Manchopper in….Buxton (2)

Result: Buxton 1-2 York City (FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round)

Venue: Silverlands (Saturday 5th October 2019, 3pm)

Att: 901

The FA Cup inches ever closer to, what is for many clubs, the promised land of the First Round and all the possibilities that come with it:- TV coverage, boosted gates, increased coffers and all the extra publicity amongst a number of other bonuses. For Buxton, a few of these would come a little early in the shape of the former Football League stalwarts York City, the Minstermen now plying their trade just a division above the Bucks. However, a home win would still be seen as something of a giant-killing – and with Silverlands now having a 4G pitch down, this had the possibility to be another added wrinkle to proceedings.

I headed off towards the Derbyshire spa town fairly early during this first Saturday morning of the first weekend of October, with the intention of hopefully getting around any kind of mass congregations of support and perhaps the introduction of the dreaded plastic pint cups. They send shivers down my spine just thinking of them….but luckily, the journey on through Manchester was silky smooth and I passed on through towns including the likes of Whaley Bridge and Chapel-en-le-Frith (yes, I’ve been to both in these silly pages) before arriving into Buxton station, the end of the line, around 50 minutes after leaving Piccadilly. Not bad.

Big train, little train, plastic box.

The Fan Window

Buxton

Having got in for a little before 11.30am, I decided to go on a sight-seeing walk around the town early on. As such, I paid visits to the rather grand fan window at the station itself, the famous Buxton spring, opera house, pavilion and its gardens and the hill on which the war memorial stands upon before heading back on down station-wards to my first stop of the day – this being the Buxton Brewery’s Tap House. A really nice setting that mixed the normal tap house setting with a kind of Mediterranean feel, it was a great place to begin with and the German-style Kellerbier wasn’t bad either, and the choice to play out the full track listing of Elbow’s Seldom Seen Kid album was another tick to their boxes!

From there, I decided to head back towards the steep incline up to the higher part of town, where the square hosts a number of drinking holes, but first you come up to the 53° North café/bar in one of the buildings towards the top of said hill. Given a welcome on entering and getting an Estrella (£4.30) from the bar, though the highlight was given by the puppy, Harley, that came in with double-dad (human and canine), as it decided to ‘relieve’ itself in front of the bar. Class stuff, though I thought it’d be looked on differently if I’d have done so. Double-standards, no? Finishing there, I said a goodbye to the dads and dogs and completed the last bit of the climb and into the town square area, which is complete with King’s Arms, New Inn and the Eagle. Now, having been to Buxton twice before and tested the former two on both occasions (along with the Old Clubhouse near the Opera House), I thought I’d miss them out on this occasion and instead go for the Eagle – which proved to be solid, if unspectacular.

Buxton Brewery Tap

53 Degrees North

Looking towards the Eagle

Buxton is a spa and market town within the county of Derbyshire and is known as the ‘Gateway to the Peak District National Park’, although it lies outside of the National Park boundaries. It is the highest market town in England by elevation and was a municipal borough in its own right through to 1974, when it was merged with other localities, i.e. Glossop, to form the district and borough of the High Peak. The Romans first settled in the area, creating the settlement of Aquae Arnametiae (spa goddess of the grove) and coins unearthed around the town indicate that Buxton was inhabited throughout their occupation. However, from where its current name derives is uncertain, though may be from the Old English for Buck Stone or Rocking Stone, though this (to me anyway) seems unlikely.

Having been initially developed by the 5th Duke of Devonshire from profits derived from his copper mines in the area, the town was built in the spa town-style of Bath and would continue to grow up around its geothermal springs, morphing into the spa town it is known as – with the water from the springs being funnelled out to St. Anne’s Well, a medieval shrine that stands opposite the Crescent and Bath House. Victorians were drawn due to the alleged healing effects of the waters and the later Dukes of Devonshire did little to discourage them travelling there! Earlier, in 1569, their ancestor, Bess of Hardwick, took her husband (one of four no less), the Earl of Shrewsbury, to Buxton to “take the waters” after becoming the gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots, who herself was taken to the town five years later and stayed at the site now taken up by the Old Hall Hotel. Mary noted Buxton as ‘La Fontagne de Bogsby’.

Pavilion & Bandstand

Boardwalk

As the years rolled on into the 19th century, Buxton continued its growth in the Victorian-era, gaining recommendations from philosopher and Grandfather of Charles Darwin, Erasmus Darwin, who pointed Josiah Wedgwood I (founder of the Wedgwood potting company) in the direction of Buxton and would then regularly visit with his family, before two of the later generations of the Darwin family would move to the town to reside there. Of the early settlement, only St. Anne’s Church remains of the majority limestone-build town, whilst most of what now stands is made of quarried sandstone from the 18th century and a nearby River Wye-carved limestone cave known as Poole’s Cavern contains unique ‘poached egg’ stalactites, as well as the largest stalactite in Derbyshire. It was handed its title due to a local, notorious highwayman of the same name.

St. Anne’s Well

Opera House Area

The town has also hosted the Buxton Festival since 1979 and its allied ‘Fringe’ festival, as well as being widely known for its bottled mineral water. Meanwhile, Buxton counts the likes of footballers Les Bradd (all time leading scorer for Notts County), Frank Soo (the first mixed-race professional player to represent England) and Mark Higgins, motorcycle trials champion Mick Andrews, BDO darting siblings Lorraine & Dean Winstanley, DJ Dave Lee Travis, Disney director Robert Stevenson (Mary Poppins etc.), as well as ex-Coronation Street actor Bruno Langley, or Todd, as most may be more familiar with!

With the “new” Carlsberg being pretty cheap at £3.10, I plumped for that to cut my prior losses before moving on through the neighbouring market area towards the Ale Stop; which was also complete with doggo action in the form of Obi – a lovely thing he is too. After sitting with me for long enough for a regular to remark that he was quite happy with me, he soon abandoned me for crisps. What betrayal….though if I had that choice, I’d go for the crisps too, to be fair. In a state of despair, I polished off the last of my half of Tatton Brewery’s Best (a half, who’d have thunk it?!) and despite planning to pop up to Silverlands then and there to grab a programme early doors (I’d missed them on both previous visits), a quick calculation found it better to have a quick one in the neighbouring The Vault first.

Vault & Ale House

Cheshire Cheese & first post-match stop, The Swan

London Road Inn

Opting for a Strongbow (£3.60) in here, I saw the toilets sign near the stairs, but also near enough to the rear part to cause a bit of confusion and give flashbacks to my unintended trespass in Mill Hill a couple of years back. As it was, it was fairly obvious when getting there and having all that cleared up, I made haste up to Silverlands to grab a programme at £2 though, for whatever reason, I kept trying to pay more than that – first £3 and then £2.50. “I’m too generous sometimes” I said to the guy on the gate, before being handed said bible and returning down the road and back towards the far end of the town’s main thoroughfare. Here, I found the London Road Tavern that had been closed minutes earlier when I passed en route to the ground, was now open and fairly well populated, and so I made the decision to pop in there on my way back after visiting my intended stopping place, the Cheshire Cheese.

With time becoming a factor and wanting to pretty much complete Buxton centre’s pub offering, I decided to go on bottles and a Corona and Peroni in each of the two named above (at £3.00 and £4.00 respectively) saw me having spent up all my pre-match time and so it was back to the Bucks’ home once more, this time for a fairly more extensive time. Arriving to a decent amount of queues on the gates, I handed over my £10 entry and entered into the ground in one corner, between the raised, all-seater (formerly of Maine Road) Main Stand and clubhouse building. A food bar actually sits between the stand and turnstiles, with a sizeable covered terrace located right in front, behind the near-end goal. The far side is populated by a long, covered largely standing area, though also has a small amount of seating available, though it is at a premium, whilst the far end is open, hard standing – as are the corners of the ground too. That’s the highest ground in England, Silverlands, in short and this is the story behind the Bucks of Buxton….

History Lesson:

Buxton Football Club was founded in 1877 as an offshoot of a local cricket club and played their first match later that year. After spells groundsharing with the cricket club at the Park, before venturing out on their own to grounds on Cote Lane, London Road and Green Lane, they moved into long-term home Silverlands in 1884 – the first match there being a Derbyshire Senior Cup tie against Bakewell that Buxton came out of as 2-0 victors. The club later joined the Combination in 1891, though didn’t experience much success and indeed finished bottom of the league table in 1896 prior to leaving the Combination altogether in 1899. Switching to the Manchester League for the new century-spanning season, Buxton finished as 1904-’05 runners-up but spent most of their initial time there in the lower half of the table prior to its 1912 disbanding. Re-joining the League upon its re-forming in 1920, the club considered applying to join the newly-created Football League Division 3 North the next year, but thought better of it.

This led to them edging up to being title contenders in the Manchester League as the years went on – including winning the Manchester League’s League Cup consecutively in 1926 and 1927 – and after finishing as runners-up in both 1929 and 1930, they finally lifted the title in 1932 and joined the Cheshire County League for the following season. They remained there with little in the way of silverware success (though did win their first Derbyshire Senior Cup in 1939) through to World War II, and post-war they re-joined and finished as 1946-’47 runners-up and lifted their second Senior Cup, winning both the last pre-war and first post-war tournament. 1951-’52 saw the club’s first notable foray in the FA Cup, as the Bucks made the First Round for the first time, whereupon they thumped Rawmarsh Welfare 4-1, before going on to face League opposition in the form of Aldershot Town. The Silverlands would see a cup shock as the Shots were, ahem, shot down 4-3 with Buxton’s third-round reward being a tie with Second Division side Doncaster Rovers – who put an end to any fairytale in a 2-0 win at Belle Vue.

Arriving at Silverlands

Two Cheshire League Cups were won in 1957 & 1958, before 1958-’59 saw the First Round reached again, though they this time experienced polar opposite results when, having defeated Crook Town 4-1, they were thrashed by Accrington Stanley 6-1. 1962-’63 yielded a third first-round outing, this time ending at that stage in a loss to Barrow, and the season saw some more slight disappointment in the Cheshire County League, with the club finishing as runners-up. Despite winning the League Cup for a third time in 1969, it would take Buxton a decade from the runners-up placing to finally lift the Cheshire League title, 1973 seeing them achieve promotion to the Northern Premier League and they remained there through to 1987, winning the 1982 NPL President’s Cup along the way, when the NPL gained a second (First) division, with Buxton handed a spot in the Premier. Their spell there lasted another decade, fending off the drop in 1996 on goal difference alone, before being unable to stave it off the next year, after finishing bottom of the table, and things only got worse for the Bucks the next season, as their first outing in the First Division of the NPL ended in a second consecutive relegation.

Being placed in the Northern Counties East League’s Premier Division, Buxton found it a rather difficult task to haul themselves back up into the NPL ranks, but 2006 finally saw them achieve promotion as NCEL champions, along with successfully defending their NCEL President’s Cup title (won in both 2005 & 2006), following this up with an immediate promotion from the NPL Division One the next year, in a pretty much complete juxtaposition to the seasons that saw them drop out of the league’s sphere. They also won the that year’s NPL President’s Cup to cap off a fine season in 2006-’07. They finished their first campaign back in the NPL Premier Division in a strong fifth-place, which saw them qualify for the play-offs; beating Witton Albion on penalties in the semi-finals, the Bucks were vanquished in the final by eventual Conference side Gateshead.

Clubhouse

They have remained in the Premier Division right through to the current day, with some seasons being more of a ‘hit’ and others a rather sizeable ‘miss’; last year was more of the former, with a 5th placed finish again seeing a play-off place achieved but, alas, this again ended with Buxton missing out on a Conference North place. On this occasion, the Bucks instead were defeated in the semi-finals 4-2 by South Shields up in the North East. They have gone on to win a total of ten Derbyshire Senior Cups to date, spanning from their first in 1939 through to 2012.

