Manchopper in….Newton Heath (Ten Acres Lane)

Result: AVRO 7-1 Elton Vale (Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: Ten Acres Lane (Saturday 4th March 2017, 2.30pm)

Att: 40 (approx.)

Here we go again. Yet another wet week meant I once more found myself looking at fixture lists and trying to pick out any random 3G venues that may be thrown up. Sadly, the vast majority were ruled out quickly as per them not meeting my strict minimum criteria (see Royton Town for that)! But then, from the darkness, a shining beacon of hope came forth to light the way. This was in the form of AVRO FC of the Manchester League and their alternative home venue at Ten Acres Lane. Saviours!

As such, the Newton Heath located complex would be my visited venue for the weekend with a lower-end-of-the-table Premier Division clash between AVRO and Elton Vale the feature. Now to be honest, after the terrible weather of the prior week which blighted the aforementioned trip up to Royton, I was somewhat apprehensive of actually going to the game, with a slight cold not aiding the part of me pushing to go. But with bright sunlight greeting me on the morning of the fixture, I figured I might as well go as it wasn’t exactly breaking the bank.

After catching the bus through to Manchester and the, ahem, glorious Piccadilly Gardens, I was soon en route up towards the Ten Acres Sports Complex. But, of course, there had to be a stop on the way and, luckily, the bus to the ground stopped right outside the nearest pub to the ground: the Bradford Inn in Miles Platting, around a five minutes bus ride away. It looked easy. I couldn’t miss it. Oh, hang on. It’s me, isn’t it? Of course I could miss it and I did. Shocker.

Bradford Inn

The strangely priced pint.

After a quick backtrack I was soon back at the pub and headed in. The Bradford is your quintessential estate establishment with the usual locals you’d expect within. Nothing bad there, though, as it all makes for an experience. I couldn’t complain about the price either, a pint of Joseph Holt’s Crystal Gold costing the strange amount of £2.41, which was swiftly handed over to the friendly woman behind the bar, after a double check on the price!

To be honest, there was little to report on in here, as the Manchester Utd-Bournemouth game had just gone through the break and the big talking points had already dissipated within by the point I arrived and, with the clock nearing the reported kick-off time of 2pm, I decided I ought to go grab the bus onwards.

After disembarking at the foot of Ten Acres Lane itself, it’s only a short walk to the gates of the complex, where I was surprised to find a large crowd awaiting the fixture from my viewpoint on the road. All looked set for a good atmosphere, though I reckoned it looked too good to be true. Sadly, it was as the vast majority were there to watch a kids tournament finish up. It also quickly became apparent that the two-o’clock kick-off wasn’t going to happen. Argh.

Arriving at Ten Acres Lane.

The late, great Johan Cruyff’s wise words.

After the young’uns had completed their games and headed off along with pretty much everyone else there at that point, it finally allowed the two teams onto the pitch. I said a quick “hello” to AVRO’s Matt Landregan who I know, somewhat, from his time at Trafford before he went to get on with the pre-match routines. With nowhere really to go, I was left to watch the warm-ups in full which I never find the most thrilling of tasks. Even the sun had disappeared behind some rather grey clouds by this point and all looked to be on a bit of a downer.

Eventually, the two finished their preparations, with one AVRO defender revealing he was wearing the number 3 shirt to some amusement from a couple of guys watching, before he then anointed himself “Maldini” for the next 90 minutes! The referees soon joined the teams before going through a boot check, making sure the goals were taped up securely and a minutes silence for (I presume) the Elton Vale secretary who sadly passed away in the week leading up to the game. Then, at 2.38pm, we were eventually underway!

I won’t go through AVRO’s history again, as this can be found in my blog about my visit to their usual Broadway home here. (NB: The club will be moving from here shortly, with Oldham Boro’s old Whitebank Stadium becoming their new ground.)

Ten Acres Lane is your normal, bland, artificial venue. There is one paved, railed area for spectators running the length of the Sports Centre side of the pitch, though you can head all the way around the cage (pretty much) if the gates are open, as the small path is fairly firm underfoot. But, as for any real distinguishable features? You won’t find any here. It is the home of the National Taekwondo Centre, though, so there is that, I guess.

Match Action

Match Action

Anyway, I digress. Back onto on-field matters and the early part of the contest seemed to suggest this would be a close contest between the third-bottom and second-bottom sides respectively. It was AVRO who struck first, though, with the tall centre-mid Michael Stockdale getting clear of the defence before slotting beyond the Vale ‘keeper.

Elton Vale, though, struck back quickly with a great strike by Jack Barlow who, after inheriting the ball off the back of some questionable defending, advanced towards the edge of the area before unleashing a tremendous effort which flew across the helpless home custodian and into the top corner. A great goal to level up the scores but this high point was never to come close to being matched, sadly, for the visitors.

After a period of stalemate in the game, the hosts missed a good chance to retake the lead when some very abject defending gifted the ball to Stockdale who was only denied a second by a decent goal-line block, which made some amends for the earlier error that led to the opener.

