Result: Staffordshire Victoria 4-4 Wyrley Titans. (Staffordshire County Senior League Division 2 (Cup?))
Venue: Knypersley Sports Club (Saturday 1st February 2020, 2.30pm)
Third time lucky!! Yes, at the third time of asking, I was finally en route to Knypersley, just to the north of Stoke, as the weather in the lead up to this one had been rather more agreeable than my previous effort. Indeed, that too was to see this very game – only for it to be called off just as I was about to catch the train and so off I went to Stone instead for a drab 1-0. As I’m sure you’ve seen by now, history wasn’t about to be repeated.
I arrived into Stoke for around 11am, making use of an earlier than expected train into the Potteries, before catching the bus up to Biddulph from right outside the station. Helpful. Using the plusbus ticket for the area, I only spent a further couple of quid to take me the good half-hour trip to the small township around halfway between said city and nearby Congleton. Arriving in pretty good time, I was soon perusing the watering hole options offered up by the high Street and, being bright and early, looked to only have the Wetherspoons to choose from. However, I was to have a pleasant surprise.
This surprise was the small real/craft ale bar-café by the name of the Ontap 12, and though it was rather sparsely populated at this time in the morning, I was pleased I wasn’t the first one testing out the ale upon my arrival, someone having beaten me to it by a short time. His beer peaked my interest though and I was soon in possession of a half of the fruity IPA. Not by choice, I assure you, I was just given a half – probably because I wasn’t too familiar with the stuff. I don’t do things by half usually, though….
Anyway, it was pretty decent and I took a more lengthier time over it than usual, whilst some of the locals conversed over the influx of fake £5 notes that were swarming the area – some even emanating from the Post Office, it seemed! Whatever the case, my second stop, right at the far, opposite end of the high street must have also received the memo, as my £5 was immediately checked in the ways mentioned before. No issues with it and I was soon supping at my Boddies. A pint this time! Old Sam’s even had the same pub sign hung upon the wall as was swinging away outside, which was a new one for me, it has to be said. Finishing up whilst watching the latter stages of the early kick off’s first half, I returned back up the street and to the centre area which played host to the aforementioned Spoons outlet, the Bradley Green. With little in the way of pub options overall, this meant I could indulge in a pint of Punk IPA, a nod to my planned trip north of the border, next week.
Biddulph is a town within Staffordshire, located between Stoke-on-Trent and Congleton and derives its name from either the Old English bīdylfe, meaning “beside the pit or quarry”, or alternatively, a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon Bidulfe – meaning “wolf slayer” – which may tie into the Biddulph family crest, which bears a rampant wolf. Originally named as Bradley Green during its years of coal and iron mining, the original site is located around the parish church and ruined Old Hall, with the new area only being mapped in the 1930’s. It is known as the Garden Town of Staffordshire. The area is home to ancient burial mounds and those of possible Crusader knights, whilst also showing evidence for the English Civil War and Bubonic Plague having been (unsurprisingly) present in the town’s vicinity. An Iron Age fort and the former Black Bull Colliery also lie nearby. Notable people include cricket umpire Rob Bailey, former referee Phil Dowd, and footballers Malcolm Bailey (Altrincham), John Farmer (Stoke City) and James Wilson (Aberdeen, Manchester Utd, Salford City (current)).
All but next door stands the Crown & Cushion, a more traditional pub than the other two nearby. It was nice enough and another Boddies here did the trick, whilst a couple of characters came and went, one attempting to give a Spoons glass he’d found somewhere along the way to the barman; he didn’t really fancy it. I finished up just as I was about to be told off for sitting in an older local couple’s usual place. OK, more asked than told, but it’s never an issue and especially so when the couple themselves thank and apologise at the same time! Of course, it’s their pub, not mine. Whatever the case, a ten minute walk later should have had me at the Barley Mow, from outside of which I could catch the bus back up to the ground. However, I somehow managed to add a good five minutes onto my trip, meaning my pint here had to be downed a little quicker than I’d have ideally liked. No issues though and I was soon back on said carriage and riding to the gates of the ground, where I arrived with around ten minutes until the scheduled kick-off time. It was a good job I did too, as the ref began the game a good six minutes early. Good man.
The ground is quite a decent one and is complete with a small covered terrace and benched seating (named the Jordan Burndred Stand) behind the near end goal and a fine set of floodlights. A couple of steps create a kind of terrace behind the dugouts on the right touchline, whilst the far end offers hard standing. The left touchline is all grass, as it is shared with the cricket pitch – the pavilion of the club being used as the changing rooms today – as it seems the old football club buildings have been condemned or something, although the toilets were still in working order. The food bar and committee rooms had, well, seen better days, shall we say. That’s the ground in a nutshell, and this is the story of the county’s Victoria….