After a visit to the food bar for some chips and gravy, the game got underway with York coming out the stronger early on, though both sides would create little more than half-chances during the early skirmishes – Buxton’s Liam Hardy looping a header onto the roof of the net and York’s Kyle McFarlane driving an effort straight at Bucks stopper Grant Shenton. But it would be the hosts who would grab the first strike of the afternoon on eleven minutes, when the exotically named Diego de Girolamo, a former City player, nonetheless, pounced upon a knock-down in the area to slot home at the back post. 1-0 and the shock was on!

Match Action

Match Action

View from the Main Stand at ‘Tarmac Silverlands’!

More glimpses of goal would come and go, as the sides looked to extend and level up the scoring respectively, and went close through Warren Clarke’s fizzing drive, before Ryan Whitley had to be alert to keep out Bucks hotshot Liam Hardy when one-on-one with the hosts’ main scoring threat, following a long ball over the top. The half ended off with Adriano Moke testing Shenton with another effort from a fair way out, but that would be that as the sides headed in for the break. However, I’d seen enough to suggest that York would turn it around in the second half, as I’d stated to City fan Ben, so my reputation was on the line!

Indeed, the second half began much like the first, with an early strike seeing City duly level in similar circumstances to Buxton’s opener. After around five minutes of play, a ball into the area caused mayhem around the six-yard line, the ball eventually deflecting into the bottom corner. It looked as though York’s #9 may have got a touch en route, but it would be later credited as an own goal. With momentum at their backs, York now looked to assert the dominance their league placing should suggest. #5 headed over from a corner, before Buxton responded, a pair of shots from Hardy and the #9-clad de Girolamo (as opposed to, I assume, brother Nico) kept out by Whitley, with this enabling a swift counter down the other end, where a brilliant double save by Buxton ‘keeper Grant Shenton kept his side level. Keeping out the initial effort, with the loose ball meeting the head of Jordan Burrow, who looked destined to score, only for Shenton to fling himself across goal to block out the effort. Tremendous stuff, and it’s important to focus on the brilliance that goalkeepers pull off sometimes, as they certainly take the flack for the smallest of errors.

From the terrace

Match Action

Match Action

York continued to press onwards, though after #9 had seen his free header once again brilliantly saved by Shenton, it looked as though the Bucks were on course to at least secure a replay. But with ten minutes left on the clock, disaster struck for the hosts as a cross to the back-post was met by young full-back Nathan Dyer, whose looping header came back off the woodwork but fell kindly for a team-mate, who knocked it back his way, and this time the defender made no mistake – opting for power and thumping the ball into the roof of the net. The Buxton players looked broken, though their spirit was not and, with some sorts of trouble beginning to kick-off in the stand behind the goal, seemingly involving ‘fans’ of both sides, they almost got a late, late leveller.  Just after Nico de Girolamo had headed over, and introducing Martin Pilkington surprisingly late in the day, a clever low free-kick by Aaron Chalmers looked to be rolling into the bottom corner, but agonisingly came back off the foot of the upright, the Minstermen’s defence clearing the ball and securing their face in the final quali round.

CORNERS!!

As the authorities and ambulances began to arrive at the gate and enter the ground, the final whistle blew with a fine on-field contest being unfortunately overshadowed by the antics off the pitch. If the sparse info is indeed correct, I wish the young girl who was struck by an object the very best and not to be put off returning back to the terraces quickly. Buxton look a very strong side, and I expect their rise up the table to start quickly and them to be challenging for the higher places come the end of the season, if they continue these performances. York, meanwhile, look to have the steel they have seemingly lacked in recent times to grind out results, which should stand them in good stead as they seek to get back, firstly, into the Conference. Dyer looks to have all the attributes to go far as well; I was surprised to find he’s only 18, as he seems far older in his play and build.

Post-match, I joined the rush of people heading out of the ground as the sirens wailed around (it wasn’t quite as dramatic overall) and was soon back where I’d ended my pre-match tour, but this time on the other side of the road at the Swan. Having been unable to peruse the offerings overly in here, I opted for a pint of Stella (£3.50~), which I wasn’t planning on at the time – but having been informed that my parents were out and about back in their bar, I reckoned “free” drinks were better than me paying and decided to hop on the train back an hour later – meaning Spoons was sacrificed. It mattered little in the long run and so, after brief visits to the nearby Old Sun and Queen’s Head for more bottled goodness (at a surprisingly costly £4.20 a pop), I returned back down the steep hill (much more favourable) and back to the station in good time for the train back, which was about to pull in ahead of its return trip.

Old Sun

Queen’s Head

The remainder of said journey went smoothly and, making the connections in Manchester easily enough, I was back home by 7.30pm, which isn’t bad all things considered. As for the day, it had been a decent trip overall, despite the shenanigans from a few fools who blighted the names of both clubs – regardless of their following….though I doubt highly that either are anywhere close to being a fan of either in the real sense of the word. Silverlands is a great ground to visit (though the 4G does take a little of the essence off it) and Buxton is a brilliant town. The game itself was a highly watchable tie and Buxton were unfortunate to not grab a replay out of the contest right at the end, with York not at their best. Anyway, it was the Minstermen who took their place in the hat for the final qualifying round, where they drew fellow League former members Stockport County. What a tie. As for me, I likely won’t be at Bootham Crescent for a final visit that day; but I will be somewhere….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 8

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Birkenhead (Cammell Laird 1907 FC)

Result: Cammell Laird 1907 1-2 West Didsbury & Chorlton (NWCFL Division One South)

Venue: Kirklands (Saturday 28th September 2019, 3pm)

Att: 107

With the weather deciding to be as much of a polar opposite to the previous week, I went from basking in the late summer heat around the dales of Derbyshire to sheltering away from heavy rain showers whilst looking for somewhere to go that was a fairly safe bet. Only in Britain, I swear. Anyway, as the minutes rolled on and the half-hours passed by, my laziness began to grow – even to a point where I was half-considering binning off football for the day and just going out drinking instead. One out of two ain’t bad, after all! However, through the bleak Saturday morning came a beacon from the Wirral peninsular. Cammell Laird was on. Confirmed. My destination was set. Confirmed. To Lairds I headed!

Boarding the train at a little before 11am, I rode straight through to Liverpool’s Lime Street station before making my way down into the depths of the Merseyrail system for the train ‘over the water’ (well, under to be more factually correct) along the Wirral line and towards Birkenhead. I had a ticket for Rock Ferry, the nearest station to Kirklands, but decided to hop off at Conway Park in the town centre instead, as that was the train that was coming in first. What I didn’t know, however, was the lovely surprise that awaited me on arrival. “99 steps to the street” declared the sign over the doors. I could make a 99 problems joke, but that’s surely dead by now, no?

Arriving in Birkenhead

Crown Inn

I survived my Everest climb and headed on out through the gates, despite their best efforts to deny me. Turning to the right over the left, I soon spotted the Crown Inn just across the forecourt of a Mecca Bingo and so reckoned I’d set-up stall in there for the moment and see what else was around. As I approached, I saw a side entrance, peeling paint from all sides and a black-board outside still advertising St. George’s Day deals. Many might be a bit put off, but not this madman, oh no! I headed in and….well, bloody hell. A lovely, traditional bar area immediately greets you and is rather grand in its ways. I was enamoured; a hidden gem, you might say. Yes, the beers weren’t quite wide-ranging, but I’m not one to overly complain – Stella at £3.10 was far from bad either!

Soon after a pair of ladies stated to a guy there that they would be “back for a quickie” (a drink, get your minds out of the gutter) after bingo, I figured I’d best head off too and made my way back past the station to the Stork Hotel, only to find this shut; as a result, I took a cut-through I remembered from my trip to Tranmere last season and was soon back on a route that would take me to what was my intended third-stop, this being the Firemans’ Arms. Again, this is probably a place that would see the exterior (and likely just the overall location) put people off, down a back road side-street and with shutters down on some windows. It did look shut from the angle I approached, but I soon spotted it was not the case and ventured in. A small bar stood across the way, along with a couple of TV’s that, like the Crown, were unsurprisingly showing Liverpool’s early kick-off. Again, not one that would strike someone who is not too used to the region as overly welcoming, but it was indeed, with guys moving out of the way of their own accord to allow me to get to the bar; not something that happens readily elsewhere, so something nice. The Coors was a nice pint here too, the price being a nice aside at £2.70.

Fireman’s Arms

George & Dragon

A soggy Wirral

Just around the corner was the George & Dragon and, out of the three I’d visited to that point, looked the least likely to be the vocal, sweary, crazy story place. However, this would be the jackpot for all three! It was pretty humorous as I sat in and caught the remainder of the first-half in a similar bar area set-up to the Crown, but a bit more open-plan overall, and I decided to go for a Strongbow (£3.10) in here as I wasn’t quite sure of my plans overall in heading over more towards Kirklands itself. What I did know, though, was that I was going to pay a quick visit to the Waterloo just across the road, prior to heading on past the Cammell Laird shipyard itself – which was, of course, complete with the newly-christened Sir David Attenborough (or ‘Boaty McBoatface’) in a case of a result that wasn’t upheld….but I’m not going there!

A swift Dark Fruits (£2.90) was had in good time, as I dodged another blustery shower that blew in prior to continuing on down the main road and retracing many of my steps to Prenton Park. On this occasion, I would make a divert off to a pub just off the side and alongside an old rail bridge by the name of the Lord Napier – a pub I’d missed out and so put in the memory bank, from my aforementioned visit last season. Inside, there was no football, shockingly, and instead they had a points thing going on which was completely over my head – though it looked to be fairly competitive between the two guys in and around the TV.

Whatever the case, I polished off my Amstel (£2.90) and continued on the short distance to Kirklands, where I arrived some ten minutes later. I arrived to find that the old, art-deco, lovely clubhouse had gone and was now a building site with horrendous new-builds popping up (yes, I don’t like change too much, can you tell?!) and if that wasn’t bad enough, NO PROGRAMMES!!!! Now, this wouldn’t usually be too much of an issue on a revisit, but with doing a write-up that includes rating one, and the fact that this is a ‘new’ Laird club, I did kind of want one.

Waterloo

Lord Napier

As it was, I paid my £5 entry and was pointed in the direction of Kate in the tea bar – who then passed me along to her dad, the Lairds secretary, who took my name and £1.50 for the issue to be sent on when picked up. Hopefully, this works out better than my £3 paid at South Shields which ended up being a digital issue instead. That all sorted, I reckoned I may as well get the food in now too, and so chips and gravy was had and polished off nicely – despite the dribble of gravy that found its way to my jeans. Ah well, they were already fairly wet anyway!

Cammell Laird shipyard came about after a merger of Laird Brothers of Birkenhead and Johnson Cammell of Sheffield, with the former having been started out in 1828 by William Laird, who’d also started the Birkenhead Iron Works, before passing onto his sons after his passing. The latter brought the rail side of things from Yorkshire and both ships, boats and rail stock began to be built by the new Cammell Laird company. These included London Underground trains (the 1920 stock being the first tube cars to run with compressed air doors, though these were being powered by 1906 vintage French motor cars), warships (including two HMS Ark Royal, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Rodney and, of course, HMS Liverpool and HMS Birkenhead, as well as a couple for the Confederate States of America), mail ships (such as the second RMS Mauretania) and passenger coaches for use in the Indian subcontinent.

The Sir David Attenborough at Lairds

In 1929, the rail stock part of the business was spun-off as an aside company whilst, ship-wise, the company totalled over 1,100 vessels launched by 1947 – including the first all-welded ship, Fullager, and the quickest-built significantly sized warship, HMS Caroline. The company was nationalised as with the rest of the country’s shipbuilding industry as part of British Shipbuilders in 1977, but returned to private sector ownership in 1986 as part of Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering of Barrow-in-Furness. The two yards were the only ones in the country capable of producing nuclear submarines and produced HMS Unicorn, now named HMCS Windsor, in 1993 before the yard was closed despite much opposition. Part of the Laird yard was purchased by Coastline as a repair facility, though they retained the traditional name and grew to take on other yards in Teesside, Tyneside and Gibraltar, though after a contract pull-out, the business entered receivership after financial issues and folded soon after – with A&P Shiprepair Group buying the Britain-based yards in 2001.

