Manchopper in….Salford Quays (Ordsall Leisure Centre)

Result: Beechfield United 3-2 Bolton County (Manchester Football League Premier Division)

Venue: Ordsall Leisure Centre (Tuesday 27th August 2019, 7pm)

Att: 45 (hc)

A rarity on these pages, a midweek game isn’t seen too much as it is, never mind one that is played at a non-regular venue a short distance from my abode. But that is just what this game was and the Ordsall Leisure Centre, just beyond its larger neighbour in Old Trafford, would be the host. The ground is within the small area of Ordsall in Salford, but stands just across the road from the plushy Salford Quays area of the city and, as a result of this, it gave me an excuse to sample a few of the pubs and bars the surround the numerous old docking areas.

I set off for this 7pm kick-off at just after 4pm, grabbing a couple of buses which allowed me to journey on over the swing bridge and to the Quays themselves. I would bypass the old Ordsall Hall mansion in doing so before hopping off my second service of the trip just outside the Quays House Beefeater – located right alongside a Premier Inn, perfect for those who like a tipple or two before bed! Incidentally, the most interesting parts of the journey both happened on this second bus (the 79 for those interested) which included a radio station onboard which meant my ride began with Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” soundtracking it, whilst the “bus stopping” sign was illuminated by an unseen hand, as it was only me and the driver on board….Whooooooo!! Spooky.

Ordsall Hall

Beefeater from across the water.

Matchstick Man

As I said, my day began with a visit to the Beefeater, which offered views across the quays towards the Old Trafford side, a nice enough place to sit with a pint of San Miguel, especially in the final throes of the warm, kind weather the bank holiday was allowed. From there, I back-tracked a little to the Matchstick Man, a Hungry Horse pub, where a pint of Boddies kind of reflected its surroundings, coming in at £3.95. Not a whole lot to report in here despite setting off in the direction of a non-existent door for some reason on the way out before again making the walk back towards the Lowry theatre and the neighbouring Craftbrew and Harvester outlet. I gave a miss to the Alchemist, though, as it looked a little….highbrow.

The Salford Quays area is within the area the City of Salford which itself is in the larger Greater Manchester area. It was formerly the Manchester Docks and, upon their 1982 closure, it then became the scene of one of the first and largest urban redevelopments throughout the U. K. The docks were owned and built by the Manchester Ship Canal Company, with Salford being the larger of the two – out sizing its neighbour Pomona. The docks were opened in 1892 by Queen Victoria and would go on to be, at its height, the third busiest port in Britain for a time, but the rise of container transportation and larger vessels meant the docks entered into a decline through the 1970’s, ahead of their eventual 1982 closure.

The Quays

Around the old docks

Heading on over to the Lowry area

The docklands were bought the next year by Salford City Council and renamed Salford Quays, with the area being steadily redeveloped from 1985 onwards to include many living areas, bar, restaurants, hotels, the Lowry Art Gallery, Theatre and Retail Outlet and the Imperial War Museum North. These were linked up by roads, a promenade and bridges, and were later joined by the Metrolink extension through to Media City, with the BBC and ITV having a large presence nowadays.

The Craftbrew was probably my favourite bar of the day beer-wise and had many a real ale on offer. I opted for a Hawkshead Pale Ale and it was bloody lovely too – very happy with that choice and the £4.05 price tag wasn’t bad at all considering its position bang centre within the Lowry complex. Finishing off my pint outside on the small outdoor area, I headed the short distance to the Harvester, which was only a small place and I felt more than a little out of place within the dining peoples, as I seemed to be the only person in there having a drink alone. Ah well, what can you do?! Upon finishing off the 61 Deep of Marston’s here, it was time to head towards Ordsall and a planned brief pop-over to the nearby, famed Salford Lads Club just around the corner. From there, I had hoped to get to the Welcome Inn a few minutes from the Ordsall Leisure Centre itself, but this proved to be impossible.

