Manchopper in….Halifax

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

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

Att: 3,655

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

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

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

Halifax Minster & Ring O’Bells

The Old Post Office

Spot the bunny?

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

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

Halifax

The Union Cross on the right

Home of my cheapest pint!

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

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

Late stop at the Duke

Arriving at the Shay

The Shay’s away end

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

History Lesson:

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

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

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

Real old-style stand

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

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

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

Flags. Lots of them.

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

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

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

Match Action

All Rise

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

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

Match Action

Salford fans becalmed

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

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

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

Salford’s support celebrate the equaliser

Match Action

Pitch invasion!

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

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

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

 

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 4

Programme: 8

Value For Money: 6

 

Manchopper in….Gateshead

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Result: Gateshead 3-0 Southport (National League)

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

Att: 620

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

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

Newcastle

Newcastle

Newcastle

Newcastle

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

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

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

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

The Old George

The Old George

To the Rose & Crown

To The Rose & Crown.

When in Ro...er, Newcastle

When in Ro…er, Newcastle.

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

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

En route to the Stadium

En route to…

The Gateshead International Stadium.

…the Gateshead International Stadium.

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

History Lesson:

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

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

Arriving at the gates

Arriving at the gates

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

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

Craig loves Gateshead.

Craig loves Gateshead.

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

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

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

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

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

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

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

Nice curves...

Nice curves…

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

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

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

Post game. The stewards wanted us out pronto!

Post game. The stewards wanted us out pronto!

The Schooner. Great little place.

The Schooner. Great little place.

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

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

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RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Wesham (AFC Fylde)

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

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

Att: 479

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

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

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

Dan and his very suitable drink

Dan and his very suitable drink

Arriving at Kirkham & Wesham

Arriving at Kirkham & Wesham

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

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

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

The Royal Oak

The Royal Oak

In the Stanley Arms

In the Stanley Arms

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

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

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

The Birley Arms

The Birley Arms

On the walk

AFC Fylde

Almost in

Almost in

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

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

History Lesson:

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

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

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

Today's Game

Today’s Game

Fuller's Bar (after former manager, Mick

Fuller’s Bar (after former manager, Mick)

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

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

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

Handshakes

Handshakes

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

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

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

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

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Equalising goal!

Equalising goal!

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

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

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

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

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

Full-Time Score

Full-Time Score

Brad and I in Fuller's

Brad and I in Fuller’s

All Aboard

All Aboard

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

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

Out in Manchester!

Out in Manchester!

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

DSC01792

RATINGS:

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

Ground: 7- For reasons already stated.

Food: 7- A good portion and tasty too.

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

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

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

 

Manchopper in….Macclesfield

180px-Alfreton_Town_FC.svg180px-Macclesfield_Town_FC.svg

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

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

Att:1,048

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

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

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

Welcome To Macclesfield

Welcome To Macclesfield

A damp Macc

A damp Macc

Nags Head

Nags Head

Warnings

Warnings

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

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

Treacle Tap

Treacle Tap

Saintly Cobbler

Saintly Cobbler

The Macc

The Macc

Ooh I say!

Ooh I say!

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

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

Moss Rose in the distance

Moss Rose in the distance

Welcome

Welcome

Front and centre

Front and centre

Clubhouse

Clubhouse

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

History Lesson:

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

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

Soap dispenser

Soap dispenser

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

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

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

Through the net

Through the net

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

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

Handshakes

Handshakes

Fans on the terrace

Fans on the terrace

Dan shows his colours

Dan shows his colours

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

Megs!

Megs!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

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

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

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

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Kick It Out!

Kick It Out!

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

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

No problem

No problem

Getting Darker

Getting Darker

Clown Juice!!!

Clown Juice!!!

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

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

Pick One!

Pick One!

Tips in the tap!

Tips in the tap!

Good game, good game!

Good game, good game!

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

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

DSC00836

RATINGS:

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

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

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

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

Food: 5- Okay, not worth £2, though.

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

Manchopper in….Guiseley

GuiseleyAldershot Town

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

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

Att: 782

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

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

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

In the right place!

In the right place!

Looking towards the station & ground

Looking towards the station & ground

The Station

The Station

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

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

Which way?

Which way?