Birkenhead

It was sold again in 2005 to another repair and building company – Northwestern – in 2005 and then to Peel Holdings in 2007 as part of the wider business – with Peel purchasing and re-using the Cammell Laird name for Northwestern from 2008. It then got contracts to build the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and car ferries for Western Ferries too, whilst then gaining the construction contract for the British Antarctic Survey’s new Royal Research Ship – the RRS Sir David Attenborough – which you can see below! Lairds also entered into an agreement with BAE Systems to construct frigates for the Royal Navy from 2017 and 2018 saw Red Funnel decide to give the shipyard the task of building its new cargo ferry, the MV Red Kestrel, whilst the MoD has awarded it a further contract for four new RFA tankers – in addition to maintaining the nine already in service.

Kirklands, much like Causeway Lane last week, hasn’t changed much, if at all, since my last visit, if you discount the clubhouse’s death, that is. An all-seater stand made up of four rows or so runs the majority of the near-side, and is flanked by open hard standing on both sides, whilst the turnstiles, and the hospitality area, tea bar and dressing rooms all lie in between it and the near end, which too is open, hard standing, much like its opposite end; though both have a large grass expanse behind. The far end houses a covered standing area and another seated stand that together, all but take-up the full run of this side and a Hurst Cross-style wall toilet is hidden away behind it and the neighbouring Stagecoach bus depot. Also, the old concrete pitch wall surrounds have gone, which I was pleased about, having seen a bad one avoided a number of years back now. Anyway, without going off on a tangent, that’s Kirklands in a nutshell, and this is Laird’s story….

History Lesson:

Cammell Laird Institute Association Football Club was founded in 1907 as, perhaps unsurprisingly, the works team of the shipbuilding yard of the same name. Their first game came against neighbours Tranmere Rovers, prior to the club joining the West Cheshire League Division One for their first season. They would finish that year in 10th, before the club finished bottom in 1910, though would avoid the drop to Division 2. Post-WWI, the club was taken back in-house as the works team of the shipbuilding yard of the same name and a company league was set-up, with a representative Wirral Football Association cup side also introduced to take part in outside cup competitions and they would win their first silverware in the form of the 1921 Shipley Cup. 

In 1922, they would enter the Birkenhead and Wirral League’s Division 2, and return to the wider football landscape as Kirklands Football Club. After adding a second honour to their list in the shape of the 1924 Wirral Minor ‘B’ Cup, Lairds would lift the Birkenhead & Wirral League’s Division 2 title in 1925 and remained in Division One (presumably) through to 1939, winning the 1927 Regents Cup whilst there, before they disbanded due to the outbreak of World War II. Post-war, the club returned as Cammell Laird A.F.C. and re-joined the Birkenhead & Wirral League for the first couple of post-war years before moving back up and into the West Cheshire League’s Division 2, where they were promoted to Division 1 from in 1951 after a fourth-placed finish. However, they would stay in the Division 1 for just the sole year before being relegated.

Cammell Laird 1907

They would then win the Division 2 title in 1958, though despite not being promoted on that occasion, they were the next season upon successfully defending their title win. Season 1968-’69 saw Cammell Laird win the First Division title without suffering a league defeat and after winning a second title in 1971, they then went on to dominate the latter half of the decade – winning five successive West Cheshire League titles between 1975 & 1979. A runners-up placing ended their dominance, but only briefly, as Lairds then proceeded to take the next four championships (1981-’84), another in 1987, and another four-in-a-row between 1989 & 1992. Their success through this period was also added to with eight WCL Pyke Challenge Cups between 1970 & 1994, six Cheshire Amateur Cups (1973-’94), the 1958 West Cheshire Bowl and nine Wirral Senior Cups (1972-’95).

Their West Cheshire League success continued rather unabated through into the mid-1990’s, as the Shipyarders won a further two titles in the decade – 1994 & 1999 – and started off the new millennium lifting the 2000-’01 championship. However, this would be their final league win in the West Cheshire League, as 2004’s runners-up placing saw them take promotion to the North West Counties League’s Division 2; however they did continue to add further cup successes to the above list, with an additional two Pyke Cups being won in 1999 & 2002, two Cheshire Amateur Cups in 2001 & 2003 and two more Wirral Senior Cups in 2000 & 2002. The Division 2 Counties title was immediately won at the first attempt as part of an immediate NWCFL treble, with the NWCFL Challenge Cup and Division 2 Cup joining the league in the trophy cabinet at Kirklands.

A few people have entered here with the hump

Lairds then proceeded to go straight through the Division One, winning that too, and achieving promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One, allying this with a run to the semi-finals of the FA Vase, where they eventually were convincingly knocked out by Nantwich Town, 5-0, over two-legs. Their first season there saw success continue, with a strong season ending in a runners-up finish and qualification for the play-offs, along with a first ever Cheshire Senior Cup triumph, but after winning their play-off semi-final against Colwyn Bay, they would be bested by Eastwood Town in the final.

League re-organisation for Season 2007-’08 saw Lairds placed in Division One South (as opposed to North) and they again finished as runners-up, this time achieving promotion to the NPL’s Premier Division on account of champions Retford United failing ground-grading, though this would come to bite at Lairds too at the end of the next season. Kirklands was found to not be up to Step 3 standard and so Lairds would be relegated on ground-grading. They returned to Division One South for a season, before being switched to the North Division for 2010-’11, where they went from one extreme to the other – finishing bottom but avoiding the drop in 2012, before making the play-offs the very next season. However, it would be the first of the two campaigns that would end in slightly more pleasure strangely, as the play-offs ended in heartbreak of the Wirral side as, having overcome Mossley in the semi-finals, they would lose out to Trafford on penalties following a goalless draw in the final – a game at which I was (at the time) a staunch supporter of the Manchester side.

The old-school toilets

After finishing 11th the next season, Cammell Laird A.F.C. was disbanded (due to, if I remember rightly, off-field issues) and replaced by the current 1907 outfit. The ‘new’ club began life back in the North West Counties and finished as runners-up, earning promotion to the Premier Division from Division 1. However, unlike their predecessor, 1907 would find life a little more tricky in the Counties’ top-tier and would be relegated back in 2017 having finished bottom of the table. 2018 saw Lairds make the Division 1 play-offs, where they defeated Sandbach United in the semis, but were defeated in the final, 2-1, by Whitchurch Alport. The next season saw the league enter a Division 1 regional split, North/South, with Cammell Laird 1907 placed in the Southern section. They finished last season there in 15th place.

The game got underway in a similar vein to that of last weekend’s game at Matlock, in that very little would happen in terms of goalmouth action early on. Both sides jabbed at each other, akin to an early boxing round, with no-one able to get in close enough to deliver a meaningful blow. However, from nowhere, Lairds would break the deadlock after the first quarter-hour had been played; a long ball over the top saw the onrushing West ‘keeper make an error of judgment on the flight, and the home striker wearing #9, Kyle Sambor, nipped in to finish off rather simply.

Match Action

Tipped over

View from the ‘Main Stand’

West, who have started the season strongly despite a couple of recent slip-ups, began to get back on terms with their hosts who had began slightly the brighter on their home turf, and after a looping header from Matt Eckersley had been well tipped over by Lairds ‘keeper Richard Cowderoy, he was powerless to deny the visitors an equaliser on 37 minutes, when a ball Ben Steer, ahem, steered the ball across goal, the ball just avoiding the grasp of Cowderoy and dropping over him and into the far corner. One-a-piece and that was pretty much that for the first-half action – a half which had only really seen two chances, and both of which ended up in the net. Not a bad conversion rate!

The second-half was far more watchable as a contest and both teams looked to stamp their authority upon the game from the outset. Lairds began by seeing some good play by Sambor allowed his strike-partner Luke Blondel a sight of goal, but his shot ended up being straight at West stopper Andy Jones. Meanwhile, down the other end, West’s Lee Grimshaw, who’d gone close right at the beginning of the half, made full amends when he received a fine through ball, got clear of the defence and slid past Cowderoy for 1-2.

From the seats

Match Action

Match Action

West’s James Cottee went close soon after this, as he showed good persistence to chase the ball down, keep it in, before cutting inside and getting a shot away that the ‘keeper could only parry; his defenders completing the clearance. Lairds Dominic Murphy spurned a presentable chance when being played in by #9, his shot seeing Jones allowed a pretty routine stop, before Grimshaw really should have added a third with around ten minutes left to play but, he too, would only fire straight at a grateful gloveman. A late bit of handbags threatened to ruin my avoidance of the horrific sin-bin, but the ref, who’d had a good game in my eyes, thankfully decided not to employ it. Full-time followed shortly afterwards, with West heading back to south Manchester with the points in the bag.

Post-match, I headed back past the overlooking church as the West choir continued singing and turned left on this occasion, crossing the bridge over the dual-carriageway and down what looked to be a kind of old hall approach road, before finally arriving waterside at the refreshment rooms. A restaurant/bar, (oh God, I’ve just remembered it’s split, isn’t it?), I headed in and got a San Miguel (£4.40), before sitting at the only table I’d spotted without a ‘reserved’ sign on it….only to be turfed out after about a minute as it turns out it was!! I was told the one that did say ‘reserved’ was actually ok for the moment and was given that. All this makes sense in hindsight – I was really in the wrong side I’d say. Anyhow, they only had to put up with my thickness for around 15 minutes, as I had my train to Lime Street to catch.

Late on

A low-key beach (and a bit dead boat)

Refreshment Rooms

No problem with that hop and I was back in Liverpool in good time for my train back home. This journey was also uneventful, apart from a couple of beer-fuelled guys trying to fight with another guy for no reason (they weren’t happy at being called ‘Mancs’; yes from their own mouths) and the driver coming out of the cab to object about the term ‘Scouse Bastard’ being thrown about. Ah, Northern….well, I’d say never change, but it’s probably best for everyone that you do. Anyway, some of the group went back to chatting up girls instead – though I’d say it seemed a little like a one-way situation!

As for me, I was soon off for a couple more back in my parents bar in Urmston (‘The Three Barrels’ it’s called, pay me for THAT ad) to round off a good day. The game was ok, the ground is nice in a rustic kind of way – it has its own look to it – and the food there was decent too; hopefully the same can be said for the programme when it’s in situ. Pubs also were better than expected, which was a nice bonus. Another week, another FA Cup round to come. Now, where to go….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: Forthcoming

Value For Money: 7

 

Manchopper in….Matlock

Result: Matlock Town 1-2 Kidsgrove Athletic (FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round)

Venue: Causeway Lane (Saturday 21st September 2019, 3pm)

Att: 377

Yet another FA Cup weekend came up on the footballing world and with summer biting back for likely the final time this year, I reckoned I might as well make the most of it and join the tourists in one of the more popular inland areas up in t’hills. This would entail a rather irritating journey to get there, but I figured it would be worth the while in the end. As such, Matlock was the chosen destination and, having only visited the Gladiators’ ground once some six years back, I was looking forward to the trip.

Passing through Manchester on the way, I caught the train to Alfreton where I would make a change of transport method for a bus onwards to ex-New Zealand Test Cricketer Iain O’Brien’s abode, Matlock. The bus, helpfully, leaves from the station’s front entrance and so allowed for a small delay, though I did only have around seven minutes or so in hand, or I’d be stranded for a couple of hours and looking for alternatives on the fly. Luckily, these wouldn’t be needed, the bus arrived in good time (£5.30 day ticket) and I was soon rolling onwards towards Matlock Bath, though the journey wasn’t exactly peaceful – a couple of excitable kids putting paid to that – and that’s coming from someone who deals with this on a daily basis!

