Manchopper in….Radcliffe (Radcliffe Town FC)

Result: Radcliffe Town 4-3 Croftlands Park (Lancashire FA Amateur Cup 1st Round)

Venue: King George V Playing Fields/Outwood Road (Saturday 14th September 2019, 2pm)

Att: 8 (hc)

It was the weekend of the FA Vase once again, but with little overly exciting pulled out of the hat during the draw, and a want to stay local, it soon became apparent that the Vase wouldn’t be the competition for me this time around. However, there were a multitude of other, local competitions around and one of these was the Lancashire Amateur Shield – a competition that includes teams from around Cumbria as well as the Lancastrian stronglands and Manchester too; and it was this spread that made this game all the more attractive. Radcliffe Town, of the Lancashire Amateur League would be entertaining Furness Premier League side Croftlands Park and so a decision was made. To Radcliffe!

I would be meeting blog regular Dan somewhere within the Radcliffe area during the day, but I would be arriving first to have my usual peruse of the town centre and sample the local ‘delights’. Having bought a bus/tram ticket to cover my daily travel, I caught both transportation methods and arrived in Radcliffe within an hour of setting off. Not too bad. Disembarking at Radcliffe tram-stop at a little before midday, my early arrival drink options were fairly limited and so I decided to head off into the centre and have a little look at the sights which, to be honest, aren’t all too plentiful, though the area around the bridge is pleasant enough – although it had been tinged with sadness due to the events of a few days earlier – floral tributes lining one side of the bridge.

Arriving in Radcliffe

Morning Star

Church

However, my planned route did take me more back out and beyond the tram-stop as I wanted to take in a swift look at the Radcliffe Tower and an old barn that remains strangely out of sync with its surroundings. Anyway, this led me towards the old church just beyond the town centre and a pub named the Morning Star just before it. Nothing much to report here really, other than my trope of choosing a beer that isn’t on returned once more and so I settled on a recommended Coors and it was pretty good too, tbh. A nice taste to it, so can’t complain and especially so at just the £2.75 a pint.

After watching a bit of the Test Match here, I continued on through the rather neglected church grounds and through to the main road, passing under the tram/rail bridge and passing by the New Swan and Old Cross pubs before finding the tower and barn I’d been searching out, as well as another old church hidden away beyond another playing area adorned with ‘Radcliffe Juniors FC’, though this doesn’t seem to be the same place that the Manchester League side play at, so must be the actual site of the NPL outfit’s junior teams. Away from that, let’s get back onto the important stuff – PUBS!!! Whilst Dan was having bus issues (i.e. doing a me and going the wrong way), I popped into the Joseph Holt’s branded Old Cross for a Crystal Gold (£2.96), with the dog in here being not much more than a huge, black mop! Honestly, you couldn’t see anything other than its coat and nose. A lovely big thing he was, though he wasn’t too interested in me and preferred to save his energy to play with the kids who came in a little later.

Radcliffe

East Lancs Paper Mill gates

Old Cross

Radcliffe is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Bury, Greater Manchester. Historically a part of Lancashire, the town lies in the valley of the River Irwell and just a few miles from both Bury and Manchester at either side, whilst being somewhat conjoined with Whitefield. There has been evidence found suggesting activity back to the Mesolithic period (6000 BC), as well as Roman and Norman footprints – a Roman road having run along the current border between Radcliffe and Bury, whilst the town was mentioned in the Domesday Book as “Radeclive” (deriving from the Old English words read and clife – meaning the red cliff or bank) and became more of a parish centre within the High Middle Ages – its Grade I Listed St. Mary’s Church and Radcliffe manorial tower being central in this. It has also been known as Radclive and Radeclif, with the Radcliffe name hailing from here.

The aforementioned Roman road linked the forts at Mamucium (Manchester) and Bremetannacum (Ribchester) and during the Norman conquests, Radcliffe became a parish and township in the hundred of Salford and county of Lancashire, made up of the hamlets of the, more central, area of Radcliffe and the Radcliffe Bridge crossing of the Irwell. It was also held as a Royal Manor by Edward the Confessor before transferring to the Normans and William de Radeclive and later came under the ownership of the House of York-supporting Pilkington family during the Wars of the Roses. They owned much of the land and areas around the parish, with Thomas Pilkington being lord of many an estate in the Lancashire area. However, upon Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth, Pilkington was attainted and thus had his lands removed, with Earl Thomas Stanley being handed the areas of Pilkington and Bury as a reward for his support; though Radcliffe would later fight on the side of the Parliamentarians, alongside Bolton, against the Royalists, who included Bury in their ranks.

