Manchopper in….North Ferriby

Result: North Ferriby United 0-4 Gainsborough Trinity (NPL Premier Division)

Venue: Grange Lane (Saturday 23rd February 2019, 3pm)

Att: 314

My late season “vulture job” of getting to grounds whose very existence is in some doubt continued for a second weekend with a trip to the outskirts of Hull and the small village of North Ferriby, where I was to pay a visit to North Ferriby United’s Grange Lane ground. This would mean going against my usual standing of not giving money to owners who are (in my distinctly humble opinion) running a club into the ground for whatever reason (which is why Hull, Charlton and Blackpool have remained off limits, though the Tangerines have recently been thankfully rescued and I only did the Ricoh for a cut-price game, but with many seemingly still happy to give money to the club, it seemed OK morally to do the same.

Now, I’m sure many of you with any sort of internet access/non-league knowledge had heard of the recent goings on surrounding the club and its swift fall from grace and I’m not going to speculate on what may or may not be going on, as it really isn’t my place to do so. Plus, with what happened during the game, I really don’t want to risk any future bans that may cloud any return visits – be that at Grange Lane, Dunswell Park or anywhere else… *suggests one-off game at Craven Park, selfishly*. Anyhow….

Setting off into Manchester, the local train delays returned, meaning I had a full hour to waste in the surroundings of the Manchester Piccadilly concourse. To make this a little more bearable, I headed up to the mezzanine and my favoured in-station haunt of the Hourglass where I was forced into breaking my 11am rule – though 10am was close enough I figured! A pint of Boddies was bought to accompany me through the wait until the next Hull-bound train, as I looked to figure out some kind of trip/plan to get over to North Ferriby from Brough station – where the train has its penultimate stop. With a few little villages along the way, I reckoned I might as well go that way and stop off here and there on my way over to the ground, rather than fork out the unbelievably costly £6+ return bus ticket for what would have been about five minutes. No chance, guys and girls.

Following an hour and a half’s journey, the train eventually pulled into Brough and I set off on the hour-and-twenty-minute walk to United’s home. Foregoing Brough’s own watering holes (on account of them having their own based club there which I’ll likely visit at some point too), my first stop was in the nearby village outpost of Welton. Here, I found a pub by the name of the Green Dragon, and what a find it proved to be – this being the very pub that the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was apprehended in during the 18th century. Well worth the effort to get there for sure, as was the pricing and overall setting – a pint of Amstel costing £3.65 and the pub and village itself being highly pleasant on a fine, sunny day.

Welton

Green Dragon

Melton’s Sandpiper

From there, the long and winding old road to Melton was undertaken, crossing a footbridge en route to the Sandpiper – a new-build modern food-based chain pub. Having been pressed in this way with a lack of overall options for the day (not that it was a surprise), I was more than happy to drop in for another Amstel (£3.65) before deciding to forego a pre-match visit to North Ferriby’s one-and-only pub, the Duke of Cumberland, as I’d come up with the idea of maybe heading towards the Humber Bridge post-match for a little bit. Also, I’d said I’d pop to say “Hello” to Matthew, one of the lads involved with the North Ferriby fanzine known as ‘View from the Allotment End’, which has gained a little infamy over the last few days. Having done so and gave a bit of money to both he and the guys collecting for the homeless charity outside, he said to me they’d be congregated around the dugouts during the game. Of course, as it turned out, that wouldn’t happen as Matthew would be banned from Grange Lane minutes later for apparent comments in said fanzine, so I’m watching my tongue here too in fear of more reprisals against independent writings!!!

North Ferriby is a village and civil parish in the Haltemprice area within the East Riding of Yorkshire and stands on the North bank of the River Humber and is where the oldest boats ever found in Europe were discovered – dating from the Bronze Age estimated to go back to the region between 2030 BC-1680 BC. Iron Age and Romano-British archaeology has also been discovered in the area, suggesting that the settlement continued to exist through these times too, prior to the arrival of the Danes around 900 AD, with each ship arriving apparently setting up their own settlement and amongst these was the modern territory of North Ferriby (derived from the Danish ‘Ferja bi’ meaning place by a ferry, with both North and South Ferriby linked by said transport).

