Result: Vauxhall Motors 5-0 Glasshoughton Welfare (FA Vase First Qualifying Round)
Venue: Rivacre Park (Saturday 5th September 2015, 3pm)
The first weekend of September saw the return of the FA Vase and, as such, threw up a number of different possibilities of where I may be headed. Due to the fact I was completely set on a Vase game, I therefore decided to do a random draw, throwing in all sorts of competitions. As you do. Luckily for me, Vauxhall Motors, now of the West Cheshire League, came out last from the tub and for me it was destination Rivacre Park.
So, I was off to Liverpool Lime Street station during the late morning, arriving in Merseyside at around about 12.30. After the short walk through to the lower level part of the station, I had a 25 minute wait until the train onwards to Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port. This would have been fine had the tube-like system not been more akin to a F1-style windtunnel, sending cold air down the tracks, thus making this fairly un-pleasurable.
Happily for me, the time seemed to pass quickly and soon I was through Birkenhead and rattling through the towns of Spital and Bromborough amongst others, before I decided to check Google Maps for the best place to disembark. The ever reliable(!) Maps gave me the suggestion of Hooton, a small town just to the north west of Ellesmere Port, and this seemed to have a couple of decent pubs on the way to the ground. So, Hooton it was!
After disembarking here, it wasn’t long until I came across my first port of call, The Hooton Hotel. This was a very smart pub, with a nice atmosphere, though it was quite empty in the bar area with only a few patrons dotted here and there. Still, I plumped for a pint of Warsteiner, and nursed it away whilst watching some not too engrossing rowing on TV. I’d have much preferred some F1 quali action, but alas the Beeb sold us out long before, meaning this wasn’t happening today and why I refuse to watch their coverage.
Anyway, enough of F1-based moaning, and onto the ever interesting details of walking down a few country roads towards Vauxhall’s Rivacre Park home. After being well directed by the barman at the Hooton upon my leaving, it wasn’t too long before I was at the next place of rest, The Chimneys. This was another nice establishment and after purchasing a Sol beer for a pricey £4, I quickly downed it and was on my last leg of the journey, which looked fairly easy simple on Maps. I wasn’t quite that simple.
After dodging oncoming traffic from both sides down both Old School Lane and Rivacre Road, which runs adjoining the motorway, I eventually arrived, fully intact, at Vauxhall Sports Club and Rivacre Park. The ground itself sits on the left of the complex, alongside the Vauxhall Social Club, which sits just outside the ground’s confines and is neighboured by various other playing areas of differing surfaces, with one looking as though it may host West Cheshire League football.
Anyway, upon reaching the ground, the turnstile relieved me of £3 ( well, the man on duty there did the turnstile itself hadn’t become animated) and I had entered just as the sides made their ways onto the field for the pre-match pleasantries and eventually, the kick-off in the big FA Vase clash of the day, Vauxhall Motors vs Glasshoughton Welfare, of the Northern Counties East League.
Rivacre Park is still a good ground, with it still looking in good nick, despite the levels of self-imposed demotion. Two covered terraces stand next to the other on the right-hand touchline, with the opposite side taken by a covered seated stand. The goal that you enter behind is accompanied by the dressing rooms and all other services, with the far end open, hard standing backed by a wooded area.
When I last saw Glasshoughton (at Shaw Lane Aquaforce), they lost 9-0. They had to improve, surely?! Before that, though, here’s the story behind the Motormen…
Founded in 1963, originally as the car plant’s works team, Vauxhall Motors originally plied their trade in the local Ellesmere Port League and then the Wirral Combination. By the 1970’s, the club had shown dominance in these leagues and switched to the West Cheshire League whilst playing at the factory-owned Hooton Park and they remained there until 1987, when the club opened their own ground, Rivacre Park.
In the West Cheshire League, their first silverware came in the shape of the Division 2 Bowl in 1968. the club won the championship in 1986, this being joined the same year by a first Wirral Senior Cup. These successes led the club to apply for the North West Counties, which was ultimately successful and they joined for the season 1987-’88. Their second season saw the Second Division won comfortably, and won the NWCFL League Cup in 1991. But, at the cessation of the season, the club made the decision to step back down to the West Cheshire League.
The stay back in the WCL was a short one and they were soon back in the Counties after both Firsts and Reserves won both divisions in the ’94-’95 season. Upon their NWCFL return, they again won the Division 2 easily, before failing to achieve too much until 1999 saw Vauxhall reaching the 5th Round of the FA Vase, finish 3rd place in Division 1 and win the NWCFL League Cup for a second time. This success was bettered the following season reaching FA Vase semi-finals, winning the League Cup again and finally won the title and in doing so, achieved a spot in the Northern Premier League Division 1.
In their first season, Motors won promotion again, this time to the NPL Premier Division as runners-up. This was also matched by the achievement of reaching the FA Cup 1st Round, where the club defeated QPR before losing out on TV to Macclesfield Town and the following season saw the club finish high enough to earn a place in the new Conference North for 2004-’05.