More church action

Radcliffe Tower

In the 1600’s, woollen weaving became the first acknowledged industry in Radcliffe and the first mill was added in 1780 by Robert Peel, though poor conditions and an outbreak of typhoid within the staff and child workers led to the Factory Act being enforced, the mill turning around its fortunes in this regard. Coal had been long-sourced in the area, with Adam de Radeclyve fined for digging on common land nearby in the first instances of coal getting in the North West of England in 1246, but steam power within the industrial revolution transformed the area and as many as 50 collieries sprung up, though all but a couple were closed by the end of the 19th century. Textiles continued to be a force in the town too, with guncotton being produced through the First World War, whilst paper became a latter stronghold, with the East Lancs and Radcliffe Paper Mills popping up – whilst ensuring much needed employment for the local workforce, with the cotton famine affecting the town, as well as the coal sources drying up.

In later years and during World War II, Radcliffe became a centre for making munitions, aircraft parts and other military hardware, whilst other civilian transports were also made here, as were foundries and other machinery makers who continued to move into the area. Chemical makers soon followed before much fell into decline, the textile industry falling away by the 1950’s and the paper mills battling on into the early 21st century, though this deindustrialisation has led to an increase in population However, the town’s joining the municipal borough of Bury has, apparently, led to some seeing this as Radcliffe losing its independence and identity. It is served by metrolink (the old Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway line) and regular buses to Manchester and Bury, as well as surrounding areas, though many old rail lines and former canal routes have long since closed and/or been abandoned. Local alumni include Pvt. James Hutchinson VC, 1936 Olympic Bronze medallist cyclist Harry Hill, three-time World Snooker champ John Spencer and, perhaps most famously, Oscar-winning film director, Danny Boyle.

New Swan

‘Exploring’ the town centre

Lock Keeper

Finishing up in the Old Cross after watching the early stages of the Liverpool-Newcastle game, I back-tracked to the New Swan (probably the older of the pubs I visited) for a Boddington’s (£2.60), whilst arranging to meet Dan on the other side of the bridge at the Lock Keeper. This is around a 10 minute walk which takes you past the old East Lancs Paper Mill gates in a small garden square and under the rail arches once more, before a cut-through of the centre and crossing of the bridge gets you to this pub, which sits at the foot of the road and hill that leads to the ground. I found Dan taking in the rare sunshine of recent times on one of the tables outside, whilst being occasionally entertained whilst supping at Coors and Carling (both around £3.50) respectively. You should be able to guess what I was on by this point. If not, seek out the answer!

From here we crossed the main road that runs up to Bury and uphill, arriving at the ground via a dirt path (and climbing an incline) a couple of minutes into the game. Accruing information that the current score was still goalless from those (few) spectators who’d arrived for kick-off, I relayed this to Dan before we could settle in for the game ahead. The main King George V playing fields pitch is fully barred-off and is open, grass standing all the way around, though half of the far end is inaccessible due to bushes. There’s a dugout on each side, one for each team, whilst another pitch sits alongside and was hosting the Town Reserve side today. That’s pretty much all there is to say about the ground and so this is the story of Radcliffe Town FC….

(A rather short) History Lesson:

Radcliffe Town Football Club was founded in 1935 although information with regards to anything about the club, up until recent years anyway, is hard to come by. By the early part of this millennium, the club was already playing in the Lancashire Amateur League’s Premier Division, though would rarely break out of the bottom half of the division – finishing a best of 3rd in 2004-’05 and were eventually relegated in 2011 after finishing bottom of the table with just seven points, twenty adrift of their nearest rival.

Things didn’t improve for Town and 2013 saw them finish second-bottom in the Division One and were duly relegated to the Second Division, being reprieved from a bottom-placed finish by a points deduction alone. This relegation then saw them bested by town rivals Radcliffe St. Mary’s, who went onto take a promotion spot that season, however they would gain success in 2017, as they lifted the Lancashire Amateur League’s 1st XI Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over Old Mancunians, following a goalless draw in the final at the Lancashire FA’s County Ground, Leyland. In doing so, they became the lowest-ranked side to lift said trophy!

Outwood Road via the scenic route

Up here?

A strong league campaign would follow the next season, as Town secured a runners-up placing in the Division 2 table to secure promotion back to Division One – the club missing out on the title on account of (what I have been informed was) goals scored, with themselves and Chaddertonians tied on both points and goal difference. Last season saw the club maintain their place there via a strong 4th placed finish, which bodes well for a shot at a return to the Premier Division after an absence of almost a decade. They currently sit in 6th place early in the 2019-’20 piece.

