Manchopper in….Bradford (Park Avenue)

Result: Bradford (Park Avenue) 3-0 Bradford City (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Horsfall Stadium (Saturday 8th July 2017, 3pm)

Att: 2,020

The pre-season fiesta continues on unabated and this second week of the “season” saw my first solo trip of the season already arrive. However, after visiting Manchester League side AVRO’s new home, the Whitebank Stadium, the previous week, there would be no new ground for me this Saturday. Instead I’d be heading back to West Yorkshire and, more specifically, Bradford for the city’s big derby clash between Bradford (Park Avenue) and Bradford City at (Park Avenue)’s host ground, the Horsfall Stadium. The brackets are highly important, by the way.

With my journey being taken away from the usual railways of the country by the train strikes, I would instead be traversing the coachways via the medium of National Express. Plus, having shelled out £10 for a year’s coachcard, I had a return ticket for just over £7. Not too shabby really and this got me to the interchange for just after 11-o’clock in a fine summer’s morning.

Bradford

Ginger Goose

To plan out my trip to the Horsfall, I decided I could do with being inside and headed for the nearby and unsurprisingly orange-signed Ginger Goose, whose advertisement of £1.70 pints within made it a very attractive proposition. This became even more so the case when I got to the bar to find pieces of A4 proclaiming pints of “guest ale” for the princely sum of £1.50. Not one to pass up a bargain, I happily indulged in the offer and settled in to route plan/watch some of the recently started Day 3 of the England-South Africa Test.

With my route seemingly sorted, I headed back out past the interchange and onwards up the main road. It was as I was about ten minutes along that I felt something was a bit off. Indeed, my internal compass had again gone haywire and sent me off down the wrong road and towards Wakefield, if I’d had continued on for long enough. Now, I knew enough to know this wasn’t quite right and a quick check soon put me back on the right path, but still a good hour’s walk off from the ground itself. However, I obviously had a few little “pit-stops” to encounter whilst en-route….

The first of these came up pretty much immediately as I came onto the correct road. This was the Station pub, which happened to be a small, traditional place, with just a bar, dart board and pool table for entertainment. A real hark-back and the £2.60 pint of cider went down well, though this may have had something to do with the fact I’d just come off a good half-hour’s walk, of course.

On track

The Station

Anyway, with little time to lose, my stay here was brief and I still had to head onwards up the road for another mile and a bit up until I arrived at a traffic island that seemed to also seemed to be pub central around these parts of Bradford. With the Top House and Red Lion being on the opposite side of the dual carriageway, I reckoned it’d be best to leave these for later and split up my walk back after the game. Somewhat. As such, I had the Woodman to fall upon instead, though I was soon concerned I’d not be served as I arrived at the bar to be asked within a heartbeat “Is your name Lee?” After confirming I was definitely not this “Lee” figure, I was allowed my second cider of the day. Fo any other Lee’s out there, it’s probably best you take some ID!

With me wanting to arrive early to ensure easy food & programme purchase (though BPA’s media man Joe did confirm there was loads of the latter, so no rush), I headed onwards to my final stop-off, the Northern, which sits a short walk from the ground. This also seems the more popular pre-match drinking hole for the punters and, as such, was fairly full with City fans enjoying the sun in the outside seating area, though this did leave them exposed to the heckles of the traffic. Well, that shouldn’t really be plural, as there was just the one shout from a passing white van of “Come on the Avenue!”. Ooh, it was on now.

The Woodman

The Northern

After polishing off my third Strongbow of the day so far (far more appetising when the sun’s out for some reason), I reckoned it was about time I headed for the Horsfall, what with the time now past 2pm. After this time going one road too far as opposed to one too early earlier on in the day, I eventually re-joined the stream of fans heading to the ground, whilst passing a pair of girls dressed in super-hero fancy dress as some sort of promotion(?). I didn’t know and, in truth, I didn’t really want to!

Eventually I arrived at the Horsfall Stadium after passing by the large cemetery which I hoped wasn’t not an omen for the game’s quality (though City fans may think this did fit their performance). After handing over my £8 entrance fee, I ventured inside and quickly asked a startled guy in smart dress to where the programmes were. After a swift visit to the club shop, where I’d been directed by said suited-up fellow, I purchased something I’d been looking forward to for a while, BPA’s chips and gravy with some peas on the side. Sadly, they weren’t up to the standard of my last visit and seemed somewhat overcooked. Or maybe my tastes have changed since then, but they weren’t as good as my memory made them out to be.

The crowds streaming in

The Horsfall Stadium

Alas, it’s on to the ground which has had a couple of little additions since my last visit. There are now a pair of new stands, though both are of the new, bog standard, boxed affair. One is a small terraced area that sits behind the near end goal between the pitch and the turnstiles/shop/everything else and is reached via fenced off route over the running track that surrounds the playing area. The other is a similar stand on the far touchline alongside the pavilion building, but this one is an all seater, though was caged off and not in use today. The aforementioned pavilion building houses the dressing rooms, with the ground’s crowning glory being the large grandstand that runs the majority of the pitch. All actual seats here are undercover, with just the benched areas that jut out from each side being open to the elements. The far end is home to an open grass bank that was in major use today, what with the game being a friendly which meant the usual, over sensitive health and safety rules could mercifully go out the window. The extra turnstile at this end was even being pressed into service too, with the 2,000-plus crowd filling up the ground nicely.

Now, with ground description out of the way, here’s everyone’s favourite part (it is, I know it is and don’t deny your love for it), it’s the history of Bradford (Park Avenue)…

History Lesson:

Bradford (Park Avenue) FC was originally formed in 1863 as Bradford Football Club (its traditional name) as a rugby football club and began to play association football from 1895, sharing the West Yorkshire League title in 1896 whilst also winning the catchy-named Leeds Workpeople’s Hospital Cup. However, the original football club would only last a further three years before folding in prior to the turn of the century.

1907 would see another attempt at association football at the club. This saw the majority of members decide to fully abandon the Union game for association football as part of what is known as, rather over-dramatically, the “Great Betrayal, while still playing at the original Park Avenue ground. After being spurned in their attempt to join the Football League, they instead joined the Southern League despite being 130 miles away from nearest rival Northampton Town. The bracketed ‘Park Avenue’ suffix was added to the ‘Bradford FC’ name to avoid confusion with Bradford City, though the club was usually published on fixture lists etc. simply as Bradford.

BPA

The next year (1908) did see Bradford FC elected to the Second Division of the Football League and they were promoted to Division 1 in 1914 as runners-up and finished ninth at the close of their first season at the top level. After WWI (in which player Donald Bell would sadly lose his life at the Somme, but would be awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery posthumously), the club entered a steady decline, never reaching their pre-war glory years again. After being relegated to Division 2 in 1921 and Division 3 at the close of the following season, a brief resurgence saw Bradford promoted back to Division 2 as Division 3 North champions in 1928, where they would remain through to 1950, when they dropped back to Division 3 and eventually Division 4 due to reorganisation in 1958.

Another promotion in 1961 saw a brief return to the Division 3, but this lasted just two seasons before a return to Division 4 was rubber-stamped. This was the beginning of the end for Bradford’s league football stay, 1970 seeing them replaced by Cambridge United after a number of difficult seasons. The club, resultantly, joined the Northern Premier League, selling their Park Avenue home in 1973 before sharing facilities with Bradford City, but fortunes only worsened and 1974 saw Bradford liquidate.

However the club immediately reformed in Sunday League and, after stays at a couple of other venues, returned to a redeveloped Avenue Road for one season for a final farewell before redevelopment saw the ground shut permanently. A new Saturday club was thusly formed for 1988-’89 and took a place in the West Riding County Amateur League, before switches to the Central Midlands League ‘Supreme Division’ and latterly the North West Counties League followed, the NWCFL season seeing BPA compete at various rugby league grounds.

History

The Sunday and Saturday sides merged as one entity during the early part of the 1990’s and BPA won the NWCFL in 1995, returning to the NPL and moving to their current home, the Horsfall Stadium. The club would win the First Division title in 2001 before going on to be founder members of the Conference North after finishing high enough in the NPL table to achieve a spot in the new division via the play-offs, where the club defeated Spennymoor Utd, Ashton Utd & Burscough. However, relegation followed after one season (after a 7th place), before they further subsided the following season back to the NPL Division 1 North, but won the 2006 NPL President’s Cup ahead of returning to the NPL’s Premier Division as Division 1 North as Champions in 2008.

Following a false dawn over plans for a new 20,000 seater stadium and a return to League football by 2012, the club did still achieve success that year by gaining promotion back to the Conference North after winning the NPL’s play-off final, defeating FC United one-nil after narrowly missing out the previous two seasons. They have since consolidated their place in the Second Step of the non-league system, finishing up in 16th place last time out in the National League North.

After a minute’s applause for young Bradley Lowery who, of course, sadly passed away during the week, we were underway. The first ten minutes or so were a fairly even affair with (Park Avenue) being more than a match for their  Football League neighbours. But it still came as something of a shock to the majority of the crowd on at the Horsfall when the hosts took the lead, new signing Nicky Clee firing in a fine effort from the angle of the box that flew across City keeper Colin Doyle and into the far side-netting where it sort of stopped dead. This almost resulted in chips flying everywhere, such was my reaction.

Match Action

Match Action

I made sure there could be no repeat threat of this happening again and instead headed off on the obligatory lap of the ground, briefly visiting the small stand behind the goal. It was from here that I’d see City’s best chances of the game come and go, whilst at close quarters. First, the sprightly Charlie Wyke saw his header saved by Drench when he ought to have done better, before Drench was forced to get down low at his right-hand upright to palm away a low Jake Reeves drive.

