Manchopper in….Crewe (Crewe F.C.)

Result: Crewe 1-3 Eagle Sports (Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: Cumberland Arena (Saturday 20th April 2019, 3pm)

Att: 25 (approx.)

The second of the three game days of Easter saw me heading to the town of Crewe and the Cumberland Arena for the second time this season, although this would only be the first successful venture of the dual goes I’d attempted. I awoke surprisingly fresh after the previous day’s exploits at Field Mill and the surrounding area however I was quite thankful, for the couple of extra hours of rest during the morning to get everything together for the short hop through the Cheshire countryside.

After stopping at pretty much each an every stop on the slow route to Crewe, I finally arrived at a little before midday and after completing the fifteen minute or so walk from the station, arrived into the town centre which the Cumberland Arena is pretty much right next door to. After finding the Duke of Bridgwater closed, I continued further into town and eventually came across the decent looking Albert’s Corner, whilst trying to located where the much lauded Hops Belgian Bar was over a pint of Moretti (£3.70).

Albert’s Corner

Old church across from….

….Hops!

I eventually located it a short walk back on myself just across the way from a ruined, yet quite intact, church which provided something of a village feel to the outskirts of the centre. The cottage like buildings within what the Hops bar is located also give off this impression and, once inside, I opted to try the Sparta lager (£3.40) which was very decent and a nice pint to enjoy out front in the balmy Cheshire sunshine. Soon enough, though, it was time to head back into the hustle and bustle of the centre proper.

Following on from a swift visit to the war memorial, I headed for the nearby trio of pubs – namely the Cheese Court, Crown and Grand Central. They were all solid, if unspectacular affairs, with the former two being traditional style boozers, whilst the latter was more widespread inside and had one of the stranger “beer terraces” I’ve been on, with it pretty much just being an iron walkway. A pint in each, Amstel & Coors (both £2.50) and Dark Fruits (£2.70) as the refresher were supped away, before it was time I made my way a little more towards the ground. But not before a couple more stops, of course!

Crewe town centre

Cheese Court. Football & beer – a good duo

Crown

A short walk away from the centre is the duo of the Borough Arms and King’s Arms, whereupon I opted to maintain my now cider-related focus by having a Thatcher’s (£3.70) in the former whilst having a bit of a chat with a local propping up the bar here, prior to crossing the road to the King’s for a second Dark Fruits of the day, this one setting me back £2.75. Not too shabby, all in all!

On my way to the ground via the roads opposite, I came upon Tom’s Tap hidden somewhat within an unassuming industrial estate. Inside I came upon a small, narrow bar area and a few taps on. With time at something of a premium and actually being somewhat sensible for a rare moment, I opted to just have a half of the Mango Cider (£2.10) out front in the beer “garden” before finally completing my walk to the Arena, where I paid in my £2 entry and was duly allowed entry.

Grand Central

Borough Arms

King’s Arms

Sadly, the programmes here were long gone and I made do with a couple of pics of the team sheets that were kindly offered and, even though I’m not that anal in that respect, I felt it rude to say no. The Cumberland Arena is little more than an athletics track, though does have a smart pavilion building with food and drink on offer. The area within the track is roped off, meaning you are pitch side rather than miles away, which is always a bonus. Not much more to say, so here’s the history of Crewe’s ‘other’ club….

History Lesson:

Crewe Football Club was founded in 1998 and immediately joined the Mid-Cheshire League, where they have spent  their entire existence to date. Their second season saw the club achieve promotion as Division 2 runners-up to the Mid-Cheshire League’s Division 1 and remained there until 2005 when they were relegated after finishing up bottom. A return to the top division would have to wait until 2012 when Crewe again finished as Division 2 runners-up and they have since gone on to stay in the division through its name change to the Cheshire League Premier Division in 2014, though they have faded a little over the past two seasons after a strong start to their return in the previous couple of campaigns – the 2014-’15 season seeing Crewe record their best finish of 4th.

Arriving at the Cumberland Arena

Last time out they finished up in 13th position out of 16 and this season has been a story of two-halves, an underwhelming start was rectified around the turn of the year and they look to have a decent shot at equalling that best finish of 4th place, behind the runaway title rivals Pilkington, Alty Reserves and opponents today, and rivals for 3rd place on the day, Eagle Sports.

The game got underway in the balmy temperatures us in Crewe were being treated to and it quickly looked to be set to be an open contest with both sides looking to gain the points, the visitors knowing a win would secure third-place, whilst Crewe had to win to keep in the race for the position. Indeed it took only a few minutes for the deadlock to be broken and it was the visitors who grabbed the opening goal as Chris Quirk fired in. Quirk then nodded just wide shortly afterwards and it looked like the hosts had ended the season a little early.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Crewe did grow into the game slowly and after both sides had seen sights of goal blocked off by each’s respective defence, Eagle ‘keeper Liam Marlow had to be sharp to keep out an effort by (I think) Crewe’s unreal form man, and captain, Nathan Southern. Eagle would again go close through dangerman Quirk who beat the offside trap before firing over the bar and they were made to pay for this miss as skipper Southern fed Nathan Tickle and the latter bent an effort off the post and beyond Marlow to level up the scores.

That was pretty much that for action during the first half and, at the break, I ventured inside the pavilion building to have a peruse, having seen that there was some refreshments on the go during my pre-match visit. Indeed I soon found that there was some hot food on which was a welcome sight and I opted for a hot-dog (£1) thanks to it being pointed out by a board outside. Decent enough and thanks to the leagues at this level not being fond of lengthy half-times, we were soon back underway.

Inside the pavilion

The second half was largely dominated by the visitors and it began strongly for them as Quirk latched onto a long ball and managed to knock the ball beyond the ‘keeper and into the net to ensure the lead was Eagle’s once again. Despite being on top, though, there wasn’t a glut of action in the second period and if it had been a mid-winter’s game, it would likely have been quite a struggle to keep somewhat attentive to the action!

Match Action

Match Action

However there was a chance as the half wore on, but again the effort on the home goal went awry and over the bar from a good position, but Eagle would be given the golden chance to all-but secure the points as a clear trip in the area was duly penalised with a point to the spot by the man-in-the-middle and skipper Adam Coleman duly stepped up to confidently fire home and secure the win and third-place for his side. Full-time came around shortly afterwards without any further real action of note and the score remained as 3-1 Eagle.

Coleman converts from the spot

The Rising Sun

Vics represented!

Post-match I headed off to the Rising Sun (which seems to serve as the unofficial Crewe F.C. clubhouse) for a pint of Stella (£3.50~) and, I was told, fish and chips would be around too. Sadly the latter would end up coming a bit too late for me and I left the Eagle lads to finish up their hospitality and returned back to the station – though I did end up accidentally boarding the stopper service in my haste to jump on a train bound for Manchester, though I was able to rectify this via a change at Wilmslow onto an express service to get me home earlier and without any further issue, thankfully!

As for the day as a whole, it had been a surprisingly decent one with the town centre of Crewe being somewhat a more pleasant experience overall than the parts around Gresty Road in my opinion. The weather allied with a decent game was an added bonus and the hot dog at the ground was fine as well. Onto Monday and I finally complete a league with a second visit to Stoke in as many weeks. Scenic….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 4

Food: 5

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Malpas

 

Result: Malpas 4-0 Eagle Sports (Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: The Oxhays, Malpas Sports Club (Saturday 20th May 2018, 3pm)

Att: 35~

Yes, they’re still playing! After the terrible weather we’ve seen strike the footballing calendar all season long, there haven’t been many leagues struck harder than the Cheshire League. Indeed, they won’t have finished up until the 30th May, leaving players to have 2-3 weeks, tops, off over the summer before reporting back for pre-season. I suspect there may be a few latecomers and, to be honest, you couldn’t blame them. Anyway, to be fair to the teams in the league, there haven’t been too many of the much-maligned walkovers despite the late finish to the season and, as a result, I saw the opportunity to tick off one of the more outlying outposts of the league, Malpas FC’s Oxhays ground, out towards the Welsh borderlands. It did once have a station, but that unhelpful bastard Dr. Richard Beeching put paid to that. Dick.

