which seemed to be, rather unsurprisingly, a former stables. The place was surprisingly busy since, according to my phone’s maps, it had just opened, with the Chelsea-Manchester United game being a particular draw. Another pint of Moretti was enjoyed in the Stables while watching the early stages of the contest and working on my, delayed due to laziness, Droylsden blog prior to popping over the road to the Black Horse which definitely looked to have been an old coaching inn, with the large archway seeming to be the giveaway. This was a fair bit emptier than over the way and after sticking on the Moretti with the idea of being somewhat sensible for once, I once again headed back on myself, this time back down the hill and to my fourth stop of the day, the Tap & Vent.

Once inside the real ale-based Tap & Vent, I opted to go onto the fairly similar Cruzcampo, which I was able to sample for the second week running, having also sipped at a pint in Droylsden the previous week. A nice touch was the guy running the place offering some testers of freshly baked pretzel which were bloody lovely too. Unfortunately, my stay here would only be brief as with time beginning to run a little slimmer now with regard to the bus I was planning to get up to the ground, so I continued on the short distance to the Swan Hotel, which the bus stop helpfully sits right outside of. After opting to get my “refresher” pint of Dark Fruits in here, I was able to catch a little more of the Chelsea-United game before grabbing my carriage towards Mill Farm.

Black Horse

Tap & Vent and some brushes. Nice.

Final pre-match stop (sort of): The Swan Hotel

After just about managing to get “the Recreation Ground” out of my mouth, £1.50 allowed me to take the short journey up the road to around a five minute walk from the ground. Fylde run a system where you have to get a ticket from the ticket office prior to heading inside and so I reckoned I’d do this now whilst there were now queues to have to bother with, what with there still being some 40 minutes to kick-off. £10 lighter, I was in possession of my ticket to the ground, and a further £3 had me a fairly glossy programme too. With there being said amount time to waste, I thought it more beneficial to pop into the ground’s Bradley’s Sports Bar for, you know, research purposes. Heineken in one of those polycarbonate glasses emblazoned with the 2022 Football League target was bought and I got talking to a couple of Chesterfield fans (whose names escape me, as I forgot to note them sadly) along with a lovely fan they’d brought with them named Zoe. Happening to be disabled they told me all about how inclusive and helpful the club have been, which is certainly a nice touch by the Spireites, bias notwithstanding (haha)!! Having just come across her website, her story is quite inspirational to say the least, so do have a look: zoeedge.co.uk. With kick-off quickly encroaching upon us, the trio headed out and round to the away terracing which played host to some of the travelling support today (the rest were in a seated block at the end of the Main Stand), whilst I followed shortly afterwards, the turnstile being, handily, right next door.

Arriving at Mill Farm

Bradley’s Sports Bar

Entering into Mill Farm properly, I entered from just down the side of the Main Stand, with the open end of the ground right in front. To the other end of the ground is a sizeable covered terrace, with another similar terrace running the majority of the far touchline. The Main Stand is a good sized all-seater stand and its arched roof gives it something of a different look, though not too dissimilar to its near neighbour at Fleetwood. Food and other facilities are located underneath here too, as well as the dressing rooms and the like. That’s Mill Farm in a nutshell, and this is the story of AFC Fylde….

History Lesson:

AFC Fylde began life following the merger of local clubs Kirkham Town and Wesham F.C., who together became Kirkham & Wesham Football Club in 1988. There had been a club of that name prior to the First World War, so it was a return to the old school, somewhat. The “new” club took Kirkham Town’s place in the West Lancashire League Division One, though success was hard to come by at first, the club finishing bottom in 1990 and being relegated to Division Two. After three seasons there, they would achieve promotion back to Division One in 1993 after finishing 3rd, though their return was only a short one, as they would suffer the drop once again in 1995.

After finishing as Division Two runners-up the following season, Kirkham & Wesham found themselves back in the Division One once again and this time they were there to stay and there to be successful. Becoming the Premier Division in 1998 upon league restructuring, two fourth placed finishes preceded a spell of seven titles over the next eight years between 1999-’00 & 2006-’07, the only season they didn’t take the top spot during the period being 2002-’03, when they finished as runners-up. During a 21 month spell between January of 2003 and October of 2004, the club went unbeaten in all competitions.

AFC Fylde

2006 saw the club complete a hat-trick of Lancashire Amateur Shield triumphs, and a fourth in six years. Kirkham & Wesham also would win four Northern Counties Cups as representatives of the Lancashire FA – these coming in 2005, ’06 & ’07. Following their title win in the latter of these years, the club took the decision to make the step up to the North West Counties League Division Two, winning their first game 5-0 vs Darwen and won their next game, their first under floodlights, against Holker Old Boys. They also played their first FA Vase game during that season, defeating Worsborough Bridge Athletic by 3-0. This would be the beginning of a successful campaign, as the club went on to win the competition in their first season competing in it, defeating Lowestoft Town 2-1 at Wembley, Matt Walwyn netting both. They also added the Division Two Trophy by defeating Bootle 1-0 (a game I attended, incidentally) at Trafford’s Shawe View ground, and also achieved promotion to Division One, a fine debut season!

For the start of the 2008-’09 season, the club changed their name to AFC Fylde and won the NWCFL’s Premier Division (as it was known for that season onwards) at the first attempt too, finishing above New Mills on goal-difference, so achieving promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One North. A management change from long-term boss Mick Fuller to Kelham O’Hanlon and turnover of playing staff saw a mid-table finish eventually secured, though the next season saw them go far better, reaching the play-offs and beating Skelmersdale United in the semi-final before losing out to Chorley in the final. A poor run of results the next season saw O’Hanlon replaced by Dave Challinor, who took a two division drop in doing so, and they reeled in a 16 point deficit to take top spot come season’s end and take the title and promotion to the NPL Premier Division.

Mill Farm

Fylde would reach the play-off’s in their first season here, but lost out in the semis to Hednesford Town, though added silverware the next season in the form of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy by defeating Chorley and the NPL League Challenge Cup with a 1-0 win over Skem. They would also achieve promotion through the play-offs on this occasion, besting Worksop Town in the semi and Ashton United in the final on penalties. Promoted to the National League North, the club finished a strong second at the close of their initial season, but again suffered play-off pain first time round, this time at the hands of Guiseley. Further disappointment followed the next campaign too, when they lost out in the 2016 version to North Ferriby United. However, it would be third time lucky in 2017, when the Coasters would bypass the play-offs and take the National League North title.

