Manchopper in….Chesterfield

Result: Chesterfield 1-1 Billericay Town (FA Cup First Round)

Venue: Proact Stadium (Saturday 10th November 2018, 3pm)

Att: 2,952

As the FA Cup reached its “proper” rounds, I’d be returning to watch Chesterfield and see if they could keep their run going in the famous competition. Having seen them overcome AFC Fylde at the Coasters’ Mill Farm home a couple of weeks back, the Spireites now faced opposition from the same level at home, though these would hail from the southern section of the National League’s regional split and bring with them a fair amount of previous infamy. Yes, the opinion-splitting Billericay Town were travelling up to Derbyshire to face up against a Chesterfield side competing in the Cup as a non-league side for the first time. An interesting tie in theory.

Having set out at 9am, I was arriving into Chesterfield station at a little before 11 and after a bit of recon and getting of bearings around the town, I navigated my way to the market area where I would come across one of the pair of Wetherspoon outlets in the town; the Portland Hotel. Being sure of these being open, I decided it would be the safest bet to begin with, so in I popped for a Punk IPA whilst sorting out something of a plan for the rest of the day. Somewhat helpfully, my next stop proved to be just across the square in the form of the fittingly named Market. Having not truly had a real look at what they had on, I spied Stella and decided on that before heading into the corner a whole £4.10 lighter and bemoaning my rushed decision as I perused over the taps I’d missed. Ah.

Chesterfield

Portland Hotel ‘Spoons

Market

Next along was a bit of a visit-on-the-fly as it were as I came across the interesting looking entrance to the Golden Fleece and looking as though something old and hidden lay in wait somewhere at the end of the alleyway beneath the arches bearing the pub’s name, I reckoned I’d give it a go. It was nice enough, though sadly very much a modern gastropub sort of place, though that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my stop for what it was, it just wasn’t what I’d built an image of. That’ll teach me, I guess, though at least the Amstel (£3.70) was good. Following this, I did get to seek out what is apparently Chesterfield’s oldest pub, The Royal Oak, sat down a little side road just opposite, hidden behind the modern market building. A small, cosy place, it also enabled me to watch a bit of the early kick-off in the Cup between Maidenhead Utd and Portsmouth, with Pompey, whom I began this season for real with a visit to, running out comfortable 4-0 winners in the end whilst I supped away at a pint of Thatcher’s (£3.30).

From there, I decided on a quick back-track towards the simply named Chesterfield Alehouse and, lo-and-behold, it does exactly what it says on the…sign. A small place, it has a good selection on as well as the usual bottle/can offerings, though the bar is up a few small steps, so probably best to send someone else if worse for wear! Anyway, I opted for a pint of the Mallinson’s Amarillo Pale Ale – resisting the urge to burst into cheesy song and dance under fear of breaching the peace – which came in at just £3. Can’t complain at that, though I reckoned I must have looked a little weird having overheard the F1 practice, gotten up and back up the steps to see what was going on, only for there to be no TV in sight and was now stood there looking a bit out of place and, quite likely, a bit weird. Regardless, I finished up and initially made my way off towards the next pub en route, the Barley Mow – which had just been the victim of a paint bombing or something and therefore the staff were busy on clean up duty outside. Despite this, I was still served a Dark Fruits swiftly before deciding I’d be smart for once and grab the bus to the ground instead of trying to navigate anywhere off track. This failed, as the bus didn’t turn up (at least on time) and so I walked the 20 minutes up to the ground instead, which also gave me a look at a few options to break up the walk on the way back. Swings and roundabouts.

To the Golden Fleece

Royal Oak

Chesterfield Ale House

Chesterfield is a market town and borough in Derbyshire on the confluence of the rivers Rother and Hipper and the foot of the Pennine Peak District, and is the second largest ‘town’ in the county. It can trace its roots back to a briefly occupied Roman fort from 1AD, though after this was abandoned, an Anglo-Saxon settlement rose up, though the Roman influence remains in its name, with the words in Old English of ceaster (Roman fort) and feld (grazing field) coming together to form what has become Chesterfield. It sits on a coalfield, though little evidence of the mining exists now, despite it running into the 1980’s as an economically important site, with its parish church of St. Mary and All Saints being its most famous landmark, on account of its 14th-century crooked spire, the origins of which are disputed. Originally within the Hundred of Scarsdale, the town received its town charter in 1204 from King John and was designated a ‘free borough’, giving it the same freedoms as nearby Nottingham & Derby and in 1266 it was the site of the imaginatively titled Battle of Chesterfield, in which a force of rebel barons was defeated by the Royalist army.

Chesterfield’s famed spire

Old station building

Chesterfield

The borough continued to grow out of the town and took in the local areas of New Whittington and Newbold by 1920, whilst the current boundaries were formed up in 1972, when the municipal borough merged with the urban district of Staveley and the parish of Brislington in the rural district. Earlier, the town had benefitted from the arrival of the railway in the form of the George Stephenson begun Chesterfield line, which connected to Derby and Leeds in 1837. During the work Stephenson found a large amount of coal when constructing a tunnel near Clay Cross, which he took advantage of, forming a mineral trading company. He would remain living in the town to his death in 1848 and he is buried there and has a statue of himself outside of the current station. It once had a further two stations, one in Market Place closed in 1951 due to maintenance cost relating to subsidence and stood where the Post Office now does, whilst another at Chesterfield Central closed in 1963 due to the general wind down in services on the Grand Central Railway. Part of the town’s relief road, the A61, traces the route of the railway, with the station itself demolished in 1973 to make room for the aforementioned road. A viaduct where the lines met was demolished in the 1970’s. The town was also home to a tramway between 1882 and 1927, with this seemingly superseded by the railway’s arrival. The town’s canal also once linked the town to the national network, though gradually fell into misuse, though a part was restored in the mid-20th century for leisure use, though is now separate from the network.

Barley Mow

Arriving at the ground

Arriving at the ground, I sorted out a ticket via the office windows which were besieged with fellow latecomers before heading around to the turnstiles and venturing inside. After a visit to the food bar in not wishing to head in whilst the minute’s silence was ongoing, I was soon in possession of a pie (I think steak, but I can’t really remember) and heading to my seat just as the sides spread out to their respective halves. The Proact is a smart, if pretty unspectacular new build ground, built in 2010 on the site of a former glassworks. All stands are of pretty similar size, with the ground holding 10,500 at capacity, though the Main Stand is the larger of the four, with it playing host to the tunnel, changing (and other) facilities, executive boxes and other rooms. It has a curved roof, not too different to that in front of which they played at Fylde, whilst the stand opposite, the East Stand in which I was located for today, shares this feature. It is home to community facilities and a gym, in lieu of the executive side of things. Behind one goal is the South stand, which is apparently where most of the noise is created (though this wasn’t too obvious today) and is thought of as the old Saltergate Kop replacement (apparently), with the North stand down the other end is almost identical, though wasn’t in use today as the small band of Billericay followers from deepest, darkest Essex were located directly opposite me. There’s also a memorial garden to the exterior of the ground, paying tribute to both fans and players who’ve passed, with a further memorial to those lost in action serving their country. That’s the Proact (or Chesterfield FC Stadium if you listen to UEFA) in a nutshell, and this is the story of the Spireites of Chesterfield FC….

History Lesson:

The current incarnation of Chesterfield Football Club was founded in 1919, though than can trace its history back to 1866 and the first of the town’s clubs of that name. Indeed, football in the town may date from a few years earlier in fact whether formal or otherwise, though the 1866 date is more concrete and therefore accepted. The 1866 club was founded as an offshoot of Chesterfield Cricket Club and the two moved in situ to the Recreation Ground on Saltergate until a souring of relations between the two in 1871 – with both clubs now separate entities – saw the football side closed in 1881 after it was turfed out. Many of the players moved to other clubs in the area, including Chesterfield Livingstone and this club took Saltergate as their home. A number also joined another town club, Chesterfield Spital, who would go on to compete in some of the formative years of the FA Cup.