The weather was bloody good yet again as we rolled into the latter part of May and so I set off over to Warrington where I’d catch the connection down to Chester, before completing the journey out to the village by bus. The trip to Chester went smoothly, and I arrived at just after 11am. With half-an-hour in hand, I paid a visit to my usual Chester drinking hole the Town Crier, which stands opposite the station and was where the bus would leave from outside of. With a pint of Strongbow in hand (cider always seems better on a warm, sunny day doesn’t it?), I awaited its arrival.

Eventually the #41 service pulled in and, after paying a tick over £5 for a return ticket, I was off en route through the city centre’s narrow streets before heading out through the picturesque countryside and small villages of the southern end of the county, heading out towards its border with Shropshire. After passing through the likes of Tattenhall and Christleton (known to me via my soon to be rekindled summer cricket tours), the bus eventually dropped me in the centre of Malpas at just after 12.30pm. When I say the centre, I basically mean the road that goes through it. Malpas is only a small, quaint little village with the sort of shops and other buildings you’d expect, along with the war memorial cross, seen widely in these sorts of places. There was also a nice church and an old fire station that had been converted into a café-bar. No prizes for guessing where I was off to first!

Malpas (“Bad Passage” in Old French) Facts

Malpas

Fire Station bar

Malpas is a small town on the Shropshire/Wales border likely dating from the Mercian era around the 10th century, though does host the old Roman Road to Whitchurch which passes through it. Later, it was mentioned under the name of Depenbech in the Norman “Domesday Book” of 1086 as belonging to Robert Fitzhugh, Baron of Malpas, an ancestor of the Cholmondeley family who still live in the castle that carries their family name. Malpas also once had its own castle, the remnants of which lie in the grounds of the 14th-century St. Oswald’s Church, though there is little obvious to the eye to suggest it existed remaining.

The market town still maintains the medieval layout it had when it received its market charter and was a part of Wales during the late 13th century and has thus avoided major redevelopment. It was also a fairly important place during the Tudor & Stuart eras, with Sir William Brereton (chamberlain of Chester & groom to Henry VIII) beheaded upon a suspected affair with Anne Boleyn (though it’s more likely to have been politically motivated). A second Sir William would then become a key figure in the defeat of the Royalist Irish reinforcements during the Civil War. The local wartime importance continued into the more present times, when the exiled Czech army was encamped in the nearby Cholmondeley Park.

Indeed, first up was the fire station bar, where I met a rather large dog on the way in before ordering a bottle of Amber Ale from Wrexham’s Magic Brewery, which came in at £4.25. With much in the way of time in hand, I remained here for a good 40 minutes or so, whilst watching the end of the “Royal Wedding”, with the bar itself getting into the spirit of things by decking out in some bunting, faces of Princes behind the bar and one of the staff wearing a crown. Another nice couple of touches were the old bucket and helmet located upon the display cabinet behind the bar, harking back to the building’s former life, of course!

Eventually finishing up in here and with the pomp and ceremony at Windsor beginning to wind down, I headed onwards down the road and back towards the cross where, to my horror, I found one of only two remaining pubs in the town shrouded in scaffolding. It couldn’t be shut, not with an hour and a half to kick-off! Luckily, it hadn’t gone the way of the old Red Lion opposite and it was well and truly open for business. A nice pint of Hop House 13 (£3.85)went down nicely, though I think it may be the first time I’ve sat alongside a pub sign indoors!

Polishing that off, it was off up the road and a little closer to the ground. On the way there you find the Vaults, a pub opposite, but below, the village church. Inside I found an unexpected display of football shirts & scarves decorating the rear part of the hostelry, whilst also being slightly in awe of the cabinet displaying a collection of model F1 cars and other memorabilia, including a Kimi Räikkönen one that I was very jealous of. Indeed, I had brief thought of asking how much it’d take to prize it away, but decided against it. I also made acquaintance with the large black dog from before again too, who came over for a couple of strokes and what have you, before leaving for the far more attractive proposition of treats….

Malpas High Street

In the Crown. A fitting stop!

The Vaults’ collections

After finishing my pint of Symonds Cider (£3.50) whilst listening to a soundtrack full of Michael Jackson’s many hits, I set off towards the ground, making a quick detour off up the steps and through the churchyard, just to be nosey more than anything. After passing by a few quaint, old cottages and a field full of horses, I arrived at the gates of the Malpas Sports Club, where the Oxhays ground lies at the rear beyond the cricket pitch which is located immediately outside of the clubhouse/pavilion building. Having spotted a guy near what seemed to be a pay-box, I asked if he was taking for the match, which he was and was given a programme for “free” in return for £3 (effectively £2 in and £1 for the paper). A nice issue and it’s always a pleasant surprise at Cheshire League level to pick one up. From there, I popped into the clubhouse for a pint of Coors (£3.75) to watch some cricket and waste away the remaining time before kick-off, as the footballers warmed up away in the distance.

Church

More quaint things

Pre-match cricket action!

The Oxhays is a in a pleasant setting, alongside fields that run off from the back of the club’s grounds and has view extending out over to the England/Wales border in the distance. It hosts no hard standing, and is only a roped off pitch but, interestingly, does have a decently sized seating stand just to the right of half-way on the near side as you enter. A small grass mound is located off to the side of that, further towards the far end, and there is a slightly raised grassy area off on the far side too. One I’d recommend to leave for a day like today as it looks resplendent in the sun, and with cricket in full flow next door. That’s the Oxhays at Malpas Sports Club then and this is the story of Malpas F.C….

History Lesson:

Malpas Football Club was founded in 1901, but I can’t find anything out about the club prior to them joining the Mid-Cheshire League in 1985. They started off comfortably enough, finishing in mid-table for the first two seasons of their stay here, before the league expanded to become a two-division competition and Malpas were placed in Division 1. Here they began to struggle and finished second bottom twice with the latter occasion, in 1991, seeing them relegated to Division 2.

The club would spend the next two seasons in the Second Division before being crown as 1992-’93 champions and returning to the top division. However, they again struggled upon promotion and finished 11th, 15th, 15th and 16th out of the 16 First Division teams, with the last-placed finished resulting in a second relegation in 1997. This began a long spell in the second level of the Mid-Cheshire League which saw them remain there right through to 2007 and the league’s dropping of the “Mid” part of the name, becoming simply the Cheshire League. By that time, Malpas were again really struggling and had finished second-bottom of the last two-seasons, despite having a brief upturn in form in the early part of the millennium which saw them record a 4th and 3rd place finish in consecutive seasons; 2001-’02 and ’02-’03 respectively.

Malpas Sports Club

Memorabilia

When the Cheshire League split into three divisions in 2014 (consisting of the Premier Division, League 1 and League 2), Malpas were placed in League 1 having finished 4th at the end of the previous season, a distinct improvement on recent campaigns. 2014-’15 saw them immediately promoted from the League 1 as runners-up and they duly took their place in the Premier Division, where they remain to this day. Having finished towards the wrong end of the 16-strong division for their first two years – finishing 12th and 13th, they are looking at their highest ever league finish, with 3rd looking likely, but the runners-up spot looking more than a possibility also.