Fylde reached the Second Round of the FA Cup for the first time in 2017-’18, defeating Kidderminster Harriers in the First Round, and almost completed a shock win over Wigan Athletic to reach the Third Round, but went down to late strikes by Will Grigg. They went on to finish 7th come the end of last season, again reaching the play-offs, but continued the trend of losing out first time round, going down in the, now expanded, tournament in the qualifiers to Boreham Wood.

The game was soon underway and it was the hosts who had the better of the early throes, with Fylde taking just 12 minutes to break the deadlock, with dangerman Danny Rowe firing home from the edge of the area, after a corner was only half-cleared by the Chesterfield defence. However, the Spireites soon grew into the contest and began to take control, going close through Laurence Maguire, who is joining his brother in gaining International recognition as a member of the England ‘C’ side, before eventually levelling on 26 minutes when Will Evans rifled a free-kick from around 25 yards into the bottom corner.

Match Action

Denton nets from the spot

Match Action

After heading right round to the far corner of the ground where the segregation line separated the two sets of fans, I soon backtracked and set my sights on the Main Stand and its food bars within. In the meantime, back on the field, the Coasters almost re-took the lead immediately after being pegged back but after being played in a few yards out, a last ditch block by a Chesterfield defender managed to deny James Hardy’s shot. This would prove to be a vital moment in the match as the visitors would go in ahead at the break, with former Huddersfield Town target man Tom Denton being influential on this occasion, the tall forward winning a fairly obvious penalty, before converting confidently from the spot. Half-Time, 2-1 and I was off for some chips.

The second half began much the same as the first, with Fylde starting out well in their pursuit of getting back on level terms. Danny Philliskirk went close to finding the equaliser, nodding over a dangerous cross from the impressive Joe Cardle. Sub Gime Toure also saw his effort go just off target, before Chesterfield made the game safe with around twenty minutes left on the clock, Denton netting his second of the game when he headed past Fylde ‘keeper Jay Lynch following some slack defending. Ashley Hemmings almost set up a grandstand finish, but was unlucky to see his fine hit from distance thunder back off the crossbar, but it wasn’t to be for the hosts as the visitors went on to reach the First Round of the Cup, where they will meet the opinion splitting Billericay Town. Post-match, I beat a hasty retreat to the Lane Ends where I settled in for a fair while to wait for the train over a pint of Boddingtons. Because, why not?!

Match Action

Match Action

Late on….

Lane Ends to, fittingly, end the day

Eventually it was time to head back to the station, around a five minute walk away, where I caught the service back the short distance down the line to Preston, prior to heading into Warrington. Here, the walk over to Central was made, but with the better part of an hour to my train, I decided to pop into the station neighbouring King’s Head and watch the second half of the Huddersfield-Liverpool game. Moretti was on the cards here once again and kept me sufficiently watered through to my train home, which all went smoothly.

So ends another trip and another FA Cup day out. The town and ground were all good and the game was decent too. Food was ok, as was the programme and the travel, rather surprisingly, all went nice and smoothly too, so I can’t have too many complaints concerning the day overall. Onwards to next week and it’s, finally, a return to the chase of the ’92’ and to a very bright ground indeed….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Halifax

Result: FC Halifax Town 1-1 Salford City (2-2 Agg.) (AET, Halifax won 3-0 on pens) (National League North Play-Off Semi-Final 2nd Leg)

Venue: The Shay Stadium (Sunday 7th May 2017, 3pm)

Att: 3,655

“Oh, Halifax is on a SUNDAY?!!”. They were my words when I realised on Friday night that a double-header was on the cards and the big game at the Shay was in my sights. With excitement at a peak point, I got into planning a day in sunny Halifax.

After visiting Cheshire League side Orford on the Saturday, Sunday morning arrived and with train times not too friendly, I set off for Manchester at just after 9am, with around a half-hour wait both there and in Huddersfield, before catching the train up to Halifax, where I arrived bright and early. In fact, I was so early, the first pub I headed for was still shut.

Luckily, this didn’t last and I was soon inside the Ring O’Bells pub down the side of the town’s “Minster”. After explaining I haven’t quite reached the realms of regular early morning drinking to the barmaid (as I actively reached for the beer that was still settling) and just what brought me to the place this fine day, she replied in a maligned tone that there is many a time when she has to humour the fans – both before and after matches – despite holding no interest in football. No interest in football. I couldn’t imagine it!

Halifax Minster & Ring O’Bells

The Old Post Office

Spot the bunny?

Anyway, I settled in for a while with a pint of Acorn Brewery’s Blonde Ale, which was a nice, easy drinking pint before heading off and more towards the town centre. En route, I found myself outside a free house by the name of the “Old Post Office”. It was fairly quiet inside, with me having, once again, come upon it shortly after it had opened its doors. My drink here cost me £3.50, which, I think, was one of only two drinks all day that would set me back over the £3 mark. It’s pretty cheap is Halifax and I loved it for it. There was a guy in a bunny suit walking down the street though…

It was soon time to head onwards into the centre and my next stop-off was the Union Cross, just off the bustling high street. The barmaid in here was quite bubbly it has to be said and there was much “bantz” going on with the regular punters. I was also given permission to charge my phone, with me being assured that it wouldn’t be nicked! With that assurance, I headed off, Strongbow in hand, to the nearest socket.

Halifax

The Union Cross on the right

Home of my cheapest pint!

After a further couple of pretty uneventful stops in the Cat & Fiddle & the strangely named Bow Legged with Brass (where I figured I’d got a pint of Dark Fruits for under £2, though my math probably let me down once more), I finished off with a visit to the ‘Spoons-like Duke of Wellington. This was originally planned to be my final pit-stop, before I decided on the way to the ground  that I could squeeze in a quick Punk IPA in one of the town’s two actual ‘Spoons, the Barum Top. Then, with pre-match drinks finished up, I made the ten minute walk onwards to the Shay.

Arriving at the turnstile, I purchased a programme for £3 and the astronomical £16 entrance fee, before heading into the away end, as I fancied a bit of a change for no apparent reason. I just figured it could be a bit more fun. But to be honest, I think most were too tense to enjoy the day and the game definitely reflected their feelings. But, that’s for a little later.

Late stop at the Duke

Arriving at the Shay

The Shay’s away end

The Shay itself is a mixture of old and new with the Skircoat stand, where the away fans were located today, being one of the older stands along with the (occasional away end) covered terrace which was used for flags alone for this game. The opposite end houses a further terrace for the standing home support, while the more modern East Stand stands opposite the Skircoat. The areas surrounding the Skircoat are fairly uneven too, as the stand is built on the side of a slope and they are definitely a throwback to another era, the toilets especially so! Anyway, without wishing to delve into further details about them, here’s the story behind FC Halifax Town…

History Lesson:

FC Halifax Town were formed in 2008, following the demise of the town’s previous club, and forerunner to this one, Halifax Town. The prior club had been in existence for all of ninety-seven years where they competed in the Yorkshire Combination & the Midland League before becoming founder members of the Football League’s Third Division North in 1921, finishing a best of second in 1935.