Arriving in Matlock Bath

Fishpond

Toads & Tails

The journey included a hareum-scareum trip down a narrow road as a diversion, though this did mean we encountered a convoy of a few Caterhams and an old, mid-1900’s bus on the approach to Crich – the latter complete with one guy and a huge, life-size panda teddy as passengers for some ungodly reason; I prefer not to consider too hard. I eventually arrived a good twenty minutes later into Matlock than planned, meaning my stay here was forcibly truncated due to bus timings and the like, as mentioned earlier. I did still have time to have a couple of sunsoaked pints on the pleasant-looking main street through it though – first in the Fishpond freehouse just across the way from the spa building itself, and an interestingly named alehouse called Toads and Tails. Both were fine and I decided to go local in my ales, opting for a Derby Pride Pale Ale (£3.70) in the former and a Matlock Brewery Illuminations (£3.40) in the latter. I preferred the Derby personally, though that’s not to say the Matlock one wasn’t good.

Soon enough, it was time to grab the bus up the road and to Matlock itself, sadly having to bypass the Cottage and Midland pubs as I did so. I originally planned to get off at the stop that would allow me a cut-through to the Duke William, but missed this due to not being attentive enough – the stops aren’t exactly easy to spot if you’re not used to them. However, this allowed me to instead head straight into the centre of town and proved to be a far better way of doing the day overall – well, if you don’t count not finding the aforementioned cut-through and getting lost in a churchyard, but more on that later. The Remarkable Hare just opposite the bus stop was first up for a pint of Atlantic Pale Ale (£3.30), whilst I went about setting out a tour of Matlock’s, surprisingly few, hostelries.

Outside the Remarkable Hare

Matlock

Matlock

Matlock is (apparently) the county town of Derbyshire (yes, I thought it was Derby) and is located at the south-eastern edge of the Peak District, and is part of the Derbyshire Dales district. The former spa town has the resort of Matlock Bath lying just to the south and Matlock’s urban district is considered to take in Wirksworth, Darley Dale, Tansley and Hackney. Its name derives from the Old English mæthel, meaning assembly or speech and āc meaning ‘t oak tree’ – so Matlock or ‘moot-oak’ is ‘oak tree where meetings are held. Recorded as Meslach in the Domesday Book, by the mid-1100’s it had become Matlac. Built upon the River Derwent, the town’s industries were thus taken from this, with hydrotherapy and cloth milling growing up along it and its tributary Bentley Brook.

Originally a group of villages within the Wirksworth Hundred – that of Matlock Green, Bath, Town, Bridge and Bank – until the 1698 discovery of thermal springs, the hydros that were being built became ever more popular and so the area grew with both residents and tourism eventually leading to the villages pretty much linking together. The Derbyshire County Council HQ currently resides in the largest hydro that was built and lasted over 100 years until closing its doors for a year in 1955 before re-opening in its current guise. The town council of Matlock also takes in Riber, Starkholmes and Hurst Farm as well as its ‘Matlock’ grouping.

Matlock Bath

Former tram cover

A cable tramway was used until 1927 to get around the issues of Bank Road, with the area’s earliest settlements around Bentley Brook at Matlock Green, eventually growing up the hillside, though the tramway was eventually usurped by buses and cars. The rail line through to Manchester (via Buxton) was closed in 1968, with Network Rail’s subsequent thoughts of re-opening the route not yet coming to fruition, though the line has been kept free of overgrowth with it still possibly having a new re-purposing. The town centre’s Hall Leys park houses a Victorian bandstand, an old tramway shelter, sports areas, café, a footbridge over the Derwent with river-level markings (its part of the flood defences), as well as a miniature railway and boating lake. The bridge and war memorial neighbour it, alongside a wishing well. Matlock is also one of the smallest towns in the country to host two bus stations. Exciting.

Bandstand

Bridge & Flood Heights

From there, I took a stroll on over the bridge and through the neighbouring gardens (no market as there was on my previous visit though), passing by the Wetherspoons before arriving at the modern, and kind of showroom-looking Tipsy Toad. A very modern/craft-style place, this was all very rustic inside and a pint of Rattler cider was had to fit in with the theme. Rattlesnakes and taverns go together, right? The pint here was £4.50 and is always a good one (though it had been a fair while since I’d sampled it – since Exeter, in fact if I remember rightly) and set me up nicely to brave the ‘Spoons. With time beginning to run a little on the short side, I opted for a Kopparberg Mixed Fruits (£2.75) before again taking a slight detour to the gardens and paying a brief visit to the ground to grab a programme on my way over to the Red Lion, just beyond the cricket ground at the far end. Again taking advantage of the outdoor seating in the sun here, I decided to milk a Dark Fruits for the twenty-or-so minutes through to kick-off time.

Tipsy Toad

Heading to the ‘Spoons

Red Lion

Returning back to the gate, I paid my entry dues of £10 and was allowed into Causeway Lane for a second time. The ground hadn’t changed from what I could remember, with the near side being populated by a covered terrace/seating dual stand that runs the length of the pitch and a covered terrace area at the near end. The Main, all-seater, Stand is located on the opposite side and straddles half-way, whilst the clubhouse area and food bar flank it to either side, the clubhouse standing between it and the off-limits far end, which is the cricket outfield. There is also a small amount of uncovered terracing just between the food bar and the covered standing area too, making for a super little ground. That’s Causeway Lane in a nutshell and this is the story of Matlock’s Gladiators….

History Lesson:

Matlock Town Football Club was founded in 1878 as Matlock Football Club and initially played at a ground on Hall Leys before moving into Causeway Lane. They began entering the FA Cup from 1885, though wouldn’t manage to win a game in the competition until 1890, the year when the club joined the Derbyshire Senior League as founder members. They would win the inaugural championship that year and defended it successfully the next too, this preceding a switch into the Midland Amateur Alliance for 1892. However, this would prove to be the Alliance’s final season – the league disbanding and leaving Matlock to return back to the Derbyshire Senior League once again. They would later attempt to move up to the Midland League in 1894, but this would prove to be something of a disaster, Matlock recording a bottom-placed finish at the end of their first season, before somehow managing to go one worse the following year, losing out in each and every one of their 28 league games.

This horrific campaign led to Matlock returning back, once more, to their safe haven of the Derbyshire Senior League, but things hardly improved on the field, and the club finished bottom of the league here too, in 1898. A period of un-noticeable seasons leading up to World War I came and went and, after the end of hostilities, the club returned to the field as Matlock Town; the club clearly hoping to start afresh. They would move from the Derbyshire Senior League to the Central Alliance in 1924, but the club again proved to be something of an ‘Alliance grim reaper’, as they competed in a second alliance league’s final season (1924-’25) before, yet again, finding refuge in the familiar surroundings of the DSL. They finished as league runners-up in 1927 before moving to compete in the Central Combination for two seasons from 1933, seemingly folding.

MTFC

However, Matlock Town would return once more as a post-war side, joining the Chesterfield & District League in 1946 for a season prior to the Central Alliance also returning. Upon a divisional split in 1950, Matlock maintained a place in the top division, Division One, though avoided the drop two-seasons later, despite finishing bottom. This happened again in 1956, but the club were benefactors of further league re-organisation – this time a regional North/South Division One split. This proved to be for the better as Matlock won the Division One North title in 1960 and also reached that season’s FA Cup First Round, losing out in a replay to Crook Town, by the odd goal. Their league turnaround would continue the following year, with the Gladiators successfully defending their league title and thereupon again decided to try their hand up the leagues; their destination this time coming in the shape of the reformed Midland League.

The club lifted the league title at the first attempt (1962) and took their second championship in 1969, which subsequently saw Matlock promoted to the Northern Premier League. 1975 saw a second FA Cup First Round appearance for the Gladiators end in a 4-1 reverse to Blackburn Rovers, but a Wembley appearance would be forthcoming that same season; Town making it to the FA Trophy Final where they thumped Scarborough 4-0 to lift the prize – a feat which also saw a bit of history in that three of the Town side were brothers; the only occasion this has happened in a final at either the ‘old’ or ‘new’ ground. This success would lead to an automatic qualification for the FA Cup’s First Round for the next season, but they would again be bested by 4-1, this time by future Cup winners Wigan Athletic.

Clubhouse

Before Wigan’s future heroics though, Matlock would get their revenge in the next staging of the famous competition – besting the Latics 2-0 – and beating eventual Third Division champions Mansfield Town 5-2 at the Stags’ home, taking their first Football League scalp in the process, before eventually bowing out to Carlisle United in the Third Round. An NPL Cup double would be achieved in 1978, as the Challenge Cup and Peter Swales Shield arrived at Causeway Lane, and Matlock entered the 1978-’79 Anglo-Italian Cup, finishing a creditable 2nd in the English section. The Gladiators finished as NPL runners-up in 1984 and three years later, became a member of the NPL Premier Division when the league gained a First Division too. They remained there through into the new decade, winning the 1989 Floodlit Trophy, whilst 1990 saw yet another First Round FA Cup appearance end in a 4-1 loss, this time at the hands of Scunthorpe United.

Causeway Lane, MTFC

Despite starting the decade with the 1991 Floodlit Cup, Matlock would suffer relegation to the NPL’s First Division in 1996, finishing bottom, and would remain there for eight seasons before finishing as runners-up and earning promotion back to the Premier Division. They followed this success by winning the next season’s (2004-’05) NPL Challenge Cup, the second time they had won this silverware, and 2008 saw Matlock earn a shot at a place in the Conference North when making the play-offs; Witton Albion would, however, prevail 4-2 in the semi-finals, consigning Town to another year in the NPL. They have since finished a best of 7th (coming in 2010), whilst consolidating themselves as a solid mid-table outfit, year-on-year, finishing last season in 15th place. They have also lifted the Derbyshire Senior Cup on a total of ten occasions – their first in 1975, and most recent coming in 2017.

The game got underway as I got talking to Matlock and Leeds fan Gary, about all and sundry with regards to different things in the world of football and the like. It was a good job there was something to distract me (at least from my perspective) from the on-field action…or the lack thereof; it was bloody horrendous early doors. It really isn’t a stretch to say that the first twenty minutes or so saw next to nothing in the way of goal-mouth action – or 18-yard action even – truly be created – a shot from over the half-way line being the closes we came to an opener. Even then, it wasn’t really that close. The first real chance eventually came the way of Matlock’s Dan Bramall, his shot being deflected wide, before Ant Malbon responded for Kidsgrove – however he could only tamely hit straight at Jon Stewart between the Gladiators’ sticks.

View from the dual stand

Match Action

Footie & Drink!

That would pretty much be that for the first half it seemed, but, right on the stroke of half-time, the hosts grabbed a slightly deserved lead on the overall balance of play. Having just visited the food bar for something that involved chips (I can’t remember what else – its been over ten days…), I headed over to the clubhouse entrance in anticipation of the whistle, when a free-kick was met by James Williamson at the back post and his header nestled in the net. 1-0 Matlock at the break, a break which was spent watching the half-time scores come in from around the country, as a rather sizeable queue formed at the bar.

The second half was soon on the go and Kidsgrove came out like a house on fire, intent on getting themselves back on level terms, clearly having been stung by conceding so late in the first-half, Malbon volleying over the bar in their best chance early doors. Having said that, this approach gave Matlock the space to attack too and they also went close, Marcus Marshall firing narrowly wide in search of a second goal that would have likely clinched Town’s place in the next round. Kidsgrove, however, would have other ideas and the impressive Kingsley Adu Gyamfi went close on a pair of occasions as Athletic strove to get back level.

Through The Crowds

From The Stand

Terraces

They would achieve this goal with around twenty-five minutes left on the clock; skipper Ant Malbon latched onto a loose-ball, after James Butler’s header had been cleared off the line but no further, and he calmly finished – showing all his experience in doing so. The wind was well and truly in the sails of Kidsgrove now and, with their band of supporters in the terrace behind the goal still coming to terms with their leveller, their joy became jubilation moments later. All but straight from kick-off, the quicksilver Gymafi picked up the ball just inside the Matlock half, beat a couple of challenges in advancing forward, before lashing a drive across goal that flew past Stewart and into the back of the net. What a strike it was and Gyamfi enjoyed it just as much as the Grove faithful did!