Crowds arrive

Crowds arrive

Guiseley AFC

Guiseley AFC

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

History Lesson:

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

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

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

Old badge on sign

Old badge on sign

DSC00110

Guiseley AFC

Celebrating the promotion

Celebrating the promotion

It's all too much for some!

It’s all too much for some!

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

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

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

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

Here come the teams

Here come the teams

Young and old(er)

Young and old(er)

Brodie (hidden behind inconsiderate sub) scores

Brodie (hidden behind inconsiderate sub) scores

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

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

Stevenson celebrates the Shots' second.

Stevenson celebrates the Shots’ second.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Heading back in

Heading back in

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

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

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

At close quarters

At close quarters

On the flightpath

On the flightpath

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

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

The lively Shots fans

The lively Shots fans

Down the line

Down the line

Enjoying the sun

Enjoying the sun

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

“Why’s it so hot?!”

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

“Is it?!”

“No, I don’t know”.

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

g43

 

RATINGS:

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

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

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

Food: 8- Really good stuff.

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

Manchopper in….Wrexham

150th_Wrexham_AFCTorquay_United_FC

Result: Wrexham 2-1 Torquay United (FA Trophy Semi-Final 1st Leg)

Venue: The Racecourse Stadium (Saturday 21st February 2015, 3.00pm)

Att: 2,866

A windy, chilly day in the North West of the country. Just perfect for some football then! For today, a long term target of mine was to be ticked off in the shape of Wrexham FC’s Racecourse Ground. I had long wanted to visit the stadium, partly due to the historic status it holds and also due to them being a part of my Saturday’s in front of Soccer Saturday growing up.

As it was, the transport links all looked easy enough. With Wrexham’s ground being located almost right next to the Wrexham General Station, the trip down was all set up for the day when I looked for a final check on Friday nightand saw, to my delight, that there was a replacement bus service on the Chester-Wrexham leg. Oh, joy.

Anyway, the morning of Saturday 21st arrived and I set off for an earlier train as to ensure my timely arrival in Wales. This was almost blown to bits by me having to traipse back to the station from my house twice, due to me forgetting my railcard and thus ending in me sprinting over the bridge connecting the two platforms at Urmston and making the train in the nick of time. I did get a nod of acknowledgment from a guy on the platform I’d just come from who also gave e a thumbs up in recognition of my athleticism(!).

So, after paying my fare on the train towards Warrington, I soon arrived at the town’s Central station where I had to then undertake the short 15 minute or so stroll over to Bank Quay for my connection train to Chester, via Arriva Trains Wales. After a 25 minute wait, I was soon on board, although my chivalry came back to haunt me, as I let on all females before me leaving me with a vast shortage of seats meaning I had to share a table with a couple also bound for Chester, but they were more than happy for me to share their seats.

In fact, the same couple were heading for Wrexham General, I discovered on arrival at Chester, where I had to walk out to the front of the station for my bus. The “bus” was actually a well decked out coach, so not too bad and certainly better than the images that were in my mind of the banes of public transport that may turn up to ship us on a 25 minute ride over the border into Celtic country. We soon set off on a whistle stop sightseeing tour of the historic Chester,including the old Cathedral, Amphitheatre and City Walls. Added bonus and a reminder to me that I really ought to revisit the City and its football club at some point in the near future. After all, I haven’t been again since its Chester FC’s first ever home game, a 6-0 victory over Trafford, in the midst of which the Cestrians signed both Perry Groves and Pet Nevin. Not surprisingly, neither made an appearance for the club. Perhaps I should really stop there with my mentioning of the Dragon’s main rivals, or I may never be allowed back at the Racecourse again!

The Turf Hotel. Where it all began!

The Turf Hotel. Where it all began!

The coach rolled into a blustery Wrexham at just after half past one. After disembarking off the coach and bidding goodbye to the very courteous driver, I soon set off for the Turf Hotel, which neighbours the Racecourse and pretty much serves as it’s clubhouse, decked out in shirts and other memorabilia from the club’s past. It should indeed be held in high regard, as it was in this very building that the club was formed, way back in 1864 by the bored in Winter members of Wrexham Cricket Club. The pub was rammed on arrival, but I was able to get a Desperados and rest up by watching what remained of the Middlesbrough-Leeds game on Sky Sports.