I continued on as the game settled down somewhat, with little happening until the last fifteen of the half, and it was then the second goal arrived. A trip inside the area on the full-back led to Nicky Wroe placing the ball on the spot before firing beyond Doyle and into the corner. As I continued onwards and reached the grassy mound at the rear of the stand, I decided to try and get the full ground in one shot. Whilst doing so, I was instructed by a kid to take a picture of his mum rolling down the grass mound as soon as he’d realised I had camera in hand. Not one to disappoint, I duly did so, which his Dad seemed pretty pleased about. He wouldn’t be quite as happy moments later due to on pitch reasons…

Wroe fires in from the spot

Keep rollin’

The Bantams, at this point, looked like the lower-ranked outfit and they went three down just minutes later. Some fine work down the flank by Oli Johnson saw him able to tee up Adam Boyes, who used his head to nod home from close range. It was the ‘3rd Avenue’ goal. Ah, that’s a bad pun. Quality wise too. Anyway, half-time arrived and with the home side and their numerous trialists (that got a fair snigger when they were announced pre-match) took to the field to warm-up ahead of the second half.

The second period got underway as I took up a place on the open benched seating at the far-end of the ground, before heading under cover for a while. To be fair, the second-half was very much one of those that is too punctuated by subs to really get going and, as such, there was little action to truly get excited about.

Match Action

Crowd basking in the sun

However, both ‘keepers did have one opportunity a piece to prove themselves once more, City’s sub-keeper, German Rouven Sattlemaier denying Boyes a second, before Drench had to be at his best once more to push away Shay McCarten’s drilled effort. McCartan also somehow failed to bundle the ball home from close range as the game entered its final throws, but there was to be no addition to the score-line as the Avenue held off to the final whistle to ensure a decent win and take some sort of local bragging rights, as well as a little silverware in the form of the ‘Tom Banks Memorial Trophy’.

As for myself, the charge was on to get back up the road to make the walk seem that little easier. As mentioned earlier, I stopped off in the Top House first, eventually sorting out how to get there after being lost in the subways, before heading into the nearby Red Lion. Two Carlsberg’s down, it was unavoidably time to embark on the 3 mile traipse back to the city centre.

Top House

Red Lion. Unsurprisingly with red sign.

Eventually arriving, I came upon Jacob’s Ale House and this was by far my favourite pub of the day. Lowly-lit and having the feeling of being underground, it is certainly one for those looking for something a little different from the usual outlets. Speaking of which, my final stop was in one of these “usual outlets” in the form of ine of the City’s Wetherspoon’s, the Turls Green which sits just around the corner from the interchange, in Centenary Square.

After wasting away the final half-hour of my day in Bradford over the now staple drink of Punk IPA, it was time to head back up for the coach back.

Jacob’s Ale House

Centenary Square & ‘Spoons

A quick, easy journey home followed and resulted in some decent money saving too, which will definitely be explored more so, now I have the coachcard and not long to go with the railcards. Overall, I’d enjoyed my first real visit to Bradford and look forward to returning at some point fairly soon for a visit to Valley Parade. The Horsfall is, for me, a pretty underrated ground that probably suffers from the running track around it in some people’s eyes, though this isn’t much of an issue to me usually. The game was decent, the weather was good, so next week’s going to be the opposite, isn’t it…?

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 8

Food: 4

Programme: 5 (not full issue)

Value For Money: 7

 

 

Manchopper in….Boston

Result: Boston United 0-1 Altrincham (National League North)

Venue: York Street (Saturday 11th March 2017, 3pm)

Att: 1,026

As the season begins to enter its business end and teams begin to discover just what they are to be fighting for, it’s also the case that most games have something riding on them one way or another. Sadly, this one wasn’t one of them, as it appears Boston are, more than likely, safe and Alty, sadly, seem destined to take up a spot in the Northern Premier League for next season, as their sad decline continues unabated. Regardless, there was something important around this game for myself. That “thing” being Boston’s home: York Street. With only a few weeks remaining of the old ground’s life, it didn’t take much to persuade me to make a visit.

So, come the morning of this very Saturday in question, I was kindly given a lift into Sale where I would be picked up by Altrincham’s supporters’ coach for the trip over to Lincolnshire. This method of transport was chosen due to the obscene price of the train journey to get there otherwise (around £41 for me) and with the bus being a full £14 cheaper, the decision really was a no-brainer.

With the mini-bus arriving nice and early, I was welcomed onto it by Alty supporter John and his wife (I say very much hoping this is the case, if not I may be in trouble!) and we were soon underway, with the latter of the pair not impressed by the uttering of the name “Stockport County” from the driver! All in jest of course. Anyway, after a further couple of swift stops to pick up the remaining travelling band of hardy Robins supporters, the journey down to South-East Lincolnshire began.

After a largely uneventful journey to our stop-off point in Blyth (no, we weren’t that off course, this was the one near Worksop), it was somewhat surprising to find a large RAF presence at the services as we arrived. Just what do they get up to around here?! It turns out it was nothing more than a quick caffeine stop for the lads in uniform before they pulled out in convoy and off to one of the many bases around the former bomber command stronghold county.

We soon followed them back out of the services and an hour or so later were arriving into Boston, greeted by the sight of a pair of ducks taking a leisurely stroll down the pavement., before the towering old-age floodlights of York Street came into view and I was quickly taken by them. When it comes to these sort of things, you can almost…and I stress ALMOST get how people fall in love with inanimate objects. Phwoooar!

Narrow streets

Boston and the River Witham

As we arrived outside the gates of the Pilgrims’ home, we were soon all off the bus and after a quick programme purchase, I quickly headed off towards the large church steeple that dominates the surrounding area. I figured that this must be where the town centre was and, for once, I was right! Yes, I didn’t get lost after following my own hunch, get the bunting and balloons out!

A quick sightseeing trip to St. Boltoph’s Church (apparently the largest parish church in England) and it’s “stump” later and things turned towards more important cultural things. Namely, surprisingly, beer. The first stop was a nearby Tudor-period-looking building which I could only tell had a bar by peering in the door and seeing the line of illuminated pumps including the brilliant Hop House Lager, which is often overlooked by myself, sadly, but when I do remember just how good it is, it’s worth the wait. £4 a pint in here, but nice surroundings to go with it, with the interior split into many small rooms all kept in period style.

Boston

St. Botolph’s Church.

Unfortunately, I was on a bit of a whistle-stop tour of the town and so had little chance to truly enjoy my short stay before I was heading back towards the market place and to a pair of pubs, namely the Britannia and the Stump and Candle. On walking past the former, it looked a little on the full side, so I decided to miss it out for now and head for the Stump, named after the church spire which stands behind it.

On entering I found two guys in here. One was there watching the TV with a pint as per normal. The other…well, was going on to himself wittering on about nonsensical things and toasting the spirits behind the bar after reciting a story to himself. He was a decent enough chap, though, so no qualms there. There was some qualms held by the guy behind the bar, though, who was less than impressed as the fella walked over to the jukebox to get it going, forcing him to go off and switch it on, negating the sound of the rugby on TV as a result. All quite humorous!

First stop of the day. Yes, it has a bar!

The Stump & Candle

As for the other guest in here, I decided that, with time against me, I may as well quiz him on which pubs were best around Boston. It turned out the guy was from up in the North East and didn’t really know the answer, but did give me the locations of a few to try out en-route back to the ground. With ‘Spoons sitting just the other side of the river, it seemed silly not to tick another of these off too so, after bidding goodbye to the trio, headed over the River Witham to the Moon Under Water. Yes, another one.

The Moon was a fairly decent ‘Spoons but nothing too special, though I did cause some confusion for the girl serving by ordering a Punk IPA and then having to help them locate it within the fridge. A good lesson to have learned, I’d say! Anyway, I wasn’t wasting much time in here and it was off back over the River to the Ship Inn, reached down a small passageway.

The Ship seems a favoured haunt of Pilgrims fans with it pretty full of gold and black scarves and shirts. The Bateman’s Gold Ale seemed to be going down well too, though I figured having had a few in quick succession, I’d steer clear for now and plumped for a Strongbow instead, which set me back a further £3+. Not much to report on here and with the clock rapidly approaching 3pm, I decided to head round to York Street.

The Moon Under Water ‘Spoons

The Ship’s passage….

…and the Ship itself!

Cutting back through the neighbouring Matalan car park, I then found myself with a dilemma. Turn right and spend 15 minutes on the terrace doing nothing, or turn left and sample a quick local ale in the Coach & Horses. Now, if you read these blogs regularly enough (and if you do I’m sorry, but thanks!), I think you can probably work out what I chose.

A quick half of Bateman’s XL was had but with less than five minutes to kick-off, I swiftly headed back to the ground, where I handed over my £13 entrance fee for a place in the away section. The teams had just entered the pitch, with York Street looking just fine.

A quick stop in the Coach & Horses

Arriving at the ground. Look at the lights!!

It’s Main Stand, to the right of me, is all seater, with a couple of pillars supporting its roof. The opposite touch-line plays host to the Spayne Road Stand, a covered terrace which runs the length of the pitch. The far end is populated by the Town End terrace, which is largely covered, bar a small amount of standing on each side. The York Street end, where the travelling fans were housed today, is probably the most interesting of all stand at the ground, with the raised seating area of the stand reached by climbing stairs from the small terrace below. Now, here’s a bit about the story of Boston United…

History Lesson:

Boston United Football Club was formed in 1933 as successor to a previous club who competed as Boston Town. They initially competed in the Midland League during their formative years, but achieved little initial success, outside of numerous Lincolnshire Cup wins (now numbering fifteen in total), achieving a runners-up spot in 1956 with this being their highest placing. 1959 saw the club move to the Southern League’s ‘North Western Zone’.