1884 saw the name of Chesterfield Football Club return to the pages of history and to Saltergate. Later becoming Chesterfield Town, the club turned professional in 1891 and won several local trophies and entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1892, wearing a sort (but more colour correct) of current day Windsor-esque Union Flag kit. They would join the Midland League in 1896 and three years later successfully applied for a place in the Football League’s Second Division, finishing their first season in 7th. However, things soon turned sour, with the club finishing bottom three seasons in a row from 1907, before not achieving re-election in 1909 and returning back to the Midland League. Chesterfield Town would enter voluntary liquidation in 1915 and after being re-formed during WWI by a local restaurant owner and fielding teams consisting of “guest” League players, the club was found guilty of illegal payments to players two years later and subsequently folded.

The current club came into being in 1919, formed by the local council and named Chesterfield Municipal initially. Returning to the Midland League ranks, the club won the title in its first season, though they were soon forced to sever ties with the council after pressure from the FA and Football League – who were against council-run clubs – and a name change followed, with the club returning back to the Chesterfield F.C. name in 1920. A year later, the club became a founder member of the Third Division North of the League and won the title in 1931, though would be relegated from Division 2 a further two years later. However, a second title would arrive at Saltergate in 1936, with Chesterfield remaining in the Second Division through to the outbreak of WWII. Post-war, the club achieved their best ever league finish of 4th in 1947 and on the back of this relative success, several players departed the club and they were relegated back into the third-tier in 1951. Later placed in the Third Division national upon restructuring of the lower divisions into national ones rather than regional in 1958, Gordon Banks made his Spireites debut that season prior to being sold on to Leicester City for £7,000. Things on-field didn’t improve for the club though and they were relegated to the Fourth Division in 1961.

Chesterfield FC

They would spend the next eight campaigns in the League’s bottom division, before earning promotion back to Division Three in 1970 as champions. They added the Anglo-Scottish Cup of 1981 to their trophy cabinet prior to a further relegation in 1984 which ended a 14-year stay. However, their absence would only be brief as they returned at the first attempt, again as Division 4 champions in 1985, though would then have to bailed out of financial issues by the council soon afterwards, a period which also resulted in the club having to sell off their training ground and things on the field began to worsen again too, with the dreaded drop again being suffered in 1989. Missing out in the play-off final of Division 4 to Cambridge United the next season, the club were back in Division 3 by 1992 on account of the re-designation of the league pyramid due to the formation of the Premier League, with Chesterfield going on to achieve promotion to Division 2 in 1995 via the play-offs after victories over “rivals” Mansfield Town and latterly Bury in the final. 1997 saw the Spireites reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where they would bow out to Middlesbrough after a replay. However, things again turned for the worse both on and off-field, with relegation back to Division 3 being suffered in 2000, before financial irregularities apparently stemming from the chairman at the time saw the club docked nine-points after he tried to avoid paying a transfer fee, which had been agreed by the FA, to Chester City. Amid the mounting evidence of fraud, the club was sold to a ‘supporters society’, with administration following and the (by now) former chairman imprisoned. Despite all of this, Chesterfield still managed to grab the third automatic promotion spot and returned to Division 2 once again.

The club would remain in the third-tier through to 2007, when relegation returned to haunt them once more, though they did reach the League Trophy semi-finals that year. 2010 saw the Spireites leave their long-term Saltergate home for pastures new at the Proact Stadium and the move to their shiny, new ground seemed to prove dividends immediately, as Chesterfield lifted the ‘League 2’ title in 2011, their first season at the new ground, and won the 2012 EFL Trophy the following season., defeating Swindon Town 2-0. However, their league fortunes weren’t as fortuitous, with relegation being suffered the next year, but they again recovered swiftly to bounce straight back up as 2014 League 2 champs. They would record a 6th placed finish the following year, though were comfortably dispatched by Preston North End in the play-off semis and, once again, off-field ructions saw investment desperately required and despite administration being avoided, Gary Caldwell, who’d been installed around the time in place of Danny Wilson, was dismissed with the worst record of a Chesterfield boss, with Jack Lester – a club legend with the #14 shirt retired in his honour, even – brought in as replacement. Unfortunately from the Spireites point of view, he couldn’t save the club from the drop out of the League for the first time since the current incarnation came into being. They’ve started this season rather sluggishly and find themselves languishing down the wrong end of the table under Martin Allen.

The game got underway with Billericay having the first chance of the game when Moses Emmanuel forced Chesterfield ‘keeper Callum Burton into a second-minute stop. However, Chesterfield would soon take the advantage, with Will Evans, Marc-Antoine Fortuné and Zavon Hines all seeing efforts on target kept out, before the hosts beat Alan Julian on 17 minutes when Laurence Maguire headed home from the centre of goal following a Joe Rowley free-kick. One-nil and just a couple of weeks to go until the calendar year without a nil-nil is complete!

Match Action

Match (and fellow pic taker) Action

Billericay looked to respond, but found getting efforts through the Chesterfield back-line to truly test Burton hard to come by as the first-half wore on, with Jake Robinson being at the forefront of these attacks. He eventually did force the home stopper into keeping out his headed try in comfortable fashion just after the half-hour, and the South leaders continued to strive to find the net through to half time, Curtis Weston and Sam Deering seeing shots go off-target, before Hines almost doubled the Spireites lead just before the break, but his shot from around six-yards missed the target wastefully. Half-Time, 1-0 and a pretty entertaining contest thus far.

Half-Time came and went with little happening but come the start of the second half, life was quickly breathed into the match when, just seven minutes into the second period, Moses Emmanuel received the ball and unleashed a fine drive from 20+ yards that flew like a dart into the top-corner, leaving Burton with little chance. A fine strike and he definitely enjoyed it. Strangely enough, the game seemed to settle down somewhat afterwards with both teams seeming quite content to almost feel each other out for the next twenty minutes or so until the final quarter of the game rolled around. For now, it seemed like we were in a holding pattern.

Eventually, Chesterfield forced the issue with substitutes, Lee Shaw and Levi Amantchi replacing the rather disappointing duo of Kyel Reid and Fortuné, who I believe I last saw play for Wigan in a Europa League game against Rubin Kazan. Football, eh? Meanwhile, Billericay countered by introducing Jamie O’Hara (who’d been having a bit of a laugh with some fans near the touchline) for goal hero Emmanuel – with the last time I’d seen O’Hara being when he netted for Fulham at Sheffield Wednesday a few years back. Football, eh?!

Match Action

Match Action

These changes seemed to reflect both sides’ ambitions and Chesterfield were going for it in the final part of the game, with Billericay happy to settle on a replay, or nick it on the counter. The latter seemed effective, with Amantchi and Danny Waldren going close for the visitors. Tom Denton was thrown on late into the fray as the hosts looked to nick it, but Zavon Hines’ low effort was as close as they came, while Town almost did take their undisputed place in the Second Round when Maguire cleared a late, dangerous cross which was pretty much the last action. That was that and, much to the annoyance of a couple of guys behind me, Chesterfield were now faced with a trip to Essex in midweek. As for me, it was off to the Spireite over the road (though my camera didn’t want to play ball as I later found out)!

Having had a quick, lovely Mango Cider (£3) in here with the surprising bonus of them serving actual glasses too, I popped into the nearby chain pub named the Donkey Derby for a quick Hooch (£3.70) prior to continuing my route back down the road via the Crown & Anchor (Dark Fruits at £2.80) and the St. Helen’s Inn (Hooch again at £3.40) before continuing on the ten minutes or so back to the station where I had a little longer to wait than expected due to some sort of delay somewhere, but this was soon sorted and I was back in Manchester rather swiftly with little issue and soon on a bus over to meet Dan for a couple of cans at his prior to finally returning home, having got slightly lost in terms of bus stops , but recovered the situation!

