Manchopper in….New Mills

New_Mills_AFC_logo Mossley_AFC_logo

Result: New Mills 2-7 Mossley (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)

Venue: Church Lane (Saturday 13th February 2016, 3pm)

Att: 120

Following the random madness of the prior weekend at Whitchurch, it was nice to return to a pre-planned, easy to travel to game. Of course, something was bound to go wrong, wasn’t it?

Having already arranged this trip with Paul Rowan of the, shall we say, sporadic pitchsidepints site(!) it was into Manchester as per usual for the late morning and to Piccadilly Station, where I arrived at 10.45, having decided my train was at half eleven. It wasn’t. With an hour to wait, it was to the stations own pub, the Mayfield (named after the adjoining derelict station, visible from platforms 13/14). After a pocket-pinching Desperado was ordered for no less than £4.40, I wasted away time flicking between seats in a very suspicious manner that I was surprised I hadn’t attracted the police officers’ attention who were posted outside the pub in waiting for the numerous travelling supporters going nationwide.

Having clearly been looked upon as nothing more than just a strange ‘un, I finally settled on a seat near a “charge point” and awaited Paul’s arrival which duly came, complete with sandwich which lasted an impressive length of time, until the first pub in New Mills no less. After having a two-way moan over the price in here it was off to the train and onwards to the High Peak and Derbyshire.

After passing the highlights of Reddish North and Brinnington amongst others, we arrived in the star place of the show. Strines. I’m pretty sure that no-one has ever heard of Strines unless you’ve previously travelled on this route but the place did become something of a cult hero (if you can count a pair of hoppers as a cult) between us but Strines could wait for another day. To New Mills!

Finally disembarking off of a packed pacer train that we got strangely excited about (I don’t care for trains at all), we made our way up the steep hill that leads into the town itself, shortly behind another pair of lads who’d already declared something along the lines of “to New Mills vs Mossley” to the front carriage. Indeed, it was into the Royal Oak where we both sampled a half of assorted ales whilst watching Sunderland vs United on TV before heading to The Torrs.

From Station Rd hill

From Station Rd hill

New Mills

New Mills

Ideas on a postcard...

Ideas on a postcard…

“Hang on a minute…” exclaimed Paul as we walked into the “pub”. The cause of his confusion was clear. Bright colours, numerous kids (which due to the Adam Johnson controversy provided the first of numerous quips) and cakes on the bar all pointed to something being wrong. Yes, The Torrs was now a café. It is sometimes a good thing to read the signs.

So, we backtracked to the Royal Oak. “You’re back…” said the barmaid in a tone which was definitely less murderous than it can seem on here. As we ordered and were served, the lad from the train walked up and we got talking. A few of the group had travelled over from Dublin and, together, they’d come to the decision that New Mills was the place to be on this chilly Saturday afternoon. Obviously. After a chat, the group got their drinks and we finished ours before heading down the hill at the rear of the high street. Eventually, the Miners’ Arms comes upon you and is a proper old-school boozer and is just great.

I’d been prior when watching Trafford and it was brilliant to see the same guy was still in patronage. Paul mentioned that one of the beers was of a rock/metal band and so there was only one option on what we were having. Not too long after we’d got talking to a local who’d informed us he lived 5 minutes from the ground but hadn’t been for 30 years, the group of Irish/English/possible other nationalities walked back in as we continued to add to the New Mills town coffers.

After discovering one of the group lived not too far from me, in Stretford, and just why they were all here (I can’t actually remember why, but we were told I’m certain), it was time for Paul and I to head up to Church Lane. Paul had previously told me about his bad experiences when grounds with cemeteries close by come together, so I thought it best to not inform him about the one just at the foot of the hill leading to the ground. Needless to say, he wasn’t best pleased by this revelation!

No was this the case when we came upon the church at the top of the road which also housed it’s very own graveyard. By now the panic was setting in I’m sure. But, pictures were needed to be taken, so the headstones and mausoleums were put to the back of minds and we headed through the turnstiles while parting with £8, plus £1 (I think) for the programme, which gets massive points for having the Homepride people on the front! I’m easily pleased.

New Mills AFC

New Mills AFC

Today's contest

Today’s contest

So, to the clubhouse it was where we encountered the end of United’s fully expected capitulation to the Black Cats and I downed a much needed Peroni as the game got underway and we took our places behind the clubhouse end goal, on the patio-like structure which sits slightly above pitch level and offers a great view of the town climbing up the valley behind the far goal. Both this end and the right hand side of the ground are open, hard standing, while the church side houses both the small covered terracings and seating which, together, run the length of the pitch, which was sporting some alien-like signals. All help is welcome it seems!