Following a third placed finish, Boston found themselves in the Premier Division, where they remained for the next two seasons, before the club were spared relegation to Division 1 by leaving the league altogether and taking a year out. They had added an East Anglia Cup to their cabinet by that point, though (1961).

1962 saw the Pilgrims re-join the Midland League, but remained for just two seasons before departing once more. A further year’s sabbatical followed before Boston popped back up in the United Counties League in 1965 which they immediately won to move up into the West Midlands Regional League Premier Division which was won twice in succession over the next two years, prior to a switch into the newly-formed Northern Premier League for 1968-’69.

BUFC

Following a runners-up placing (and an Eastern Professional Floodlit Cup win) in 1972, Boston went on to win the NPL title in four of the next six seasons (’73, ’74, ’77, ’78), added a pair of NPL League Cups (’74 & ’76) alongside four NPL Shields (’74, ’75, ’77, ’78) and were twice ‘Non-League Champion of Champions (’73 & ’77), though they were surprisingly overlooked for election to the Football League in favour of ’78 runners-up Wigan Athletic.

Instead, Boston became founder members of the Alliance Premier League in 1980 and reaching the semi-finals of the FA Trophy that same campaign. 1985 saw the club end up as Trophy runners-up (vs Wealdstone) before a drop off in form saw the club eventually relegated to the NPL in 1993.

After finishing as NPL runners-up in 1998, Boston re-joined the Southern League’s Premier Division and after finishing runners-up in their first season back, went one better in 2000, going on to win the title and, therefore, a place in the Conference. They then went on to immediately win the Conference at the end of their first campaign back at that level, taking up a spot in the Football League’s Division 3, going fully professional in the process.

Nice artwork

After financial issues saw the club enter administration, the 10-point deduction proved to much of an obstacle to overcome, with the Pilgrims relegated back to the Conference in 2007, but were made to bypass the Premier Division and take a spot in the North Section of the league. Things got even worse in 2009, with Boston demoted to the NPL Premier Division.

However, here they stabilised, with a third-place finish in 2010 seeing them take a place in the play-offs, where they overcame Bradford PA in the final. The Pilgrims also added a third NPL League Cup as they bid farewell to the league and returned to the Conference once more.

Back in the Conference North, Boston have somewhat found their level for the time being, having spent the last seven campaigns here, with an eighth looking more than likely. This season has been something of a disappointment for Boston, having come off the back of two play-off placings in the last two years, they currently find themselves in 15th place in the, currently titled, National League North.

Today’s Game.

The away end

After a minutes applause to remember former Boston player Steve Martin who sadly passed away recently, the game got going with a fairly even start, both sides sharing a couple of half-chances each, but it was the home side who came closest to taking the lead with around twenty minutes played, Harry Vince clipping the outside of Stuart Tomlinson’s upright. This was followed by the impressive Lewis Hilliard driving a shot across goal and just wide, as it looked set to be a long day at the office for the visiting Robins.

Tomlinson, the Alty stopper, was in his second outing since returning to football after a spell in WWE’s system, thus it was quite amusing when he was serenaded with a “You fat bastard” shortly into the contest. I can only imagine this wasn’t repeated after one of his action shots was passed around the terrace. (Disclaimer: This probably didn’t happen…)

Anyway, impressive physiques aside and Boston were to rue their early miss when, on 32 minutes, Elliott Newby was released and he strode into the area before firing beyond the Pilgrims’ custodian Ross Durrant. The bottom-of-the-league Robins led at Boston and anywhere else this would have been seen as a shock. But not at York Street where this is a familiar tale for the Pilgrims who, unbelievably, have failed to win a Saturday home league game all season. Crazy!

Match Action

Match Action

This goal seemed to rattle Boston and settle Altrincham in equal measure, with Alty almost going in at the break two-up, only for the linesman’s flag to deny Simon Richman’s “goal” from standing. Half-Time soon arrived and I headed down the steps to purchase portion of chips for just £1.20, before retaking a place up in the benched seats for the second period.

During the first half, I had met up with Alty fan Martin, who had sort of replied to my tweet to NonLeagueMag earlier in the week regarding which games everyone was off to. As such, I decided to disrupt his peaceful viewing pleasure of the game for the second half too. Sorry, Martin! With one particularly vocal Alty fan doing his level best to shout support from the terracing (perhaps with the help of some alcoholic beverages?!), both sides began to do battle once more.

The second half, though, was a very scrappy affair, with Alty understandably sitting back on their lead and United seemingly lacking the cutting edge required to break them down. Their cause wasn’t helped when, with twenty minutes remaining, their centre-back and skipper Robinson seemingly suffered a hamstring issue and with all three subs used by the Pilgrims looked destined to leave his side one short. However he battled on, forced up front as a makeshift, immobile striker.

Match Action

Match Action

The last ten or so was all one way traffic, with the hosts throwing desperate attack after desperate attack at the visitors, but it wasn’t until the 91st minute that they finally found a way to truly trouble Tomlinson (oooh nice alliteration there, eh?!). With Boston now on all-out attack mode, they finally got clear but found the imposing figure of “Hugo Knox” in outstanding form as he pulled off a miraculous double save to deny, firstly, Alex Simmons’ low drive before flinging himself to his right to block Jay Rollins’ follow-up with his legs to secure the points. Full-Time, 0-1! and a great, deserved win for the Robins!

After the game, I bid farewell to Martin and the very happy, chanting fan before heading out of the ground and meeting up with John and the rest of the bus load for the journey back up to Altrincham. After a journey back which largely included people’s experiences of the Stump and just how far the town centre was from the ground, we were back in Cheshire much quicker, it seemed, than was the case on the outbound leg.

The York Street end & happy Robins faithful

Alty players salute the fans

A final one in the Vine

After bidding goodbye and thanks to those on board, it was to the Vine Tavern for a quick pint whilst waiting for the bus back home. Damn you time, forcing me to drink… After meeting a couple in here who were aware of our bar (I should start charging for these ads), it was time to go and bring to an end a fine day out.

I really enjoyed my short time in Boston and look forward to returning to either United’s new ground or to Boston Town, both of whom are, sadly, not as central as the tremendous York Street. With regards to United’s new home, it’s always a shame when a club moves out of a town-centre location. Of course, it is all part and parcel of the new breed of community complex-based stadia but from a personal (and rather greedy) point of view, it lessens the overall experience and ease of access. Good luck to them on the move, but York Street and its tremendous, glorious floodlights will always be the one for me…

RATINGS:

Game: 4

Ground: 8

Food: 6

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….York

york_city_fc-svgCurzon_Ashton_Khai

Result: York City 1-1 Curzon Ashton (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)

Venue: Bootham Crescent (Saturday 15th October 2016, 3pm)

Att: 1,307

Back on the FA Cup trail after a round away, I found myself perusing the fixture lists once more…OK, that’s a lie because as soon as the draw was made and York City had a home tie, the decision was made. The game was all the more attractive by the fact that the Minstermen were to be hosting Curzon Ashton and by knowing a few guys with connections to the Nash, this meant that a day in the White Rose’s county town (city) was on.

Arriving into York at just after midday I escaped the queues attempting to get through the ticket checks on the doors and followed a hen-do out into the streets. Obviously these sights threw me, as I decided to head in the opposite direction to the one I’d already planned out beforehand, thus meaning a tour of the back streets of York was now a must. Eventually, I arrived at a bridge over the Ouse and arrived at the foot of the medieval Clifford’s Tower, part of the, now fragmented, York Castle.

York

York

River Ouse

River Ouse

Clifford's Tower

Clifford’s Tower

Eventually, I arrived at the welcoming doors of one of the city’s Wetherspoon outlets, this being the Postern Gate. This is by far the more boring of the pair as it sits below a Travelodge and resembles more of an office than a pub. Nonetheless, I swept inside and quickly drank the resplendent Punk IPA before heading off into the city centre in search of somewhere with a little more character. It couldn’t be too hard to accomplish this mission.

Indeed it wasn’t, as the haunted Golden Fleece became the second drinking spot. There were no ghosts in here today, luckily, but rather more unfortunate was that space was very limited due to the very small drinking room at the front, with the rear and upstairs reserved for those diners. So, having been forced to stand next to the bar and dodge the incoming and outgoing traffic to and from the back, the Fleece probably wasn’t quite as good an experience as it probably ought to have been. Get there early is my tip. The Estrella is pretty decent too.

So, with the Fleece and its ghostly inhabitants survived, I headed into the packed Shambles street and came across a small-ish bar/bottle shop. Ye Olde Shambles Tavern was another where the bar side of things seemed to be something of an afterthought, with the café-part seemingly larger, but the service, as in the Fleece, was of a really professional standard which, I guess, in York is a big plus point with so many bars in competition (I believe over 300). I decided to plump for a pint of the Jorvik Golden Ale, which was a good choice even if I say so myself, though it always sits a little heavy on me, as I’m not a huge ale drinker for the most part.

In The Postal Gate

In The Postern Gate

Golden Fleece

Golden Fleece

Into the Shambles

Into the Shambles

After watching multiple people pose in the street outside for pictures and the odd one fall off the kerbings before laughing with a tinge of embarrassment, it was time to head back outside and head towards the ground. Now, I knew the Minster was pretty much on the list of places to pass whilst en route and so it was to the cathedral I headed. Unfortunately, as is seeming to creep back into my visits and trips of late, I soon found myself book-ended at the end of the adjoining park and was lost. Surprise, surprise. Unbelievably, I was even asked by a couple if I “knew York” whilst staring in pure confusion at my phone. If I still look like I know what I’m doing when I clearly don’t, I’m fairly happy with that.

Anyway, having set off the wrong way slightly, before finding myself in another garden, I luckily found a pair of security guards strolling through the grounds of a ruined abbey. The pair seemed to keep abreast of the club somewhat, referencing their draw last week, before giving me some, easy to remember, directions as it turned out I was about 5 minutes away and the ground was basically around the corner. Bloody tourists, eh?

