Manchopper in….Workington

Result: Workington 0-3 Basford United (Northern Premier League Premier Division)

Venue: Borough Park (Saturday 16th February 2019, 3pm)

Att: 511

The strikes are over!!! Finally, Northern rail is (hopefully, when and if they turn up) back up and running on a Saturday and with that comes the possibility of getting to places that had been out of reasonable reach for quite some time. One such place just happened to be Workington and with Borough Park not long for this world, I figured what better time to make the trip to the Cumbrian Coast and the historic old home of “the Reds”.

Catching the twenty-past eight train into Warrington during the morning, having to bypass the ticket machine due to its seemingly ever-present technical issues, the usual walk through the town to Bank Quay was made prior to catching the connection up to Carlisle. Arriving a few minutes late was beneficial for once, shrinking my waiting time a little before the ride over the rural route to the coast. Arriving at a little before midday, the staple ‘getting lost’ part of the trip was overcome with little overall waywardness and upon coming to Wetherspoons, I figured I’d start off in their tried and tested environment. An old theatre/cinema building (not as impressive as others I’ve been in, though), it was a pleasant enough place to plan out the rest of the day’s itinerary over a Punk IPA, alongside a bit of people-watching/being a weird line drinker, depending on whose point of view you want to look at it from!

Arrived in Workington courtesy of a bit of its history

‘Spoons

Miner’s Arms

As a little drizzle began to fall from the sky, I headed over to a back-road that was the strangest place for a pub hotbed I’ve ever come across. 4 pubs are located in pretty much a straight line, with three all but neighbouring each other. After visiting the local-centric Miners Arms for a Kronenbourg, the next pub along by the name of the Grapes was quiet though welcoming and, more interestingly, had Singha on draught. Of course, with that being one of the lesser-spotted draught beers – outside of Indian restaurants – , I opted for a pint of that, with it coming in at a pocket pleasing £3.10

Finishing up, I headed the few doors down to the neighbours of the Blue Bell and the Old Red House, though neither were overly blue or red, which I suppose is to not put off any Worky or Carlisle fans from either establishment! Both were decent, the former having only racing on for their punters (Coors £3.20), but the latter had the early kick-off on to get me in the football mood. A pint of Amstel and its old Champions League connotations, also at £3.20, helped this feeling along too, before I walked over to Borough Park to secure a programme (I was kindly allowed inside to do so) before back-tracking for a final pre-match drink of Dark Fruits at the nearby Waverley Hotel.

Workington is a coastal town and civil parish on the mouth of the River Derwent and is on the West Coast of Cumbria. Historically in Cumberland in the Borough of Allerdale, it has history from the Roman era in defences and forts protecting from attacks by the Irish Scoti and Scottish Caledonii. A Viking sword was also found on the Northside of the River Derwent, suggesting a settlement may have been sited there during the era of their invading and later settling. The Roman fort (likely Magis), now known as Burrows Walls, was also on the North side of the river and further fortifications and watch towers suggest that the era was an extension of Hadrian’s Wall to protect from sea invasions. The town’s current name is derived from the old-English “Weorc” (likely a man’s name) and the suffixes “ingas” (people or sons of) and “tun” (settlement). The settlers were followers of Weorc and would have named themselves “Weorcingas” (Weorc’s People), though the town’s name has since been written in 105 different ways over a millennia. Later, it was beleieved monks connected to those at Lindisfarne had a community in the area and lost their gospels on trying to cross to Ireland, though returned safely themselves.

Workington

Remains of Workington Hall

The Curwens, Lords of the Manor of Workington, were heavily involved in the First War of Scottish Independence and their motto is said to derive from the arrival of their troops at the Battle of Falkirk – turning the battle in favour of the English King Edward. It was here William Wallace was defeated and it’s been claimed since that Sir Gilbert de Curwen left his arrival strategically late as to join the winning side, as he had allegiances in both armies. Upon Wallace’s execution, Robert the Bruce was duly crowned King of Scotland and would go on to contest the Second War, also against King Edward. After claiming his knighthood in battle in France – fighting on behalf of King Edward III’s cause to take the French throne, he would become a victim of the infamous Black Death in 1403, which also claimed his son who’d taken on his mantle. The family would also (allegedly) feature at the Battle of Agincourt, later fights against the Scots and the Wars of the Roses, supporting both sides where the crown went. Mary, Queen of Scots, spent her first night in England in Workington Hall after defeat at the Battle of Langside prior to being escorted to Carlisle Castle to begin her ill-fated imprisonment.

Later, politician John Curwen introduced acts to lift restrictions on the Catholic community in the country in the late 18th century and helped to forest the area around Windermere. He would also be a strong supporter of the abolition of slavery and introduced social security and mutual benefit schemes for his farm and colliery workers, of which coal would continue to be a long-term industry along with iron ore and steelworks throughout later years and centuries. Most of these would depart the area in recent times, with chemical, cardboard, the docks and recycling companies largely becoming local employers along with the nearby nuclear facility at Sellafield and those that go with it. The British Cattle Movement Service (a government agency which oversees the beef and dairy industry) is also based in Workington and the town also produced Leyland Buses and the much-maligned Pacer trains, the bus factory later taken on by Eddie Stobart. The Cumbrian Coast rail line gives connections to Lancaster/Preston and Carlisle and a temporary station was once hosted here (Workington North) which operated during the flood recovery times in 2009, connecting the main Workington station and Maryport.

The Grapes

Blue Bell and Red House

Waverley Hotel

After heading back to Borough Park once again, I paid my student discount (thank God that’s back for even further savings) of £7 and was into the sprawling expanses of the covered terrace. The old main stand which was closed and largely dismantled after the Bradford fire, though it remains in spirit with the bottom part still standing and housing the dressing rooms, clubhouse and other facilities. The opposite side is home to what had become the defacto main stand, a covered seating and standing affair, with the standing area at the rear separated by a wall bearing the W. A. F. C initials upon it. To the front is further terracing protruding from under the cover, with the far end (and intermittent parts) all being expanses of uncovered terracing. That’s Borough Park in a nutshell, and this is the story of Workington A.F.C….

History Lesson :

Workington A.F.C. was founded in 1921, though, in very early and different guises, the game of football dates back from at least the 18th century, with one of the earliest records of a match dating from 1775, which states the match is “long contested”, suggesting the game’s history goes back further than this. A local game of “Uppies and Downies” continues to be contested annually alongside Workington’s Borough Park home. Association football was brought to the town in the 1880’s and it’s thought a group of migrating steel workers from Dronfield (current home to Sheffield F.C. of course) further popularised the game and eventually founded the original Workington AFC in 1888.

The original side became a founding member of the Cumberland Association League shortly after their own founding, playing at Lonsdale Park, and remained in the League through to 1894 when they moved to the Cumberland Senior League, before a further switch of scenery saw the club move to the Lancashire League in 1901. However, the League would fold just two years later and thus Workington returned to the Cumberland Senior League for one season prior to their admission into the Lancashire Combination in 1904, remaining there until 1910 when switching leagues one last time to compete for a sole season in the North East League before folding. Post-war, the Workington AFC name was re-introduced, with the current club starting life where their predecessor ended its own. In 1933-’34, the club achieved their best FA Cup run, making the Fourth Round before bowing out to Preston North End. Workington won two North Eastern League Challenge Cups in 1935 &’ 37 too and lifted their first Cumberland Senior Cup in 1887, the first of five consecutive triumphs, winning the Cup on 24 occasions up to 2009.

Arriving at Borough Park

Moving to Borough Park just before the outbreak of the Second World War, and in 1951 the club were voted in to join the Football League’s Third Division North at the expense of Wirral-based New Brighton. However they would struggle in their initial couple of years, finishing the first two seasons in bottom and second-bottom place respectively. But fortunes changed when they appointed a man who would go down in management folklore – Bill Shankly. He would only remain at the club for just under two seasons before moving on to pastures new, but Workington had somewhat settled into Football League life by that point. In 1957-’58, Workington hosted the famed Busby babes of Manchester United, just a month before the Munich Air Disaster, a match which attracted a record 21,000 fans to Borough Park to watch the ill-fated young side.

Come the end of that same season, Workington would be placed in Division 4 of the reorganised Football League and in 1964, the Reds would finish up in 3rd place and achieve promotion to the nationalised Third Division. During that season, as well as the following campaign, Workington reached the quarter-finals of the League Cup – bowing out to West Ham United and Chelsea (after a replay) respectively, the ’64 run seeing them overcome Blackburn Rovers 5-1, though the following season would see an occurrence go from being remembered fondly to one tinged with sadness years later, as Workington’s Tony Geidmintis was given his Football League bow aged just 15 but would sadly pass away at the young age of just 43. This period also saw the club field Peter Foley, who’d go on to receive an OBE for his work in combating racism in football.

WAFC

1966 would see Workington reach their best-ever finish, 5th in the Third Division, before slipping down to bottom of the table the next year to return to the Fourth Division. They would never bounce back from this and would eventually become something of a staple at the wrong end of the table, ending up second-bottom in each of 1974 and 1975, prior to ending up bottom of the League in 1976. They would be re-elected on that occasion, but the following season saw the Reds record just four league wins all year in again finishing bottom, and this would be a contributing factor for the death knell of Workington as a Football League club, as they were replaced by Wimbledon. In being relegated, Workington became the penultimate side to be ousted from the League by this rule.

Now back in the non-league ranks, the club would end up dropping into the Northern Premier League, but would never finish higher than 7th before dropping into the NPL’s First Division in 1988, though did win the league’s President’s Cup in 1984. However, their struggles wouldn’t end there and after a decade in the Division 1 of the NPL they were relegated to the North West Counties League’s top-level. Their stay in the NWCFL Division 1 would be a short one though, and they would win the title at the first attempt, defeating Mossley in a title decider (with Grant Holt on the Reds’ scoresheet) and, in doing so, lifting their first ever championship – some feat for a former league team!

Back in the NPL’s Division 1, the club would remain there until 2004 when a 7th placed finish was comfortably enough to ensure a spot back in the Premier Division upon the pyramid’s restructuring. This enabled Workington’s progress to continue and, after finishing as Premier Division runners-up the next season, would achieve promotion to the Conference North through the first-ever NPL play-offs. The Conference North would become a long-term home for Workington over the next decade, with the club reaching the play-off semi-finals in 2007 (losing out to Hinckley United) and 2010 (losing to Alfreton Town) before eventually being relegated in 2014 and returning to the NPL Premier Division. After reaching the following three season’s play-offs – losing out on each occasion to Ilkeston Town, Salford City and Stourbridge (the latter two in the semi-finals) respectively – 2017-’18 looked to be heading a similar way only for injuries to tell and Workington to drop away from 2nd to mid-table. This season has seen the struggles return, with the club battling the drop to the Division 1 again.