The reason for this? Well….bus. As I was setting off on my planned 25 minute-or-so walk, I spotted the #50 service popping in a little late. “Bonus!”; I thought to myself as I caught it, but this proved to be a fatal flaw in my plans, as it seemed to take an age to get around, whilst the walk from the stop itself seemed to take far, far longer than the phone map suggested. As a result, having reached the Lads Club, the heartbreaking decision to wrest myself away from the Welcome Inn was enforced and so direct to the ground I was forced to be. I’m sorry to have had to subject you to such scenes. Trust me, just be happy you weren’t there to experience it.

Lowry Area

Craftbrew

Harvester (on the left) at the Lowry Outlet

Ordsall itself is an area of Salford, historically in Lancashire, that is currently undergoing a large amount of redevelopment….kind of. It was first mentioned in an 1117 tax payment by Ordeshala and derives its name from the personal name in Old English ‘Ord’ and ‘halh’ meaning corner or nook, which accurately reflects the location of the Manor of Ordsall, with its boundary on the south Bank of the River Irwell featuring a large bend. However, it could also be from the Saxon primeval word ‘ord’ and ‘hal’ which, together, combine to become ‘very old den’ – the reasoning lying at the existence of a cave in the area known as Woden’s Den. This cave was located on a road that ran to Ordsall Hall and included an ancient, paved ford across the Irwell and is thought to have served as a Christian hermitafor local Kersal-based monks, or an area for early travellers to leave offerings to Odin before attempting the crossing.

Ordsall Hall itself dates back to the times of the Tudors and was the home of the Radclyffe family for over three centuries. It has also been home to a varied assortment of tenants, including a church for clergy, the forerunner of the Manchester Theological College and a working men’s club, and is said to be haunted… so that’s where the bus ghost was going! There is even a plausible, if unsubstantiated, rumour that the Gunpowder Plot was outlined here. The Salford Lads Club (made famous by the Smiths’ The Queen is Dead album) and musical themes continuity alumni of Ordsall including Peter Hook of New Order and Tim Burgess of the Charlatans. Football-wise, Busby Babe Eddie Colema was born in Ordsall, though was sadly one of those killed in the Munich Air Disaster, aged just 21.

Salford Lads Club

Arriving at Ordsall Park

I arrived at Ordsall Park, in which the Leisure Centre’s 4G pitch is located, to find the teams waiting around for the pre-booked training session before their game to finish up. It duly did and we were underway around five minutes late, by which time Dan had arrived and was pleasantly surprised to have made the beginning of the game. As for the ground, there’s not a whole lot to say about it, apart from it being a typical affair of its type, just this one has its spectator area running the full length of the park-side of the pitch, whilst some raised areas behind the far-end goal and the spectator area give a little more watching space, but the cage is an issue, of course; not that this was a problem this evening, unsurprisingly. The history part of Beechfield United can be found within my Salford Sports Village blog to watch their home game there, here, but let’s get straight on with the action of this contest….

The game eventually began once the pitch had been cleared of all and sundry and it was the visitors who came out of the blocks the stringer with #3 firing wide of the upright, and #9 seeing his attempted drive well blocked by a defender. However, they would be made to pay for their early misdirections, as Beechfield soon went ahead themselves. After winning a corner out on the right flank, the resultant ball was whipped in perfectly for the lanky frame of Beechy’s #5, Michele Fresneda, to climb highest and thump a header into the back of the net. One-nil Beechfield!

Match Action

Match Action

One quickly became two as well, when Kurtis Lee’s smart finish found the bottom corner, and they really should have gone and put the game beyond doubt shortly thereafter, but #2 guided his header wide and, down the other end and just before the break, #7 was unlucky to see his low shot fly narrowly off target, as Beechy held on to their lead through to the break, despite a scare when County had a goal ruled out for offside. Incidentally, the one thing I really do love about this level is the break times as, within 5 minutes, we were back up and running for the second half. County again began the stronger, and Matthew Leadsham spurned a fantastic chance to level soon after the restart when some fine work and a superb touch by #9 allowed him to be able to pull back. The goal was there, but the finish, alas, was not.