A stunned Matlock did seem shell-shocked by the sudden turnaround and despite seeing Williamson and Luke Hinsley denied by Kidsgrove ‘keeper Kieran Harrison, even the coming up of Harrison’s opposite number Stewart for a final minute corner couldn’t force an equaliser and the NPL South visitors held on to seal a “Cupset” and head into the Third Qualifying Round, the magical First Round place and all the possibilities that come with it edging ever closer. However, I’m still left with just the one ‘keeper goal live – Greg Hall’s place in my ‘Hall of Fame’ (NB: a note) as sole member in that category is safe. In fact, I’ve seen him score as a ‘keeper, midfielder and striker. So, yeah.

Late on…

Small bridge & stream. Quaint.

After the game, I made haste up the steep incline to the Duke William, which should have been my starting point upon my arrival into Matlock proper. This had also been the scene of one of my rare darts wins which, I must admit, came in my more sober days!! Upon entering into this throwback public house, I plumped for a pint of Heineken (£4.30~) and wasted away a fair bit of the hour-and-a-bit or so I had until the bus back to Alfreton. This was all going well until….well, you remember that “getting lost in a churchyard” bit, yeah? See that and add ‘a private road’ and could I find this place? Could I hell. As such, I decided to follow the paths from whence I came and got back to the Remarkable Hare in good time for the bus….which was then delayed by a good twenty minutes, meaning a later train back was now on the cards. Walking through Alfreton, I decided it was time to employ my ‘trump card’. What was that, you ask? I think you know….!

Duke William

Back in Alfreton at the Prospect Micropub

Since visiting Alfreton with fellow hopper Paul a few seasons back now, a small micropub in an unassuming side road has opened up judt a few minutes walk from the station entrance. Going by the name of the Prospect Micropub (on account of said road it is on), it was always going to be a place of refuge is something went a little awry, and so it came to be. Unfortunately, for some reason, I sounded like a pure drunk on my arrival there and could barely string the sentence I wanted together, though maybe wasn’t as bad as I suspected, as the guy there seemed to know what I was on about. Or maybe he guessed?! Either way, I ended up choosing another Rattler at £4.70 and wasted away the remaining time lazing on a couch. Lovely stuff.

Eventually I had to rouse myself from the sunken sofa and back out onto the streets of Alfreton, which by now were bathed in darkness and illuminated only by the streetlights glaring down upon them. Hello darkness, my old friend. Winter is coming. Any other puns; I can’t see me thinking of anymore. Sorry. Anyway, no other problems were seen and via a welcome doze on the train back into Manchester, I was there in quick time, though wasn’t in the mood to stick around the best part of an hour for a train; instead I opted to part with a couple of quid extra to grab a bus and get home a half-hour earlier. I fair trade I think. That ended another good trip to another lovely town. Of course, I knew what to expect out of Matlock (less so its pubs), but I hadn’t been to its Bath-y neighbour before and that was the bonus. Both were great and, of course, Causeway Lane is, as I’ve already said, a top ground – even without the dramatic backdrop up to Riber Castle. Next up….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 9

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

 

Manchopper in….Radcliffe (Radcliffe Town FC)

Result: Radcliffe Town 4-3 Croftlands Park (Lancashire FA Amateur Cup 1st Round)

Venue: King George V Playing Fields/Outwood Road (Saturday 14th September 2019, 2pm)

Att: 8 (hc)

It was the weekend of the FA Vase once again, but with little overly exciting pulled out of the hat during the draw, and a want to stay local, it soon became apparent that the Vase wouldn’t be the competition for me this time around. However, there were a multitude of other, local competitions around and one of these was the Lancashire Amateur Shield – a competition that includes teams from around Cumbria as well as the Lancastrian stronglands and Manchester too; and it was this spread that made this game all the more attractive. Radcliffe Town, of the Lancashire Amateur League would be entertaining Furness Premier League side Croftlands Park and so a decision was made. To Radcliffe!

I would be meeting blog regular Dan somewhere within the Radcliffe area during the day, but I would be arriving first to have my usual peruse of the town centre and sample the local ‘delights’. Having bought a bus/tram ticket to cover my daily travel, I caught both transportation methods and arrived in Radcliffe within an hour of setting off. Not too bad. Disembarking at Radcliffe tram-stop at a little before midday, my early arrival drink options were fairly limited and so I decided to head off into the centre and have a little look at the sights which, to be honest, aren’t all too plentiful, though the area around the bridge is pleasant enough – although it had been tinged with sadness due to the events of a few days earlier – floral tributes lining one side of the bridge.

Arriving in Radcliffe

Morning Star

Church

However, my planned route did take me more back out and beyond the tram-stop as I wanted to take in a swift look at the Radcliffe Tower and an old barn that remains strangely out of sync with its surroundings. Anyway, this led me towards the old church just beyond the town centre and a pub named the Morning Star just before it. Nothing much to report here really, other than my trope of choosing a beer that isn’t on returned once more and so I settled on a recommended Coors and it was pretty good too, tbh. A nice taste to it, so can’t complain and especially so at just the £2.75 a pint.

After watching a bit of the Test Match here, I continued on through the rather neglected church grounds and through to the main road, passing under the tram/rail bridge and passing by the New Swan and Old Cross pubs before finding the tower and barn I’d been searching out, as well as another old church hidden away beyond another playing area adorned with ‘Radcliffe Juniors FC’, though this doesn’t seem to be the same place that the Manchester League side play at, so must be the actual site of the NPL outfit’s junior teams. Away from that, let’s get back onto the important stuff – PUBS!!! Whilst Dan was having bus issues (i.e. doing a me and going the wrong way), I popped into the Joseph Holt’s branded Old Cross for a Crystal Gold (£2.96), with the dog in here being not much more than a huge, black mop! Honestly, you couldn’t see anything other than its coat and nose. A lovely big thing he was, though he wasn’t too interested in me and preferred to save his energy to play with the kids who came in a little later.

Radcliffe

East Lancs Paper Mill gates

Old Cross

Radcliffe is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Bury, Greater Manchester. Historically a part of Lancashire, the town lies in the valley of the River Irwell and just a few miles from both Bury and Manchester at either side, whilst being somewhat conjoined with Whitefield. There has been evidence found suggesting activity back to the Mesolithic period (6000 BC), as well as Roman and Norman footprints – a Roman road having run along the current border between Radcliffe and Bury, whilst the town was mentioned in the Domesday Book as “Radeclive” (deriving from the Old English words read and clife – meaning the red cliff or bank) and became more of a parish centre within the High Middle Ages – its Grade I Listed St. Mary’s Church and Radcliffe manorial tower being central in this. It has also been known as Radclive and Radeclif, with the Radcliffe name hailing from here.

The aforementioned Roman road linked the forts at Mamucium (Manchester) and Bremetannacum (Ribchester) and during the Norman conquests, Radcliffe became a parish and township in the hundred of Salford and county of Lancashire, made up of the hamlets of the, more central, area of Radcliffe and the Radcliffe Bridge crossing of the Irwell. It was also held as a Royal Manor by Edward the Confessor before transferring to the Normans and William de Radeclive and later came under the ownership of the House of York-supporting Pilkington family during the Wars of the Roses. They owned much of the land and areas around the parish, with Thomas Pilkington being lord of many an estate in the Lancashire area. However, upon Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth, Pilkington was attainted and thus had his lands removed, with Earl Thomas Stanley being handed the areas of Pilkington and Bury as a reward for his support; though Radcliffe would later fight on the side of the Parliamentarians, alongside Bolton, against the Royalists, who included Bury in their ranks.

More church action

Radcliffe Tower

In the 1600’s, woollen weaving became the first acknowledged industry in Radcliffe and the first mill was added in 1780 by Robert Peel, though poor conditions and an outbreak of typhoid within the staff and child workers led to the Factory Act being enforced, the mill turning around its fortunes in this regard. Coal had been long-sourced in the area, with Adam de Radeclyve fined for digging on common land nearby in the first instances of coal getting in the North West of England in 1246, but steam power within the industrial revolution transformed the area and as many as 50 collieries sprung up, though all but a couple were closed by the end of the 19th century. Textiles continued to be a force in the town too, with guncotton being produced through the First World War, whilst paper became a latter stronghold, with the East Lancs and Radcliffe Paper Mills popping up – whilst ensuring much needed employment for the local workforce, with the cotton famine affecting the town, as well as the coal sources drying up.

In later years and during World War II, Radcliffe became a centre for making munitions, aircraft parts and other military hardware, whilst other civilian transports were also made here, as were foundries and other machinery makers who continued to move into the area. Chemical makers soon followed before much fell into decline, the textile industry falling away by the 1950’s and the paper mills battling on into the early 21st century, though this deindustrialisation has led to an increase in population However, the town’s joining the municipal borough of Bury has, apparently, led to some seeing this as Radcliffe losing its independence and identity. It is served by metrolink (the old Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway line) and regular buses to Manchester and Bury, as well as surrounding areas, though many old rail lines and former canal routes have long since closed and/or been abandoned. Local alumni include Pvt. James Hutchinson VC, 1936 Olympic Bronze medallist cyclist Harry Hill, three-time World Snooker champ John Spencer and, perhaps most famously, Oscar-winning film director, Danny Boyle.

New Swan

‘Exploring’ the town centre

Lock Keeper

Finishing up in the Old Cross after watching the early stages of the Liverpool-Newcastle game, I back-tracked to the New Swan (probably the older of the pubs I visited) for a Boddington’s (£2.60), whilst arranging to meet Dan on the other side of the bridge at the Lock Keeper. This is around a 10 minute walk which takes you past the old East Lancs Paper Mill gates in a small garden square and under the rail arches once more, before a cut-through of the centre and crossing of the bridge gets you to this pub, which sits at the foot of the road and hill that leads to the ground. I found Dan taking in the rare sunshine of recent times on one of the tables outside, whilst being occasionally entertained whilst supping at Coors and Carling (both around £3.50) respectively. You should be able to guess what I was on by this point. If not, seek out the answer!

From here we crossed the main road that runs up to Bury and uphill, arriving at the ground via a dirt path (and climbing an incline) a couple of minutes into the game. Accruing information that the current score was still goalless from those (few) spectators who’d arrived for kick-off, I relayed this to Dan before we could settle in for the game ahead. The main King George V playing fields pitch is fully barred-off and is open, grass standing all the way around, though half of the far end is inaccessible due to bushes. There’s a dugout on each side, one for each team, whilst another pitch sits alongside and was hosting the Town Reserve side today. That’s pretty much all there is to say about the ground and so this is the story of Radcliffe Town FC….

(A rather short) History Lesson:

Radcliffe Town Football Club was founded in 1935 although information with regards to anything about the club, up until recent years anyway, is hard to come by. By the early part of this millennium, the club was already playing in the Lancashire Amateur League’s Premier Division, though would rarely break out of the bottom half of the division – finishing a best of 3rd in 2004-’05 and were eventually relegated in 2011 after finishing bottom of the table with just seven points, twenty adrift of their nearest rival.

Things didn’t improve for Town and 2013 saw them finish second-bottom in the Division One and were duly relegated to the Second Division, being reprieved from a bottom-placed finish by a points deduction alone. This relegation then saw them bested by town rivals Radcliffe St. Mary’s, who went onto take a promotion spot that season, however they would gain success in 2017, as they lifted the Lancashire Amateur League’s 1st XI Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over Old Mancunians, following a goalless draw in the final at the Lancashire FA’s County Ground, Leyland. In doing so, they became the lowest-ranked side to lift said trophy!

Outwood Road via the scenic route

Up here?

A strong league campaign would follow the next season, as Town secured a runners-up placing in the Division 2 table to secure promotion back to Division One – the club missing out on the title on account of (what I have been informed was) goals scored, with themselves and Chaddertonians tied on both points and goal difference. Last season saw the club maintain their place there via a strong 4th placed finish, which bodes well for a shot at a return to the Premier Division after an absence of almost a decade. They currently sit in 6th place early in the 2019-’20 piece.