Getting underway after a minute’s appreciation for the legendary Gordon Banks, there was another “blast from the past” between the Basford sticks by the name of Saul Deeney who helped Burton Albion (when still a non-league outfit) secure a replay with Manchester United way back when. The Northern Irishman was called into action early on in the piece too, denying both Workington front men, before Basford were awarded a spot-kick upon a fairly needless trip and it was another veteran of the same Burton side, Shaun Harrad, who stepped up to confidently find the net. 1-0 Basford.

Match Action

View from the ‘Main’ Stand

Match Action

Workington would have the majority of the play during the remainder of the half, though it was only sparingly that they truly troubled the visitors’ defence. Niall Cowperthwaite had an effort blocked and Conor Tinnion headed over, before the latter had a shot brilliantly tipped over the bar by Deeney. A late first-half bit of aggro livened things up as I exited from the old stand rooms with a tray of chips and curry but the scoreline would remain the same as the referee’s whistle signalled the break.

The second half saw Basford seek to be more proactive in their attacking approach, as they took advantage of the hosts’ own forays forward in search of a game-clinching second. After Workington’s Brad Carroll had seen a disappointingly tame shot easily saved, Basford front man Watson broke clear but with only the ‘keeper to beat, he chose to go for a chip, which proved a poor decision akin to that of the guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade….okay, maybe not that bad, but the ball drifted a fair way wide and the chance had gone.

Match Action

Match Action

From the covered terracing

The hosts responded with some great chances to level – the dangerous Cowperthwaite firing across goal but the ball narrowly avoided the far side-netting, before fellow wide man Tinnion unleashed a great drive from 20 yards which Deeney again met with a brilliant stop. Tinnion would then also see a header loop up and off the top of the crossbar, but you felt these missed chances would come back to haunt the Reds, and so it proved when, with around twenty minutes left, Basford grabbed the all important second goal of the game when James Reid’s delivery was met by the unmarked substitute Zak Goodwin who duly nodded in. If that wasn’t game over, then it definitely was a couple of minutes later, as a free-kick was only half-cleared to Jack Thomas and he judged a chipped effort to perfection from a fair way out, the ball dipping in at just the right moment. 3-0 and game over.

Late on…

A pair of late chances for both sides could have seen the score-line added too, Goodwin showed good footwork to work a chance for himself to double his tally, only to wastefully send his shot wide and Cowperthwaite was denied by Deeney in the last real action of the game but that was that and Workington’s recent resurgence was over. Basford’s quest for another promotion to continue their impressive rise up the pyramid continues on. Post-match saw me unable to find the pub out near the waterside the other side of the station and, as such, I thought I’d set off home a little earlier and pay a visit to Carlisle station’s 301 miles bar. On the way there, though, I was asked for travel guidance to get to Kendal by a girl from California (culture shock or what?!) and my attempts at initially explaining my reasons for being in Workington for football again ended up with it being taken that I was playing there. I didn’t lie, I just didn’t ruin the experience!

Eventually guiding her to the correct place (my unfamiliarity with Carlisle likely giving the unintentional ruse away), the visit to 301 miles was undertaken, a pint of Amstel (£4) had before it was back on the train to Manchester, which slightly broke down near Wigan. Lovely. Luckily, whatever the issue was, it was quickly rectified and the rest of the journey passed without issue and that was that. Good to get Borough Park done and it was a good experience too, the history really resonates around the ground. Workington as a town was OK, with food and programme beivg decent enough. Onto another culture job next week as I ferry myself Northwards…

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 9

Programme: 6

Food: 7

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….South Shields

Result: South Shields 2-1 Colne (Northern Premier League Division One North)

Venue: Mariners Park (Saturday 28th April 2018, 3pm)

Att: 2,104

With the Northern Premier League regular season entering its final round of games, I thought it only right to visit the home of one of the league’s three divisional champions and, with my railcard entering its final few months of validity (hurry up with that new one please), I decided it’d be best to head off to the side that is located furthest away. As such, and if the title hadn’t given it away already, I was off to the North East coast and to Mariners Park, home of South Shields F.C.

Setting off from a surprisingly sunny Manchester at just before half-nine, a quick change in York had me heading on down the tracks to Newcastle, arriving at a little before midday. After another swift connection down onto the city’s Metro system, I was soon eastward bound to the mouth of the Tyne. Eventually arriving into South Shields at around 12.30, I made haste towards the town’s Roman Fort….well, what’s left of it anyway. Unsurprisingly, the place is now little more than the foundations of the buildings that once made up the Romans’ Arbeia, (though a rebuilt gateway stands guard) and after a swift visit I continued onwards to the front and found myself outside the Harbour Lights restaurant/bar. Having walked into a brisk wind on the way there, I was in need of a warm-up and so headed within for a pint of Hop House 13, which set me back a little under £4. Not too bad.

South Shields

Fort

On the front

After watching some of the Stoke-Liverpool early kick-off in here, I finished up and returned back to the town centre itself, where I bypassed the Wetherspoons and a few of its near-neighbours for the moment, instead preferring to explore the far side of the town, where I’d previously planned to begin my journey via the North/South Shields Ferry, before rail repairs put paid to that idea. Still, I had copious amounts of time in hand and soon arrived at the foot of the ferry terminal just as one of the pair of craft was pulling into port. I soon pulled into a kind of port too, though mine, unsurprisingly perhaps, was of the pub variety – namely the Alum Ale House, located in the shadow of all manner of shipping paraphernalia around the Tyne Dock. The Ale House was a lovely place with quite a number of punters taking advantage of the sun (not that it was warm to me!), though I stayed indoors with a pint of the fine 61 Deep.

From there, I continued a short way down the road, passing a pair of roundabouts until I arrived at the door of The Steamboat. Apparently, the Steamboat is a regular CAMRA award-winning place, though I didn’t much fancy partaking in another ale just yet. As such, I entered into the pub to find San Miguel which suited me just fine for the moment, whilst I took in the décor of the place, which encompassed all sorts of maritime stuff…and a Croatian flag. Never before have I seen a flag look quite so out-of-place! Regardless, the Steamboat has to be one of my favourite pubs visited this season. Characterful, warm and traditional. Sweet.

Harbour Lights

Alum Ale House

Steamboat

Sadly, time was quickly conspiring against me and I soon had to depart and return towards the bustling town centre and its market place. With a few drops of rain beginning to fall as I passed an old-looking church just off to the side of the tented stalls, I came across a pair of pubs just around the corner from the Metro station. A quick look at both helped me decide to pop into the Mechanics Arms, where I found one of my favourite lesser-spotted ciders on draught, Woodpecker. A pint of that was excitedly bought (yes, really) and I took up a seat at the window and watched bus-goers arriving into the town whilst being ferried from place to place.

A quick journey later and I was disembarking at Bede station, located a short five-minute walk away from Shields’ Mariners Park home. Arriving at the ground in what I thought would be plenty of time, I soon discovered that I was within the second thousand people to have gotten to the ground. Unsurprisingly, the in demand programmes where all gone by the time I paid in my £8 dues, though I was pointed in the direction of a small wooden hut which served as the club shop it appeared, where I was able to get another printed off at some point soon for a total of £3. With around 15 minutes still to go before kick-off, I reckoned now would probably be the best time to join the queue of people at one of the food bars and timed it well enough that I would be getting a nice, fresh batch of chips, not forgetting the gravy on top. For a further £2, these were pretty good too.

Back to the town….

The pair of neighbours

Arriving at the ground

These kept me busy through the final few minutes leading up to the game before the teams emerged from the tunnel over the far side of the ground, with South Shields, led by former Sunderland & Middlesbrough man Julio Arca, receiving a guard of honour from opponents Colne, who were intent on making sure this would be the only niceties they would have handed out come five-to-five.

We were all soon set to go at Mariners Park, a ground located within an industrial estate, though is tidy and which features a few stands on the near side, with its Main Stand, bar, changing rooms and other amenities located across the way. The near touchline sees a pair of covered terraces, both a few steps deep, flanking a small seated stand that straddles the half way line. The opposite side sees and older, small covered terrace area that doesn’t particularly offer a great view of the action on a day like today, though did attract the most vocal of the Shields fan base it seemed. This stand is located between the clubhouse building and the Main Stand, the former of which also has an upstairs balcony-like area for those seemingly taking advantage of hospitality, whilst the latter has an area of terracing to the front, with the seats raised above the pitch, giving a good view of the action. Both ends are open, hard standing, with the far end housing a 3G training pitch and a large marquee over in the far corner alongside it, though this may have only been in situ today. So that’s Mariners Park in a nutshell and this is the story of the Mariners of South Shields….

History Lesson:

The current incarnation of South Shields Football Club was founded in  1974 and is the third club to carry the South Shields name. The original club was formed in 1889 as South Shields Adelaide Athletic and competed in the Shields & District, Tyneside League & North Eastern League pre-WWI, winning the former in 1905, the Tyneside League on two consecutive occasions in 1906 & 1907 respectively and the same feat was achieved in the North Eastern League, the two titles here being won in 1914 & 1915. The club also won the wartime Tyneside Combination in 1916, whilst also winning numerous cup silverware in the form of two Durham Challenge Cups (1911, 1914), two Black Cups (1913, 1914) and an Ingham Infirmary Cup, also in 1914 with that year seeing the club achieve a quadruple.

The club was voted into the Football League’s Second Division in 1919, before financial issues necessitated a move to Gateshead in the late 1920’s, later becoming Gateshead A.F.C. The club would remain a League outfit through to 1960, despite having being relegated to the Third Division North in 1928. They finished as Third Division North runners-up in 1932, missing out on promotion on goal average before performances dropped off and they finished second bottom in 1937 but achieved re-election.

Flag Ahoy

1950 saw another runners-up placing achieved (only the winners were promoted) and 1952 saw Gateshead reach the FA Cup’s 4th round – a run which included a win over Liverpool – but eventually, come 1960, they were “surprisingly” voted out of the Division 4 in favour of Peterborough United, despite not having finished bottom or had to apply for re-election since 1937. This subsequently meant the club saw out their remaining years in the local Northern Counties League (the North Eastern League’s replacement, before retaking the name a few years later) winning the North Eastern League’s League Cup in 1961 before switching into the North Regional League in 1962 and lifting the title in 1964. They became a founding member of the Northern Premier League in 1968, finishing bottom in 1970 and dropping into the Wearside League, finishing runners-up in 1971. A failed seven attempts to return to the league were encountered before a short two-season spell in the Midland League was had prior to their eventual folding in 1973 and the club being replaced in similar fashion by another South Shields FC club who were relocated to the Heed. This second outfit was also renamed to take the Gateshead name, becoming Gateshead United, but folded after only three seasons in the town.

Before their folding, the second club had started life as South Shields FC and were admitted into the North Eastern League in 1936, finishing third in their first season before winning the league title in 1939. After WWII, the club reached the FA Cup First Round for the first time in 1948, losing to Crewe Alexandra, a run which saw Chris Marron set a Cup record by netting 10 goals in a 13-0 preliminary round game against Radcliffe Welfare United. Three further league runners-up spots were achieved in 1949, ’56 & ’57 (the latter season also saw a second First Round cup appearance, the club taking Chesterfield to a replay) and the 1958 saw them reach the FA Cup’s Second Round, overcoming Frickley Colliery in the First Round before bowing out to York City. They went on to win that year’s North Eastern League title and also attempted to join the Football League afterwards, but this attempt failed.