Donkey Derby

Crown & Anchor

St Helen’s Inn

That ends the trip to Chesterfield then. It was good to finally get Chesterfield and the Proact done having gone through and past the place many-a-time en route to somewhere else! Day was good and the game was ok though did die somewhat as it went on. The town was fine as was the ground, if a bit too shiny and new with regards to the latter and transport went smoothly enough, despite the small hiccups with the bus on the way and the train on the way back. But can’t complain really. That’s that for another week and, as I said earlier, just two weeks ago until may goalless-less year. Next week is motoring ever nearer….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: 6

Programme: 3 (a well cut back issue I paid out £5 for on Ebay, but a fair cut went to the Legion, so fair enough)

Value For Money: 6

 

 

Manchopper in….Kirkham (AFC Fylde)

 

Result: AFC Fylde 1-3 Chesterfield (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)

Venue: Mill Farm (Saturday 20th October 2018, 3pm)

Att: 1,092

WE HAVE TRAINS!!!!! Yes, for the first time in a good month-an-a-half I could actually train it somewhere in the country. I know, I know, it’s unbelievable for me too! With it being the final round of qualifying for the FA Cup’s “proper rounds”, things were still hamstrung somewhat by the continuing strikes, however one option was doable and, as luck would have it, it was a new ground too – though not a new club. As you should have really figured by now, I was back off to Kirkham & Wesham and AFC Fylde’s new Mill Farm home, having visited their previous home (now academy/women’s ground), Kellamergh Park. Their shiny, relatively new home looked a pretty interesting prospect too, so the decision was made:- to Fylde it was!

Setting off a little earlier than originally planned due to my planned tour of Kirkham giving a very tight schedule otherwise, I headed into Manchester before switching back out towards Preston. A trouble free journey got me to the Lancastrian city in good time and there was little rush in catching what turned out to be a packed service to the tourist hotspot that is the “Vegas of the North”, Blackpool. Rather fortunately, I would be disembarking at the first stop on the route, but not before being asked in jest for a kiss by a guy in return for pressing the ‘door open’ button. I did concede he was, in his words, ‘pretty fit’ though and this was enough to seal the deal! This is clearly the season of random encounters, that’s for sure, which keeps things interesting I suppose!

Arriving into Kirkham & Wesham

Kirkham

The area incorporating Kirkham & Wesham (originally Kirkham-in-Amounderness) is thought to be the oldest inhabitaed area in the Fylde district. It owes its existence to Carr Hill, upon which it was built, which was originally the site of a Roman fort. The two neighbouring towns are situated within the Borough of Fylde. In the 19th century, the remains of a harpooned elk was discovered, pointing to the possibility the are was inhabited from around 8,000 BC. The town itself, though, is pre-Roman era, with its name deriving from the Danish ‘kirk’ (church) & ‘ham’ (settlement) and appeared in the Domesday Book as Chicheham and is described as being located on the Roman road between Ribchester and the River Wyre and latterly had a market charter awarded to it back in 1269-’70 by King Henry III. It remained a small market town through the 15th and 16th centuries, before eventually growing as a thriving textile making area with sailcloth being its mainstay, originally woven in cottages and latterly the Flax Mill, built in the mid-1800’s. Looms ran in the town right through to 2003, with the last of these, dating from the 1920’s, being kept on as a memorial of sorts, just a short way from the station. In 1925, Kirkham’s Church Street became the subject of a pencil drawing by the famed artist L. S. Lowry, and his later artwork named “A Lancashire Village” was created from this sketch. Several housing developments were added to the town through the 20th century, thus adding to the size of town (obviously) and growing the area in stature. The open prison nearby is built on the former RAF base which closed in 1957.

Wesham, meanwhile, is connected to the same parish, though is referred to as a town in its own right. It was reputedly given to the hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem by Cicely, daughter of Roger de Genet and later given by the Lancasters to the Abbey of Cockersand. Upon the dissolution of the monasteries, the area was given/sold to the Westby’s, the area including Medlarghe (later Medlar), Wessham (Wesham) and the separate manor of Bradkirk was later bought up the owner of nearby Ribby Hall. The area is believed to have been settled since medieval times and the bridleway of Mowbreck Lane is a roadway from the era, which led to Treales. The early 1900’s saw the area become home to a new workhouse, which replaced the aging one in Kirkham and this later became a military hospital during WWI and later Wesham General, prior to the remaining buildings later becoming home to the North Lancashire NHS Trust, which they remain as today.

Kirkham

First Stop- The Queen’s Arms

Stables Inn

Emerging from the station, a fifteen minute walk saw me at the far end of the Kirkham high street where I was planning to work back from. This plan would soon have to slightly amended, upon the two pubs up the hill still being shut, so my tour de Kirkham began in the early-doors pub, the Queen’s Arms. A nice enough place to start the day, a pint of Moretti kept me company for the first half-hour of my visit, alongside a few early Hallowe’en decorations. With the two up the way now open and ready to go, I back-tracked on myself and firstly headed into the Stables Inn, which seemed to be, rather unsurprisingly, a former stables. The place was surprisingly busy since, according to my phone’s maps, it had just opened, with the Chelsea-Manchester United game being a particular draw. Another pint of Moretti was enjoyed in the Stables while watching the early stages of the contest and working on my, delayed due to laziness, Droylsden blog prior to popping over the road to the Black Horse which definitely looked to have been an old coaching inn, with the large archway seeming to be the giveaway. This was a fair bit emptier than over the way and after sticking on the Moretti with the idea of being somewhat sensible for once, I once again headed back on myself, this time back down the hill and to my fourth stop of the day, the Tap & Vent.

Once inside the real ale-based Tap & Vent, I opted to go onto the fairly similar Cruzcampo, which I was able to sample for the second week running, having also sipped at a pint in Droylsden the previous week. A nice touch was the guy running the place offering some testers of freshly baked pretzel which were bloody lovely too. Unfortunately, my stay here would only be brief as with time beginning to run a little slimmer now with regard to the bus I was planning to get up to the ground, so I continued on the short distance to the Swan Hotel, which the bus stop helpfully sits right outside of. After opting to get my “refresher” pint of Dark Fruits in here, I was able to catch a little more of the Chelsea-United game before grabbing my carriage towards Mill Farm.

Black Horse

Tap & Vent and some brushes. Nice.

Final pre-match stop (sort of): The Swan Hotel

After just about managing to get “the Recreation Ground” out of my mouth, £1.50 allowed me to take the short journey up the road to around a five minute walk from the ground. Fylde run a system where you have to get a ticket from the ticket office prior to heading inside and so I reckoned I’d do this now whilst there were now queues to have to bother with, what with there still being some 40 minutes to kick-off. £10 lighter, I was in possession of my ticket to the ground, and a further £3 had me a fairly glossy programme too. With there being said amount time to waste, I thought it more beneficial to pop into the ground’s Bradley’s Sports Bar for, you know, research purposes. Heineken in one of those polycarbonate glasses emblazoned with the 2022 Football League target was bought and I got talking to a couple of Chesterfield fans (whose names escape me, as I forgot to note them sadly) along with a lovely fan they’d brought with them named Zoe. Happening to be disabled they told me all about how inclusive and helpful the club have been, which is certainly a nice touch by the Spireites, bias notwithstanding (haha)!! Having just come across her website, her story is quite inspirational to say the least, so do have a look: zoeedge.co.uk. With kick-off quickly encroaching upon us, the trio headed out and round to the away terracing which played host to some of the travelling support today (the rest were in a seated block at the end of the Main Stand), whilst I followed shortly afterwards, the turnstile being, handily, right next door.