The game was just a few minutes old when we arrived and little happened in the first few minutes we watched, but the first goal wasn’t too long in coming, this going the way of the hosts as a shot from their #10 looped into the net. They then doubled their advantage just a matter of minutes later, when his strike partner #9 fired home. Town continued to dominate the game and it looked like there was a gulf in quality between the two teams, and not long after Radcliffe’s #7  went close to adding a third within the first half-hour of play, #8 bent in a fine effort from a free-kick to seemingly set the scene for a bit of a drubbing.

Match Action

Multi-tasking

Match Action

However, Croftlands Park would awake from their slumber and the Cumbrian side would begin to find their forward strides. First, a good headed effort was well saved by the home ‘keeper, before the gloveman repeated the trick just moments before the break to deny Park’s #7 and the visitors a way back into the contest. Half-time arrived at 3-0, before the wonderous 5 minute half-times that dwell in these footballing depths came and went in the fine Lancastrian sunshine.

Croftlands continued to take the game to their opponents, obviously seeing that they had nothing more to lose at that point. #10 saw a shot go narrowly wide of the mark soon after the resumption of play, before Radcliffe responded and ought to have gone four-up when a two-on-two situation allowed #9 a sight of goal, only for him to horribly shank wide. But horror would turn into magnificence within a handful of minutes. With the ball a good 40 yards away from goal and, seemingly, with little action in the immediate future, #8 (I think) has a long range crack and connected beautifully, the ball flying though the air before dropping over the ‘keeper’s head and between the sticks. What a strike!

Reserve game ref turns spectator

From the “bench”

Radcliffe would soon be dealt a seemingly small set back though when, after hitting the post and having a shot hit a team-mate on the line in an initial attack whilst chasing a fifth, they allowed themselves to be caught open on the counter, and Park netted to reduce the arrears. Still, there looked to be little excitement to go along with this, but a few moments later, they grabbed a second from a corner when, after an initial shot had been well kept out by the Town ‘keeper, the resulting corner was nodded in at close range. 4-2 and suddenly you could see a bit of panic sneaking into the previously confident home team.

This panic would only be increased with just over five minutes left on the clock, when Croftlands netted a third to set up a grandstand finish out of nowhere. Winning a free-kick just outside the area, on the right-hand side, the defensive positions weren’t exactly filling me with confidence in behind the goal, and my feelings were proved correct. The ball was whipped in with quality and met by the head of one of the two centre-halves who powered beyond the rooted Town stopper for 4-3 and it was suddenly all to play for in the last few minutes. What a game this had been – and all for free!

Match Action

Header flies in for 4-3

Alas for Park, they couldn’t quite complete a fairytale comeback, and Town held on for what was, on balance, a deserved win – but full credit to the visitors for their stirring comeback. After the game, we headed back down and the hill and retraced our steps (though I did lose Dan to a pub door as his sat-nav went awry one more) before arriving back in the town centre and paying a visit to the Bridge Tavern; no prizes for guessing how and why it gets that name. Here, with not too much on offer in truth, we both took a pint of Carslberg’s ‘new’ Pilsner (£2.60) and settled in to watch the final scores from around the country roll in. As we drank the last of our pints, we debated on where we should end the day – in the nearby Royal Oak, or pop into Whitefield – one stop away – and have one there instead. The latter won out as it was a fair bit easier all around and so we ended up at the Northern Crafthouse – a foodie pub on the road leading through from Manchester towards Bury.

Over the river

Bridge Tavern in the town centre

Northern Crafthouse, Whitefield

Again getting the same pint in (I think it was Coors again at £4.20), we timed it nicely to grab the tram back from the Whitefield stop (a short walk away) and were soon back in Piccadilly Gardens, where Dan left to head homewards, whilst I carried on back through the other side of town and home. That was that and, overall, this had been a surprisingly far better day than I think either of us had expected – Dan’s travel problems notwithstanding. The game ended up being a brilliant, if slightly bizarre, contest, whilst it was nice to see around Radcliffe itself finally, having never actually been there despite visiting Borough’s Stainton Park on numerous occasions. A late start and easy travel is always a nice bonus to enjoy every now and again, these ‘early’ starts begin to catch up with you sometimes! Back onto the FA Cup trail again next week and it could just be time to enjoy a spa and, who knows, perhaps even a nice bath….