This is the club’s first season at this level, although their predecessors at this ground had a similar start to life, and seem to have been continued through Victoria. Knypersley Victoria were founded in 1969, though football at the ground can be dated from 1933 and the founding of the soon to be defunct Knypersley F.C., who folded not too long after winning the Staffordshire Challenge Cup of 1946. The club originally entered the Staffordshire County League, but soon folded this side due to financial issues, though did continue playing Sundays through to re-establishing their Saturday side in 1980. Back in the Staffs League, they remained here until 1984, whereupon they became a founding member of the Staffordshire Senior League finishing as 1988 runners-up, along with winning the Staffordshire FA Vase in each of 1984 and 1987.
Joining the West Midlands (Regional) League in 1991, Knypersley won the Division One title in 1993, this achieving promotion to the Premier Division, where they spent one season before becoming a founding member of the Midland Alliance – which took in the leading sides from both the WMRL and the Midland Combination. Here, the side won the 1998 League Cup, defeating league champions Bloxwich Town in the final, before adding the end of season Joe McGorian Cup, defeating league runners-up, Rocester. The club became Biddulph Victoria in 2002 and folded in 2011, having narrowly avoided the drop twice (2005 and 2007, the latter due to restructuring) and then being evicted from the Tunstall Road ground. The club reformed under the Knypersley Victoria name in 2013, and rejoined the Staffordshire County Senior League Division One, where they finished 4th in 2015 to be promoted to the Premier Division. However, this incarnation would last just a further three seasons, resigning and folding in 2018 just prior to the new season.
The game got going with the visitors on top, a couple of early chances falling the way of their #10, Wheeldon – the second of which he would convert. The striker was played through nicely and having just about managed to round the ‘keeper, he showed composure before finding the net for the opener. However, their lead wouldn’t last long and the Staffordshire Vics equaliser came via the spot. After a rather harsh looking handball was given against a Wyrley defender, with the Vics taker converting comfortably from the spot.
The hosts then hit the bar direct from a corner, as both teams struggles at the back kind of pointed towards why they are at the wrong end of the table, and the woodwork would prove pivotal in the third goal, as Wyrley retook the lead in somewhat confusing circumstances. After a low Wheeldon shot hit both posts and rolled across the line twice before being collected by the ‘keeper, confusion reigned for a while before the ref eventually signalled for a goal, much to the disappointment of the home players. As it was though, they’re mood would be improved almost immediately, as another 50/50 handball was given and the second Vics penalty of the day found the net. According to the ref’s assessor, who I got talking to for the rest of the half, he was in the right to give it….I wasn’t so sure.
A further couple of chances came and went for the Vics before the first half came to its end and the home players took refuge in the cricket pavilion; the visitors remaining huddled around their dugout. The break came and went with nothing much happening to speak of, and we were soon back underway, with Vics again spurning a good couple of chances to go ahead for the first time in the game. As it was, it would be the Titans who would get the third goal first, a ball in to the back post finding Wheldon who turned the ball home for his hat-trick. 3-2 and the onus was back on the Vics to get into the game once more.
They did just that, once again getting back on level terms in no time at all. This one was netted via a low drive which found the net. Moments later, the hosts took the lead for the first time in the afternoon, when a poor ‘keeping error allowed #11 to chip neatly into the largely unguarded net. 4-3 and would that be enough to secure them to win. In short, no. After Wheeldon had been done by an awful bounce when likely to have levelled the scores once again, he instead turned provider shortly afterwards, cutting back into the middle for team-mate O’Grady to slot in.
4-a-piece was where we ended up, although the home side nearly won it late on, when a shot from close range somehow struck the upright, rather than nestling in the onion bag. Full time; 4-4. Post-match, my original plan was to head towards Congleton and pay a visit to the Castle Inn, around 20 minutes from Congleton Station. However, this would then mean I’d have to get the stopper service back to Manchester and, to be honest, I just could not be arsed to do so. So instead, I waited the twenty minutes for the bus back into Stoke and instead tested out the newly discovered station bar on the platform here, which I’d only come across on my aborted trip here a few weeks earlier. It was decent too, and a pint of the Titanic Brewery’s Iceberg went down nicely (too soon?) as I awaited the service a good 40 minutes away.
Catching it with no problems, I was soon back in Manchester and catching my connection onwards home. No dramas were encountered and there we end off another weekend and another Saturday off towards the end of the season, which seems to have lasted only a couple of months to this point! The game was brilliant, all action and with both teams seemingly barely able to defend; after having seen two straight 1-0 wins, I was happy with this! It was also good to speak to the ref assessor too, and get a different view on decisions and why they would actually be correct, when you wouldn’t think so straight off the bat. The ground is also a super little place and it’s quite the shame it’s not in the best of nick. Hopefully, this can change in the future. Next up is my first game of my 29th year….I feel it in my bones….
Value For Money: 9