The game was just a few minutes old when we arrived and little happened in the first few minutes we watched, but the first goal wasn’t too long in coming, this going the way of the hosts as a shot from their #10 looped into the net. They then doubled their advantage just a matter of minutes later, when his strike partner #9 fired home. Town continued to dominate the game and it looked like there was a gulf in quality between the two teams, and not long after Radcliffe’s #7  went close to adding a third within the first half-hour of play, #8 bent in a fine effort from a free-kick to seemingly set the scene for a bit of a drubbing.

Match Action

Multi-tasking

Match Action

However, Croftlands Park would awake from their slumber and the Cumbrian side would begin to find their forward strides. First, a good headed effort was well saved by the home ‘keeper, before the gloveman repeated the trick just moments before the break to deny Park’s #7 and the visitors a way back into the contest. Half-time arrived at 3-0, before the wonderous 5 minute half-times that dwell in these footballing depths came and went in the fine Lancastrian sunshine.

Croftlands continued to take the game to their opponents, obviously seeing that they had nothing more to lose at that point. #10 saw a shot go narrowly wide of the mark soon after the resumption of play, before Radcliffe responded and ought to have gone four-up when a two-on-two situation allowed #9 a sight of goal, only for him to horribly shank wide. But horror would turn into magnificence within a handful of minutes. With the ball a good 40 yards away from goal and, seemingly, with little action in the immediate future, #8 (I think) has a long range crack and connected beautifully, the ball flying though the air before dropping over the ‘keeper’s head and between the sticks. What a strike!

Reserve game ref turns spectator

From the “bench”

Radcliffe would soon be dealt a seemingly small set back though when, after hitting the post and having a shot hit a team-mate on the line in an initial attack whilst chasing a fifth, they allowed themselves to be caught open on the counter, and Park netted to reduce the arrears. Still, there looked to be little excitement to go along with this, but a few moments later, they grabbed a second from a corner when, after an initial shot had been well kept out by the Town ‘keeper, the resulting corner was nodded in at close range. 4-2 and suddenly you could see a bit of panic sneaking into the previously confident home team.

This panic would only be increased with just over five minutes left on the clock, when Croftlands netted a third to set up a grandstand finish out of nowhere. Winning a free-kick just outside the area, on the right-hand side, the defensive positions weren’t exactly filling me with confidence in behind the goal, and my feelings were proved correct. The ball was whipped in with quality and met by the head of one of the two centre-halves who powered beyond the rooted Town stopper for 4-3 and it was suddenly all to play for in the last few minutes. What a game this had been – and all for free!

Match Action

Header flies in for 4-3

Alas for Park, they couldn’t quite complete a fairytale comeback, and Town held on for what was, on balance, a deserved win – but full credit to the visitors for their stirring comeback. After the game, we headed back down and the hill and retraced our steps (though I did lose Dan to a pub door as his sat-nav went awry one more) before arriving back in the town centre and paying a visit to the Bridge Tavern; no prizes for guessing how and why it gets that name. Here, with not too much on offer in truth, we both took a pint of Carslberg’s ‘new’ Pilsner (£2.60) and settled in to watch the final scores from around the country roll in. As we drank the last of our pints, we debated on where we should end the day – in the nearby Royal Oak, or pop into Whitefield – one stop away – and have one there instead. The latter won out as it was a fair bit easier all around and so we ended up at the Northern Crafthouse – a foodie pub on the road leading through from Manchester towards Bury.

Over the river

Bridge Tavern in the town centre

Northern Crafthouse, Whitefield

Again getting the same pint in (I think it was Coors again at £4.20), we timed it nicely to grab the tram back from the Whitefield stop (a short walk away) and were soon back in Piccadilly Gardens, where Dan left to head homewards, whilst I carried on back through the other side of town and home. That was that and, overall, this had been a surprisingly far better day than I think either of us had expected – Dan’s travel problems notwithstanding. The game ended up being a brilliant, if slightly bizarre, contest, whilst it was nice to see around Radcliffe itself finally, having never actually been there despite visiting Borough’s Stainton Park on numerous occasions. A late start and easy travel is always a nice bonus to enjoy every now and again, these ‘early’ starts begin to catch up with you sometimes! Back onto the FA Cup trail again next week and it could just be time to enjoy a spa and, who knows, perhaps even a nice bath….

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 3

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Belper

Result: Belper Town 1-0 Alvechurch (FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round)

Venue: Christchurch Meadows (Saturday 7th September 2019, 3pm)

Att: 329

The FA Cup rolls onwards through its rounds and as it does, I continue to follow its path. The best part about the Cup is that it springs up some intriguing contests that would otherwise not be possible in the short term. Case in point being today’s game at Christchurch Meadows in the market town of Belper. The home of the Nailers has been a long-term target of mine and a cup tie always adds an extra intrigue to proceedings and, as a result, once the draw had thrown up a home tie for Belper, there was little choice that had to be made.

I headed on through Sheffield and Derby, with twenty minutes waits at both – the latter of which yielded a group of guys riding leprechaun suits – the train for the short hop to Belper came in and I was walking down the High Street within 20 minutes of leaving Derby. The high street leading up past the memorial gardens and to the cenotaph area is a fair incline, but is nothing on the bit of road between there and the Nags Head, the small traditional pub at the end of the town centre. This is a true locals place but, that’s not a slight on it whatsoever. Its a lovely, snug place and the pint of San Miguel (£3) was probably one of the fizziest I’ve ever had. Good signs!

Finishing up in the Nag, I backtracked the short distance to the cenotaph but where three drinking holes sit in close proximity to each other. Namely, these are the Angels micropub, the Cross Keys and the Black Swan. The former is a small, real ale-centric place and seems to be in some kind of former church building of sorts. I might be completely wrong, but the Oakham brewery’s Citra beer (£3) certainly wasn’t! The highlight here had to be the picture above the bar of a group of angels, all with pint in hand. My idea of heaven.

Belper

Nag’s Head

The Angels Micropub

Belper is a market town and civil parish within the Amber Valley area of Derbyshire, around 7 miles to the North of Derby, with its name thought to derive from the word Beaurepaire – meaning ‘beautiful view’ – which itself was the name given to a local hunting lodge, mentioned in a 1231 charter. This would have been owned by the 1st Earl of Lancaster and its chapel still remains and is thought to be the oldest building in Belper. The town stands upon the River Derwent and counts the village of Milford and nearby hamlets of Bargate, Blackbrook and Makeney as areas of its parish. At the time of the Norman invasion, Belper was part of the land centred on Duffield and owned by the family of Henry de Ferrers, whilst the Domesday Book states that the manor of “Bradley” was located in the area, thought to be now near Coppice which, at the time, was likely within the Forest of East Derbyshire that covered the county east of the Derwent.

The area was disafforested in 1225 and became a part of Duffield Frith. The coal deposits at the time were associated with ironstone being important to the de Ferrers family, who were ironmasters back in Normandy and by time King Henry VIII had come to the throne, Belper had grown and prospered quite significantly around nail-making and the selling of these to surrounding textile mills, although it was still considered a lesser area near to Duffield. This remained the long-term industry of the town through to the late 18th century and the building of the world’s second-only water-powered mill by Jedediah Strutt and the expansion of the textile industry saw Belper become a mill town. Further followed, with the North Mill and ground-neighbouring East Mill still standing – parts of the Derwent Valley Mills world heritage site.

Belper square and Black Swan

War Memorial Gardens

More floral niceties

The construction of the North Midland Railway in 1940 saw Belper connected to more wide-ranging areas and allowed the town to become the first place in the U.K. to gain gas lighting, with textiles and hosiery remaining the core industry into the 20th century, whilst iron-founding also grew up. A ‘Poet’s Trail’ was added to the town in 2009 and features well-known and local talents, whilst Belper won the ‘High-Street of the Year’ award in 2014. Local alumni include Commonwealth Games double gold-medallist swimmer Ross Davenport, the “father of the American Industrial Revolution” Samuel Slater, colonial ruler of Malaya Frank Swettenham, ex-Derby County footballer Ron Webster and none other than James Bond!!! Well, Timothy Dalton.

From there, it was to the Black Swan, what with the Cross Keys not being open until later. The Black Swan was instead and this is one of the slightly more foodie places, though not overly so. Anyways, I opted for a pint of Estrella (£4.60) here, prior to making my way down the other side of the gardens, slightly away from the centre itself. Here, I came to the Old King’s Head, another of the more local, traditional pubs in and around the place. A Strongbow (£3.25) was had here, whilst I battled a bout of the sneezes, which aren’t quite the thing you want to have come upon you in a queitish place!

Old King’s Head

Heading to the ground

Cutting back through the gardens afterwards, I made headway for the Green House, one of those ‘Wetherspoons-without-being-a-Wetherspoons’ type of places. They had the ill-fated (from an England perspective) Ashes test from Old Trafford on, where the hosts were batting to avoid the follow on, the legendary Jack Leach’s glasses and lens cloth aiding the cause gamely. A Dark Fruits – at a pricey £4.05 -was had before going groundwards to secure a programme early doors before returning to the surrounding roads of Christchurch Meadows for one final pre-match drink.

The Rifleman’s Arms was the venue for this, and a pint of Strongbow (£3.65) was milked to wile away the good 45 minutes through towards kick-off, with the programme purchase now no longer an issue. Again, this was a pleasant enough pub and was well worth the visit, prior to heading the short distance back to the Christchurch Meadows turnstiles, whereupon I paid the £9 entrance fee and entered inside. I reckoned it’d be best to seek out the food bar first, though the first place I came across didn’t sell any other than soup. As a result, I ordered some tomato which, thanks to the ladies there, was eventually made despite their unyielding saucepan task. Thanks for the efforts and it was fine nonetheless!

Rifleman’s Arms

Arriving at the ground

Christchurch Meadow itself is a tidy and pleasant ground. It houses two stands; the covered terrace is located just in front of the turnstiles, and runs the third of the touchline on the near side. Running the majority of the far side is a seated stand, whilst the clubhouse (and actual food bar as I would find out) is situated directly behind it. Both ends, and to the sides of the stands are all open, hard standing, with the neighbouring church and mill providing an interesting back drop. That’s the ground, and this is the story of the Nailers of Belper….

History Lesson:

Belper Town Football Club was founded in 1883 and after playing both locally and in the FA Cup initially – reaching the First Round in 1888 and losing out to The Wednesday (before they added Sheffield to their name). They later became founder members of the Derbyshire Senior League in 1890, finishing as runners-up in 1896 before moving into the Mid-Derbyshire League around the turn of the century and winning the title there in 1905 and finishing as runners-up two years later in the final year of the Mid-Derbyshire League before its re-naming, now being known as the Derbyshire Alliance. However, the league only lasted a sole season before merging with the Nottinghamshire & District League in 1908 to form the Notts & Derbyshire League, with Belper again becoming a founding member. Unfortunately, their stay would be brief, and after leaving the league during the 1911-’12 campaign, the club folded shortly after and wouldn’t return until post-WWII.

1951 saw Belper Town eventually return to the field and this came in the Central Alliance’s Division One – where the ‘new’ club took over the fixtures of the departed Mansfield Town ‘A’ side. The league was restructured five-years later to become more regionalised, with Belper being placed in the Division One North and after finishing runners-up in 1957, they won the Division One North title in 1959 and then added to this success with a first Derbyshire Senior Cup too. When the Midland League was re-established in 1961, Belper would join the new league but despite lifting their second Derbyshire Senior Cup in 1962, didn’t begin life there all too well, finishing bottom in 1970. However, they did stabilise somewhat after this, but upon the league’s split into a two-divisional competition, Belper’s tenure in the Premier could’ve ended with relegation in 1979; instead the drop didn’t come their way and the following year saw another league and cup double attained, with the Premier Division title and the club’s third Derbyshire Senior Cup won.