The Turf was a mix of both home and away supporters though I think the United fans inside only numbered within single figures, but the atmosphere was certainly a very jovial and welcoming one, as was the service and people in general. The hour there quickly passed, including trying to decipher the number of autographed messages on the wall near the pool table before I decided it was time to make the move for the turnstiles at Cae Ras.

Cae Ras. The Racecourse Ground.

Cae Ras. The Racecourse Ground.

Match Programme

Match Programme

Within two minutes I was through the turnstiles after paying the £15 entrance fee and picking up a voucher on my way through, being warned that this was “Just in case the game is abandoned.” Not quite what you want to hear as you go in! Now, somewhat pessimistically, I headed inside and found myself in the large and well serviced concourse. I couldn’t find the programme seller and began to worry somewhat, before realising I had completely missed a large kiosk with a huge sign bearing the word “Merchandise” upon it. Something told me I may just find some luck there. My brains, eh?

Concourse

Concourse

How could I miss this?!

How could I miss this?!

I did indeed find the fiery-covered programme being sold on here, where I was met by another jolly man who requested £3 for the bible. I happily handed over the cash and was handed my treasure in return. I have to say, at this point, Wrexham was having a great impression upon me. This continued as I entered the stadium itself, and took a seat on just about half-way. The main stand is a new build, stylish stand. Opposite this is a slightly older stand with multi-coloured seats dotted around here and there. The scoreboard end is to the left, which is where, it appears, the more vocal of the fans congregate. To the right is the vacant, closed off terrace, looking despondent. The ground itself has a capacity of 10,771 in its current three-sided guise. Now for an in depth look at the history of the, debated, oldest club in Wales, Clwb Pel-droed Wrecsam.

Main Stand

Main Stand

Far side stand

Far side stand

Scoreboard End

Scoreboard End

The closed off terrace

The closed off terrace

History Lesson:

Formed in 1864, Wrexham played their first game in October of that year against the Prince of Wales Fire Brigade, using 17 players a side. As the rules were fluid, these early contests featured between 15 and 17 players, though the club were a leading voice in restricting the number to 11-a-side.

In 1878, the club won the inaugural Welsh Cup, beating Druids 1-0, though with a lack of funds meaning there was no trophy until the next year! They won it again in 1883. The club changed their name to Wrexham Olympic in 1883, following crowd trouble in an FA Cup tie against Oswestry. This only lasted three years, though, with the club reverting to Wrexham FC once again. In 1882, the club again changed its name to Wrexham Athletic, due to them playing a couple of season at the Rhosddu Recreation Ground due to rent disputes at the Racecourse, with fees raised to the princely sum of £10. However, they did move back to the Cae Ras in 1883, and have remained there ever since.

In 1890, Wrexham joined the Combination, playing Gorton Villa in their first game, a 5-1 loss. They remained in the Combination for four years, before joining the Welsh League in 1894, due to the upturn in costs. They won the League title on both seasons they competed for it, before returning to the Combination. Here they remained until 1905, winning four titles. They were then elected to the Birmingham & District League. Their first game in this league was against Kidderminster Harriers, a 2-1 triumph. During their time here, the club won six Welsh Cups (between 1909 and 1921).

In 1921, Wrexham were elected to the newly formed Football League Third Division North. Wrexham lost their first game 2-0 to Hartlepool United, playing in blue. They immediately gained revenge in the return fixture, winning 1-0 the following week! In 1933, the club finished runners-up to Hull City. During WWII, and now competing in Red, the club competed in the Regional League West. Due to having a barracks in the town, the club secured the services of players the stature of Sir Stanley Matthews. In 1956, Wrexham entertained Manchester United’s famed Busby Babes, losing 5-0 in the FA Cup Fourth Round and later that season (1956-’57), the club won it’s first Welsh Cup in over a quarter of a century.

1960 saw the club relegated for the first time, dropping to the newly formed Fourth Division. However, they did bounce back the next year, including a 10-1 win over Hartlepool, which remains, unsurprisingly, a record for the club. But, two years later, the Dragons were back in the Fourth Division and in 1966 they finished bottom of the whole Football League. In 1972, the club played their first European match (against FC Zurich) and eventually won the tie in Switzerland over two legs. They then played Hajduk Split, then of Yugoslavia, being defeated only on away goals. The present crest was introduced in 1974 and pre-empted the team raching the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup. In ’76, Wrexham remarkably reached the Quarters of the European Cup-Winners Cup losing to eventual winners, Anderlecht.