SSFC

The North Eastern League folded in 1958, with Shields moving into the Midland League, a spell which saw a second Second Round appearance achieved in 1959 (a run which saw a 5-0 revenge win over Crewe) and this was repeated the next season, only with Chesterfield taking the place of the Alex. Further attempts to join the League were unsuccessful and upon the Midland League’s demise in 1960, the club joined the new Northern Counties League and were joined by Gateshead A.F.C., the club they’d been formed to replace. 1962 saw another league runners-up placing and a League Cup win with the league’s renaming that same year preceding a further two second place finishes in the next couple of seasons, the league being disbanded in 1964 and Shields joining the North Regional League and after winning it in 1967, shadowed Gateshead in becoming a founder of the NPL and reached the FA Cup’s Third Round in 1970, eventually losing at QPR.

1972 saw them try to join the Scottish Second Division (along with Wigan Athletic) but they were rejected and after reaching the 1974 FA Trophy semi-finals, found themselves with no ground and so relocated to Gateshead to replace A.F.C. After a second failed attempt to join the league North of the border, a further two appearances in the FA Cup’s Second Round were achieved before their folding in 1977 and the forming of the current Gateshead outfit.

The current club formed in 1974 and joined the Northern Alliance which they won in both of their first two seasons before a switch into the Wearside League saw success continue, the title here being won in 1977, along with the Durham Challenge Cup. After winning the Monkwearmouth Charity Cup in 1987, they eventually moved into their own ground at Mariners Park in 1992 which led to a second Wearside League title in 1993 (along with the Sunderland Shipowners Cup) and a third in 1995 which saw the Mariners promoted to the Northern League’s Division Two and the following year saw them promoted again to Division One. This would only last a sole season however, with Shields relegated back in 2000 and despite the threat of the chairman at the time that he’d fold the club if relegation was suffered, the club were still around come the next campaign.

Main Stand

A second threat of closure in 2006 resulted in the club being locked out of their home though a new committee would be formed and save the club. On-field performances improved and 2008 saw promotion back to Division One finally achieved and the 2010 Northern League Cup ended a long wait for silverware. However, things took s dip and 2013 saw Shields relegated once more and forced to leave their home for Eden Lane, in Peterlee after their lease expired. 2015 saw them return home and they would win the 2016 Northern League Division 2 title and promotion back to Division 1. The next season saw the club go on a 32-game winning run which led to them becoming Northern League champions and also lifting the Durham Challenge Cup for a second time. They added the Northern League Challenge Cup and the prestigious FA Vase to these successes to achieve a quadruple after beating Cleethorpes Town at Wembley and their success has continued into this season, South Shields having won the NPL Division One North title and with it promotion to the Premier Division, under the ex-Sunderland duo of manager Martin Scott and captain Julio Arca.

The early stages of the contest saw a very quiet, tight opening with neither side giving much away to their opponents, Colne especially so having extra stakes on their side as the Lancastrian outfit looked to sneak into the play-offs via the back-door. The visitors would eventually fashion the first real chances of note too, with Matt Morgan firing in a low shot that flew wide of the upright, before Alex Curran forced a first true save out of either ‘keeper, South Shields’ stopper Liam Connell keeping out the effort.

The game continued being a closely fought affair, though the deadlock was eventually broken on the half-hour and it was the soon-to-be-crowned champions who would grab the opener. Shields won a corner when the Colne defence eventually scrambled the ball behind after it had twice been cleared off the line, but this resultant set-piece would prove to be their downfall as the ball eventually found its way to the feet of Lee Mason and he prodded the ball over the line for one-nil.

Match Action

Match Action

On target

Having waited half-an-hour for the opening goal, they began to arrive like the much-maligned London buses. Just a couple of minutes later, the hosts won possession in the middle, the ball being brought forward by Michael Richardson before he played a nicely weighted ball into the platinum-highlighted coiffed Carl Finnegan, the striker cutting inside the defence and firing beyond Colne stopper Hakan Burton. That looked to be the end of the visitors play-off hopes for another season.

However, Colne had other ideas – though they did require a huge slice of luck and more than a helping hand from Connell between the Shields sticks. Just a few minutes before the break and having had very little to do up to that point, Connell was faced with watching a weak and seemingly unthreatening effort from full-back Waqas Azam into his waiting arms. Unfortunately for him, a huge bobble (or something anyway) caused the ball to rear up sharply, bypassing the ‘keeper’s grasp and rolling over the line with Connell watching despairingly on. Two-one and game on as we headed into the break.

An uneventful half-time came and went and I decided to start off the half in the small terrace with the louder fans, though, as I said earlier, found it to not be the greatest of places to watch from and so continued on round the ground for a second time. Azam had an early chance to double both his and Colne’s tally, but could only find the side-netting before Shields responded Luke Sullivan and Lee Mason going close to adding a third. Skipper Arca was replaced around this time too, having showed just how good he still is at this level, superbly marshalling the middle of the park for the Mariners.

Not much to see here….

Match Action

Match Action

From there, little of note really happened up until the last five minutes, with only a few wayward or blocked shots being seen and it looked as though Colne’s hopes were being snuffed out as the clock ran down. But, they were given some hope late on when Matty Pattison was adjudged to be time-wasting (I assume anyway) over a corner by the referee and received a second yellow, resulting in him getting his marching orders. He looked rather bemused, as were many in the crowd (me included), but the hosts were down to ten nonetheless and perhaps it wasn’t over yet for the visitors.

Indeed, the dangerous Curran forced Connell into another decent stop as Colne piled forward as the clock ticked over into stoppage time, but that was to be that, the champions held on to end their time in the NPL’s Division 1 North with a win, likely becoming the final ever winners of the division in this form, prior to its East/West split from next season. Colne would just miss out on a play-off to Trafford and Tadcaster (though both would resultantly bow out in the semis anyway) so perhaps got their disappointment out of the way! Julio Arca lifted the trophy to the cheers of the Shields faithful before the champagne was sprayed as I made my way out of the ground and back to Bede station for the train back into the town for a couple of post-match bevvies.

Colne fans making some noise too

Lap of honour

Celebrations begin!

First up came the Wetherspoons I’d passed earlier, the Wouldhave – the name derived from a ship I think I noticed from the picture in the doorway. Either way, after seeing a couple of guys trip on the stairs on their way up to the loos, I opted to keep it easy with a quick bottle of Hooch before nipping next door to the Clover and Wolf, one of those foody bars. It was pleasant in here too and not too pricey, a pint of Moretti coming in at £3.30, before finishing up in the previously scouted out Kirkpatrick’s, located in a grand-looking, sprawling building just around the corner and a couple of minutes from the station. There were a couple nearer, though I decided not to be too silly and call it a day with my cheap £2.75 Amstel.

Spoons

Clover & Wolf

Kirkpatricks

The train back was caught with no issue and I arrived back in Newcastle station where the train was waiting to whisk me back down to Manchester. Unfortunately, a slight delay on this meant I missed my local connection, but a bus wasn’t long in coming to my rescue. So there ends the day. It’s always good fun getting caught up in someone else’s party (Ossett wedding crash notwithstanding), the game and ground were both decent and South Shields was a decent town too (plus I wanted to visit the club whilst they still used their traditional badge!). Journey was ok enough despite the small set-back, so no complaints here. Onwards into the last month of the season then, starting off with another promotion party a little higher up the pyramid….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: 7

Programme: N/A (pending)

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Ossett (Ossett Albion AFC)

Result: Ossett Albion 4-0 Bamber Bridge (Northern Premier League Division One North)

Venue: Queens Terrace/Dimple Wells (Saturday 21st April 2018, 3pm)

Att: 402

As the season begins to reach the end of the road, so also does the run of Ossett Albion as a senior outfit. If you haven’t already heard (and where have you been if not?!), the Unicorns’ open-age side are to merge with their cross-town rivals, Ossett Town, to form a new united club under the name of….well, Ossett United. This, in turn, will also spell the end for Queen’s Terrace as a ground within the footballing pyramid and so, with Dimple Wells being one of my favoured grounds ever since my first trip way back in 2009-’10, I figured a final jolly to the Unicorns was in order.

Indeed, the game would also see the final game played by Albion at the ground before their departure though, pleasingly, it will remain in some guise with a 3G being installed which will see it continue to be the home of the side’s development and women’s teams going forward, with United playing at Town’s Ingfield ground right in the centre of Ossett itself. As a result, I decided to leave the main area of the town alone for now and instead see what the “South Ossett” area had to offer instead. Sadly this wouldn’t include the Ossett Brewery’s own pub, with it being a little too far out-of-the-way this time around.

Anyway, having headed into Manchester during the mid-morning, I caught the train over from Victoria to Dewsbury in the nick of time before heading up through the Roses county border towns of Hebden Bridge and its fine, traditional station, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd, eventually arriving into Dewsbury station at just before midday, in good time to complete the short walk over to the bus station to catch the carriage over to Ossett. It was bloody hot on that thing too. What is this sorcery?!

Ossett

Nice church

Having headed just past the current home of Albion, I got off just down the road from my first two stop-offs of the day, situated towards the far end of the town. First up was the Weaver’s Arms which is a really unassuming, old-school pub. It doesn’t look particularly overly welcoming from the outside but inside the feeling is well and truly different, with locals happy to chat about the footballing matters both in Ossett and up in the Prem too, fed by the West Brom-Liverpool game on TV. There was even a guy in here who was visiting from Perth, Australia for the game but, before you think groundhopping has gone too far, he was a friend of someone high up within the Unicorns’ ranks!

Having finished up my pint of Kaltenberg (which at less than £3 was a huge bargain), I bid goodbye to the guys in here and continued onwards back towards the first pub I’d passed en route, the Old Vic – though I did go back a slightly longer way round, as I wanted to have a look at the old Christ Church just around the corner. Eventually arriving back at the Vic, I was soon in possession of a pint of Coors in here whilst I concocted my plan of getting a pair of programmes early, as it was likely these would sell out considering the magnitude of the day. I’m not usually too fussed about them per se, though I do like to pick one up if possible and certainly so if the game is more meaningful than is often the case. BTW, the Vic was a decent little pub too, with a wide range of exotic (and otherwise) empty bottles lined up in one corner of the room. The Coors didn’t come cheap, though, coming in at around £4.

Weaver’s Arms

The Old Vic

DRINK!!

From here I headed off across this part of town, foregoing the Park Tavern for now and instead venturing through a slightly more estate-y area to the Prince of Wales. This was ok enough for a quick one, though I didn’t remain in place all that long, another Coors in here setting me back £3.50~ before I returned down the same road and back towards the ground.

