The Manchopper Awards 2016-’17

Well, here we are again. Eventually. After a season consisting of 65 games (I know, a real cut-back this one), over 10 whole months, within three countries (nothing too exotic though!) and at levels from Premier League right down to the lower levels of amateur football on the public fields, it’s time to nominate and indeed award the good, the bad and the downright ugly of this last footballing year, as well as the stranger goings on that have cropped up here and there!

Whether it be attending the soon to be flattened White Hart Lane or standing on the touchline at Flixton Fields; from Ladybridge FC at the start of July through to Turton FC at the beginning of May, there have been things that have been seen and heard that deserve some recognition, not to mention some of the things overheard in the many “locals” I’ve popped into here and there!!

So, here you have it; Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, here’s the cream of the crop from Manchopper’s Ventures 2016-’17…

*All players/teams considered must have been seen by myself during this season*

Celebrity/Former Player Random Appearance of the Season:

Nominees: Paul Dickov (at Lostock Gralam vs AFC Macclesfield) Timmy Mallett (at Middlesbrough vs Oxford Utd), Alan Kennedy (at Huddersfield Town vs Preston North End)

Winner: Paul Dickov. As the only person at a game whilst not involved in a half-time on-pitch draw, Dickov gets the nod on this award, which is surely a bigger memorable moment than the play-off goal.

Meeting Paul Dickov. Top Guy!

Cuisine of the Season:

Nominees: Middlesbrough’s Parmo, Clitheroe’s Pie, Whalley Range’s chips with chilli sauce on, Gretna’s Scotch Pie.

Winner: Parmo. I’d heard good things. They were true. The parmo is superb.

Its Parmo-O’Clock!

Clubhouse of the Season:

Nominees: Penycae, Turton, Skelmersdale Utd, Farsley Celtic, Witton Albion.

Winner: Witton Albion. Top clubhouse here. Triples up as a shop and a DJ booth!

Witton’s Clubhouse

City/Town/Village/Hamlet/other place of the Season:

Nominees: Ramsbottom, Tadcaster, York, Boston, Edinburgh.

Winner: Edinburgh. What a place. Enjoyed all the above, but the Scottish Capital is a great city.

Edinburgh

Worst Weather Experience of the Season:

Nominees: Beechfield United

Winner: What a shock, it’s Beechfield United. The only really poor weather I’ve experienced this year left all there damp and cold.

Strangest Moment of the Season:

Nominees: Discovering & watching a game at Millmoor, Light knocked off stand at Gretna, The 90-minute nil-nil at Charnock Richard (how?).

Winner: Visiting Millmoor. It was all a bit eerie and, for sure, a strange experience.

Millmoor

Welcome of the Season:

Nominees: Heyside, Richmond

Winner: Has to be a tie! Can’t split them and wouldn’t wish to!

Dan enjoyed Heyside’s hospitality.

My hospitality at Richmond!

 

Individual Performance of the Season:

Nominees: Jake Pollard (PARTINGTON vs Sale Ams), Tom Heaton (BURNLEY vs Manchester Utd), Jordan Gidley (BARNOLDSWICK vs Charnock R), Rick Tindall (POYNTON vs Eagle Sports), Connor Ripley (OLDHAM vs Port Vale)

Winner: Tom Heaton. Included the ‘Match of the Day’ “save of the season” as Heaton denied Ibrahimovic. The ‘keeper faced a record amount of attempts against his former club and still came away with a point and a clean sheet.

Heaton during a game last season.

Team Performance of the Season:

Nominees: Partington Rovers (vs Sale Amateurs), Curzon Ashton (vs York City), Leicester City (vs Manchester City), Old Ashtonians (vs Whalley Range), Altrincham (vs Boston United), Mold Alexandra (vs Caernarfon Town)

Winner: Old Ashtonians. With only ten men for the full ninety against title chasers Whalley Range, Old Ashtonians pushed them close before falling narrowly short. Great effort.

Old Ashtonians trying to hold out

Fans of the Season:

Nominees: Curzon Ashton, Oxford United, Colne

Winner: Curzon Ashton. It’s a second straight win for the Nash boys from the Nash Bar.

Curzon fans after the equaliser at Westfields

Programme of the Season:

Nominees: Charnock Richard, Boston Utd, FC Halifax Town, Ramsbottom Utd, Winsford Utd

Winner: FC Halifax Town. Still holds up with some football league clubs, as it should. But it’s a good issue nonetheless and the best I came across this year.

The Shay

Ground of the Season:

Nominees: Leek Town’s Harrison Park, Witton Albion’s Wincham Park, Boston Utd’s York Street, Colne’s Holt House, Turton’s Thomason Fold.

Winner: Turton’s Thomason Fold. It’s fairly basic, but it’s a gem. Just remember to watch the grass around the pitch!

Goal of the Season:

Nominees: Alex Murphy (PADIHAM vs Team NorthumbriaJosh Wilson (Ramsbottom Utd vs AFC TELFORD UTD), Chris Thompson (RICHMOND vs Liobians), Joe Gaughan (Charnock R vs BARNOLDSWICK T), Mark Adams (CHARNOCK R vs Barnoldswick T), Wes Benjamin (WITTON ALBION vs Kettering Town), Nathan Craig (Mold Alex vs CAERNARFON TOWN).

Winner: Witton Albion’s Wes Benjamin. Benjamin’s strike just pips it on account of it being a last-kick winner. And what a winner too.

Witton celebrations after the late winner!

Match of the Season:

Nominees: Tadcaster Albion vs Scarborough Ath, Leek Town vs Kettering Town, Middlesbrough vs Oxford Utd, Huddersfield vs Preston NE, Farsley Celtic vs Ossett Town.

Winner: Huddersfield Town vs Preston NE. A pulsating game saw the hosts take the points in the last-minute and, of course, they would go on to secure a play-off spot before taking a place at English football’s top table for next season.

Quaner sends the home fans crazy (bar the guy nearest the camera)!

Team of the Season:

Nominees: Curzon Ashton, Charnock Richard, Witton Albion, Huddersfield Town, Windle Labour

Winner: Pro: Huddersfield Town Non-Lge: Windle Labour. Huddersfield’s season was brilliant, with them bouncing back from a lower-end finish to achieve promotion to the Premier League. Windle’s was, perhaps, less spectacular, but to join the Cheshire League for a first season at the level and win the League’s League 2 is no mean feat. Congrats to both.