The club won the Fourth Division in 1978 via a 7-1 trouncing of Rotherham United, but soon returned, in 1983. In 1984, the club took the scalp of FC Porto over two legs (a programme is in the Turf), but lost out in the following round to AS Roma. The season ended with another Welsh Cup triumph. 1989 saw a Playoff Final defeat and avoided relegation in 1991 to the Conference thanks to another club taking the drop voluntarily. Again they were knocked out of Euro competition by another eventual winner, Manchester United, on this occasion. The following year featured the memorable Cup win over Arsenal (the Mickey Thomas Free-Kick being the highlight) and 1993 ended in promotion.

The first Wrexham silverware of the new Millennium was the FAW Premier Cup of 2001, but afterwards the club were plunged into financial disarray by the owners. After a 10-point deduction, the club were relegated to League 2. 2005 saw the Dragons win the Football League Trophy with a 2-0 win over Southend United at Millennium Stadium, In 2007, a final day relegation duel between Wrexham and Boston United went the way of the Welsh side, keeping them in the League, and relegating their opponents but the 2008 season ended with the club dropping out of the Football League. Conference Football awaited. Despite a few play-off appearance, the club have failed to return to the League, to date, though they did reach Wembley for the first time in their history in 2013 via the FA Trophy Final, beating Grimsby Town on penalties but they lost out only weeks later in the National Stadium to fellow Welsh club, Newport County. Last season, the club finished in 17th place in the Conference, the club’s lowest ever League finish.

The breeze was still stiff as the sides entered the field, with the mascot for today being a young girl who had been through all sorts of medical issues and illness. A real touching story and at the end of the announcement, a round of applause broke out around the stadium, including the visiting Torquay fans, I may add, the 160-ish of which who must be congratulated for making the long journey up.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Kick-Off

Kick-Off

The game got underway and was immediately a free-flowing, entertaining game. The Gulls had the first chance with Ryan Bowman’s effort clawed away by Andy Coughlin in the home net. Chances came and went at both ends before, on 25 minutes, Joe Clark received the ball around 25 yards from goal and unleashed a pinpoint thunderbolt into the top corner that was unstoppable. He celebrated in style, knowing just how special the strike was. The atmosphere was helped, personally, by the very vocal young girl sat just next to me with her Dad who shouted many Wrexham chants and more. Great to see, start them young!

Match Action

Match Action

Centre back Manny Smith’s looping header struck the bar as Wrexham looked to put daylight between the two as they gained control of the contest but 1-0 it remained at the break and I headed to the concourse for Soccer Saturday and some Chips and Gravy. It was ok, not the greatest I’ve set eyes on though, but a solid 7 out of 10. No, not Jeff Stelling, the food. Tut, tut.

I returned to my seat just prior to the sides retaking the field. It was Clarke who spurned the best chances to double his side’s advantage as he was denied by both Torquay custodian Martin Rice and defender Luke Young on the goal line.

After a chance went begging for United, they gained control and began to look most likely to grab an equaliser. Indeed, their fans seemed to sense this too as they raised their noise by a few notches but, against the run of play, they conceded a second. Great play by Mark Carrington led to Connor Jennings squaring the ball along the six-yard box where Louis Moult touched home at the back post before celebrating in a “cool”, restrained manner. 2-0.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Now it was a crossroads for Torquay. Don’t score and have a mountain to climb. Get one back and possibly become favourites for the tie. They decided on the latter. But, it was one of the most horrendously scruffy goals you are ever likely to see. The Gulls broke free just a few minutes after they’d fallen two behind and Bowman met it with his midriff/knee and bundled it past Coughlin. In fact, it took the travelling support a good five seconds to realise it actually was a goal!

Despite late pressure, Wrexham hung on to take a slender advantage into the second leg at Plainmoor. I headed straight off for the bus back to Chester, and soon arrived back at the English border city after passing by Chester Racecourse, which looked rather resplendent in the setting sun, before boarding a train back to Warrington Bank Quay. On arrival back at Central Station, I was faced with a rarity. A late train working to my advantage, meaning that I got home a good half an hour earlier than I was scheduled for. This just doesn’t happen to Manchopper at any time, on any journey. Unbelievable! And back in time for Take Me Out too. The day just couldn’t have ended in much better fashion, other than the Kidderminster trip, of course!!

wpid-20150221_161643.jpg

My Wrexham M.o.M.- Neil Ashton

My Torquay United M.o.M.- Luke Young.