A Hidden Welcome

BTFC

1982 saw the Midland League merge with the Yorkshire League to become the Northern Counties East League and Belper were again placed in the Premier Division. The Nailers would win the league in 1985, but wouldn’t be promoted, and success soon became harder to come by. Indeed, it took a decade for the club’s next silverware to arrive, this finally coming in the form of the 1995-’96 NCEL President’s Cup. They would follow this up with a runners-up placing in the NCEL Premier Division the next year and this was enough to secure Belper promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One. They would remain there through until the league’s re-organisation and the regional split of the Division One in 2007 with the Nailers being placed in the South Division. 2008 saw a fourth Derbyshire Senior Cup won too, their last to date.

The club would finish runners-up in 2009, missing out on the title on goal difference, and so had to make do with a place in the play-offs. However, they wouldn’t manage to end their season on a high, losing out to Stocksbridge Park Steels in the play-off final. Belper won the NPL President’s Cup in 2010 and 2013 saw the Nailers back in the play-offs, but again their run here would end in disappointment with a 4-2 defeat to Stamford in the semi-finals being suffered. But it would be third-time lucky for the club the next year, as they vanquished Leek Town and Mickleover Sports in the play-off semi and final respectively to secure a spot in the NPL Premier Division, though their first foray into Step 3 would be brief, lasting just the one season prior to the drop back to the Division One South. Since this drop, the club have spent two seasons in the First Division South, one in the re-designated Division One East, and have started this in the now-named South East Division.

The game got going, well….that’s a bit of a lie – it really didn’t ever get out of first gear in truth! The visitors from the catchily-named Southern League Premier Division Central – a step above Belper’s current placing – began ever so slightly on top, but never really looked threatening, whilst the hosts largely mirrored this. An early header by Kyle Rowley flew high over the bar for Alvechurch, whilst experienced forward Danny South and Riece Bertram had efforts down the other end, but there was little to choose between the teams.

Match Action

Match Action

Just after the half-hour, the hosts’ Nathan Curtis volleyed narrowly wide in what was the closest we had come to a goal, but there would only be a few half-chances at either end in the remained fifteen minutes or so of the first period, before Phil Watt went close for the hosts too, but he couldn’t force the ball over the line from a narrow angle. George Milner then fired over from the edge of the area with a couple of minutes to play ahead of the break, before the whistle blew to signal the halfway point of a rather tepid, turgid game. The visit to the food bar for a decent portion of chips was probably the highlight for me!

The second half started with even less in the way of true goalmouth action and all I could say is, from a neutral’s point of view, thank God it was a decent day weather-wise! However if I was to look at it a little more positively, a closely-fought game does at least keep all results possible and that is a good thing on the whole. It took until around the hour for a first real sight of goal to come the way of any player – that player being Javia Roberts – but his shot would only drift over once more.

From the seats

Belper celebrate their winner

Match Action

The tie meandered onwards towards its conclusion with little to suggest that an opener was on the cards. However, as I made my way around to the far-end of the pitch to head around for the exit, something of a divine miracle occurred which, with the church as a back-drop, was perhaps always going to happen. Having not really troubled their visitors in the second half, a long punt forward was met by the lanky frame of South and his flick-on fell perfectly for the on-rushing Charlie Dawes, who hammered the ball past Lloyd Ransome between the Alvechurch sticks to send the home support (and, I have to admit myself) into rapturous cheers. Okay, maybe I wasn’t quite at rapturous levels, but I was bloody relieved.

The Nailers duly saw out the remaining five minutes or so with little alarm and deservedly booked their place in the next round, though if ‘Church had taken it, you could say they’d have deserved it too; it really was that kind of game. Anyhow, post-match, I made haste to the nearby George & Dragon, where I decided to play it safe with a Kopparberg Mixed Fruit (£3.90), prior to returning back station-wards for the neighbouring Railway, where I indulged in a Dandelion & Burdock (£2.50) prior to the train home.

George & Dragon

Railway

Poem

Incidentally, the station at Belper is home to a copy of a lovely Robert Stevenson poem, which rings true across all eras. That would end a fine little trip, one that almost ended in a 0-0 disaster, but resulted in a cup upset. The game itself was a bit middle of the road, but the town itself was really pleasant and great to visit. Programme and food (plus the efforts soup-wise) were both great and appreciated and, all in all, a highly enjoyable day was had. Back on the road we go….

Manchopper in….Knaresborough

Result: Knaresborough Town 2-1 Washington (FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round)

Venue: Manse Lane (Saturday 31st August 2019, 3pm)

Att: 106

The FA Vase quest began for many clubs and I reckoned it’d only be right to join them on the first stop along the “Road to Wembley”. As I mulled over the rather extensive fixture list and narrowed it down, there was one venue that continually stood out; a long-time target of both a ground and town that I’d been looking at visiting. That ground and town was Manse Lane, home of Knaresborough Town and a day out and about in the scenic, historic town centre was all the encouragement I needed. After heading up through Manchester and Leeds, an earlier than planned train looked as though I could arrive into Knaresborough a good half-hour than expected – too good to be true, I thought to myself.

I awaited for things to unravel, which they then did, as the train from Leeds ‘broke down’ due to, and I kid you not, lighting failure. As a result, I was forced onto the service as far as Harrogate, but avoided a fairly lengthy wait for the next train along by grabbing a regular bus service from the neighbouring bus station up to the entrance of Mother Shipton’s Cave at the foot of Knaresborough itself. However, the various No.1’s did cause some confusion later in the day, as only one stops at the ground entrance – the others following the main road. Anyway, having disembarked after a twenty-minute journey, I made my way to the first pub stop of many during the day, that being The World’s End, just the other side of the bridge over the River Nidd. The clock had just passed midday, and as I sat down with a pint of Poretti(which I learned is Carlsberg’s £4.50 effort at a Moretti clone), I decided to check on the progress of the train I’d have otherwise been on. Delayed by at least 7 minutes? Good decision.

Arriving at Mother Shipton’s & the World’s End

Incline or flat-line?

The Mitre

The rain began to fall just as I exited the pub and began to get rather heavy as I reached the foot of a steep incline that led up to the station and the town centre area of Knaresborough. I had to take this route anyway, but with the weather going on as it was and me not exactly in conducive clothing for it (a t-shirt and jeans alone) meant I decided to take up the option of popping into one of my planned post-match pubs – The Mitre. Upon entering, the bar staff there fairly easily saw my predicament and just why I’d made haste in getting there – I needed some cover! A pint of Black Sheep Pale Ale (£3.50) kept me company here until the rain abated and I could continue onwards into the centre itself; whereupon I discovered another public house I’d not known about prior to that point. Good job the rain had come in when it had!

Anyway, I continued to walk towards the castle area, which itself had been recommended by numerous persons for the views out over the town below, stopping off in The Groves as I did so, as the rain returned once more. I opted for a pint of the REAL Moretti (somewhere around £4) in this slightly modernised, yet still old-looking hostelry, before exiting out into bright sunshine and blue skies rolling in as the clouds dispersed. A cross and a number of statue characters populate the centre, along with many a-pub to choose from. I began with the nearby Blind Jack’s, where I opted for a pint of one of my fave beers, Erdinger (£4.85), before taking a seat in a small room alongside a Union flag – in a new role as a curtain. Really.

The Groves, ft. wet lens

Knaresboroughs Market Square….ft. wet lens

Blind Jack’s ‘different’ curtain….ft. wet lens

Knaresborough is a market and spa town, as well as a civil parish within the Borough of Harrogate in North Yorkshire. It lies upon the River Nidd and was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Chenaresburg, meaning “Cenheard’s fortress” within the ‘wapentike’ of Burghshire which would be renamed the more New Zealand-sounding Claro Wapentake in the 12th century. Knaresborough’s castle dates back to the Normans and around this, through the 11 and 1200’s, the town grew up to include the market (from around 1206) with traders being attracted to service the castle and those within, although the royal market charter wasn’t actually awarded until 1310 by Edward II, with the market continuing to take place today. The parish church of St. John was also built around this period whilst a Lord of Knaresborough was first identified around 1115, with the Honour of Knaresborough being bestowed upon Serlo de Bergh, by the King.  However, it would be the 1158 Lord who would go down in infamy, as the constable of Knaresborough, Hugh de Morville, was leader of the four knights who murdered Archbishop Thomas Beckett within Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The knights would later return to the town’s castle and enter hiding. Rather cowardly?!

Hugh de Morville would be forced to forfeit his lands three years after the murder, but not because of that deed, but instead due to his involvement in the plot of rebellion against Henry the Young King, according to Early Yorkshire Charters. King John would later take on the mantle of Lord of Knaresborough for himself during the 1200’s, with Knaresborough Forest to the south of the town reputedly one of his favoured hunting grounds. He also distributed the first ‘Maundy Money’ in the town as part of the wider Christian celebration. The castle was later occupied by rebels against Edward II during his 14th century reign, and the invading Scots also burned much of the town during their 1328 raid. Since the death of Queen Philippa, Edward III’s wife, the town has belonged to the Duchy of Lancaster beginning with the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, though the castle lost national importance soon after, though remained strong regionally. After the Civil War’s 1644 Battle of Marston Moor, the castle was besieged by Parliamentarian forces and fell with the Roundheads ordering its destruction in 1646, though this was delayed for two years, with much of the stone being looted and re-used in the town’s buildings.

To the castle….

…and from the castle

A commuter town nowadays, the railways arrived in Knaresborough in 1848, and the current station replaced to the original one at Hay Park Lane after just three years. The town did link-up with Boroughbridge until the line’s closure in 1950 and its subsequent dismantling during the 1960’s. In 1974, the re-organisation of the counties saw Knaresborough move from its historic placing in the West Riding of Yorkshire and into the newly-created area of North Yorkshire, and hosts an annual bed race, because why not?! The town is also home to the “Oldest Chemists in England”, dating from 1720 and has landmark caves like the aforementioned Mother Shipton (an early ‘seer’) and St. Robert’s (from the Middle Ages). Incidentally, both the Mother Shipton and the earlier mentioned ‘Blind Jack’ names don’t even appear in the people in question’s names, with the former being named Ursula Southeil and the latter John Metcalfe, whilst other alumni include ex-Simply Red member Tim Kellett, ‘Allo ‘Allo’s René Artois, the late Gordon Kaye, and my personal favourite due to the description – ’18th century scholar and murderer’ Eugene Aram. Not a usual combination!

Around the corner from Blind Jack’s were two neighbouring pubs by the names of Six Poor Følk and the Castle Arms. Whilst the former looked like its beer options may be the more wide-ranging, I decided to go traditional and, of course, I was going to the castle as it was. So the latter it was for a pint of Amstel (£3.90) whilst a black dog near the bar decided it fancied a bit of someone’s drink at one point, though was unsuccessful in its efforts! From one castle to another I went and a brief visit to the former stronghold’s exterior lands, whilst the aforementioned views out over Knaresborough really were quite something. Anyway, with time beginning to run down into the last hour before kick-off, I returned back into the town centre and continued on with the royal theme by stopping off in the Old Royal Oak for my designated “refresher” pint of a Dark Fruits, this setting me back £4.

In The Castle. The pub, that is

Old Royal Oak

Arriving at Manse Lane

As I finished off, it was high time to grab the bus up to Manse Lane. However, this would be easier said than done, as the No.1 confusion set in. I first popped onto the first one (no pun intended) and was genuinely unsure if this was the one I needed, as the bus I was due to catch was due out in a couple of minutes time and there was no other in sight. The driver said it wasn’t his variant I was after and told me to try the one alongside which had just pulled in. I was pretty sure it wasn’t this one, and was soon proven right, as I was directed towards the 1C, which was just pulling in. Finally and safely on board, a short journey down to the ground followed, the stop being pretty much directly outside the gates. Speaking of the gates, I handed over my £6 entry fee, bought a programme (£1.50) from the table at pitchside and turned my attentions to the clubhouse; well, the food bar to be more exact – for pie, peas and gravy. Lovely stuff.