They remained there right through until restructuring in 1958 saw Town in the, now fully national, Third Division. They just missed out on a promotion spot in 1971, but that was as good as it got for Town in their first League stay, as they were relegated to the Conference in 1993, where they would remain for the next five years, going from avoiding relegation to title-winners within a year, featuring players such as Geoff Horsfield.

Back in the league, the Shaymen saw Horsfield leave for Fulham in 1998, but lead the table for most of their first season back, before falling away into mid-table.  2002 saw Town back in the Conference where they stayed through to their eventual collapse, missing out on promotion in the 2006 play-offs, losing 3-2 to, another now defunct side, Hereford United in the final. Despite avoiding relegation the next season, Town would go on to fold and FC Halifax Town came into being.

Real old-style stand

The new entity took a place in the Northern Premier League for 2008-’09, with me seeing their second game (and first away) at that level, as Town travelled to Trafford. A poor end to the season saw the club miss out on the play-offs at the end of their first season, but they did manage to take the title the following season after a strong end to the campaign.

The club’s NPL Premier Division tenure began with players such as Jamie Vardy being brought to the Shay and this proved fruitful as the club went on to lift their second successive title – and promotion – to take a spot in the Conference North for 2011-’12, a season which saw them ultimately bow out in the play-off semi-finals. The following year saw Town again take a spot in the play-offs, defeating Brackley Town in the final to achieve promotion back to the Conference Premier, where the former side had bowed out from five years earlier.

After reaching the play-offs as the highest-ranked part-time side in the country at the close of their first season back at Step 1, Halifax bowed out in the semi-finals. The following year was something of a success as, despite losing star man Lee Gregory, the club lead the way for a time before fading into play-off contention and ultimately missing out on those too.

Flags. Lots of them.

However, a polar opposite campaign to the prior seasons would follow. The season saw the departure of Neil Aspin, who’d seen the club through the rise from Step 4 to Step 1, with him being replaced by Darren Kelly. This proved to be no help to the cause of Town and, despite a late resurgence under Jim Harvey which saw Halifax reach the Final of the FA Trophy where they defeated National League champions Grimsby Town 1-0, they were relegated back to the National North for this season, where…well, you can see where they are if you’re reading these words! Under new boss Billy Heath, Town finished up in 3rd place prior to these very play-offs.

After a fifteen minute delay due to ground congestion, the game got underway but, again, a decent first-half followed. In fact, it wasn’t until the 38th minute that the first true chance of the game came around, with Sam Johnson in the home goal keeping out Dave Norris’ effort.

Halifax did respond right at the end of the half, with Dion Charles the unlucky man who saw his poke comfortably cleared as it rolled toward the line by Michael Nottingham to ensure the teams headed in at the break all-square and with it all to play for in the second period, the place in the final no closer for either side.

Match Action

All Rise

Having already purchased a cheeseburger (£3.20) before kick-off from the in-ground food trailer thing, I therefore had little to do during the break other than head into the concourse and just generally hang around. It’s always interesting to hear people’s differing views on the game at the half-way mark and there was certainly a split between optimism and the hopeful pessimist. However, we’d soon find out who was right as the teams entered the field once more.

The second half was a more open affair than the first, with Salford’s Mike Phenix being denied by a fine tackle when he looked odds-on to score, Halifax responding, forcing Salford ‘keeper Jay Lynch managed to ‘keep out a close-range header before it was Salford’s turn to again go close, James Poole denied by a fine stop by Johnson who stayed big for as long as possible to thwart the Salford front-man.

Match Action

Salford fans becalmed

As I alluded to earlier, the final minutes saw the hosts go close to winning the game and sealing a place in the play-off final and it was the danger man Charles once more, who saw his drive fly narrowly wide of the target. Frustration in the home ends was met with relief in the away section as the “final” whistle blew to signal extra-time would be needed to separate these two well-matched outfits.

The thirty-minutes proved to be where the drama occurred. Just a handful of minutes into the extra period, Richard Peniket found the net with a fine header, diving in to meet a ball into the box from the right and power the ball beyond Lynch. 1-0 to the hosts and the mini pitch invasion was on!

However Salford were not done and it took them just two minutes of the second half of extra-time to level the game up once more, Michael Nottingham sneaking in at the back post to somehow beat the defender to the ball and nod in. A really soft goal for Halifax to concede, but you felt Salford deserved to stay level through to the end of the contest. They duly managed it, despite a fine stop late on by Lynch to deny another Peniket header, before he then had to stay alert right up to the final whistle to keep out another from the tall Tom Denton, before the whistle went to signal the dreaded shootout.

Salford’s support celebrate the equaliser

Match Action

Pitch invasion!

The penalties came and went in quick fashion, largely due to the poor quality of Salford’s kicks. One tame kick saved and two more flying over sealed their fate, with Town netting three of their four; Matty Brown sealing their place in the final with an emphatic finish into the top-corner. Cue the full pitch invasion as the home fans celebrated the fact the Shaymen had secured a shot at a quick return to the top-level of non-league. Another year at Step 2 beckons for City, though.

As for me it was back to Halifax where I had a 45 minute wait for the train back to Huddersfield. I reckoned I’d had enough before the game and didn’t really fancy another drink, so instead took the opportunity for a much-needed phone charge, until we were all kicked out of the waiting room as it was being shut. Luckily, there was only ten minutes left before I departed from the scenic sights of the Nestle factory and back from whence I came.

So another good day out in Halifax (helped by the cheapness of its beer) was had and it was good to revisit the Shay after almost eight years. On balance of the game, I think it was hard to truly pick a winner, with both sides having their fair share of chances, but Halifax had the spot-kick prowess to see them over the line. They go on the play Chorley for a place in the Conference. As for me, just two games await…

 

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 4

Programme: 8

Value For Money: 6

 

Manchopper in….Gateshead

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Result: Gateshead 3-0 Southport (National League)

Venue: The Gateshead International Stadium (Saturday 4th February 2017, 3pm)

Att: 620

For the first of two weekends I’ve dedicated to my birthday celebrations (it’s neither here nor there between the two, you see), I originally planned a low-key, nearby game ahead of the following week’s trip up to Scotland and Gretna. But once Matt “the celebrity groundhopper” Harrison had put out his intention to head up to Gateshead on account of it being Craig’s much-favoured destination, I decided it’d be rude not to join the ex-pat on his sole journey back in the North of England.