The ‘great chance, poor finish’ theme then continued right down the other end, as #11 broke clear to deliver a good low ball to the back-post, where the arriving #7 blasted into the side netting only. To be fair, it was a tight angle on this occasion, but nonetheless, they would be made to pay by County after this and two swift strikes from the visitors pegged them back. First, Leadsham made amends for his earlier faux pas by slotting in at the near post from a corner, before he himself then became the assister moments later, as he beat a challenge and pulled back to #8, Liam Short, who fired home from the edge of the area. 2-a-piece and all to play for in the last half-hour or so!

Under the lights

Match Action

Caged

Bolton then almost turned the match completely on its head as #11 got forward but did a little too much, and in giving possession back to Beechfield, indirectly allowed them to retake the lead, as they went right down the other end and sub Jordan Jones-Waite, who had been on the field a matter of minutes, slipped his shot across the ‘keeper and into the far side of the net. 3-2 and, unfortunately, the grandstand finish never quite arrived, despite pressure from both teams and a late header flying just wide was the last chance to get something from the game for County, as Beechfield held on for all three “home” points.

After the game, it was straight out of the park gates and to the bus stop a few minutes away for the first leg of the journey home. I bid goodbye to Dan back in Old Trafford and caught a second bus, only to narrowly miss my planned (yet very hopeful) connection by a few minutes. This wasn’t particularly a problem and after a 15 minute wait, I was on the way home to round off this rare midweek venture, and it had certainly been a worthwhile one. Both sides had put on a very entertaining game, with the surface being far better than I had expected it to be (no idea if the players think the same!), and it had been decent to have a few hours in and around the Quays for a change too – though I’m sure those who make their living around there may not be too enamoured. Back onto the norm Saturday games this weekend and the beginning of the FA Vase’s road to Wembley….

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 3

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 9

Manchopper in….Rochdale (Rochdale Sacred Heart FC)

 

Result: Rochdale Sacred Heart 2-3 Bolton County (Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: Fox Park (Saturday 6th October 2018, 2pm)

Att: 50~

Having all but promised to get over to Fox Park over the past year and a bit but seeing my attempts spurned by weather and other means here and there, this weekend finally gave me the opportunity to head up to Rochdale and visit Sacred Heart’s home. With the weather seemingly set fairly….well, fair, all looked good for the trip to finally be undertaken. Come the morning, the morning rain hadn’t fully materialised in the way it had been forecast, and so all roads led to Fox Park for their Manchester League game with Bolton County.

Arriving into the town centre via the mediums of buses and trams, my plan was initially to begin at the Sam Smith’s Corporation Inn, but I soon reckoned it might be best to have a scout of the Nelson Hotel up the way first. This proved a fruitful endeavour, the pub open with its early punters already dotted around the place. It was a nice enough, old-school pub too, the main take-away for me being the rather humourous sign behind the bar banning all “foul language”. However, the customers seemed to not take too much notice of said instruction, not to mention the (I assume) landlord too! All good fun, but I was soon having to head back on myself and having reset my traversing of Rochdale’s station area to grab a bus from outside the Eagle pub, next up was the second Sam Smith’s option of the day, the aforementioned Corporation Inn. As with the Nelson, a pint of Taddy Lager came in at the very pocket-friendly £2.30. I also had a chat with Manchester United fan Gary in here too about where it was going wrong and what would come of the game later in the day. Needless to say, neither of us predicted a comeback from 2-0 down (a 2-0 loss was more likely, tbf!).