Arriving at Mill Farm

Bradley’s Sports Bar

Entering into Mill Farm properly, I entered from just down the side of the Main Stand, with the open end of the ground right in front. To the other end of the ground is a sizeable covered terrace, with another similar terrace running the majority of the far touchline. The Main Stand is a good sized all-seater stand and its arched roof gives it something of a different look, though not too dissimilar to its near neighbour at Fleetwood. Food and other facilities are located underneath here too, as well as the dressing rooms and the like. That’s Mill Farm in a nutshell, and this is the story of AFC Fylde….

History Lesson:

AFC Fylde began life following the merger of local clubs Kirkham Town and Wesham F.C., who together became Kirkham & Wesham Football Club in 1988. There had been a club of that name prior to the First World War, so it was a return to the old school, somewhat. The “new” club took Kirkham Town’s place in the West Lancashire League Division One, though success was hard to come by at first, the club finishing bottom in 1990 and being relegated to Division Two. After three seasons there, they would achieve promotion back to Division One in 1993 after finishing 3rd, though their return was only a short one, as they would suffer the drop once again in 1995.

After finishing as Division Two runners-up the following season, Kirkham & Wesham found themselves back in the Division One once again and this time they were there to stay and there to be successful. Becoming the Premier Division in 1998 upon league restructuring, two fourth placed finishes preceded a spell of seven titles over the next eight years between 1999-’00 & 2006-’07, the only season they didn’t take the top spot during the period being 2002-’03, when they finished as runners-up. During a 21 month spell between January of 2003 and October of 2004, the club went unbeaten in all competitions.

AFC Fylde

2006 saw the club complete a hat-trick of Lancashire Amateur Shield triumphs, and a fourth in six years. Kirkham & Wesham also would win four Northern Counties Cups as representatives of the Lancashire FA – these coming in 2005, ’06 & ’07. Following their title win in the latter of these years, the club took the decision to make the step up to the North West Counties League Division Two, winning their first game 5-0 vs Darwen and won their next game, their first under floodlights, against Holker Old Boys. They also played their first FA Vase game during that season, defeating Worsborough Bridge Athletic by 3-0. This would be the beginning of a successful campaign, as the club went on to win the competition in their first season competing in it, defeating Lowestoft Town 2-1 at Wembley, Matt Walwyn netting both. They also added the Division Two Trophy by defeating Bootle 1-0 (a game I attended, incidentally) at Trafford’s Shawe View ground, and also achieved promotion to Division One, a fine debut season!

For the start of the 2008-’09 season, the club changed their name to AFC Fylde and won the NWCFL’s Premier Division (as it was known for that season onwards) at the first attempt too, finishing above New Mills on goal-difference, so achieving promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One North. A management change from long-term boss Mick Fuller to Kelham O’Hanlon and turnover of playing staff saw a mid-table finish eventually secured, though the next season saw them go far better, reaching the play-offs and beating Skelmersdale United in the semi-final before losing out to Chorley in the final. A poor run of results the next season saw O’Hanlon replaced by Dave Challinor, who took a two division drop in doing so, and they reeled in a 16 point deficit to take top spot come season’s end and take the title and promotion to the NPL Premier Division.

Mill Farm

Fylde would reach the play-off’s in their first season here, but lost out in the semis to Hednesford Town, though added silverware the next season in the form of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy by defeating Chorley and the NPL League Challenge Cup with a 1-0 win over Skem. They would also achieve promotion through the play-offs on this occasion, besting Worksop Town in the semi and Ashton United in the final on penalties. Promoted to the National League North, the club finished a strong second at the close of their initial season, but again suffered play-off pain first time round, this time at the hands of Guiseley. Further disappointment followed the next campaign too, when they lost out in the 2016 version to North Ferriby United. However, it would be third time lucky in 2017, when the Coasters would bypass the play-offs and take the National League North title.

Fylde reached the Second Round of the FA Cup for the first time in 2017-’18, defeating Kidderminster Harriers in the First Round, and almost completed a shock win over Wigan Athletic to reach the Third Round, but went down to late strikes by Will Grigg. They went on to finish 7th come the end of last season, again reaching the play-offs, but continued the trend of losing out first time round, going down in the, now expanded, tournament in the qualifiers to Boreham Wood.

The game was soon underway and it was the hosts who had the better of the early throes, with Fylde taking just 12 minutes to break the deadlock, with dangerman Danny Rowe firing home from the edge of the area, after a corner was only half-cleared by the Chesterfield defence. However, the Spireites soon grew into the contest and began to take control, going close through Laurence Maguire, who is joining his brother in gaining International recognition as a member of the England ‘C’ side, before eventually levelling on 26 minutes when Will Evans rifled a free-kick from around 25 yards into the bottom corner.

Match Action

Denton nets from the spot

Match Action

After heading right round to the far corner of the ground where the segregation line separated the two sets of fans, I soon backtracked and set my sights on the Main Stand and its food bars within. In the meantime, back on the field, the Coasters almost re-took the lead immediately after being pegged back but after being played in a few yards out, a last ditch block by a Chesterfield defender managed to deny James Hardy’s shot. This would prove to be a vital moment in the match as the visitors would go in ahead at the break, with former Huddersfield Town target man Tom Denton being influential on this occasion, the tall forward winning a fairly obvious penalty, before converting confidently from the spot. Half-Time, 2-1 and I was off for some chips.

The second half began much the same as the first, with Fylde starting out well in their pursuit of getting back on level terms. Danny Philliskirk went close to finding the equaliser, nodding over a dangerous cross from the impressive Joe Cardle. Sub Gime Toure also saw his effort go just off target, before Chesterfield made the game safe with around twenty minutes left on the clock, Denton netting his second of the game when he headed past Fylde ‘keeper Jay Lynch following some slack defending. Ashley Hemmings almost set up a grandstand finish, but was unlucky to see his fine hit from distance thunder back off the crossbar, but it wasn’t to be for the hosts as the visitors went on to reach the First Round of the Cup, where they will meet the opinion splitting Billericay Town. Post-match, I beat a hasty retreat to the Lane Ends where I settled in for a fair while to wait for the train over a pint of Boddingtons. Because, why not?!

Match Action

Match Action

Late on….

Lane Ends to, fittingly, end the day

Eventually it was time to head back to the station, around a five minute walk away, where I caught the service back the short distance down the line to Preston, prior to heading into Warrington. Here, the walk over to Central was made, but with the better part of an hour to my train, I decided to pop into the station neighbouring King’s Head and watch the second half of the Huddersfield-Liverpool game. Moretti was on the cards here once again and kept me sufficiently watered through to my train home, which all went smoothly.

So ends another trip and another FA Cup day out. The town and ground were all good and the game was decent too. Food was ok, as was the programme and the travel, rather surprisingly, all went nice and smoothly too, so I can’t have too many complaints concerning the day overall. Onwards to next week and it’s, finally, a return to the chase of the ’92’ and to a very bright ground indeed….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Bradford (Bradford City AFC)

Result: Bradford City 2-0 Chesterfield (FA Cup First Round)

Venue: Valley Parade (Saturday 4th November 2017, 3pm)

Att: 4,747

The FA Cup continues to roll on through the rounds in what seems like double quick time and, allied with this, my road to the 92 is helped out a little by the cut-price games on offer. With savings of up to £15 occasionally on offer, it would seem silly not to take advantage of one of the ties in the oldest cup competition’s first “proper round” at such a venue.

As such, when the draw was made, a few options were offered up from longer range journeys to the likes of Northampton or Newport to the closer to home Shrewsbury and Bradford City. Of course, it should already be pretty obvious where I ended up after possible plans for a trip back to Salop fell through. Into the valley I was headed with sights set on (current) league ground #34 (I’m a late starter!).

Setting off at just before half-past 10, I arrived into the North Yorkshire city at just before midday. I’d already scouted out the numerous possible “cultural” options on offer in the city centre and towards the ground. I reckoned on starting out at the Old Bank pub, located on Bradford’s Market Street. This proved a costly decision with my pint of Erdinger setting me back the best part of a fiver. Ouch, great start.