Before I move on to egg barm-related issues, it’s time to look into the history of New Mills AFC…

History Lesson:

A New Mills club was formed in 1886, New Mills St.George’s (after the church opposite) and they won numerous titles through leagues such as the North Cheshire & the Manchester League and also a Derbyshire Minor Cup prior to WWI. After the conflict, the club dropped the suffix to become New Mills AFC.

Again in the Manchester League, they won it in 1924 and 1926 and won three Derbyshire Senior Cups around this time. After WWII the club reformed and joined the Manchester Amateur League before again moving up to the Manchester League and again lifting the title in 1956. Under Joe Martin’s stewardship (from 1959), the club won a further seven titles and numerous other pieces of silverware until his retirement in 1972.

St.George's from the ground

St.George’s from the ground

Old Turnstile

Old Turnstile

Road sign

Road sign

The club joined the Cheshire League in 1974 and became founder memebers of the North West Counties in 1982, but financial issues saw the Millers cease competition soon after. Birch Vale and Thornsett FC took on the tenancy at Church Lane and took on the name of New Mills AFC to continue the town’s club. After a long period in the Lancashire & Cheshire League and the Manchester League, the club moved back into the North West Counties in 2004, winning its Division 2 Trophy in 2007 and the Division itself in 2008 and won the League Cup the next season. After two successive runners-up spots, the Millers finally won the Premier Division in 2011.

2013 saw further progress as the club reached the play-offs, only to be knocked out in extra-time by eventual winners, Trafford (in a game I attended in, shall I term it, a less than neutral stance (a past life!)). 2014 saw the club struggle through to a mid-table place, but the following season saw the club only stay in the division via a reprieve due to a knock-on effect from above. This season hasn’t been kinder and in well documented fashion. Indeed, the Millers have been termed the “worst team in the country” by the national press, though they have an almost identical record as Bashley from the Southern Leagues. With a solitary point, they sit bottom.

Here come the teams

Here come the teams

Non-League Dog!

Non-League Dog!

As I say, the game was underway and Paul decided he needed food right away. Foolishly, I joined him and ordered an egg barm, which needed to be cooked separately and, of course, fresh. New Mills should have took the lead at the one end we could see, but spurned a one-on-one. But then, GOAL.  No idea what happened, but luckily Paul gave me the run down as he had been watching while in wait for his delicacy. Dave Short had headed in a free-kick. For the next goal it was roles reversed. I stood watching as Paul went for his lunch as an own goal added to the scoreline. 2-0 and we’d both missed one each.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

I'm a One Man Stand

I’m a One Man Stand

It was soon three and this time we both witnessed it as Dougie Carroll fired home, before we both missed number 4 while I was accepting my eggy delight, apparently a neat finish. It was ok but not worth missing two goals, though the guys in the van were great fun expressing surprise that their side was only four down. Alas, it was soon five before the break as Carroll completed a first-half treble, seeing his shot hit a rut and loop over Olly Martin in the home goal and that rounded off a great half for the men from Tameside. For New Mills, well…

The warmth of the clubhouse was a welcome alliance at the whistle and it was a shame to leave at the end of the 15 minutes, but we braved the weather once more and were treated to four more goals, while camping out on the clubhouse patio and talking to a former player of the Millers and his lad who’d been playing earlier in the day and had decided to come down for the game.

Back to on field matters. New Mills grabbed two back much to the delight of us and the multi-national group alongside as well as, unsurprisingly, the home support. First, Daniel Douglas-Pringle converted a good finish from close range after a fine move and this was added to by Ricky Anane’s tap-in soon after as the Millers clawed their way back into the contest.

But Mossley soon had enough of the plucky home side and added two more goals to end with seven and ensure a nine-goal game that really should have seen at least five more. First, Tom Pratt slid in Carroll’s deft chip right on the goal-line (see below) before the poor Millers ‘keeper even had the misfortune to have a long ball trickle through his legs for Andy Keogh to pounce upon and finish nicely to round off the score.

Alien activity?

Alien activity?

Douglas-Pringle nets

Douglas-Pringle nets

So does Pratt!

So does Pratt!