North Ferriby

North Ferriby

During the medieval period, Ferriby was home to a Ferriby Prior – belonging to the, somewhat infamous (whether in truth or exaggerated fiction), order of the Knights Templar. The abbey, dating from c.1160, was founded by Lord Eustace Broomfleet de Vesci and remained standing until the dissolution in 1536 with the village having passed through the hands of the families of the Mortimers, the Poles and the Barons, with mansions being added by merchants from Hull from the mid-18th century. It’s All Saints Church is Grade II listed and is recorded in the National Heritage List for England and maintained therefore by Historic England. The village also hosts part of the Transpennine and Yorkshire Wolds walkways, with the former being where the three Ferriby boats were discovered on the banks of the Humber. For a small area, they have a pretty impressive list of alumni including:- Alex Deacon (BBC Weatherman), Zara Holland (Miss GB and of Love Island fame (apparently in the case of the latter!), Phil ‘team talk on the pitch’ Brown and, most impressively, the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.

Paying my £5 entry as a student (nice bit of saving there), I headed inside Grange Lane and over to the club shop where I’d been told by Matthew I could find the programmes for the game today. £2 for that and 20p for a teamsheet (because I might as well for that), the game was soon upon us and the teams heading out of the tunnel. Grange Lane itself is a bit of a strange ground on the basis that apart from its “Main Stand” there is little to suggest it has ever hosted Conference-level football, though this allows it to retain its charm. Despite this, it is a pretty smart set-up and there seems little reason for the relocation in any way, shape, or form that would be beneficial in the long-run on the face of things, though I could just as easily be wrong.

Anyway, back to the day at hand. The near-side plays host to all facilities, a food bar flanked by the club shop and a raised, rather strange-looking disabled viewing area, which the dressing rooms are located to the rear of. A further hospitality building, and what I assume is the clubhouse, though I couldn’t actually ever locate it myself, is situated towards the far end, which itself is open, hard standing and features a couple of steps of terracing, as does the opposite end. The Main Stand backs onto a railway embankment (with trains running above the stand for those interested) and houses all seats in the middle, these flanked by small amounts of covered standing at each end, which I suppose were planned to have seats installed in the future too, had the need come around. A second snack bar is located next to the old away end turnstiles. That’s Grange Lane in a nutshell, and this is the story of North Ferriby United….

History Lesson:

North Ferriby United Football Club was founded in 1934, first taking part in the local East Riding Church League, winning the Division 1 title in 1938. After WWII, the club was admitted to the East Riding Amateur League and Ferriby went on to enjoy a successful period with various pieces of silverware being brought to the club’s trophy cabinet. In 1969, North Ferriby stepped into the Division Two of the Yorkshire League in 1969 and won the title at the end of their second season in the division, winning promotion to Division 1 in the process, and also added the East Riding Senior Cup title the same season. 1975 saw Ferriby lift the Yorkshire League Cup with a 2-0 triumph over Lincoln United before finishing Division 1 runners-up the next year.

In 1982, the Villagers joined the newly formed Northern Counties East League and immediately finished as runners-up in Division One North, though promotion was declined due to ground issues. This setback was soon rectified and 1986 saw Ferriby win the Division One title and with it promotion to the Premier Division. 1990 saw the club reach the FA Vase semi-finals, losing out to Tamworth in the semi-finals, before going on to achieve a “what might have been” moment in defeating the following year’s Vase winners, Guiseley, in the 1991 NCEL President’s Cup. A cup double was secured too, as the club lifted the East Riding Senior Cup. Ferriby reached the 1997 FA Vase Final after overcoming Guisborough Town in the semi-finals, but their day at Wembley would end in disappointment at the hands of Whitby Town. Two further consecutive NCEL President’s Cups were won in both 1999 & 2000.

Arriving at the ground

Myself & Matthew ft. the ‘trouble-making’ fanzine!

The 1999-‘2000 season also saw the Villagers take the NCEL championship and were duly promoted to the Northern Premier League’s Division 1 and the following season’s East Riding Senior Cup triumph ensured a fifth consecutive win between 1997-’01. A sixth straight East Riding Senior Cup duly followed in 2002 and the next season saw Ferriby make the NPL Division 1 play-offs, losing out to Radcliffe Borough, before breaking Hull City’s record for consecutive East Riding Cup wins with a 7th to offset the disappointment a little (they’ve since won 19 between 1971 and 2014). They would achieve promotion in 2005 to the NPL Premier Division, foregoing the play-offs on this occasion to take the title and immediately had success, being long-time Premier Division leaders until fading a little and finishing 5th, losing out in the play-off final to another village club:- Farsley Celtic.