Bradford (not too flattering, admittedly)

Old Bank

After taking my time over this one to get something of my money’s worth whilst sitting opposite an old building declaring the names “Brown and Muff” at the top, I was soon heading back out down Market Street and to my next destination, the Exchange Ale House, located down some steps in an almost cellar-like location. It’s not an obvious spot either with little truly pointing out its existence there, but it’s definitely well worth a visit. The lighting sets off a nice vibe and the whole place feels relaxed. A pint of Krusovice set me back a further £4, as the elder guy at the bar rolled off suggestions for a 60’s playlist, all of which were fine choices. You may have guessed I enjoyed it in here!

Alas, it was soon time to head around the corner and to my next planned stop, the City Vaults. Dodging a strange rain shower that appeared to be falling from sun-laden skies, a pint of Heineken’s export variety cost £3.50 here and it was ok, but nothing to really shout about. After sitting in the room atop of the spiral staircase here, the time was approaching to head onwards and slightly closer to the ground.

In the Exchange

Heading to the City Vaults

Heading past a street preacher loudly exclaiming whatever he was attempting to get across and numerous charity workers from one organisation all trying to stop me, I eventually found refuge in an old-school hostelry by the name of the Shoulder of Mutton. It was well populated in the small-ish pub, and its Taddy Lager definitely brought a cheaper option to the table, which was most welcome by this point! However, with space at something of a premium at tables and the clock approaching the stroke of two, I reckoned I’d best head for the ground via my final planned stoppage at the Bradford Arms.

A final bottle in here saw me finished up and so all that was left was to go across the road and to the stadium in the hope of beating a fair amount of the crowds. This worked well too, with me pretty much getting straight through the turnstiles in exchange for the £10 entry fee before making for one of the food bars within the concourse for some much-needed food. Chips bought, it was up to my seat to watch the clash between two teams I’ve (sort of) already seen this season: Bradford City in a friendly at city rivals Park Avenue and Chesterfield at Notts County.

Shoulder of Mutton

Bradford Arms

Both teams were going through their final pre-match warm-ups ahead of kick-off, with the large stadium looking likely to be fairly derived of people today. Indeed, the best part of two stands were completely untaken. The Chesterfield fans were located in the smaller of the two side-on stands, but towards the far end from where I was sat. To the near end was the other large, two tiered end which links up with its almost twin-looking neighbour. The opposite end features a smaller two-tiered effort, unused today, with the ground definitely varying its look around the four corners. As for Bradford City themselves….

History Lesson:

Bradford City A.F.C. was founded in 1903 following a series of meetings between the Bradford Observer’s sub-editor, James Whyte, and officials of the FA and Manningham F.C., a local rugby side. The League saw this as an opportunity to promote association football in the county of West Riding and, just four days later, the decision was made to switch Manningham to an association football side. As a result, Bradford City would be formed and would immediately replace Doncaster Rovers as a Football League club.

Adopting Manningham’s claret and amber colours and continuing on at Valley Parade, Bradford City competed in their first ever game, a two-nil Division 2 defeat at Grimsby Town and won the first of four straight West Riding County Cups in 1906. 1908 would see City win the Division 2 title and with it came promotion to the top-flight, just five years after the club’s founding. Narrowly avoiding relegation at the close of their first season in Division 1, City settled and finished up with a 5th place in 1911, which still remains the club’s highest league finish. That season also saw the club take their only FA Cup triumph, defeating Newcastle United one-nil in a replayed final. Their defence of the Cup the following season featured the first ever Bradford derby, with City overcoming rivals Bradford (Park Avenue) F.C.

Bradford City would remain in the First Division up until WWI and for a further three seasons after the resumption of football. Following their 1922 relegation to Division 2, the club struggled and dropped into the Division 3 (North) in 1927. However, they’d return to the second tier after a two season spell in the Third Division, winning the title under the guidance of an early, returning club legend, Peter O’Rourke, under whom the club had their 1911 successes. He’d gone on to leave after a further season in charge. 1937 would see City return to Division 3 (North) following relegation, but this would enable the club to lift silverware shortly afterwards in the form of the 1939 Third Division (North) Challenge Cup. The Bantams were never able to defend the trophy due to outbreak of WWII shortly after their triumph.

Arriving at Valley Parade

Post-war, City spent most of their time in the lower reaches of the Third Division (North), but a slight upturn in fortunes saw the club finish in the upper half of the table up until 1958 and this enabled the club to take a place in the “new” Division Three, upon the creation of Division Four, which City would end up in at the close of the 1960-’61 season, though the club did upset Manchester United that same season in the inaugural League Cup competition. Following a close call in 1964, City achieved promotion back to Division 3 in 1969.

After yo-yoing slightly between the two lower divisions between ’69 & 82 (which saw two relegations in ’72 & ’78 counteracted by a promotion in 1977 between those two promotion dates), 1985 saw the Bantams take the Division Three title and return to the second tier. Of course, this success was massively overshadowed by the Valley Parade disaster which claimed the lives of 56 people, with the ground catching fire during the final game of that very season.

After 19 months away from Valley Parade as a result of the tragedy, the club returned to the newly built ground and missed out on promotion to Division One on the last day of the ’87-’88 season and were then defeated in the play-offs. This missed opportunity proved costly, as the club would be relegated to Division 3 two years later. However, they’d go up through the play-offs of the newly designated Division 2 in 1996, beating Notts County at Wembley under Chris Kamara, who’d guide the club to safety the next season by winning their last two league games.

Upon Kamara’s dismissal in 1998, Paul Jewell took the reigns and led Bradford City to the Premiership after finishing second in Division 1 at the end of his first full season in charge (1998-’99). The following season saw the club survive their first season in the Prem by defeating Liverpool on the final day, but Jewell would leave shortly afterwards. City would be relegated in 2001 and after a season back in Division One, the club’s struggles with finances and administration would appear.

BCAFC

After two further relegations (2004 &’07), the Bantams found themselves in “League 2”, the first time City would be playing in the bottom tier for 26 seasons. 2013 saw the club become the first fourth-tier side to reach the League Cup final since 1962 and the first to make a major Wembley final. They had defeated three Premier League sides (Wigan Athletic, Arsenal & Aston Villa) en route to the final, but lost convincingly to Swansea City on the day. However, better memories were made a few months later when City returned to play under the arch and defeat Northampton Town in the League 2 play-off final to achieve promotion to League One.

They have remained in League One to this day, though 2014-’15 did see City embark on a famed Cup run, in which they knocked out then-Premier League leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and followed this by taking the scalp of another PL club, Sunderland, in reaching the quarter-finals where their journey was ended in a replay by Reading. Last season saw Bradford City finish up in 5th place in League One, the club being defeated in the play-offs.

We were soon underway and it certainly didn’t take long for the hosts to take the lead, just four minutes in fact. The goal came courtesy of Alex Jones’ through ball to Alex Gilliard who advanced into the area before finishing calmly beyond Spireites stopper Joe Anyon. It already looked to be an uphill struggle for the Football League’s basement club and they weren’t to offer much threat going forward over the ninety minutes.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The home crowd was pretty understated throughout the game for the most part but their opposite numbers from Derbyshire, to their credit, certainly tried to spur their team on. This did end up with Chesterfield’s Kristian Dennis forcing the ball into the net around the half-hour, but this was ruled out for a pretty clear-cut offside. However, this misfortune would almost immediately cost the visitors as the Bantams went down the other end and extended their advantage.

A nice ball through to the aforementioned Jones by his fellow forward Charlie Wyke saw him clear in the area. With only Anyon to beat, he clipped the ball beyond the ‘keeper and across the goalmouth, the ball nestling in the far corner to give the hosts what looked to be a likely unassailable lead. It was almost cut-and-dry on the stroke of half-time when Wyke found the net, but his header from a corner was ruled out for a push by Wyke in the build-up. So, half-time arrived with the scoreboard reading two-nil.