So after a quick stop off in the clubhouse for a “squad photo” of the lads and lying down horizontally on a group of men (I’ve never done that before and it wasn’t all that pleasant!) Paul and I headed off into the ever gloomier Derbyshire evening and, on the idea of heading one stop down the other line to Disley, ended up at the Beehive, where Paul was almost set on fire by the stove and then tried to blag as a New Mills player, while I admitted my retirement…

Eventually, we came to a mutual agreement that a trip back to Manchester was the better and more obvious option, especially as we still had to settle our table-football replay at the Stade de Tap aka the Piccadilly Tap’s top floor. In a game that tipped both ways, the table not the game, I came out with a six-four victory to see “Nelson” progress against “Colne” as they were the first non-league teams to come to mind in those colours. Anyway, with drinks finished, it was off towards Oxford Road, before the spectre of the Circus Tavern and it’s “smallest bar in Europe” (It’s been measured, you know) came a-calling. I’d never been in so it was to there we went, but I had to resort to Carling. After Bitburger, it was a definite come down. So, with a little while left and with both our trains leaving at similar times, I suggested the Temple and Paul happily went along.

The Squad

The Squad

New Mills

New Mills

Paul loved the Beehive...

Paul loved the Beehive…

The Circus

The Circus

The Temple, for those who aren’t familiar with the City Centre of Manchester, is situated in the middle of a sidestreet, down a flight of stairs and, apparently, used to be public toilets (my parents informed me of this!). Oblivious to it’s former usage, it was down into the dull bar area where I ordered my final drink of the night and a fave of mine from the summer, Mahou. Lovely.

Eventually it was time to head for the station and after a quick stop in the convenience store opposite so Paul could have a companion on his journey home to Liverpool, we bid farewell and exchanged numbers and hugged it out on the platform in a very Valentines Day sort of moment. This was topped soon after though when I received the text “OMG got on wrong train and have to get off at Bolton”. No such worries for me, as I got my old faithful Northern Pacer back home again. Next week looks like being a randomer again. Oh My God indeed….

NB: Paul did survive. I told you something would go wrong, didn’t I?!

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RATINGS:

Game: 9- Goals a plenty and a decent contest on an, understandably, tricky pitch.

Ground: 8- A quaint ground, with a nice clubhouse and views. Definitely a favourite.

Food: 6- Average. Nothing to say really.

Programme: 5- Quite a simple edition, not much in terms of original content.

Fans: 6- A friendly group, with good spirits still!

Value For Money: 9- Not much wrong with the day at all, bar the cold.

Manchopper in….Blackpool (AFC Blackpool)

AFC-Blackpool-logoWest_Didsbury_&_Chorlton_A.F.C._logo

Result: AFC Blackpool 1-3 West Didsbury & Chorlton (NWCFL Premier Division)

Venue: The Mechanics, Jepson Road (Saturday 25th April 2015, 3pm)

Att: 102

It was a decent morning in Manchester as I left my house and headed in my way up to Chorlton for my coach pick-up point and to join the West Didsbury & Chorlton side on their journey up to the seaside. It was to be my second trip to the seaside town of Blackpool in a few weeks, after my Easter Saturday visit to Squires Gate, the club who lie just across the road from the “other” Tangerine side in the town.

As it was, AFC Blackpool have been on my list to visit for some time before the opportunity of today’s game and the pure ease of travelling bought me into embarking and finally visiting the Mechanics ground. So, it was at around 12.15 and in the midst of a sudden deluge on Chorlton Green, that I arrived at the Bowling Green Inn, rather sodden and was joined on the coach by Dan Watkinson, who was also making his first visit to the club, having been to Gate 5 times before, he told me.

On arrival

On arrival

Turnstiles

Turnstiles

So, after around an hours journey, including getting a little lost at the end of it, we pulled into a windswept Jepson Road, which stands at the foot of the runway at Blackpool Airport., amongst the hangar spaces and workshops, giving it a somewhat unique backdrop. After being given a somewhat humorous run around in pursuit of a programme  (priced at a cheap £1), we headed for the sanctuary of the clubhouse, out of the wind and occasional rain showers that were now drifting across the pitch.

Programme

Programme

Dan took advantage of a vacated plug socket to charge his iPhone, before it was time for an early lunch, I purchased chips and gravy, whereas Dan opted for a pie of some assortment. Both were of good quality, and mine was certainly worth the £1.20 price tag. Soon after the completion of the meal,  it was time for the kick-off and we headed outside to find the seats most sheltered from the gale. The Mechanics is an old style ground, with a stand on all four sides. Behind both goals are covered terraces, with the far end featuring the larger of the two, and both touchlines featuring covered seating, with the near side stand housing the clubhouse and changing rooms building directly behind it/adjoining it. The far touchline houses a somewhat rickety-looking stand with a couple of rows of tangerine seats within.

Far end terrace

Far end terrace

Clubhouse/Stand

Clubhouse/Stand

Near side terrace

Near end terrace

Each stand was rather sparsely populated today, despite a few vocal Blackpool FC fans in attendance for the game, continuing their “Oyston Out” songs throughout the game! Before the review of the game though, a trip into the past of AFC Blackpool….