After having a chat with the Eagle player-manager, Rob, in the loos (the first time I think that’s ever happened to me) where I was told to expect them to have a bit of a struggle, the players made their way around the boundary of the cricket field and under the rope surrounding the football pitch. After engaging in the usual pleasantries and observing a minute’s silence for the late manager of Cheshire League side Egerton FC, the ex-Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers and former England international defender JLloyd Samuel, who was tragically killed in a road accident a couple of days earlier.

With a somewhat sobering atmosphere still hanging over the Oxhays despite the sun beating down, the game got underway, with second-place chasing Malpas quickly hitting their stride against the under-strength visitors. Indeed, they were two-up within the first ten minutes, the first coming courtesy of the #9, skipper Alex Hughes, who took full advantage of some poor defending to fire in, despite the ‘keeper getting a fair bit on it. The second arrived following another piece of dubious defending, which saw an awful mix-up seized upon by Hughes and he lifted the ball over the ‘keeper nicely to give the hosts a comfortable early advantage.

Match Action

Match Action

Leaving my early spot on the pitch-side mound and heading off on a lap of the ground, I would only witness further domination by the strong Malpas outfit. Hughes went close again after the referee awarded a good advantage following a likely foul and this gave the striker a great chance to grab his second of the game but, on this occasion, he scuffed wastefully wide. This seemed to stir the Eagle side into life somewhat and they began to come into the game around the 20 minute mark and saw two quick-fire chances go begging. Firstly, a low ball in found player-manager Hope whose effort crawled wide of the mark, before a good ball from the left-wing found the Eagle #9 who met it pretty well but saw his header end up also going wayward.

Penalty is converted by Parry

Match Action

The visitors were punished for these missed chances to get back into the game not long before the break when the Eagle ‘keeper brought down the Malpas attacker and the penalty was duly awarded with little in the way of complaints coming the referee’s way. The spot-kick was confidently dispatched by Ben Parry to send the sides in at the break with the hosts looking comfortable and odds-on to take another three points.

As I was in the stand during the break, I was approached by a guy who asked if I was ‘at the East Manchester game a couple of years (ago)’. How he saw me, never mind remembered me from that game, given the horrendous weather endured there which saw the all-weather pitch begin to get waterlogged, was beyond me! Anyway, after agreeing that our respective soakings would never be forgotten, I spoke to Mark for the remainder of the break and the beginning of the second half too, which duly saw Malpas continue to dominate the game against their youthful-looking opponents.

The ever-dangerous Hughes beat a challenge and forced the Eagle ‘keeper into a stop early on in the half, before his strike-partner, wearing the #10 shirt, chipped narrowly over the bar. However, the two would link up for the fourth goal shortly afterwards, when the latter played in the former to finish nicely and complete his hat-trick (he’s since made it four hat-tricks in three games) after a swift counter-attack saw the visiting defence overwhelmed. From there, though, the game would settle down somewhat and chances would begin to dry up somewhat. I reckoned I should leave Mark in peace for a while(!) and went over to the far side to say a quick “Hello” to Mark and Colin on the Eagle bench before continuing on around towards the cricket pitch and the exit.

Match Action

Benches watch on intently

‘Keeper keeps his clean sheet intact

Malpas almost netted a fifth late on, which brought a decent stop out of the visiting ‘keeper “Aaron” (I deduced that from the shouts afterwards) Lee, before Eagle almost grabbed a consolation late-on in the play, when the under-worked home ‘keeper was alert enough to pull off a pair of decent late stops, the latter denying the #9 again from close range following a corner, to preserve his and his side’s clean-sheet and put the cherry on top of a fine performance from the hosts. The full-time whistle blew shortly afterwards, to put an end to a testing day for Eagle.

As I was heading back towards Malpas and trying to figure out the best place to spend the next hour or so before the bus home, a “beep” from behind caused me to stop. It turned out to be Mark who offered to drop me at a station on the way back, which ended up being as far as Wilmslow, with it being not far from his home. This duly made things a hell of a lot easier, though provided the unfortunate opportunity to hear Chelsea score their eventual winner in the FA Cup Final. Such is life!

Mark dropped me right outside the station and refused to take any money for his troubles and I can only thank him for doing so (so if you do by chance find and read this; Cheers!), though I then messed up by overhearing a train to Piccadilly was due in as I arrived and so jumped on without taking a minute to think of where it was going. It only went via the Airport with a 15 minute stop there, whilst the trains I looked at getting were all but direct back to the city. Damn.

Back in Manchester (Doll not pictured!).

Upon arriving into the Airport station, I then found I had a couple of connections I could catch to swiftly get back. Unfortunately, one pulled out just as I arrived and the other seemed to be out of reach, with the bridge over only seeming to be accessible via a one-way escalator system. With signage proving less than helpful in my quest, I soon got lost and ended up returning, tail between legs, to the train I’d just got off. What. An. Arse. Anyway, I eventually got back to Piccadilly, though did miss my connection in the end and thus was left with an hour to wait and this obviously meant a call into the Piccadilly Tap was called for. The highlight of this little sojourn? The sight of a PCSO being made to have a picture with a naked doll by a hen party. I shared a look with a punter opposite and the doorman too. No ideas were offered up!

So there ends yet another trip and the season is FINALLY almost at it a close. Two weeks remain, with a trip to North Wales up next, followed by my first ever trip down to Wembley the following year and a possible bonus game that same weekend too. As for this trip, well, Malpas is a delight. A really nice little place that is almost a throwback in time to a point. The pubs are decent, the village is pretty, the only real issue is the transport in getting there isn’t the best if you don’t drive. But it’s not all that bad, I guess. The game was a little boring on account of it not being too competitive for long periods, the ground was fairly basic (unsurprisingly), though a stand and a programme is more than many have for the level. The weather just topped the whole trip off, making it all the more enjoyable. Anyway, that’s that for this venture and a trip to the seaside is on the horizon….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Food: N/A (cold snacks in clubhouse/pavilion)

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Denton

Result: Denton Town 3-3 Eagle Sports (Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: Whittles Park (Monday 7th May 2018, 3pm)

Att: 28 (hc)

After a pair of costly and longer-range trips over the previous two days of the Bank Holiday weekend, I was looking for somewhere a little cheaper and closer to home to round off the three days of football. As such, when I came across the fact that Denton Town were welcoming Eagle Sports to their Whittles Park home on the Monday afternoon, the decision was made all the more easy. So on a fairly sweltering late morning, I boarded a bus into Manchester, before catching the connecting service from Piccadilly Gardens over towards Denton, not far from Hyde, in the Eastern side of the city.

Dan would be joining me also, though he would be arriving slightly later than me. This was probably for the best too from his point of view, as I made the fatal error of sitting at the front of the bus there, thus baking in the ever-rising temperatures and ending up something resembling a melting ice-lolly come my eventual arrival into the centre of Denton after a 35 minute sauna session. Luckily, I had a pair of pubs standing immediately opposite, the first of which, the large George Fitzpatrick, had bottles of the fine Hooper’s alcoholic Dandelion & Burdock in chilled bottles. With ice on it, it was the perfect tonic. Don’t have tonic with it though, I stress.

The famous Denton Rock

Denton

First two stops (right)

With the day starting off on a cheap note (the travel and first drink coming in at around £7.30 combined), Dan joined me in here before we headed across the way shortly after his arrival and into the very traditional Red Lion. In here, I found the lesser-spotted Boddington’s on offer and, being not too far from the former Boddy’s brewery, decided I ought to indulge in the nectar. At just £2.10 for a pint, it was a bloody bargain!