Player of the Season:

Nominees: Tom Heaton (Burnley), Rick Tindall, Connor Ripley (Oldham (loan)), Danny Rowe (Fylde), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)

Winner: Connor Ripley (Oldham (loan)). Twice I saw him and twice he had great games. I also heard his double pen save from nearby Royton Town too, and played a huge part in keeping the Latics up. So he pips all the above to the honour. Big things lie ahead for him I’d say.

And that’s that for this season’s award. Congratulations to all those who have achieved one of these prestigious “Chopper” awards. Also, they’re very easy to accommodate on your mantelpiece as they take up exactly zero space! See you all again next year for the fourth “Chopper Awards” ceremony….

 

Manchopper in….Stalybridge

stalybridgecelticCurzon_Ashton_Khai

Result: Stalybridge Celtic 1-2 Curzon Ashton (National League North)

Venue: Bower Fold (Monday 26th December 2016, 3pm)

Att: 558

It’s the morning of the 26th December. Christmas is done, the year is, thankfully, coming to its end, yet the football season is still in fine fettle and still going strong. This is somewhat surprising, considering how the recent winters have decimated the fixture lists of many a league around the country each year. But with this Boxing Day’s weather playing ball, thus it meant that others could too on many respective pitches and for me, there was none more important than my festive destination: Bower Fold, home of Stalybridge Celtic.

Having had my attendance confirmed at the unleashing of a pair of Daniel Bryan ‘YES!’ gifs (one per club) the previous evening, I soon realised that the journey wasn’t all that simple. By no means was it terrible, but the restricted public transport meant that there was, obviously, no trains. Having already planned for that, my intention was to jump a bus through Manchester and onwards to Stalybridge. Alas, the Stagecoach route planners decided that Stalybridge didn’t need any contacts with anywhere else on Boxing Day and so all buses terminated at Ashton. Thus leaving me with a 50 minute walk between the two Tameside towns. Lovely.

Not one to be put off too easily, I decided this was well within the boundaries of acceptable and thus, come the morning, I was on my first bus of the day and heading to Ashton via the medium of Stockport. Upon arrival, I quickly got my bearings via the, for once, useful bus station map and thus headed off towards Stalybridge, buffeted by the bracing winds.

Having gone slightly off track and almost arrived at Hurst Cross, I eventually arrived into Stalybridge two-and-a-half hours after beginning my journey. Take into account I can usually get there within 45 minutes, you see why it was a bit more of a ball ache than usual! Anyway, having passed by the deserted station I was soon arriving into the bustling centre of Stalybridge. Okay, when I say bustling I may be…slightly overstating.

Stalybridge

Stalybridge

Armentieres

Armentieres Way

Shutters down everywhere and only an occasional soul in sight gave me the thoughts that, perhaps, Staly Vegas wasn’t the place to be on a Boxing Day afternoon. On the plus side, I did see a whole square and street named after the town’s French twin, Armentièrers so there was small graces. I guess. There was also the dependable Wetherspoons to provide a bit of hope, including the sight of a couple of Celtic shirts but The Society Rooms didn’t provide me with much interest, bar the knowledge that the wartime song “It’s a long way to Tipperary” was penned in the town. Anyway, the Blue Moon beer was quickly downed. However, the ‘Spoons had given me the sight of Harmer’s bar opening up just down the pedestrianised street, so it was to there I headed next.

Except for the large group of lads who entered seconds before me, there was, again, little to excite in here. It was comfortable enough and fine for a quick one before I decided that, with the time headed towards 2pm, I might as well head towards the foot of the road leading to Bower Fold. There also happened to be a pub there, you know, by pure coincidence.

'Spoons

‘Spoons

Harmer's

Harmer’s

Armentieres Square

Armentieres Square. Almost like France.

After making a conscientious effort to head through Armenitères Square alongside the canal, I headed through the equally cultural Tesco car-park and up the steps onto the road once more. From here I spotted The Organ (no snickering please, children), which was the place I was alerted to via Maps. But, what the app hadn’t informed me of was the existence of the Old Hunters’ Tavern, which sits next door. I headed towards there under the instruction I’d have a half in both and a quick check in the window confirmed to me that here was where half the Stalybridge population were hiding. Once I’d begun on the pint of Veltins, I could understand why! Yes, the instructions didn’t get followed too well…

The Hunters’ was a nice, friendly place and probably one of the better places I’ve been to this year overall, but with time against me I was soon next door and into the Organ (come on now). The Organ was bustling, with the lone barmaid going at full pelt to serve all around, so props for that. A was soon in possession of a pint of Coors with this being the easiest pint to drink quickly I find. There seemed to be a few more Celtic fans in here too and the scarf above the bar gave off the impression that this may be one of the strongholds(!).

The Organ and The Hunter's

The Organ and The Hunter’s

Good Park name that...

Good Park name that…

After traipsing uphill along Mottram Road, I arrived at the gates of Bower Fold for the second time, but for my first Celtic game. My first trip had been to an FC United FA Cup tie a few years back so, in my mind, I hadn’t truly done Bower Fold and a revisit was a necessity. After skipping past some information collecting people outside, I handed over my £12 before entering the ground just minutes before the teams entered the field. A programme was swiftly purchased from the rear of the stand at the Town End for a further £2.

Dating from 1909, Bower Fold has a mix of traditional-style and modernisation within it. It is also, apparently, the only active ground in the country with a perfect North alignment, which is an interesting little side note. The stands are all fairly recent structures, with the raised seating Main Stand dating from 1996 and the terraced Joe Jackson Stand from ’94. The Lord Pendry all-seater stand is the most recent, dating from 2004, with the Mottram End terrace being the oldest stand being in situ from the mid-1980’s in its current guise. There is further uncovered terracing located around the rest of the pitch. As for Stalybridge Celtic themselves….