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 3

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Marple (Mellor FC)

Milton fc

Result: Mellor 1-1 Milton (Lancashire & Cheshire AFL Premier Division)

Venue: Wood Lane (Saturday 17th August 2019, 2pm)

Att: 11 (hc)

A week without Cup football rolled around early on in the season and, as a result, I didnt have much of an idea of where to head for. This feeling was exacerbated by the, at times, torrential downpours in the days leading up to Saturday, meaning games further down the leagues could be in a bit of bother. As a result, it was better to head for somewhere that had a confirmatory twitter account etc., correct? Well, this is me you’re on about….

As I said earlier, with not having any concrete plans laid out, I headed into Manchester during the morning and allowed my own feelings to guide my decision. To be bold and travel a fair bit yonder, or be lazy and remain close to home. Well, after asking for a few ideas and coming across some myself, I narrowed it down to a couple of options – Heywood St. James of the Manchester League or Mellor of the Lancs & Cheshire League and the opening day up in Marple. One had a good, working account and it was there I wasn’t headed. I balanced risk for reward and plumped for it, after a, Hyde was there as a fall-back!

Finishing off my wait-covering pint of Boddies in the Hourglass within Piccadilly, I paid the due visit to the ticket office for tickets to the Rose Hill station that Marple plays host to, with this being a short walk away from the ground. You see, I’d decided to be my own match official for the day and carry out a personal pitch inspection….yes, I really am that sad! However, the train journey overall showed that the rain and ground wetness had greatly reduced to next to nothing – that is until we arrived into Marple, where it was puddle central. Either there’d just been a brief downpour just before my arrival, or the place doesn’t drain overly well. Whatever the case, I was beginning to think Hyde’s plastic offering would be on the cards.

Marple Park

Marple Park, ft. Stocks!

Making my way along the Middlewood footpath that takes you from the station to the ground and beyond, I dodged many a manure pile and more than enough puddles to get to the ground and *squelch, squelch, squelch*. The grass around the pitch was sodden but, to my surprise, the playing area itself was pretty solid and I expected football – after all, there was still 2 hours to kick off…well, one actually, as it turned out it was a 2 o’clock start, which I only found out in checking the full-time site as I settled in at the far end of town with a first pint. Brilliant scenes. At least both the Navigation was a decent boozer to begin with and I opted for a pint of the Robinson’s Helle Lager, though the price tag of £4.50 was quite surprising. Having said that, the £4.70 Stella in my second stop, the Bull’s Head, was similar but, again, it was a nice enough place to wile away the remaining time.

Marple is a small town in the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport in Greater Manchester and lies just to the south east of the hat-making town. Historically a part of Cheshire, it lies upon the Peak Forest Canal which hosts the Marple Aqueduct and Roman Lakes lie to the North. The Middlewood Way runs along the old rail line from Rose Hill Marple to Macclesfield, some 9 miles away. The first time Marple was mention was as Merpel – believed to be derived from the Old English maere pill. meaning ‘the stream at the boundary’. The area is believed to have been inhabited for several millennia, with nearby standing stones and tumuli and further excavations around Mellor proving this.

However, despite being within the Macclesfield Forest area for the most part, it was not mentioned in the Domesday Book and wasn’t until an 1122 land deed. It remained rural through to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, with farming, linen weaving and hat making being the larger industries, before Samuel Oldknow brought in lime kilns and mills in the late 1700’s. Around the same time, by the English Civil War, Marple had become the dominant force in the area, with the Lord of Marple Hall and Lord President of the High Court of Justice, John Bradshawe, being one of the first signees of King Charles I’s death warrant.

Navigation

Bulls Head within the precinct area

These, in turn, led to the growth of Marple through terraced houses for workers and a village centre with private businesses springing up within it. Oldknow also introduced aspen trees to the area and was influential in the building of both the Macclesfield and aforementioned Peak Forest canals, whilst the 1800-built Aqueduct carries this over the River Goyt and was the work of canal and railway building pioneer Benjamin Outram, but cost the lives of seven workers. These fell into disrepair as a result of the railway’s later arrival and growth in the 1920’s, but have since been restored as part of the Cheshire Ring, for narrowboats etc. Frequent bus routes from the cotton centres of Stockport and Manchester continued Marple’s growth as an urban district, and it annexed the Derbyshire parish of Ludworth and Mellor in 1936 into its Cheshire-based location. It has also been home to the late Manchester music mogul Tony WIlson, as well as Timmy Mallett. The more you know.