From here, we caught the bus from outside the pub and travelled a few stops down the road to the end of Prince Edward Avenue, the road to take to reach Whittles Park. The ground is signposted off of the main road too, so there’s little chance of getting lost, as long as you follow the road. After a short walk of around ten minutes or so, we arrived at the gates of the ground and upon heading in for no charge (free entry, not a blag), we took up a spot in the ground’s “stand”. Now, you may have noticed I’ve put stand there in quotes. That, dear reader, is because the “stand” is more a few tree stumps in a concentrated area! Alongside is the patioed, smart clubhouse that was re-constructed a few years ago, shortly after my first visit here. It’s certainly brighter and more airy than its predecessor, and is adorned by pictures, trophies and other paraphernalia from the club’s almost 100-year history.

En route

Arriving at the ground

Bar a little bit of paving to either side of the clubhouse area, the remainder of the ground is surrounded by grassy areas only, meaning it’s probably best to make sure to visit on a day like today, rather than a soggy one, though most of the ground isn’t exactly too easily accessible, with long grass towards and behind the far end being almost impassable. The far side isn’t much more pruned either, though is something of an improvement. The near end doesn’t really exist and backs onto a fence almost immediately after the goal, with a sharp dip down into a field behind giving views down the hill towards the northern end of Hyde and Dukinfield. The pitch is barred off on both sides, with the far end open and the other, as said earlier, just a fence. So, that’s Denton Town’s Whittles Park in a nutshell, and here’s a bit of back-story to the club….

History Lesson:

Denton Town Football Club was founded in 1920 as Bradford Parish F.C. by the rector of Christ Church in the Bradford area of Greater Manchester, close to where Manchester City now play, with some of the Bradford Colliery seams now covered by the City of Manchester Stadium itself. During their inaugural season, the club competed in the Manchester YMCA league and with an average age of just 17, became League and League Cup winners in their first year, whilst playing at the David Lewis Recreation Ground also known as, far more interestingly, Donkey Common.

The following year saw the club join the Openshaw & District League and went undefeated during the league season, taking the title whilst also lifting the league’s League Cup, securing a second double in both of their first two seasons, no mean feat. They then went on to join the Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur Football League in 1922 and entered the lower ‘A’ (later 2nd) Division. Again, the club enjoyed immediate success, winning their divisional title whilst also taking an astonishing 17 coachloads of (apparently around 800)supporters to Urmston for the league’s Rhodes Cup Final, where they also defeated West Didsbury, securing another double for the club.

Wall of history

The following season saw the club in the L&C First Division, which they immediately won and defended their Rhodes Cup title successfully, meaning yet another double, keeping up their record of winning one in every season of their existence. They soon lost this record though and after winning the Hellawell Shield & Clayton Charity Competition Cup in 1926, would be made to wait until 1933 for their (sort of) next silverware, being joint winners of the Manchester & Salford Medical Charities Cup, but really until 1937, with that coming in the form of the Wray Cup and this was their first honour at their new, enclosed, Ashton Moss Athletic Ground. 1938 saw the doubles return, with the club lifting their second L&C Division 1 title whilst also achieving their third Rhodes Cup win. These would be their final successes before the outbreak of WWII.

The club would soon be forced to leave their new home due to bomb damage come the end of the war and move into the Melland Playing Fields in Gorton. However, they still won the title in both of the first two seasons post-war and 1950 saw another Rhodes Cup won with 1953 seeing a Cup double in the form of the Wray Cup returning for a third time whilst Bradford Parish also won the prestigious Lancashire Amateur Cup at Accrington Stanley’s Peel Park, overcoming Morecambe GSOB by 3-1. 1954 saw them defend the Wray Cup and a hat-trick of these was secured the next season. 1956 saw silverware continue to arrive at the club, in the form of their fifth L&C league title and also their first S.E. Wooley Aggregate Trophy success. This latter trophy was won for a second time in 1959 and the following 1959-’60 season rounded off the decade as it had been all the way through, with a sixth L&C Championship being won.

Clubhouse

The Sixties began well, with 1961 seeing their seventh (but what would turn out to be penultimate) Lancs & Cheshire title being won, whilst the Whitehead Cup was won for a second, but final, time. The next season saw the Wray Cup & Rhodes Cup again be lifted by Parish, with the decade seeing two more of the latter (1965 & ’66) and one of the former (1967) arrive before a spell without success would finally be experienced.

Only a single Rhodes Cup (1982), S.E. Woolam Aggregate Trophy (1982) & Wray Cup (1991) would be won in the years leading up to Bradford Parish’s name change to Denton Town F.C. in 1994 and the newly named club moved to their current Whittles Park home the following year. Their first silverware at the new ground arrived immediately, the end of that ’95-’96 season saw the ninth Rhodes Cup be won, but that would be it for a further decade, until 2006 saw the S.E. Woolam Trophy lifted for a fifth time and the Whitehead Cup a third. The next campaign saw the double wins return, with another undefeated league season seeing them lift their eight and last Lancs & Cheshire League title whilst also attaining a tenth Rhodes Cup.

Outdated honours list

After winning yet another Wray Cup in 2008, Denton signed off from the Lancashire and Cheshire League and joined the Cheshire League, playing in the Division 2 after a successful application. Here, Town finished 12th in their first season, before rocketing up to 3rd in 2010 prior to lifting the 2011 title and achieving promotion to Division 1. They have remained here ever since, through its name change to the Premier Division in 2014 and despite struggling for the majority of their spell there (finishing third-bottom in 2014 & ’15 & second-bottom in 2016), things again took an upturn last year, as they finished 3rd. Alas, there was to be no repeat of their Division 2 title win afterwards, the club guaranteed to finish bottom come the end of the season, though restructuring of the pyramid will likely see them retain their spot in the top division.

The game got underway and after just three minutes or so we had our first goal and it was the bottom side, the hosts, who took the lead with a barnstorming strike from 25 yards by Godfred Amankwaa flying into the top corner past the helpless Eagle ‘keeper who could do nothing about it and, indeed, didn’t even attempt to. One-nil to Denton and it looked like that goal-fest I’ve been waiting on for quite a while could finally be on the cards!

It looked to be the case even more so soon after when Eagle grabbed themselves an equaliser. A ball through the defence found its way to Ged McAllister and the striker coolly slotted the ball beyond the ‘keeper and into the net. One-a-piece in around ten minutes and it was game on once more and both sides continued to trade chances, with Denton seeing a big rebound head towards the Eagle goal, which was eventually required to be cleared off the line, with the visitors responding with a low ball across goal that just evaded McAllister once again.

Match Action from the “stand”

Match Action

Match Action

But it was Denton who would begin to gain control of the game from around the 20 minute mark, and Amankwaa would net his second goal of the game mid-way through the half from right out on the side of the box, his low drive somehow squirming its way through the Eagle ‘keeper and into the far corner. They looked to have all but sewn the game up shortly before half-time, when a long-ball over the top, allied with some slack defending, allowed Antonio Din Chin to steal in at the back-post and nod the ball over the line. Three-one going in at the break and for Dan and I, it was off to the bar! It was….”smashing”.

Getting a Magners each for just £4, we awaited the second half in the comfort of the very smart Geoff Gable Lounge, whilst also grabbing a couple of the cardboard leaflets that were put out on the tables as a sort of programme. Sadly, pies were a no-go today as, apparently, I was told by the guy who seemed to be doing pretty much every job under the sun (no pun intended) today, “It’s the first time he hasn’t put any in all season” as we looked at an empty pie oven forlornly warming air. Ah well, the football was soon getting started up once more.

It was Denton who again started the stronger of the sides after the break and almost made it four when a free-kick took an awkward bounce in front of the visiting gloveman, who recovered just enough to block the ball with his legs and it was eventually cleared by his defenders. This proved a crucial moment too as, around half-way through the second period, the ever-threatening McAllister found himself one-on-one after latching onto a long ball forward and he again showed confidence to lift the ball over the advancing Town number one to reduce the arrears to a single goal once again.