Spending the next seven years in the Premier Division and winning a pair of NPL League Challenge Cups (2012 & 2013), Ferriby would eventually secure promotion in 2013, again as champions, after defeating Ashton United on the final day of the season to ensure a place in the National League North. They immediately finished as runners-up, narrowly missing out on promotion, but the next season would see major silverware won in the form of the FA Trophy, the club’s ‘return’ to Wembley this time being a successful one, as the club eventually saw off Wrexham on penalties after a 3-3 draw. The next season saw yet more success for the Villagers, as they went and got promoted to the National League, defeating AFC Fylde at Grange Lane by 2-1 AET. However, it’s all gone downhill from there, with two straight relegations seeing the club return to the NPL and it’s about to become three – likely within the next few weeks – a number of managerial changes and changes in ownership failing to arrest the slide, it seemingly more akin to a downhill slope.

The game got underway following a minute’s silence for a long-standing home supporter and it was a fairly evenly matched first ten minutes or so, though it wasn’t long until I heard a bit of a something going on at the gate and rumours of a banning order began to go around between some in the NFU supporters’ ranks. Back on the pitch, it was the hosts who had the first clear chance when Alex Knox saw his shot parried away and the acrobatic overhead follow-up was clawed away by the recovering GK. However, Gainsborough steadily took control, and after left-back Ben Gordon had shown good persistence to drive into the box, his pull back found Alex Byrne, who could only fire wide.

Match Action

Match Action

Watching on….

But the visitors would break the deadlock shortly afterwards when Anthony Wilson showed a good touch before feeding his strike partner Ashley Worsfold who confidently slotted home. They went close again soon after when Will Longbottom curled a free-kick narrowly wide of the Ferriby goal, and despite the hosts coming back into it and fashioning a couple of good sights of goal, Trinity’s #11 Longbottom would be denied by a fine double stop by the Ferriby GK Lewis Exall, but the visitors would strike again just before the break, when they were awarded a penalty and Worsfold doubled his and his side’s tally – hammering the spot-kick down the middle. 2-0, half-time.

Worsfold nets from the spot

Spending half-time munching away on a decent portion of chips, mushy peas and gravy, the second half soon began and it wasn’t long until Gainsborough killed off the game. Within a couple of minutes of the restart, Anthony Wilson found space just outside the area and curled a fantastic effort just inside the angle of the far corner woodwork. A fine strike. That goal ended Ferriby’s hopes of salvaging anything from the game in truth and their heads seemed to drop as Gainsborough took full control and pretty much peppered the home goal from then on in, only for a combination of wasteful finishing and good ‘keeping at times to keep the score down.

Match Action

Match Action

NFU ultras branch

Byrne and Longbottom continued to create problems and both saw shots fly over, before Shane Clark should’ve really done better when he capitalised on some indecisive defending to nip the ball away from the home defence, but saw his shot eventually saved, as did Longbottom, seeing another well hit free kick kept out by Exall. Wilson then scrambled the ball against the post after a quick break, before the game settled somewhat until the final throes saw sub Damian Reeves slot home number 4 and add gloss to the scoreline. Full-time, 0-4.

Post-match, I bid farewell to the ousted Matthew still positioned at his gate viewpoint (though I have since seen that it was actually someone else involved with the fanzine and not him, which just shows the disconnection from the top) and headed back to North Ferriby high-street and to the Duke of Cumberland, which was packed full and is clearly the centre of the community. Luckily, I managed to just beat the evening rush and so was able to secure a seat with a pint of San Miguel (£3.40)whilst trying to figure out with the trip to the Humber Bridge was truly worth it, over an easier (and earlier) trip home. I reckoned that, no, it wasn’t, and so after wasting the best part of the hour’s wait in the pub, I headed through the evening foggy haze that was beginning to fall over the village.

Duke of Cumberland

The Buccaneer in Brough

On the way to the station, I ended up being startled by one guy coming out of his driveway without any sound whatsoever. I began to ramble something, thinking he had seen my startled brief stop, but it soon became apparent he hadn’t and so I assume I seemed like a crazy drunk from out-of-town! That’s usually correct, so I wouldn’t blame anyone assuming this! Anyway, upon grabbing the hourly local stopper the one stop down the way to Brough, I had a good hour’s connection here too and so I was enforced to visit one of the local hostelries, the nearest to the station being the Buccaneer – seemingly an aircraft with a connection to the old airfield just across the tracks.

