Manchopper in….North Ferriby

Result: North Ferriby United 0-4 Gainsborough Trinity (NPL Premier Division)

Venue: Grange Lane (Saturday 23rd February 2019, 3pm)

Att: 314

My late season “vulture job” of getting to grounds whose very existence is in some doubt continued for a second weekend with a trip to the outskirts of Hull and the small village of North Ferriby, where I was to pay a visit to North Ferriby United’s Grange Lane ground. This would mean going against my usual standing of not giving money to owners who are (in my distinctly humble opinion) running a club into the ground for whatever reason (which is why Hull, Charlton and Blackpool have remained off limits, though the Tangerines have recently been thankfully rescued and I only did the Ricoh for a cut-price game, but with many seemingly still happy to give money to the club, it seemed OK morally to do the same.

Now, I’m sure many of you with any sort of internet access/non-league knowledge had heard of the recent goings on surrounding the club and its swift fall from grace and I’m not going to speculate on what may or may not be going on, as it really isn’t my place to do so. Plus, with what happened during the game, I really don’t want to risk any future bans that may cloud any return visits – be that at Grange Lane, Dunswell Park or anywhere else… *suggests one-off game at Craven Park, selfishly*. Anyhow….

Setting off into Manchester, the local train delays returned, meaning I had a full hour to waste in the surroundings of the Manchester Piccadilly concourse. To make this a little more bearable, I headed up to the mezzanine and my favoured in-station haunt of the Hourglass where I was forced into breaking my 11am rule – though 10am was close enough I figured! A pint of Boddies was bought to accompany me through the wait until the next Hull-bound train, as I looked to figure out some kind of trip/plan to get over to North Ferriby from Brough station – where the train has its penultimate stop. With a few little villages along the way, I reckoned I might as well go that way and stop off here and there on my way over to the ground, rather than fork out the unbelievably costly £6+ return bus ticket for what would have been about five minutes. No chance, guys and girls.

Following an hour and a half’s journey, the train eventually pulled into Brough and I set off on the hour-and-twenty-minute walk to United’s home. Foregoing Brough’s own watering holes (on account of them having their own based club there which I’ll likely visit at some point too), my first stop was in the nearby village outpost of Welton. Here, I found a pub by the name of the Green Dragon, and what a find it proved to be – this being the very pub that the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was apprehended in during the 18th century. Well worth the effort to get there for sure, as was the pricing and overall setting – a pint of Amstel costing £3.65 and the pub and village itself being highly pleasant on a fine, sunny day.

Welton

Green Dragon

Melton’s Sandpiper

From there, the long and winding old road to Melton was undertaken, crossing a footbridge en route to the Sandpiper – a new-build modern food-based chain pub. Having been pressed in this way with a lack of overall options for the day (not that it was a surprise), I was more than happy to drop in for another Amstel (£3.65) before deciding to forego a pre-match visit to North Ferriby’s one-and-only pub, the Duke of Cumberland, as I’d come up with the idea of maybe heading towards the Humber Bridge post-match for a little bit. Also, I’d said I’d pop to say “Hello” to Matthew, one of the lads involved with the North Ferriby fanzine known as ‘View from the Allotment End’, which has gained a little infamy over the last few days. Having done so and gave a bit of money to both he and the guys collecting for the homeless charity outside, he said to me they’d be congregated around the dugouts during the game. Of course, as it turned out, that wouldn’t happen as Matthew would be banned from Grange Lane minutes later for apparent comments in said fanzine, so I’m watching my tongue here too in fear of more reprisals against independent writings!!!

North Ferriby is a village and civil parish in the Haltemprice area within the East Riding of Yorkshire and stands on the North bank of the River Humber and is where the oldest boats ever found in Europe were discovered – dating from the Bronze Age estimated to go back to the region between 2030 BC-1680 BC. Iron Age and Romano-British archaeology has also been discovered in the area, suggesting that the settlement continued to exist through these times too, prior to the arrival of the Danes around 900 AD, with each ship arriving apparently setting up their own settlement and amongst these was the modern territory of North Ferriby (derived from the Danish ‘Ferja bi’ meaning place by a ferry, with both North and South Ferriby linked by said transport).

North Ferriby

North Ferriby

During the medieval period, Ferriby was home to a Ferriby Prior – belonging to the, somewhat infamous (whether in truth or exaggerated fiction), order of the Knights Templar. The abbey, dating from c.1160, was founded by Lord Eustace Broomfleet de Vesci and remained standing until the dissolution in 1536 with the village having passed through the hands of the families of the Mortimers, the Poles and the Barons, with mansions being added by merchants from Hull from the mid-18th century. It’s All Saints Church is Grade II listed and is recorded in the National Heritage List for England and maintained therefore by Historic England. The village also hosts part of the Transpennine and Yorkshire Wolds walkways, with the former being where the three Ferriby boats were discovered on the banks of the Humber. For a small area, they have a pretty impressive list of alumni including:- Alex Deacon (BBC Weatherman), Zara Holland (Miss GB and of Love Island fame (apparently in the case of the latter!), Phil ‘team talk on the pitch’ Brown and, most impressively, the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.

Paying my £5 entry as a student (nice bit of saving there), I headed inside Grange Lane and over to the club shop where I’d been told by Matthew I could find the programmes for the game today. £2 for that and 20p for a teamsheet (because I might as well for that), the game was soon upon us and the teams heading out of the tunnel. Grange Lane itself is a bit of a strange ground on the basis that apart from its “Main Stand” there is little to suggest it has ever hosted Conference-level football, though this allows it to retain its charm. Despite this, it is a pretty smart set-up and there seems little reason for the relocation in any way, shape, or form that would be beneficial in the long-run on the face of things, though I could just as easily be wrong.

Anyway, back to the day at hand. The near-side plays host to all facilities, a food bar flanked by the club shop and a raised, rather strange-looking disabled viewing area, which the dressing rooms are located to the rear of. A further hospitality building, and what I assume is the clubhouse, though I couldn’t actually ever locate it myself, is situated towards the far end, which itself is open, hard standing and features a couple of steps of terracing, as does the opposite end. The Main Stand backs onto a railway embankment (with trains running above the stand for those interested) and houses all seats in the middle, these flanked by small amounts of covered standing at each end, which I suppose were planned to have seats installed in the future too, had the need come around. A second snack bar is located next to the old away end turnstiles. That’s Grange Lane in a nutshell, and this is the story of North Ferriby United….

History Lesson:

North Ferriby United Football Club was founded in 1934, first taking part in the local East Riding Church League, winning the Division 1 title in 1938. After WWII, the club was admitted to the East Riding Amateur League and Ferriby went on to enjoy a successful period with various pieces of silverware being brought to the club’s trophy cabinet. In 1969, North Ferriby stepped into the Division Two of the Yorkshire League in 1969 and won the title at the end of their second season in the division, winning promotion to Division 1 in the process, and also added the East Riding Senior Cup title the same season. 1975 saw Ferriby lift the Yorkshire League Cup with a 2-0 triumph over Lincoln United before finishing Division 1 runners-up the next year.

In 1982, the Villagers joined the newly formed Northern Counties East League and immediately finished as runners-up in Division One North, though promotion was declined due to ground issues. This setback was soon rectified and 1986 saw Ferriby win the Division One title and with it promotion to the Premier Division. 1990 saw the club reach the FA Vase semi-finals, losing out to Tamworth in the semi-finals, before going on to achieve a “what might have been” moment in defeating the following year’s Vase winners, Guiseley, in the 1991 NCEL President’s Cup. A cup double was secured too, as the club lifted the East Riding Senior Cup. Ferriby reached the 1997 FA Vase Final after overcoming Guisborough Town in the semi-finals, but their day at Wembley would end in disappointment at the hands of Whitby Town. Two further consecutive NCEL President’s Cups were won in both 1999 & 2000.

Arriving at the ground

Myself & Matthew ft. the ‘trouble-making’ fanzine!

The 1999-‘2000 season also saw the Villagers take the NCEL championship and were duly promoted to the Northern Premier League’s Division 1 and the following season’s East Riding Senior Cup triumph ensured a fifth consecutive win between 1997-’01. A sixth straight East Riding Senior Cup duly followed in 2002 and the next season saw Ferriby make the NPL Division 1 play-offs, losing out to Radcliffe Borough, before breaking Hull City’s record for consecutive East Riding Cup wins with a 7th to offset the disappointment a little (they’ve since won 19 between 1971 and 2014). They would achieve promotion in 2005 to the NPL Premier Division, foregoing the play-offs on this occasion to take the title and immediately had success, being long-time Premier Division leaders until fading a little and finishing 5th, losing out in the play-off final to another village club:- Farsley Celtic.

Spending the next seven years in the Premier Division and winning a pair of NPL League Challenge Cups (2012 & 2013), Ferriby would eventually secure promotion in 2013, again as champions, after defeating Ashton United on the final day of the season to ensure a place in the National League North. They immediately finished as runners-up, narrowly missing out on promotion, but the next season would see major silverware won in the form of the FA Trophy, the club’s ‘return’ to Wembley this time being a successful one, as the club eventually saw off Wrexham on penalties after a 3-3 draw. The next season saw yet more success for the Villagers, as they went and got promoted to the National League, defeating AFC Fylde at Grange Lane by 2-1 AET. However, it’s all gone downhill from there, with two straight relegations seeing the club return to the NPL and it’s about to become three – likely within the next few weeks – a number of managerial changes and changes in ownership failing to arrest the slide, it seemingly more akin to a downhill slope.

The game got underway following a minute’s silence for a long-standing home supporter and it was a fairly evenly matched first ten minutes or so, though it wasn’t long until I heard a bit of a something going on at the gate and rumours of a banning order began to go around between some in the NFU supporters’ ranks. Back on the pitch, it was the hosts who had the first clear chance when Alex Knox saw his shot parried away and the acrobatic overhead follow-up was clawed away by the recovering GK. However, Gainsborough steadily took control, and after left-back Ben Gordon had shown good persistence to drive into the box, his pull back found Alex Byrne, who could only fire wide.

Match Action

Match Action

Watching on….

But the visitors would break the deadlock shortly afterwards when Anthony Wilson showed a good touch before feeding his strike partner Ashley Worsfold who confidently slotted home. They went close again soon after when Will Longbottom curled a free-kick narrowly wide of the Ferriby goal, and despite the hosts coming back into it and fashioning a couple of good sights of goal, Trinity’s #11 Longbottom would be denied by a fine double stop by the Ferriby GK Lewis Exall, but the visitors would strike again just before the break, when they were awarded a penalty and Worsfold doubled his and his side’s tally – hammering the spot-kick down the middle. 2-0, half-time.

Worsfold nets from the spot

Spending half-time munching away on a decent portion of chips, mushy peas and gravy, the second half soon began and it wasn’t long until Gainsborough killed off the game. Within a couple of minutes of the restart, Anthony Wilson found space just outside the area and curled a fantastic effort just inside the angle of the far corner woodwork. A fine strike. That goal ended Ferriby’s hopes of salvaging anything from the game in truth and their heads seemed to drop as Gainsborough took full control and pretty much peppered the home goal from then on in, only for a combination of wasteful finishing and good ‘keeping at times to keep the score down.

Match Action

Match Action

NFU ultras branch

Byrne and Longbottom continued to create problems and both saw shots fly over, before Shane Clark should’ve really done better when he capitalised on some indecisive defending to nip the ball away from the home defence, but saw his shot eventually saved, as did Longbottom, seeing another well hit free kick kept out by Exall. Wilson then scrambled the ball against the post after a quick break, before the game settled somewhat until the final throes saw sub Damian Reeves slot home number 4 and add gloss to the scoreline. Full-time, 0-4.