Shorts action

Match Action

Match Action

Ryan Bishop then forced a decent stop out of the home ‘keeper with a rocket of a shot from all of 30 yards, the rebound just evading the hat-trick seeking McAllister, and Eagle now found themselves well and truly on the front-foot and almost levelled in pretty cheeky circumstances, knocking a quick-free kick towards goal with the ‘keeper recovering in the nick of time to control the ball on the line before it crossed.

In between the few water breaks here and there, the Sankey-based visitors were now all over their hosts and thought they had levelled in stoppage time, when a long-ball forward saw McAllister and the ‘keeper jump for the ball together, the ball evading both and ending up in the net, but the referee adjudged that the striker had jumped into his opponent rather than against him, and awarded a free-kick to Denton.

However, he then went from zero-to-hero in the eyes of the Eagle team when a trip was committed in the area and the referee had little option to point to the spot and award the penalty. Of course, it was McAllister who would be stepping up with the chance to complete his hat-trick and the Eagle comeback to secure an away point with what would be the last meaningful kick of the game. He did just that, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way and unerringly finding the bottom right-hand corner to earn his side a share of the spoils, much to the chagrin of the hosts after the whistle, who felt hard done by, apparently due to previous happenings going against them too it seemed. Be that as it may, they couldn’t have many complaints with the awarding of today’s penalty and that was that. 3-3, full-time.

McAllister completes his hat-trick

A great game and Eagle player-manager Rob Hope invited us pair of hangers-on to the Fletcher’s Arms for a post-match pint, though this one would be definitely more responsible than other occasions….

Anyway, after being given some directions by a couple of locals, Dan and I headed off towards the pub, though came across Cock first. No, I mean the Cock Inn, deary me. Anyway, a quick pint of Moretti (£3.30) was had in here, before abuse was aimed at me specifically out a red/burgundy Jaguar car just on the corner by a few players from a football team from somewhere. Good job I couldn’t work out who they were….!

Colin (Rob’s Dad and Chairman, Treasurer and groundsman at Eagle) soon dropped the rapscallions off at the Fletcher’s before kindly returning for us and taking us down there, saving a good ten minute walk. After enjoying a pint of Beck’s (by far the dearest of the day at £4.10) in the carvery-style pub’s beer garden with a few of the lads, where I learnt a number of the team weren’t available having been the worse for wear after a day at the Welsh Cup Final the previous afternoon (plus a few that played were too….Robbo?), it was time to return back towards Denton town centre and its many watering holes. Helped out by a seemingly non-timetabled bus turning up on our walk there, we headed up to the pairing of pubs that came along first, the Carter’s Arms and the Chapel House. The former didn’t look any great shakes and so to the larger, Edwardian-style Chapel House it was, where a pint of Holt’s Crystal Lager came in at the strangely priced £2.73. Why always Holt’s?!

Cock Hotel

Fletcher’s Arms

Chapel House

From there, it was a short walk down the road to the next one up, the Toll Point. This was a nice enough little pub too and a quick pint of Dark Fruits (£2.70) was had in here before a final pint was had in the Gardener’s Arms back opposite the bus stop. In here, I had the horror of finding that I’d pretty much exhausted my cash and not really wanting to dip into using my card asked what I could get for about £2.50. “Foster’s” was the answer. I went cold. But, beer is beer and I went for it anyway. It wasn’t too bad either, though the fact it was my eighth beverage of the day may have helped matters somewhat!

Toll Point

Gardener’s Arms from across the square

The bus back into Manchester was easily taken before a trip back home for a couple more was had to round off the day in style. So, what of Denton? Well, the ground is tidy enough (if you ignore the overgrown grass at the far end) and the town is bloody cheap when it comes to the (in Father Jack voice) DRINK! The game had been a fun one and the ground being on the flight path to Manchester Airport always appeals to my geeky side too. Can’t complain about the weather either! So, that rounds off the early May Bank Holiday weekend, and it’s onto next week for another pair of games, which will likely see me at a title-deciding game (or something alike) somewhere, before heading down to the “Smoke” for the final time this season and to Selhurst Park. Got to get there before the bane of my life that is ground “improvements” begin….

RATINGS:

Game: 9

Ground: 5

Food: N/A (chocs and the like were on, pies usually too)

Programme: 2 (Not really one, just a basic history card, free)

Value For Money: 10

 

 

Manchopper in….Padgate (Bennett’s Recreation Centre)

Result: Greenalls Padgate St. Oswald’s Reserves 3-2 Eagle Sports Reserves (Cheshire League Reserve Division 1)

Venue: Bennett’s Recreation Centre (Thursday 13th April 2017, 6.30pm)

Att: 22 (hc)

It’s very rare for me to delve into reserve exclusive football, and even more so to blog about it. But with Greenalls Padgate’s Reserve side having their own separate home to their first team (who play at the Tetley Walker ground about a mile away), then this was one that had to be done. Along with the silly thing I have of ticking off grounds I regularly see from the train.

So, having set off at just before 6pm, I arrived in Padgate at around a quarter past the hour and that, to me, meant time for a swift one in the nearby Stocks Hotel. The Stocks is a decent little place and is located nicely so you don’t have to be left on the desolate station platform. Anyway, a quick pint of Kronenbourg was had while a couple of guys were providing entertainment on the pool table.

I wasn’t too fussed about making kick-off, arriving at the ground about five minutes into the game. The Bennett’s Recreation Centre pitches sit toward the rear of the park they’re situated within and are around a five-minute walk from Padgate station. There are a pair of venues here, a fully railed off pitch and another non-railed pitch that does, however, feature a small concrete terrace. It was the fully railed off pitch being in use today and I arrived with the score-line remaining at 0-0. For history of GPSO, see the blog on their first team from a couple of seasons back here.

The Stocks

Arriving at the Bennett’s Rec

The second “ground”

As for the game itself, it was a pretty decent one. It looked as though Eagle had taken the lead (or at very least had a good shout of a pen) when a goal-bound header was blocked on the line, via various parts of the defender’s anatomy, including his hand. The referee, though, waved away all claims and the game continued on. As did I, dodging the odd pile of dog muck on the way to greet the Eagle bunch on the far side of the pitch.

But, it was the visitors who did take the lead shortly afterwards when, with around 25 minutes on the clock, tall striker Ben White was released down the inside right and drove an effort into the far side-netting, just within the post. However, the lead didn’t last too long, with Greenalls fighting back strongly and storming into the lead with two quick fire goals.

Firstly, a bit of hectic defending led to the ball not being cleared away and the Greenalls #9 unleashing a fine volley into the corner. This was doubled a couple of minutes later when, after some good play down the left, a low ball in saw the Eagle ‘keeper enter into no man’s land and #11 being on hand to slot in from about eight yards. The Reserve derby was heating up well and truly now.

Match Action

Match Action

One for the cameras!

Then came the flash point of the game when the referee decided to not blow the whistle at his lips despite being about to award what was a clear free-kick to the visitors. This allowed the hosts to break forward at speed again down the left and the same result occurred with the #11 arriving to knock the ball over the line at the back-post. Half-Time, 3-1 to Greenalls Padgate and the Eagle ‘keeper treated himself to a cigarette no longer than 20 seconds after the whistle had gone!

The second half was more of a turgid affair, with the grass cuttings on the pitch, combined with tiring legs, meaning the game was played at a slower pace. However, it was the visitors who largely dominated it and they got themselves back in the game when Adam Deakin forced the ball in at the second attempt. This spurred the visitors on to claim a pint and they did go close to a leveller on two occasions via a deflected drive going just wide and a fine save by the Padgate ‘keeper denying what looked a certain goalbound header.