I didn’t seem to be the first person who’d had the idea of getting a programme early doors as the turnstile operator didn’t seem to set aback by my request and I soon had possession of two programmes at £2 a pop, with Dan still on his way down to join me. It was something of a shame that he wasn’t there already, as I soon made what I believe is my biggest faux pas of the season so far, and one I’ll have to go some to best at all. Having popped around the corner and to the Dimple Wells Lodge, I came across a wedding reception in the garden. However, there was nothing to state that the hotel’s bar was affected by this and having headed through the main doors and into the empty bar area, nothing seemed to point towards this being the case.

Prince of Wales

Oops….

I was wrong. Having informed Dan of where I was, we were soon approached by the manager of the hotel who informed us that the whole place was indeed booked out for the function, meaning that we were, officially and unquestionably, gatecrashers, albeit completely accidental ones! She was very nice about it, saying we should have really been told earlier (I’d been there a good 25 minutes at this point!) and that we needn’t rush what we had. Of course not wanting to outstay our unwanted welcome, we did just that and headed, rather sheepishly back through the guests and back towards the ground for kick-off. I’d wanted to seek out the groom, who was happy enough for us to finish up we were informed, and apologise for the oversight, but couldn’t spot him so I’d like to offer him & his new wife the opportunity to return the favour as when and if the roles are reversed….and  I’m serious too!

Soon arriving back at Queen’s Terrace, we headed around the boundary of the adjoining cricket ground and to the turnstiles were we were relieved of our £7 entry fee before we immediately beared right and dived into the “tea bar” where I opted for cheesy chips and mushy peas for £2. These were bloody good too and kept me busy for the first ten minutes of the match, which had gotten underway soon after our arrival to Dimple Wells. Speaking of the ground, it is a lovely, ramshackle (and I mean that in a positive way) ground, hosting three stands.

Arriving….

….passing the cricket club

….and heading towards the ground

Firstly, the Main Stand is located on the far side of the ground and straddles the half-way line. The far end hosts a newer covered standing area, with a little extra uncovered terracing located at either side. The near end houses another covered terrace, with this being set back slightly from the pitch and so the views aren’t the best from here, though the more vocal section of the home support call this place home, perhaps due to the close proximity of the clubhouse which stands within the gap between the turnstile/tea bar and the covered terrace, and also has a few outside tables upon a raised patio area, which is a nice place to be on a day such as this was. The near touchline is a couple of steps of open, hard standing, which runs the length of the pitch, though the bit behind the dugouts is rather pointless as you can’t see a thing unless you are around 6’6. Be that as it may, I love Queen’s Terrace. That’s the ground in a nutshell and this is the story of Ossett Albion….

History Lesson:

Ossett Albion Association Football Club was founded in 1944 (which must be a rarity in that they were formed in wartime) as a junior outfit before eventually becoming a senior team and after initially joining the West Riding County Amateur League for a short spell, Albion joined the Yorkshire League in 1957, taking a place in their Division 2. The club would be promoted at the end of their second season here, finishing as runners-up, before immediately finishing as league-runners up the next year, to Farsley Celtic.

They remained in Division One through to 1972, a period which encompassed three West Riding County Cup wins in 1965, ’66 & ’68, before they were relegated at the end of the 1971-’72 season after finishing bottom. They then spent just two seasons back in Division Two before again finishing as runners-up and returning to the top division. They would then become the Yorkshire League’s 1975 champions as they immediately won the title in their first year back but quickly dropped off into mid-table and were relegated just three years later, though did see more cup success, with two Yorkshire League Cups being won in 1976 & 1977. However, they would spend just a season back in Division Two before being promoted, this time as winners in 1979.

Ossett Albion line-up at home for the final time

Their return would be short lived and they were relegated back, once more, after just the one season and they continued to yo-yo between the two divisions, being promoted at the end of the next campaign, as Albion won the Division 2 for a second time. The following year would be the club’s final in the Yorkshire League, as Albion would take a spot in the newly formed Northern Counties East League’s Division One North for Season 1982-’83, with the Yorkshire League having merged with the Midland League to create the new NCEL. After spending two seasons in the North Division, reorganisation saw them move into the short-lived Central section for 1984 prior to being allocated a place in the regional Division One for 1985 following a 4th placed finish. The club would go on to spend a further two seasons in the Division One prior to winning it in 1987 and being promoted to the NCEL Premier Division.

After finishing bottom (but avoiding relegation) at the end of both the first two seasons and finishing second-bottom at the end of their third, things began to take a turn for the better and the Unicorns began to rise up the table slowly, firstly establishing themselves in mid-table before reaching the higher echelons and then finally lifting the NCEL title in 1999. Unfortunately, the club were not promoted to the Northern Premier League’s Division One due to issues with regard to the changing rooms not being big enough and so Albion had to remain in the NCEL for another two seasons, eventually being promoted in 2001 when, after finishing as runners-up to Brigg Town, Brigg were the club this time being denied promotion. However, their stay in the NPL Division One lasted just a sole season, the Unicorns finishing bottom and thus returning back to the Counties East.

OAFC

A further two season spell back in the NCEL (which saw the NCEL League Cup won in 2003) was ended when Albion won their second championship after beating Eastwood Town to the title on the final day of the 2003-’04 season on goals scored only. The club therefore returned to the NPL’s Division One and would cement themselves as a solid mid-table outfit, remaining in the Division One through its separation into a North/South divisional split in 2007, with the club finishing 6th at the end of both the first two seasons following. However, their form soon dropped away and the club became perennial strugglers for the next six seasons, finishing a best of 17th in 2015, having already narrowly avoided the drop with 2014 seeing only a late reprieve keep their NPL status intact. After a 10th placed finish in 2016 saw a relieving upturn in form, Albion returned towards the wrong end of the table last season, finishing 18th, with this season seeing them safely hovering in the lower mid-table under ex-Sunderland midfielder Andy Welsh, ahead of the impending merger with Ossett Town.

With the game already underway, it wasn’t long until the first chance came around. In fact it took just six minutes for the visitors from just outside Preston to come close, Adam Dodd seeing his well struck shot parried away by Brett Souter between the Albion sticks and Brig continued their bright start soon afterwards when Alistair Waddecar’s free-kick was deflected rather wickedly and duly forced Souter into a second good stop of the afternoon.

Dodd would again go within a whisker of giving his side the lead some fifteen minutes later when he saw his effort hit the outside of the upright and it was this close-call that seemed to awaken the hosts from their slumber. In fact, just a few minutes later, they themselves would strike first with something of a goalmouth scramble resulting in the ball finding its way to the feet of Scott Metcalfe and the winger made little issue of sweeping the ball home from close range. One-nil to the Unicorns!

Match Action

Watching on….

Match Action

Waddecar then went close a second time, seeing his effort clear the bar and the terraced stand behind the goal, before Albion would double their advantage just after the half-hour when Tom Corner was left totally unmarked at, rather fittingly, a corner-kick and he thumped his header beyond Brig stopper Lloyd Rigby and into the net and it looked like the fans of the hosts would be saying a fond farewell to their home & current club with a win. Half-Time; 2-0.

Half-Time was largely spent being amused by a group of young Albion fans who were quite happy to show their idolising of Derek Ubah during the warm-up. Indeed, Ubah definitely seems a cult hero in these parts, getting his own cheer when entering the field during the second-half, so he must be a certainty to keep his place in the new United team for next season, otherwise there could be rioting afoot in these parts. Be warned!

The second half was soon a-go and it didn’t take long until Bamber Bridge were laden with a huge setback when a ‘robust’ challenge by right-back Macauley Wilson on Albion’s Josh Grant resulted in tempers flaring here and there as players swarmed in from all over the field. However it would be Wilson only who would be given his marching orders though to be fair to him, he seemed remorseful and knew it was a bad one, checking on Grant before heading from the field.

Match Action

Match Action

View from the terracing

Things soon settled down and Albion would assert their numerical dominance quickly with Aiden Chippendale going close and James Knowles hitting the crossbar. They would eventually add their third on 70 minutes when Gibraltar international Adam Priestley latched onto a long ball forward from ‘keeper Souter before squaring the ball to Chippendale who slotted home.

Souter would soon be forced to leave the field having been caught in a fair 50-50 challenge meaning sub ‘keeper Owen Brooke received an unexpected appearance but this proved to have little effect on Albion as they added a fourth late on when a terrible mix-up between a defender and Rigby led to Adam Priestley nipping in between them, knocking the ball over the ‘keeper and nodding into the empty net to complete a fine win for the hosts and ensure that a fitting farewell was given to Ossett Albion Football Club at Queen’s Terrace.

Post-match visit #1

Post-match visit #2

After a quick visit into the bar for a Bulmers post-match, Dan and I continued just up the road and to The Tap pub which stands pretty much opposite the ground’s access road. It was here that I was faced with the beautiful sight of Blue Moon on tap (unsurprisingly, I guess) and I didn’t hesitate in handing over my £4.20 (ish) for a pint of the lovely American, Belgian-style wheat beer. However, soon after joining Dan  – who once again disappointed with a Carling – I had a realisation. I’d forgotten about the Park Tavern and that would have been a bad showing to miss out one place alone. So I swiftly finished off here, left Dan to finish off that….stuff and jogged on over to the Park for a quick bottle of Bud (not the dilly dilly version) before catching the bus back up to Dewsbury where I was to meet Dan for the train back, which featured the highlight of a Gibbo in the wild, returning from watching his beloved Colls along with his girlfriend. Needless to say, he quickly made sure he escaped our grasp!

After stopping at each and every station on the way back, we eventually pulled back into Victoria where I bid goodbye to Dan and headed back on over to Oxford Road for the train back, the walk being highlighted by a guy doing his very best George Michael’s ‘Carless Whispers’ on his saxophone in “Sexy Sax Man” style. What a way to end off the day, wouldn’t you agree?!

So that’s that for both the day and Ossett Albion in their town. A fine day and game combined well to make for a good trip, with programme, food and pubs all being fine additions to the day too. The journey both up and down was pretty much trouble-free (bar making the train with seconds to spare en route) but that was it. Anyway, all the best to the two Ossett’s on their new beginning and hopefully they can tap in to the rather large catchment area they are no doubt within. Anyway, onto next week and the, by time of writing, NPL North champs….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Warrington

Warrington Townprescot

Result: Warrington Town 6-1 Prescot Cables (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)

Venue: Cantilever Park (Saturday 19th April 2016, 3pm)

Att: 1,411

I’d been to Cantilever Park on numerous occasions back in my days of watching Trafford, but never had a game at this ground had so much riding on it. That’s because, today, Warrington Town had the big chance to secure their place in the Evo-Stik Premier Division for next season after dominating the North section. Could they do it? Well, if you’ve somehow missed the “result” line above or missed the result via the numerous media outlets, let me keep you in suspense.

As for myself, I set off into Warrington at just before 11.30, arriving just 20 minutes later. From there, it was into the town centre and firstly to the Hop Pole pub, which is the first one you come to after leaving Central station. The Hop Pole would serve as a base for me to figure out where to head before making the walk to the ground and in the company of a Corona and the off-putting sight of George Michael looking to be singing to “Hotel California” (a radio/TV channel mix), I laid my plans for the foray around the town.