So, having bought my train tickets a while in advance, I was soon heading up to Newcastle where I would meet the two aforementioned partners in crime somewhere along the way. After a, thankfully, largely uneventful trip up past the Angel of the North, I was soon within sight of the towering fortress that is St. James’ Park and from the station it was en route to the Old George pub, which I was told was around Monument. So off I headed only to come across the pair, along with Matt’s friend Tom, heading in my direction from the opposite way. This did save me the best part of ten minutes being lost, fortunately…

Newcastle

Newcastle

Newcastle

Newcastle

We soon arrived in the 16th century establishment, which had apparently been graced in the past by King Charles I on his outings from a nearby open prison, but perhaps a “Punk” IPA didn’t quite fit in with the royal love-in. Regardless, this was the beer of choice, with the added bonus of it being on draught and fairly cheap too. I did feel it’s name was mocking me somewhat for bringing up my quarter-century, but I’ll let it slide this once…just this once!

Soon we were joined by Sunderland fan Andrew going with the full, unintentional “Sami Zayn” look which Tom and I agreed with was pretty spot-on, despite Andrew being, I think, unaware of just who this fella is. Anyhow, I’m beginning to ramble. After one pint in here whilst being regaled by Matt’s hearsay story of the upstairs of the Rose & Crown and some…different entertainment, our sights were set on there.

The story centred around a fabled upstairs area which Matt had been informed about by a fellow Swansea fan and which included, none other than, strippers. Yes, that’s right, strippers. Now, I can’t tell the story, but if for whatever reason you are intrigued by this, then feel free to let Matt take you through the tale right here!

The Rose and Crown, strippers or not, is very clearly a Toon Army stronghold, with the walls being decorated at all angles with Newcastle United merchandise, shirts and photos as well as numerous replica shirts from over the years being worn throughout the establishment. At a guess, I’d say Andrew wouldn’t have felt too at home! Our number was soon completed by another Matt, an Ebbsfleet fan based up in Northumberland and we remained in here for a few pretty easy on the wallet pints (plus my one staple Newcy Brown), before our departure to the Metro station was necessitated by the clock and the ever closing in of the kick-off of the big game on Tyneside: Gateshead vs Southport.

The Old George

The Old George

To the Rose & Crown

To The Rose & Crown.

When in Ro...er, Newcastle

When in Ro…er, Newcastle.

After I had issues with the ticket machine which Craig kindly sorted out with no trouble, but in some disbelief (I stared at it confused and was unable to figure out how to work it), we were soon disembarking at the Gateshead Stadium Metro Stop and a short walk later we found ourselves at the gates of the ground. After the essential group photo, we headed for the turnstile where for £15 I was given a lovely piece of card. Fair deal I’d say.

Once inside, I wasted little time in heading straight for the food bar where I plumped for a mince pie. Not a festive one mind you, but a mincemeat version. I also think this was the only pie on offer, but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve had. Anyway, with pie in hand it was up into the seats and the fresh Northumbrian air as the teams were set to take to the field at any moment.

En route to the Stadium

En route to…

The Gateshead International Stadium.

…the Gateshead International Stadium.

The Gateshead International Stadium isn’t, to me, a bad ground by any stretch. Yes it has a running track around it, but when you’ve been to as many 3G cages as I have, this makes little difference and indeed the view of the game from our stand made it fairly irrelevant in my eyes. Many will certainly disagree with these sentiments I’m sure, but I’d say it’s a better view than other similar stadia. The two stands in use, either side of the pitch, housed one lot of fans each, the home fans in the “Main” Stand with the visiting Sandgrounders housed in the second of the covered stands opposite. Both uncovered seating ends were not in use today and I’m guessing its pretty rare they are required. As for the club itself, here’s a bit of background to Gateshead FC…

History Lesson:

Gateshead Football Club in its current form was founded in 1977, but the club can trace its roots way back to 1889 and South Shields Adelaide FC, who played eight miles out of Gateshead. The club eventually dropped the ‘Adelaide’ suffix and became just South Shields and went on to join the Football League Division 2 in 1919. After financial struggles, Shields dropped into Division 3 North in 1928 and after a further two seasons the club moved from South Shields and into Gateshead.

Taking on the moniker ‘Gateshead A.F.C.’, the club remained in the Football League through until 1960, when they failed to gain re-election after finishing in the bottom three of the Division 4. Following spells in various regional leagues, the side became founder members of the Northern Premier League. But after a two season spell, the club dropped from this level and joined the Midland League for a further two seasons before being liquidated in 1973. The club was pretty successful during its time, winning five Durham Senior Cups, the 1945 Tyne-Tees-Wear Cup, the Northern Regional League title in 1964 as well as two runner-up spots in Third Division North (1932 & 1950) and were FA Cup Quarter-Finalists in 1953.

Arriving at the gates

Arriving at the gates

After a further, short-lived South Shields FC (latterly Gateshead United) competed for a further three seasons (’74-’77), the current Gateshead FC was formed shortly after the demise of United. They were immediately accepted into the Northern Premier League and took up residence in the Gateshead International Stadium once more. Following a six-year stint in the NPL, Gateshead won the league title and with it promotion to the Alliance Premier League, the forerunner of the Conference.

Here they remained through to 1985 when they suffered the drop back to the NPL, but this stay lasted just one season as they immediately bounced back to the Conference and also added the NPL League Challenge Shield to their cabinet. Again, just one season was spent in the new league and Gateshead found themselves back in the NPL until 1990 when they were promoted as NPL runners-up. After a fairly successful stint in the Conference saw the Heed in the mid-table positions and occasionally higher, they were eventually to fall victim to relegation once more in 1998 and then found themselves in the NPL Division 1 after a further drop in 2003.

Craig loves Gateshead.

Craig loves Gateshead.

Just one season at this level was endured by the Heed as the immediately took a place back in the NPL Premier. 2008 saw them achieve a further elevation up into the Conference North through the play-offs and they were immediately promoted from Step 2 via the play-offs after ending up, impressively, as runners-up. They have remained at Step 1 ever since their promotion, losing out in the play-offs in 2014 after a best finish of 3rd. Last season saw the Heed chalk up a decent 9th placed finish.