Ye Olde Shambles Tavern

Ye Olde Shambles Tavern

York Minster through the trees

York Minster through the trees

Another park, another old thing

Another park, another old thing

Following the guards instructions, I found myself at the foot of Bootham Crescent itself, before following the “crowd” down to the end of the road where the ground sprang upon me somewhat. After purchasing a programme early from the sellers at the main gate (just in case), I decided I could really do with visiting the pub across the way and with a large Curzon contingent hanging around outside, I figured I may just find some familiar faces inside. This turned out to be the case as I greeted Aaron, one of Curzon’s media extraordinaires, manager John’s son and verified twitter user. “Of course” was my answer to Aaron’s question of whether I’d be in the away end for this game, before having just a half of Carlsberg to accompany me through to the kick-off time, as I must be getting a little more safe in my age.

With the time to head for the turnstiles now upon us, the bar emptied and all and sundry headed out toward the away end. This, in turn, meant there was a queue outside which a few of the Curzon contingent found quite amusing. Eventually, it was my turn to hand over the cut-price £12 and I was into Bootham Crescent, the ground this time, as it was added to my list of visited ‘not-long-for-this-world’ grounds. After greeting Craig, Gibbo & Rob upon arrival, I took up a place within the crowds with my awarded, but slightly damaged, FA Cup on standby.

York City FC

York City FC

Queues...

Queues…

Bootham Crescent is a ground that really does show its age, both in a good and bad way. The facilities are a bit outdated, with the club even feeling the need to cover the food hut in a protective metal screen. The two touchlines are home to the seating stands, with the Main Stand located on the right-hand side from the away end and this affords raised views over the pitch. Opposite is an older, smaller seating stand, which doesn’t give too much in the way of a raised view. Both ends of the ground feature terracing, with the home end covered, but the away end left open to the elements, though a fair clump of the smaller seating stand was also available to the travelling support. Of course, with the weather being good, this option wasn’t taken by many with the (half) terrace nicely full. With kick-off imminent, let’s get into the history of the Minstermen, York City F.C.

History Lesson:

York City Football Club was first founded in 1908 with the original club playing in the Northern League and Yorkshire Combination before turning pro in 1914 and joining the Midland League prior to folding in 1917. Reformed in 1922, playing at Fulfordgate, York City competed in the Midland League for another seven season spell, before being elected to the Football League’s Third Division North at the expense of Ashington.

The Minstermen won their first league match, against Wigan Borough, then competed in the third tier of the League all the way through until 1959, when York achieved their first promotion. The club moved into Bootham Crescent in 1932, following the vacation of the ground by York CC. They reached the 6th Round of the FA Cup in 1938, before playing in the wartime competitions through the hostilities, winning the Combined Counties Cup whilst doing so.

Following the end of WWII, York were forced to apply for re-election in 1950 after finishing bottom of the Third Division North, but followed up just three seasons later with their best finish to that date, 4th. 1955 saw the club reach the FA Cup semi-final, losing out to Newcastle United in a replay played at Roker Park. In doing so, York became the first third-tier side to play a semi-final replay, though “relegation” was forced upon York in 1958 as the restructuring of the league meant their 13th placed finish caused York to drop to the new Division 4.

YCFC

YCFC

After finishing 3rd the next season, York were immediately promoted, though followed this with an immediate return to the bottom Division. The 1962 League Cup saw the club achieve their best run, reaching the 5th Round, where they bowed out to Rochdale. 1964, though, saw a second re-election needed to secure the club’s place in the Football League, but followed this with promotion the next year, following another 3rd place. This was the last success for a while, though, as York were relegated the next year and needed re-election for the following three consecutive years.

After another promotion in 1971, the Minstermen just avoided relegation from Division 3 for the next two years. However, thanks to the three up, three down method, York achieved promotion to Division 2 for the first time in 1974, after another 3rd place, but by 1977 they were back at the bottom rung. Further re-elections were secured in 1978 & ’81 as York struggled to maintain league status, though 1984 saw them again return to form with a Division 4 title, becoming the first Football League side to win with a three-figure total.

After notable results against 1st Division Arsenal (1-0) and European Cup holders Liverpool (1-1) during the early part of the ’80’s, York remained in Division 3 until 1988 when another relegation was suffered, but 1993 saw them back in the third tier, now Division 2, following play-off success against Crewe Alexandra. They also reached the Second Division play-offs the next season, but lost out in the semi-finals and in 1996 they knocked eventual Premiership & FA Cup winners Manchester United out of the League Cup.

Far Stand

David Longhurst Stand

1999 saw York drop out of the Second Division and finished bottom of Division 3 in 2004, meaning a drop into non-league for the first time in 75 years.  Losing out in the 2007 play-off semi-finals, York lost out in the 2009 FA Trophy Final as they were vanquished by Stevenage Borough. 2010 saw more play-off heartbreak, this time in the final but 2012 saw success in both the above competitions, with York overcoming Newport County & Luton Town in the Trophy and play-offs respectively. Despite reaching the League 2 play-offs in 2014, their stay back in the league was short, however, with the club returning to the Conference last season.

The game got underway with Curzon slightly on top, but when they conceded a penalty in just the ninth minute, following Hakan Burton’s bringing down of Shaun Rooney, it looked as though York’s league advantage may be a bit too much. Richard Brodie fired home, sending Burton the wrong way much to Craig’s chagrin, having not been too fond of Brodie from his time at Crawley, I took from it! With Curzon chasing the game now, it could be said it opened their play and game-plan up.

Though York had a few forays forward, they always looked shaky at the back, with one of my Football Manager hopeless signings, Clovis Kamdjo, becoming my target as I told all around me about my dealings with his simulated-self and his red-card record. Gibbo, therefore, unleashed a Clover ad-style chant to Clovis, which I definitely took part in. Nothing against the real Clovis, really, just the terrible FM one I had the misfortune to encounter…

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Curzon, though, continued to pressurise the back-line of the Minstermen and eventually they levelled when Niall Cummins collected the ball at the back-post following a low cross from Joe Guest and his shot hit ‘keeper Kyle Letheren and to my eyes went wide. That is until the cheers went up and the ball was clearly settled in the net, as Cummins wheeled away to celebrate his equaliser. 1-1. Game ON!!

Following a pair of decent chances that saw both shots fly off target for the visitors, the sides headed in for the half-time break, with the score-line remaining level. As for myself, it was to the food bar for a pie, though my superb memory has let me down here, as I can’t remember what I had. It may have been a chicken Balti, or it could have been a steak. Who knows? Anyway it was pretty decent, but for £3.10 it bloody well should have been.

Fairly pleased Curzon fans

Fairly pleased Curzon fans

Match Action

Match Action

The second half began with both sides trading chances, though neither troubled the respective sides’ goalkeepers. Curzon again went close, a fizzing drive flying just over the bar before York responded, again through Brodie, who blazed over from close range with the game winding down to its conclusion. Cummins forced Leveren into a decent stop, but York almost had one last chance when an attempted cross deflected up against the arm of a defender in the box but the referee, along with the Phil Mitchell-esque assistant (who loved all the chants by the way), turned down the claims much to the relief of the Nash support, who feared the worst. Full-Time, 1-1 and to a replay.

Following the game, I was invited along with the group heading back to Gibbo’s uni digs prior to the heading out and about for the night. My participation would be just for the early part of the evening, with my train ticket restricting. Anyway, the journey to the nearby Morrision’s (other supermarkets are available) was soundtracked by Craig’s Pied Piper-esque fluting skills, that is until the flute met its untimely end and ended up on a verge in multiple pieces and now added to the many ghosts of York. RIP.

Curzon Coach & pub.

Curzon Coach & pub.

More history...

More history…

Group Photo

Everyone in for the squad photo

Eventually, having passed through the shop and with beers for myself and both this and food for everyone else, we eventually headed back to the house where the very sensible games began. I won’t put names in here for those folk in jobs where this may be frowned upon! Soon enough, after Aaron had been given his birthday card for his 12th, having had it announced at the game earlier in the afternoon, I bid goodbye to the group and headed back through the streets, rocking up back at the station nicely in time for the train back.

Following the thankful departure of the Newcastle train, which had picked up a worse-for-wear group of women, including one who was on the floor for most of my time here, my train pulled in and whisked me back towards Piccadilly. Unfortunately, the delay made things interesting, with the train arriving in at 21.39. My connection was at 21.40, so a sprint up the stairs, over the footbridge and down the other set of steps got me to the train just as the guard was stepping back on to depart. Phew, and on that dramatic note, I’ll leave you to ponder the rant I’d have had if I’d been left for an hour…

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RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Food: 6

Programme: 5 (cut price issue)

Value For Money: 5

Manchopper in….Alfreton

alfretonAFC-Fylde-Website-slider-2

Result: Alfreton Town 1-0 AFC Fylde (FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round)

Venue: North Street (Saturday 17th September 2016, 3pm)

Att: 263

Following the last round in the FA Cup at Leek, myself and blog regular Paul decided we should continue our own cup run for another step along the “Road to Wembley”, following the dramatic contest at Harrison Park. For what is likely the final consecutive round of the Cup this season that I will watch a game in, we decided to head into Derbyshire and visit North Street (or Impact Arena), home to Alfreton Town FC.

After eventually locating Paul on the train after boarding on two separate occasions, I took the place of two, apparently, highly excitable Hollyoaks fans, who’d gone very OTT by the fact that an actor from the show who plays “Jack” was in our very carriage. The star quality was lost on us, however, and we were far more impressed by the odd pacer trains that flashed past, none more so than when we had to wait for one to pass as we headed for Sheffield. The excitement was far too much. Is he joking?