RATINGS:

Game: 8- Good, entertaining free-flowing contest.
Ground: 8- Really quite an aesthetically pleasing ground, mixing old and new well.
Programme: 8- A good, solid read. Well worth the purchase.
Food: 7- Not bad at all. Prefer the thicker chips, but not expected.
Fans: 8- A good, mostly supportive bunch, especially the young girl sat next to me. Very vocal future Ultra!
Value For Money: 7- £12-ish travel, £15 in and £2.40 food. £3 programme. Not bad really.

Manchopper in….Nuneaton

125px-Nuneaton_Town_Crest 120px-Hemel_Hempstead_Town_F.C._logo

Result: Nuneaton Town 0-0 Hemel Hempstead Town (The FA Cup with Budweiser 4th Qualifying Round)

Venue: Liberty Park (The James Parnell Stadium) (Saturday 25th October 2014, 3.00pm)

Att: 930

FA Cup weekend, and for many sides, it’s the biggest day of their season. Arguably, this could be claimed for the two sides I was going to watch do battle today for a place in the hat for the FA Cup First Round “Proper”. Nuneaton, of the Conference National, were the favourites in the book over their visitors from Hertfordshire, Hemel Hempstead Town or “The Tudors” as they are known. Town, still known as the “Boro” after their previous incarnation as Nuneaton Borough (until 2008), are having a somewhat understated start to this, their 125th season sitting third bottom in the Vanarama Conference. Hemel Hempstead are also struggling somewhat occupying only 18th in the Southern Section.

I began my journey at just before 10am and headed into Manchester Piccadilly, but not before trying to be clever and save money by buying, what I was told, was a cheaper ticket by splitting the journey. Alas, this wasn’t the case and I paid an extra £2.20. Ok, it may not be an end of the world catastrophe, but still….

So,  after this mentally disturbing farce, I was soon sitting on the Cross Country Trains service to Bristol Temple Meads via Birmingham New Street, which was to be my transit destination. After a rather pleasant journey down through Cheshire & Staffordshire the train soon rolled into the “Second City” at just about 12.30. With 20 minutes to find the correct escalator & platform in the rather confusing sub-terrainean world that is New Street I eventually found my way to the waiting London Midland service which was to take me to Nuneaton for about 20 past 1. After another trouble free journey (this was to be made up for later, don’t worry), I hopped off at Platform 5 and soon made my way out of Nuneaton Station and towards the town centre. After a while, I began to get the feeling something wasn’t right and surprisingly I had headed in the wrong direction. Wonders never cease, eh?
Anyway, now on the correct path and heading back through a market in the town centre, I was soon making my way down Attleborough Road towards the industrial estate bearing the same name. Attleborough being the area of Nuneaton the ground sits in. After turning near the Crematorium, the sign for which is accompanied by an “Elderly Persons’ Crossing” (not the greatest pairing of road signage) I crossed the railway via footbridge and through the scenic walk up to the ground. Scenic, in the way of lovely storage facilities and warehouses.

The unfortunate signage pairing...

The unfortunate signage pairing…

Soon enough, I spotted the gates and sign bearing the name of Nuneaton RFC (the rugby club who ground share with Town) and after walking past the adjoining smaller Rugby ground, complete with truck trailer as a stand, I made my way up to the turnstiles situated at the far end of the ground.
After paying my £10 fee & having my bag checked by the steward, who nicely told me about the loose change I had in there (or was he telling me that so I didn’t launch any missiles?) I was soon inside Liberty Park. Liberty Park has been in use as Nuneaton Town’s home since 2008 (and Borough before that for one season).

The Main Stand at Liberty Park

The Main Stand at Liberty Park

You exit the turnstile in the corner between two terraces, one a raised covered terracing, the other a smaller uncovered terrace, which runs all the way down the left touchline in two sections. Down the far end is the usual away end, not in use as such today, which is another covered terrace, almost the twin of the one opposite. The far touchline is populated by a small-ish seated stand, a graffiti mural reading “Nuneaton Town”, the Boro’ Sports Bar (tucked in the corner near the formerly mentioned covered terrace), dressing room areas and dugouts.