Speaking of Mellor, the village lies between the Marple Bridge area and New Mills. It, along with its fellow Marple Urban District members, joined the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport in 1974 and, in turn, Greater Manchester. Its name is uncertain, though may come from the Celtic dialect for ‘bare (or rounded) hill’ and wasn’t listed in the Domesday Book, despite nearby Ludworth (as Ludeourde) being so, and it is possible both were part of the same settlement before splitting at a later date. The Iron Age settlement there saw a 7th or 8th century Saxon church added to the south and St. Thomas Church has the oldest wooden pulpit in Britain (possibly the world), dating from the early 1300’s, whilst its font is 12th-century too. Local legend has it that Mellor Hall was built upon pre-existing foundations of a Norman nobleman and a 13th century hall was found during Iron Age hill fort excavations. William Radcliffe, a name in textile machinery industry is from the area, whilst Mellor superseded its neighbouring Moorend whilst growing from a few houses in the Victorian era to encompass it as a part of itself.

Mellor church

A still functioning, independent cinema!

I began the journey over to Wood Lane early as to ensure that there was actually a game and, as I began to approach the Marple Tavern just up the road from said footy stadium, I could hear what I thought (or more likely hoped) were the distant shouts of footballers. Question was, were they 5-a-siders at the nearby college, training or actually getting ready for a game. I approached the gates with a degree of trepidation…only to see two teams decked out in kit and going through their pre-match routines. WE HAD FOOTBALL! To the Marple Tav to celebrate!!

This pub does seem as an estate-looking type from outside, but is more pleasant and open within, and a decent offering on the go too. As such, my celebratory drink was a pint of Hop House, but before I had it in hand, a guy at the bar informed me that the barmaid had gone to fetch a ‘keeper’s jersey for “that big game up the road”. I then informed him that it was to there I was bound for, though did assure him that it said a lot about myself rather than anything else!! I finished up shortly after and made my way back to Wood Lane for a third and final time – but this time safe in the knowledge the journey, and money, hadn’t been wasted.

Marple Tavern

Arriving at Wood Lane

The ground itself is part of the Marple RUFC grounds, though for some reason it is only to football ground that hosts any furniture, being barred off on three sides, with dugouts on the far side of the field of play. It is also closer to the clubhouse building too than it’s slightly larger counterparts and has a fair grass banking running along the pathway side opposite the dugouts, though watch out for the boggy surroundings if it was anything like today! Also, the area immediately around the clubhouse is flat, hard standing, with the roof providing some slight cover behind the near end goal you enter from behind. That’s Wood Lane and this is the story of Mellor FC….

History Lesson:

Founded in 1923, Mellor Football Club was the brainchild of members of the Hambleton family, who hailed from the village just outside Marple, where the club currently find themselves at home. They have played at a number of grounds over the years, having originally come out of Gibb Lane, Mellor, though spent many a-year at Brabyns Park within Marple, prior to a link up with Marple RUFC and a local 6th-form college in the 1990’s, which allowed a move to the club’s current Wood Lane home. After originally having to change within the college campus, 2002 saw the clubhouse/changing rooms building added, allowing for a far easier time of things in that respect.

On the field, the club moved out of local competition and to the Lancashire & Cheshire League in 1962 and have since remained there to this day. However, success has been somewhat few and far between on the silverware front, with the mid-1980’s proving something of a “golden era” for the club as they went on to win the 1986 & 1987 ‘double’ – winning the Division 3 & Division 2 in successive years, whilst also lifting consecutive Rhodes Cups alongside their league successes. However, little else was to follow and, despite having reached the semi-finals of the 1999 Stockport Senior Cup, Mellor almost folded in the close season, but a merger with local Stockport League side Friendship Romiley – who themselves had ambitions to reach the Lancs & Cheshire League – was agreed, with the Mellor F.C. name continuing, with the proviso that the ‘Friendship’ name continue to be emblazoned on the shirt, alongside a new badge.

In the clubhouse

This merger would be short-lived in some ways, as some ex-Friendship players departed to create a new side and so Mellor F.C. continued on further into the new millennium and achieving greater success as they did so. Mellor would lift the Stockport Senior Cup in 2005 & 2014, the Rhodes Cup in 2012, 2015 & 2017, the latter ensuring another ‘double, as the club also lifted that year’s Premier Division title for the first time, having finished runners-up the year before and despite having spent a number of years away from Wood Lane, at the Stockport Sports Village & Newall Green in Wythenshawe. Last season saw them finish in a rather underwhelming 9th place in the table (out of 12) and lost out in the Stockport Senior Cup Final to High Lane.

