Result: Eccleshall 0-0 Cheadle Town (NWCFL Division 1 South)
Venue: Pershall Park (Saturday 19th January 2019, 3pm)
A trip down to rural Staffordshire was on the cards as the twitterverse once again had the opportunity to decide my footballing fate. Extra responsibility was put upon them too, as it would be my first meet up with fellow hopper Paul in over a year but a draw would be the result for a second consecutive week – Lex and Eccleshall coming out on top. A meeting of our minds (or lack thereof in my case at least) was had and an executive decision made. To the, slightly tricky to get to, town of Eccleshall we would be off.
Grabbing the train into Stafford, I had a short wait, until Paul’s train from Liverpool would arrive and so I set about getting some of my Pontefract blog done because, you know, that’s definitely normal. Anyhow, Paul was soon setting foot in Staffordshire too – tales of a loaded guy paying out £118 to get to Southampton being the highlight of his trip down – as we caught the bus from outside the Lamb Inn (which I visited on my visit to Stafford Town a few weeks back) to the outlying market town.
After travelling through the midst of seemingly nowhere, a few villages and farmhouses being the only signs of civilisation on that route, we eventually pulled into Eccleshall. Disembarking, we quickly set about what we’d come here for. Pub…er, I mean a rest before the football. Definitely that. Unfortunately, we could only find pubs, along with a barber shop with a Carling pub board outside it, and so with the clock just approaching 11.30 (the buses were two-hourly, don’t judge us) we headed for our first stop of the day:- the Little George. The Little George wasn’t all too small in truth, a sizable bar aside a hotel with a fair amount of craft beers and the like on offer. Being a Bent’s tap, we each opted for a pint of their 30J’s which came in at a decent £3.70 each.
Sorting out our bets and the like in here alongside an interestingly placed barber’s chair at our table, we finished up and returned back up towards the bus stop and to the King’s Arms – a pretty old establishment, especially when it came to the kitchen/outdoor area. A pint of Warsteiner each was the order of the day in here (£3.90 pp) before we settled in within the beamed hostelry. From there, we began to work our way groundwards. After popping into the Bell for a pint of Sharps Atlantic each (£3.30 pp), that was still the intention, until I spotted a sign taking us down a narrow road and to the slightly out of the way Eagle.
A “Sports Bar” (it had a pool table and a few TV’s of racing/football) we had a quick bottle of Marston’s decent Resolution, bringing back memories of our visit to Alfreton (yes, I remember things like that), before swiftly returning to the town’s main streets and a pair of pubs standing on either side of the road from each other. First up came the Joules tap by the name of the Royal Oak where I coaxed Paul into having a Lakota-which I think he ended up being happy with – before, with a bit of time in hand, crossing and backtracking slightly to the Belgian Bar which was what you might expect from a bar with that name. With time beginning to conspire against us, just a half of Hell (it wasn’t Hell luckily) was had whilst Paul sampled the other type from the same brewer that was on offer before proceeding to almost bleed to death after making the mistake of locking the toilet door. Get the paper towels out…. 🙂
Eccleshall is a market town in Staffordshire and was mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book as a small village of around 100 inhabitants. The church that currently serves the town dates from the 12th century, eventually being completed by the 15th, though stone found on the land surrounding it suggests a chapel may have stood on the site from around the 10th century, with a cross stood outside the church dating from this time. The church is also host to the tombs of no less than five Bishops of Lichfield, with the slightly later castle being the Bishops’ Palace, with the estate having been given to the Bishops in the few centuries preceding the Norman Conquest.
Eccleshall had become an important market town from the mid-1100’s when it was granted the right to host a weekly market from 1153, eventually growing to gain “Borough” status by the early 1200’s and would go on to become a largely agricultural-based area. Land was apparently given originally to St. Chad and this would later pass onto the Bishops of Lichfield, with Geoffrey de Muschamp granted a licence to build a castle in 1200 by King John and the land on which this was built would go on to be in regular use by the Bishops through to the mid-19th century. However, 1867 would see the Bishop of the time decide to sell off the castle to distant relatives of Jimmy Carter (who’d later become U.S. President, of course) due to, amongst other things, the lack of railway access. Things haven’t improved much on this front, with the nearest station, Norton Bridge, rarely, if ever, used.
The castle ruins that our visible today are actually from a slightly later construction, dating from 1305 and the Bishop William Langton, who would later go on to become Chancellor of England. The impressive stronghold would later play a role in the Wars of the Roses, when it became a base of operations for Queen Margaret of Anjou and her Lancastrian troops ahead of their eventual defeat at the 1459 Battle of Blore Heath. Later, the castle would again feature in a civil conflict, as the Civil War saw it besieged by the Parliamentarian forces led by Sir William Brereton who camped out around the church. The Royalists held out for a good two months until late August of 1643, when it eventually fell – the Roundheads finding the Bishop dead from a heart-attack whilst many of the defenders were either drunk, or had abandoned the fight to drink in the town. My type of guys. The castle was sacked and the remnants becoming a prison for the Royalist high-brow.
As the years rolled on, Eccleshall has spells being a glassmaking area (when Bishop Overton brought French family glassmakers over) for a short period from 1580-1615, before later going on to be an important leather and shoemaking centre through to the late 1800’s when the industries in the town had largely died out on account of the growing machine-based factories in the nearby county town of Stafford. It also spent time being an important stop-off point for travellers on the main route between Chester and London as coach travel and road improvements began to improve and become more widespread and favourable. The largely Georgian high-street is a conservation area and the town regularly is placed in the Britain in Bloom competition. The market continues as a farmer’s market and is held bi-weekly, whilst an annual Eccleshall Show is held on the town’s Sugnall Parks.