After passing into our third county of the day, we arrived into Alfreton at midday, immediately heading for the first watering hole we would encounter. The Station didn’t look the best of options, though and so we continued on with Paul recommending we head into the Plough for our first drinks of the day. This wasn’t to be the greatest of decisions, as Paul will attest to and so I was given the reigns for the rest of the journey through Alfreton, starting at the far end of town and the safe hands of Wetherspoons.

Alfreton

Alfreton

Waggon & Horses

Waggon & Horses

The town’s ‘Spoons, Waggon and Horses, was a fairly run-of-the-mill offering, with little to excite and so the “Wetherspoons News” kept us entertained, as we tried to match places respective outlets with their football clubs. Yes, this is the on-the-edge life we lead. Punk IPA’s finished off, we headed back into Alfreton town centre, passed by the arriving Fylde coach as we did so, before a burst of sound out of a pub drove us inside to discover just what was going on.

It turned out that the Blue Bell had been taken over by a group of Northampton fans, who’d, for one reason or another, chosen Alfreton over Chesterfield as their place for pre-match drinks and entertainment. This added some good atmosphere to our stay here, with the pint of Fox’s going down very well. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the better ales I’ve had. Tremendous. The barmaid here was also very helpful in going through each offering, despite the noise radiating from the maroon-clad mass, so added props for that. Upon their exit, though, it seemed the regulars had had enough of having their early afternoon drinks being interrupted, so we also departed, heading just up the street to the King Alfred.

In the previous establishment, I’d seen a bottle in the fridge by the name of Revolution and, being easily taken by attractive looking insignia and labels, reckoned I’d like to try one of those at some point. This wait proved a short one as, upon browsing the fridges in the Alf, my eyes once again focussed on the blue-clad bottle. Paul decided to join me in tasting the Marston’s offering. It was ok, but nothing more than that and with the clock approaching 2pm, we were soon heading for the Impact Arena.

Fylde arrive

Fylde arrive

Blue Bell

Blue Bell

King Alfred

King Alfred

An encounter with a door saw us head for an impromptu drink in Bluey’s Australian Bar, which sits at the top of the road, give or take, from where Alfreton Town’s home sits. Upon entering, it certainly seemed a good choice. Bluey’s struck me as a sort of sports bar and the barmaid was taken aback by us being quite impressed by us declaring the bar as “cheap”. After a chat in just what brought us to Alfreton, it turned out that her boyfriend is a player for Matlock Town and so continues the influence of non-league football amongst the population of the UK.

With our unplanned stop meaning the time was ever closer to kick-off, we swiftly headed off, finding the turnstile hidden away somewhat down a small dirt path and after paying £12 entry, ground 192 was entered. The excitement didn’t stop there though, oh no, as I bought the final programme for the match, denying the guy behind me a copy (sorry, not sorry), though the £3 price was a bit steep.

ATFC

ATFC

Impact Arena

Impact Approach

North Street is a differing ground from many in this country, by virtue of the fact it houses seats that are left open to the elements. This, to me at least, gives it something of a continental look to it at one end. The other three sides put this illusion to bed, though, with them being very regular views seen at grounds. The “Main” Stand is a small-ish construction, that houses the clubhouse, dressing rooms and everything else within, with only a few rows of seats, mostly toward the far end. The opposite side is populated by another all-seater stand, that is again only a few rows deep and, interestingly, doesn’t have a perimeter fence in front of it. The near-end goal features a fairly large terrace behind it, with the rear part covered by a roof. As for Alfreton Town’s story….

History Lesson:

Alfreton Town FC was founded in 1958, following the merging of Alfreton Miners Welfare FC & Alfreton United FC. The new club duly moved into a new ground (their current home) on North Street and initially competed in the Central Alliance’s Division 1 North, doing enough over their first two season to allow them to become founders of the re-formed Midland Counties League.

Following several good performances and close calls, Alfreton eventually took the Midland League title in 1970, before adding a further two titles to this throughout the decade (’73 &’77). The club also achieved three Midland League Cups during the same decade and were rewarded by being allowed to keep the very trophy they achieved this with. 1982 saw the Midland League merge with the Yorkshire League to create the Northern Counties East League.

The NCEL League Cup was won by Town in 1985 and the title was lifted in 1987. At the close of the following campaign, Alfreton took up a place in the newly formed Northern Premier League Division 1. Despite finishing bottom in 1991, league re-organization in Wales meant clubs left the NPL and this in turn gave a reprieve to Town, allowing them to keep their spot. After missing out on promotion in 1995, ’96 saw Alfreton promoted to the Premier Division of the NPL as runners-up.

Old crest

Old crest

From their, fortunes took a downturn and Town dropped back through the NPL levels to find themselves back in the NCEL by the ’99-’00 season. 2002, though, saw the title won once more, alongside the League Cup, President’s Cup and Derbyshire Senior Cup in a fine quadruple. The following season saw the club lift the NPL Division One title and defend their Derbyshire Senior Cup along the way as the club returned to the NPL Premier Division.

2003 saw Town lift the Derbyshire Centenary Cup in pre-season, before finishing the season in 4th place. This finishing position meant Town could take up a spot in the newly formed Conference North. The season’s highlight was, arguably, reaching the FA Cup First Round, where Town lost in a replay to Macclesfield Town. 2008-’09 saw Town reach the play-offs after being a largely mid-table outfit prior to this, but were defeated in the semi-finals and the club did an FA Cup PB in reaching the 2nd Round, where they bowed out to Scunthorpe United.

A second third place in 2010 saw Town again compete in the play-offs, this time reaching the final, but again were to face heartbreak, this time at the hands of the fast-rising Fleetwood Town, but 2011 saw Alfreton finally get their promotion as they won the Conference North by ten points. Despite equalling their FA Cup best in 2013 & after three mid-table finishes, the club were relegated in 2015 and finished last season, their first back at Step 2, in 10th place.

Today's Teams

Today’s Teams

Look at all those shirts!!

Look at all those shirts!!

Paul decided there was still time to head for the clubhouse pre-match with me opting out on a drink this time, as my mind worked in a sensible way for once. The clubhouse here is covered in memorabilia, with shirts adorning the walls and numerous scarves and more shirts covering the ceiling, featuring jerseys from all over the world. It’s certainly interesting but there was little time to be spent looking, as the sides were in the tunnel and ready to head out onto the pitch ahead of this tie.

The game got underway with free-scoring Fylde, 5-3 winners at North Street the month earlier, attacking their opponents’ defence at regular intervals, with a header going close to opening the scoring. But, it was to be Alfreton who were to take something of a shock lead, as they won a corner on the right and the resultant set-piece was volleyed in at the back post by Tom Allan. 1-0 and it looked as though goals were to be plentiful, as expected, once more.

Fylde still looked the more dangerous of the sides, with top-scorer Danny Rowe flashing a drive wide of the post, but the chances were at an extreme premium, with both sides looking more fearful of going out, than they did of trying to force their way into the next round. The best chance for the visitors came as Town ‘keeper Fabian Speiss (who I saw have a man-of-the-match performance for Boston at Fylde last season) collided with a team-mate but, despite a desperate scramble in the goal-mouth, the grateful Speiss found the ball return to his grasp once more.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

It wasn’t until we headed into the food bar next to the smaller of the stands that things began to kick-off. As Paul ordered his grub, he was met with a confused look from the girl serving and the phrase I’m sure many scousers get “I don’t understand”. So after turning translator and meeting no such issues through my accent, or lack of it as I was informed that I “didn’t sound Northern”, we headed back onto the terraces thoroughly entertained by this. Food was good too, so all positives!

Just before the break, I met with Alfreton fan/steward Ashley, who’d messaged me prior to the game, before I left him to his task for the moment as the whistle blew. Half-time, 1-0. Off to the bar once more we went, with two cans of San Miguel purchased, though the remainder of mine went missing just after the restart, as I stuck my head out the door to check on the game’s progress!

Paul rebelling

Paul rebelling

Very continental!

Very continental!

Back outside for the second period, Paul and I headed for the Spanish-end and took up a position within the seats and next to a group of home fans, though both sets were finding it hard to create any noise, despite having tried earlier in the contest. Though, with the lack of on-pitch action, this wasn’t all too surprising an occurrence.

Fylde continued to dominate the game overall, though Alfreton looked quite solid at the back which came as something of a surprise considering their overall defensive record so far this season, though Fylde haven’t exactly been top-notch in this field either. They again survived a 6-yard scramble, as the ball somehow evaded crossing the line despite the best efforts of the ever dangerous Rowe and Niall Dixon cleared off the line from Bohan Dixon.

Keepers!

Keepers!

Scramble!

Scramble!

Late on...

Late on…

Alfreton did have their odd moments too, with Fylde stopper Tony Thompson forced into a couple of saves by the Gibraltan international Adam Priestley and impressive on-loan defender Kallam Mantack, but Speiss was the man in this game, as he denied further chances for Rowe including the crowning glory of his performance in stoppage time, when he clawed away the former’s free-kick which was destined for the top-corner. WHAT A SAVE! With Paul chatting to a Fylde committee man who was full of praise for Town, while berating his own side’s lacklustre performance, the game came to a close with the surprising 1-0 score-line standing, but with Alfreton fully deserving their place in the 3rd Qualifying Round (at King’s Lynn Town).