Open Terrace

Open Terrace

Covered Terrace

Covered Terrace

I sat down on the open terrace away from the building crowds, programme (£2 cut-price) in hand and booked a ticket for the Morecambe-Exeter City game the next day. Once this was done, I was asked if I would mind moving as my chosen position was usually occupied at every home game by an elderly gentleman & not wanting to intrude, I moved about ten feet to the right. By now the atmosphere was building, the elderly gentleman had taken his obligatory position in the ground and the teams had entered the pitch to do battle. Hemel Hempstead, with King Henry VIII on their crest, were about to enter into a Battle Royale. See what I did there? I’ll get my coat.

History Lesson:

The club can trace it’s roots back to a local church side representing St.Nicholas Church in 1892, as Nuneaton St.Nicholas, competing in friendlies and Charity Cup ties. Two years later, the side changed its name to Nuneaton Town Association F.C.
Known as the “Nuns” the club started league life in the Warwickshire Junior League in 1894, before also competing fleetingly in the Coventry & District, Coventry & North Warwickshire and Leicestershire Leagues before the turn of the century. The club also briefly competed in the Nuneaton & District League, the Trent Valley League and a second stint in the Coventry & North Warwickshire League, before settling in the Birmingham Junior League and Birmingham Combination (it’s new name after WWI) from 1908 to 1933, bar a two season stay in the Southern League (Eastern Section between 1924& 1926). the club then competed in the Birmingham League from 1933 to 1937 when the club folded. On May 13, 1937, it was decided to wind up the football club despite Nuneaton Town being financially sound having sold their Manor Park ground the previous December. Strangely, the club was to be replaced after just two days by Nuneaton Borough F.C., the brainchild of a “group of local gentlemen”.
The Boro’ began life in the Central Amateur League in 1937, before similarly flitting between leagues, soon joining the Birmingham Combination before entering the Nuneaton Combination during the war years. On the cessation of hostilities, the club returned to be Birmingham Combination where they remained until 1952. In ’52, the club joined the Birmingham League where they competed in both the Northern Section & First Division as the league tried out different structures. After this, in 1958, the Boro’ joined the Southern League, which was to be their long-term home. Their first season was played in the North Western Section, before re-organisation meant they were given a place in the Premier Division. The club were relegated on four occasions to the First Division (’59-’60,’80-’81, ’87-’88 & ’93-’94) the latter three being to a “Midland Division”. All other seasons were spent competing in the Premier Division, bar three tenures in the Alliance/Conference (’79-’81, ’82-’87 & ’99-’03). On relegation in 2003, the club spent one season back in the Southern League before restructuring & the introduction of the regional Conference Leagues saw the Boro’ compete in the Conference North from 2004 until its demise in 2008.
Brought back under its “original” guise of Nuneaton Town, the club were demoted two divisions for being a “new” entity (see Darlington, Halifax Town, Chester) and were back in the Southern League. They still had large debt, despite the sale of their Manor Park home. They soon recovered, however, and were soon back finding success, gaining promotion to the Southern Premier at the first attempt, beating Chasetown in the play-offs, and were back at Conference Regional level by the end of the next season, as they again found play-off success, this time at the expense of Chippenham. After defeat by AFC Telford United in their first season in the Conference North, the club went one better the following year, by defeating Gainsborough Trinity 1-0 at Trinity’s Northolme ground, to ensure three promotions in four seasons. A remarkable comeback.
For the last two seasons, the club have settled in mid-table finishing in 15th & 13th places respectively.
Honours:

As Nuneaton Town (original):
Coventry & District League: Champions 1902-03.
Coventry & North Warwickshire League: Champions 1904-05.
Birmingham Junior League: Champions 1906-07.
Birmingham Combination: Champions 1914-15, 1928-29, 1930-31.
Birmingham Senior (County) Cup: Winners 1930-31.