History Lesson:

Officially formed in 1909, there is a case for saying that Stalybridge Celtic FC can trace its roots back to 1906 and the formation of an amateur club carrying the same name in the town. They first played in the Lancashire & Cheshire League for two seasons before joining the Lancashire Combination. Here, Celtic became Second Division champions at the first attempt in 1912 and followed this up with a short spell in the Central League. They then, somehow, found themselves joining the Southern League in an attempt to progress quicker.

This didn’t go so well, though and the club were soon back in the Central League for 1919-’20. However, following another two season spell here, Stalybridge became founder members of the Football League’s Third Division North, but resigned after another two seasons with support issues cited, despite crowds numbering 2,000 more than near-neighbours, Rochdale. They did, however, lift the 1923 Manchester Senior Cup to improve matters somewhat.

Bower Fold

Bower Fold

From here, the club went on to join the Cheshire County League whereupon they found a steady base and remained for the next 60 years. Despite this long foray, they managed to win the title only once, this success coming in 1980. They did, however, also lift two Challenge Shields (1955 & 1978), a Cheshire Senior Cup (1953), two Intermediate Cups (’58, ’69) & the 1978 Edward Case Cup during their time here.

Upon the league’s merger with the Lancashire Combination, Celtic became founder members of the North West Counties League in 1982, winning the title in 1984 (along with the NWCFL Super Cup) and again in 1987, with the latter meaning promotion to the Northern Premier League was achieved. Stalybridge ended the decade by lifting the 1989 Lancashire Floodlit Cup.

1992 saw Stalybridge lift the NPL title (along with the NPL’s Peter Swailes Shield) and thus took a place in the Conference, where they were to remain for the next six seasons before suffering the drop after finishing up bottom of the table. 1999 saw silverware return in the form of the NPL Challenge Cup and 2001 saw a big upturn in fortunes as the club won a treble of Cheshire Senior Cup, NPL President’s Cup and NPL Premier Division. This, in turn, meant Celtic were given another shot at the Conference, but this time their stay lasted a solitary year.

Today's contest.

Today’s contest.

Following their final lifting of silverware to date in the form of the 2003 NPL President’s Cup, 2005 saw Celtic become founder members of the Conference North and they have remained at that level to this day. 2008 saw the club reach the play-offs after a 3rd place finish, but ‘Bridge lost out to Barrow in the final. After a yo-yo few years which saw a few good and a few bad years mixed in together, the most recent few seasons have been ones of struggle for the most part, though last season they achieved a solid 12th place.

With the game underway, I said a quick hello to Curzon fan (and many other things too) Aaron, before watching the early stages of the Tameside Derby clash along with the travelling support, which now includes a bugle as well as a drum. Orchestral. Anyhow, the first chance of the game saw a fine save, despite me claiming it wasn’t, by Curzon’s Cameron Mason, who tipped a rasping drive from Celtic’s debutant striker, Lee Gaskell onto the post.

Good pub quiz question.

Good pub quiz question.

Match Action

Match Action

Flag action

Flag action

With the light fading and Celtic becoming the more dominant side in the game, I decided that I’d head around the ground and get a few pics in while I could. Now, I’m not claiming that my placings in a ground influence the game, but from then on Curzon went on to grab a pair of quick goals. Come to think of it, maybe me moving did change everything…?

First, Curzon won a free-kick out on their right flank and the resultant ball in was met by the Nash’s talismanic striker, Niall Cummins, who thumped his header past Grant Shenton in the home net. 0-1 and the visiting support were sent into raptures, which soon became something just short of delirium when a corner from the same side wasn’t cleared from the box and Jamie Stott forced the ball beyond Shenton to double Curzon’s lead.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

View from the Main Stand

View from the Main Stand

From then on, the sting seemed to go out of the game for the remainder of the first period (too Bob Bradley-esque?), with little happening on the pitch and thus I headed back around the ground for the food hut. After a lengthy wait in the queue, I eventually got to the front before coming away with a decent chips, peas & gravy for, I think, another £2. This despite the warnings on posters around the hut stating those dreaded words “NO chips today”.

By the time I’d retaken my place pitchside, it was time for the action to restart and, once again, it was Stalybridge who came out the stronger and they grabbed a goal back when Aiden Chippendale knocked home at the back post. From now on it was all to play for and Celtic would go on to dominate the final 20 minutes or so, but this could have been all different had either of Cummins or James Baillie managed to force home from close range during a goalmouth scramble, which included a goal-line clearance.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Calling Cards

Calling Cards

After seeing a few strikes clear the target with some ease, Celtic forced a corner down their left wing. From the set-piece, Alex Honeyball rushed onto the floating delivery but crashed his header against the crossbar from 12 yards. There was still time for Mason to pull off another fine stop with pretty much the final action of the game and this secured his side the points as they took the spoils in the first of the clubs’ double clash over the festive period.

After bidding goodbye to Joe and a couple more of the Curzon contingent I’ve met along the way this year at York and Westfields, I headed out into the dark Tameside night, faced with the traipse back to Ashton in ever colder conditions. But by some sort of miracle, a Christmas miracle maybe(?), I managed to arrive back within 45 minutes, thus saving me an hour’s wait and meaning I could jump straight on a bus back to Manchester. Lovely.

All in all, I had a decent day in and around Stalybridge, even if it didn’t start off too hopefully! The town seems like it offers a little more on a normal weekend (a small taphouse bar was shut, much to my chagrin), but it still was decent enough. It was good to “properly” do Bower Fold as well and to actually see Staly play at their ground. As for the last day of the year? Well, it’s to the third Manchester club and a rekindled name from the past…

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Manchopper in….Hereford (Westfields FC)

westfields-fcCurzon_Ashton_Khai

Result: Westfields 1-1 Curzon Ashton (FA Cup 1st Round)

Venue: allpay. park (Saturday 5th November 2016, 3pm)

Att: 1,187

As the draw for the FA Cup First Round was going on live on BBC 1 a couple of weeks ago, it would be fair to say that, personally, I found it very drab. There really wasn’t too much in terms of really interesting fixtures to choose from, so when the above game was eventually created by the dynamic duo of…well, I can’t remember, though I think David James was involved, my destination for first round day was easily decided. To Hereford & Westfields FC it was!