History Lesson:

Founded in 1947, AFC Blackpool began life as Blackpool Metal Mechanics before dropping the “metal” part of their name soon after. The club initially played at the Stanley Park Arena before moving to their current Jepson Road home. They initially competed in local Fylde Coast leagues, winning the Fylde & District League Division 2 in 1951, achieving promotion to Division 1, which was won twice during the club’s tenure. Before the end of the decade, the club won a first Lancashire Amateur Shield in 1958, before joining the West Lancashire League a year later.

Their first season ended with a runners-up spot, before winning the 1961 title and Shield double. They successfully defended their League title the following season, before joining the Lancashire Combination in 1962, competing in Division 2. There was little success gained in this league, bar he 1974-’75 Lancashire Combination Bridge Shield. 1975 was the club’s best finish, runners-up to Darwen, before they became founder members of the North West Counties League, competing92 in Division 3, which was won in 1985-’86, with the Mechanics gaining promotion to Division 2. They had a brief spell in the top flight of the NWCFL following promotion in 1992, but were soon relegated back to Division 2 the following season.

Here they remained until 2011, when they won the Division 1 (renamed in 2008), achieving promotion to the Premier Division where they remain. This came after a 2005 merger with Lytham St.Anne’s FC and a 2008 merger with Squires Gate Juniors. Upon the latter, the club changed its name to the current one, after approval from Blackpool FC.

After a few seasons of solid mid-table finishes, this season has seen the club stave off relegation, finishing just above the drop zone in 18th place.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Getting Underway

Getting Underway

So, with both clubs lying in the lower reaches of the table, though with a fair gap in points, the game was all about pride. West, whose manager, Andy Nelson, is handing over the reigns at the end of the current season, began the game on the front foot, though it was a tight opening half-hour or so. However the deadlock was broken just before the 30 minutes mark, when Dave Short was released before unleashing a vicious drive into the roof of the net from 20+ yards. A cracking finish.

Dan and myself went on a lap of the ground, past the ever more drunken BFC contingent who were dishing out some “banter” to the West GK, but there was little to shout about for either side, whose efforts were being lessened by the conditions, somewhat. It remained 1-0 at the break, and with the food already eaten, it was a simple time to warm up!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

It wasn’t long, though, until everyone was back outside to brave the cold, with West Didsbury still looking the better of the sides, and the more likely to score the next goal, which they did, from the spot. A rather brainless tackle in the area, with no danger looming, gifted the visitors the chance to double their lead. Scott Mason stepped up and confidently fired past the GK, Adam Caunce. 0-2, and it looked over bar the shouting, if the previous hour was anything to go by.

In goes the pen...

In goes the pen…

Far touchline stand

Far touchline stand

Oh dear....

Oh dear….

Blackpool, though, were handed a lifeline with 10 minutes remaining, when an optimistic effort from Ben Duffield looped up off a West player’s boot and looped over the stranded Paul Hughes and into the net. The goal seemed to excite the Blackpool FC fans, and one, not-so-athletic fan decided to unleash his upper body for all to see and run on the pitch. It wasn’t a great sight!
At 2-1 it was game on, it seemed. Well it was, but only for 7 minutes. Sub Kieran Brocklehurst tapped in at the back post to seal a last day win for the visitors.

So, after a short wait in the clubhouse, which included free cake(!!!) it was off to the coach after being wished a safe journey and all. I have to say that the people at Squires Gate were very hospitable, but those at AFC are just as much a friendly and welcoming lot. A true credit to those involved.

Dan needs AA

Dan needs AA

The coach journey home (which was FREE I hasten to add!) involved a keg of Krombacher, a stop off in the Bowling Green back at Chorlton, before heading back into Urmston where we watched the end of the cricket in a pub. Then it was onto a curry, though this didn’t go all that well, and it was off home, where I bid a goodnight to Dan after a long, eventful and slightly messy day. This is becoming the norm and I’m getting worried…..

My AFC Blackpool M.o.M.- Adam Caunce
My West Didsbury & Chorlton M.o.M.- Matt Eckersley

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RATINGS:

Game: 7- Decent enough, especially in the conditions.

Ground: 7- Nice ground, like the old-style of it.

Food: 7- Pretty decent, well worth the price

Programme: 4- Light on content, but at least there was one! Especially with my record of late!

Fans: 6- Friendly, and the Blackpool lot added humour with the hardly athletic pitch invasion!

Value For Money: 10- There and back for free, how can it not be top marks, and a good day in full.