The second half saw Bradford seemingly sit-back on their advantage and look to see the game out without affording their visitors any hopes of getting back into the contest. However, this did almost come back to bite them when former Manchester United loanee (in somewhat strange circumstances), Andy Kellett’s low ball into the area was blazed over the bar by the well-placed Joe Rowley.

Match Action

Match Action

This did seem to alert Bradford to the danger and Wyke forced a save from Anyon after an audacious 25 yard volley which the gloveman palmed away to safety. Missed chances for both Jones and Paul Taylor went begging for the Bantams but this mattered little in the end as the hosts progressed the Second Round with a comfortable win, where they will now welcome Plymouth.

Following a visit to the memorial for the victims of the Valley Parade fire, I was left with a fair wait for a train back into Manchester and so a pint in the City Gent was called for. Quickly polishing off my Strongbow in the expansive and pretty grand-looking decorated pub, I was attracted by the Sparrow next door which looked to be very popular indeed. This proved the case upon entering, with it being standing room only. As such, I plumped for just a half in here though a table was soon afforded to me. After wasting away the remaining minutes over this, it was soon time to head the fifteen minutes or so to Bradford Interchange where I made the train in the nick of time, having lost five minutes on route somewhere! This quick exert of energy would prove unwise, as I proceeded to continually nod off! Luckily, the train’s terminus was at Manchester anyway, so there was no issue in heading onwards to far-flung shores.

City Gent

So there ends another round of the cup. It was good to get another long-term target of mine in Valley Parade “ticked” and so now attention turns to the next round and the possibilities there. There’s a few too! As for the day, I enjoyed my tour de Bradford and the ground was pretty cool too. The game was as I expected, really so wasn’t too disappointed and you can’t be for a tenner anyway really can you? Next up is a return to the FA Trophy and, in keeping with today’s blog’s featured tournament, a team with a history in the Cup of giant-killings….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 8

Programme: 5 (cut price issue)

Food: 5

Value For Money: 8

 

Manchopper in….Nottingham (Notts County FC)

Result: Notts County 2-0 Chesterfield (EFL League 2)

Venue: Meadow Lane (Saturday 12th August 2017, 3pm)

Att: 7,021

My quest of ticking off as many of the 92 as possible before my railcard expires at some point next year began with a trip down to the home of Robin Hood (allegedly), Nottingham. This would be my first true visit to the city, but I would be visiting the side that carries the whole County’s flag. My destination was, of course, Notts County FC and their Meadow Lane ground for their first home game of the season. What better way to start the quest than with the, as their ground proudly proclaims, “Oldest Football League Club in the World”.

A comfortable trip into Nottingham (via the Piccadilly ticket office and, even more exciting, Ilkeston station) was undertaken with little issue, meaning I found myself on the mean streets of the East Midlands city at just past midday. With a fair while to kick-off and with plans to head to the furthest away of the more interesting-looking bars in place, I set off towards the castle only to….get lost (sort of). Again. What a shocker.

Nottingham

Castle

Inside the Crafty Crow

After eventually setting off in the general direction of the castle (it later turned out I wasn’t lost at all and in fact ended up further away), I eventually ended up within the narrow streets around the main entrance to the fortification. By now I was rather parched as well and, luckily, the Crafty Crow was on hand to serve me well via a nice pint of cider which I was afforded a taste of prior to purchase, due to the fact “…most people choose it as it has a cat on”. I stated I was looking forward to experiencing its essence of cat hair, which drew some unexpected, though maybe somewhat generous, chortles from some at the bar. My comedy career is on the march.

With time creeping on past 1pm, I quickly polished the cat cider off and headed onwards towards the aforementioned far away pub. But, again, I was side-tracked after coming across the tubular Roundhouse, in which you access the bar by climbing the stairs to the first floor. Unfortunately, the place was deserted at this time in the day, despite it being a nicely set out venue and so my Aspall didn’t last too long either, as I spied Meadow Lane in the far distance, through the fire escape.

The Round House

Sky Mirror & Playhouse

The Hand and Heart

From then on in, though, there was no further distractions and it was straight on past the Sky Mirror, the Playhouse, which brought back memories of seeing a small-time concert there with my secondary school longer ago than I care to remember, and the Cathedral to the door of the Hand and Heart. This pub is something a little different, with the rear of the building being built into a cave. I then found myself intrigued by the Chiffre on the bar and soon found myself handing over £4.50 for a half. £4.50. Granted it was 8% and really good stuff, it still seemed a little on the dear side to me.

After spending some time talking to a group of Notts fans in here about foreign grounds and trips (notably Serbia I remember) and their pessimism towards today’s game, it was time for me to head back through the city and to Meadow Lane, and I left them to squeeze in that final pre-match pint. 35 minutes later, I found myself at the foot of County Road and at the Kop’s cash ticket booth.

Arriving at Meadow Lane

After purchasing my ticket (£22) and a programme for a further £3 nearby, I was into the concourse of the ground whereupon I joined the queue for at the bar for a much-needed Balti pie. Not bad, though I did almost take out the eye of the girl sitting just to the right of me in the stand after I’d finished, my plastic fork pinging out of the tray as I crushed it up. Apologies were needed!

Meadow Lane is a nice ground in my opinion. It is, of course, an all-seater stadium with the Kop end housing the second largest of the four stands, covering two tiers and giving views of both the City ground and Trent Bridge over the smallest “Family Stand” at the opposite end. The Main Stand is on the right-hand side and is the largest stand in the ground, with the Jimmy Sirrell Stand straddling the opposite touchline, serving as the away stand only for today. As a result, it was only just over half-full. Meadow Lane has played host to County since 1910, the ‘Pies having previously played at Park Hollow – within the grounds of the Castle, and briefly at Trent Bridge as tenants of Notts CCC and Forest’s City (Town) Ground.

Now, let’s get into the history of Notts County FC. This may take a while…

History Lesson:

Notts County FC was formed in 1862, thus predating the FA and association football. As a result, County began playing a game with rules of its own devising. After taking association football rules on board, the club would later go on to become a founder member of the Football League in 1888. Their best finish has been third place, this being achieved on two occasions (1891 & 1901).

County reached the FA Cup Final for the first time in 1891, losing out to Blackburn Rovers at the Kennington Oval, despite having beaten Rovers 7-1 the week before. However three years later, they rectified this by lifting the Cup with victory over Bolton Wanderers and becoming the first club outside the top division to lift the silverware, having finished that year third in Division 2 after relegation from the top division in 1893.

NCFC

The club’s first promotion would come in 1897 via the Second Division title. After moving into Meadow Lane in 1910, Notts would be relegated back to Division 2 in 1913, thus starting a yo-yo-ing period between the top two divisions. The ended in 1926 when County were relegated from the top-flight and would remain out of it for the next half a century.

The 1941-’42 season saw the Lane suffer serious damage from wartime bombing raids, and this saw the club suspend all its fixtures during that campaign. Bad fortune would go on to hit neighbours Forest post-war, with County’s city rivals being afforded use of Meadow Lane after their ground had been flooded by the neighbouring River Trent, Meadow Lane getting away the better of the grounds. Forest would go on to use County’s home for a second time during 1968, following the destruction of the City Ground’s Main Stand through fire.

1950 would see the Magpies lift the Third Division (South) title, beating Forest to the honour. However, the following season would be the last (to date) that County would play in a higher division than their rivals from across the way. The 1960’s would be a hard decade for the club, with financial difficulties setting in and the club having to apply for re-election to the league. But things would soon turn and the start of the ’70’s would see County take the 1971 Fourth Division title and, two seasons later, County would return to Division 2.

1981 would see the club return to the English top-flight after an absence of 55 years and would go on to defeat champions Aston Villa on the opening day. They’d end the season clear of relegation but would eventually succumb two years later. A second relegation would follow the next season with County finding themselves back in Division 3 once more. 1988 did see Notts miss out in the play-offs, losing out to Walsall.