Having booked my train tickets to Hereford whilst en route to Charnock Richard (bet that sentence hasn’t been uttered often), the journey was pretty easy. Following my arrival at Manchester Piccadilly, I decided that 10am was a little early to get on the beers and so plumped for a bottled water in the Mayfield, whilst I waited for the Welsh-bound train to arrive. I soon wished I hadn’t, as it cost the princely sum of £2.20 (or something in that ballpark). For water. Madness.

The Mayfield

The Mayfield

Anyway, with the shock put behind me, it was soon time to head down to the platform, with the chance to use the newly installed ticket gates for the first time. How exciting. After some Rotherham-bound fans had trouble in finding the correct tickets, including one who tried to put his receipt through the machine, I was eventually released and before long, we were rolling through the Cheshire countryside, heading towards Crewe. Ah, Crewe; how I’ve missed you.

After passing by the grounds of the Alex, Stockport County, Shrewsbury Town, Whitchurch Alport and the famed Parrswood Celtic (in no particular order), we were eventually arriving into the city of Hereford, with the floodlights of Edgar Street soon taking my attention. Indeed, a seed was planted in my mind to maybe, just maybe, head there instead. But no, Westfields vs Curzon was the big game and to be honest and with no disrespect intended to Westfields or their ground, it was less likely I’d head down here again to do allpay. park, solely on the basis of travel distance & price! Anyway, I’m rambling a little, so off into the city I headed for an explore.

Hereford

Hereford

Oxford Arms (a little later than when I actually went in!)

Oxford Arms (later than when I actually went in!)

Granted, I didn’t want to really look around too much as yet, as I figured I’d leave that for when I do the club that carries the city’s name. So, I decided to stay fairly linier and just head straight toward the ground. Having headed out into Commercial Road, I quickly picked up on a couple of pubs that were advertising cheap drinks. However, I reckoned I’d save these for later and instead headed into the ‘Spoons, The King’s Fee. I was a bit shit and after a quick Punk IPA, I beat a hasty exit.

After heading for the imposing-looking, but sadly shut, The Kerry, I settled on the idea of heading closer to the ground itself, with the intention of getting there nice & early as to beat the crowds. After a short walk, I came upon the Herdsman, but couldn’t navigate my way through the door and as to avoid further embarrassment, instead found myself at the Oxford Arms, housed in an old-looking building. The Oxford Arms seemed a stronghold of fans of the Bulls and again the thought to divert floated into my mind. A pint of Stella soon quelled the voices and I was soon past Edgar Street and heading over a poorly designed roundabout crossing, before finding myself at the Widemarsh Common and with TV trucks in full view.

Arriving at allpay. park

Arriving at allpay. park

The BIG game!

The BIG game!

Fans congregating in the "bar"!

Fans congregating in the “bar”!

Following a greeting from the two stewards manning the car-park, I arrived at the turnstiles just after purchasing my programme from a young lad outside the ground, for the standard £1.50.  A further £10 later and I was a step closer to my bicentenary. allpay. park became ground 196.

allpay. park itself is a fairly simple, tidy ground. It houses two stands, the all-seater main stand sitting on the half-way line & the smaller stand on the opposite touchline is located more towards the end from which you enter. Both ends are open, hard standing as is the remainder of the ground, with the clubhouse, food hut and other facilities being located in the smart-looking building alongside the turnstiles, in the corner of the ground.

After deciding to buy a portion of chips for £1-ish before the small hutch was overcome by the masses, I headed for the tent in the designated bar (table) area and the unmistakable sounds of the Curzon fans.

I quickly went over to greet Aaron, who’d been busy on media duties in the run up to the game, but had now edged over into pure fan mode for the day. He also bought me a drink and by virtue of his twitter tick, I think that means he’s the most famous person to buy me anything. Cheers! After heading over to the Curzon contingent for pre-match entertainment and with almost all those who I’d joined at York in the previous round in attendance too, all the ingredients were there for an interesting match, though a few of us were left looking foolish after waiting for a toilet, only to find out it was a urinal cubicle, thanks to the woman alongside us! On that note and with the clock approaching 3pm, it was time to head to the far side and join the ranks of the Nash fans. But first…

History Lesson:

Westfields FC were formed in 1966 after a group of ‘local lads’ were so enamoured with England’s World Cup win that they formed their own side to play in friendly fixtures against other local & works teams. One of the original members are still involved with the club today, holding the positions of Chief Executive & Secretary.

Following their early existence as a friendlies only side, they transitioned into Sunday League, winning their first trophy against the fantastically named Danish Bacon. In 1973, Westfields transitioned into the Worcester & District League, where they remained for five years before moving up once more and joining the West Midlands Regional League whilst now playing at Rotherwas, having moved from the playing fields they formerly called home.

Westfields on TV. History!

Westfields on TV. History!

New(ish) stand

New(ish) stand

1984 saw the club end up as Division 2 runners-up and achieve promotion to Division 1. Season 1986-’87 ended with the club as First Division Champions, resulting in promotion to the Premier Division. This followed a good run in the FA Vase, where Westfields reached the 5th Round. As an offshoot, Westfields also, apparently, hold the record for Herefordshire Senior County Cup wins & final appearances, whilst also being the only club in the region to win all trophies available at senior county level.

After initially struggling somewhat in the Premier Division, the club eventually got to grips with the level in earnest and at last won a further promotion in 2003, this time to the Midland Alliance, as West Midlands Regional League Premier Division Champions.  A move to allpay. park also coincided with their 2003 promotion. As their stay in the Alliance went on, Westfields become more comfortable, somewhat mirroring their prior stay in the West Midlands League. This resulted in a pair of runners-up placings, coming in 2012 & ’13 respectively, before the league expanded into the Midland Football League. Last season saw Westfields record a 16th placed finish in the Premier Division.

The game got underway, wigs and all, with both sides testing each other out early on, but it didn’t take long for the first flash point to arrive. Westfields were on the attack down the Curzon right and made their way into the area via Aiden Thomas. Thomas then went down under…minimal…contact, but there was no doubt about the penalty, Craig Jones showing no nerves as he slotted the ball into Hakan Burton’s bottom left-hand corner.

Jones dispatches the pen

Jones dispatches the pen.

Match & Crowd Action!

Match & Crowd Action!