The game was a pretty cagey affair for the first 20 minutes or so, though Southport did have the odd half-chance during that time, while Gateshead struggled to create much in reply. Indeed it was with almost their first real chance that the hosts took the lead, Jordan Burrow heading home a floaty cross from close range. The timing of this goal was much to the disapproval of Craig, who’d chosen that very moment to be in the concourse purchasing his own refreshment and bemoaned his luck, or lack thereof, on his return!

This seemed to deflate the visitors and their play seemed to escape them. Gateshead, though, took the initiative and never let it go for the rest of the contest and it is little to no surprise when they added a second just before the break, left-back George Smith fizzing a low drive across the Southport ‘keeper and into the far corner of the net. 2-0 and that looked game over it had to be said.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The break came and went and largely surrounded Andrew’s incredulous delight at his Sunderland being three up at Crystal Palace and this escalated further when they netted a fourth before half-time. It was probably best for his wellbeing that he wasn’t watching that game and could cool off a bit in the surroundings of the International Stadium.

The second half was largely a display of Gateshead protecting their lead against the relegation-threatened visitors and they never truly looked like letting them in. The Heed almost extended their advantage with a shot which cannoned back off the inside of the post and rolled back across goal, just the wrong side of the line from Gateshead’s point of view. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t gone in and went on to tell everyone in our group, and many within earshot around us, that fact multiple times.

Soon after, though, the third did arrive as Danny Johnson broke clear of the defence before firing in via the legs of the visiting custodian who would have been highly disappointed to have let the effort go through him in such a way. It should have been stopped but in the end it mattered little to the eventual result.

Nice curves...

Nice curves…

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

After we voted en-masse for George Smith to win the twitter-awarded man-of-the-match award, (on account of him being ex-Crawley and with a fine Christian name), the game came to its conclusion with the Heed running out triumphant.

Plans had already been set out earlier to head to the nearby Schooner pub, which sits nestled down a small lane alongside the Tyne. Another old-school boozer, the Schooner provided a fine end to the day with a further couple of drinks (in my case a Sam Adams bottle and a pint of Pilsner Urquell, I think). I also remember quipping something to do with Elton John and “Sacrifice” in relation to football, but I can’t remember what it involved and, as such, my possible breakthrough comedic moment goes by the wayside…

Post game. The stewards wanted us out pronto!

Post game. The stewards wanted us out pronto!

The Schooner. Great little place.

The Schooner. Great little place.

Before too long it was time to head our respective separate ways and after bidding goodbye to Yorkshire-bound Tom, Craig and Matt “celebrity groundhopper” (he actually had picture requests, so I’m considering copyrighting this statement), myself, Ebbsfleet Matt and Andrew were left to navigate the housing estate lanes back to the Metro, whereupon I went on my seldom way back at Central Station.

It had been a fine day, good to finally visit Newcastle itself and good to meet up with both old and new faces, which all came together to make Gateshead a far better trip than it would have been solo, for sure. As for next week, it’s the second of the “birthday weekend” trips up to Scotland and my first “true” Scottish game, having only done Berwick previously. I’m just getting out my wedding suit (it may be required)…

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RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Wesham (AFC Fylde)

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

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

Att: 479

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

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

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

Dan and his very suitable drink

Dan and his very suitable drink

Arriving at Kirkham & Wesham

Arriving at Kirkham & Wesham

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

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

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

The Royal Oak

The Royal Oak

In the Stanley Arms

In the Stanley Arms

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

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

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

The Birley Arms

The Birley Arms

On the walk

AFC Fylde

Almost in

Almost in

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

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

History Lesson:

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

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

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

Today's Game

Today’s Game

Fuller's Bar (after former manager, Mick

Fuller’s Bar (after former manager, Mick)

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

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

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

Handshakes

Handshakes

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

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

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

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

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Equalising goal!

Equalising goal!

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

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

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

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

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

Full-Time Score

Full-Time Score

Brad and I in Fuller's

Brad and I in Fuller’s

All Aboard

All Aboard

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

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

Out in Manchester!

Out in Manchester!

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

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RATINGS:

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

Ground: 7- For reasons already stated.

Food: 7- A good portion and tasty too.

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

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

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

 

Manchopper in….Macclesfield

180px-Macclesfield_Town_FC.svg

Result: Macclesfield Town 3-2 Alfreton Town (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)

Venue: Moss Rose (Saturday 24th October 2015, 3pm)

Att:1,048

Today, I was back on the road to Wembley and the continuing trail of the FA Cup Qualifying Rounds. My destination was in Cheshire and without drawing out the mystery any more than is required ( I think the answer is given away in the title), I was headed for Macclesfield and, more specifically Moss Rose, home of the Silkmen of Macclesfield Town.

Macc were playing host to Alfreton Town in the final qualifying round of the competition and therefore, the two were competing for a place in the First Round of the Cup itself. Unfortunately it was a rather damp, dreary, dull late morning as I set off into Manchester for the connecting train to Macclesfield. After a bit of a rush through town, I made the Northern stopping service in the nick of time and met up with regular accomplice Dan on the train. Exiting out of Piccadilly’s Platform 4, we set off through the Cheshire countryside and onwards to our terminus.

After being somewhat puzzled by a guy decked out I full Macc attire disembarking in Poynton, rather than the place of his supposed game of choice, we eventually rolled into the station and immediately discounted the dingy-looking Queens’ Hotel for the pub featuring a large Manchester United flag on its exterior. This pub was the Nags Head and also featured a worrying “Enter if you Dare” on the door. Bravely, we entered, but the place was as dead as the ghouls depicted on its Hallowe’en banner and we rushed down a quick half before heading down the road to the Treacle Tap, where I’d informed the newest blogger on the block and member of the BOBSC, Paul Rowan, we’d meet him on his arrival from Liverpool.

Welcome To Macclesfield

Welcome To Macclesfield

A damp Macc

A damp Macc

Nags Head

Nags Head

Warnings

Warnings

No sooner had Dan and I ordered and sat down with our drinks of Flensburger, I noticed a figure in the window of the cobblers opposite, which resembled more a priest than a shoemaker, fixing shoes unsurprisingly. After this small amusement, Paul rocked up through the rain and joined us in having the Dutch(?) beer. With the Treacle Tap seemingly more of a small bistro-style outlet, that just seems to also offer ales, we headed out after a short stop and onwards towards the ground where I remembered a pub was located around half-way up the road. Thus, we came upon The Macc. In we headed and were soon met with Clown Juice.