Post-match, I bid farewell to the ousted Matthew still positioned at his gate viewpoint (though I have since seen that it was actually someone else involved with the fanzine and not him, which just shows the disconnection from the top) and headed back to North Ferriby high-street and to the Duke of Cumberland, which was packed full and is clearly the centre of the community. Luckily, I managed to just beat the evening rush and so was able to secure a seat with a pint of San Miguel (£3.40)whilst trying to figure out with the trip to the Humber Bridge was truly worth it, over an easier (and earlier) trip home. I reckoned that, no, it wasn’t, and so after wasting the best part of the hour’s wait in the pub, I headed through the evening foggy haze that was beginning to fall over the village.

Duke of Cumberland

The Buccaneer in Brough

On the way to the station, I ended up being startled by one guy coming out of his driveway without any sound whatsoever. I began to ramble something, thinking he had seen my startled brief stop, but it soon became apparent he hadn’t and so I assume I seemed like a crazy drunk from out-of-town! That’s usually correct, so I wouldn’t blame anyone assuming this! Anyway, upon grabbing the hourly local stopper the one stop down the way to Brough, I had a good hour’s connection here too and so I was enforced to visit one of the local hostelries, the nearest to the station being the Buccaneer – seemingly an aircraft with a connection to the old airfield just across the tracks.

After milking the pint of Amstel whilst watching Wales overcome England in the Six Nations, it was finally time to head back to Manchester – a trip which was going well until my local connection was allowed to leave before a slightly delayed train for once and I ended up back on the bus home, a circuit I’m well versed in after the last six months or so! A good day had been had on the whole, and I sincerely hope that the problems at Ferriby are sorted through one way or another, as long as the club survives as it has been able to for years to this point. The village and surroundings are lovely (some of the houses wouldn’t look out-of-place in the Hollywood Hills) and the pubs I managed to visit were all decent too. Game was fine until the third killed it off, the ground nice to visit too and everyone about around the club I met seemed very welcoming too, which is always the way around these parts I find. On to another weekend we go and, hopefully, no banning this time….on or off the field!

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Workington

Result: Workington 0-3 Basford United (Northern Premier League Premier Division)

Venue: Borough Park (Saturday 16th February 2019, 3pm)

Att: 511

The strikes are over!!! Finally, Northern rail is (hopefully, when and if they turn up) back up and running on a Saturday and with that comes the possibility of getting to places that had been out of reasonable reach for quite some time. One such place just happened to be Workington and with Borough Park not long for this world, I figured what better time to make the trip to the Cumbrian Coast and the historic old home of “the Reds”.

Catching the twenty-past eight train into Warrington during the morning, having to bypass the ticket machine due to its seemingly ever-present technical issues, the usual walk through the town to Bank Quay was made prior to catching the connection up to Carlisle. Arriving a few minutes late was beneficial for once, shrinking my waiting time a little before the ride over the rural route to the coast. Arriving at a little before midday, the staple ‘getting lost’ part of the trip was overcome with little overall waywardness and upon coming to Wetherspoons, I figured I’d start off in their tried and tested environment. An old theatre/cinema building (not as impressive as others I’ve been in, though), it was a pleasant enough place to plan out the rest of the day’s itinerary over a Punk IPA, alongside a bit of people-watching/being a weird line drinker, depending on whose point of view you want to look at it from!

Arrived in Workington courtesy of a bit of its history

‘Spoons

Miner’s Arms

As a little drizzle began to fall from the sky, I headed over to a back-road that was the strangest place for a pub hotbed I’ve ever come across. 4 pubs are located in pretty much a straight line, with three all but neighbouring each other. After visiting the local-centric Miners Arms for a Kronenbourg, the next pub along by the name of the Grapes was quiet though welcoming and, more interestingly, had Singha on draught. Of course, with that being one of the lesser-spotted draught beers – outside of Indian restaurants – , I opted for a pint of that, with it coming in at a pocket pleasing £3.10

Finishing up, I headed the few doors down to the neighbours of the Blue Bell and the Old Red House, though neither were overly blue or red, which I suppose is to not put off any Worky or Carlisle fans from either establishment! Both were decent, the former having only racing on for their punters (Coors £3.20), but the latter had the early kick-off on to get me in the football mood. A pint of Amstel and its old Champions League connotations, also at £3.20, helped this feeling along too, before I walked over to Borough Park to secure a programme (I was kindly allowed inside to do so) before back-tracking for a final pre-match drink of Dark Fruits at the nearby Waverley Hotel.

Workington is a coastal town and civil parish on the mouth of the River Derwent and is on the West Coast of Cumbria. Historically in Cumberland in the Borough of Allerdale, it has history from the Roman era in defences and forts protecting from attacks by the Irish Scoti and Scottish Caledonii. A Viking sword was also found on the Northside of the River Derwent, suggesting a settlement may have been sited there during the era of their invading and later settling. The Roman fort (likely Magis), now known as Burrows Walls, was also on the North side of the river and further fortifications and watch towers suggest that the era was an extension of Hadrian’s Wall to protect from sea invasions. The town’s current name is derived from the old-English “Weorc” (likely a man’s name) and the suffixes “ingas” (people or sons of) and “tun” (settlement). The settlers were followers of Weorc and would have named themselves “Weorcingas” (Weorc’s People), though the town’s name has since been written in 105 different ways over a millennia. Later, it was beleieved monks connected to those at Lindisfarne had a community in the area and lost their gospels on trying to cross to Ireland, though returned safely themselves.

Workington

Remains of Workington Hall

The Curwens, Lords of the Manor of Workington, were heavily involved in the First War of Scottish Independence and their motto is said to derive from the arrival of their troops at the Battle of Falkirk – turning the battle in favour of the English King Edward. It was here William Wallace was defeated and it’s been claimed since that Sir Gilbert de Curwen left his arrival strategically late as to join the winning side, as he had allegiances in both armies. Upon Wallace’s execution, Robert the Bruce was duly crowned King of Scotland and would go on to contest the Second War, also against King Edward. After claiming his knighthood in battle in France – fighting on behalf of King Edward III’s cause to take the French throne, he would become a victim of the infamous Black Death in 1403, which also claimed his son who’d taken on his mantle. The family would also (allegedly) feature at the Battle of Agincourt, later fights against the Scots and the Wars of the Roses, supporting both sides where the crown went. Mary, Queen of Scots, spent her first night in England in Workington Hall after defeat at the Battle of Langside prior to being escorted to Carlisle Castle to begin her ill-fated imprisonment.

Later, politician John Curwen introduced acts to lift restrictions on the Catholic community in the country in the late 18th century and helped to forest the area around Windermere. He would also be a strong supporter of the abolition of slavery and introduced social security and mutual benefit schemes for his farm and colliery workers, of which coal would continue to be a long-term industry along with iron ore and steelworks throughout later years and centuries. Most of these would depart the area in recent times, with chemical, cardboard, the docks and recycling companies largely becoming local employers along with the nearby nuclear facility at Sellafield and those that go with it. The British Cattle Movement Service (a government agency which oversees the beef and dairy industry) is also based in Workington and the town also produced Leyland Buses and the much-maligned Pacer trains, the bus factory later taken on by Eddie Stobart. The Cumbrian Coast rail line gives connections to Lancaster/Preston and Carlisle and a temporary station was once hosted here (Workington North) which operated during the flood recovery times in 2009, connecting the main Workington station and Maryport.

The Grapes

Blue Bell and Red House

Waverley Hotel

After heading back to Borough Park once again, I paid my student discount (thank God that’s back for even further savings) of £7 and was into the sprawling expanses of the covered terrace. The old main stand which was closed and largely dismantled after the Bradford fire, though it remains in spirit with the bottom part still standing and housing the dressing rooms, clubhouse and other facilities. The opposite side is home to what had become the defacto main stand, a covered seating and standing affair, with the standing area at the rear separated by a wall bearing the W. A. F. C initials upon it. To the front is further terracing protruding from under the cover, with the far end (and intermittent parts) all being expanses of uncovered terracing. That’s Borough Park in a nutshell, and this is the story of Workington A.F.C….

History Lesson :

Workington A.F.C. was founded in 1921, though, in very early and different guises, the game of football dates back from at least the 18th century, with one of the earliest records of a match dating from 1775, which states the match is “long contested”, suggesting the game’s history goes back further than this. A local game of “Uppies and Downies” continues to be contested annually alongside Workington’s Borough Park home. Association football was brought to the town in the 1880’s and it’s thought a group of migrating steel workers from Dronfield (current home to Sheffield F.C. of course) further popularised the game and eventually founded the original Workington AFC in 1888.

The original side became a founding member of the Cumberland Association League shortly after their own founding, playing at Lonsdale Park, and remained in the League through to 1894 when they moved to the Cumberland Senior League, before a further switch of scenery saw the club move to the Lancashire League in 1901. However, the League would fold just two years later and thus Workington returned to the Cumberland Senior League for one season prior to their admission into the Lancashire Combination in 1904, remaining there until 1910 when switching leagues one last time to compete for a sole season in the North East League before folding. Post-war, the Workington AFC name was re-introduced, with the current club starting life where their predecessor ended its own. In 1933-’34, the club achieved their best FA Cup run, making the Fourth Round before bowing out to Preston North End. Workington won two North Eastern League Challenge Cups in 1935 &’ 37 too and lifted their first Cumberland Senior Cup in 1887, the first of five consecutive triumphs, winning the Cup on 24 occasions up to 2009.

Arriving at Borough Park

Moving to Borough Park just before the outbreak of the Second World War, and in 1951 the club were voted in to join the Football League’s Third Division North at the expense of Wirral-based New Brighton. However they would struggle in their initial couple of years, finishing the first two seasons in bottom and second-bottom place respectively. But fortunes changed when they appointed a man who would go down in management folklore – Bill Shankly. He would only remain at the club for just under two seasons before moving on to pastures new, but Workington had somewhat settled into Football League life by that point. In 1957-’58, Workington hosted the famed Busby babes of Manchester United, just a month before the Munich Air Disaster, a match which attracted a record 21,000 fans to Borough Park to watch the ill-fated young side.

Come the end of that same season, Workington would be placed in Division 4 of the reorganised Football League and in 1964, the Reds would finish up in 3rd place and achieve promotion to the nationalised Third Division. During that season, as well as the following campaign, Workington reached the quarter-finals of the League Cup – bowing out to West Ham United and Chelsea (after a replay) respectively, the ’64 run seeing them overcome Blackburn Rovers 5-1, though the following season would see an occurrence go from being remembered fondly to one tinged with sadness years later, as Workington’s Tony Geidmintis was given his Football League bow aged just 15 but would sadly pass away at the young age of just 43. This period also saw the club field Peter Foley, who’d go on to receive an OBE for his work in combating racism in football.

WAFC

1966 would see Workington reach their best-ever finish, 5th in the Third Division, before slipping down to bottom of the table the next year to return to the Fourth Division. They would never bounce back from this and would eventually become something of a staple at the wrong end of the table, ending up second-bottom in each of 1974 and 1975, prior to ending up bottom of the League in 1976. They would be re-elected on that occasion, but the following season saw the Reds record just four league wins all year in again finishing bottom, and this would be a contributing factor for the death knell of Workington as a Football League club, as they were replaced by Wimbledon. In being relegated, Workington became the penultimate side to be ousted from the League by this rule.

Now back in the non-league ranks, the club would end up dropping into the Northern Premier League, but would never finish higher than 7th before dropping into the NPL’s First Division in 1988, though did win the league’s President’s Cup in 1984. However, their struggles wouldn’t end there and after a decade in the Division 1 of the NPL they were relegated to the North West Counties League’s top-level. Their stay in the NWCFL Division 1 would be a short one though, and they would win the title at the first attempt, defeating Mossley in a title decider (with Grant Holt on the Reds’ scoresheet) and, in doing so, lifting their first ever championship – some feat for a former league team!