Back into the bar for the final time we headed for a chat with a few Alfreton fans, including John (though I can only remember his name from twitter, sorry everyone else for my bad memory) and thanks to Ashley for buying me a post-match drink. Soon enough, it was time for us to leave and have a final drink in the pub at the top of the road, the Victoria. After bidding goodbye to all the above, the Victoria proved a decent enough stop-off point and a guy gave us a tip-off for something of a shortcut back to the station, with the journey back proving largely uneventful. A week off next week, before a return to the big leagues…

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RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 7

Food: 8

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Ashton (Curzon Ashton)

Curzon_Ashton_KhaiHednesford

Result: Curzon Ashton 3-2 Hednesford Town (Vanarama National North)

Venue: Tameside Stadium (Saturday 2nd April 2016, 3pm)

Att: 329

After being spurned earlier in the season a trip to Curzon Ashton’s Tameside Stadium home by the weather (a rarity, I know), this first weekend in April gave a second chance for the ground to be given a revisit. Having originally planned to head over to Lincoln for Moorlands Railway’s ground, I though better of the long trip being in neither the frame of mind nor the correct monetary position to do it and decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble. Yet.

So, having been further swayed by the allure of free entry to all via Curzon’s “Community Day” idea, I reckoned that there was no time like the present to return. Despite the weather again threatening to disrupt my best laid plans, it was spurned in its efforts and so I set off during the late morning and with the trains being off through Manchester Victoria, I had to make do with a bus. Which reminded it me just how much I hate them.

But having headed into and back out of Manchester Piccadilly Gardens, I was en route to Tameside, with the rain still falling from the grey skies above. Setting off as early as I had had meant, however, that I was now committed to this game, really, with no viable options to return to in case of a postponement. Luckily, though, the rain began to abate as I arrived outside The Snipe pub, my first stop off for the day.

Ashton

All roads lead to Ashton

The Snipe

The Snipe

Sheldon Arms

Sheldon Arms

The Snipe was rather empty, apart from the barmaids and two kids, who seemed to take great delight in sneaking up on me, having a look, before pegging it back to their starting place while getting told off for doing so. Not that it was bothering me in any way, as it actually meant something was going on as the pub itself was dead, so I wasted little time over my pint of Coors and headed back out and around the corner to the Sheldon Arms.

The one thing the Sheldon Arms did to me was to confirm that Ashton was far from a “cheap” place. It wasn’t overpriced, but it certainly wasn’t one of your cut price areas that you can occasionally find outside the city centre. Not to be stopped, though, I was soon in possession of my second pint. After a while of debating the issue with myself, I decided I’d be a bit lazy and miss out the Harvester in the retail park up the road and instead get the bus up to the road which the ground sits on.

Footballer

Footballer

Approaching the Tameside Stadium

Approaching the Tameside Stadium

Ashton's World Cup Winners

Ashton’s World Cup Winners

So, after doing the above, I made my way down past the cricket club and into the complex which the Tameside Stadium is housed within. I arrived at the gate and informed the guy manning it that I’d arranged previously with Curzon fan and gateman for the day, Aaron Flanagan, that I was ok to come in. “Oh, does Aaron run the club now does he?” came the reply. “Ok, well go and see him and ask him if he runs the club”. Not sure if this was in jest or if the gentlemen was indeed a bit peeved, but either way I did indeed go to Aaron and ask him the above question. It’s only polite, I guess.

Anyway, Aaron informed me there was something of an impromptu pitch inspection that was taking place on the far side, with the liner a bit concerned with the state of the line he was to be running. But soon enough, the ref came over with good news, GAME ON! The liner(s) had indicated they were happy to run the lines and skirt round the boggy patches, as long as no-one two-footed them. Good stuff and in the knowledge we had a game, I headed for the Nash Bar to buy a Kopparberg and watch the end of F1 Practice 3.

Not too long after I was joined in here by Dan who had also been attracted down by the opportunity of a free game at a good level. Unfortunately, the crowd was a disappointment I’d say at just under 330, meaning there was no real gain from the promotion with the weather not aiding the club in there task. Of course, I only speculate, but of course there was some profit to be had if those extras keep coming back. Let’s hope so.

Snack Bar

Snack Bar

Welcome

Welcome

With kick-off fast approaching, it was to the Snack Bar under the stand to purchase some chips for the cheap price of £1.40 before heading out on a lap of the Tameside Stadium during the first period. I was being something less of a neutral for one reason and one reason only on this day and it has nothing to do with the vast, vast majority of those involved with the men from Keys Park. But there is one and it appears the Curzon fans shared my view on this member of the visiting personnel later in the game, as it turned out. But that’s history now….oh…

History Lesson:

Curzon Ashton was formed in 1963 as Curzon Amateurs after the merger of local sides Curzon Road and Ashton Amateurs. They joined the Manchester League and after a period of consolidation, went on to become a real force, picking up 3x Manchester Intermediate Cups (1972, ’73, ’74) in the decade before founding the Cheshire League Division 2.

Curzon were immediately promoted as runners-up and the next season the club became the first North West club to reach the semi-finals of the FA Vase but lost out to Stamford. The 1980’s saw 5x Manchester Premier Cups won while Curzon went on the found the North West Counties League. Despite finishing up in a relegation position in 1986-’87 season, the club still founded their third league, the Northern Premier.

After avoiding relegation in their first season on account of league expansion, they were eventually relegated in 1997 and were placed in the North East Counties. No, me neither. After finishing second bottom in their sole season, the club moved back into normal territory and the NWCFL. Promotion from Division 2 was attained in 2000 and the club took a place in Division 1 for the season 2000-’01.

Cash Your Gold

Cash Your Gold

Curzon Ashton FC

Curzon Ashton FC

They moved from their National Park home of 20 years to the Tameside Stadium in 2005, which was something of a homecoming as their original playing fields stood around the ground’s current location. 2007 saw a second FA Vase semi defeat, to Truro City, but were promoted to the NPL Division 1 as runners up. 2009 saw Curzon’s famous FA Cup run where they vanquished Exeter City at the Tameside 3-2 and were defeated in the play-off final by Newcastle Blue Star, who then went bump.

Current boss John Flanagan took charge in 2011 and guided Curzon to second in the NPL 1North, only to lose to Witton Albion in the play-offs, but 2014 saw Curzon skip the play-offs and win the Division and with it promotion to the NPL Premier. They then went on to beat Ilkeston in the play-offs after only one season in the Division to shoot on up to the National North, where they sit in a solid mid-table place.

Anyway, the first half was pretty unspectacular. It was a pretty cagey affair with chances at a premium, but Curzon were the more threatening of the two in terms of build up play. Ryan Brooke had the better of the chances for Curzon early on, but his header was straight at Hednesford ‘keeper Dan Crane. Later in the half, the visitors had a goal ruled out for a foul on home custodian Cameron Mason and also saw Danny Glover’s free-kick strike the upright narrowly before the break. That was that for the first half, 0-0.

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Match Action

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Match Action

After an uneventful half-time, Dan and I decided to head over to join the Curzon Ultra’s who were massed on the open terrace in front of the bar and which affords a side view of the pitch and the end they were attacking at close hand. It proved a good choice as the Nash flew out of the box and soon found themselves two-up. First, Jordan Wright pursued a loose ball and fired beyond Crane, before Ryan Brooke netted the second, neatly chipping the ball over the advancing Crane. It looked all over bar the shouting.

But Frank Sinclair’s double substitution seemed to turn the tide and I was especially pleased that the Curzon fans joined in with my cheering send-off as they seemed delighted to see one of their former players be one of those replaced! But, it definitely changed the team for the better and what a goal it was that saw them grab a lifeline.

Mason was pretty much minding his own business in his area, as any ‘keeper would, with the ball a good 35 yards out in the middle of the field and with little danger to his net. That it until Paul Ennis lobbed the ball over him and nestled it in the bottom corner! A quite outstanding goal and probably the best of the season so far for me. This spurred on Hednesford and they levelled a couple of minutes later as Jonathan Royle powered a header into the roof of the net to give the struggling Pitmen all the momentum going into the last 20 minutes or so.

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Match Action

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Curzon fans celebrate the opener

Curzon fans celebrate the opener

Indeed, with Curzon also looking to go for the win by bringing on forwards Cockerline and Norton, this left them a bit less secure at the back and Hednesford spurned a pair of good chances before Joe Guest rattled in a fine strike across the helpless Crane to give Curzon the points. 3-2, full-time.

A fine game came to an end and after quickly thanking Aaron for sorting my ticket-less entry, Dan and I headed back out down the road for the bus back to Manchester. Though, the first plan was to head into the dank-looking Ring o’ Bells pub near the flats at the stop, but it was shut and so it was straight on the bus instead. Dramatic, hey? As for further drama there was none and hereth ends our tale. A good day at a ground that has grown on me as the years have passed, I’m sure ‘ll be back sooner than 2 years next time…

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RATINGS:

Game: 8- Good, entertaining game. Shame not more took advantage to see it.

Ground: 7- The strange “giraffe” stand still puzzles me. Why so high?!

Programme: 7- A good read.

Food: 7- See above. But change read to something foody.

Fans: 9- Vocal fans at Curzon was a massive change from my last visit and made for a good atmosphere.

Value For Money: 8- Good, free game and a decent day overall.

 

 

Manchopper in….Moston (FC United)

fc-united-manchesterHednesford

Result: FC United of Manchester 1-1 Hednesford Town (Vanarama National North)

Venue: Broadhurst Park (Monday 28th December 2015, 3pm)

Att: 3,421

To finish off my trio of festive fixtures, after visits to Stockport County & Maine Road, it was to be another nearby fixture that was required, following shelling out a fair few quid in the previous week. So, after narrowing down the options to Stalybridge or FC United it was, well, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now where I ended up.

So, after getting the train through to Manchester, I undertook the short walk down Deansgate over to Manchester Victoria where I was to get the train 0nwards to Moston. What I hadn’t counted on, though, was the unadulterated magic that was awaiting me there. Yes, in a Christmas miracle, Northern Rail had a train with USB charging plugs in. Quite something, and it certainly proved a hit on twitter. Sadly, my experience on this magical carriage was a short one as six minutes later I disembarked at Moston before climbing the steep-ish hill up to road level where a fellow asked for directions to Broadhurst Park. I let him know to the best of my knowledge and off he went.