Match Action

Match Action

I did miss the last ten minutes as I gambled on there being no further goals (I was right in my thought process) and got the early train back to spare myself an hour and a half wait post-match. So, nothing too exciting bar the game being a decent one, so it’s off to the big leagues on Friday with Huddersfield Town the venue.

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 3

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 8

 

Manchopper in….Penycae

Penycae FCEagle Sports

Result: Penycae 1-1 Eagle Sports (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: The Riverside, Afoneitha Road (Saturday 16th July 2016, 2.30pm)

Att: 40 (approx.)

As is now becoming something of a tradition, this being the third straight year following the prior Prestatyn & infamous Glan Conwy trips, I was off on an Eagle Sports pre-season venture to Wales. Having, surprisingly, been able to remember vast amounts of both (especially the Conwy one), it remained to be seen what this trip had in store.

Setting off towards Sankey, I arrived in the town at a little after 10am and walked over to Eagle’s Thornton Road ground from where the coach would be departing. After a bit of a delay, we eventually got underway and after the usual quiz-related shenanigans, all for the grand prize of Wispas, it wasn’t long until we were pulling up outside the dirt track which leads up to Penycae’s home.

Prices

Prices

Aiming to emulate?

Aiming to emulate?

Afoneitha Road is a small ground, housing only a couple of small stands, both of which sit side-by-side on the far side of the ground. One is an all seater stand and this is flanked by a covered standing area, both of which sit toward the end of the ground where you enter from. The rest of the ground is open, hard standing. The food area/changing rooms sit to the rear of the  ground, behind the clubhouse building. As for Penycae FC’s story, well…

History Lesson:

Penycae Football Club was founded in 1982 and the team currently play at The Riverside/Afoneitha Road within the small village of Pen-y-cae. They currently compete in the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area), where they achieved a 9th placed finish at the end of the last campaign, having spent the last four seasons playing in the Cymru Alliance. They won the league prior to them joining the Cymru Alliance in 2011, but dropped back into the WNL last season. The only previous time the club haven’t played in the WNL was a previous 4 year spell in the Cymru Alliance between 1994 & ’98.

They have been relatively successful during their short existence. Upon their founding in 1982, it took them two seasons to be promoted from the Welsh National League (WNL) Division Four, as runners-up. They immediately won Division Three, before being in the newly named Division One and achieving a third straight promotion, again as runners-up. It took them nine years to win the Premier Division (1994), and a further 17 years (2011) to repeat this feat.

The club have also won a few other cups in their history, namely a Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division Three Cup (1983-’84), a hat-trick of North-East Wales FA Horace Wynne Cups (1982-’83, ’83-’84, ’84-’85), the Dave Bennett Premier Division Cup (1993-’94) and the FAW Welsh Trophy in 2003-’04.

Welcome

Welcome

Tunnel/food bar

Tunnel/food bar

In the bar

In the bar

Upon arrival it was straight to the bar for a cider, while evading the odd, light shower which crossed the ground from time to time. It was a bit of a grind to waste away the best part of two hours while being subjected to, quite possibly, the most boring mainstream sport of all time (any guesses?). Anyway, somehow I managed to endure this tortuous test and as soon as the clock moved towards the 25 past 2 mark, I scarpered outside. Safety.

After a short delay, the two sides emerged from the rear building, which serves as both food bar and changing rooms, before making the, rather lengthy, walk to the pitch. Once all had arrived, we were underway with the visitors having slightly the better of the early openings. Despite there not being all that much in terms of cut-and-dry openings, it was an easily watchable game. The best of the chances fell to Eagle, with a weak back pass being seized upon, but the home ‘keeper making a fine one-on-one stop.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Eventually, though, the visitors did get what their first half play deserved, when Nathan Gallagher rifled home into the top corner after Penycae could only half-clear a set-piece. 0-1 at the break, during which I made a visit to the aforementioned food bar to get some much needed cuisine. £1.50 lighter, I was in possession of a decent sized hot-dog, which was pretty good, which made my battle with the tomato sauce bottle all the more worthwhile.

After taking up a position in the small covered terraced stand, the second half was underway, with the visitors bench vacated due to the discovery of a wasps nest within it. I’m sure this isn’t the sort of “sting in the tail” visiting sides will be looking for!…No? Ok.

The second half saw a much more attacking home side, with the hosts dominating the first 15 minutes of the period. The Penycae right back should have drawn his size level when left one-on-one but blazed well over, but they eventually go their goal when a deep cross evaded Eagle’s “Great Dane” Rasmus Neilsen and dropped over his head and into the bottom corner. They could have had the lead soon after too, but a combination of Neilsen and a defender on the line prevented the ball from crossing it and maintained a status quo.

Heads!

Heads!

Safe Hands

Safe Hands

The last 25, though, belonged almost exclusively to the visitors who, once more, grew into the game as the roll-on, roll-off subs took more effect. After a brilliant goal-line clearance by the impressive Penycae #5, an inspired performance by the ‘keeper saw him thwart two more efforts with brilliant saves, one at almost point blank range to ensure his side earned a draw in a highly entertaining friendly contest. The only question was just how there’d only been two goals!

Back in the bar afterwards, the brief peaceful atmosphere was soon shattered by the loudspeaker which had joined us on our journey and the beers were soon in for all and sundry. Bar me, as I am still going through a self-imposed cut down as I look to maintain something of a budget cut. Of course, I was bought a pair through the evening and these will be returned at some point in the near future! Cheers lads!

Following Guinness related things and chips arriving for the after match meal (I didn’t have a full bag, honest), it was back to the coach and onwards to Wrexham for a short stop which, naturally, would entail nothing bar quiet drinking and return. Right? Well…sort of.

First stop was the Wynnstay Arms, which featured some well dressed military types (in uniform) and their partners (I guess as there was no uniform on show). Here was relatively subdued and not much to speak of, apart from me fleecing secretary/midfielder Danny for a Desperado, sorry mate. Anyway, tipped off by our Welsh guides, our next stop was the Golden Lion which is apparently the oldest public house in Wrexham. See, it’s about culture, not drinking…

Roaming in Wrexham

Roaming in Wrexham

Wrexham

Wrexham

The Golden Lion was slightly less quiet, with a multitude of different songs being released when demanded by the rest of the group. I was more than pleased when my offering of Europe’s anthem The Final Countdown was seemingly accepted as a good choice, though this was admittedly because there aren’t many words to it. One local, Steve, who I must have offended by totally murdering the pronunciation of Penycae (said as Pen-e-ceye), despite having made a point of saying it properly once hearing it said earlier in the day. In all seriousness of course, Steve was enjoying the scenes and even got involved at one point! Legend!

Sadly, it was soon time to say goodbye to Steve and to the Golden Lion, as we made our way back towards the coach’s location. There was to be one last stop, however, and this was the one where things got a bit more surreal. Having led the way, I entered the Welch (correct spelling) Fusilier in the midst of a karaoke night, it’s only natural that we’d all join in with the songs, though there was one that no-one seemingly knew and the DJ also told someone off for taking the mic. This was his swamp.

Off to indulge in a Japanese pastime!

Off to indulge in a Japanese pastime….

It's calm at the moment...

It’s calm at the moment…

After a few more songs had been murdered, it was soon time to leave Wrexham to its, surprisingly poor vocal tones, though one moustachioed Wales fan was just as appalled with his local’s performance, and it was back off to the great yellow-beige chariot, though I was forced into proclaiming right-back Robbo (I jest) as man-of-the-match, after his performance up against the fleet-footed winger of Penycae.