Back in the NPL’s Division 1, the club would remain there until 2004 when a 7th placed finish was comfortably enough to ensure a spot back in the Premier Division upon the pyramid’s restructuring. This enabled Workington’s progress to continue and, after finishing as Premier Division runners-up the next season, would achieve promotion to the Conference North through the first-ever NPL play-offs. The Conference North would become a long-term home for Workington over the next decade, with the club reaching the play-off semi-finals in 2007 (losing out to Hinckley United) and 2010 (losing to Alfreton Town) before eventually being relegated in 2014 and returning to the NPL Premier Division. After reaching the following three season’s play-offs – losing out on each occasion to Ilkeston Town, Salford City and Stourbridge (the latter two in the semi-finals) respectively – 2017-’18 looked to be heading a similar way only for injuries to tell and Workington to drop away from 2nd to mid-table. This season has seen the struggles return, with the club battling the drop to the Division 1 again.

Getting underway after a minute’s appreciation for the legendary Gordon Banks, there was another “blast from the past” between the Basford sticks by the name of Saul Deeney who helped Burton Albion (when still a non-league outfit) secure a replay with Manchester United way back when. The Northern Irishman was called into action early on in the piece too, denying both Workington front men, before Basford were awarded a spot-kick upon a fairly needless trip and it was another veteran of the same Burton side, Shaun Harrad, who stepped up to confidently find the net. 1-0 Basford.

Match Action

View from the ‘Main’ Stand

Match Action

Workington would have the majority of the play during the remainder of the half, though it was only sparingly that they truly troubled the visitors’ defence. Niall Cowperthwaite had an effort blocked and Conor Tinnion headed over, before the latter had a shot brilliantly tipped over the bar by Deeney. A late first-half bit of aggro livened things up as I exited from the old stand rooms with a tray of chips and curry but the scoreline would remain the same as the referee’s whistle signalled the break.

The second half saw Basford seek to be more proactive in their attacking approach, as they took advantage of the hosts’ own forays forward in search of a game-clinching second. After Workington’s Brad Carroll had seen a disappointingly tame shot easily saved, Basford front man Watson broke clear but with only the ‘keeper to beat, he chose to go for a chip, which proved a poor decision akin to that of the guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade….okay, maybe not that bad, but the ball drifted a fair way wide and the chance had gone.

Match Action

Match Action

From the covered terracing

The hosts responded with some great chances to level – the dangerous Cowperthwaite firing across goal but the ball narrowly avoided the far side-netting, before fellow wide man Tinnion unleashed a great drive from 20 yards which Deeney again met with a brilliant stop. Tinnion would then also see a header loop up and off the top of the crossbar, but you felt these missed chances would come back to haunt the Reds, and so it proved when, with around twenty minutes left, Basford grabbed the all important second goal of the game when James Reid’s delivery was met by the unmarked substitute Zak Goodwin who duly nodded in. If that wasn’t game over, then it definitely was a couple of minutes later, as a free-kick was only half-cleared to Jack Thomas and he judged a chipped effort to perfection from a fair way out, the ball dipping in at just the right moment. 3-0 and game over.

Late on…

A pair of late chances for both sides could have seen the score-line added too, Goodwin showed good footwork to work a chance for himself to double his tally, only to wastefully send his shot wide and Cowperthwaite was denied by Deeney in the last real action of the game but that was that and Workington’s recent resurgence was over. Basford’s quest for another promotion to continue their impressive rise up the pyramid continues on. Post-match saw me unable to find the pub out near the waterside the other side of the station and, as such, I thought I’d set off home a little earlier and pay a visit to Carlisle station’s 301 miles bar. On the way there, though, I was asked for travel guidance to get to Kendal by a girl from California (culture shock or what?!) and my attempts at initially explaining my reasons for being in Workington for football again ended up with it being taken that I was playing there. I didn’t lie, I just didn’t ruin the experience!

Eventually guiding her to the correct place (my unfamiliarity with Carlisle likely giving the unintentional ruse away), the visit to 301 miles was undertaken, a pint of Amstel (£4) had before it was back on the train to Manchester, which slightly broke down near Wigan. Lovely. Luckily, whatever the issue was, it was quickly rectified and the rest of the journey passed without issue and that was that. Good to get Borough Park done and it was a good experience too, the history really resonates around the ground. Workington as a town was OK, with food and programme beivg decent enough. Onto another culture job next week as I ferry myself Northwards…

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 9

Programme: 6

Food: 7

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Pontefract

Result: Pontefract Collieries 4-2 Belper Town (Northern Premier League Division 1 East)

Venue: Beechnut Lane (Saturday 12th January 2019, 3pm)

Att: 232

Another weekend with no plans set out came about and I arrived into Manchester still looking at where my fate may lie. Heading into Piccadilly station at around 11am, I popped up to the Hourglass bar for a pint of Shindigger Pale – which gave me a shock at £5.85 – before the twitterverse’s decision was given. Well, sort of. Despite putting it to a vote, the poll would come back level-pegging but a bit of positive feedback from fellow ‘hopper the Wycombe Wanderer, Russ, saw me off to the old Yorkshire mining town of Pontefract and Collieries’ NPL East game with Belper Town. Both the ground and town looked pretty interesting, so I was rather looking forward to my visit as I caught the Hull-bound train to Leeds where I’d catch the connection over to Ponte.

Actually managing to find a Northern service running on a Saturday (shock, horror, I know) the short half-hour hop to Pontefract was completed with little issue and I was soon paying a brief visit to the town’s castle, though it was under a fair bit of reconstruction work meaning it didn’t look quite as classic as it usually would, I supposed. Anyway, with the castle not at its full glory, I continued back down towards the town centre and first came across the appropriately named Golden Ball. However, upon entering, it appeared that the golden ball in question was more egg-shaped than round. A Strongbow in here sufficed for a quick one before I continued up the high-street and through the pedestrianised centre, bypassing a few hostelries I made a note of whilst heading right to the other side of the town and to Russ’ recommendation – the Robin Hood.

What’s left of the infamous Pontefract Castle

Golden Ball

Pontefract

It certainly was a good pointer too as it was probably the most craft/real ale centric pub I visited during the day, opting for a pint of London Fields Brewery’s Pale Ale (£4.45) whilst watching some of the early kick-off before returning back towards the centre and, more importantly, the ground. Incidentally and more than helpfully, the next few pubs were right up next to each other, though I had the time to visit just the two pre-match at that point, and even then it would have to be a quick in and out task, though time was aided by the fact two were actually next door. Nice. First up came the Ponty Tavern where I opted for a pint of Dark Fruits before popping next door to the Green Dragon for a Desperados prior to cutting through the nearby car-park and over the road towards the lights illuminating the surrounding, overcast area.

Pontefract is a historic market town in the West Riding of Yorkshire and is one of five towns within the metropolitan borough of Wakefield. The area has been inhabited since Neolithic times and the modern town is located upon an old Roman road from Doncaster known as the “Roman Ridge”, likely used as an alternative route to the main road over the Humber to York in times of bad weather. Around the time of the finely named Viking king Eric Bloodaxe in 954 AD through to the arrival of the Normans, Pontefract was made up of two townships known as Tanshelf and Kirkby. Known as Tateshalle (or something alike) within the Domesday Book, Tanshelf is first mentioned in 947 AD when King Eadred of England met with the ruling council of Northumbria to accept its submission to him. This wouldn’t last long, and the aforementioned Danish king Bloodaxe would soon become King of York. Kirkby, meanwhile derives from the latter’s language being given the tell-tale suffix “-by”.

Pontefract market place

After the Norman Conquest, the area fell under the control of William the Conqueror and Tateshale (another name Tanshelf was called) was given to an ally by the name of Ilbert de Lacy who constructed a castle there. The wooden motte and bailey castle dated from 1086 before being rebuilt in stone, the family remaining in situ until 1348 and the death of Alice de Lacy. It is also infamous in English history as the site of King Richard II’s murder (or starvation), though the exact reason for his demise is unknown. Pontefract is also the apparent site of the legendary Robin Hood’s death, it being stated he died in Kirkby. The town was also mentioned in both of Shakespeare’s plays – ‘Richard II’ & ‘Richard III’ under the name ‘Pomfret’ as it was known in Tudor times.

During the English Civil War, the castle was put under siege by the Parliamentarian forces of Oliver Cromwell who called it “….one of the strongest inland garrisons in the kingdom”. An eventual three sieges were suffered by the Royalist-supporting town, leaving it impoverished and depopulated, with the remaining residents calling for it to be knocked down, in fear of a fourth. The remaining ruins show what the outcome of that, as the castle was deconstructed from 1649. The All Saints church was also damaged during the conflict, with a new one built within the ruins of the old, whilst the priory had already fell during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.

Looking across from the castle

Nowadays, the town continues to host a market as it has done since the middle ages, and is known in jest by locals as “Ponte Carlo” (I’d like to see that track). The former General Infirmary is also infamous as it was the place Harold Shipman began his murder spree, whilst beneath this building is an old hermitage. Its barracks currently house a recruitment regiment of the Rifles, whilst the town hosts three railway stations (Tanshelf, Baghill and Monkhill), which would have been handy when the town (allegedly) held the record for most pubs per square mile in the country.

Passing underneath the neighbouring railway line via a small tunnel, you head round past a couple of warehouses and down a dirt track before arriving at the turnstiles. Handing over my £8 entry, I initially thought the programmes were sold out, before being helped out by one of the guys on raffle duties who pointed me back in the direction of the gate. £2 lighter, I made my way into the main stand ahead of kick-off, which was just moments away at this time, the seats within are some of those that previously resided in Maine Road back-in-t’day.

Robin Hood

Final stops: Ponte Tavern & Green Dragon

Arriving at Beechnut Lane

Elsewhere, Beechnut Lane is a great little ground. Its quirky, ramshackle nature is highly appealing to those who like places with character to them, the Main Stand retaining the style that seems fairly commonplace in and around the Ridings and has a mix of seats and a small area of benched seating towards the middle. Behind the near-end goal is a covered terrace that runs most of the width of the pitch, whilst both the far side and end are open, hard standing, though the far side does host a small grass mound with a stream right behind and the railway embankment above it, featuring a number of passing choo-choos for those into grounds featuring the two! The hospitality area is between the terrace and entrance, tucked back from the pitch and is adjoined to the food bar. The dressing rooms and bar, meanwhile, are located within the stand. That’s the ground in a nutshell (get it….ok) and this is the story of Ponte Colls….

History Lesson:

Pontefract Collieries Football Club was founded in 1958, though the town is known to have been home to a football club since at least the 1890’s, when a side comprised mostly of soldiers from the garrison stationed in Pontefract played in the West Yorkshire League as the imaginatively named Pontefract Garrison. Unfortunately, there is a dark period with regards to information from this point through to the current club, though it is known the Garrison side reached the higher Yorkshire League by the end of the 1920’s but would not being able to finish the 1929-’30 season. However, 1935 would see the Pontefract name return to football as Tanshelf Gems became Pontefract United after moving to a ground on Ackwith Grove. They would dominate the local scene pre-WWII, but were joined post-war by a side under the name of Pontefract Collieries. This Colls side would go on to have slightly the better of the fortunes on the pitch, with both being competitors in the West Yorkshire League. However, 1960 would see the Colls team fold with the name being rekindled not too long after as United merged with a local youth team and adopted the name for themselves.

The new club quickly asserted itself, returning to the West Yorkshire League and gaining a fair amount of success before again joining the Yorkshire League in 1979 and winning its Division 3 in 1982. This would prove to be the last season of the old Yorkshire League in this guise as it would then merge with the Midland League to form the Northern Counties East League. Colls became a founder member and would remain in the league for the next 36 years. They started life there well, two successive promotions in both the first two seasons saw the club finish as Division 2 runners-up and Division 1 champions whilst making the top-flight and remaining there for the next decade whilst continuing to improve their Beechnut Lane home.

In the clubhouse

The club would add cup success to their honours list, winning two NCEL Floodlit Cups whilst also making losing appearances in two West Riding County Cup finals and in the 1994 NCEL President’s Cup. However a change of manager saw a turn for the worse with the club relegated in 1995, yet this would only be brief, with a further change in the hot seat seeing Colls return to form and a runners-up finish saw them make an immediate return to the NCEL Premier, whilst also lifting the “Wilkinson Sword” Trophy to secure a 1995-’96 double. Unfortunately they would miss out in the NCEL League Cup final the next season before again suffering the drop to Division 1 in 1999, just missing out on survival on goal difference alone.