During the early part of their stay here, the club struggled for the most part and would have been relegated in 2008, where it not for the folding of Nuneaton Borough and the demotion of Boston United.’08-’09 saw the club dodge the bullet once again, this time thanks to the misfortune of Farsley Celtic (resigned) and the demotion of Northwich Victoria. After a few seasons of slightly better finishes, the club eventually announced their intention to resign from the Conference North due to costs, dropping back to their safety net of the West Cheshire League in order to stabilize the club and rebuild again, which is a much smarter decision than some others have taken in similar positions.
After a season out of first team competition, the club returned for the 2014-’15 season, taking their reserves place in the Division 2, which they immediately won, earning promotion to the First Division for this season, in which they have started strongly, challenging at the top of the table during the early stages of the season.
Back onto the game then and, well, remember when I said that surely Glasshoughton could only get better? Well, the scoreline did. But that was all. Everything else was just as bad, or worse. They were absolutely hammered by Motors who were the supposed underdogs from a division below. This wasn’t the case though, as they proceeded to rip the Welfare apart during the vast majority of the first 45 minutes. Indeed, it took them just two minutes to open the scoring, as captain Jordan Brierley stepped up to whip a low free-kick into the bottom corner.1-0 and the Motors were driving forwards. Yes, yes I know….
This was soon doubled by striker John Atkinson, who confidently finished off from inside the area after great work by his strike partner, Jamie Matthews, who looked a real threat all game with his pace allied with strength and height. A great combination and certainly a player who looks as though he should still be at a higher level. But enough about Matthews for the time being, as Atkinson soon added to his first. After Motors’ winger Kal Herbert had had his shot well saved by the ‘keeper, Atkinson was there to slot home the rebound. 3-0 with under a half-hour played and you felt game over.
Glasshoughton were being smashed (yes, another terrible pun) and Motors soon hit another gear. This time it was Matthews who deservedly got his name on the scoresheet, as a slick move saw him clear of the defence, and he slotted past the beleaguered Welfare ‘keeper for 4-0. Luckily for Welfare, the break wasn’t far away and Motors seemed to take their foot off the pedal for a while, enticing their visitors forward. This was almost costly, as a low strike hit the foot of the post before the whistle went and it was food time.
After heading into the nice café/bar area, I ordered a meat and potato pie and was asked to sign piece of paper. It was only in hindsight I realised I had no idea why I had been asked to do so and thinking I really should have, just for the sake of knowledge. The only other person on said sheet was a fella from Pontefract, so I hope they didn’t think I was a Yorkie. God help me! (I’m a Lancashire Cricket member, hence my anti-Yorkshire stance!).
So, after doing the above and catching the half-times with Jeff Stelling and friends, it was back onto the terracing with a fine pie fully devoured. As it was, Vauxhall continued to hammer away at the Welfare, with Matthews having a goal ruled out for a tight offside decision, though the ‘keeper was also forced into a couple of saves, one of which was a mighty fine effort, as he tipped one away as he looked beaten for all money.
Soon though, Matthews had his second when Atkinson returned the favour for Matthews’ assist for his own second goal and the big man finished easily. There was still time for a late penalty and a chance for a consolation goal for the Welfare, when a blatant push in the box was punished with the spot kick. Glasshoughton #4, Louis Penty, stepped up, but his strike was kept out by John Rushton between the sticks to ensure a clean sheet.
There was one quite humorous moment when the ball found its way over to the far corner and with no-one near it, the ref decided that, at 5-0, now was the time to stop Motors from time-wasting! Cue the next time it went out, I chased it and was immediately met with “COME ON, QUICKER!” by a Motors player, in full jest mode by now and accompanied by fans. Top stuff. Full-Time, 5-0 to the Motormen.
And so it was over and I now faced a dilemma. Did I walk down the roads back from whence I came, or did I follow a local down towards Overpool and civilization. I plumped for the latter figuring localised knowledge must be best. But, my God, it was worse. More traffic dodging ensued, before I was kindly offered a lift to the station by a few Vauxhall people, who, after enquiring where I was from and upon my answer replied “Oh, are you that Man-Chopper?”. Yes, yes the innuendo still works wonders!
After conversations about the local area around me and the past living arrangements of the lady in the car, who knew where I live after living nearby for some…well, I won’t say… I was dropped off at Overpool where I had a short wait for the train back into Lime Street. Cheers again for the lift and it showed even more to me just how good a club Vauxhall Motors are. If you do get the chance to go, then do it.
Anyway, I was soon back in Liverpool and had a half-hour to wait next to a bronzed Ken Dodd. Well, a statue of the comedian and not the man himself fresh off the sunbeds! After helping a few people find their way onto their respective trains like a volunteer National Rail employee (I will be seeking payment), I was on my way back through the Cheshire countryside and back into the outskirts of Manchester. Another good day, a good advert for the West Cheshire League’s strength and, most importantly, a good club. Vauxhall Motors. It’s teREVic. Ok, I’ll stop now…
Game: 7- One sided, but a good quality played, on a fine surface.
Ground: 6- A decent ground, which is obviously not quite at its best. But still, fairly tidy and for the level, quite superb.
Fans: 7- Humorous, especially when joining in with the players on retrieving the ball!
Programme: N/A – Sadly, the Rivacre Review appeared to be withdrawn.
Food: 8- Very decent, well worth the purchase and the £2-odd.
Value For Money: £10 travel, £10 refreshments and £3 in. Not bad at all.