Before you become too alarmed about any perverted activity, Clown Juice is in fact a, rather strong, ale measuring at 7.5% and is, unsurprisingly, advertised in half-pints. But due to us having a match to see and roads to navigate, we plumped for the Spanish tipple Mahou instead, which I’d grown accustomed to while on holiday in Mallorca this summer. The Macc was definitely the best of the three bars we’d sampled, with a good atmosphere, selection of beers and a dark part of a wall with a Narnia sign painted on it at the rear. We decided to steer clear of this, as you never know what might happen if you go to close to the void.

Treacle Tap

Treacle Tap

Saintly Cobbler

Saintly Cobbler

The Macc

The Macc

Ooh I say!

Ooh I say!

Before long, we’d finished off in here and bid our goodbyes to the Macc and headed up to the Moss Rose, where we planned to visit Keith’s Bar, named in honour of the tragic Keith Alexander, Macc’s former manager. Sadly, this wasn’t in use today and therefore we were directed to the Corner Flag Bar on the far side of the Star Lane Terrace, where we’d paid £10 for a ticket to stand in for the game today. After heading through a strangely-placed crowd controlled gate, with all transits through controlled by a steward, we entered the bar and I got myself a Bulmers’ Orange cider whilst Paul stuck with a beer and Dan marvelled at his new purchase: a Macclesfield Town scarf.

After Paul and I pointed out that, due to the badge being hardly noticeable, you could fold the scarf up a little and take it to any side playing in white and blue and pretend to be a fan, Dan was less than impressed and proceeded to defend his scarf for all his worth.

Moss Rose in the distance

Moss Rose in the distance

Welcome

Welcome

Front and centre

Front and centre

Clubhouse

Clubhouse

Luckily, his argument was truncated by the approaching kick-off and we headed back outside and back through the gate to the Star Lane Terrace, which is the covered end and stands opposite the usual away end, which is an open terrace. The left-hand touchline features the new-build stand, complete with all corporate bits inside it and to the right is the old Main Stand, which is flanked by further open standing and is where the dressing rooms and dugouts are located around too. With this being the old bit, it leads nicely onto the history of the Silkmen…,

History Lesson:

The first football club in Macclesfield was founded in the mid-19th century, playing rugby union rules until 1874, when the association football rules were adopted instead. During its earlier years, the club played in the Combination, Manchester League (won twice) and the Cheshire League (won twice pre-war) and was known by titles such as Macclesfield Football and Athletic Club, Hallifield FC & Macclesfield FC, before settling on Macclesfield Town FC upon resumption of football en masse after WWII. Town joined the Cheshire County League in 1946-’47, with the first silverware under its current name coming in the shape of the 1948 Cheshire League Cup.

This was built on throughout the ’50’s, with the Silkmen, the nickname deriving from the town’s famed Victorian trade, with four cups in four years being achieved (three Cheshire Cups and a league title), with this being their last success until 1961, when they won the Cheshire League for a fourth time. This began a period where the club won three further league titles and finished no lower than fifth over a 9-year stint. In 1968, the club became founder members of the Northern Premier League (NPL).

Soap dispenser

Soap dispenser

Instant success followed, with Macc winning the first two titles of the NPL and they won the inaugural FA Trophy in 1970 to add to the second title. But, success faded and the club finished bottom in 1979, but were spared by the creation of the Alliance League, the forerunner of the Conference, which saw the club remain in the NPL and be able to rebuild again through the ’80’s, eventually resulting in the club’s third NPL title in 1987, which resulted in promotion to the Conference. This was joined in the cabinet by the NPL Challenge Cup & President’s Cup as Town swept the floor.

After a mostly solid start to life in the Conference, including the ’94 Conference League Cup, the club won the 1995 Conference title under the guidance of Sammy McIlroy, but were denied promotion to Division 3 due to ground grading. Two seasons later, however, the club won their second Conference title and had upgraded the ground meaning promotion could take place now. Upon reaching the Football League, Macclesfield Town turned professional ahead of the ’97-’98 season.

Their first season saw instant success, with Macc finishing runners-up and thus achieving promotion to Division 2, going unbeaten all season. However, Division 2 was a bridge too far and the club immediately dropped back to Division 3 after one year. McIlroy left to take the Northern Ireland job, which meant a less than stable few years was to follow as the man at the helm changed a number of times.

Through the net

Through the net

After a recovery from a poor start to the season saw Macc eventually achieving a play-off place in 2005 & staving off relegation in 2007, tragedy struck in 2010 when manager Keith Alexander passed away after a game at Notts County. This was added to by the death of midfielder Richard Butcher who passed aged just 29 just 10 months later. Butcher’s 21 shirt has since been retired from use as a mark of respect. Last time I visited, the club still printed his name and number on the squad list, though this appears to have been discontinued now.

2012 saw Macc relegated back to the Conference after a terribly poor season, but the following year saw a high-point as Macc reached the FA Cup 4th Round for the first time. Last season, Macclesfield Town finished in 6th place, just missing out on the play-offs.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Fans on the terrace

Fans on the terrace

Dan shows his colours

Dan shows his colours

The teams entered the pitch with an impressive noise emanating from the small band of Alfreton fans situated in the far corner of the newer stand. But, unfortunately for them, their optimism took a big hit soon after the restart when their side were caught cold by the quick starting National League side, who marched into a two-goal lead. First, Kristian Dennis found himself one-on-one with the Alfreton ‘keeper, after being fed in by Danny Whittaker on his 300th appearance for the club, before Dennis confidently slid past GK Matt Duke into the bottom corner. He was soon joined on the scoresheet by Silkmen skipper Paul Turnbull, who planted a close range diving header into the net and seemed to have settled the game already. 2-0.

Megs!

Megs!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

To their credit, back came Alfreton, and they put ever increasing pressure onto the Macc back-line, but without really testing the former Bournemouth man, Shwan Jalal, in the Macc goal. They were punished for lacking that edge, as Dennis converted his second from close range, just as I exited the facilities. At 3-0, you felt Alfreton may have crumbled,  but no, they kept on pushing forward, spurred on by their vocal support and they got a goal their pressure deserved almost immediately after Dennis had found the net down the other end, Sam Jones smashing a half-volley past the helpless Jalal.

Paul had already been sent on a walk down the far end to use facilities, rather than those about 10-feet away by the steward enforcing this strange, pointless gate and wasn’t too impressed when, upon coming back out of the bar for the second half, he looked up at the sky to check the weather, only for the steward to say he “saw that craft look”. Now, I have no idea what constitutes a crafty look, but whatever it is, the steward must be an expert in it. It was rather rude, really, and even if it was in jest it shouldn’t be said.