Things would stagnate for a while before again taking a turn for the worse after the millennium. Losing out in their second Wilkinson Sword Trophy final appearance in 2000 to Goole on aggregate, they would go on to finish bottom of the NCEL Division 1 two years later. Things would recover though and Colls would again make the Wilkinson Sword Trophy final in 2003, finishing as runners-up and made a good recovery in the league in finishing 4th. However, the recovery was brief and Colls would be forced to seek re-election in 2004 whilst also being affected off the field by fires in the main stand and tea bar, whilst the loss of the nearby Prince of Wales Colliery also hit the club hard as they also lost electricity supply to their home. On the pitch, meanwhile, things looked bleak as the club were saved from dropping out of the “pyramid” system on more than one occasion thanks to league restructuring and happenings higher up the divisions. Things reached their trough in 2007-’08 as, despite winning their first game, Colls would go the rest of the season without a victory, finishing up with just nine points. Again, restructuring would come to their rescue, saving their place in the NCEL.

Teams & teas

Under Simon Houghton, things drastically improved over the following two campaigns as early runs at the top of table were enjoyed before eventually falling away. Houghton would depart and former Leeds United skipper Brendon Ormsby was installed as his replacement, though things didn’t go to plan and he would be replaced by joint player-managers Nick Handley and Duncan Bray, who suffered just the one defeat in the last ten games in securing a third straight 5th place finish in 2013. A ninth-place finish in 2014 preceded a successful year as they finished as Division 1 runners-up to return to the NCEL Premier Division for the first time in 16 years.

The club’s return to the NCEL’s top-tier wouldn’t be a successful one and a bad run saw a new management team of Craig Parry, alongside assistants Craig Rouse and Nigel Danby brought in, but they couldn’t save the club from an immediate return to Division 1, finishing up third-bottom. But, they would again bounce back at the first attempt – again finishing as Division 1 runners-up to return to the Premier Division. This time, the club went on to go straight on through the division, taking the title after reeling in AFC Mansfield’s 21-point lead in making up their games in hand on the Bulls, after bowing out in the last 32 of the FA Vase to ensure full focus was on their league campaign. Ponte passed 100 points in taking the Premier Division title and, as such, are playing Northern Premier League football for the first time in the club’s history this season.

The game got underway and the first real chance of the game produced the first goal. Within the first ten minutes, the strong starting Belper outfit were awarded a pretty clear-cut penalty for a push, with skipper Craig Nelthorpe taking responsibility from the spot and making no mistake with a confident finish. I would leave the relative comfort of the stand at this point, proclaiming to the Belper tracksuit-clad guy next to me that I “was off”, making him think I was there for just the solitary goal and that was enough!

Belper open the scoring

Match Action

Belper continued to be on the front foot and were well and truly dominating the early phases of the contest and would see further chances for Danny Gordon and Nathan Curtis go off-target as the Nailers looked to push home their apparent advantage. By the time I’d completed my lap and gotten back around to the food bar – ordering some cheesy chips as the half drew to its conclusion – the game had settled down a little and become more competitive, though there wasn’t a whole lot in the way of action as a result bar a scramble in the Belper box that saw Leigh Overton keep out the initial free-kick, the loose ball eventually being cleared by the visiting defence.

Match Action

From the terrace

But then, on the stroke of the break, Belper would double their advantage as Pitou Crouz sprung clear and advanced upon the Pontefract goal, where he fired across the home ‘keeper and into the far corner to secure a two-goal advantage heading into the dressing rooms, although I had missed most of the action for this strike whilst queuing, my view obscured by the stand. Ah well, what can you do? It was little more than Belper’s first-half showing had deserved and I returned back to the clubhouse for a bit of a warm.

The second-half was soon underway and if you wanted a proverbial “game of two halves”, then this was the one for you. It couldn’t have been any different from the first from both sides’ perspectives as, after a fairly inconspicuous start, Ponte would come on strong. Overton would deny a header early on in the half in something of a precursor of what was to come, before the hosts did pull one back on the hour, a cross eventually finding its way to the feet of Chris Jackson, who knocked home from close-range.

Match Action

Ponte about to go ahead

With renewed vigour and belief, Ponte came at Belper straight from the resultant kick-off and found themselves level just seconds later when Michael Dunn was found on the left flank and he cut inside prior to firing above Overton and into the roof of the net, sparking some scenes. The blue-touch paper had now been lit and Belper almost hit-back themselves, Louis Danquah striking the upright soon afterwards, but this would only prove to be a false dawn for Belper’s hopes of recovering their position and the hosts’ comeback was completed with around twenty-five minutes to play, when a corner from the right was met by the head of Spencer Clarke – the ball nestling into the net to spark jubilation in the Colls ranks.

From the Main Stand

Hey completes the win.

As the clock began to wind down to the game’s end, the Nailers began to throw caution to the wind somewhat and commit more bodies to their attacks it seemed. Nathan Curtis again went close, as did right-back Isaac Assenso, but it was to be in vain and things would end on even more of a sour note for the visitors from Derbyshire, as Curtis was given his marching orders for a second yellow for a rash challenge and Pontefract would add a fourth late in stoppage time as Eli Hey was felled in the area and, in some ways summing the game up, he would convert Colls’ own pen to complete the scoring. Full-time, 4-2 and a quick exit was made through the ever more cold evening air.

Post-match it was back from whence I came, with me giving a lad on a bike a cheap laugh by splashing through an unseen puddle in the increasing darkness. Unscathed by mud somehow upon inspection, I carried on undeterred and to the Windmill Inn back in the town centre. A bonus of this place was that it was that it was a Sam Smith’s pub and, if you follow my blogs regularly, you know what that means. Cheap pint alert!!!! A Taddy Lager (£2.30) was most welcome as I warmed up in the cosy, traditional bar area prior to continuing to head more towards the station for the last train back to Leeds…..at half five. Jesus Christ.

Windmill

Liquorice Bush

Next on the tick-list was a choice of two – either the Beastfair (from the square it stands on) or the interestingly named Liquorice Bush (later I found it’s due to the fact the town is one of a rare few in Britain that can grow liquorice in its soil) – deciding the Malt Shovels was a little too far to bother with. I chose the latter on account it was open when I passed earlier in the day and with time conspiring against me ever quicker it seemed, I chose to stick on the weaker stuff. A Dark Fruits in here (£3) was followed by another in the Horse Vaults (£3) just past the Town Hall before a quick stop in Pontefract’s Wetherspoon’s, the Broken Bridge – coming from the town’s derived name – where a bottle of Hooch sufficed for the five minutes I had before returning to the station for the train, nodding off somewhere along the way back and being awoken at Leeds. Cheers to the guy who saved me a possible trip to a depot!

Horse Vaults

‘Spoons to round off with

The remainder of the journey back to Manchester and onwards home was completed without issue to end off the day which, again, had been good fun despite having been up in the air approaching midday. Pontefract as a town far exceeded my expectations on arrival, whilst the ground was one of those that appeals to me for sure, in many an aspect. The game was brilliant too, the food decent and the programme a good read. Complaints? Nada. Just the fact I was hamstrung for time could be a small gripe, but that’s not really anything I’m too concerned about. Anyway, onto another week and its off to Staffordshire once again to get one of the more tricky North West Counties grounds out the way. ‘Shall we….?!

RATINGS:

Game: 10

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Droylsden (2)

 

Result: Droylsden 1-1 Tadcaster Albion (FA Trophy Preliminary Round)

Venue: Butcher’s Arms (Saturday 13th October 2018, 3pm)

Att: 167

Non-League Day rolled around once again and with the seemingly never-ending train strikes continuing on unabated, another local revisit was on the cards for this week; the only question being “Where?”. Well, my regular accomplice on these pages, Dan, had already told me of his want to get to the Butcher’s Arms, home of Droylsden FC, the only “major” local ground he’d never made it to by this point. As such, the decision was a fairly simple one, made all the more attractive by the game in question being a tie in the FA Trophy. The visitors would be Tadcaster Albion, whom I’m sure had visions of less of a bloodbath at the Butcher’s than what happened just down the road from them at the Battle of Towton.

Setting off at just after half-ten, the easy bus journey into Manchester saw me able to grab an earlier than planned service into Droylsden. My original starting point was still shut up at this point, so I instead diverted back to the brilliantly named Lazy Toad, just on the edge of the town centre. It was here on New Year’s Day, that I had received the bad news of the late postponement of the Bloods’ game that day and I even repeated the trick almost as a whole, sitting in the same seat at the same table, though did mix things up beer-wise by opting for a pint of the Pravha, which came in at the quite astonishing price of £2.70. Considering I’ve seen how much it can cost whilst on my travels, this was a fine start! A nice welcome was had too as I got to the bar, which never goes unnoticed. Wasting away the extra-time I now had in here on account of my earlier than planned arrival, I planned out my itinerary for the day, which would see a slow and steady crawl along Market Street’s few offerings and up to the ground. Next up, the Silly Country. Some great pub names around here! (NB: This is apparently derived from a nickname given to the town by the Mancunians, relating to a legend that grew about the people of Droylsden putting a pig on a wall to watch the annual carnival and other festivities).

Arriving in Droylsden

Lazy Toad

Droylsden Square

Droylsden is a former mill town located between Manchester City Centre and Ashton-under-Lyne, just within the borough of Tameside. Originally settled in 900 AD, it would later grow in the mid-19th century to become a mill town, where the world’s first machine woven towel would be produced at Fairfield Mill under the name of W.M. Christy and Sons, with Queen Victoria being a regular user of their business and their newly created product, derived from the looped Turkish versions. Sadly, as with many places, the site is now a Tesco. Droylsden would latterly grow into an overflow housing area for the workers in and around Manchester around the 1930’s and was also the apparent host of Britain’s first ever Speedway meet in 1927, the sport then being termed simply as “dirt track racing”. More recently, during the mid-to-later-2000’s, the town became home a Marina just off the canal, which appears to be well used, though the predicted building and facilities don’t seem to have fully come to fruition.

The Silly Country is a recently opened ale/craft/bottle shop kind of place, and I arrived just prior to the place emptying out on account of the place having a tour of a brewery on the go. Regardless, I opted to be sensible(!) for now and went for a pint of the Brazilian lager beer, Cruzcampo which, at £4.40, would be by far my dearest choice of the day. Not that I minded whatsoever, as the Silly Country is definitely a nice place to enjoy a pint in if you’re into the above side of things. Anyway, after watching the world go by from its prime position at the corner of the town’s clock square and seeing a kid lose his hat on two very swift occasions by the hand of the apparent “Storm Callum”, I finished up and continued up the way, the Beehive Inn being just a few doors down. The Beehive is definitely my sort of place. A seemingly older pub than those around it, its interior is very timber-orientated and is nicely decorated with varied paraphernalia too – a real traditional kind of place. Split into two parts, it was still fairly quiet upon my arrival and I took up a spot in the corner whilst overhearing (unintentionally I can assure you) stories of drunken exploits from the night before, which were more than entertaining….especially when you can relate!

Trying to take up as much time as possible (the time hadn’t quite reached half-one by the time I was half-way through my pint) over the Boddington’s in front of me, I fell into the trap of clock-watching, a decision which never helps when you’re wishing the time away as I’m sure you are all well aware. Eventually, though, the clock did tick on round to ten-to-two and so I supped the final dregs and again headed on a few doors away, across the road from the large retail park and to the King’s Arms, complete with a large image of local hero Guardsman Tony Downes, the soldier from the town who was sadly killed in action whilst serving in Iraq. He also has an office building named after him too, which is a further nice touch of remembrance. I guess from the statement on said poster that he had links to the pub at the very least. Passing Tony with a nod, I headed in and was soon in possession of a pint of the fine Bootleg Brewery’s IPA at the ever interesting Holt’s price of £3.03. Dan arrived shortly afterwards to join me in taking up the remaining time leading up to kick-off, opting for a pint of Diamond Lager whilst bemoaning a lack of Carling – I don’t know what else I can do to solve this issue….