The journey back was quiet as everyone settled in for the hour back….okay, not quite. With “Play Your Cards Right” in full swing, chants about different er…places and an appearance by a legendary member of the team, Boris,  we eventually made it back to Sankey nicely in time for my train back too, so thanks for the guys for ensuring it and to the driver for dropping me off on his way back.

So a third trip done and with ideas already being floated for next year, who knows what is still to come. All I know is, if there’s no “lemonade”, I should be ok….

DSC02637

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Good, entertaining watch.

Ground: 6- Quite a simple ground, but a smart one.

Food: 6- Decent enough, as I said.

Programme: N/A, though one is issue, it seems, in league season.

Value For Money: 9- Always a good day (and evening).

Manchopper in….Whaley Bridge

whaley bridgeEagle Sports

Result: Whaley Bridge 1-0 Eagle Sports (Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: Horwich Park (Saturday 14th May 2016, 3pm)

Att:41 (hc)

As the season runs down to the last few, or possibly last, weekend for myself I had put forward the idea of a return to the Peak District for an end of season jaunt, in the shape of last season’s very…different…trip to Chapel-en-le-Frith and Chapel Town FC. Eventually, after a few different things were thrown out there too, it was settled between myself and the ever famed Matt of LostBoyos, that we’d be off to Whaley Bridge.

Matt was going early via New Mills and the tow paths of the canal up to Whaley Bridge, whereas I would be pulling the lazy card and heading straight through to the town on the train, with the full intentions of getting there and visiting one of the number of pubs the town plays host to. I’d been before (though, I didn’t mention this quite as much as in Garforth), so I had a fair idea of where to head. Or so I thought.

Arriving in Whaley Bridge during the late morning, I made the short walk down to the high street, only to find all the pubs still shut and I began to wonder if there wasn’t some strange ruling that there could be no pubs open on May 14th. around here. Anyway, as I crossed the road to investigate the Goyt, Matt pounced upon my unaware self, arms flailing in a desperate attempt to make himself clearly visible to me, which was apparently very humorous to someone at the roadside.

Arriving in Whaley Bridge

Arriving in Whaley Bridge

The High Street

The High Street

'Whaley Winds'

‘Whaley Winds’

Anyway, now something of Brothers in Arms against the quietness, we went on a lap of the town, after Matt had already completed a few earlier in the day. Then, we did another. And another. And another. And…well, you get the picture. With no sign of life coming from within any watering holes, we decided to head for cock. Come on now, you know I meant THE Cock Inn. Mercifully opening at the quickly approaching midday, we’d found our starting place.

After a couple in here, including a Hawaiian beer by the name of “Big Wave”, which had taken my interest for the reasons of its origin, we headed back down the main road and past the quaint Shotguns and Rifles shop, eventually arriving at the White Hart, which sits on the curve of the road and right in the line of any speeding cars. With only a quick stop in here and with little going on, we headed back on ourselves and up to the Shepherds Arms, which didn’t open up until the strange time of 2pm.

Oh yes.

Oh yes.

Uphill run

Uphill run, Eau Rouge-esque

Over the bridge, we must go...

Over the bridge, we must go…

The Shepherds was a nice, little place with the barmaid asking just what we were doing here, and showing off some decent enough knowledge of Whaley Bridge FC and the Cheshire League as a whole. Though, when she said that she was hoping to get the club to adopt her pub as their base, maybe there’d been some homework getting done. Anyway, with local poetry and sheep posters seen and enjoyed in equal measure (not so much the latter personally, nor the former for that matter) it was time to head for the ground, via a stop in the Co-op for Matt to purchase some Buds for the game, on account that there was no bar at the ground according to our new found expert.

After heading back under the railway and up and over the reservoir, we eventually came upon Horwich Park which stands within the town’s war memorial park. Basically all the ground is is a barred off pitch within the confines of a public park, with a building at the rear housing a small food bar, toilets, changing rooms etc. Not much to it then. As for Whaley Bridge as a football club, though, there is a little more to write about,…

History Lesson:

Football has been played within Whaley Bridge for over a century, with the current club tracing its real roots back to Horwich End, who played in, and won on numerous occasions, the Buxton League during the 1920’s and at the current site since 1926. The current named club formed following the Second World War and took to playing in the New Mills & District League, which was won in 1948 & ’49.

1951 saw Whaley win the local Hospital Cup and Derbyshire Medals and 1955 saw them add the Stockport Shield to their cabinet. Following that success, the club switched to the Manchester League Division 2, finishing runners-up in 1962, whilst winning the league’s Murray Shield. The Division 2 was won in 1964 and after a short spell in Division 1, a switch to the Stockport League followed.

The Stockport League title was lifted in 1968 and again in 1969, with the Derbyshire Cup following the next year. 1971 saw success continue, a third Stockport League title being won alongside the Haslam Cup. The 1970’s continued to be a fine decade for the club, with 1973-’75 seeing the Derbyshire Cup won thrice more. 1975 also saw the club, now playing in the Hope Valley League, take that title along with the Lawrence Cup in a “treble” winning season. The decade was rounded off with a successful Hope Valley League defence in ’76 & a Dore Shield success in 1977.

Whaley Bridge FC

Whaley Bridge FC

Memorial Park

Memorial Park

1981 saw the third Hope Valley title arrive at Horwich Park and also a second Lawrence Cup, before a further Derbyshire Cup was won the year after. After a few years of disarray on the field (and possibly off too), the club settled after relegation from the top flight of the Hope Valley League, and soon returned. 1992 sees a second Dore Shield achieved, before success later in the decade sees the ’97 & ’98 Hope Valley titles arrive, the latter season also sees a further Derbyshire Cup win.

2000 sees another Hope Valley title and Lawrence Cup before the league title is successfully defended the next year as the team became more dominant. The rest of the 2000’s see a further title in 2007 along with further Dore Shields (’02, ’03, ’04, ’09) and Lawrence Cups (’04, ’07). Bridge win the 2010 title and Derbyshire Cup, before winning all 4 of the above trophies the next year as they left for the Cheshire League on a high, success continuing into their first season, 2012, which sees Whaley win both the Cheshire League Division 2 & the Division 2 Cup. Last season, the club finished up in 5th and currently sit 3rd in the Premier Division.

Bridge were entertaining Eagle Sports today, who have become, as regular readers will know, something of an adopted club of mine, following the day in Glan Conwy a couple of years back now. With the game underway after some greetings, I’d begin to give some description of what went on. Unfortunately, the game was a stereotypical end of season game, with next to nothing to speak of happening. The first half featured a low save by Eagle’s ‘keeper Craig Clare, and a resulting clearance off the line, but little else.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Match Action

Match Action

A cock of a different kind...

A cock of a different kind…

After Matt had been trying to compare the home ‘keeper to the one-time Liverpool custodian Doni and a trawl of the memory banks to remember his first name (Alexandre, thanks pointless football knowledge!), we were back underway, with Eagle assistant (and late sub) Mark, complimenting Whaley Bridge on their usage of china mugs and not he plastic shite you usually find at clubs all over the country.

The second half was a vast improvement on the first, with Whaley taking an early lead, through a close range finish by Dan Christie. This spurred Eagle on somewhat and they had the better of the chances for the remainder of the game, but failed to take any that came their way. Whaley’s Will Bailey, not Bill as I originally thought, was brilliant in the centre of midfield and ran the game for them. Matt’s highlight was the big sub Raymond Dwolitka who came on and proceeded to just be a nuisance for the most part. “Ray”, though, had made an impact on us that’s for sure. Full-time, 1-0.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action with Ray!

Match Action with Ray!

So it was back over the reservoir and to the Goyt Inn. The Goyt resembled more of a small house than a pub from the outside, but inside it was a compact, traditional little bar. With our final drinks in Bridge ordered, we whiled away the time through to our return train back to Piccadilly and the Tap for one final stop. Afterwards, Matt headed off to indulge in some Eurovision and I walked over to Oxford Road and, for no apparent reason, just died on the platform as you do….