Historical

1990 saw the club return to Division 2, beating Tranmere Rovers in County’s first game at Wembley. The following season would see a second successive promotion, but just a sole season back in the top division would follow, but the club would remain in Division One, what with the introduction of the Premiership, with the D1 now becoming the second-tier. 1994 saw the club lose out in the legendary (to me anyway) Anglo-Italian Cup Final, though they’d go on to win the cup the next season. This was only a consolation however, with the club relegated to Division 2. After missing out in the 1996 play-offs, the club would finish the following season bottom and return to Division 3, meaning a span of six years between top-flight promotion and bottom-tier relegation. The following year saw this rectified, though, with the Third Division being won at a canter.

2003 would see the club narrowly survive further financial difficulties, but relegation back to Division 3 duly followed in 2004. Again, they’d go on to start life in a newly named division, this time the League 2. A couple of season flirting with relegation to the Conference, a consortium take-over would see the likes of Sven-Goran Eriksson join the club in the much-maligned role of “Director of Football” and 2010 saw County take the League 2 title. Further swapping and changing of the managerial role would follow – with little success to show for it – and 2015 saw the ‘Pies return to League 2, with the club finishing up last season in 16th place under the tutelage of current manager Kevin Nolan.

The game got underway with little to choose between the two local rivals (which I only realised as I pulled into Chesterfield en-route) in the opening stages. In fact, the opening half-hour saw little in terms of chances for either side, both looking devoid of a huge amount of confidence and only and off the ball incident involving the Spireites’ Gozie Ugwu giving any sort of interest. Yellow.

Match Action

Match Action

It was inevitably Ugwu who’d have the first chance of the half, forcing County stopper Adam Collin into a decent stop, much to the delight of the home support who were giving it to the visiting striker after the prior incident. However, this was pretty much as good as it got for Chesterfield, as County soon gained control of the game and Joe Anyon was forced into a pair of stops, the latter to deny veteran striker Jon Stead. Considering Stead had Shola Ameobi partnering him up front, this must surely be one of the oldest front pairings currently out there?

Then came the major talking point of the first half. Quicksilver winger Terry Hawkridge had been posing a threat down the right for County, and it looked like he’d got through the defence only to be hauled down by Scott Wiseman. It looked from the far end as though cover for the defender was on hand, but the ref and linesman disagreed (they were in a much better place to see than me to be fair) and Wiseman was given his marching orders. Two reds from two games for me this season. (NB: would become three from three on Monday!).

Little occurred in the minutes remaining following the dismissal and the whistle soon went to end a disappointing half. The kids’ penalties came and went with varying amounts of success before the sides re-emerged with Ugwu unsurprisingly withdrawn, with him looking a walking dismissal, to almost coin a phrase heard more often at the Bridge.

Then came the crucial moment in the game and it wasn’t even an on-pitch action. It was a sub. Bolton legend “Super” Kevin Nolan decided Jorge Grant – on loan from Forest – was the man for the job and the #10 strode onto the Meadow Lane pitch for the last 35 minutes or so. Grant would prove to have an almost immediate impact, looping a header over the despairing, back-peddling Anyon and into the net to send the home crowd and players into delight, though not so Stead, who was lying prone in the area.

From the top of the Kop

Crowd action, as County celebrate

Chesterfield weren’t done yet, though, and Delial Brewster (whom I last saw as a loanee at Stockport County a couple of seasons back) fizzed a daisy-cutting effort narrowly wide of the target to give the Magpies something to think about.

The dangerous, impressive Hawkridge then forced Anyon into another low stop, but he was helpless with regard to the last meaningful kick of the game. A cynical foul on Jonathan Forte led to a free-kick around twenty yards from goal and just right of centre. Up stepped Grant and he just looked like he was scoring. Lo and behold, the resulting kick was curled beyond the dive of Anyon and into the top corner to confirm the points were remaining at Meadow Lane. Full-time, 2-0.

Grant’s sealer

Meadow Lane from the neighbouring Canal

Hooters

A swift exit saw me heading back over the canal and to the famed Hooters. Not that this was a decision of mine of course. A fine surprise in here was the discovery of Hop House 13 on draught, despite it coming in a plastic glass, but I couldn’t complain too much so thanks for the idea Ian! Alas, I was soon called upon to leave and go on a trip to another trip. To Jerusalem, that is.

Yes, the famed Trip to Jerusalem would be my final stop for the day and again Hop House was on draught in here, so the day was ending in fine style. A nice bonus was the chat with the Chesterfield fan here who was so down on his side, he reckons they’re going down again. I do find the Spireite fans a friendly bunch (especially after the Bolton game last season) and so I hope this doesn’t come to fruition.

Robin Hood

Olde Trip

Soon enough, it was time to head out of the cave interior of the Olde Trip and head back to the station, via a visit to Robin Hood. The trip back was a little more stressful, due to the delay of my train making the connection tighter than it ought to have been, but no dramas occurred in the end and so endeth my first true experience of Nottingham and I’m very much looking forward to returning. The game was ok, the ground good, the city really good and no complaints for me (bar the £4.50 half!). Next week, it’s back on the FA Cup trail…

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 8

Value For Money: 5

 

Manchopper in….Bolton

Result: Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Chesterfield (EFL League 1)

Venue: Macron Stadium (Saturday 1st April 2017, 3pm)

Att: 23,376

April Fools Day arrived with a trip over to Bolton’s Reebok (it will be referred to this name throughout, go away Macron) for their community day fixture against Chesterfield. With it being only £5 to watch the game, it would have been a little rude not to take advantage. The only thought in my mind as I set off was I hoped I wouldn’t be one of the fools of the day and pick a poor, boring match.

Upon getting the train to Manchester, I met with Eagle Sports’ Stuart (who I hold somewhat responsible for the Glan Conwy antics) and a couple of his mates who were heading into town for some event. One of the trio had the Wanderers on his accumulator, though I did warn him that this game had all the hallmarks of a “Bolton bottlejob”, with a full stadium usually, in my experience anyway, a bad change for most teams in their position. He hoped I was wrong; hell I hoped I was wrong!

Soon enough, it was time to switch to the train to Bolton, arriving around 20 minutes later into the town. After heading over the signature bridge and through the town centre (where I was pulled up for something, before being told I looked “too young” for it which makes a change!), I eventually arrived at my first stop of the day, the Old Three Crowns.

Bolton

Bolton Town Hall

High Street

The Crowns was a old-style pub, but having been slightly modernised through the medium of food becoming a more important factor, but for me it was just the bar that had my attention, a bottle of Heineken being my choice to begin with. I soon bored, however, and decided to head over to the 11th-century Ye Olde Man and Scythe, whereupon I continued my Dutch beer adventure with a pint of the same beer. To be honest, I felt a bit uncomfortable in here. Whether that was brought on by the ghosts or not, who knows?! Wooooooooo!!

It was at the point I was about to leave that I thought ‘I don’t really want any more’. Yes, that’s right, I’d had enough of the taste. See, I’d had a fairly heavy week leading into the game (the issue of frequently working in a bar) and so I had had my fill, somewhat, of alcohol. But with a good 45 minutes until my train, what else was there to do than visit just one more place? That place was to be the Dragonfly and it proved a little different from most.

Upon entering I was immediately struck with two TV’s right in front of the door. Both were showing different matches, the mounted one the Merseyside derby, with the other apparently having Dortmund vs Man City on. Now, this seemed a little strange and it turned out that the pub offers free X-Box to punters! This game was very one-sided, though, and ended with a rage-quit, with Dortmund four-up.

Old Three Crowns

Old Man & Scythe

The Dragonfly: both real & virtual football!

Finishing off my fairly cheap pint of Hop House Lager (just over £3), it was time to head back to the station for the short hop over to Horwich Parkway, the gateway to the Macr…er, Reebok. Phew, that was close. Anyway, the train was, shockingly, delayed by ten minute and when it eventually arrived, the rush was on. Packed up to the doors like sardines we set off, leaving a number of stranded fans on the platform, awaiting the next train in and, probably, missing kick-off in the process. Northern’s term report: could do better.