The Silly Country

The Beehive

King’s Arms

Eventually, it was finally time to head to the Butcher’s Arms and, after taking a pic of the ground’s perimeter from where the pub of the same name once stood up to its demolition almost a decade ago now (God, I feel old writing that) we headed for the turnstiles, paying our £8 entry, plus a further £2 for a programme, which I’d missed out on my other blog visit a few years back, when the Bloods took on the recently “Class of 92’d” Salford City in abhorrent weather conditions. A quick peruse of the teamsheet, which is helpfully on display as you enter, showed the likes of ex-Football League and Premier League academy players Liam Dickinson (ex-Leeds & Derby), Febian Brandy (ex-Manchester United & Wolves) and Javan Vidal (ex-Manchester City) lining up for the Bloods. Sadly, there’s no Jonathan Greening these days to compliment them from Taddy’s side. After heading around to pitchside, a twenty-minute wait faced up prior to kick-off, which allowed a look around the ground. The far end is open, hard standing, whilst the opposite end is host to a sizable, covered terrace. A small, older terrace is located on the far side, and has recently had a smarten up out front, with a big red sign proclaiming “Droylsden Football Club” across the field. The large “William Pace” all-seater Main Stand is right in front of you as you enter and offers decent views over the action, whilst a small amount of terracing is located out front. The clubhouse is right alongside to the left as you enter, with the usual food bar there too, though this was out of action today and replaced by a trailer. That’s the Butcher’s Arms in a quick summary, and this is the story of the Bloods….

History Lesson:

Droylsden Football Club was founded in 1892 at the invitation of the landlord of the Butcher’s Arms pub and thus played behind said establishment. After spending their first two decades going in and out of existence whilst playing in local league’s and playing friendly fixtures – including winning the Ashton & District League in 1914. Post-war, the club would emerge as the village’s sole surviving team and became members of the Manchester League, whilst also adopting their now familiar red and white strip. They won the 1923 Manchester Junior Cup, gaining revenge on local rivals Hyde United who beat the Bloods in the 1921 final, whilst the 1930’s saw club legend Ernest Gilibrand net an astonishing 275 goals over four seasons, helping Droylsden to the Manchester League title in both 1931 & 1933.

1936 saw Droylsden successfully apply to join the Lancashire Combination and the club became a “nursery” side for Manchester City’s surplus players, though this link ruled the club out of the FA Cup. They would remain in the Combination through to the outbreak of WWII, with the Bloods joining the wartime Cheshire League and finished runners-up in 1945-’46. However, things went downhill quickly and the club failed in their re-election bid just four years later and also lost the lease of the Butcher’s Arms to Belle Vue F.C. who then renamed themselves as Droylsden United. Common sense would prevail from prior experience, and the two clubs merged in 1952, after the Bloods played a short time at the Moorside Trotting Stadium, affectionately known as “Pork Park”.

The Butcher’s Arms, via the site of the pub

In 1952, the Bloods returned to the newly rotated ground at the Butcher’s and began to see silverware on a far more regular basis than before. During their stay in the Lancashire Combination through to 1968, they won four Manchester Premier Cups (1947,’52,’ 60,’65) prior to returning to the Cheshire League, after they’d lost sides due to the formation of the Northern Premier League. The club didn’t see too much in the way of success in the league, though would add a further Manchester Premier Cup (1970) & three Manchester Senior Cups to their honours board, these coming in 1973, ’76 &’ 79. They also managed to reach the FA Cup “proper” on two occasions, losing to Grimsby Town firstly in 1976, before defeating Rochdale in 1978 prior to bowing out to Altrincham.

After another Premier Cup win in 1981, fortunes would again take a turn for the worse in 1982, when Droylsden finished a distant bottom of the Cheshire League, though remained at the level after the merger with the Lancashire Combination to form the North West Counties League, with Droylsden placed in Division Two of three. They would win the Second Division in 1987, though would bypass Division One after successfully applying for the newly created NPL Division One, gaining an effective double promotion in the process. 1990 saw Droylsden finish as runners-up and achieve promotion to the NPL Premier Division. They would spend six seasons in the loser echelons of the division, winning another Manchester Premier Cup in 1993, prior to being relegated in 1996 and being on the wrong side of the fastest FA Cup hat-trick in history, when conceding three in 2 minutes 28 seconds against Nantwich Town.

DFC

After lifting the NPL’s Division One title and President’s Cup in 1999, an eighth Premier Cup in 2000 would follow. This time they were more competitive in the Premier Division and finished high enough in 2004 to receive an invite to take up a spot in the newly formed Conference North. They would also win that year’s NPL League Challenge Cup and the Manchester Premier Cup for a ninth time. Finishing the inaugural season in third, they narrowly missed out in the following season’s play-offs – losing in the final to Stafford Rangers on penalties. 2007 saw the Bloods notch their tenth Manchester Premier Cup with victory over the sadly departed Flixton, before defeating Harrogate Town three days later to win the Conference North and achieve promotion to the Conference National. However, they would be relegated after just the one season. The 2008-’09 season saw the Bloods reach the FA Cup Second Round after beating Darlington in the First Round. However, it would become somewhat farcical come the Second Round as it took three matches to overcome Chesterfield, after fog, floodlight failure and an eventual 2-1 win, with Sean Newton netting both Bloods goals. However, it was then discovered he was ineligible and Droylsden were duly expelled from the competition. Crazy.

They would share the Tony Downes Memorial Trophy with Chester City in 2008, and added two more Manchester Premier Cup titles in 2009 and 2010, and again reached the FA Cup Second Round in 2011, when they took Leyton Orient to a replay at Brisbane Road and led two-nil, only for Orient to storm back and avoid the upset, winning 8-2 after extra-time. After missing out in the play-offs to Fleetwood Town in 2010, things soon dipped for Droylsden and they were relegated back to the Northern Premier League in 2013 after finishing second-bottom, prior to suffering something of an annus horriblis the following year as they finished a distant bottom with just nine points and were duly relegated to the NPL Division 1 North, where they have spent the last four seasons, finishing up 13th on both of the last two occasions.

The game got underway and, unfortunately, it was very much a slow-burner. True action was at a real premium in the first half-hour, with only Taddy’s Casey Stewart looking a constant threat, though Febian Brandy would occasionally show glimpses of his talent here and there throughout those first thirty minutes too. Stewart had an iffy penalty shout waved away by the referee mid-way through this period, whilst Brandy saw his attempted cross become more of a threat to Taddy ‘keeper Michael Ingham’s goal than intended, the stopper having to tip the ball over the bar, whilst Domaine Rouse wastefully placed a free-header wide of the mark from the resultant corner.

Match Action

From the back of the terrace

The old & the new covered terraces

Brandy would again pose a threat on the right flank, forcing his way into the area before firing a low cross-cum-shot across the face of goal, the ball evading both a Droylsden foot and the far side-netting on its way wide, before Taddy again saw a stronger penalty shout turned down as Stewart was played in before being clipped from behind, though his attempts to stay up probably went against him. Eventually losing his footing and going down in the area, his pleas fell on deaf ears. However, the visitors really should have been one, if not two, up at the break, as they spurned two glorious chances in the lead up. First, Lamin Colley was played in by a nice through ball, but his shot from the angle was tipped onto the post by Bloods ‘keeper Chris Thompson, before Aiden Savory would put it on a plate (sorry!) for Stewart to run onto around thirty yards out. Beating the offside trap, he advanced to the edge of the box and, with only Thompson between him and the net, he curled the ball against the outside of the post. Goalless at half time, it was off to the food trailer for some cheesy chips (£1.50). Lovely.

The second half began with Tadcaster again being the more dangerous side overall. Billy Whitehouse saw his own low ball just evade Savory at the back-post, before they deservedly took the lead when Colley advanced into the area and saw his effort well kept out by Thompson, only for the ball to land at creator-in-chief Savory’s feet once again and this time his ball to Stewart resulted in the striker placing the ball into the rather unguarded net from six-yards. Droylsden responded by replacing the largely ineffective Dickinson with another ex-Manchester United youth player, Phil Marsh, whilst also replacing skipper Brewster and, latterly Brandy with his replacement being Brandon Zibaka, a player whom, on our arrival, I’d stated to Dan I’ve always rated….

Match Action

Match Action

Zibaka was introduced in the 81st minute and, just four minutes later, he’d drew his side level. A cross in from the left by Rouse found the tall target man Sefton Gonzales in the box and he manoeuvred himself well to chest the ball into the path of the newly arrived Zibaka who drilled his effort beyond Ingham and into the net. At that point, all the momentum looked to be with Droylsden and they appeared to be pressing on to get the win but there was little truly created towards the end of the game and the sides would have to do it all over again on Tuesday night in Yorkshire. As it was, Droylsden would go on to triumph 2-0 in the replay, taking them into the First Round where they will travel to another White Rose County side, Pickering Town.

Post-match, there was time to pop in to the Church Inn right next to the bus stop we’d need, which was quite the amusing experience. Again, made to feel welcome, it was good to spend the final twenty minutes or so of our day in here, though it did end up being third-time lucky on beer option, after my first two choices were off. Eventually settling on Heineken (£2.10), Dan was in his element, having seen Carling. I’ll never understand how he manages to get that excited. Anyway, we eventually finished up and headed out just as the bus was rolling into the bus stop a little early, meaning we could jump straight on and be on our way. 20 minutes later we were back in Piccadiily and another quick connection was made to take us homeward.

Church Hotel

So ends the day and it had been good to finally do Droylsden properly, especially when considering the forecast weather looked to be similar to my first blog visit! Game was decent enough and I always enjoy a visit to the Butcher’s Arms. Pubs and food were all good and the travel was no issue whatsoever. Onto next week and MY GOD, I CAN USE A TRAIN! WHAT IS A TRAIN?! I’VE NO IDEA!!!! The FA Cup is back on and it’s a return to a club who have a pretty new home on the Farm….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Lancaster

Result: Lancaster City 1-3 Stockport County (FA Trophy First Round)

Venue: Giant Axe (Saturday 16th December 2017, 3pm)

Att: 578

As the Christmas season gets ever closer, so the football season begins to turn up a notch. Fixture lists get ever more congested at this time of year, as the traditional festive dates are added to the regular weekend games and these, combined with cup competitions, mean a less than quiet yuletide beckons for players, officials and supporters alike. Nonetheless, the attractiveness of the FA Trophy – and a prospective Wembley appearance – is little to be sniffed at and so it was that those affiliated with both Lancaster City and Stockport County (along with other interested neutrals such as yours truly) headed to the Giant Axe in not so balmy conditions, the lure of the Trophy proving to overcome the icy conditions on the terracing.

Now when I say icy terraces, I say so without any sort of dramatic effect. For indeed the areas around the Giant Axe pitch were, we were warned by the PA system pre-match, still under the effects of frozen water and this would only prove to worsen as temperatures fell towards the close of the tie. But before any of that, I had a tour of a number of Lancaster’s fine hostelries to enjoy and having arrived in Lancashire’s county town (city?) at just before midday, I headed slightly out of the centre and to the canal side, where I’d visit my first scouted pub of the day, the Water Witch.

Lancaster Station

Water Witch

White Cross & Cathedral Spire

The Water Witch was still fairly empty at this early part of the afternoon, but most of those who were in were enjoying some of the food on offer which, I must admit, was giving off a more than attractive aroma. But I was more distracted by the offerings at the bar and plumped for a pint of Rosie’s Pig cider. A cloudy, still offering, it went down well at £4 a pint. However I soon had other places to see and so continued onwards down the canal towpath towards the towering spire of Lancaster Cathedral. Just before getting there though, I came across the White Cross, located within a large ex-warehouse, again by the side of the frozen waters. In here I plumped for a pint of the Blood Orange IPA. A nice pint.