Heading into Warrington

Heading into Warrington

Warrington

Warrington

Plans set, I headed out of the Pole, and slightly out of the centre to one of the two Wetherspoons that Warrington plays host to. The Looking Glass was apparently the better of the two so I’d heard, so I decided to follow the tips and head for that. A good decision, as the Looking Glass is certainly an interesting building, set out over two floors and with a distinct architecture to it.

But alas, as I sat down with an IPA, it wasn’t long until one of those people with a most annoying, high volume laugh began to unleash it upon the other unsuspecting punters in the pub. It was so annoying, in fact, that I just couldn’t stay in there as it was ongoing and I don’t think I was alone, as quite a few people took their leave at the same time as me. Coincidence? Possibly, but it was a bit inconsiderate to be so loud.

Luckily, the next pub on my list was right next door and is a slightly famed one. The Lower Angel’s claim to fame is a picture that hangs on the wall in the bar area of the 130-year-old pub. Yes, as the “Famous Grouse” plaque states, the picture shows a Victorian-time man and boy with a “ghostly face” looking at them through a window. Spooky. But, not to be put off, I remained in there and ordered one of the guest ales the pub had an offer today, an Elizabeth Rose from the Ossett Brewery. Pretty decent too.

The Lower Angel

The Lower Angel

The Feathers

The Feathers

Unfortunately, my stay here had to be a short one, as I had to keep making progress towards the far side of the town centre and thus towards the ground. So, the next stop was The Feathers, a craft ale pub that has apparently been reopened as such quite recently. But it’s certainly not cheap, with my pint of San Miguel costing me no less than £4.20!! So, having been sufficiently put off having another one by pure inflation, I nursed the pint whilst watching the first half of Norwich-Sunderland.

Eventually, though, it was time to leave and head down the long main road alongside the River Mersey to Cantilever Park. After 20 minutes I was arriving at the big Union Flag house that signifies your turning point. Not a bad marker as you can’t miss it! A further five minutes or so from here and the home of the Wire comes into view in earnest. Upon arrival and getting the usual strange looks while taking pictures, I had to then find the steward who had my ticket to gain entry.

After sorting this out, the gate steward headed off to speak to Town’s chairman Toby Macormac whom I’d sorted the arrangement with. Eventually, the steward came back and said “in you come!” Can’t beat a name on the gate happening! Cheers!! I also have to say that everyone was very helpful, so again thanks!

Arrived!

Arrived!

Busy turnstiles

Busy turnstiles & a very Swedish welcome!

Cantilever Park is a nice little ground, featuring three stands and is overlooked by the bridge which lends its name to the ground. The “main” all seater stand is situated on the far touchline and sits on half-way. A covered terrace sits behind the far goal and another sits alongside the clubhouse, snack bar and other facilities on the near touchline and is located towards the far end too. The social club roof also provides a small amount of cover. The near end is open and is home to a 3G pitch. The changing room/hospitality building sits towards the near corner, between the turnstiles and social club.

With an hour still to go to kick-off (I arrived early so not to get in the way of the stewards etc), I headed into the function room area within Warrington’s social club. I wasn’t having another drink just yet, though, and instead had a look through the impressive, glossy programme which is certainly a fine effort. Eventually, though, time was ticking by and I headed back out to now find the ground pretty full. As such, I decided this was the time to find some food and so the snack bar was sought, as was a £2 steak pie, which was well worth it.

Soon enough, the players were finishing their warm-ups and heading inside the changing room building for their final pep-talks. But, before kick-off, there came the biggest moment seen so far…A BOAT!! Yes, a boat just appeared behind the main stand on the far side and trundled its merry way along the river. As you can tell from this, I’m very easily pleased/impressed! Enough of the boat now, and as the players make their way back onto the field for kick-off, along with the Warrington Legend, who, earlier, I did see unmasked (controversy!), here’s a spot of history about the Wires…

History Lesson:

Warrington Town FC was founded 1949 as Stockton Heath Albion and played in the Warrington & District League until 1953 whereupon they moved into the Mid-Cheshire League. 1953, ’54 & ’55 saw the club win three straight Mid-Cheshire League Cups and 1960 saw Albion win the Mid-Cheshire League title. The club also featured a player by the name of Roger Hunt during this period, but I doubt anyone’s heard of him….

1961 saw the club adopt the Warrington Town FC name and they became founder members of the Cheshire County League Division 2 in 1978, before becoming founders of the North West Counties League Division 3 upon the CCL’s merging into it in 5 years later. After earning promotion as runners-up in the first season, they remained in Division 2 until 1987 when another runners-up placing saw Town promoted to Division 1. The Wire also reached the semi-finals of the FA Vase in 1986 and the final of the competition in 1987, losing to St.Helen’s Town.

WTFC

WTFC

Today's Teams

Today’s Teams

1990 saw Town promoted as champions to the Northern Premier League Division 1 and reached the 1993 FA Trophy quarter final. The club also sold Liam Watson to Preston North End for a NPL record £60,000, but were relegated in 1997 back to the NWCFL Division 1 and were again relegated the next season to find themselves back in the NWCFL Division 2.

2000 saw Town win the Second Division Trophy and 2001 saw the club back in Division 1 after winning the Second Division. As part of restructuring, a 5th place finish in Division 1 in 2004 was enough tho ensure Wire a place in the NPL Division 1 after the creation of the regional Conference Divisions and upon the NPL Division 1’s own regionalised split in 2007, Warrington were placed in the Southern section. This only lasted a season, though, as they were quickly switched to the North Division.

Here they have remained as a largely mid-table side, but in 2014 Town did finish third and compete in the play-offs, but lost out to Bamber Bridge. 2015 saw Warrington feature in the FA Cup 1st Round and their famous win on TV over Exeter City thanks to Craig Robinson’s early goal. Later that season, Wire lifted their first silverware for 14 years by beating Farsley on penalties to lift the NPL Challenge Cup and this season has, of course, seen the club’s push continue and despite the mid-season departure of Shaun Reid, Warrington have gone on to march towards promotion regardless.

Non-League Boat!

Non-League Boat!

A Busy Cantilever Park

A Busy Cantilever Park

After the usual pleasantries and both teams’ pre-match huddles were completed, we got underway and it soon became apparent that there were little to no nerves within the Yellows’ camp and if any did exist, they were soon tempered as league top-scorer Ciaran Kilheeney slotted in from close range, to send the vocal Warrington support behind me into raptures. They were soon off once more as Scott Metcalfe rifled in from the edge of the area with his right foot, which Scott himself later said “Don’t get many like that with my right”. Not exactly a quote, but along those lines!

Anyway, there wasn’t much to cheer for the travelling Cables support but at least at 2-0 they were still in the game. Well, they were for another 17 minutes, before Ged Kinsella lashed home from point blank range right in front of me, which prompted a younger Wire fan to say he “thought it was coming straight through the net” and hit him in the face. But that was Kinsella’s last action, as he was immediately replaced. This certainly didn’t affect the home side though as they went into the break at 4-0 up. Chris Gahgan, a long-term favourite of mine in the non-league circles, knocked the ball in from close range to all but secure Warrington’s promotion.

Celebrating the opener

Celebrating the opener

Metcalfe nets #2

Metcalfe nets #2

Pick that out

Pick that out

So half-time came and went though I did come across Scott’s dad Ray (I know both from Scott’s Trafford days). Ray was still being ultra cautious and saying if Cables get two back they could wobble, though there didn’t look too much threat in that category, though when Cables pulled one back through Rob Doran’s wonderful free-kick, the thought did cross my mind!

But Warrington were having none of it and set about on the offense once more and they soon restored their four goal advantage through Daniel O’Donnell (no, not the 50-something Irish crooner). O’Donnell had received the ball from a cross after a short corner to thump past the helpless Burgess in the Cables goal for 5-1 and only a couple of minutes later came the Yellow’s sixth, Kilheeney converting a rebound, prompting the shout “We’ll be running round Latchford with the cup!” from a Wire fan. (Latchford being the area in which the ground is situated).

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The vocal Wire fans

The vocal Wire fans

After a brief meeting with Rob who was on his photography missions, the game wound down to its conclusion and the final whistle sounded to ensure that Warrington were going up and cued the celebrations, with the players being joined by their kids before the champagne was sprayed of course(!), all to the soundtrack of the usual “We are the Champions” and the lesser used “Movin’ On Up”. But that wasn’t before a pitch invasion and impromptu kid’s football game was curtailed by the PA blaring “Please stay off the pitch until after the presentation!”.

Celebrations about to begin

Celebrations about to begin

Champions!

Champions!

Spray the bubbles...

Spray the bubbles…

So, on the conclusion of the trophy being lifted and the bubbles being sprayed, I headed into the clubhouse once more, but this time into the smaller of the two rooms that wasn’t open beforehand. Another San Miguel was had for the much cheaper price of £2.60, before I eventually realised that most of the goings on were in the other room and I made my way over to say a well done to Scott and to Ally Brown too, another ex-Trafford man.

Soon after, though, it was time to exit the ground and head back towards the town and Warrington Central station. With the bright sunlight continuing unabated, I wondered when the last time was I’d worn sunglasses for the entirety of a game and most of the day in general, you know, ’cause I’m so interesting like that. Before long, my very interesting self pondering was ended upon my arrival back at the station where the guards who’d checked my ticket on arrival, didn’t care at all on the way back. Must have been too upset at missing the game.

So, here ends our tale. It will be good to see Warrington up in the Prem of the NPL next season and I hope they do well as I always remember that time a few years back when I lost my college pass along with some money and it was all handed in together. Things don’t go forgotten and as such I really wish Warrington all the best in the higher division as Champions….

DSC02222

RATINGS:

Game: 7- One sided, but still entertaining with goals raining in.

Ground: 8- Always liked Cantilever and it’s nooks and crannies.

Food: 7- A pretty nice pie, nothing to go overboard on, but definitely OK for £2.

Programme: 9- Has to be one of the better at the level and all presented well too.

Fans: 9- One I can rate finally! Good vocal support and all round decent fan base I always find.

Value For Money: 9- Come on, how can it not be this high?! Bar the overpriced beer in town…

 

 

 

 

Manchopper in….Prescot

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Result: Prescot Cables 0-3 Warrington Town (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)

Venue: Hope Street/Valerie Park (Saturday 19th March, 3pm)

Att: 376

Going back a few weeks to the New Mills trip, “pitchsidepints” Paul had floated the idea of heading to Prescot Cables’ beer festival. With it tying in nicely with the visit of title chasing Warrington Town, it was as close to a no brainer as you can get. As such, it was confirmed earlier in the week that we were indeed going to visit the town that sits just within “Merseyside”.