Finishing up and with the blood still pouring like he’d been shot, we headed onwards up the winding country road, eventually arriving at the Pershall Park gates with around ten-fifteen minutes to kick off. Programmes had sold out by that point (only around 10 were printed apparently), though I was lent one for a while by the gateman. £5 in, we headed to the bar for a warm before kick-off where I decided to see if I could get any extras printed out. I was pointed out Anthony, and on getting to him, Paul found out a couple had been kept back per our request and, with debts cleared, we headed out for kick off.
Pershall Park is quite a quaint, smart little ground and consists of three stands. As you enter from the car park in the corner of the ground, you have the bar/tunnel/food hut building on your immediate right and this has a few rows of covered seating out front. Behind the near end goal is another bit of covered seating and standing, though some of the latter is currently home to some deckchairs, giving you that holiday feel! The far side features a small covered terrace that straddles the halfway line, whilst the far end is open, hard standing, as is the remainder of the area around the pitch. That’s Pershall Park and this is the story of Eccleshall FC….
Eccleshall Football Club was founded in 1971 as Eccleshall Old Boys by members of the town’s Secondary School. The club would join the Mid-Cheshire League’s Division 3 and went on to lift the Division 3 Cup in 1974, whilst finishing as runners-up in the league and so were promoted to Division 2. The Division 2 Cup was won in 1975 and, soon afterwards, the club changed its name to, more simply, Eccleshall. Eccleshall joined the Staffordshire County League in 1979, playing in Division 1. Promoted to the Premier Division in 1981, they lifted the League title, Premier Division Cup and May Bank to complete a 1983-’84 treble.
This would prove to be the club’s final season there too, with the team becoming founder members of the Staffordshire Senior League – becoming champions in 1990. In 1994, the league was renamed the Midland League and Eccleshall remained here through to 2003 when, after winning their second successive Midland League title, alongside that year’s Staffordshire FA Vase, the club were promoted to the North West Counties League Division 2, which became Division 1 in 2008 upon the “old” Division 1 becoming the Premier Division. They have remained there to this day, though silverware has dried up in the meantime.
The game got underway with the visitors starting the stronger, Matty German going close with a headed effort, before Eccleshall somehow survived a goal-line scramble in blocking out two consecutive shots from Rhys Clooney and Callum Knight prior to ‘keeper Louis McCarthy keeping out Connor Naughton’s own follow-up. Eccleshall would respond soon after and were awarded a spot-kick on 27 minutes when Tom Wakefield was brought down in the area. Up stepped Luke Walsh, but his shot was at a perfect height for Dan Whiting in the Cheadle goal to palm away to safety.
Both teams would have a late chance each at the end of the half – Knight being denied by McCarthy for the hosts and David Neligwa firing wide but the teams would go in still deadlocked at nil-nil, whilst I managed to get the penultimate pie, one of the steak variety, along with peas and gravy too. Good stuff too for £3.
Back underway soon after I’d finished up and with Paul getting ever more distracted by Liverpool’s score, the game was a fair bit poorer during the second period than the first. Eccleshall did find the net after ten minutes, but Walsh was well offside. Namesake Isaak Walsh then had a shot creep narrowly wide despite Whiting seemingly deciding it was safely covered off, before Cheadle responded with a shot from range that McCarthy was forced to tip over.
The game continued to wind down and the spectre of another goalless draw began to loom large as Cheadle were reduced to ten men with a couple of minutes left when, seconds after a bit of a kerfuffle between the two, Oliver Hatfield-Banton needlessly pushed Brad Carr over off the ball. After a slight scuffle, the red card was brandished. However, this made little difference to the closing stages as Cheadle dropped in to secure their point.
The game finished up with a draw being fair and the final whistle meant that, after going 81 games and thirteen months without one, I’d now seen two nil-nil’s in the space of five games, over 18 days. Unbelievable. By this point, Paul had reappeared safe in the knowledge the Reds had secured a vital three points and we had kindly been offered two lifts back into town to save us from certain death. We accepted both, just in case something went awry along the way, but eventually our original offerer Malcolm returned to drop us back at the Eccleshall clock.
Thanking him for doing so, we bid goodbye to him and the younger lad Elliott in with us before heading around the corner and to what should have been our final stop, the Old Smithy. A pleasant restaurant/bar, we settled in to await our carriage back, me with a £4.20 Moretti. We headed out to the bus stop where I spotted an issue. The bus seemingly didn’t exist. As such, I headed up to the top of the road to see if I could shed any light as Paul assured me that was the correct stop. Then the bus came around the corner. Only problem was it was on the wrong side and past it went. Cab? I asked.
The answer was to the affirmative, as was Paul’s suggestion of waiting somewhere a little warmer. On account of the fact the (I assume) landlord of the Bell had put the football on for us in the back room off his own back, I thought it’d be nice to head back to wait out there. They rang us a cab, we had a pint (more Moretti for me) and we were soon rocking and rolling back to Stafford a fair bit quicker than the bus would have allowed us to do. £13.80 too wasn’t too shabby for a twenty minute trip. Back at the station, we said our goodbyes and headed for our simultaneously arriving trains, a now normal nap on the way back allowing the hour-long journey to pass smoothly. Well, bar the mates’ attempted scuffle behind me just after I’d awoke! I tried to offer some help, but was called off, probably fairly, by one of the group, though did talk to one to lessen any tensions. It’s all fun and games in this world!
So that ends another trip. Bar the nil-nil result, it had been good one. Eccleshall is a very pleasant place to visit, as is Eccleshall as a club too. Nice people and places are what I’ll take away from my visit, I can’t recommend it enough. The only issue is getting back in truth of you’re not of a driving persuasion. Aside from that, beers were good, food at the ground fine and the game was decent considering it was goalless. That’s that and it’s off to the seaside to see the seagulls….
Value For Money: 8