Luckily, it only takes five minutes or so to reach Horwich, in the shadow of the stadium, and after a short walk up and over the footbridge and up the road, you arrive at the statue of Nat Lofthouse, which stands proudly outside the main entrance. Unfortunately, this meant a traipse round to the far side of the stadium, where I was sat having bought my ticket in the week leading into the game. So, after navigating the crowds and buying a programme from one of the small stalls outside the gate (£3), I was into the concourse and heading straight for the food bar, where a Holland’s peppered steak pie (£2.60) was quickly purchased. Your average pie, really.

Heading to the ground…

Before long it was up into the seats and, once again, I’d been afforded a good view of the game, being not far off half-way. The Reebok is one of the better breed of the “new-builds” in my opinion. All stands are largely similar, though it’s just been built in a more interesting to the eye way, with the curved stands still affording enough gaps to not feel like a soulless bowl. Maybe those who were brought up with Burnden may feel different, but I quite like it. As I say not much to report on the ground, all stands are, of course, all-seater and a scoreboard sits in the corner of the East and South Stands. Bolton’s history? Well, since you asked so nicely…

History Lesson:

Bolton Wanderers Football Club was formed in 1874, under the name of Christ Church F.C. and first played on ground where the University of Bolton’s Innovation factory now stands. They left here after a disagreement with the vicar, taking on the name of Bolton Wanderers in 1877, due to their inability to find a permanent home, having used three different venues in their first four years of existence.

Becoming one of the twelve founder members of the Football League in 1888, Bolton have remained within the league system ever since, spending more time in the top-flight than out of it. However, they had to wait through until 1923 for their first silverware, which arrived in the shape of the FA Cup, beating West Ham United at Wembley in the famed ‘White Horse Final’, with David jack scoring the first ever goal at Wembley Stadium, in front of 127,000 fans. This first success was followed in 1926 and again in 1929 (vs Man City and Portsmouth respectively), before financial issues forced the club to sell Jack to Arsenal for a then world-record sum of £10,890, more than double the prior record and the club were relegated to Division 2 in 1933, returning to the top-flight two seasons later.

Following this promotion, the club continued to do well and they remained in the top-flight through 1935-’64, the team’s figurehead being Nat Lofthouse. Of course, WWII would be fought within this timeframe too, with 15 of the Bolton side seeing active service. Sadly, skipper Lt. Harry Goslin became the only pre-war pro-footballer to lose his life in the conflict, of the 32 (of 35) that served. Further tragedy followed immediately after conflict ceased, with the Burnden Park disaster claiming the lives of thirty-three Wanderers fans.

1953 saw Wanderers continue their historic FA Cup final appearances, as they were vanquished in the “Stanley Matthews Final” which, of course, saw the achievements of another Stan: Mortensen, largely forgotten. They put this right in 1958, when two Lofthouse goals saw the Whites overcome Manchester United in front of 100,000 fans, though this is still the last major trophy the club have lifted.

Nat Lofthouse statue

Unfortunately, a dip in form followed and, after relegation to Division 2 in 1964, they dropped to Division 3 for the first time in 1971. However, they remained here for just two seasons, before returning to the second-tier as champions. 1978 saw the Division 2 title secured, but they were back in the division just after a two-season stay in the top-flight. Following this, Wanderers signed up Brian Kidd for £150,000 to spearhead their attempt to return to Division 1.

This wasn’t successful, though, and they were, instead, relegated by the time the ’82-’83 season came to a close. 1987 saw fortunes get even worse, the club finding itself in the Fourth Division, though this only lasted a year before promotion. The Football League Trophy was won in 1989 before the club reached the 1991 play-offs, losing to Tranmere in the final. However, the Cup held good memories, including a win over holders Liverpool in 1993 and 1994 saw them repeat the trick against Arsenal.

1994 saw the club return to Division 1 and the following year saw Bolton reach the top-flight after defeating Reading in the play-offs. The club was also beaten finalists in the League Cup the same year. Their initial stay lasted just a year, though they soon bounced back after a further year in Division 1, securing the title. This success tied-in with the club departing Burnden Park for their new ground: the Reebok Stadium.

’98 saw the club drop back to Division 1 and they missed out on an immediate return in the play-offs, though 2001 saw them achieve the rise back up. They remained through to 2012, when they suffered relegation back to the Championship, with highlights of their stay being finalists in the League Cup and featuring in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup in 2008. They also had to go through the mill along with Fabrice Muamba, following his near-fatal incident.

Back in the Championship, the club narrowly missed out on a spot in the play-offs at the end of their first season back, but fortunes turned against them and ended with 2016 seeing Wanderers finish bottom of the Championship, thus meaning the drop to League 1 for this season, where they currently stand in good stead for a swift return, sitting in the second automatic promotion spot.

Onto the game now and, oh boy, what a whole load of nothing. Honestly, bar a couple of half-chances, absolutely nothing of note occurred and it was, by far, the worst game I’ve seen this season. Yes, it started off brightly enough, with both sides sharing half-chances: both respective ‘keepers being forced into comfortable saves, but from there it was all downhill. A nice moment came on 17 minutes with applause in support of Ivan Klasnic soon morphing into a chant for the former #17 shirt-clad Bolton striker, who is still battling illness. Hopefully he turns the corner soon.

Match Action

Match Action

The only chance that followed in the remainder of the half came right at the end and was courtesy of a ‘keeping error by Mark Howard in the Bolton goal. Howard spilled an initial low drive that was followed up by Spireites striker Kristian Dennis, but he, somehow, could only force wide from around ten yards. So, the half came to a close with the score-line reading nil-nil and me being resigned to it staying that way.

After being treated to a drum-based march around the pitch at half-time in support of housing for all (I think), the game was back underway and….it was, indeed, even worse than the first half. Chesterfield ‘keeper Thorsten Stückmann performed a “one for the cameras” save to deny a weak header by Wanderers skipper Darren Pratley. This wasn’t one to get the season-high crowd going.

Match Action

Match Action

After Jon Nolan saw a late red for the visitors, the final action of the game saw, arguably, the best chance as a goalmouth scramble Adam Le Fondre, David Wheater and the impressive Filipe Morais all denied by flying Spireite bodies within the area, before the ball was cleared to deny promotion-seeking Wanderers the points and give the battling visitors a well deserved one to go towards their, very unlikely to succeed, survival bid. As the whistle went, one Bolton fan near me commented “Well, that’s a point gained, in a match like that!”. Sums it up really, doesn’t it?! Full-Time, 0-0.

After the game, the station was, as expected, rammed and so it was to the nearby Harvester for a quick pint to allow the crowds to disperse. As I waited, I got talking to a Chesterfield fan and his first question was to ask if “…(we) would catch the Blades”. I quickly said I was neutral but probably not, though we both agreed on how bad the game was, but that Chesterfield’s left-back Dion Donohue looks a really good player. As he moved on to get his pint from his wife, I was then joined by a Bolton fan who, also not enamoured by his side’s performance, got talking before inviting me onto his round, before escalating this further and just buying me a pint anyway. After making sure he was fine with this and thanking him for it, I realised I had wasted most of my time in hand queuing, so swiftly drank up and made haste for the platform.

A quick journey back into Manchester was made all the better by the fact my possible connection had been delayed, meaning an earlier arrival home than expected. Cheers Northern, your term report will be amended as such. All in all then, a decent day was had. Can’t complain with a fiver for the game (I’d have been less happy had I paid £30 for that), and the tour of Bolton was a decent, if I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could. Anyhow, next up is a trip to a capital. But which one? Well, it might do your Edin if you can’t wait to find out…

RATINGS:

Game: 3

Ground: 7

Food: 5

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6