After also persuading the Slovakia-bound “lostboyos” Matt to join us and exorcise some of his previous Prescot demons before his travels to the continent, Saturday morning arrived and so did the usual work to the station for the service into Manchester, though I did have to see some kids from school whilst waiting, which is always a bit of a strange occurrence, especially as I don’t think I ever saw any of my teachers out of school and indeed think I thought they lived in the building until I was about 7.

Anyway, enough of my early life stupidity. After transiting through Oxford Road, it was onwards to Wigan and a further ticket onwards to Prescot, the split ticket saving a fiver! Happy days. After a half-hour wait in the pie capital of the world, I eventually caught the stopper over towards Cables’ home.

Around a half hour later, I arrived in Prescot and after getting slightly lost in a housing estate, eventually found my way into the town itself. After heading through the Cables Retail Park, I took the uphill walk towards the Wetherspoon’s where Matt had already informed me he was indulging in the delights of the local customs.

The ‘Spoons in question was The Watch Maker which is, unsurprisingly, watch themed. This is, apparently, harking back to Prescot’s heritage as a timepiece making town. Famous figures that have lived in the town include the former F1 doctor, the late Sid Watkins and even the current 007 (according to Wiki, so God knows if it’s true). Anyway, I did find Matt here, indulging in some Einstok Icelandic beer in tribute to his beau, Gylfi Sigurdsson. After some slight persuasion, I joined him, but not after some hard work helping the bar staff to locate it I the fridge.

Prescot

Prescot

The Watch Maker

The Watch Maker

The Pub's Cables Wall!

The pub’s Cables Wall!

We eventually decided that we wanted to head to the ground for the start of the beer festival at 1pm. But, with the ground no more than three minutes walk away, we figured we could squeeze in a further stop en route and with the cleverly named Hope and Anchor sitting on the corner of Hope Street, this was our temporary abode for the next 20 minutes or so.

The Hope had that horrible bleachy aroma filling its air though, which I absolutely despise and I couldn’t wait to leave, even if the people in it were good sports, with the barman in particular providing some light entertainment. After Matt had enquired if they’d be showing the Swansea game later in the day and the Everton-supporting man seeing his side go one down to Arsenal, he declared to the lady behind the bar with him without warning, “Right, I’m off to Dublin. See you in a couple of days”. And he was gone.

Hope & Anchor

Hope & Anchor

Today's Game

Today’s Game

Graffiti

Not bad…

And so were we not too long after, heading down the neighbouring street and down to the end of the road where the ground sits, only to find we were too early for the turnstiles and so headed for the players’ gate. After being told all the ins and outs of admission for the double header of entertainment for the day, we decided to plump for the easy option and just pay to get in (£7), before paying a further £2 for the very good quality programme. It must be one of the best in the league, no doubt.

As we were heading in, the gateman shouted over to us that the guy who’d done Cables’ graffiti art had also done the Eagle at Benfica’s Estadio de Luz too, which is quite a bit different you’d imagine? With that great bit of trivia in our minds, we headed into the clubhouse, which sits under the large, old-style stand. It really is a beaut and Matt was rather taken with it. I, having seen it before, was slightly less so, but it is nonetheless a good one.

Having also paid a fiver for four halves of the ales/ciders/beers in the barrels included in the fest, we began to indulge and were soon joined by Wycombe fan and full-on ‘hopper Russ. From the clubhouse, we also saw a long line of flags being erected behind the far end goal, which I immediately recognised as the impressive calling card of the Alfie Lund Fund. The fund is named after 6-year-old Alfie, who has the very rare medical condition MECP2 Duplication syndrome. But, not ones to be put off by something like this Alfie, along with Dad Mark, roam around the country watching football and have a scarf train measuring up towards 3 miles long (or 5 tractor wheels, according to Mark).

Cables' Clubhouse

Cables’ Clubhouse

Beer Fest!

Beer Fest!

After having a chat with Mark about his travels and his and Alfie’s fundraising (as well as Alfie having a go for my half of beer), they headed off for their next engagement, having also added Russ’ Wycombe scarf to their collection which he kindly donated. Read more about the fund here. & see Matt’s blog for pics.

After receiving a call from Paul about where we were at, he finally arrived to join us at gone 2pm, having made a late decision to join us and make the trip over from Liverpool. So, with four of us now swelling the ranks, we kept on supping our way through the ales and soon it was time to head outside ready for kick-off, with both teams lining up ready to get the game underway. Speaking of getting underway, here’s how Prescot’s story began…

History Lesson:

Prescot Cables FC was formed in 1884 originally named as simply Prescot. The “Cables” suffix came from the largest local employer: British Insulated Cables, and as such the Cables name is one that is frequented around town.

Cables joined the Lancashire League in 1927, taking over Fleetwood’s record upon their resignation. In 1932, Valerie Park hosted over 8,000 fans for a game against the brilliantly named (to me anyway) Ashton National. After winning numerous local cups: 3x George Mahon (1924, ’27, ’37), 4x Liverpool Cups (1928, ’29, ’30, ’49) a Liverpool Non-League Senior Cup (1953) and two Lancs Combination Cups (1939 & ’48), the club won the Lancs Combination in 1957 and managed a further six runners-up spots, as well as managing to win the Second Division in 1952. The club achieved their biggest win (18-3 vs Great Harwood Town in 1954-’55) and also reached the FA Cup First Round twice, losing to Hartlepool Utd & Darlington on respective occasions.

After adding further silverware in the shape of another two Liverpool Non-League Senior Cups (1959 & ’61) & a Liverpool Challenge Cup (1962), the club joined the Mid-Cheshire League which they won in 1977 and won another Liverpool Challenge Cup the next year. 1979 saw the club join the Cheshire League as founders of Division 2, which they won in 1980 to mean promotion to Division 1.

1983 saw Cables become founder members of the North West Counties League and in 1987 they achieved promotion to Division 1, having played in the bottom division since its formation. 2002 saw Cables win the NWCFL League Cup and finish runners-up in the league. The following season, 2002-’03, saw the club finally make it up to the Northern Premier League as champions and play in Division 1. 2004 saw Cables playing in the NPL Premier after changes to the pyramid and made the play-offs, losing to Workington.

Going up!

Going up!

Ron, Cables' one man band

Rod, Cables’ one man band

2009 saw the club drop out of the Premier Division and return to Division 1 where they remain, largely as a lower mid-table team. Last season saw Cables finish up in a lowly 20th place though, but under fairly new manager Andy Paxton, results have picked up and Cables currently sit in 15th place after a sticky start.

As I have previously mentioned, Prescot’s ground is a nice one, even if it is a little run down. But for me and I’m sure many others, this just adds to the charm. In addition to it’s large raised Main Stand, it also houses a covered terrace behind the Hope Street end goal, which appears to have been shortened at some point, with the terracing outside of the roof showing some forms of old stantion settings. The other two sides are open standing, but with the far end providing a slightly raised view and the far touchline being home to a grass mound giving a similar option.

The game got underway in front of people on all sides. The game, to be honest, wasn’t all that exciting and never really was. So, we kept ourselves entertained by setting off on a lap of Valerie Park, which led to Matt even being papped (yes, he really is that famous now). We headed round to behind the “Safari Park End” goal where we met Prescot’s “one man band” Rod, who bugles and bangs his drums throughout Cables’ games and photographer Dave.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

It was while we were having these conversations that the first goal finally arrived, Ged Kinsella heading home a pin-point right wing cross by full-back Ally Brown. Following this rare moment of excitement, Paul and I left Matt to continue his duologue and headed round to the clubhouse to get some of the club’s brilliant chicken curry, but not before Ciaran Kilheeney had doubled the Wire’s advantage over the Cables, slotting home from inside the area. 2-0, half-time, beer festival time!

After finishing off our fine foods, it was time to head out for the second period and we had decided to save the best until last. So we headed up the stairs and into the Main Stand itself for the second half, with me just about to start off a game of “Spot Russ” when he arrived on cue behind me to mean Matt won the first, and likely only instalment of this which I imagine won’t take off as “Where’s Wally” did.

After Matt had unleashed his “I’d rather be a Cable than a Wire” chant which he’d debuted to me earlier on and we both decided we were going to support Scott Metcalfe (after his times with our local clubs), we settled in to watch the second half, but unfortunately there was little happening once more until, with around 10 minutes left on the clock, Warrington earned themselves a penalty and with it the chance to absolutely put their stamp on this game. Kilheeney stepped up and confidently struck the ball into the right-hand side of the net. Three goals, three points.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Kilheeney nets in front of Alfie's flags!

Kilheeney nets in front of Alfie’s flags!

So, we headed out of Hope St with Russ heading on his way back towards Wycombe and the rest of us to the Royal Oak, which Matt had had recommended to him numerous times on twitter as he strove to find the best place to watch the Swans. Unfortunately, I’d had my fill of beers by this point, allied by having been up early watching the travesty that was the F1 qualifying session and also the prospect of being up at 4.30am for the race the next day, though Paul found it rather amusing that I had kept a half going for the best part of an hour and a half.

At 7 I decided to bid farewell with the Swans at 1-0 against Villa and headed back to Prescot station for the return journey over to Wigan and back onwards home. I quite enjoyed my experience of Prescot itself and certainly its football club, which I’d always found a nice club previously and this view was cemented and improved upon ten-fold. If you get the chance to visit, then do. You won’t be disappointed. Oh, and try and get the beer fest in too….

DSC01863

RATINGS:

Game: 5- Poor game in truth (especially for the neutral) but at least there was goals.

Ground: 8- A proper non-league ground if ever there was one.

Food: 9- Lovely. Quite cheap too if memory serves me right (under £3)?

Programme: 9- As I said earlier, has to be one of the better, especially if you like stats.

Fans: 8- Mostly on Ron!

Value For Money: 8- Great day, great club, game a bit meh, but I’ve seen much worse.

 

 

 

Manchopper in….Urmston (Trafford FC)

TraffordFC160px-Ossettalbionfc

Result: Trafford 0-1 Ossett Albion (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)

Venue: Shawe View (Saturday 5th December 2015, 3pm)

Att: 179

Game off. Match postponed. No game today, Just a few of the phrases that continued to come up on my twitter feed as the hours of Saturday morning ticked by. First, my intended game of Silsden vs West Didsbury & Chorlton fell by the wayside, followed up by my backups at Irlam and Northwich Manchester Villa. So, a short look down the road from my abode saw my gaze settle upon Shawe View and Trafford FC and a revisit to my old regular stomping ground.

But first, a traverse through Urmston was to happen. After arranging with Paul of pitchsidepints a meeting place of the Steamhouse pub on the Liverpool-bound platform at the town’s station, I arrived in there for just before 12.30. After ordering a pint of Weinhenstephan (the oldest brewery in the world, don’cha know), Paul arrived along with his mate Dan and before long, the usual (on these pages anyway) Dan arrived. So, with our clique complete, we headed out of the station pub and up the steps back to street level and headed down the road to our next stop, The Britannia, after Dan had asked where the pool tables were at. Acting as tour guide, this was my recommendation.