After milking the pint of Amstel whilst watching Wales overcome England in the Six Nations, it was finally time to head back to Manchester – a trip which was going well until my local connection was allowed to leave before a slightly delayed train for once and I ended up back on the bus home, a circuit I’m well versed in after the last six months or so! A good day had been had on the whole, and I sincerely hope that the problems at Ferriby are sorted through one way or another, as long as the club survives as it has been able to for years to this point. The village and surroundings are lovely (some of the houses wouldn’t look out-of-place in the Hollywood Hills) and the pubs I managed to visit were all decent too. Game was fine until the third killed it off, the ground nice to visit too and everyone about around the club I met seemed very welcoming too, which is always the way around these parts I find. On to another weekend we go and, hopefully, no banning this time….on or off the field!

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Kidderminster

Result: Kidderminster Harriers 0-1 Altrincham (FA Trophy 2nd Round)

Venue: Aggborough (Saturday 10th January 2015, 3.00pm)

Att: 1,204

After a passed pitch inspection at 10.30, it was approaching midday as I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly and walked along the bustling concourse looking for my connecting train onwards to Wolverhampton. Some confusion was caused as the train showed the destination as Exeter rather than the advertised Bristol, with even the train manager forgetting the line was shut for engineering works past Bristol, and that this was, indeed the terminus.

So, after that little mishap, we were on our way. I had grabbed a, not all that exclusive, plug socket to ensure my phone had a sufficient amount of juice for the day as I headed into the Midlands, passing Edgeley Park & the Britannia Stadium as the train continued to whizz through a mixture of green fields and towns on its way to the Black Country.

I arrived in said place at just after 1.30 and had a 15 minute wait for the one stop connection onwards to Smethwick Galton Bridge station. Happily the train rolled in 10 minutes early, which gave some welcome protection from the rather blustery conditions affecting the larger percentage of the country today. On arrival at SGB, I noticed that it was quite a task to find how to cross the tracks to get to the other side, Platform 1. It was this same task that a man with a suitcase was undertaking when he asked me how to do the exact thing I was trying to figure out. Luckily, I had just noticed a sign to a lift in the darkest corner of the maze-like station, so seemed the seasoned traveller.

After my new commuter friend had pulled down the “shithole” of a station, we got our way onto our required platform after figuring out that the “2” in the lift signified floor “1” and not floor 2 as there was no floor 2, as there was only two floors. Confused? I certainly was.

To be frank, I was rather relieved when I was able to leave the station, as it certainly hadn’t left me with the best impressions. After traveling onwards for a further 25-or-so minutes, and passing stations loaded with West Brom fans heading to the Hawthorns for their match with Hull City, I arrived in Kidderminster after a trouble free (!) journey. After hopping off the London Midland service, I crossed the footbridge and made my way towards the town & more importantly the floodlights, which were visible from the station.

Looking towards Kidderminster.

Looking towards Kidderminster.

After missing two clearly visible pubs (as I noted on my return journey),I made the decision that there wasn’t any in the near vicinity of the station or the railway museum and so, I tagged onto some people heading to the game who directed me through a modern housing estate to the ground, Aggborough. After climbing a slight incline, with the minster clearly visible to the rear, Aggborough  came up with little warning on the left hand side. After a few pictures were taken, I made my way around to the away end where I would spend the 90 minutes of action with the Altrincham fans.

Turnstile

Turnstile

Today's Game...

Today’s Game…

Kidderminster Harriers F.C.

Kidderminster Harriers F.C.

As I made my way through the turnstile for the away end terrace, there were around 30 minutes to kick-off for the FA Trophy tie between Altrincham & their hosts today, Kidderminster Harriers. But first, a little description of Aggborough itself, for the benefit of those with flash photography, sorry, I mean who haven’t visited there as of yet. Aggborough is made up of four stands, two seating, toow terraces. The seating stands run the length of the pitch with the terraces running the vast majority of the width of it. This is unsurprising, as a decade ago Harriers were plying their trade in the Football League. The Main Stand houses the hospitality area and has the ticket office and the adjoining Harriers Bar in the rear of it too. The opposite stand is the larger of the stands, however. All in all Aggborough has a capacity of 6,250 with 3,140 able to be seated.

The Main Stand

The Main Stand

The home terrace

The Home Terrace

The Visiting Terrace

The Visiting Terrace

History Lesson:

Formed in 1886 as a continuation of an existing athletics & rugby union football club, Kidderminster Harriers took on the mantle of football club as the “Kidderminster Harriers & Football Club” switched to association rules.