We got underway and both sides shared early chances:- a header flying over for the hosts, whilst a fine last-gasp challenge denied a Milton forward an effort at goal. However, Mellor would grab the lead fairly early in proceedings; a fine bit of ‘keeper distribution allowed #9 in down the left and he advanced on goal before sliding across the visiting stopper and into the far corner. He then almost made it two, but was denied by a good save with feet by the ‘keeper this time around, the rebound being headed harmlessly over the bar. Milton would respond around the half-hour mark with their best chance of the half seeing a big goalmouth scramble around the six-yard line, with the visiting players just unable to force the ball into the net and it was eventually claimed by Mellor and cleared from danger.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

This missed really ought to have been punished just before the break when a poor back-pass was latched onto by the home #2 and he advanced to be one-on-one with the ‘keeper, only to horribly scuff his attempted shot and the ball was gratefully clutched by the Milton gloveman. Half-time duly arrived a couple of minutes later and after paying a quick visit to the clubhouse (showing the England-Wales rugby union game but with nothing on the go) for a look around – whereupon I met a very friendly large, black dog – it was back out for the second half.

As in the first half, I was again heading off on a lap of the ground, whilst Mellor started brightly and again ought to have doubled their lead early in proceedings, when some good play allowed a low cross to be sent across goal, but the effort at the back post was fired into the side-netting. Milton again responded, #3 firing off two efforts – the first a fizzing drive from 25 yards which flew straight at the home GK, before his second narrowly avoided the crossbar on its way into the car-park. The preceded what could quite possibly be the worst throw in I’ve ever seen live when a Mellor player attempted to take said throw, only to send it backwards in throwing it forwards. Brilliant stuff.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The second-half wasn’t the best of halves it has to be said, but the visitors would grab an equaliser around ten minutes from time, as a loose ball eventually rebounded its way into the path of #14, Sam Johnson, and he finished from close-range to set-up a grandstand finish that never came to pass. In fact, neither side really created a winning chance, the only one that did come would be from a free-kick AND would end up in the net, #10 knocking in from a couple of yards, but would be ruled offside. To be fair, this was nothing more than the original save the rebound came from deserved, the Milton GK pulling off a superb stop to deny #15’s hooked effort. Full-time and a fair 1-1 draw saw a point a-piece to begin the season for both teams.

Post-match, I headed back on the same way I’d travelled to the ground, but this time took a detour out through the surrounding suburban area to find the cut through to the canal side. This was done without issue, until I got there and found it was actually a steep incline up to the towpath and not flat at all. I gambled on scrambling it and, for once, this went well and a couple of minutes later, I arrived at the Ring O’Bells, just the other side of the bridge across the canal itself. I took advantage of their beer terrace too, though seemed to quickly empty it upon arrival – I must be gaining a reputation or something – but nonetheless, I sipped away at an Amstel for a while in the warm mid-afternoon sun before heading back into the town centre itself, just a few minutes down the road.

Along the canal

Ring O’Bells

Samuel Oldknow

Once back there, I sought out the Samuel Oldknow which is clearly a Wetherspoons-type place, right? Wrong! Instead, and this is how I completely missed it the first time around, the pub is a tiny ale house with a downstairs area too though, having unknowingly order a Seacider at 7.3% (I thought it’s “Hardcore” tagline was a different drink I consciously avoided), I thought I’d best not attempt to explore down them! Following on from here, I continued the short distance back towards the train station for a visit to the I did plan on also popping into the Beer Traders place on the High street but couldn’t spot it quickly (I’d have had to backtrack slightly) and with time running down to my planned train home, I instead made haste for the station-neighbouring Railway back at Rose Hill.

Hatters Arms

The Railway

A quick Sol was enjoyed before grabbing the train back for the short journey to Piccadilly and the onward connections were, of course, no issue – though the conductor on the way back got me just as I was about to get off and couldn’t find my actual ticket quick enough. “Make sure you have the right one next time he said, clearly thinking I was bunking paying. Alas for his thoughts, I came across it seconds after he’d returned to his office and so could flash him on the way off. No, not like that, honestly….

RATINGS:

Game: 4

Ground: 4

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 5

Manchopper in….Failsworth

untitled (11)untitled (12)

Result: Failsworth Dynamos 4-2 Tottington United (Lancashire Amateur League Premier Division)

Venue: Failsworth Sports Centre (Saturday 21st November 2015, 2.30pm)

Att: 23 (hc)

I hadn’t been to a game on a bus for quite a while before today. Now that I’ve grabbed your intrigue….

As my intended game at Irlam Steel fell by the wayside just as I enquired to whether it had beaten the weather or not, I was soon left with a scramble to decide an alternative venue for my Saturday entertainment. Due to having Burnley vs Brighton on the schedule the following day, I was on the lookout for somewhere that wouldn’t break the bank.