Urmston

Urmston

The Steamhouse

The Steamhouse

Read closely!

Read closely!

The Britannia is nothing special in terms of anything really and is rather bland and lacks atmosphere. So, without a pool request, I wouldn’t have recommended it, unlike the Steamhouse which is full of character, due to it being a former station house and still set out in many ways as it was. So, with a defeat and a joint win, I declared my retirement from pool after the latter victory and we headed back out and onwards to Urmston’s Wetherspoon’s, The Tim Bobbin. The Bobbin is in an old electrics showroom, though the building resembles more of an old picture house as Dan enquired to whether it was. I’m unsure if it ever was, as it is before my time, but I’ve always had a similar idea from viewing it.

Either way, in here we all purchased our beers (2x Desperados in my case), before we were met by my mate and Trafford fan, Mike, better known as Cappy. I’d not seen Cappy since before I can remember, so it was nice to have a catch up prior to the game. It came about that Trafford were supporting Key 103’s Mission Christmas scheme and Cappy had bought one of those awful orangey-white balls that are used in the Prem for them to utilise. Sadly, I was unaware of this fact due to Trafford still being the only club to block me on the social media side of things largely due to…no, no I’m not going there again!

The Britannia

The Britannia

Enjoying the frothy liquid

Enjoying the frothy liquid in ‘Spoons

Arriving at Trafford

Arriving at Trafford

With drinks (mine especially frothy) finished, our five strong group headed off down the road and out of the town centre towards Shawe View, which is actually located within Flixton. A shortcut through Chassen Park sees you exit at the mouth of Shawe Road and from here, you head past the neighbouring pitch and down a narrow access road that runs parallel to  the ground before you reach the turnstiles. Here, £8 was handed over for entry after Paul and Dan had utilised their very best ways and after a further £3 was handed over for a golden goal and programme together, I was officially into Shawe View itself.

The ground is only quite small, with the main stand sitting upon the half-way line. This is all seater and neighbours the “clubhouse” (a mobile), the food hut and the tunnel leads to the dressing room areas that sit to the rear. Beyond the clubhouse and next to the turnstiles its a small open terrace, which affords a slightly higher view of the pitch. Behind the far goal is a covered standing area and the far touchline houses a dual seater/standing area, with a couple of rows of seating in front of a row of standing space. Behind the near end goal is open standing, with the ground’s grass mounds rendered obsolete due to the FA’s (and the country’s) OTT Health & Safety rules. Booooo!

So, with not long to kick-off, Paul and Dan headed to get further beer from the clubhouse and usual Dan and I stayed outside. Prior to kick-off a minute’s silence was observed for a supporter who’d passed away during the week. Then it was on to what should have been a game of football, but for large parts resembled a struggle against a windtunnel as “Storm Desmond” added it’s influence upon proceedings. Before we embark upon the game itself, here is the history of the club still known as the North, Trafford:

History Lesson:

Trafford FC was formed in 1990 under the name of North Trafford (hence the still standing nickname). After originally being denied entry to the Mid-Cheshire League, a drop-out presented them with a place. After finishing runners-up in their inaugural season, the club were promoted to Division 1. After finishing fourth the next year, Trafford made the step up to the North West Counties Division 2. In 1994, they finished in second here and were promoted again, this time to Division 1 of the NWCFL. Upon this achievement, the club adopted their current title.

1997 saw Trafford win the NWCFL Division 1 and with it promotion to the Northern Premier League. In 2000, they won their first silverware at that level, the NPL President’s Cup, before being relegated three years later. After 5 years back in the NWCFL, the club were promoted again in 2008 and took a place in the NPL Division 1 North. Their first season back at that level saw further success, as Trafford lifted the NPL President’s Cup in the 2008-’09 season with a 2-0 over Quorn at the opposing side’s home ground, the host ground decided on a coin toss! Manager Ged Kielty then left the club citing personal reasons, before being replaced by “club legend” Garry Vaughan.

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Under Vaughan’s tutelage, Trafford gained a foothold in the Division 1, before surprising many by managing to reach the play-offs of the Northern section. After defeating New Mills in the semi final, they travelled to Cammell Laird for the final where they beat the hosts on penalties to secure a place in the NPL Premier Division for the first time ever. Despite a good first season, finishing 12th, the results began to slide away and Vaughan was dismissed, replaced by Graham Heathcote. Heathcote, however, couldn’t turn things around and the club kept sliding down the slippery slope to relegation, before Heathcote stepped down at the season’s end to be replaced by Tom Baker.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Match Action

Match Action

The game got underway with both teams looking to attack early. Paul and Dan both commented on how impressed they were early on with the visiting Unicorns from Yorkshire, and the side in gold proved their eye was right as Luke Porritt fired in after being awarded an age to pick his spot by some dire defending. After five minutes, we headed on round to behind the goal, where I’d been advised by Trafford’s former manager/founder Dave Law, that a group of lads from London were located, dressed in a mix of weird and wacky Christmas related outfits, including one covered in fairy lights. After hearing their story of how they go to a game twice a year, give presents at Christmas and support charities, they originally planned to head to Stockport vs FC, but eventually settled on this game.

We all felt around the sack and pulled out our gifts, a mug for Paul, a calculator for usual Dan, some “Tupperware” (a sandwich box) for me and a Toblerone for Dan. We were, understandably, delighted with our prizes, though Ossett ‘keeper Brett Souter probably wished he was having a quieter weekend, especially as I decided to sing  “pretty in pink” to hi and everyone joined in. Sorry, Brett, but that kit looked awfully good on you!

Pretty in pink!!

Pretty in pink!!

Match Action

Match Action

So, with very little happening on the field, I headed over to the food hut towards the end of the half and bought a chicken balti pie, peas and gravy for £2.30. Well worth the money it was too, as it was pretty good. Heading into the clubhouse at the break saw further Cockney-related shenanigans going on as I caught up with some more old faces during the 15 minutes or so. Soon enough, though, it was time to finish up the pie and head back out and into the bracing winds of Desmond for a second period that a very small percentage of those in the ground would have been looking forward to.

As usually happens in such conditions, chances continued to be at a premium with Ossett continuing to have the better of the play, though without really looking like adding to their lead. Added to that, nor did Trafford ever look like equalising especially when bringing on a sub after about 70 minutes, who proceeded to do nothing apart from lose the ball over and over again. Luckily for us, we had been somewhat accepted by the cockney crew and they continued their friendly barrage of shouts towards various players, none more so than poor Brett, who was given a free Smurfs DVD for his Xmas gift.

Dark Match

Dark Match

Brett pulls a cracker

Brett pulls a cracker

Squad photo

Squad photo

Come the full-time whistle, the ‘keeper was clearly in celebratory mood as he retrieved his DVD and pulled a cracker over the perimeter boards. No, this is not a view on a person, but a Christmas Cracker. He did, however, refuse to read he joke, claiming there was nothing in it. Booooo.

So, after a squad photo, we bid goodbye to the London lot (not before one exclaimed “Wait!”. He fixed his beard before continuing “I’m not supposed to be here!”) and headed out of Shawe View and traipsed back to Urmston, but not before Paul and Dan exclaimed their dislike at the Conservative Club on the way! On arrival back in Urmston, the Liverpool pairing headed on their way home and Dan and I headed into Chadwick’s to watch Chelsea vs Bournemouth.

After an underwhelming first half, Dan said his mother wa in ‘Spoon’s so should we go there. The offer of probably free beer was te main selling point, so back to the Tim Bobbin it was for a short period before Cappy met up with us again and we finished of the Urmstonian pub crawl with a visit to the HopHouse (in an old funeral home) and the Lord Nelson, the traditional old boozer. Dan left us shortly after we arrived here toget his bus back home, and Cappy and I finished off with a short trip into Manchester and their endeth our story.

'Spoons

Late pub crawl as follows: ‘Spoons

Chadwicks

The Chadwick

Lord Nelson

Lord Nelson

Cappy loving the ales

Cappy showing his colours in the Hop House!

A good trip out and one just down the road. It just goes to show that you don’t always need to travel far to meet some great people, they’ll travel to your end sometimes! As for me, next week it’s back onto the FA Trophy trail once again. As for Trafford, it was good to finally got back after a long period away from the place. Old habits, as they say, do die hard…

DSC01157

RATINGS:

Game: 4- Poor overall, more down to conditions.

Ground: 6- Nice enough, but not much to it now the mounds are out of action.

Programme: 4- Very little in terms of club-related articles.

Fans: 5- Rather subdued, not much atmosphere at all, but I guess it’s understandable.

Food: 8- Well worth the price, as I said earlier.

Value For Money: 7- Poor game, but a great day otherwise.

Manchopper in….Mossley

 

Mossley_AFC_logoBamberbridgefc (2)

Result: Mossley 2-1 Bamber Bridge (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)

Venue: Seel Park (Saturday 17th October 2015, 3pm)

Att:162

The month of pre-planned out games continued with this visit up to Tameside and to the small town in the Pennine hills, Mossley. Mossley’s club, which carries the name of the town unsurprisingly, is a favourite of many in the groundhopping fraternity. As for me, having only been prior to today in a “biased” mindset but been largely not as enamoured as others, today was the chance to cast a full eye over Seel Park, home of the Lilywhites.

It was just prior to 11am as I caught the train after a sprint up to the station at Urmston, that otherwise would have cost me a half-hour, but I caught the rattler and was soon through the other side of Oxford Road station and onwards to Stalybridge, which was reached after the, now a formality, packed train. Happily, this only lasted until Piccadilly, so lessened the chances of injury on this occasion. After a rather trouble-free journey, I arrived at Stalybridge, with plans to pop into the station’s buffet bar, but plans were changed when I saw a connector train through to Mossley was delayed and therefore was catchable, getting me in a half-hour early. Exciting or what?!

Mossley Station

Mossley Station

Mossley

Mossley

The hill, complete with turrets

The hill, complete with turrets

View from on high

View from on high

After disembarking at Mossley, I headed to the post office for some much needed beverage money. This time, it is actually rather warranted, if you take into account the hill you must conquer to get up to “Higher” Mossley from “Lower” Mossley. With the “lower” end seeming rather dull and empty, resembling a wild west town prior to a shoot out, it was up the hill immediately and for the pubs up at the top. One I’d already scouted the night before was the wonderfully named Blazing Rag Inn and it was here where I set my sights for first.

The Blazing Rag is in the centre of the “higher” part of town, but up a small street, so can be slightly tricky to discover if you don’t know where it is prior. But, do your research and you will be rewarded by a quite brilliant little boozer, with no airs and graces, just an old style pub with a pair of friendly canines to welcome you on arrival. After taking a pic of the exterior, I headed inside to be met on the threshold by a lady who, for a moment, I decided had come out to inspect quite what my business was in taking said image. My fears were allayed soon after and I headed in and was immediately met by the friendly bar man (who told me his name, but I’ve forgotten it unfortunately), who quickly sorted me with a pint of Warsteiner, after complimenting my choice over having a Carling, which “tastes like water”, apparently.