They won their first game, before entering into a local rivalry with start-up Kidderminster Olympic. Both sides were strong, and accused by others of professionalism and illegal payments. Before their merger in 1890, the two regularly attracted crowds of 2-4,000 with 7,000 turning out for local derby clashes.
Now known as Kidderminster FC, the new club joined the Midland League, but lasted only 12 months, despite reaching the FA Cup 1st Round. They lost 3-1 to Darwen, away. They complained about the pitch. Their complaint was upheld. They lost the replay 13-0. Ouch.

After being wound up in 1891, the club reformed as an amateur club in the Birmingham & District League under the name Kidderminster Harriers. However, it took the club until 1938 to win the league, whereupon the club made the switch to the Southern League, but played just two matches before WWII ended their campaign.

After the cessation of hostilities, the club re-joined the Southern League for 1948. In September of 1955, Harriers became the first club to host a floodlit FA Cup tie, Harriers winning a replay 4-2 over Brierley Hill Alliance. But, by the latter part of the decade, the club was once again in financial strife and voluntarily dropped back to the Birmingham League. During their time here (1960-’72, the club won many honours, in the shape of 4x West Midlands (Regional) League Titles (the current Birmingham League Name), including a hat-trick of titles between 1968 & 1970, and various County Cups on eight separate occasions. For 1972-’73, the club were back in the Southern League, in the newly created Division One North.

In 1983, Harriers were granted promotion to the Alliance (now Conference) after finishing runners-up to AP Leamington, who were denied their place due to ground grading issues. Throughout the ’70’s & ’80’s,Harriers were invited to compete in the Welsh Cup, despite never competing in Wales. They reached two finals but were defeated on both occasions, by Wrexham & Swansea City respectively.

In 1994, Harriers won the Conference National but were denied entry to the Football League, due to the FA’s increasingly stringent fire regulations, following the Valley Parade tragedy. This was due to Aggborough’s main stand being made primarily of wood. Despite a new Cantilever Stand being erected in time, the club had to spend another season, at least, in the non-league realm.

The Cantilever Stand

The Cantilever Stand

It wasn’t until 2000, in fact, that Harriers won the Conference again and take their place in the 92, as Jan Molby led them to the title. After a five year stay, the club were relegated back to the Conference where they remain to the present day. They have reached the 2006 FA trophy final (beaten by Stevenage Borough) and the 2013 play-offs, where they lost in the semi-finals to Wrexham after finishing as runners-up. Last season, Harriers continued their recent trend of narrowly missing out on a play-off place, as they finished in 7th position.

Honours:

Conference Champions: 1994, 2000
FA Trophy Winners: 1987
Birmingham & District League/West Midlands (Regional) League Champions: 6 times
Bob Lord Trophy Winners: 1997
Southern League Cup Winners: 1980
Worcestershire Senior Cup Winners: 25 times
Birmingham Senior Cup Winners: 7 times
Staffordshire Senior Cup Winners: 4 times
West Midland League Cup Winners: 7 times
Keys Cup Winners: 7 times
Border Counties Floodlit League Champions: 3 times
Camkin Floodlit Cup Winners: 3 times
Bass County Vase Winners: 1 times

Match programme.

Match programme.

Pre-match Handshake

Pre-match Handshake

Onto today’s game now, and both sides were given a good ovation by the sparse-ish crowd in attendance, with the travelling Altrincham contingent very vocal. The game got underway with both sides going for it. The pitch wasn’t great, but also wasn’t the horror show you could be lead to believe.
The deadlock was broken after 20 minutes, when Akwasi Asante, who was a threat all day turned sharply and fired a low effort which Stuart Coburn, in the Alty goal, saved comfortably. From his long kick downfield, Harriers debutant Nat Kelly, on loan from Birmingham City, got underneath the ball, missed it and Damien reeves showed his class as he drilled a holf-volley across Danny Lewis in the Harriers goal. A tremendous strike, which words don’t really give the credit to. 0-1.

Match Action

Match Action

Kiddy’s cause wasn’t helped when, 10 minutes before half-time, star man Marvin Johnson was forced from the field, injured. However, it looked as though Kiddy were going to go in level when Luca Havern was adjudged to have fouled Asante in the area. Penalty. Craig Reid stepped up, but blasted his kick high into the cheering Alty fans behind Coburn. He’ll feel he hit it too well. So 1-0 to the visitors it remained at the break, as I purchased Chicken Curry for 4.50 (complete with Poppadum) before receiving possibly some of the best news I’ll see all year, and we’re only 10 days in!