Following a quick diversion to the Cathedral, which appeared to be devoid of people, ’twas to the city centre I set course. Upon arriving at a statue of Queen Victoria outside the town hall, I next visited the neighbouring Borough Hotel. The Borough has a lovely bar area that was well populated today, again with families enjoying a hot meal and those partaking in both coffee or something a little stronger. As for myself, I decided on playing safe and so a Kingstone Press was had here, whilst sitting under the watchful eye of a shape-shifting picture. On one side a man, the other a demonic-like entity. I’d seen the picture somewhere before, though, so wasn’t as perturbed as I might have been otherwise!

Lancaster

The Borough

…..yeah.

Anyway, I soon finished up in here and began on a more linear route to the ground, though this did include a final stop-off in the Tap House, a place I’d been roped into visiting by the offering of Punk IPA on draught. Of course, the pint wasn’t cheap, coming in at £4.80, though some people not as used to this may share the expression of one of the trio of women’s pictures in the gentlemen’s….

Soon enough, it was time to head to the Giant Axe itself. Heading back over the railway bridge, I made use of the cut-through across the adjoining field and arrived at the turnstile, which I would soon discover read “Away fans only”. I was surprised by this apparent segregation, as I’d not seen anything suggesting this was going to be in place. Having handed over my £8 fee (decent for the level, fair play Dollies) and a further £2 for the quality programme, whose front cover design hasn’t changed since my first visit almost nine years ago, I soon discovered that there indeed was no separating of fans in place and all were left to mingle freely. This also meant a circuit round to Dolly’s Diner was made all the easier, and chips and gravy (~£2.50) were soon being demolished, in the way that the much-missed (to me anyway) Dolly Blue was. Good times.

The Giant Axe is one of my favourite grounds around. Though my expectations are now somewhat skewed compared to what they were, the Axe is still a great ground to watch a game at. Alongside the turnstile stands a large open terrace that affords raised views of the action behind the car-park end goal. To the left stands the Main Stand, a fairly sizable covered and all-seated affair, which is flanked at its far end by the aforementioned Dolly’s Diner. The far end plays host to a covered terrace area, though of a smaller size to that opposite in terms of height (possibly due to housing behind), still runs the length of the pitch too. This terrace is named after City’s former skipper, the late Neil Marshall, who sadly passed away just over a year ago aged just 31. The ‘Neil Marshall Legend’ End is a fitting tribute. The castle side is all open, hard standing, though plays host to a bar/hospitality area or whatever it is these days, along with a manually adjusted scoreboard which, at one point pre-match read City 0-5 Visitors. They were feeling optimistic then!

Lancaster Priory

Arriving at the Giant Axe

Before long, both sides were in the tunnel down by the Main Stand and we were all set to go soon after. But before we get onto the tie at hand, let’s delve into the annuls of Lancaster City F.C….

History Lesson:

Lancaster City Football Club was founded in 1911 as Lancaster Town F.C, following the previous losses of Lancaster-based outfits Skerton (resigned during 1899-1900) & Lancaster Athletic (resigned during 1910-1911). The latter played in the West Lancashire League, but the new Town club would instead join the Lancashire Combination, of which Skerton where a prior competitor in.

With no connection to either team, Lancaster Town were therefore allowed admittance to the Combination, and began plying their trade initially in Division 2 until the Combination became a one division league following WWI. The club finished as 1919-20 runners-up and went on to apply for the new Third Division North of the Football League after the following season, but were unsuccessful in their application. Instead, Town would go on to win the Combination (and Combination Cup) in 1922 and following a pair of successes in the Lancashire FA Trophy (1928 & ’29)  rounded off the decade with a 1929 FA Cup First Round appearance, where they lost out at home to Lincoln City .

The following season saw the Combination won for a second time (and a third Lancs Trophy success), along with a second Cup First Round appearance, but this again ended in defeat, this time to New Brighton F.C. However, the league continued to be successful for the club, with back-to-back titles arriving in 1935 & ’36, (the first seeing yet another Lancs Trophy adorn the trophy cabinet) prior to Town becoming City in 1937, after Lancaster was awarded City status as part of King George VI’s coronation celebrations.

Castle overlooking the ground….

Continuing in the Combination following WWII, the club finally progressed to the FA Cup’s Second Round in 1948, with victory over Spennymoor United. They would also gain some further cup silverware in the familiar form of the Lancashire FA Trophy in 1952, but 1970 saw City depart the Combination for the Northern Premier League. Here, the club would again reach the FA Cup’s Second Round in 1973 (bowing out to Notts County) prior to again lifting the Lancashire FA Trophy in 1975. However, following a 17th placed finish in 1982, City resigned from the NPL and dropped into the North West Counties League but financial issues gripped the club and forced City to fold prior to an immediate reformation. Things didn’t improve much and, three seasons later, City were relegated to the NWCFL Division 2. However, they were to get something of a break in 1987 when, despite only finishing up 13th, the club were accepted into the newly formed NPL Division One.

1995 saw NPL success finally arrive in the form of the President’s Cup, City’s first trophy in two decades, before the club would go on to win the Division One title the following year and, as a result, were promoted to the Premier Division. Remaining here through to 2004 and lifting two NPL League Cups along the way in 2000 & ’01, an eight placed finish enabled Lancaster to take up a spot in the newly created Conference North, the new Step 2 of the non-league system. This proved a successful time initially for the club, with good league performances and four further FA Cup First Round appearances being enjoyed but financial issues soon returned to haunt the club and 2007 saw the club fold for a second time after entering administration earlier in the season. Another summer reformation saw the club return to the Northern Premier League for 2007-’08 and took a spot in Division One North.

…and Giant Axe under lights

2010 saw Lancaster reach the Division One North play-offs, where they were defeated by Colwyn Bay.  However, regular managerial changes saw the club never quite make the play-offs again, with ex-Newcastle United & Blackburn Rovers defender Darren Peacock being the biggest name to take the reins during this period. After Peacock left the club in 2015, Phil Brown (no, not that one) took the reigns and led the Dolly Blues (the nickname apparently derived from the clubs kit being identical in colour to the dolly blue washing tablets manufactured in the town/city in the early 20th century) to the Lancashire Trophy final, where they would lose out to higher-ranked opposition in Chorley. But, Brown’s first full season in charge saw him lead the club to promotion, with City taking the 2017 NPL Division One North title and taking a spot in the Premier Division for this season.

The first competitive game between the sides at Giant Axe for over 80 years got underway with County quickly gaining most of the play during the early stages. Despite this, the contest was a bit of a slow burner, with little of note occurring within the first twenty minutes. However, it would take just a further seven minutes for the deadlock to be broken and it was County, pretty unsurprisingly, who got the opener. A fine ball in from the right flank saw Jason Oswell arrive to tower above the City defenders and head across City ‘keeper Josh Powell, the ball nestling in the top corner.

By this point I’d got talking to Colin & Ash whilst standing on the open terrace at the City end of the ground. Colin is a Scouse fella who watches Lancaster on a fairly regular basis, whilst Ash, it turned out, is the brother of County stopper Ian Ormson. As such, it was good to be getting a view from both camps whilst the game was going on and getting something of an inside track on how both had been performing, and playing, so far this season.

Match Action

Fully focussed fans

Match Action

The game continued on at a fairly serene pace, with County still maintaining their hold on the vast majority of possession, with City somewhat struggling to get much joy out of their sole striker, through no real fault of his own, whilst the supporting midfielders never really got the chance to get into any position to manufacture an attack on the County goal during the first half. This became more of an issue when, around five minutes before the break, Stockport doubled their lead. I somewhat missed the goal as I’d looked away in the opinion there was little to no chance of anything going on. But a roar soon alerted me to look up and see the ball settling in the bottom corner courtesy of Gary Stopforth. Apparently, a ‘keeping error had allowed Stopforth in and County now had an advantage that you couldn’t see them spurning. Half-Time, 0-2.

Following a spell of attempting to get Ash to visit one of the numerous portaloos in the most efficient time possible, the sides reappeared for the second half. What had also reappeared was the white settling upon the pitch. The temperature had begun to drop markedly and the pitch and the surrounding area had begun to be affected once more. Indeed, as I’d later find out, the paving area around the turnstile had begun to get rather lethal, so much so that I felt I best alert the steward to the fact before the final whistle.

Anyway, the second half began with Lancaster coming out of the blocks the quicker and taking the game to their higher-ranked visitors. This did, however, leave them susceptible to the County attackers and Powell had to pull off a good stop to deny Darren Stephenson. On 53 minutes, Lancaster introduced Ryan Winder into the fray and 60 seconds later he was placing the ball on the spot. Penalty! Winder’s first meaningful (if not actual first) touch was to send the spot-kick into the corner of Ben Hinchliffe’s net and spark the home side’s chances of at least grabbing a replay into life.

Match Action

Match Action

Indeed, Winder was soon denied a second by Hinchliffe, before County began to wake themselves back up somewhat and begin to snuff out the remaining attacks that the hosts could muster. With a few minutes left on the clock, I said my goodbyes to Colin and Ash (I may have disrupted their viewing more than they may have wanted!) and headed for a quick word with County’s skipper Harry Winter, who’d been subbed off a little earlier in proceedings. Whilst having said chat with the ex-Trafford midfield dynamo (and occasional reader of these pages, apparently!), Bohan Dixon forced his way into the area before firing through the hands of Powell to secure the Hatters their place in the Second Round. City, meanwhile, felt the Axe fall upon them. Sorry.

Post-match saw me head back into the City centre and to Merchants bar, a cavernous-like place just by the castle. I indulged in some festive drinks, plumping for a Mulled Cider on account that it was bloody cold at this point. After finishing up in here, a further, final stop was undertaken in the form of the Robert Gillow (not a Wetherspoon’s surprisingly), where I decided on a bottle of Birra Morena. Now, if this was indeed over £3.50 as I remember…well, that’s certainly a fair bit more than we sell it for…

Merchants

Robert Gillow

Alas, it was only the final act that was a dampener and I was soon back at Lancaster station for the train back to Manchester. I’d contrived to grab the express on the way back, which got me back into Manchester in good time for my connection back. All had gone well so far. However, after a fifteen minute wait at Oxford Road, those dreaded words flashed up on the timetable…CANCELLED. Shite. There was only one thing for it. Yes, I had to get a bus home. The things you have to endure for this “hobby”…..

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 8

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Altrincham

Result: Altrincham 4-1 Ramsbottom United (FA Trophy 2nd Round)

Venue: Moss Lane (Saturday 11th November 2017, 3pm)

Att: 781

After the previous few weeks of traversing some of the larger grounds in the country, this weekend saw me end up middling somewhat and returning to familiar territory. After again offering my fate up to the twittersphere, a late influx of voting saw Altrincham’s match-up with Ramsbottom United pull away from Lancaster-Stratford and thus off to Moss Lane I headed once again.

With Alty’s home being just a short bus ride away, this meant I was afforded the rarity of a somewhat later start than usual. Hopping on at just after 11am, I had arrived in the Cheshire town around the stroke of midday, my timekeeping helped out by the large clock stationed outside the interchange, with Alty being accessible by numerous modes of transport, including train, tram and bus. It only lacks its own airfield…

I first decided to scout out possible places to watch the F1 qualifying later in the day and found the Orange Tree to be the most likely place, the pub neighboured by the old town stocks. Unfortunately this wouldn’t end up being visited, but there’s still the lure of the Manchester League’s Altrincham-Hale to bring me back! With me planning on leaving here until post-match, my first stop of the day became the Old Roebuck, just off the main road. An old-looking pub, it was pretty cosy, but also empty within at this early hour, with more punters seeming to end up in the larger Market Tavern over the way. The Moretti in here was good, though pricey as per.

Altrincham

Stocks

Old Roebuck

Now £4.50 lighter, I set my sights on the town centre itself and the market area of Altrincham. The market was filling up nicely as I arrived, though there didn’t seem to be much to attract me there, within the mix of veg and fruit and varying pieces of paraphernalia. Instead, I was more taken by the few “crafty” bars in the immediate vicinity. The first I came across was the Cellar, but this didn’t really attract me too much and so I headed for the nearby Mort Subite, located in a basement just around the corner. Unfortunately, I arrived to find this shut until 1pm and so, stranded, I needed a safe port of call for the next half-hour or so. Luckily, the neighbouring Belgian Bar (that’s its name, not just a vague description of the place) came to my aid, though only after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on my part, I admit.