Anyway, after discovering a new love for Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale FC at half time, it was back onto the game at hand. I’d just finished off a decent, if pricey, Sausage Roll for £2.00, when Alfreton moved to within a goal of their hosts, Jordan Robertson heading in a high ball at the back post. This was the cue for celebrations in the Alfreton end, who even had police to keep an eye on them, with shirts off and a man in a large pink-orange coated getting very excited in the midst of the ranks

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Kick It Out!

Kick It Out!

This spurred the reds on and they had further chances to grab an equaliser, but it was Macc who came closest to grabbing another goal, Lindon Meikle blasting over from a great position, but it mattered little in the grander scheme of things, as the Silkmen hung on to secure their place in the First Round of the FA Cup.

So, the game was over and we headed back to The Macc to watch the conclusion of South Africa vs New Zealand in the RWC Semi-Final, with the lure of the Clown Juice being too much to ignore. It also gave me the chance to ask a question I’d thought I’d never mutter “Can I have a try of your Clown Juice?”. We’d all decided hat this statement had to be said as we all thought it would be hilarious. Clearly, somewhere during the day, we’d all receded 12 years in age and headed back to the Primary School playground.

No problem

No problem

Getting Darker

Getting Darker

Clown Juice!!!

Clown Juice!!!

After watching the All Blacks conquer the Springboks, we headed back out into the fading light of the day and back to Macclesfield station, where we got onto the platform just as the train to Piccadilly was pulling in. Somewhere on the journey, Paul got up from his seat alongside me and headed to the loo, and came back wearing make-up, with long hair and fixing his mascara. No, he hadn’t done a Bruce, but had just had his seat taken by a woman and had to relocate to the rear. Phew!

Upon arrival in Piccadilly, Paul had decided he wanted to tick off another tap off his list, and so it was over to the Piccadilly Tap for the final stop of the day. I continued my usual “pick a beer on relation of its involvement in sport” and opted for a BitBurger, after its sponsorship of the Benetton F1 Team back in the day and we headed upstairs for a game of table football, which ended in a competitive 5-5 draw, with the blues and reds reflecting the sides from today’s game. I wasn’t too impressed with my table football-style Jalal, who was doing a headstand for one of the goals!

Pick One!

Pick One!

Tips in the tap!

Tips in the tap!

Good game, good game!

Good game, good game!

Soon after the completion of the enthralling contest, Dan left us and headed home, while Paul and I finished off our pints downstairs in the busier part of the Tap, setting the world to rights about most things, I’m sure. Before too long, though, it was time to head home and I bid farewell to Paul outside Piccadilly as he headed off on his way and I on mine. It sounds a lot more romantic than it was, I assure you!

And so brought to end another day watching football in a damp town in the North of England. You wouldn’t swap it for anything would you? I know I wouldn’t! Although doing the same in a warmer climate does sound appealing, now that you mention it….

DSC00836

RATINGS:

Game: 8- Goals and a fair amount of action. Can’t complain.

Ground: 7- Nice mix of old & new and decent views behind the old stand.

Fans: 5- Not much going from the home end.

Programme: 7- A fair effort, but nothing to rave about.

Food: 5- Okay, not worth £2, though.

Value For Money: 8- £7 travel, £10 in, £3 programme, and about £20 extras. Pretty decent overall.

Manchopper in….Guiseley

GuiseleyAldershot Town

Result: Guiseley 0-4 Aldershot Town (The National League…er…National?)

Venue: Nethermoor Park (Saturday 22nd August 2015, 3pm)

Att: 782

This Saturday’s game was decided by the, surely, now famous Manchopper Draw. The marathon draw contained 61 teams in the pot, and it all boiled down to the final two, Boothstown FC of the Manchester League and Guiseley AFC of the National League. After an intense, nerve-wracking wait, Guiseley remained in the tub of travel meaning that Nethermoor was to be my destination for the weekend!

So, the morning of the 22nd of August arrived and I set off towards Manchester Oxford Road for my connection onwards to Leeds. Due to the rather large time gaps in between the trains, both there and back, of at least 25 minutes, it meant that there was very little need for rush nor stress. Super! As it was, the TransPennine service rolled in early, and I was soon rattling through the Pennine mountains and into the White Rose County, Yorkshire.

After stops in Stalybridge, Huddersfield and Dewsbury, the service arrived in Leeds, leaving me a 30 minute gap to get to Platform 3a, where the train to Guiseley would be departing from. When it finally arrived, I boarded and was immediately met with a cold blast of air, as I got on the most air conditioned train known to man. With thunderstorms on the way midway through the afternoon, according to the 100% trustworthy MetOffice, it was a relief to head into Guiseley in glorious sunshine and with about an hour to kick-off, I made haste to The Station pub.

In the right place!

In the right place!

Looking towards the station & ground

Looking towards the station & ground

The Station

The Station

Upon arrival, the pub was packed full of Leeds fans watching their side play Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road. They were joined there by a number of Aldershot fans, who’d made the long journey up and were doing their upmost to enjoy their day in West Yorkshire. There were a few home fans also dotted around the pub, as I made my way to the bar and was soon in ownership of a Desperados. Not long after, Leeds found the equaliser and this was met with numerous people jumping around the area around the big screen, with a group of Aldershot’s travelling band lending their support to the local favourites, too.

Not long after full-time in the Yorkshire derby, it was time for me to head down to the ground, so it was down the main road and past the adjoining cricket club, which was featuring a game today and the clubhouse/pavilion is split between the two clubs, football on the left, cricket on the right. The cricket came as a pleasant sight to a pair of Town fans who commented that if it all went wrong, then they could at least watch the cricket!

Which way?

Which way?

Crowds arrive

Crowds arrive

Guiseley AFC

Guiseley AFC

Turnstiles reached and £15 entry handed over, I was into Nethermoor, where I immediately parted with a further £3 for the programme and a free teamsheet (20p). As you enter down the side of the players’ tunnel, Nethermoor opens out in front of you and it is a rather smart ground. It features four stands, two seated stands on the far touchline and two covered standing areas on the near touchline, one of which is situated immediately next to you upon entry. Both ends are open. The far touchline also features the sponsor’s lounge and food trailer, which stand nearest the near end goal, with the near touchline also playing host to the clubhouse entry point and club shop, both of which are situated in the middle of the two terraces, along with a TV gantry. With the ground set out, it’s now time to head into the annuls of Guiseley AFC’s history….