After devouring the tasty curry (Kiddy is well known for its culinary delights I’m told), the teams were back out for the second period. But, it was something akin to the Alamo, as Harriers battered away at the defences of Altrincham’s fortifications, but couldn’t find a way to break through; Another debutant, sub Keylon Reffell had an effort cleared off the line by Tom Marshall, a game of six-yard box pinball was conducted and Coburn denied Asante with a smart stop. It looked a matter of time before Kiddy would draw level.

Match Action

Match Action

But veteran gloveman Coburn had other ideas as he pulled off a hat-trick of fine saves, twice denying the ever dangerous Reffell and also full-back Kevin Nicholson, whose 20-yard driven free-kick looked destined for the top corner before Coburn clawed it away. As the referee added on an extra five minutes, the home fans became expectant, but Altrincham stayed composed in defence to see off the siege and advance to round three and a meeting with Bath City (away). They would be somewhat indebted to Stuart Coburn, however, who put in a top-class performance & celebrated with his customary fist pump to the traveling band of 136 loyal Robins fans.

The Coburn fist pump. Blurry, but it is I swear

The Coburn fist pump. Blurry, but it is I swear

The Harriers Arms

The Harriers Arms

I exited the now darkened Kidderminster via a quick stop in the Harriers Arms to catch up on the final scores, before undertaking the 10-minute walk back to the station. I got there just as the train rolled in and was soon back to GSB (oh, joy). After 15 minutes and a quick hop back to Wolverhampton, I was back on board a Virgin Trains service to Warrington Bank Quay where, upon arrival I crossed the town to Central Station, and the train home. Another good day out, and thanks tot he reduced admission prices, a fairly cheaper one than it would have been usually. Now, onto planning my next “long distance” trip. I may just require a Bath…

KHFC

KHFC

My Kidderminster Harriers M.o.M.- Akwasi Asante

My Altrincham M.o.M.- Stuart Coburn

RATINGS:

Game: 7- A good, entertaining contest. Surprised there was only one goal, but lots of action.

Ground: 7- A smart ground, which retains character, and is set out well.

Programme: 6- A cut down issue of “The Harrier”, £2, so lacking in content I presume. Still a good read though.

Fans: 7- Got behind the team vocally from the terrace when their side was attacking their end 2nd half.

Food: 8- Good tasting and portion size. Like the added poppadum bonus!

Value For Money: 8- Take out the £27 train fare, and it wasn’t at all bad!

Manchopper in….Altrincham

Altrincham_CrestNew180px-Macclesfield_Town_FC.svg

Result: Altrincham 1-0 Macclesfield Town (FA Carlsberg Trophy First Round)

Venue: The J Davidson Stadium (Moss Lane) (Saturday 13th December 2014, 3.00pm)

Att: 1,276

As soon as the draw for the FA Trophy’s first “proper round” had been made and the balls pulled out of the bowl at HQ, one game stood out for me, and made my decision for which FA Trophy tie to attend all the easier. Altrincham had been drawn out at home to their fierce rivals, Macclesfield Town, in what was to be their second meeting this season, following on from the league fixture, also at J Davidson Stadium, which was settled by James Lawrie’s late, late strike to secure the hosts a vital 1-0 win.

This game was to feature many parallels with that previous clash, and as I set off towards Altrincham on the 245, Arriva, service. On arrival at the shiny, new Altrincham Interchange, the transport hub of the town, I hopped off whereupon I could hear singing coming from somewhere nearby. I had already chosen my first stop, The Station Hotel, which stands opposite the Interchange. As I opened the door, I was hit with the same wall of noise,  which quickly became apparent was being made by a rowdy bunch of Silkmen followers, though their cause wasn’t helped by the “Frozen” shopping bag on the floor.
Having ordered a pint of Strongbow (just £2), I remained near them to listen to their array of songs, including honouring Matthew Tipton, manager John Askey and just what they thought of Alty as well as a few songs about past events…

The Station Hotel

The Station Hotel

The Station Hotel

The Station Hotel

After a while, they made their move and headed for the ground, so I remained in there as the fallout began amongst the Alty residents. With 30 minutes remaining until the stroke of three-o’clock and kick-off, I decided to undertake the short walk, 10 minutes or so, to Moss Lane. To do so, you head up a small alley at the bus station, over the bridge, past the Tesco & Ice Rink, home of the Manchester Phoenix Ice Hockey Team, and down Moss Lane itself. Soon enough, the ground looms into view with a turnstile immediately awaiting you. It was here that I parted with £14 for the terraced areas, and entered inside.
It’s a wonder it has taken me so long to do a blog on the Robins, considering how I’ve been a rather regular visitor to their ground. This should have been done on the play-off final (vs Guiseley) that resulted in their promotion via Greg Wilkinson’s last-gasp strike, with his first touch. So much for being a specialist penalty taker!!