However, AVRO then had one of those match deciding spells wherein they managed to find the net three times within the space of around five minutes. Firstly, the impressive #7, Mason Dunkerley (?)  drove a low shot under the ‘keeper for 2-1, before netting a second shortly after from around the edge of the area (I’m guessing as I only saw the ball in the net!). The #9, James Hampson, then got in on the act, being released through the defence to fire under the advancing, under-fire, ‘keeper.

At Close Quarters!

Match Action

Elton Vale, understandably, looked deflated by now and letting a fifth in before the break would have done little to help matters, as Hampson grabbed his second of the game benefitting from another error in the defence which allowed Landregan to lay it on a plate for his strike partner. Half-Time: 5-1. The previous time I had this score-line at the interval was at Brentford-Eastleigh in early January and on that occasion, no further goals were added. I hoped this wasn’t to be the case again!

After spending half-time having a quick peruse of the corridor in a vain search for “facilities”, I remained in the warmth of the entrance atrium taking a welcome relief from the surprisingly bracing wind before the second half got underway, refraining from purchasing refreshments from the vending machines on account they were twice the price of the tea bar at Royton the previous week. There it was 50p for a tea. I’m tight like that, you see!

With the second half underway, I headed back up the steps to the pitch to watch what amounted to little more than two teams looking to see out the rest of the game. AVRO did add a sixth around fifteen minutes in, when Stockdale again found himself clear in the box and he confidently clipped the ball over the diving ‘keeper and into the far side-netting. Clinical.

The paved spectators’ area

Match Action

In the far distance, Stockdale nets his second!

With very little to speak of in the way of chances, the game did get a bit boring with only some showboating and skillage (yes, it is a word ok?) keeping the watching crowds (Elton Vale-inclined spectators probably not included) entertained, especially a group of youths near me who took great delight in either celebrating them when they worked, or mocking them when they didn’t. Savage. Anyway, a late strike was added by Landregan as he chipped the ball over the oncoming GK with class, much to the delight of the youths before the ref brought the contest to a close at a stonking 7-1.

After congratulating Matt on his goal and the win, I departed in haste to head down the road once more to grab the bus back, just about avoiding the oncoming rain. Soon back in Manchester, another kind bus change saw me soon heading home, again dodging the occasional heavy showers on the way. Not too bad a day, really, for a game on a bland pitch in the midst of a sports complex. However, back onto the “real” ground trail next week with a trip to another ground that will soon be lost….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 2

Food: N/A (bar vending machines)

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 8

 

Manchopper in….Elton

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Result: Elton Vale 3-3 Hindsford (Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: Elton Vale Sports Club (Saturday 21st January 2017, 2pm)

Att: 43

NOTE: There’s nothing rude, nor funny, about the name of this blog.

I’d promised Elton Vale early this season that I’d pay them a visit at some point during their 2016-’17 Manchester League Premier campaign. As such, and with a few costly trips coming up in the near future, their match-up with Hindsford in this very week provided a fine opportunity to save some money with a cheap game, as well as ticking off ground 203.

After connecting through Bolton on the buses, I arrived into Elton at around twenty-past one. It turns out you actually disembark outside fellow Manchester League outfit Westbury’s ground, having earlier passed another of the league’s members, Breightmet United, on the way over. Clubs are plentiful around here. With a little time in hand and with The Wellington pub sitting on the corner of the road I was required to walk upon to reach the Elton Vale Sports Club, I thought it’d be quite rude not to pop in.

The Wellington is fairly deceiving from the outside. To me it appeared to be a bit of a dingy place with little going for it that would attract you in. However once you enter the porch, a different view of the place greets you, with the drinking hole seemingly being Greene King’s equivalent to the Hungry Horse-type pubs . Today, though, the food wasn’t too much of an issue and I settled for a pint of the GK’s IPA for the pretty economical £2.70. Not bad at all either.

The Wellington

The Wellington

Heading to the ground

Heading to the ground

After watching Swansea storm into the lead at Liverpool, ahead of their eventual triumph at Anfield, I headed off and up towards the ground, (which Swansea fan and celeb blogger Matt ‘Lost Boyo’ termed as sounding like “a house of an old man named Elton as if he thought it funny to name his house after himself) which sits less than 10 minutes away. There is a bus route from Manchester that drops you right outside, pretty much, too.

Anyway; after heading through the gates and past the signs declaring I was in the right place, I followed the lane heading to the rear of the clubhouse where the football pitch sits. There isn’t much to the ground outside of the clubhouse, which is more than decent and also houses a small tea/food bar which I took full advantage of later in the day. The pitch is fully railed off, with a very slight grass mound behind the far goal and a small amount of hard standing either side of each dugout. As for Elton Vale FC themselves…

History Lesson:

Elton Vale Football Club was formed in 1957 as Elton Fold FC, following the removal of funding by the Bury Gas Company to their own works team. After a changing room meeting, the new club was formed and took a place in the Bury Amateur League, with Elton winning their first game via an impressive 8-1 triumph over Radcliffe Borough. The club’s first silverware arrived in 1961 as Elton Fold won the Kenyon Cup and the club finished 1962 in their Bury Amateur League-best position of runners-up.