As a result and due to my taking that most lower league games due to be played on grass would be off, I narrowed my choice down to East Manchester or Failsworth Dynamos. As per usual, a new “ground” proved too  enticing, and I was soon transiting through Manchester just in time to grab the 180 bus to Failsworth centre.

I wasn’t expecting much from Failsworth itself, if I’m honest. So, it was a pleasant surprise as I hopped off into the chilly air and into a lovely little area which included a few pubs, a church and a clock tower. As such, with three pubs to choose from in my two hour lead up to kick-off, I headed for the Rose & Crown first. That is, until I saw their over-25 policy and with viable alternatives, my thoughts resembled something along the lines of “F*ck them!”. My custom was thus sent elsewhere.

Failsworth

Failsworth

Failsworth

Failsworth

Royal Oak

Royal Oak

Elsewhere turned out to be the The Royal Oak, which was a nice enough pub, but was empty bar yours truly and another guy sat at the bar conversing with the staff. With the pub’s BT Sport failing before the United game, I quickly ended my Strongbow and headed for the door,  just as the guy broke into song. “I’ll stop if you want!” he replied as I was leaving, but I assured him he could continue on his merry way.

So, it was on to the Church Inn situated just over the world and opposite , somewhat unsurprisingly, a church. Now here was a fine establishment. A small bar, which sits just to the left of the door and is in the middle of the pub itself. Wonderful. Also, I was greeted as I walked in, which always goes a long way in my opinion and with a Kopparberg in hand, I took a seat for the first half of the big Premier League game of the day.

With the Premier League’s La Marseillaise tribute done, I was more than pleased to see Memphis Depay get on the scoresheet. Depay is something of an enigma, but we all love a character, right? Soon enough, it was half-time and my cue to leave was upon me as Dan walked in to accompany me for the live action contest.

Church Inn

Church Inn

Inside the Church

My type of Church

Wise Words

Wise Words

A 10-minute walk later and we were at the home of Failsworth Dynamos. Well, I thought we were, but it was empty and void of any activity. “Shit”, I thought, but then I head the brainwave that the game was behind the sports centre and not in this football centre. After navigating the road and the gateways towards the rear pitches, we eventually arrived cage-side to find junior football. “Shit”.

Luckily, these were just coming to an end and the two senior sides were soon taking to the field. Unfortunately, we had to wait a good 25-minutes longer than the stated (on Full-Time) pm kick-off time. This gave Dan a chance to tuck into Pringles and me time to roundhouse kick a cup of tea off a table. I thought it was empty, but scenes when it fell prone and its contents went all over. Oops.

Soon enough, it was time to head into the cage for the game. The  pitch is artificial, and features nothing bar a barred-off paved spectator area on one side, which also has a raised second terrace-like step to it. That’s it.

Failsworth, in third place in the league were entertaining sixth-placed Tottington United. Both were playing catch-up on games on those ahead, with Failsworth attempting to close the gap on leaders Old Boltonians who are dominant (at time of writing).

Failsworth Sports Centre

Failsworth Sports Centre

Welcome

Welcome

The game was soon underway and it was the visitors who took the lead around 25 minutes in, as a Tottington forward rifled in a fine strike. Being stood right behind the line of fire made it all the more impressive. The remainder of the half was entertaining on the 4G (I think) pitch, but no further goals were added, before I was drawn into the gymnasium area, grateful to escape the cold. Wimp. Soon enough, though, it was time for the second half, but not before I’d helped another spectator locate the pitch. Not just us then!

The home side was soon, deservedly, level with another stunning effort, Liam Stuttart’s drive, which left the ‘keeper beaten all ends up. Despite being on the front foot for the majority of the game, Failsworth found themselves behind again not long after, as #9 bundled the ball over the line. 1-2.

From then on, Failsworth dominated the game, equalising about 10 minutes later through Terry Qualters, before I uttered “There’ll be a winner in this one”, just as Chase Harrison recieved the ball and the orange-clad forward ran through and fired home from the angle. 3-2 and I basked in my Nostradamus-esque prophecy.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Penalty

Penalty

This talent soon ended as abruptly as it started though and passed over to Dan, as I said there wouldn’t be another goal, Dan said there definitely would be and…PENALTY! Failsworth’s brilliant #11, Stuttart, completed the scoring from the spot and that was that. The rest of the game saw a few niggles and scraps go on, but all in all, the game was a good watch and a fine advertisement for the league.