Match Action

Match Action

From then on in though, it was pretty much all Curzon. Despite their control, however, the Nash made little in terms of clear-cut chances, though they did force Westfields’ custodian Keiron Blackburn into a couple of fairly comfortable saves, plus a decent one to block a Niall Cummins effort. Half-Time 1-0 to the lowest-ranked side left in the competition. Was the fairytale to continue?

My half-time consisted of heading back round the ground a couple of times for no apparent reason, before the second-half was soon underway. The half shadowed the first, with Curzon putting Westfields under immense pressure, but rarely breaking through the well-drilled home defence but on the first occasion they did, Iain Howard somehow contrived to hit the woodwork with only the ‘keeper to beat.

Westfields’ number 1 Blackburn was also on top form, pulling off a few good stops when called upon to do so. A low reaction save, again from Curzon dangerman Cummins, was the highlight. The National League North side did have the ball in the net after a goalmouth scramble, but the assistant’s flag spared the home side on that occasion as it appeared luck may have been shining on the Midland League Premier outfit.

Howard strikes the post

Howard strikes the post

Match Action

Match Action

In the box seat

In the box seat

But, with the clock ticking over into the last 10 minutes of the game, the visitors began to earn a succession of corners and you felt that this, or a similar set-piece, would be their best way of levelling the tie. Indeed, a corner was to be Westfields’ eventual downfall. A kick from the right fell within the six-yard box and following a further scramble on the line, the ball was eventually forced over the line by former Liverpool-man Adam Morgan. 1-1 and cue the pitch invasion!

The equaliser did spur both sides onwards to try and secure the winner, with Curzon going closest, a header narrowly clearing the crossbar, but the whistle eventually blew with both sides earning their place in the Second Round draw “hat” and both seemingly fairly pleased with the result. A nice touch, also, from Blackburn who applauded the Curzon fans both at the break & at full-time and credit for him to not being distracted by incessant shouts of “‘Keeper” from one member of the travelling support.

*A further well done to the Curzon u13 girls’ side who, I was told by, I presume, a member of the team, won their game in the morning 1-0. I think that is all true from memory, but if not I take full responsibility! I may also be in breach of FA rules soon, knowing how the results publication rules are going…

Before...

Before…

...and after!

…and after!

So, the sides will meet again on the 14th of November for the replay back at the Tameside Stadium and I hope to be able to make it for that to see the climatic (or anti-climatic, perhaps) end to someone’s run. Anyway, for me, it was back off towards Hereford under the guiding lights of Edgar Street. After bidding goodbye to Gibbo & Dylan (I hope that’s the right spelling), who’d kept me up to date on occasion during the game with live scores, I was soon re-tracing my steps back to the station.

With a half-hour or so until my train back to Manchester, it would have been rude not to afford a final stop-off in one of the city’s hostelries. As such, I plumped for the Merton Hotel, a hotel bar, with the pulling point being that pints of Carlsberg were on for £2. Indeed, this was the case and I whiled away my final few minutes in Hereford whilst watching the rugby, before tripping over a step but styling it out in my, probably sole, opinion!

 

In the Merton Hotel

In the Merton Hotel

The train back was fairly uneventful, though it was fairly full until Shrewsbury with Welsh fans heading back from their contest. After the usual 40-minute or so journey from Shrewsbury to Crewe was shortened markedly by sleep, I was awoken by the sounds of a topless man running up and down the carriage shouting about Curzon Ashton. I wasn’t expecting to say that five years ago. Anyway, the rest of the journey was a bit calmer as the guy and his companions were distracted by the females on their way to town and thus everything quietened down! Hopefully, there aren’t similar scenes on the 216 after the replay…

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RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Food: 6

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 5

Manchopper in….York

york_city_fc-svgCurzon_Ashton_Khai

Result: York City 1-1 Curzon Ashton (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)

Venue: Bootham Crescent (Saturday 15th October 2016, 3pm)

Att: 1,307

Back on the FA Cup trail after a round away, I found myself perusing the fixture lists once more…OK, that’s a lie because as soon as the draw was made and York City had a home tie, the decision was made. The game was all the more attractive by the fact that the Minstermen were to be hosting Curzon Ashton and by knowing a few guys with connections to the Nash, this meant that a day in the White Rose’s county town (city) was on.

Arriving into York at just after midday I escaped the queues attempting to get through the ticket checks on the doors and followed a hen-do out into the streets. Obviously these sights threw me, as I decided to head in the opposite direction to the one I’d already planned out beforehand, thus meaning a tour of the back streets of York was now a must. Eventually, I arrived at a bridge over the Ouse and arrived at the foot of the medieval Clifford’s Tower, part of the, now fragmented, York Castle.

York

York

River Ouse

River Ouse

Clifford's Tower

Clifford’s Tower

Eventually, I arrived at the welcoming doors of one of the city’s Wetherspoon outlets, this being the Postern Gate. This is by far the more boring of the pair as it sits below a Travelodge and resembles more of an office than a pub. Nonetheless, I swept inside and quickly drank the resplendent Punk IPA before heading off into the city centre in search of somewhere with a little more character. It couldn’t be too hard to accomplish this mission.

Indeed it wasn’t, as the haunted Golden Fleece became the second drinking spot. There were no ghosts in here today, luckily, but rather more unfortunate was that space was very limited due to the very small drinking room at the front, with the rear and upstairs reserved for those diners. So, having been forced to stand next to the bar and dodge the incoming and outgoing traffic to and from the back, the Fleece probably wasn’t quite as good an experience as it probably ought to have been. Get there early is my tip. The Estrella is pretty decent too.

So, with the Fleece and its ghostly inhabitants survived, I headed into the packed Shambles street and came across a small-ish bar/bottle shop. Ye Olde Shambles Tavern was another where the bar side of things seemed to be something of an afterthought, with the café-part seemingly larger, but the service, as in the Fleece, was of a really professional standard which, I guess, in York is a big plus point with so many bars in competition (I believe over 300). I decided to plump for a pint of the Jorvik Golden Ale, which was a good choice even if I say so myself, though it always sits a little heavy on me, as I’m not a huge ale drinker for the most part.