1964 saw the club enter the Manchester League, where they were to remain for the next decade, playing in the league’s second tier throughout their tenure. Following this, they returned to the Bury Amateur League for a period of success, winning the 1978 title and three cup triumphs at Gigg Lane. Their next step was to join the higher-level Bolton Combination in 1983, with promotion to the top-flight taking four years to achieve. In that time, the Fold moved into their new home on Elton Vale Road. Their first Bolton Combination silverware, though, was to arrive only in 1993 in the form of the Premier Cup and this was followed by a League title the following year.

Elton Vale Sports Club

Elton Vale Sports Club

1995 saw the club back in the Manchester League. Along with an immediate promotion to the top division, the club also won the prestigious Lancashire Amateur Trophy. 2002 saw the Fold take on the title of Elton Vale FC but still retain their original nick-name as a hark-back to their history. The name change looked to be a bad omen, though, as they were relegated in only their second season carrying the moniker, but 2008 saw them bounce back to the Premier Division, finishing 4th. 2010 saw another drop suffered, before a quick yo-yo existence between 2014 & 16 saw Vale promoted, relegated and promoted again, the latter as Division 1 runners-up last season. They currently sit toward the bottom of the Premier Division table, finding themselves 14th out of 15 clubs.

The game got underway and was played at a fairly decent place from the off, albeit with chances at a premium. Despite this, it was Hindsford who looked the more threatening in the early stages with their #9 looking particularly threatening. However, when they eventually did take the lead, it was a low drive from the edge of the area by Chris Hopwood which went under the Vale ‘keeper and into the corner.

From then on, Vale seemed to up their game and began to take the initiative from the Tonics. Indeed, it happened to be little surprise when they levelled up the scores just before the break, with the ball finding its way out onto the right-side of the area where Chris Baines drove a hard effort across the visiting ‘keeper and found the net despite the Hindsford custodian getting a good amount of his hand to it.

Match Action

Match Action

"Through the trees!"

“Through the trees!”

High-vis 'keeper

High-vis ‘keeper

Half-Time soon arrived and I headed off to the clubhouse after overhearing someone talking about pies. This is almost like a buzzword now and so off I rushed to beat the queues. On arrival, I was greeted by the lady serving before being told the selection that was on. Meat & Potato sounded the best to me today, so with peas and gravy added, I went off to demolish that, whilst hoping the teams weren’t in too much of a rush to get going again. £1.70, again, wasn’t a bank-breaker either.

Clubhouse

Clubhouse

On a pedestal

On a pedestal

The second half was underway just as I finished up, so back out into the chilly Bury air went the masses and were duly rewarded (or punished, depending on your point of view) with Mark Chilton diverting a low cross-cum-shot into the bottom corner. The way it bounced off the goal-frame could cause some issues if visibility wasn’t great though, as the ball bounced back off the rear and could…COULD be mistaken for the post at some point. Not today though and Hindsford led once more.

Hindsford then quickly added a third through Ryan Briody’s fizzing drive and at 1-3 it looked all over bar the shouting to be honest. But the hosts showed they had other ideas. After again taking the initiative in the game following a spell of dominance by the visitors that included their two second-half goals, Vale grabbed a goal back from a corner. The whipped ball in wasn’t dealt with and Baines arrived to force the ball over the line from pretty much on it. 2-3 and the Vale players and bench were visibly and audibly confident in their chances.

Just before Vale net their second

Just before Hindsford net their second

Match Action

Match Action

As it proved, they were right to feel this way. With around ten minutes left to play, the ball ended up in the middle of the field and at the feet of Leighton Mills who took a couple of touches before unleashing a fine drive that flew beyond the despairing ‘keeper and into the back of the net sparking wild scenes of jubilation from both those on the pitch and those on the side-lines. The Tonics contingent were left in an angered dismay.

Despite the late sending-off of Elton Vale’s centre-half Richard Young, for what I presume was a second bookable offence, the hosts held on despite a large amount of pressure and a pair of good chances for the visitors to nick all three points. The full-time whistle arrived to end a fine, entertaining game of football and I headed off back toward the bus stop. That was after I’d been surprised by a lime-green Lamborghini heading down the dirt path alongside the club. Elton Vale are clearly paying for their success! (NB: Sarcasm is clearly not dripping all over that statement).

So it was back to Bolton and onwards home uneventfully (if you don’t count the special bus smells you encounter on these fine things). A fine day was had at Elton Vale, with there being far more included than I’d expected, with a nice surprise of food which, at this level, isn’t a given and a fun game to watch. Thanks to both sides for that and now it’s on to the next one which will be at…

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RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 4

Food: 7

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 9