After heading out of the Sports Centre and past a random bench and a drowning table, the travel home was uneventful, but I’ll give you this exciting gem to leave upon. It involved two buses. Wow.

Bench

Bench

Dead table

Dead table

DSC01048

RATINGS:

Game: 8- A really entertaining contest. Great show by both sides.

Ground: 2- Sports Centre cage. Expected little, received little.

Fans: 4- Had a couple of guys shouting support.

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 8- £6.60 (bus & train), £6.80 elsewhere. Free admission!

 

 

Manchopper in…Old Trafford (Gorse Hill AFC)

36892_133570643340246_13582_nsignol athletic

Result: Gorse Hill 1-2 Signol Athletic (Lancashire & Cheshire AFL Division 1)
Venue: The Cage, St. Bride’s Playing Fields, Old Trafford (Saturday 15th November 2014)
Att: 10 (hc)

A short blog this one, which is just to do a small log for a small local club. Gorse Hill, who feature in my Whalley Range AFC blog from last season, have been my mate Dan Watkinson’s local side for a while now, as he lives almost next door to the St. Bride’s playing fields (formerly home to Old Trafford FC And known as the “Field of Dreams”!) on which they now play, having previously played on Turn Moss fields in Stretford. For a fair while, he has been pressing me to visit them, and with me on an economy drive this month, I figured “Why not?”.
So, I was soon heading down towards the ground, situated in between the City Centre & Old Trafford’s more famous sporting homes and not far from The Whalley pub, which has now closed. After hopping off the 255 bus, I quickly undertook the five minute walk along a couple of side roads and up an alleyway whereupon I could begin to hear the sounds of a football match being battled out. A good sign!

Arriving at "The Cage".

Arriving at “The Cage”.

After firstly spotting a kids training session, I soon spotted Dan watching the game on an adjoining pitch. The pitches, marked out on what becomes Old Trafford Cricket Club in the summer months, are situated within a large metal cage (hence the name), which surrounds the whole turfed area. That is all there is to see in the ground, as it is just a field, but I feel compelled to do a blog anyway and go against my usual rule of not blogging about grounds with no barred off playing area.

Looking across to the far "warehouse" side.

Looking across to the far “warehouse” side.

Towards the "Dan's Apartment" end

Towards the “Dan’s Apartment” end

So, there’s not much to talk about there, and with the game a couple of minutes old as I arrived, but still goalless, Dan ensured me there would be goals. I’d seen that Signol had earlier racked up a rather impressive 12-1 win at Santos FC, but also been on the receiving end of a 10-5 defeat to Newton Heath. Gorse Hill, meanwhile, had recorded a 7-1 victory over Chorltonians Rovers plus an impressive penalty shoot-out victory over Wythenshawe Town’s Reserve side. With both sides towards the top of the table, a good game was in order.
I had previously watched Gorse Hill twice, once in a cup final at the Regional Athletics Stadium (the ground that neighbours the Etihad) and in the aforementioned Whalley Range game last season, where they attained a more than respectable draw with the six-time straight winners of the Lancs & Cheshire League. Signol probably just edged the early stages and took the lead when a shot by #14 from just outside the area found its way past the keeper. That’s how it stayed until the break, despite both sides having great chances to add to the score-line.

Rushing for a corner.

Rushing for a corner.

The "school" end

The “school” end

The near side touchline.

The near side touchline.

After catching some strange scents not usually found in football grounds, and finding out the players have to walk from the pitch, across he fields, cross a road and walk through a car park to get to their changing facilities, the second half was underway. Gorse Hill drew level on the hour, when a long ball was won by the forward who retained possession long enough for support in the guise of Hill’s #8 (or #3) to arrive and lash into the far corner.
It looked as though there would be further goals, and it seemed inevitable on many occasions, but it took until the 87th minute for a winner to arrive, and it was the visitors who grabbed it. A good, quick attack down the right saw the ball pulled back to #10 who shot low. Low enough in fact to go underneath the ‘keeper’s dive and into the bottom corner. Not the glove man’s finest hour, and the side from Stockport saw out the remaining minutes to take the points and the victory.
After the game, Dan and myself headed back towards the Main Road, past a burnt out transit van and onwards. Dan headed home whereas I headed to Chorlton for the second half of West Didsbury & Chorlton’s home game vs AFC Blackpool, which ended 0-0 incidentally, with Blackpool’s ‘keeper having a superb game from what I saw and, by all accounts, before that too!
So, a good day’s football with another “ground” ticked off. Always good to get a step closer to finishing a league and to give a local side some support.