Yes, off he went but it turned out he had the same ideas I had and headed straight for the Gardeners’ Arms pub on the corner of Lightbowne Road. No sooner had I walked in than we sort of congratulated each other for the decision and I was offered a pint. After talking about a number of different football related things and to this Dutchman’s many travels throughout Northern Europe and Britain chasing football we were heading off down to the ground, but first the Miners’ Social Club which neighbours the St Mary’s Terrace End. The Miners had been recommended to me by Matt of LostBoyos fame and by Corby fan Jack over twitter so it definitely seemed that this was a must on the hitlist. It was in here that I finally realised that I had neglected to find out Ronald’s name. It was, well, Ronald. I sort of gave that one away didn’t I?

Gardeners' Arms

Gardeners’ Arms

I see floodlights

I see floodlights

The Miners

The Miners

I have to say that Miners really is something a little bit different. It certainly has its quirks and although I can’t quite rave about it as others have, I feel as though I may have caught it on one of its quieter days, which is a shame if its the case. Anyway, after buying a pint each of Red Star Miners’ Lager for the princely sum of £5 and drinking it down, we made the decision to head over and into Broadhurst Park itself and sample the club bar’s offerings. After a few pics of the outside area and the wooden façade of the ground and purchasing a programme for £2 after being reeled in by a seller’s claim of “Buy my programmes, she’s sold more as she’s far more attractive”, we headed over to the turnstile near the corner of the St Mary’s Terrace and after handing in £9 admission, it was into BP for the first time. My 167th ground.

On the Boardwalk

On the Boardwalk

Entrance

Entrance & Ronald’s head

Broadhurst Park is certainly a ground with character even early on in its existence. With numerous flags adorning the walls of both the far side stand and the Lightbowne Road “away” end, both of which are hard covered standing, it sort of hides the fact that both are strange structures with no raised levels, meaning viewing must be difficult from these areas when full. Meanwhile, there’s no such issues with the other two stands, the St Mary’s Terrace is a large raised covered terracing structure, which is very popular and is where the singing masses congregate for the most part, with the smart Main Stand having seating to the rear (higher up) and more terracing to the front, giving it a different look to most. The bar to the back gives good views over the ground prior to the game and we took advantage of these whilst in the company of a pint of Crystal Lager, meaning we could watch a dog invade the pitch pre-match, until Dan arrived to join us ahead of kick-off. But first…

History Lesson:

The club was founded in 2005 as a protest club against the takeover of Manchester United by the Glazer family. After originally being named as just FC United, the club were forced by the FA (who else?) to edit the name to something less generic and, as such, the name FC United of Manchester was voted for. It caused enough of a stir at Old Trafford for the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson to feel the need to criticize the club’s formation. Regardless, FC United continued on and secured themselves a place in the North West Counties League Division 2 for their first season.

Playing at Bury’s Gigg Lane and under the stewardship of Karl Marginson, FC United had a, not unexpected, strong start to life, immediately taking the NWCFL attendance record for their game at Leek CSOB who played at Leek Town’s ground. By the end of the season, FC had attained their first promotion and were presented with the trophy in front of a 6,000+ crowd. 2006-’07 saw the club go straight through the NWCFL First Division and lifting the league’s Challenge Cup. They then went on to compete in the first season of the NPL Division 1 North, winning the play-off final against Skelmersdale Utd and lifted the NPL President’s Cup.

Broadhurst Park

Broadhurst Park

Dog on the pitch!

Dog on the pitch!

Resplendent in light

Resplendent in light

Now in the NPL Premier Division, the club found life a bit more challenging on the pitch, including becoming one of two teams to lose to Durham City on the Northumberland side’s way to ending the season on zero points in 2010. 2011 saw more of a high point as FC reached the FA Cup Second Round, beating Rochdale 3-2 at Spotland, before eventually bowing out to Brighton & HA in a replay after managing a 2-2 draw down on the South Coast. They did manage to reach the play-offs come the end of the season but lost out to Colwyn Bay in the final.

After further playoff disappointment in two of the following three years, the club eventually achieved promotion last season after winning the NPL Premier Division and thus were to play in the Conference North, for the first time, this season and average attendances appear to be back on the rise again especially this season following the move into their own ground.

So, back onto the game at hand, and after a brief blast of the usual pre-game chant of “Bring on United” from the home ends, the sides made their way from the bowels of the Main Stand and out onto the Broadhurst Park pitch and the three of us made our way over to the Terrace to join the most atmospheric part of the ground. With the usual pre-game pleasantries out of the way, it was time for FC’s boss “Margy” to pit his wits against the new-ish Hednesford boss, former Chelsea man, Frank Sinclair.

Hednesford began the brighter, going close on a number of occasions. The closest of these chances was when Ahmed Obeng, who’d caused FC no shortage of problems, struck the foot of the far  post with a rasping low drive. This prompted the Main Stand to join the terrace-based fans in a song, which wasn’t greeted fondly by those near us who responded with “Fuck off Main Stand!”. Talk about friendly rivalries or what?!

Match Action

Match Action

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Match Action

But the Pitmen were to pay for not making their advantage more meaningful, when a chipped cross found Matt Wolfenden inside the area and he side footed a volley into the roof of the not from around the penalty spot. 1-0 to the Red Rebels.

To be honest, the game wasn’t one filled with chances and there wasn’t much more action of note during the first period, so I briefly left my companions to beat the crowds to the food bar situated below the Main Stand. This is clearly located by a large sign citing, would you believe it, ‘Food Bar’. After negotiating the packed terracing and purchasing a Steak Pie for £2.75, I was asked by the woman serving if the half was done. “No, about 5 minutes left” I answered. “Oh, fucks sake” came the reply. Superb!

The pie was a perfect accompaniment for the remainder of the half and for the break, when Ronald decided he too would sample to delicacy delights of Broadhurst Park. As for me, the pie I’d bought was top notch, a really tasty offering and well worth the price. Into the second half we soon went, but Dan and I remained Ronald-less. We feared he’d been taken.

Are fears were soon allayed, though, as Ronald appeared through the crowds and re-joined us, having had to wait for his chips which he didn’t seem too fond of. FC’s fans weren’t too fond of the next goal either, as Hednesford were soon deservedly level. A quick attack led to the ball being played down the left. The cross came in and Adam Thomas arrived at the back post to nod home and send the visiting support into raptures.

Goal-Kick

Goal-Kick

Match Action

Match Action

Getting dark...

Getting dark…

Hednesford continued to be on the front foot generally all the way through to the last five minutes and despite the lack of a floodlight. This quickly became half the floodlights in the 90th minute, as both St Mary’s End lights were expunged, leading to chants of “We’ll play in the dark” and anti-Sky songs filled the air too.

Ronald had left to catch a tram during the brief darkness whilst me and Dan decided to brave it out and all credit to the ref who gave the time for the lights problem to be fixed, which it was but to little effect as the game fizzled out. 1-1, full time.

Outside the ground, I bid goodbye to Dan and headed back up to Moston Station for my train back to Manchester and the return journey back home. As it was, it was a great first visit to FC in their own ground and one that is more than worthwhile for anyone who would have the thought pass their minds. As for next week, well…..

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RATINGS:

Game: 6- Decent, but nothing special.

Ground: 7- Two good stands and two fairly bland ones.

Fans: 9- Great atmosphere throughout the game. But Margentina….

Programme: 8- A good, enjoyable read for a cheap price.

Food: 9- One of the better samplings I’ve had during my travels, at least this season.

Value For Money: 8- A pretty good day and experience overall. Cheap entry for the level helps too!

 

Manchopper in….Stockport

Stockport_County_Logo_2014Harrogate_Town_FC

Result: Stockport County 1-2 Harrogate Town (Vanarama National North)

Venue: Edgeley Park (Saturday 26th December 2015, 3pm)

Att: 3,326

As rain once again ravaged vast areas of the North of England, it was obvious that the football fixture list would take a further hammering over the festive period, starting with the Boxing Day games. Of course, it goes without saying that it pales in significance to the issues that others are facing due to the wet weather and I’d like to pass on my well wishes to all those affected by the storms and the flooding aftermaths around the regions.

As for myself if there was football to be found, I was determined to find it. However, it looked like it was going to be a fruitless endeavour as game after game fell by the wayside and with public transport restrictions limiting me to the Manchester area, I was soon panicking until one club and one club alone came to the rescue of myself and, I’m sure, many others. That club was Stockport County and I felt it rude not to head over to Edgeley Park for the Boxing Day derby clash with…Harrogate Town. Oh.

So, with demons to exorcise at Edgeley following its place in the double 0-0 tragedy 18 months earlier (where I watched two 0-0’s in a day) I headed over to Stockport via the bus straight into the town centre, which I’m saving for when I go to Stockport Town as Woodley is a bit shit. Heading over on the bus did mean I had to endure some wannabe Vanilla Ices at the back of the top deck for a short while, which is always something that makes me cringe badly. Just no.

The highlights of Stockport include the large railway viaduct that dominates the area around the town centre, and towers above the Stockport pyramid. The pyramid houses the tomb of the pharaoh Ulysses II, who ruled Egypt around 90 BC. His body was brought over as part of a Manchester University display in the early 1900’s and was interred under the pyramid afterwards. Interested? Well you shouldn’t be, because that was all made up.

Upon hopping off the bus at the station by the side of the Hat Museum, I knew that Edgeley had a few pubs of its own in the high street so, after passing by the Stockport Plaza (where I’d been to the panto in the line of duty the previous week) numerous times in trying to negotiate my way out of the, not so confusing to anyone but me, centre I eventually undertook the short 10 minute walk towards the ground, negotiating the hill and ending up at the Armoury, which when I visited last year was busy with visiting Alty fans, but today was a home stronghold.