DSC02415

RATINGS:

Game: 4- Pretty poor game overall, not much excitement.

Ground: 3- Pitch and the facilities building. That’s it.

Fans: 4- Meh.

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A (confectionary available)

Value For Money: 6- Decent day overall and cheap travel make up for it, even despite death.

Manchopper in….Padgate (Rylands FC)

RylandsEagle Sports

Result: Rylands 1-2 Eagle Sports (Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: Gorsey Lane (Tuesday 5th April 2016, 6.15pm)

Att: 35 (approx.)

As the season winds down for most clubs, for me it is just reaching its peak. The early kick-offs in the Step 7 leagues mean nice early finishes and grounds in the leagues that are easy to reach and thus are best saved for midweek. Rylands became the first of what will be an ever growing number of these and so to Gorsey Lane I went.

After a 20 minute train ride, I alighted at Padgate station and headed straight for the ground, having a half-hour only before kick-off. After a further 20 minutes walking down Padgate Lane, I eventually arrived at Orford Lane and was soon heading down the small alleyway between the Rylands Recreation Club’s rugby pitches and found myself at the rather attractive Tudor-facade large social club.

But that was for later in the day and for now I was continuing on past it and to a small set of gates where the Rylands FC pitch stands behind. On guard for today were a few squad members etc and after £1 entry (plus programme), I was into Gorsey Lane itself and meeting up with Paul Rowan once more, whom I’d given this attractive proposition to the previous week. Of course, it wasn’t one to be turned down.

Rylands Club

Rylands Club

Rylands FC

Rylands FC

Soon enough, the two sides were heading from the clubhouse/social club and over the car park and onto the pitch, and after a few greetings from some of the Eagle players, (if you don’t know by now, Eagle have become something of my adopted Cheshire League club after the Glan Conwy episode and I visited them again on Easter Monday), we were all set to get underway. But before we get into the game itself, here’s a bit of the story behind Rylands:

History Lesson:

Rylands FC were formed in 1911, and won their first silverware in 1928 in the form of the Depot Cup, before winning the Starkey Cup in 1953. The 1950’s saw Rylands dominate the Warrington & District League winning the title in each of 6 consecutive years from 1954-59, the latter of which was joined by the Liverpool Challenge Cup and Warrington Guardian Cup in the cabinet.

The silverware success dried up for the most part in the ’60’s, but there was a second Guardian Cup won in 1967 ajead of a move into the Mid-Cheshire League for 1968-’69. The club won the Guardian Cup & President’s Cup double in 1972 and defended both the next season, as well as adding the Lancashire Amateur Shield and J.E. White Cup to the ever growing list of trophies won. They lifted a third President’s Cup in 1975. 1979 saw Rylands lift the Mid-Cheshire League Cup before they achieved, arguably, their biggest achievement to that point by winning the Mid-Cheshire title in 1981, which was again won three seasons later.

Rylands FC

Rylands FC

After a 2008 merger with local rivals Crosfields to form Crosfields/Rylands FC, a name which lasted just 2 years before reverting to Rylands FC once more, their next success (according to the website which I’m at the mercy of and has no data through the ’80’s & ’90’s) was last year’s Guardian Cup which was won over Eagle thanks to a late winner (at a game I attended).

Rylands have also competed in the FA Vase, back in the day, with their best result being the third round on a couple of occasions (1981 & 1984). The latter of these would have actually seen Rylands reach the 4th Round, but an undersized pitch saw them replay a 4-1 win over Rainworth Miners Welfare, with the replay seeing them fall 1-0.

Away we went then, and it was the orange-clad visitors who were on top throughout the early stages. Rylands, in turn, were struggling to get out of their own half and it was little surprise when it appeared that the Sankey-based side had taken the lead, Chris Quirke tapping in a low cross, only for the linesman’s flag to deny them what would have been a deserved opener.

Paul and I, by this point, decided to head off on a lap of the ground and have an impromptu kick-around with a flat ball. That’s my excuse for my performance anyway, and highly doubt that I’ll be getting trial offers anytime soon! The lap also meant we could go and see the caravan community behind the goal and sink into the long grass around the unkempt railway end. The railway did get us excited, though, as everyone likes a football pic with a train rolling past. Don’t they? No? Meh.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Indeed it took Rylands around half an hour to really find their feet with their big Congolese striker Odi Koubemba causing issues just with his size and bringing others into play around him. Then, with no less than a minute until the break, came the controversial moment of the tie. Rylands’ Dan Sisson picked up the ball in the vicinity of the half-way line and the liner duly raised his flag to signify he was in the opposition half and therefore offside. “GET THAT FLAG DOWN!!!” bellowed the ref as the Rylands midfielder continued on before coolly sliding the ball back for Koubemba to finish confidently. 1-0 and Eagle weren’t happy.

It turned out at the break that most in the ground, even of a home persuasion, were sure it was offside (not that they were complaining!) and the liner who was overruled said the ref had “tracked the players’ run”. If that was the case, we are sure to see him in the Euros as one of the best refs in the country, if not the continent and maybe the world.

Anyway, the second half was soon upon us and the visitors, spurred on by the apparent miscarriage of justice, were again well on top during the first clashes and they soon were on the board, Owen Ellis’ header looping over the goalkeeper, who had one of those awful mini-ponytail hairstyles going on, and into the net. Indeed, his early rantings prompted one of his teammates to say he was unhappy as he was missing his favourite bobble!

The game continued at one-one and, as with any derby, began to get “competitive”. After a skirmish had resulted in a booking for a player from each side, there was a small 50/50 in the middle of the pitch that the ref awarded a free-kick to the home side for. Again, this prompted a bellow from the official of “BOTH SKIPPERS PLEASE!!!!”. No idea why as it had all settled down really and the challenge was nothing of note and no-one reacted to anything. I think someone had been watching too many Mike Dean DVD’s.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Off the bar

Off the bar

Both skippers came and went and the game continued. After Koubemba had been denied when one-on-one by Eagle’s ‘keeper Craig Clare, then came the second controversial moment. I had long said after the Rylands goal that the ref would even it out in some way. This seemed to prove true as dangerman Koubemba had a header ruled out for a push only for Eagle to take a quick free-kick, break away and Ellis’ pull back struck the Rylands Dave France on the shin and looped into the net. 1-2 and cue more arguments!

But that was that, as the Eagle defence comfortably held firm to secure the three points and continue to climb up the table as they look to catch all the other teams in the league on games played. As for me, I bid goodbye to Paul as he headed back towards Liverpool, and now I had an hour and a half until the train back and as such it would be rude not to pop in the social club for a Kopparberg and to watch the first half of Barcelona-Atletico Madrid and Fernando Torres’ hero-to-zero performance.

Nice pair

Nice pair

In the Farmer's Arms

In the Farmer’s Arms

Soon enough, it was time to head back out and thanks to Mark for sorting me a lift with Owen again back towards Padgate. Indeed, thanks to Owen again for dropping me at the Farmer’s Arms pub for one last drink and so I could interrupt a quiz night unintentionally before the train home, as I really didn’t want to sit on the platform at a dead station for half-an-hour. It all ended up pretty cheap too….

DSC02073

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Pretty entertaining game, combative derby.

Ground: 5- Railed off pitch, no stands etc. Nice social club.

Fans: 5- Almost the end now. Almost.

Food: N/A

Programme: 6- A decent little issue considering everything and at least Rylands bother to produce.

Value For Money: 9- Really cheap travel(!), £1 entry and a fiver on “extras”. Can’t complain!