Rochdale

The Lord is watching…

Corporation Inn

Finishing up my drink in here, I bid goodbye to Gary and continued on the short walk past the station and to the Eagle Hotel. Again, this was a Sam Smith’s place, though I’m not sure why the brewery is so prevalent in this part of town. Either way, a third Taddy Lager was had here at, yet again, £2.30, prior to me grabbing the bus up a little closer towards the ground and the Crown and Shuttle, where the most interesting/weird happening of the day (and likely season so far, despite Darwen) would occur. Having polished off my pint of Dark Fruits (£3.50) in here, I exited the door thinking that the Rod Stewart soundtrack would be the most interesting take-away from my brief stay, only to hear a shout of “Excuse Me!” from behind. Thinking I’d left something or whatever, I turned to see what was up only to be asked if I was from around there as I looked familiar. That was fair enough, but I answered to the negative, only to then be asked if I ‘…was on a gay website’ as the fella and his partner had thought they’d seen me somewhere before. Chuckling, I informed him that he was very much mistaken and he was fairly mortified. Pretty funny, and I assured him there was no issues, shaking hands before grabbing the bus slightly onwards down the road for a bit of thought gathering and to truly take in if I’d just had that conversation. This bloody hobby, eh?!

Having figured out the Hopwood pub wasn’t actually around here as shown on Maps, my next drinking hole stop would instead be the Bobbin, and this one is slightly more interesting to me, as it shared its name with a Wetherspoon’s close to me by the name of the Tim Bobbin until recently, when it dropped the first name of the satirical poet otherwise known as John Collier who died in Milnrow in the 1700’s. This was a comfortable pub in which to spend a while, spacious yet feeling close-knit at the same time, somehow. A pint of Amstel (£3.30) kept me company in here for the next half-hour or so while I wasted away the time through to the bus which would drop me back at the bottom of the road I’d take to Fox Park.

Eagle Hotel

Crown & Shuttle

The Bobbin

A short walk up the main road from the bus stop near to where I had my interesting interaction sees you at a small side road, which will lead you up over a small bridge and to the ground entrance. Upon arrival, you are greeted with a very smart clubhouse/other facilities building which takes in all that’s required at a ground, whilst the remainder of the ground is largely open, hard standing, though a little at the far end of the right-hand side of the pitch is grassy. The pitch itself is fully fenced off, apart from the grassy bit, with the benches to the left and a balcony atop the clubhouse providing some raised views for a privileged few! That’s Fox Park then and this is the story of Rochdale Sacred Heart….

History Lesson:

Rochdale Sacred Heart Football Club was founded in 1955 (I assume as a sporting arm of the nearby church of the same name) and have played in the Manchester League since 1987, having presumably taken part in local leagues through to that point. Despite not showing much in the way of challenging for the First Division title for their first run there, they would be promoted to the Premier Division in 1994 after finishing as runners-up, though struggled over their two seasons in the higher division, finishing 15th and 16th (bottom) respectively, being relegated upon the latter finish in 1996. Returning to Division 1, the club were more of a fixture in the higher reaches of the table, finishing 5th and 7th in the next two campaigns, though did drop to 11th in 1999, ahead of coming back strongly for the millennium season, winning the Division 1 title in 2000 and a second promotion to the Premier Division, where they finished their first season back in a solid 10th, which would be the last season the club would be known as simply Sacred Heart F.C.

Becoming Rochdale Sacred Heart for the 2001-’02 season, they spent a further two seasons in the top division prior to suffering the drop once more in 2003, having finished 15th (second bottom). 2005 saw the club again return to the Premier Division as Division 1 runners-up but again struggled in their five-season stay back there, with points deductions in each of 2005-’06 (3pts), 2007-’08 (6pts) & 2009-’10 (6pts) not helping their cause in remaining, the latter eventual being a fatal blow, resulting in the drop back to Division One being suffered once again as they finished 18th and last. 2013 would see Sacred Heart take their second Division One title, but this time they would be much more of a force upon a return, finishing 4th in 2016, before the next campaign would end in the club becoming the first from Rochdale (apparently) to lift the Manchester League title, whilst they also added the league’s Gilgryst Cup to their cabinet, defeating the recently departed AFC Monton, securing a double. They would also beat the same opposition in the Norman Noden Trophy (league vs cup winners/runners-up as applicable) midway through last season. Last season saw Sacred Heart drop back down to the higher mid-table, finishing up 7th out of the 15 competitors.