In The Postal Gate

In The Postern Gate

Golden Fleece

Golden Fleece

Into the Shambles

Into the Shambles

After watching multiple people pose in the street outside for pictures and the odd one fall off the kerbings before laughing with a tinge of embarrassment, it was time to head back outside and head towards the ground. Now, I knew the Minster was pretty much on the list of places to pass whilst en route and so it was to the cathedral I headed. Unfortunately, as is seeming to creep back into my visits and trips of late, I soon found myself book-ended at the end of the adjoining park and was lost. Surprise, surprise. Unbelievably, I was even asked by a couple if I “knew York” whilst staring in pure confusion at my phone. If I still look like I know what I’m doing when I clearly don’t, I’m fairly happy with that.

Anyway, having set off the wrong way slightly, before finding myself in another garden, I luckily found a pair of security guards strolling through the grounds of a ruined abbey. The pair seemed to keep abreast of the club somewhat, referencing their draw last week, before giving me some, easy to remember, directions as it turned out I was about 5 minutes away and the ground was basically around the corner. Bloody tourists, eh?

Ye Olde Shambles Tavern

Ye Olde Shambles Tavern

York Minster through the trees

York Minster through the trees

Another park, another old thing

Another park, another old thing

Following the guards instructions, I found myself at the foot of Bootham Crescent itself, before following the “crowd” down to the end of the road where the ground sprang upon me somewhat. After purchasing a programme early from the sellers at the main gate (just in case), I decided I could really do with visiting the pub across the way and with a large Curzon contingent hanging around outside, I figured I may just find some familiar faces inside. This turned out to be the case as I greeted Aaron, one of Curzon’s media extraordinaires, manager John’s son and verified twitter user. “Of course” was my answer to Aaron’s question of whether I’d be in the away end for this game, before having just a half of Carlsberg to accompany me through to the kick-off time, as I must be getting a little more safe in my age.

With the time to head for the turnstiles now upon us, the bar emptied and all and sundry headed out toward the away end. This, in turn, meant there was a queue outside which a few of the Curzon contingent found quite amusing. Eventually, it was my turn to hand over the cut-price £12 and I was into Bootham Crescent, the ground this time, as it was added to my list of visited ‘not-long-for-this-world’ grounds. After greeting Craig, Gibbo & Rob upon arrival, I took up a place within the crowds with my awarded, but slightly damaged, FA Cup on standby.

York City FC

York City FC

Queues...

Queues…

Bootham Crescent is a ground that really does show its age, both in a good and bad way. The facilities are a bit outdated, with the club even feeling the need to cover the food hut in a protective metal screen. The two touchlines are home to the seating stands, with the Main Stand located on the right-hand side from the away end and this affords raised views over the pitch. Opposite is an older, smaller seating stand, which doesn’t give too much in the way of a raised view. Both ends of the ground feature terracing, with the home end covered, but the away end left open to the elements, though a fair clump of the smaller seating stand was also available to the travelling support. Of course, with the weather being good, this option wasn’t taken by many with the (half) terrace nicely full. With kick-off imminent, let’s get into the history of the Minstermen, York City F.C.

History Lesson:

York City Football Club was first founded in 1908 with the original club playing in the Northern League and Yorkshire Combination before turning pro in 1914 and joining the Midland League prior to folding in 1917. Reformed in 1922, playing at Fulfordgate, York City competed in the Midland League for another seven season spell, before being elected to the Football League’s Third Division North at the expense of Ashington.

The Minstermen won their first league match, against Wigan Borough, then competed in the third tier of the League all the way through until 1959, when York achieved their first promotion. The club moved into Bootham Crescent in 1932, following the vacation of the ground by York CC. They reached the 6th Round of the FA Cup in 1938, before playing in the wartime competitions through the hostilities, winning the Combined Counties Cup whilst doing so.

Following the end of WWII, York were forced to apply for re-election in 1950 after finishing bottom of the Third Division North, but followed up just three seasons later with their best finish to that date, 4th. 1955 saw the club reach the FA Cup semi-final, losing out to Newcastle United in a replay played at Roker Park. In doing so, York became the first third-tier side to play a semi-final replay, though “relegation” was forced upon York in 1958 as the restructuring of the league meant their 13th placed finish caused York to drop to the new Division 4.

YCFC

YCFC

After finishing 3rd the next season, York were immediately promoted, though followed this with an immediate return to the bottom Division. The 1962 League Cup saw the club achieve their best run, reaching the 5th Round, where they bowed out to Rochdale. 1964, though, saw a second re-election needed to secure the club’s place in the Football League, but followed this with promotion the next year, following another 3rd place. This was the last success for a while, though, as York were relegated the next year and needed re-election for the following three consecutive years.

After another promotion in 1971, the Minstermen just avoided relegation from Division 3 for the next two years. However, thanks to the three up, three down method, York achieved promotion to Division 2 for the first time in 1974, after another 3rd place, but by 1977 they were back at the bottom rung. Further re-elections were secured in 1978 & ’81 as York struggled to maintain league status, though 1984 saw them again return to form with a Division 4 title, becoming the first Football League side to win with a three-figure total.

After notable results against 1st Division Arsenal (1-0) and European Cup holders Liverpool (1-1) during the early part of the ’80’s, York remained in Division 3 until 1988 when another relegation was suffered, but 1993 saw them back in the third tier, now Division 2, following play-off success against Crewe Alexandra. They also reached the Second Division play-offs the next season, but lost out in the semi-finals and in 1996 they knocked eventual Premiership & FA Cup winners Manchester United out of the League Cup.

Far Stand

David Longhurst Stand

1999 saw York drop out of the Second Division and finished bottom of Division 3 in 2004, meaning a drop into non-league for the first time in 75 years.  Losing out in the 2007 play-off semi-finals, York lost out in the 2009 FA Trophy Final as they were vanquished by Stevenage Borough. 2010 saw more play-off heartbreak, this time in the final but 2012 saw success in both the above competitions, with York overcoming Newport County & Luton Town in the Trophy and play-offs respectively. Despite reaching the League 2 play-offs in 2014, their stay back in the league was short, however, with the club returning to the Conference last season.