Steep hill shortcut

Steep hill shortcut

On the right track

On the right track

Matchday board

Matchday board

The Blazing Rag

The Blazing Rag

Anyway, after telling him what my business was, it came about that the bar man had in fact ran Mossley’s social club up until a couple of years previous and that he’s retired from that but gone to help out in the Rag instead. After a convo about all things Mossley, including deer outside a bedroom window, scenery and his future holiday plans, I was informed of his past history of being born on the “site of the McDonald’s opposite the Etihad” which is in “Bradford, not “Beswick”. This latter point was one he was very staunch about and pulled out a map to prove the geographical point was correct.

After more about horses and football and the sad news about Howard Kendall, I was joined by estranged(?) FC United fan Adam Devlin, who’d informed me yesterday of his intentions to head up to Seel Park as well. On his arrival, Adam told me about his troubles in finding the place, which (see above) was rather unsurprising and after a further pint of  the “bubbles of truth” as my Dad calls it and setting the football world to rights some more, we were given a nice farewell and a promise to receive a warm welcome on the occasion we return to the town and the Rag. This will happen, for sure! Great pub and people in there.

So, Adam and I headed down to Seel Park, which sits no more than a 5 minute walk from the pub, or a 550 metre walk from the station, so Adam informed me his Google Maps informed him, which we gathered must mean a number of breaking and entering properties throughout the Mossley area, to find the ever present “Car Park Full” sign out in force, despite there being 45 minutes to kick-off (at least). This wasn’t due to a capacity crowd, though, more to do with the fact the car park caters for about 20-25 vehicles, so once the players are in, there’s no room for spectators.

Turnstiles

Turnstiles

It was a good job I’d decided to camp out in the Rag, as the Highland Laddie, the pub outside the ground, has sadly shut up its doors now, and so it was to the Social Club for a next, much required drink. Too get there, however, means entering Seel Park so, after handing over my £8 admission fee, plus a further £2 for the programme in the walkway through the car park, I was in. After going through the entry way in between the dressing room area and hospitality suite, you turn right for the bar and left for the stand. Right it was and after I ordered a Kopparberg on the basis I can drink these much quicker than most other drinks, to join me in watching the final stanzas of Spurs vs Liverpool on the big screen.

Mossley’s social club is a lovely place, smart and with a nice feel to it. Adam went and sourced a team sheet, where it was discovered that Brett “soon to be birthday boy” Ormerod was starting for the visitors, Bamber Bridge, this afternoon. At that very moment, we were joined by Dan who had soldiered on up the hill too and made his way into the ground, vowing to never come again unless he’s in some sort of motorized transportation. Dan ordered himself a much needed beverage too (sensing a theme here, yet?) and we finished these off at 14.59, just as the sides entered the pitch for the pre-match handshakes and all that. Seel Park itself is a characterful ground, with three stands. A newer, covered terrace sits opposite you when you enter, on the far touchline, with an older covered, raised terrace set behind the right hand goal. The main, all seater stand sits alongside the entrance and is surrounded by further open terracing. The far “school” end is open standing, but this end is naturally raised, so provides a good view too. It’s probably one of the better grounds for vantage points you’ll find at most levels. After that, I think a look into Mossley AFC’s history is called for….

History Lesson:

Mossley AFC were founded in 1903, under the name of Park Villa. After just one season, the club changed their name to Mossley Juniors and played in local leagues. After changing names again in 1909, this time to Mossley AFC, they moved to the disused cricket pitch at Seel Park in 1912 from their previous ground at Luzley. They initially competed in the Ashton & District League, where they won a league, Manchester Junior Cup and Lady Aitken Cup treble in 1915, before switching between four leagues in quick succession between 1915 & 1919, spending brief periods in the South East Lancashire League, Manchester Amateur League and Lancashire Combination, before becoming founder members of the Cheshire County League in 1919. Here, they finished runners-up in their first season, before winning the league cup the following year.

Between this success and the early 1960’s, Mossley won very little silverware, bar much success in the Ashton Challenge Cup. 1961 saw the Lilywhites win the Cheshire League Cup for a second time, before having a strong ’69-’70 season, where the club finished runners-up, reached the FA Cup 1st Round and the quarter finals of the FA Trophy. In 1972, after more than a half-century of years in the Cheshire County League, the club were elected to the Northern Premier League.

Blue plaque

Blue plaque

Pigeon in attendance

Pigeon in attendance

Flag & Floodlight. Good pub name, no?

Flag & Floodlight. Good pub name, no?

The late 70’s saw Mossley become a non-league force, winning successive titles in ’77-’79 & ’79-’80 and three further runners-up spots in the next three seasons. They also reached the 1980 FA Trophy final at Wembley after defeating sides such as Altrincham, Blyth and Boston on the way to losing 2-1 to Dagenham. Mossley’s trip to Wembley was featured in a Granada programme, imaginatively titled “Mossley Goes To Wembley”. The following season saw Mossley beat Crewe Alexandra at Seel Park, in Mike Summerbee’s only game for the club. After a massive downturn in fortunes saw the club finish bottom in 1984 and seek re-election, Mossley entered a period of rebuilding.

1988-’89 saw Mossley gain back success, winning the NPL Cup, Manchester Premier Cup, Reporter Floodlit Cup and the NPL Shield at the start of the following season. But, another downturn saw Mossley narrowly avoid relegation in 1992, but’93 saw the club be unable to stave the drop off. In 1995, the club dropped to the North West Counties League after a 23-year stay in the NPL. In 1999, Mossley missed out on the title on the final day. 2003, under Ally Pickering’s guidance, Mossley won the Worthington Trophy and were again pipped to the title on the final day of the season.

Back in the NPL Division 1, Mossley won the division in 2006, beating Fleetwood Town to the title, earning promotion to the Premier Divison, but this lasted a season as Mossley were relegated back to the Division 1, now regionalised, and placed in the North section. After a number of managerial changes throughout the next few years, the club won the Manchester Premier Cup again in201, beating Salford City on penalties at a game I attended, before Steve Halford left the club to join Ashton United, with his joint-manager, Peter Band, appointed alongside Lloyd Morrison and they achieved a solid mid-table finish, before improving last season with a 7th placed finish, with the club narrowly missing out on the play-offs. They did, however, beat NPL Play-Off winners Curzon Ashton in the Manchester Premier Cup Final, to lift the cup for a third time in four years.

Handshakes

Handshakes, with Paul looking moody

So, back onto today’s game then and, to be honest, not much happened during the first period. Brig started on top, having a header comfortably cleared off the line before Ormerod missed an easy chance by his standards, driving wide from 10 yards. They were taken by surprise, therefore, when Mossley took the lead on 20 minutes when, against the run of play, Mike Fish was found and he advanced through the defence, before neatly finishing across the GK and into the net, via the post. 1-0.

Seel Park

Into the Valleys

The rest of the half was rather dull, with Dan, Adam and myself comparing views on players’ hairstyles, before making it through the gate of the tunnel just before the ref blew the half-time whistle, to thankfully bring a tedious half to a close. To the food hut it was, where a portion of chips was ordered for £1.50. Again, not bad at all. This took up the majority of half-time, before we took our places on the open terracing outside the social club for the second period.

Not long after the break, we’d begun to support Brett Ormerod exclusively, not that he’d have been too enamoured by it, I’d guess, but this wasn’t his decision and he was getting support regardless. It was then that a broad scouse accent introduced itself through the nippy Tameside air. This was, it turned out, Paul Rowan, whom I sort of knew through Twitter, but had no idea was at the game. But, as is the norm, we welcomed another member to the “17th October Ormerod Supporters’ Club” and our numbers count at four, almost as many as some club’s have in theirs I hear!

Alas for us, it wasn’t his number #9 who was on target for the next goal, but rather Andy Keogh of Mossley. The skipper using his formidable frame to climb highest and power a header into the net. It’s always nice to see a former Flixton FC player going on well, so this was a welcome goal, despite it not being Brett, of course.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

It was game on again, though, when Mossley conceded a corner on the right flank. The ball was whipped into the back post area and fell to right-back Danny Mahoney, who seemed to have an age to compose himself, before firing into the far corner. I thought it took a touch at the far post to take it in, as did the rest of the 17OOSC crew, but Mahoney was credited with the goal and who am I to challenge the powers that be? This started a last 15 of Brig pressure, with a two-footed lunge going unpunished in the area, much to the chagrin of the Brig faithful behind the goal, but in the last minute, this happened…

The ball bounced up off the knee of a Mossley defender, up onto his hand and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and I don’t think there was too many complaints. We were all excited by this point as it meant Brett was going to score and gain an early birthday present. Until Mahoney stepped up and changed our minds. We were outraged that Brett wasn’t taking the pen and therefore were royally delighted when it was a poor kick and easily held by home stopper Liam Flynn. I felt for Mahoney, but it should’ve been Brett. So, 2-1 it finished and a deserved win for the Lilywhites and we headed, en masse, down to “lower” Mossley for a final drink in the Britannia, opposite the station.

About to watch...

About to watch…

...Mahoney miss the pen

…Mahoney miss the pen

After being quite impressed by lamp shades, old police stations and band clubs, we reached the Britannia. The Britannia was quite full, with people either watching Watford v Arsenal in the Premier League or the featured game, Wales vs South Africa in the Rugby World Cup. I’ve become quite enamoured with the sport during the lengthy tournament, having ticked off the ambition to do a live game last week after Sheffield, so this will likely become a more regular thing. I’m not sure if I’m worried or happy with this change in opinion! Desperados for me, it was the latter for us to watch for a half-hour before the train back to Stalybridge.

The Britannia

The Britannia

Sights if Mossley

Sights if Mossley range from this…

...to this!

…to this!

Stalybridge Buffet Bar

Stalybridge Buffet Bar

Me and soon to be blogger(?) Paul

With soon to be blogger(?) Paul

After finishing drinks in the Brit, we headed back to Mossley station. We left Adam on the train at Stalybridge, as he headed back through Victoria, where I persuaded, not that much was needed, Dan and Paul to head to the buffet bar. The bar is something else and is a certain stop off if you are in the town. After a quick pint of Amstel in here, following my technique of picking a beer on basis of its logo or involvement in football, it was back over the platforms to catch the train back to Manchester and, for Paul, Liverpool. After Dan headed off at Piccadilly, I bid goodbye to Paul who went on his way with a trusty bottle of Veltins for the journey and a suitcase for company. It seems the three of us are to meet up again next week at Macclesfield too, so further shenanigans await, as the FA Cup approaches Round 1….

DSC00778

RATINGS:

Game: 5- Average game, not great for neutral viewing.

Ground: 6- It’s a nice ground, as I said earlier, but it doesn’t grab me as it has others.

Fans: 6- No reason here.

Food: 6- Decent, nothing to shout about.

Programme: 6- Decent issue, nothing great though.

Value For Money: 7- Game not great, cheap travel and better day than expected helps. Added bonus of Brett and the founding of 17OOSC.