Arriving at Fox Park

the lounge: RSH’s clubhouse

The game was underway shortly after my arrival and it didn’t take long for the first goal to arrive, and it went to the hosts – a cross in was eventually met by #11 Kris King and he turned the ball into the net. Rochdale kept up their strong start and almost doubled their advantage through #8 Josh Woolley, who was unfortunate to see his powerful header come back off the bar. The two respective managers were, by this point, not seeing eye-to-eye, shall we say, though this proved to be something of an amusing side-plot to proceedings, rather than anything too OTT.

Back on the pitch, Bolton County began to gain a foothold and they went mighty close to levelling up the scores with around fifteen minutes or so to play in the first half. First, #8 saw his effort blocked out by a Sacred Heart defender, before an even better last-ditch slide would be enough to deny the follow-up shot and the third attempt by #4 would fly wide of the mark. The latter should have done better shortly afterwards too, but could only fire wastefully wide following a corner. The hosts would have the last chance of the half, with #9 hitting a shot straight at the ‘keeper, but there was to be no addition to the scores before the break and the sides headed into the dressing rooms with just the single goal between them.

Match Action

Match Action

Stand/Smoking Shelter(!)

After a quick tour of the facilities, I ended up in the bar where I partook in a steak & kidney pie which, for £1.50, wasn’t bad at all. Wasting away the ten minute-or-so break in the clubhouse, the teams eventually re-emerged from the bowels of the building and were ready to go once again shortly afterwards. It was Bolton who began the stronger of the sides, going close when the Sacred Heart ‘keeper could only parry a shot out but the visitors just couldn’t force the ball over the line. The #11 then saw his cross-cum-shot come back off the crossbar as they strove to get back level, but were made to pay for their wayward finishing shortly afterwards when Rochdale doubled their advantage through #9, who met a fine cross from #3 to nod home from close range.

To be honest, at the time, that looked to be that, as you could definitely see Bolton grabbing one back, but two looked to be something of an ask. Indeed, that exact thought went through my head just after the second had been scored. As it turned out they would get their goal with around fifteen minutes left on the clock when #10 Tom Aspen fired in from the edge of the area. However, they would prove me wrong almost immediately, when the same player met another fine ball in, this time from County’s #6 to again nod in from close range . Two-a-piece and we were set for a grandstand finish!

Match Action

‘Keeper’s!

Close Call.

It would be Bolton who would go home with the points as they completed a remarkable come back as we entered stoppage time and it would be that man Aspen once again who would be the hero as he would hit something of a speculative drive, which took a wicked deflection off a defender and flew into the bottom corner. 3-2 and full-time, which cued a further touchline disagreement! Either way, I was to meet up with Sacred Heart boss Danny McWilliam post-game as he’d attracted me in with an offer of beer (am I joking?!) and I eventually was able to ascertain his location. It turned out I’d completely missed him coming off the field. After a quick chat, I headed off upstairs to wait, whereupon I was soon in possession of a lovely pint of Boddies. Cheers, Danny, it’s very much appreciated.

I would soon be off and headed backwards from whence I came, but this time I would head down the neighbouring canal path and to the tram stop at Milnrow. I was shortly on a service back to Manchester, where I would change onwards towards Altrincham before grabbing a bus home for a few more once again, with the view of staying up until 6am as to stave off the inclination of sleep ahead of the Japanese GP. I made it to 6.11am, only to give in as it was starting. Ah.

So there we have it. As for the day as a whole, well the ground was definitely smart (with the clubhouse being especially so) and the food and drink during the day all went down well, especially with regards to the pricings! Travel all went smoothly enough, despite the best efforts of the railways once again and the weather was far better than was forecast, so I can’t have too many complaints overall. Onwards to next week, and it’s another local revisit, as dictated by those railway scamps. Bloody hell….

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 6

Programme: N/A

Food: 7

Value For Money: 9