As Nuneaton Borough:
Birmingham League: Champions 1954-55 (North), 1955-56 (Division One).
Southern League Premier Division: Champions 1998-99.
Southern League Midland Division: Champions 1981-82, 1992-93, 1995-96.
Southern League Cup: Winners 1995-96.
Southern League Championship Match: Winners 1993.
Conference National: Runners Up 1983-84, 1984-85.
Conference North: Runners Up 2004-05
Birmingham Senior (County) Cup: Winners 1949, 1955, 1960, 1978, 1980, 1993, 2002.
FA Cup:
Boro’ made it to the Third Round three times: 1949-50 (v Exeter City), 1966-67 (Rotherham United, Replay), 2005-06 (Middlesbrough, Replay).

As Nuneaton Town (Present):
Southern League Division One (Midlands): Runners Up 2008-09 (Promoted via play offs).
Southern League Premier Division: Runners Up 2009-10 (Promoted via play offs).
Conference North 2011-12 (Promoted via play offs).
Birmingham Senior Cup: Winners 2010.
FA Cup:
First Round Proper 2009-10, 2010-2011 & 2012/13.

Sides Doing The Handshake

Sides Doing The Handshake

The game began at a frantic pace, with both sides going close early on, none more so than Jack Dyer, who struck visiting goalkeeper Laurie Walker’s left hand post with just three minutes on the clock. Soon after, the dangerous and direct Dyer was forced off after contact with visiting skipper Jordan Parkes. Little happened thereafter in terms of clear cut chances, but the Tudors’ fans behind the goal added atmosphere where there would have been none by giving unrelenting backing to their team both vocally and via a drum. The drummer could actually play the drum, so for all those who don’t like drums, you may just be swayed?
The visitors big defender Moussa Diarra was immense, winning everything in the air thanks to his height or on the floor thanks to his long levers. He also smashed a ball the highest I’ve ever seen anyone clear one, over the Main Stand and into the adjoining land. It never bounced, so I’ve no idea where it ended up!

The Hemel Fans complete with drummer

The Hemel Fans complete with drummer

Half-Time came, 0-0. I had already gotten a decent sized portion of chips from one of the three outlets around the ground for £2.50, and they were well worth it too. Lovely, and they lasted until after the break. Perfect.
On the resumption,, the tie followed the same pattern, a decent free-flowing game, but with both sides lacking that end product to bring themselves a winning goal. But, in the 68th minute, it was again Boro’ who had the opportunity to progress when Chris Curran beat the offside trap but Laurie Walker, who was probably one of the most impressive custodians I’ve seen this season, especially in commanding his area & information giving, was out like lightning to charge down his effort and maintain his clean sheet. Soon after, Hemel had their best chance when the young home ‘keeper James Wren pulled off a fine one-handed save to tip over a rasping drive. 0-0 it remained, as both sides looked relatively happy to have another go at each other (tonight as I write, Tuesday 28th).
So, I exited soon after the whistle, with both sets of fans being given a round of applause from their respective outfits. But there was one set of fans happier than the other as shown by one fan who commented “That’s the worst I’ve seen us play in ages!”. After discovering a pathway shortcut to cut down my walking trip back to the centre of town by a good ten minutes, I popped into The Crown Inn with around 35 minutes to spare until my train. With Rekorderlig in hand, I settled down to watch the early stages of Bayer Leverkusen vs Schalke 04, but after five minutes the TV conked out, so I soon left, just in the nick of time as it turned out as my train rolled in a lot earlier than I was being told by my National Rail App, and I just made it on to the service to Crewe. This is where it falls apart a bit. After a trouble free trip back up to Crewe, we were kept out the station for a good 10-12 minutes for no obvious reason causing me to miss my connection(s) and extend my journey by a good hour and a half. I hate Crewe. I really, really do.

Goodbye Nuneaton

Goodbye Nuneaton

My Nuneaton Town M.o.M.- Ben Hutchinson
My Hemel Hempstead Town M.o.M.- Moussa Diarra.

RATINGS:
Game: 6- Not bad, but no goals.
Ground: 8- Nice ground, smart looking and good viewing areas.
Programme: 6- Cut price and size, but was ok.
Fans: 5- Were very quiet and subdued. Strange one really. Thought they’d be more up for it.
Food: 8- Very nice, good portion size for the price too.
Value For Money: 5- Quite a lot for travel, cut price ticket & programme helped a bit though.
Referee: 6- Was ok, riled both sets of fans at times with a few decisions though.