Turnstile I used for the game

Turnstile I used for the game

After a further £2.50 was relieved from my wallet as I purchased my copy of “Robins Review”, which is always a good read, and well worth the price. From here, I made my way in front of the covered standing terrace which runs the length of the goal-end that you enter behind, if you come in by this turnstile. It was here that a wayward warm-up shot hit a step in front of me and rebounded towards me. Once I had the ball under control, I looked up to see the legendary Efe Sodje, who competed for Nigeria in the 2002 World Cup awaiting the return of said ball. It’s the first time I can think of that this has happened! What a start to the day!

The near-end Terrace

The near-end Terrace

I continued to the far side of the ground, where the fairly strange looking covered terrace runs the vast majority of the pitch. It’s strange looking, as its roof goes up and down, due to the TV gantry being housed in the middle of it, where the cameras and radio press are housed. Opposite this is the Main Stand, all seated and covered and, to the left, the Family Stand, which is a small covered seating area which also houses hospitality areas. To the left is the brand new Community Sports Hall, which will be open by time of publish. Behind the far end goal is the “Carole Nash Terrace” which is usually employed as the visiting area, and today was no different. So, now seems like the best time, as usual, to delve into the history of Altrincham F.C.

The "up and down" Terrace

The “up and down” Terrace

Family Stand

Family Stand

The Main Stand

The Main Stand

History Lesson:

Formed in 1891, Altrincham Football Club have gone on to be one of the most successful non-league clubs of all-time and, arguably, the most successful never to play League Football.
They competed, with little in terms of success, in the Cheshire League for the vast majority of their early existence until the 1960’s when Jackie Swindells somehow managed to net 82 goals in 63 games to take Altrincham to their first title in 1966 which was followed by a successful defence the next season. In 1968, Altrincham joined the Northern Premier League (NPL) as founder members.
After 11 seasons, the Robins joined the new Alliance Premier League (now Conference), winning the first two titles. Despite this, due to the election system then employed by the Football League, the club failed to reach that level and, to date, never have.
In 1985-’86, Altrincham reached the 4th Round of the FA Cup, the furthest they’ve progressed in the competition. They have had many other cup runs and have earned a reputation as famed “giant-killers” throughout the country along with their conquerors this season, Blyth Spartans.
In 1997, Alty were relegated to the NPL, the first time in their history they dropped out of the “top-flight” league. They began somewhat of a yo-yo existence, winning the title two years later, only to last a single season back in the Conference before returning to the Unibond League. In the meantime, the club achieved a required position to be placed in the new “regionalised” Conference leagues. As such, it took Alty a further five years to once again achieve promotion from their relegation, which they achieved via the play-offs when they defeated Southern side Eastbourne Borough in the North vs South final.
From here is where Altrincham’s somewhat legendary reprieves kicked in. After being reprieved from relegation three times in as many seasons as other teams faltered and folded, the club were awarded a fourth straight reprieve in farcical circumstances. The Robins finished 18th, out of the drop zone, but it was discovered that an ineligible player had “earned them” 18 points. As a result, they were deducted that amount and thus relegated.
This wasn’t the end of the story, though, as Canvey Island resigned and Scarborough F.C. folded to ensure Altrincham remained a Conference side once again! The next two seasons saw on-field improvement with the club posting respectable mid-table finishes, before the struggles returned and they were finally relegated at the end of the 2010-11 season, which had cost long-term boss Graham Heathcote his job. Had Altrincham finished one place above their 22nd position, they would have again been reprieved due to the demise of Rushden & Diamonds. But, it was finally the time for the dreaded drop door to claim them.
**Interesting trivia. Former Australian cricket captain, the legendary Ricky Ponting, became a major shareholder of the club, having become good friends with then-chairman Geoff Goodwin whose coach firm,
Go-Goodwins, has the contract to transport the ECB and the tourist teams during the English summer.**

Honours:

Alliance Premier League Champions: 1979–80, 1980–81
Conference North: North/South playoff winners: 2004–05
Promotion Final winners: 2013–14
Northern Premier League Champions: 1998–99
Cheshire County League Champions: 1965–66, 1966–67
Manchester League Winners: 1904–05, 1906–07
FA Trophy Winners: 1977–78, 1985–86
Northern Premier League Challenge Shield Winners: 1979–80
Northern Premier League Challenge Cup Winners: 1969–70, 1997–98
Cheshire Amateur Cup Winners: 1903–04
Cheshire Senior Cup Winners: 1904–05, 1933–34, 1966–67, 1981–82, 1998–99, 2004–05, 2008–09
Bob Lord Trophy Winners: 1980–81
Cheshire League Cup Winners: 1932–33, 1950–51, 1963–64.

Sun shining over Moss Lane

Sun shining over Moss Lane

Onto today’s game now, and it began with a bang. On just two minutes Alty won the ball in the midfield and quickly worked the ball into Damian Reeves. Reeves, who is as deadly a marksman as you’ll find, turned on a penny, ran through the Macc Town defence and fired high into the roof of Richie Branagan’s net. 1-0.
It promised much to warm the cockles on a chilly day. Alas, there was very little in terms of goalmouth action for the remainder of the half, with only Ryan Crowther spurning two decent positions, before being forced off with an apparent hamstring issue. Macc began to come into the game after the opening half-hour, but despite Arthur Gnahouha looking relatively dangerous, they rarely threatened Dave Parton in the home goal, although he did make a fantastic claim of a long ball into his area.
At half-time I headed for some food at the food bar located just to the left of the turnstile I entered by. I envisaged that the food would get me through half-time, but in fact it was the queuing that did. I think this is an issue that perhaps will be addressed in the future, as I think the ground could do with one more refreshment area, as it struggled horribly to cope in the play-off final, and clearly demand is high. Obviously, it all comes down to cost but I think it could help, though I would think the new clubhouse/community hall will ease the strain a fair amount. The current bar, under the main stand will probably become surplus to requirements now, I presume?

The new Community Centre

The new Community Centre

Food Hut in the home end

Food Hut in the home end

Second half, and with chips and gravy (which is wonderful as usual) being devoured, the game again remained cagey and rather devoid of overall innovation to light up the event. Macc were to be dealt a huge blow to their chances when sub Danny Whitaker, who had been on the field for no more than 15 minutes, was given his marching orders for denying a goal-scoring opportunity. Or, in lay-man’s terms, the last man. I have since seen it back and agree with a Silkmen fan’s comment I heard on my way out of the ground “It was a shocking decision. He was never the last man!”. It really was a bad call, but you only get one chance to call it as a ref, but it ought to have only been a yellow.
Down to 10, Macc gave it a go but still struggled to create and were almost killed off when Tom Marshall’s innovative effort smacked the bar, following a left wing corner. Macc applied late pressure, with sub Matthew Barnes-Homer giving some decent forward momentum to their play but despite getting into decent positions, a combination of good defending & poor finishing ensured Alty’s progression to the next round (Kidderminster Harriers away). In fact Parton, in the Robins goal, didn’t have a gave to make all game as Town failed to muster an effort on target.
So, with the home fans going home happy, I headed to the neighbouring King George pub, which had “Soccer Saturday” on and a small dog roaming around the bar area. After nursing a Kopparberg for half an hour and watching the early stages of Arsenal vs Newcastle, I made my way back towards Altrincham Town Centre and past the away end, which I’d previously neglected to see from the outside. Sad I know.

The King George

The King George

The King George

The King George

Back at the Interchange after a great day.

Back at the Interchange after a great day.

So, my day came to an end back at where it had begun, he interchange, which is rather more brighter and smarter than its predecessor. Another thoroughly enjoyable day at a great club I always enjoy watching. Thanks to them and their staff for their friendly service and, of course, it won’t be ling until I am back.

My Altrincham M.o.M.- Sean Williams
My Macclesfield Town M.o.M.- Scott Barrow

RATINGS:
Game: 5- It was a dull affair for the neutral.
Ground: 7- A ground I always like, pitch immaculate too.
Programme: 8- A good read, as I said earlier. Well worth a purchase.
Fans: 8- Always vocal, and get behind their side at the moment. Though I’ve only ever seen them lose once (at Barnet).
Food: 9- Always good food at Alty, well worth getting some. Chips & gravy was £2.50 for a decent portion.
Value For Money: 6- Just on the basis the game was rather poor.
Referee: 5- Terrible decision for the red card.