Originally, I plumped for a pint of the advertised Belgian (I assumed) beer, but something made me quickly reckon I should try it out first. This proved a shrewd idea, as I found it bloody awful and so opted to stay safe and go for a known quantity in Krombacher. Again, at £4.60, this didn’t come cheap and I was soon thinking that one of the closer trips of mine may still end up being one of the more costly ones come the end of the day! Not that I hadn’t seen it coming, mind you. No Carling here, please…

Having milked away the time in the Belgian Bar, the clock ticked over to the one and so I headed a couple of doors down to find the door open but it seeming fairly quiet. That is until a guy came up from the depths to put the sign out, seemed surprised to find me lurking up on top of the stairs before saying I’d be ok to head down as “she should just be finishing up”. At the bottom of the stairs, I headed through a curtain to find a skeleton staring back at me. Where had I ended up, I thought to myself and was I about to end up with that fate?!

Market area

Belgian Bar (on the right)

Morte Subite

Of course, the skeleton was just a part of the décor of the place, being that Mort Subite was (as I was later informed by Colin, who gave me tips on where to head for later on) the former mortuary for the hospital just across the road. After a quick scan of the menu I was handed upon entering, I opted for the half of Liefman’s Mixed Fruit offering for a further £3.50, though I did receive some free cheesy nibbles to accompany it. Mort Subite is definitely worth a visit if you’re out and about here, a great little bar though apparently one for the bustling evenings rather than the quiet early afternoons.

It was soon time for me to go onwards, so I paid my dues and bid goodbye to Colin and headed just around the corner to the more shop-centric part of the centre. In the midst of all these retail places sits the traditional-looking Bricklayer’s Arms, which looks totally out of place in the midst of the apparently more modern developments around it. After a greeting from a guy having a cig outside, a quick pint of Grolsch (cheapest of the day at well under £3) was had before I reckoned I really should be closer to the ground than I was. Problem was, I’d been given a tip by Colin to visit Costello’s Bar in the Goose Green area and with this being en route to Moss Lane, I figured it’d be wrong of me to miss it out.

Heading past the statues of a couple of Geese guarding the small square which consisted of a few other shops and bars, I headed into the modern-style bar for a quick pint of Amstel before giving up on getting to the ground at all early. As such, I asked Alty fan Jonny to grab a programme for me, you know,  just in case, and settled in for a little longer whilst intermittently overhearing a conversation about who’d been barred recently and if it was indeed a surprise or not….

Bricklayer’s

Goose Green

With twenty minutes or so to kick-off, I set off on the short walk down to Moss Lane. After skirting around the park, I arrived within sight of the large main stand and was soon at the turnstile. Handing over my £10 entry, I headed past the usual (as far as I remember) programme selling place which seemed devoid of bibles and up into said main stand where I found Jonny and Danny in situ. Handing over my £2 with thanks, kick-off was imminent.

Arriving at Moss Lane

Moss Lane has not changed all that much, unsurprisingly. The Main Stand is all seater and offers a raised view of the action, with a small “family” stand being located to the left. This stand also plays host to some hospitality areas. Both ends are terraced, with the “home” end being covered and stretching a good few rows back. The “away” (normally and if segregated) end gives a more raised view of the action at the rear than that from the terrace opposite, but is open to the elements, though this wasn’t an issue today. Between the two ends and opposite the main stand is a long terraced area, which is covered for the vast majority (but I find doesn’t give too great views unless right at the front and at pitch-side). The other side of the Main Stand is populated by the new Community Centre construction, which also serves as the clubhouse and the food bar is adjoining. Now, here’s the story behind Altrincham F.C….

History Lesson:

Altrincham Football Club was founded in 1891 by a Sunday League and took the name of Rigby Memorial Club. They soon merged with local side Grapplers to form Broadheath F.C. and became founder members of the Manchester League in 1893, with their first match here – against Hulme – ending in a seven-nil defeat. Things didn’t get much better for the fledgling side as they finished bottom of the table come the close of the first Manchester League season.

After stints at various grounds around the Broadheath, Timperley and Altrincham area, the club moved to Pollitt’s Field in 1903 and took on their current name, Altrincham F.C. and this name change proved a lucky one, as the club won the Cheshire Amateur Cup at the end of the first season as Alty before taking both the Manchester League and Cheshire Senior Cup titles the following season. After a second Manchester League success in 1907, the club went on to move to their current Moss Lane home in 1910. 1911 saw Alty join the Lancashire Combination and join the Division 2, finishing as runners-up at the close of their first season here, missing out on the title on goal average. They were still promoted to Division 1, though, and remained here through to the outbreak of WWI.

When football resumed after the cessation of hostilities, Alty became founder members of the Cheshire County League where they would remain through to the outbreak of the Second World War. Whilst in the Cheshire League, the club won the Cheshire League Cup in 1933 and finished as League runners-up on two occasions (1935 & ’36). They also reached the FA Cup’s First Round for the first time during their stay in this league, this appearance seeing the club lose out to Gainsborough Trinity during the 1934-’35 season.

Steward….or sub?

After missing the first season of post-war football, Alty recommenced playing in 1946 and re-joined the Cheshire County League. Little in the way of immediate success was to follow, with the club taking just a sole Cheshire League Cup win – in 1951 – prior to their mid-1960’s upturn in form. After a third and final Cheshire League Cup win in 1964, the club began to become more competitive. Jackie Swindells was a key player in this turnaround, with Swindells scoring no less than 82 goals in his first season at the club. Unsurprisingly, this helped Alty to their first post-war league title and the first of two consecutive ones at that (’66 & ’67), though he did notch somewhat less during the second campaign, ending up with an impressive 120 goals over the two title-winning seasons, whilst helping the club to a third Senior Cup win too (1967). After a runners-up placing in 1968, the Robins would go on to be a founding member of the Northern Premier League that close season. They’d go on to lift the NPL’s Challenge Cup for the first time in 1970.

The 1976-’77 season saw Altrincham reach the FA Trophy semi-finals whilst also applying for the Football League for the first time. Of course, this was unsuccessful, with Wimbledon getting the nod. The following year saw them go one better in the Trophy, winning the final at Wembley with a 3-1 win over Leatherhead. 1979 saw the Robins finish as NPL runners-up (along with lifting the NPL Challenge Shield) and again apply for the League. Despite getting the largest number of votes for a non-league side, Halifax Town were instead voted in to remain in the League after finishing bottom. This fruitless effort meant Altrincham instead joined the Conference’s forerunner, the Alliance League for which the winner would be the sole possible non-league nomination for a place in the League system.

The Alliance’s first season saw Alty win the division (along with the Bob Lord Trophy), but elation turned to further dismay as the club missed out on election by one vote to Rochdale with, apparently, the Alty-bound votes of Grimsby and Luton not being cast due to the former being at the wrong side of the room and the latter being late. As such, Alty remained in the Alliance and retained their title the next season, but again lost in the voting to Halifax. This proved to be the final time Alty would get truly close to the League, with the club managing the highs of four consecutive top-five finishes at best between 1984 and 1987.

Alty FC

The club was still successful in the cups, winning a further Cheshire Senior Cup in 1982 and the FA Trophy still proved a decent hunting ground too, with Alty being beaten finalists in 1982 but returning to lift the silverware in 1985 after overcoming Runcorn by a single goal. 1986 would then see the club knock top-flight Birmingham City out of the FA Cup, defeating the Division 1 side 2-1 at St. Andrew’s in Alty’s most famed “giant-killing”.

Playing in the newly named Conference, Alty finished third in 1991 before falling away into mid-table for a few seasons before recovering back to fourth in 1995. However, this was something of a false dawn, with the club finishing bottom two seasons later and being relegated to the Northern Premier League’s Premier Division. The club would spend two further seasons in the NPL, winning a second Challenge Cup (1998),Challenge Shield (1999) before returning as champions, but only lasted a single season back in the Conference, being relegated after finishing second bottom, despite some silver-lining being provided with yet another Senior Cup win.

A twelfth placed finish in 2004 saw Altrincham take a place in the newly created Conference North, where they finished fifth at the end of the first season and took a place in the play-offs, where they’d defeat both Nuneaton Borough and Kettering Town prior to defeating Eastbourne Borough in the North/South clash to decide the promoted team. Their penultimate Senior Cup to date would add to the glory that season. It appeared their stay back in the Conference would last just one season, an 18-point ineligible player deduction seemingly putting paid to their survival hopes, but Canvey Island’s resignation and Scarborough’s demotion saw the Robins reprieved.

This began a few seasons of a similar story, with Alty continuing to struggle but be reprieved from relegation. The following year saw Boston United demoted, then Halifax were liquidated the season after that. A couple of seasons of normality followed (bar Aussie cricket skipper Ricky Ponting becoming a shareholder, that is), with mid-table finishes (plus a final, at time of writing, Cheshire Senior Cup win in 2009) keeping Alty clear of the drop, but the club were eventually unable to avoid the trap door in 2011. A defeat in the 2013 Conference North play-offs was followed by success the next campaign, with Alty defeating Hednesford Town and Guiseley (I attended a game in both of these stages) to achieve promotion back to the Conference National, a last-minute winner avoiding penalties in the final played at Moss Lane. A two season stay back in the National division was ended in 2016, but disappointment didn’t end their as Altrincham went straight through the North division last season, finishing adrift at the bottom of the table and taking a place back in the NPL’s Premier Division for this season.

Following the impeccably observed silence for Armistice Day, the action began in this first ever meeting between the two clubs and it took just two minutes for the first goal to arrive, with the visiting Rams grabbing the opener against their higher ranked hosts. A poor ball in the Alty defence resulted in the ball ending up at the feet of Sam Heathcote and Heathcote – who carries a name synonymous with the Moss Lane outfit – netted against his former club, firing low beyond Thompson. A possible upset on the cards?

Watching on

Match Action

After a Greg Daniels effort had been kept out by Tony Thompson in the home goal, Alty found their feet after a slow opening ten minute spell and equalised after a quarter of an hour. A whipped in corner met the head of the unmarked Jordan Hulme, the Robins forward making no mistake with his short-range header, which left Rams stopper Danny Taberner with no chance of making the save. One-a-piece.

John Johnstone – adding to the alliterative names on the Alty team-sheet – was the main threat down the flank and the majority of chances being created by the hosts was coming from him, including one effort which forced Taberner into a low stop. However, with ten minutes of the first half remaining, Hulme would again be the one to find the net, seizing the ball within the box, before turning swiftly and firing a rising shot into the roof of the net from around twelve yards. As I left Danny and Jonny to have a quick lap of the ground, further chances followed for the hosts as the Northern Premier League leaders further asserted themselves over the tie, but it was Heathcote who’d come closest to levelling up the scores, seeing his free-kick tipped wide by Thompson. No further goals followed and the teams headed in with Alty still holding their slender advantage. 2-1 at half-time.

Match Action

12th man

Match Action

The break saw me head to the food bar some fine chips and gravy at a fine portion size too. I think it was £2.50, but I can’t actually remember that part as it’s, shockingly I know, not too memorable. The memorable part went to meeting up with the Trafford (and occasional Kartel Sports) legend that is Scott Barlow at half-time, with the former 40-goal-a-season striker, who was down watching with his son, stopping me as I almost walked straight past in my quest to return to the stand. As such, the first part of the second half was spent over a pint of Kingstone Press, courtesy of Scott, in the clubhouse while watching the game on TV. I still managed to pretty much miss ex-Rammy man Hulme’s hat-trick goal, though, but thankfully the Alty match report is on hand to tell me that “Hulme turned well inside the box and his shot hit a defender and looped into the net”. Cheers media people!!