History Lesson:

Guiseley AFC were founded in 1909 by a group of local football fans. Their first success came four years later, winning the local Wharfedale League. After the First World War, Guiseley switched to the Leeds League and remained here until 1924 when they moved to the West Riding County Amateur League. After a treble of titles were won in the 1930’s, with a fourth added in 1939. After WWII, a fifth title was eventually won in 1956, which was followed by a fifth league switch, this time into the West Yorkshire League.

In this league, Guiseley achieved further success, especially in the Wharfedale Trophy, which Guiseley won on nine of ten occasions in the 1960’s. They then entered Division 2 of the Yorkshire League for 1968, but were relegated into Division 3 two years later. After being immediately promoted back to Division 2, the club gained promotion to Division 1 in 1974. After a relegation and re-promotion in the next two years, the latter as champions, they achieved two runners-up placings in 1980 & ’82.

Guiseley became founder members of the Northern Counties East League in 1982, and reached the FA Vase semi-finals during their tenure in the league. They went one better the next season, beating Gresley Rovers at Bramall Lane after a 4-4 draw at Wembley, alongside lifting the NCEL title, and with it, achieving promotion to the Northern Premier League in Division 1. In 1992, they reached the Vase final again, but this time lost out to Wimborne Town.

Old badge on sign

Old badge on sign

DSC00110

Guiseley AFC

Celebrating the promotion

Celebrating the promotion

It's all too much for some!

It’s all too much for some!

1994 saw the club lift the NPL First Division and reach the FA Trophy semis, losing out to Runcorn. After promotion, they remained in the Premier Division until 2000 when they were relegated, however they achieved promotion back again in 2004. 2002-’03 saw the Lions achieve the feat of reaching the FA Cup 1st Round, losing out 4-0 to Luton Town.  They repeated the feat in 2010-’11, beating Redditch United 2-1, before bowing out to Crawley Town and again in 2012-’13, when they lost out to Barrow, in a replay.

After their Nethermoor ground was badly burned in an arson attack in 2008, they rebuilt the damage to the ground and were rewarded with promotion to the Conference North the following year, via a 2-0 success over Ashton United, securing automatic promotion as champions in the club’s centenary year. The next season, the club’s first in the Step 2, the club reached the play-off final, losing out to AFC Telford United.

After a further two play-off semi-final defeats in the next two seasons, they, once again, reached the play-off final in 2014, where they lost out to Altrincham in the final minute of extra time, as Greg Wilkinson netted with his first touch after coming on. This was one of the, if not THE, most dramatic moment I’ve seen live at a game. Last season saw Guiseley finally end their play-off hoodoo, with two defeats over Lancashire sides. First, AFC Fylde were vanquished in the two-legged semi-final, before they fought back from 2-0 down to beat Chorley 3-2 at the Magpies’ Victory Park to win promotion to the National League top-flight, for the first time in the club’s history.

Guiseley have also won numerous cup honours; the NPL President’s Cup (1994) & Challenge Cup (2009), alongside nine West Riding County Cup wins, between 1979 & 2012. A new club badge has also been unveiled for this season onwards.

Here come the teams

Here come the teams

Young and old(er)

Young and old(er)

Brodie (hidden behind inconsiderate sub) scores

Brodie (hidden behind inconsiderate sub) scores

Back onto the present day and the two sides entered the field to sunshine (still no sign of the promised storms), before kicking off and playing the early stages at a frantic pace. The Lions had the better of the initial chances, but it was Aldershot who broke the deadlock, when a foul in the build up wasn’t given and Richard Brodie coolly slotted past Steve Drench. 0-1.

The game continued to ebb & flow, with both sides creating half-chances, but you always felt as though Aldershot looked the more likely to net again, and this duly came with around 10 minutes to the break, when Lions’ keeper Drench could only parry a shot into the path of the onrushing Jim Stevenson, who lashed home for 0-2.

Stevenson celebrates the Shots' second.

Stevenson celebrates the Shots’ second.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Heading back in

Heading back in

This is how it remained until the break, whereupon I finished off my piping hot chips & gravy (£2.50), before heading into the clubhouse and, more specifically, the Guiseley Supporters’ Club desk, where I’d been told to go & find SC secretary Craig Shearstone for a Supporters Club badge. After I asked him where I could find said secretary, he informed me that it was in fact him and handed me a badge, plus a 12th man clip on badge too, as an added bonus. Cheers!

After a quick talk with Craig, who enlightened me on the likely style with which Guiseley would likely respond to the score-line during the second period, I thanked him for the badges and headed back outside, leaving Craig at his post. The game had just gotten back underway and if I’d have been a minute later heading out, I’d have missed an outstanding piece of play by Town’s Cheye Alexander. The left back picked up the ball outside the area, before beating three men on his way into the box and slotting into the back of the net, past the onrushing Drench. WHAT A GOAL! 0-3, game over.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

At close quarters

At close quarters

On the flightpath

On the flightpath

Despite Guiseley looking more threatening after the went to all-out attack and with big striker Liam Dickinson causing some trouble, they still failed to find the net and after Brodie had spurned a good chance when shooting straight at Drench, rather than passing to the unmarked and better placed Matt Barnes-Homer, he added gloss to the score-line with 15 to play, converting a low cross at the back post, but being slightly injured in the process, causing him to be subbed off as a precaution. To their credit, Guiseley continued to battle on gamely until the final whistle, but their best chance came when Tom Craddock fired a shot which was well held by experienced Town ‘keeper Phil Smith.

Upon the end of the game, the vocal Town fans were left to celebrate their teams win, with one Guiseley fan leaving slightly early due to his dismay. Most, though, could accept the fact that, on the day, they’d just been done, without playing badly at all. 4-0 wasn’t that much of a reflection of the game, but Aldershot showed their prowess in front of goal, whereas the hosts lacked the ability to take their chances when they arrived.

The lively Shots fans

The lively Shots fans

Down the line

Down the line

Enjoying the sun

Enjoying the sun

So, I headed back to the station, where I again had a further 25 minute wait, but not before a superb comment by an Aldershot fan to his mate.

“Why’s it so hot?!”

“Dunno. It’s the hottest day in Yorkshire for 200 years!”

“Is it?!”

“No, I don’t know”.

Tremendous. Anyway, after reboarding the air conditioned, hospital-smelling train back to Leeds, it was soon onwards back to Manchester. Upon passing by Elland Road, lo and behold, here was the storm. Well done, MetOffice, you got there eventually…

g43

 

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Entertaining game, throughout, with no shortage of chances.

Ground: 7- Really smart looking ground, with different viewpoints available.

Fans: 8- Friendly, knowledgeable and gave good backing to their team.

Food: 8- Really good stuff.

Programme: 8- Good amount of articles, with all sorts of people within the club.