The game got underway with Curzon slightly on top, but when they conceded a penalty in just the ninth minute, following Hakan Burton’s bringing down of Shaun Rooney, it looked as though York’s league advantage may be a bit too much. Richard Brodie fired home, sending Burton the wrong way much to Craig’s chagrin, having not been too fond of Brodie from his time at Crawley, I took from it! With Curzon chasing the game now, it could be said it opened their play and game-plan up.

Though York had a few forays forward, they always looked shaky at the back, with one of my Football Manager hopeless signings, Clovis Kamdjo, becoming my target as I told all around me about my dealings with his simulated-self and his red-card record. Gibbo, therefore, unleashed a Clover ad-style chant to Clovis, which I definitely took part in. Nothing against the real Clovis, really, just the terrible FM one I had the misfortune to encounter…

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Curzon, though, continued to pressurise the back-line of the Minstermen and eventually they levelled when Niall Cummins collected the ball at the back-post following a low cross from Joe Guest and his shot hit ‘keeper Kyle Letheren and to my eyes went wide. That is until the cheers went up and the ball was clearly settled in the net, as Cummins wheeled away to celebrate his equaliser. 1-1. Game ON!!

Following a pair of decent chances that saw both shots fly off target for the visitors, the sides headed in for the half-time break, with the score-line remaining level. As for myself, it was to the food bar for a pie, though my superb memory has let me down here, as I can’t remember what I had. It may have been a chicken Balti, or it could have been a steak. Who knows? Anyway it was pretty decent, but for £3.10 it bloody well should have been.

Fairly pleased Curzon fans

Fairly pleased Curzon fans

Match Action

Match Action

The second half began with both sides trading chances, though neither troubled the respective sides’ goalkeepers. Curzon again went close, a fizzing drive flying just over the bar before York responded, again through Brodie, who blazed over from close range with the game winding down to its conclusion. Cummins forced Leveren into a decent stop, but York almost had one last chance when an attempted cross deflected up against the arm of a defender in the box but the referee, along with the Phil Mitchell-esque assistant (who loved all the chants by the way), turned down the claims much to the relief of the Nash support, who feared the worst. Full-Time, 1-1 and to a replay.

Following the game, I was invited along with the group heading back to Gibbo’s uni digs prior to the heading out and about for the night. My participation would be just for the early part of the evening, with my train ticket restricting. Anyway, the journey to the nearby Morrision’s (other supermarkets are available) was soundtracked by Craig’s Pied Piper-esque fluting skills, that is until the flute met its untimely end and ended up on a verge in multiple pieces and now added to the many ghosts of York. RIP.

Curzon Coach & pub.

Curzon Coach & pub.

More history...

More history…

Group Photo

Everyone in for the squad photo

Eventually, having passed through the shop and with beers for myself and both this and food for everyone else, we eventually headed back to the house where the very sensible games began. I won’t put names in here for those folk in jobs where this may be frowned upon! Soon enough, after Aaron had been given his birthday card for his 12th, having had it announced at the game earlier in the afternoon, I bid goodbye to the group and headed back through the streets, rocking up back at the station nicely in time for the train back.

Following the thankful departure of the Newcastle train, which had picked up a worse-for-wear group of women, including one who was on the floor for most of my time here, my train pulled in and whisked me back towards Piccadilly. Unfortunately, the delay made things interesting, with the train arriving in at 21.39. My connection was at 21.40, so a sprint up the stairs, over the footbridge and down the other set of steps got me to the train just as the guard was stepping back on to depart. Phew, and on that dramatic note, I’ll leave you to ponder the rant I’d have had if I’d been left for an hour…

dsc03144

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Food: 6

Programme: 5 (cut price issue)

Value For Money: 5

Manchopper in….Ashton (Curzon Ashton FC)

Curzon_Ashton_KhaiHednesford

Result: Curzon Ashton 3-2 Hednesford Town (Vanarama National North)

Venue: Tameside Stadium (Saturday 2nd April 2016, 3pm)

Att: 329

After being spurned earlier in the season a trip to Curzon Ashton’s Tameside Stadium home by the weather (a rarity, I know), this first weekend in April gave a second chance for the ground to be given a revisit. Having originally planned to head over to Lincoln for Moorlands Railway’s ground, I though better of the long trip being in neither the frame of mind nor the correct monetary position to do it and decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble. Yet.

So, having been further swayed by the allure of free entry to all via Curzon’s “Community Day” idea, I reckoned that there was no time like the present to return. Despite the weather again threatening to disrupt my best laid plans, it was spurned in its efforts and so I set off during the late morning and with the trains being off through Manchester Victoria, I had to make do with a bus. Which reminded it me just how much I hate them.

But having headed into and back out of Manchester Piccadilly Gardens, I was en route to Tameside, with the rain still falling from the grey skies above. Setting off as early as I had had meant, however, that I was now committed to this game, really, with no viable options to return to in case of a postponement. Luckily, though, the rain began to abate as I arrived outside The Snipe pub, my first stop off for the day.

Ashton

All roads lead to Ashton

The Snipe

The Snipe

Sheldon Arms

Sheldon Arms

The Snipe was rather empty, apart from the barmaids and two kids, who seemed to take great delight in sneaking up on me, having a look, before pegging it back to their starting place while getting told off for doing so. Not that it was bothering me in any way, as it actually meant something was going on as the pub itself was dead, so I wasted little time over my pint of Coors and headed back out and around the corner to the Sheldon Arms.

The one thing the Sheldon Arms did to me was to confirm that Ashton was far from a “cheap” place. It wasn’t overpriced, but it certainly wasn’t one of your cut price areas that you can occasionally find outside the city centre. Not to be stopped, though, I was soon in possession of my second pint. After a while of debating the issue with myself, I decided I’d be a bit lazy and miss out the Harvester in the retail park up the road and instead get the bus up to the road which the ground sits on.

Footballer

Footballer

Approaching the Tameside Stadium

Approaching the Tameside Stadium

Ashton's World Cup Winners

Ashton’s World Cup Winners

So, after doing the above, I made my way down past the cricket club and into the complex which the Tameside Stadium is housed within. I arrived at the gate and informed the guy manning it that I’d arranged previously with Curzon fan and gateman for the day, Aaron Flanagan, that I was ok to come in. “Oh, does Aaron run the club now does he?” came the reply. “Ok, well go and see him and ask him if he runs the club”. Not sure if this was in jest or if the gentlemen was indeed a bit peeved, but either way I did indeed go to Aaron and ask him the above question. It’s only polite, I guess.