After finishing up my drink, I bid goodbye to Scott and his group and headed back out to re-join Jonny and Danny who were now located over in the far end of the stand, doing the opposite switch to what most fans do in accordance with which side their team is attacking (I’m told this is due to getting a better view of the goal Alty are attacking!). Anyway, chances were few and far between in the second half, with only long-range efforts and a few blocked chances coming anywhere close to adding to the score-line.

Under the lights

Late on…

That is until, on 85 minutes, one of those longer-range efforts was unleashed by James Poole, with the ball, on this occasion, evading the diving frame of Taberner and squeezing beyond him and into the back of the net to seal Alty’s progression in what was a comfortable enough game for them, but wasn’t without a couple of scares along the way as the Lancastrian side put in a good shift. The final score-line was a little harsh on the visitors, but four-one it was.

After leaving Danny & Jonny, I headed back out the ground and off towards the large Tesco which dominates that side of the town, along with the Silver Blades Ice Rink, which plays host to the Manchester Storm Ice Hockey side –  having previously hosted the Manchester Phoenix, whom hosted my only experience thus far of Ice Hockey as, despite being entertaining, it’s pretty overpriced in my opinion – and swiftly ticked off the Altrincham branch of Wetherspoon’s, The Unicorn. Yes, I know, I’m one of those guys, but not too religiously, I stress! Punk IPA was, of course, the chosen one.

I soon discovered that I’d missed the F1 and, as such, the final drink in the Orange Tree was cancelled. I was also beginning to flag a bit and reckoned a smarter move would to be to head back home and have a bit of a splash-and-dash, with the “splash” being a few winks and the “dash” being a final drink. Both of these were ultimately highly successful, despite me trying to nod off on the bus (which is never a good look I might add), and there endeth this story.

All in all, yes it was another trip to the Moss Lane ground that I’ve visited multiple times, but this one was different as I’ve never really explored Alty as a town, outside of the area around the interchange. The place has some cool places and is well worth the trip even if it is a little on the pricey side. The game itself was decent enough too, with the game not being truly ended as a contest until that last five minutes and a few goals thrown in for good measure. Can’t really complain. So onwards to next week and that rare thing that is called a non-league league game! Not seen many this year, so will be something of a novelty. Off to a house for that….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 8

Programme: 5 (seemed cut back?)

Value For Money: 6

 

Manchopper in….Nantwich

Result: Nantwich Town 1-1 Kettering Town (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)

Venue: Weaver Stadium (Saturday 14th October 2017, 3pm)

Att: 760

With the FA Cup’s qualifying rounds reaching their conclusion, so it was that those clubs remaining had the chance to make the promised land of the first round “proper” and with that the possibility of securing a tie with a Football League club. Having been attracted to this tie with the lure of visiting the lovely town of Nantwich upon the drawing of the round’s games, I latterly sorted out details with fallen blogger Paul and we had our headings set. To Nantwich it was.

With the Liverpool-United match on beforehand, Paul had wanted to get there bright and early to watch. This suited me and I arrived into the Cheshire market town prior to midday, with the quest of seeking out somewhere to watch the game. After passing the town’s stocks and navigating the already bustling town square on a couple of occasions I was finding that options around here were fairly few and far between. That was until I, by chance, spotted the Wickstead Arms down a side-street and it was to be here that we’d spend the first half of the anti-climactic North West derby.

Nantwich

Players would be hoping to avoid these!

Nantwich

Paul joined me just before kick-off, with us soon realising we shouldn’t be greeting each other with pleasantries at this point. Luckily, we were becalmed with the goings on at Anfield and soon looked for a change of scenery for the second half. This would come in the form of the Vine, which was certainly the popular choice for the town’s people of Nantwich, the place offering standing room only, and a fine pint of Erdinger soon proved why. Lovely, but not cheap!

The clash continued on its way to its obvious nil-nil result (which I had predicted some twenty seconds in, on account of the stupid build-up it had been afforded by the media in the lead-up), whilst we finished up our drinks before thankfully leaving in the hopes of finding a more entertaining contest at the Weaver Stadium. Crossing the River Weaver on our way to the ground, we were passed by the jogging duo of Chris and Dave Ellis – two Poppies fans Paul and I had met last season at Leek – with Chris narrowly avoiding falling foul of the deadly Nantwich kerbs!

Wickstead Arms (plus a badly posed Paul)

The Vine

Arriving at the Weaver

Arriving at the ground, we were welcomed with a pre-match bag check before heading through the turnstiles in exchange for £10. Once through, a further £2 gave us an issue of the programme entitled “The Dabber”, with a bee-line to the bar following where a pint of Heineken would see us through to kick-off. After a swift meeting-up with the Ellis’, they headed out to join the ranks of the well-numbered travelling support within the covered terrace at the far side of the Weaver. The Main, all-seater, Stand (the bar is located at the top of the stairs) stands opposite, alongside the turnstiles), with the remainder of the ground being open, hard standing. Now, it’s time for everyone’s favourite part, and mine….

History Lesson:

Nantwich Town F.C. was founded in 1884 as Nantwich F.C. and derives its nickname from the town’s leather-related tanning industry. The club’s formative years were spent playing friendly and cup matches, prior to it joining the Shropshire & District League in 1891, where Nantwich finished runners-up at the end of their first season. This prompted a move up into the stronger Combination league for the following season, with Nantwich also welcoming Liverpool to the town in the Reds’ first ever FA Cup tie, the future 5-time European Cup winners going on to win the game 4-0.

Prior to WWI, the club had short spells in numerous leagues, including the North Staffs & District, Crewe & District, Manchester League and Lancashire Combination, with England rugby and cricket captain A.N. Hornby holding the role of club President and occasional player. Post-war, Nantwich became founder members of the Cheshire County League where the club tended to struggle, bar a 6th placed finish in 1922. 1933 saw the Dabbers finally lift silverware, with the Cheshire Senior Cup being lifted after victory over the attractively named ICI (Alkali) in front of 8,ooo fans. This coming after a 1921 tie (versus Winsford United) at Kingsley Fields (on the current site) which was played out in front of over 5,000. Imagine that nowadays!

After WWII, Nantwich joined the newly founded Mid-Cheshire League and entered the inaugural FA Youth Cup in 1952, falling to a narrow 23-0 defeat to Manchester Utd’s youngsters (featuring the likes of Duncan Edwards) at the Cliff. However, this proved to be no reflection on the next decade, with the club going on to achieve regular success throughout the 1960’s, with ’63-’64 seeing a treble of Mid-Cheshire League, League Cup (adding to a 1962 win) and Cheshire Amateur Cup won. After a short spell in the Manchester League (promoted from Division 1 in 1966 and Premier runners-up in 1967), 1968 would see Nantwich re-join the Cheshire League, adding the “Town” suffix in 1974. In 1976, the Dabbers took the Cheshire Senior Cup with a 5-4 triumph over Northern Premier League Champions Runcorn.

NTFC

Nantwich would go on to win the Cheshire League in 1981 – defeating runners-up Hyde United in the penultimate game to do so – and after a final year in the league, would join the newly created North West Counties League in 1982. However, the club would finish bottom of the league’s first season and were relegated to Division 2, where they would remain (bar a sole campaign in Division 3 in 1986) until 1989, when they were promoted to Division 1 once again. 1995 would see Town win the NWCFL League Cup, which would be their final silverware for over a decade, prior to their triumphant FA Vase campaign in 2006 when the Dabbers defeated Hillingdon Borough at St. Andrew’s, with Andy Kinsey netting two goals before dislocating his shoulder in celebrating securing his brace.

2007 saw Town finish third, securing promotion to the NPL Division One South in the process. The club also signed off at their former home Jackson Avenue at the close of that season, defeating Squires Gate in their final game there prior to moving to their new ground, the Weaver Stadium, named after the nearby river. Their first season at the new home was a success, Nantwich finishing up 3rd in the NPL Division One South, which meant a place in the play-offs. After defeating Grantham Town in the semis, the club would go on to beat Sheffield F.C. on penalties in the final to achieve promotion to the NPL Premier Division. This was added to by another Cheshire Senior Cup win in 2008.

Terrace

A further Cheshire Senior Cup was added to the trophy room in 2012, a season which also saw Nantwich’s only (to date) appearance in the FA Cup’s First Round. After knocking out Nuneaton Town in the 4th Qualifying Round, the club drew MK Dons away, which resulted in a heavy defeat. After battling relegation during their earlier seasons at Step 3, Nantwich began to stablise in mid-table, though struggled to 19th in 2014. 2015-’16 saw Nantwich embark on a successful FA Trophy campaign, the Dabbers reaching the semi-finals (after defeating Dover Athletic in the quarters), bowing out to eventual winners FC Halifax Town 6-4 on aggregate. Last season saw the club finish up in fifth in the NPL Premier Division, reaching the play-offs, but a 2-0 loss to eventual winners Spennymoor Town put paid to their hopes of Step 2 football.

The final hurdle before the first round was soon underway, with Kettering having slightly the better of the opening exchanges, though they never really troubled Will Jääskeläinen – son of Jussi – debuting in the Dabbers goal for this game. As such, the first real chance of the game fell to the home side, with David Forbes drive being well saved by Poppies keeper Paul Wright.

Match Action

Match Action

Sean Cooke looked to be the main threat for Nantwich going forward, though wasn’t having too much joy in this respect early on and it was this lack of true penetration that meant the tight game would lurch the way of the visitors just before half-time. As Paul and I were waiting in the slow, slow food line (despite having got there fifteen minutes before the break, we left five minutes after the whistle), the ball was knocked over the line by Michael Richens to give the game a much-needed goal. Sadly for me and lucky for him, only Paul was in position to see it, as I saved our space. 0-1, half-time!

With the remainder of the break being taken eating a pie that was hardly worth that wait (Paul’s meat and potato had something of the Chicken Balti about it too),  we were back underway with Nantwich searching for the equaliser to keep their FA Cup adventure alive. They started off well too, with Harry Clayton seeing his shot saved low down by Wright and Forbes scraping the woodwork with an effort just after the hour.

Despite these chances, the game remained a tight one, with Kettering looking to attack on the break, the wingers getting some joy in this without creating too much to speak of. This inability to kill off the game would come back to haunt the visitors, as their defensive second-half display would soon be ruined by a magnificent free-kick and, unsurprisingly, it was that man Cooke who provided the magic. Cooke stood over the set-piece around twenty-five yards out and as soon as the ball left his foot, you knew it was destined for the net. The flying Wright, taking a leaf out of his American namesakes Orville and Wilbur, couldn’t get near it and the Dabbers were level with around fifteen minutes left and it all to play for once again.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Well, it appeared that way but, sadly for us of a neutral perspective, both sides looked content to try their hands again during the coming week and take the replay. The whistle duly arrived to confirm this game would need a second go, which Nantwich would go on to win and set up a tie away at Stevenage. Not a bad reward. As for Paul and myself, we were off to explore a little bit more prior to our train back.

First up came the Tudor-era Black Lion, which is a tight, fairly snug pub complete with roaring fire-place. It does have an outside bar window too, according to Paul, so it definitely caters for all seasons! Anyway, having finished up in here we now had a dilemma. Head for the Red Cow another Tudor pub which I spotted on my pre-game recon, or head of the dominating Crown Hotel in all it’s splendour. Paul, probably smartly, decided the Crown was best on account of it being on the way to the station.

Black Lion

Crown Hotel

After meeting a couple of the local canine population in here, it was off to the station via a quick visit to the Railway for a couple of pricey Beck’s bottles for the train back (£3.60). Paul had a much more troublesome trip back than me, heading off via Crewe and Chester before finally landing back in Liverpool, whereas I was en route straight through to Manchester. Trains, eh?

So, there ends the FA Cup’s qualifying rounds. Now the big boys come in, and it’s around three rounds left until most of the interest drains away from the competition in my eyes. But for now, there’s a number of attractive looking First Round ties on the horizon to choose from and who knows where will be next up? Certainly not me, which may be an issue. Anyway, next up is a trip North of the border and to a ground that is more used to balls of a different variety…

 

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Food: 3

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 5