 

Stockport

Stockport

Viaduct at night

Viaduct at night

The Armoury

The Armoury

The Armoury was a friendly place, but with little happening in here I soon departed to Edgeley’s main shopping street and was a bit put off by most of the pubs appearances. Eventually, thanks to the football ground map site’s recommendation of the Royal Oak, it was here that I visited to watch the second half of Manchester United’s game at Stoke. It was a pretty good choice and I can safely say it is likely the better of the remaining four or so bars in the area. Not long before I headed back out and over to Edgeley Park itself, the County drum made an appearance and, needless to say, I expected it would be the first of many times I’d see (or hear) from this through the next couple of hours or so. I’d noticed I hadn’t seen many away fans as of yet and was hoping they’d stayed in Stockport itself and not got held up by the sinkhole in the motorway.

Edgeley high street

Edgeley high street

Royal Oak

Royal Oak

Arriving at Edgeley Park

Arriving at Edgeley Park

Before the final whistle was blown in the aberration on the TV, I exited the Royal Oak and headed over the road to County’s home. After a couple of pictures of the exterior of the Main Stand, I headed over to the turnstile providing access to the Cheadle End, as I fancied getting a different viewpoint of Edgeley Park rather than the usual Main Stand position I’d taken on my previous visits. As such, I was soon lighter by the tune of £15 and was soon handing over a further £3, but not before I’d asked the guy on the gate where the programmes where being sold, only for him to point over to a booth joined by a large “Programmes sold here” sign. “Somewhere over there usually mate.” The nice thing was, it wasn’t even said in jest!

Anyway, another Manchopper faux pas out of the way and I was into the ground in earnest. You also get a ticket upon entry, for those who like that sort of thing. Edgeley Park is one of those grounds that I forget how much I like until I’m physically back there. It has the Main ” “Danny Bergara” Stand, which is an old-fashioned all seated stand, the Popular Stand on the opposite side which is a smaller all seater stand which runs the length of the pitch. The far end is the open Railway End, a terrace, and then there is the largest stand in the ground, the Cheadle End, which is almost a two-tiered stand. As for Stockport County as a club, well….

History Lesson:

Formed in 1883 as Heaton Norris Rovers by members of the Wycliffe Congregational Church, the club played its first recorded game the next year. Nicknamed “The Hatters” the name derives from the town’s famed Victorian industry, with the Hat Museum a staple of the town’s touristic trade. The club initially played in the Lancashire League until 1900 when they were admitted into the 2nd Division of the Football League and moved to their current home in 1902 from their former Green Lane ground.

After a highly unsuccessful first stint in the League, they undertook a two-year hiatus in which they competed in the Lancashire Combination, which they won, and the Midland League from where they re-joined the Football League. After finishing up bottom in 1921, County were placed in the newly formed Third Division North. They won this to lift their first Football League title. Apparently, as in this case, each time Stockport have won a Football League Division they play Lincoln City in the final game of the season. Spooky.

After relegation back to the 3rd Division North in 1926, the club remained here until 1937 when they lifted the 3rd North title again, but not before enduring the loss of their old Main Stand and all the historical information during a 1935 fire. Unfortunately for the club, they were relegated again the following season. During the years of WWII, Stockport played in the wartime league known as the Northern Regional League where positions were based on goal average, due to teams playing differing totals of matches. County finished 35th in the first season!

The 1950’s saw the regional Third Divisions combined to National Third & Fourth Divisions. On account of their 3rd placed finish the prior season, County were placed in Division 3 for 1958-’59, but as before were relegated again. After finishing bottom of the Football League in 1965, County survived re-election, the then chairman introduced the club’s current colours, replacing their black and white strip. It seemed to work, as County were promoted to seasons later by winning the 4th Division, though this was tempered by their resulting,almost inevitable, relegation in 1970.

Edgeley Park

Edgeley Park-Cheadle End

The Danny Bergara Stand

The Danny Bergara Stand

After a spell of mediocrity, Danny Bergara, the man who the club’s Main Stand is named in honour of, was appointed manager in 1989. Uruguayan Bergara gained promotion with County in 1991 back into Division 3 and reached the FL Trophy final in 1993, but the popular manager was sacked in 1995 following an “altercation” with the chairman at the time. The ’96-’97 season proved a mighty successful one for County, as they finished 2nd in Division 2, gaining promotion, and reached the League Cup Semi-Finals. However, success didn’t last and Stockport were soon back in Division 2.

2003 saw County share Edgeley Park with Sale Sharks RUFC which sparked instability off the pitch and a further relegation in 2006. They had a brief renaissance under Jim Gannon, almost reaching the League 2 play-offs the following year. 2008 did see County promoted through the play-offs, defeating Rochdale at Wembley, but was tempered with the sad news of the passing of former manager Bergara. In his honour, the Main Stand was named after him in 2013 and a Uruguayan flag flies at the Railway End

Then administration set in through 2009 and, as such, things fell away both on and off the field. County returned to League 2 in 2010 before their 106-year stay in the Football League ended the following year. After further management upheaval, County found themselves at Step 2 by 2013 but had regained sole tenancy of Edgeley Park. Last season saw County finish up in 11th place, with Neil Young taking the reigns this season.

For today, I was watching Harrogate for the second time in two weeks, following my visit to Wetherby Road the previous week for their game against Brackley. So, I’d gone from not intending to see Harrogate at all in late December (no, not back in’63) to seeing them on consecutive weekends. I’d brought them luck, I like to think, last weekend, so would this continue again? Well, the players entered the field of play from below the Main Stand and after the usual handshakes we were all set to go.

Pre-game

Pre-game

Handshakes

Handshakes

Continuing from the earlier point above, it certainly seemed as though myself being in attendance was inspiring to those decked out in black  and yellow. What do you mean it had nothing to do with me? Ah well, it was a fine start for the Yorkshire side, who opened the scoring in unusual fashion. Jerry Yates broke into the area, but saw his shot blocked out by Andreas Arestidou in the County goal, but he failed to reclaim the ball and Yates, still on the ground, managed to force the ball over the line. 0-1.

Alas for Town, they couldn’t hold onto their lead for long, and it was a debutante who’d grab the equaliser. From a Harrogate corner, the ball was cleared to Delail Brewster on half-way and he outpaced the defence comfortably before expertly sliding the ball beyond Peter Crook in the Town goal. The Everton youngster was off to a good start on his temporary new patch. From this, the game went into a lull with neither side creating too much and County’s fans getting a little annoyed by a number of mislaid and wasteful passes.

Brewster levels the scores

Brewster levels the scores

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

They were almost irate when Harrogate came close to retaking the lead, Danny Ellis’ header cannoning back off the crossbar, only for Arestidou to gratefully claim the ball in the resulting scrum. The Hatters faithful then went close to glee as Jonny Margetts was felled in the area for a stonewall penalty. Unfortunately for County and their supporters, Margetts penalty was awful, lacking both power and placement,  and was comfortably stopped by Crook who pounced upon the rebound.

Half-time was approaching and I headed over to the crowd control gate, where I’d seen people being granted access through to use the food kiosk on the opposite side, near the Main Stand. When I enquired if I could also go where many had gone before I was greeted with the answer that the food bar on the Cheadle side had ran out of supplies. I don’t know if that was true, but it seems astounding if it is. At least County had fixed the microphone by this point and it did keep working throughout the game after its shaky start!

As for me, I purchased a chicken balti pie for a princely £3.10 and retook my seat half-way up the lower “tier” of the stand. For this half, County were attacking the end I was at and with the more vocal of the support located here, you’d have thought it would make them more dangerous. You’d have thought it, but then the vocal support never really got going in earnest (not that there was much for them to shout about, to be fair), though the drum did get an airing more often during the second period. But, they were to be angered again soon enough.

With around 20 minutes left in the half, Harrogate introduced Jordan Thewlis. Within five minutes of his introduction, Harrogate produced an almost carbon copy of County’s goal. They cleared a corner, quickly cleared the ball toward Thewlis who wanted it more than Chris Smalley and slotted past Arestidou from a tight angle. From where I was, it looked as though the ‘keeper should have done better, but neither Thewlis nor the visiting “Sulphurite” fans in the Popular Stand could care less. County had been torpedoed by the sub (how original). 1-2.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Late on

Late on

County never really rallied, and their fans were not happy, summed up by one guy walking past me and exclaiming “BOLLOCKS!!!” at the top of his lungs. This, amongst other shouts of discontent is, to the neutral eye and ear, a bit harsh, but then I’m not the one shelling out the cash to watch it week in and out. Back on the pitch and after Crook had kept out Garvin’s late free-kick, the final whistle sounded with a fair few boos ringing out from the home end, but also applause from a large amount of supporters too.

 

 

After a quick walk through the darkened streets of Edgeley and back down to Stockport Bus Station, I was soon upon my carriage back home, discovering an extra route that isn’t too bad either. Bonus! As for the day as a whole, I enjoyed my brief stay in Edgeley on the whole, though I’d like to do Stockport in earnest soon. As for the game, there is no doubt that the right result was the one that was attained and good for the group of travelling support who arrived half an hour late, but got that winning goal to make up for it. If only County wasn’t so pricey, I’d definitely return more often as I always find it’s a friendly club. Onwards to FC on Monday…

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RATINGS:

Game: 5- Average game.

Ground: 8- It’s one that I like. Can’t say exactly why though, but I do!

Fans: 7- I like the passion they have, whichever side of the fence they sit.

Programme: 9- Properly good read, still shows hallmarks of its previous League foray.

Food: 7- Tasty, but pricey for the level. Usually have the Mash for £2!

Value For Money: 7- Pricey entry and food, not a great game either, but the ground makes up for it.