Anyway, Aaron informed me there was something of an impromptu pitch inspection that was taking place on the far side, with the liner a bit concerned with the state of the line he was to be running. But soon enough, the ref came over with good news, GAME ON! The liner(s) had indicated they were happy to run the lines and skirt round the boggy patches, as long as no-one two-footed them. Good stuff and in the knowledge we had a game, I headed for the Nash Bar to buy a Kopparberg and watch the end of F1 Practice 3.

Not too long after I was joined in here by Dan who had also been attracted down by the opportunity of a free game at a good level. Unfortunately, the crowd was a disappointment I’d say at just under 330, meaning there was no real gain from the promotion with the weather not aiding the club in there task. Of course, I only speculate, but of course there was some profit to be had if those extras keep coming back. Let’s hope so.

Snack Bar

Snack Bar

Welcome

Welcome

With kick-off fast approaching, it was to the Snack Bar under the stand to purchase some chips for the cheap price of £1.40 before heading out on a lap of the Tameside Stadium during the first period. I was being something less of a neutral for one reason and one reason only on this day and it has nothing to do with the vast, vast majority of those involved with the men from Keys Park. But there is one and it appears the Curzon fans shared my view on this member of the visiting personnel later in the game, as it turned out. But that’s history now….oh…

History Lesson:

Curzon Ashton was formed in 1963 as Curzon Amateurs after the merger of local sides Curzon Road and Ashton Amateurs. They joined the Manchester League and after a period of consolidation, went on to become a real force, picking up 3x Manchester Intermediate Cups (1972, ’73, ’74) in the decade before founding the Cheshire League Division 2.

Curzon were immediately promoted as runners-up and the next season the club became the first North West club to reach the semi-finals of the FA Vase but lost out to Stamford. The 1980’s saw 5x Manchester Premier Cups won while Curzon went on the found the North West Counties League. Despite finishing up in a relegation position in 1986-’87 season, the club still founded their third league, the Northern Premier.

After avoiding relegation in their first season on account of league expansion, they were eventually relegated in 1997 and were placed in the North East Counties. No, me neither. After finishing second bottom in their sole season, the club moved back into normal territory and the NWCFL. Promotion from Division 2 was attained in 2000 and the club took a place in Division 1 for the season 2000-’01.

Cash Your Gold

Cash Your Gold

Curzon Ashton FC

Curzon Ashton FC

They moved from their National Park home of 20 years to the Tameside Stadium in 2005, which was something of a homecoming as their original playing fields stood around the ground’s current location. 2007 saw a second FA Vase semi defeat, to Truro City, but were promoted to the NPL Division 1 as runners up. 2009 saw Curzon’s famous FA Cup run where they vanquished Exeter City at the Tameside 3-2 and were defeated in the play-off final by Newcastle Blue Star, who then went bump.

Current boss John Flanagan took charge in 2011 and guided Curzon to second in the NPL 1North, only to lose to Witton Albion in the play-offs, but 2014 saw Curzon skip the play-offs and win the Division and with it promotion to the NPL Premier. They then went on to beat Ilkeston in the play-offs after only one season in the Division to shoot on up to the National North, where they sit in a solid mid-table place.

Anyway, the first half was pretty unspectacular. It was a pretty cagey affair with chances at a premium, but Curzon were the more threatening of the two in terms of build up play. Ryan Brooke had the better of the chances for Curzon early on, but his header was straight at Hednesford ‘keeper Dan Crane. Later in the half, the visitors had a goal ruled out for a foul on home custodian Cameron Mason and also saw Danny Glover’s free-kick strike the upright narrowly before the break. That was that for the first half, 0-0.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

After an uneventful half-time, Dan and I decided to head over to join the Curzon Ultra’s who were massed on the open terrace in front of the bar and which affords a side view of the pitch and the end they were attacking at close hand. It proved a good choice as the Nash flew out of the box and soon found themselves two-up. First, Jordan Wright pursued a loose ball and fired beyond Crane, before Ryan Brooke netted the second, neatly chipping the ball over the advancing Crane. It looked all over bar the shouting.

But Frank Sinclair’s double substitution seemed to turn the tide and I was especially pleased that the Curzon fans joined in with my cheering send-off as they seemed delighted to see one of their former players be one of those replaced! But, it definitely changed the team for the better and what a goal it was that saw them grab a lifeline.

Mason was pretty much minding his own business in his area, as any ‘keeper would, with the ball a good 35 yards out in the middle of the field and with little danger to his net. That it until Paul Ennis lobbed the ball over him and nestled it in the bottom corner! A quite outstanding goal and probably the best of the season so far for me. This spurred on Hednesford and they levelled a couple of minutes later as Jonathan Royle powered a header into the roof of the net to give the struggling Pitmen all the momentum going into the last 20 minutes or so.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Curzon fans celebrate the opener

Curzon fans celebrate the opener

Indeed, with Curzon also looking to go for the win by bringing on forwards Cockerline and Norton, this left them a bit less secure at the back and Hednesford spurned a pair of good chances before Joe Guest rattled in a fine strike across the helpless Crane to give Curzon the points. 3-2, full-time.

A fine game came to an end and after quickly thanking Aaron for sorting my ticket-less entry, Dan and I headed back out down the road for the bus back to Manchester. Though, the first plan was to head into the dank-looking Ring o’ Bells pub near the flats at the stop, but it was shut and so it was straight on the bus instead. Dramatic, hey? As for further drama there was none and hereth ends our tale. A good day at a ground that has grown on me as the years have passed, I’m sure ‘ll be back sooner than 2 years next time…

DSC02037

 

 

RATINGS:

Game: 8- Good, entertaining game. Shame not more took advantage to see it.

Ground: 7- The strange “giraffe” stand still puzzles me. Why so high?!

Programme: 7- A good read.

Food: 7- See above. But change read to something foody.

Fans: 9- Vocal fans at Curzon was a massive change from my last visit and made for a good atmosphere.

Value For Money: 8- Good, free game and a decent day overall.