I was just finishing up the last of the pre-match feast as the side’s assembled and began to make their way out onto the field. I joined the exodus from the clubhouse too and exited out into Manse Lane once more. The ground is tidy enough, but without too much to blow you away in truth. It is home to a pair of stands, both of the more modern, kind of at-cost variety, with a covered standing area (and some benches) behind the near-end goal and just next to the turnstiles, whilst a small seating stand is located on the far side, around the half-way line. The remaining facilities are all located in the corner on the other side of the turnstiles to the stand, whilst the near-side is open, hard standing for the two-thirds that are accessible, whilst the far-end should be also, though is rather overgrown at this point, to put it kindly! That’s Manse Lane in quick form and this is the story of ‘the Boro’ from Knaresborough….

History Lesson:

Knaresborough Town Association Football Club was founded in 1902, going on to join the York League and becoming champions at the end of their first season and then retaining it on both of the next two seasons. A fourth title in 1908 led to Knaresborough taking the step up to the Northern League in 1909, before becoming a founder member of the Yorkshire Combination the next year, whilst still competing in the Northern League too. However, these two stints would be short lived, and after finishing bottom of the Northern League in 1911, the club returned to the York League Division One before pulling their side out of the Yorkshire Combination two years later. Things didn’t improve and after a bottom finish in 1913, the Boro were suspended from the league for the following campaign. Harsh!!

After WWI had ended, Knaresborough were readmitted to the league and won it again in 1925, retaining it the next season and lifting it once more in 1929, but success fell away quickly, leading to the club resigning from the league at the end of the 1930-31 season after a second-bottom finish; but their sojourn would be brief and they returned for 1932 whereupon they again lifted back to back titles in 1934 & ’35. However, they would again leave in 1938, not re-emerging again until the 1950’s, with the club taking a place in the York League Division 3B for 1951. This and the Division 2B were both immediately won at the respective first attempts and the Boro were back in the Division One for 1953-54, spending three more seasons there prior to a move to the West Yorkshire League in 1958.

KTAFC

Teamboard

Benched

Their start was a bit yo-yo, with promotion from Division 2 being attained straight off the bat alongside the Division 2 League Cup, but the drop was suffered come the end of their first WYL Division 1 adventure. This was repeated again soon after when, after achieving promotion & the Division 2 League Cup again in 1961, their Division One stay lasted just the solo campaign once more. This time, rather than return back to Division 2, the club took the drop into the Harrogate & District League and in 1965 won the Premier Division which was then successfully defended the next year and was joined in the trophy cabinet by the Harrogate & District League Cup. A hat-trick of title wins was secured the next year and after a second League Cup triumph in 1968, Knaresborough returned to the West Yorkshire League, winning its Division 2 in 1970 and its own League Cup the next year.

But, despite these successes, a return to the Harrogate & District League was just around the corner and this time the Boro remained there for a good while, only in 1993 would they eventually depart once more. They again joined the West Yorkshire League, winning the League Cup in their first year back, though it took some time for further success to return to Manse Lane,  with the Premier Division title being won in 2009, and a runners up placing in 2011 was also secured, with cup successes in the West Riding Challenge Cup and West Yorkshire League Trophy in 2010 being followed by the lifting of the West Riding Challenge Trophy in 2011. However, it would be 2012’s 3rd placed finish that would see Knaresborough finally promoted to the Northern Counties East Leaguen’s Division One, where the club remained until 2018 when they won title and were duly promoted to the NCEL Premier Division and Step 5 for the first time. As an aside, the club have also won the Whitworth Cup on no less than 21 occasions – the first in 1907-’08, and the last of these coming in season 2009-’10.

The game got underway and, if I’m totally honest, it had to be one of the more one-sided, yet close games I’ve seen quite some time. Knaresborough dominated the majority of the contest, but never could fully shake off their Northern League visitors. Their first real chance came from a corner, when the cross was punched wide when under pressure by the away ‘keeper, Ryan Lumsden. However, the Boro really should have gone ahead when Steve Bromley was released, but he proceeded to produce a quite awful finish in putting his shot wide.

Lumsden with the punch

Match Action

Match Action

The Washington’ keeper remained the busier of the two glovemen and he had be sharp in tipping a low shot from Andy Cooper wide, before he then made another good stop to deny Luke Harrop, with Harrop then setting up Dan Thirkell, but the defender could only fire over. Then, just before the break, Cooper was desperately unlucky when his fine chip hit the underside of the bar and bounced out, with the rebound directed goal wards by Brad Walker, though the Washy stopper was again equal to the task. Half-time arrived in a rather cagey first half, though Knaresborough would surely have been wondering just how they had failed to take a lead with them.

An uneventful 15 minutes came and went and we were soon back playing once again. Knaresborough maintained their dominance early doors, with centre-half Gregg Anderson heading over unchallenged from a corner and Harrop firing a long-range drive straight at the visiting ‘keeper. It really did appear as though it was going to one of those days for the hosts as both Bromley and Cooper again saw chances come and go, but finally, just before the hour, the deadlock was finally broken when a ball through found its way to Bromley and he slotted home to give his side, finally, a richly deserved lead. But this still didn’t seem to rouse Washington from their long-time slumber, and after I’d made the acquaintance of Dylan the dog and his dad, they went down to ten-men – Alex Ramshaw was given his marching orders due to something happening off the ball.

From the seats

Match Action

It then got even worse for the visitors when Knaresborough made it two; Harrop got clear down the left, cut inside and coolly finished. By this time, Washy really looked even more out of it than for the previous 60+ minutes and this was almost shown in footballing terms as a try from his own half by dangerman Harrop fell just wide of the post whilst the Lumsden again pulled off a good save to keep his side in with shout, even if it was more akin to one of someone losing their voice. A number of Knaresborough chances to seal the tie would follow each of Ben Cohen (not the ex-rugby player as far as I’m aware), Gregg Kidd, Thirkell & Luke Stewart all went close but they would then be given a setback that would set their nerves rattling.

Both teams would end with ten men when Bromley was sent from the field for, apparently, a challenge on the ‘keeper (though my initial Chris Kamara impression of not even seeing the red was bettered by me then seeing the player walking off and thinking he’d been subbed; the new Anthony van den Borre is now in Knaresborough) and this would then allow Washington a way back into the tie as some good work by Chris Pattinson allowed him to set up fellow substitute Lewis McGeoch, who calmly finished to set up a grandstand last 5-10 minutes.

They then almost grabbed a late, late equaliser but Boro ‘keeper Dom Smith, who’d largely been a spectator throughout, pulled off a great save to tip the ball behind and a counter from the resultant corner saw his side to swiftly head right up the other end, where Cooper had the chance to confirm Knaresborough’s place in the next round, but placed his shot against the post. However this would prove to matter little, as the referee blew up (not literally, of course) to signal to close of a rather strange game which could have been a hammering, but ended with nerves jangling.

Match Action

Manse Action

Post-match, I made haste back up to the main road and the Marquis of Granby pub that is located pretty much halfway between the ground and the town. Upon entering, I discovered the place was a Sam Smith’s place which used to mean only one thing – CHEAP PINT!!!! But no longer, dear reader, oh no! Now it means three: cheap beer and, at the other end of the spectrum completely, no mobile devices or swearing. Honestly. Or, as I was to be informed, the place can be shut down if someone from the brewery was to walk in and see someone breaking this rule. Bloody hell – how pathetic….yet worryingly dystopian at the same time. Oh, the Taddy Lager was £2.80.

From there, I exited into a less dictatorial atmosphere and returned to the town centre square and the Market Tavern for another Dark Fruits (£4 again) before continuing on station-wards and back to the Commercial that I’d only discovered existed when setting eyes upon it. I entered what I later found out is the oldest pub in the town and….oh for God’s sake, it’s a bloody Sam Smith’s. How quick your viewpoint on something can change eh?! Just to show how outrageous the rules are, I actually got my camera out to have a quick check of the pics I’d taken today and was challenged to ensure it wasn’t a mobile device. Really. I do feel for these publicans who have to put up with this shit. Luckily for Samuel, the pint of Arctic Lager was just £1.49….you have another chance Smith; though you’re about as popular with me as your Aussie namesake at this point (not really, I prefer Steve)!

Market Tavern (excuse the blur)

The Commercial & The Crown ‘Spoons

With my train’s arrival getting ever closer, I popped into the town’s ‘Spoons – The Crown Hotel – for a bottle of Hooch to keep me company on the first leg of the journey back home. It did just that and I finished off the last of it as the train pulled into Leeds, whilst the connection over for the service back to the Manchester was comfortable. Unfortunately, a slight delay on the way back cost a half-hour, but on the whole, this was only a small set-back on a fine day out. Knaresborough is a fine town and I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. The ground was fine too, despite being generally unspectacular, with the food and programme therein both being decent offerings too, for their respective prices. It’s back onto the FA Cup circuit once again next week and I reckon I’ve got a venue ‘nailed’ on….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 6

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Salford Quays (Ordsall Leisure Centre)

Result: Beechfield United 3-2 Bolton County (Manchester Football League Premier Division)

Venue: Ordsall Leisure Centre (Tuesday 27th August 2019, 7pm)

Att: 45 (hc)

A rarity on these pages, a midweek game isn’t seen too much as it is, never mind one that is played at a non-regular venue a short distance from my abode. But that is just what this game was and the Ordsall Leisure Centre, just beyond its larger neighbour in Old Trafford, would be the host. The ground is within the small area of Ordsall in Salford, but stands just across the road from the plushy Salford Quays area of the city and, as a result of this, it gave me an excuse to sample a few of the pubs and bars the surround the numerous old docking areas.

I set off for this 7pm kick-off at just after 4pm, grabbing a couple of buses which allowed me to journey on over the swing bridge and to the Quays themselves. I would bypass the old Ordsall Hall mansion in doing so before hopping off my second service of the trip just outside the Quays House Beefeater – located right alongside a Premier Inn, perfect for those who like a tipple or two before bed! Incidentally, the most interesting parts of the journey both happened on this second bus (the 79 for those interested) which included a radio station onboard which meant my ride began with Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” soundtracking it, whilst the “bus stopping” sign was illuminated by an unseen hand, as it was only me and the driver on board….Whooooooo!! Spooky.

Ordsall Hall

Beefeater from across the water.

Matchstick Man

As I said, my day began with a visit to the Beefeater, which offered views across the quays towards the Old Trafford side, a nice enough place to sit with a pint of San Miguel, especially in the final throes of the warm, kind weather the bank holiday was allowed. From there, I back-tracked a little to the Matchstick Man, a Hungry Horse pub, where a pint of Boddies kind of reflected its surroundings, coming in at £3.95. Not a whole lot to report in here despite setting off in the direction of a non-existent door for some reason on the way out before again making the walk back towards the Lowry theatre and the neighbouring Craftbrew and Harvester outlet. I gave a miss to the Alchemist, though, as it looked a little….highbrow.

The Salford Quays area is within the area the City of Salford which itself is in the larger Greater Manchester area. It was formerly the Manchester Docks and, upon their 1982 closure, it then became the scene of one of the first and largest urban redevelopments throughout the U. K. The docks were owned and built by the Manchester Ship Canal Company, with Salford being the larger of the two – out sizing its neighbour Pomona. The docks were opened in 1892 by Queen Victoria and would go on to be, at its height, the third busiest port in Britain for a time, but the rise of container transportation and larger vessels meant the docks entered into a decline through the 1970’s, ahead of their eventual 1982 closure.

The Quays

Around the old docks

Heading on over to the Lowry area

The docklands were bought the next year by Salford City Council and renamed Salford Quays, with the area being steadily redeveloped from 1985 onwards to include many living areas, bar, restaurants, hotels, the Lowry Art Gallery, Theatre and Retail Outlet and the Imperial War Museum North. These were linked up by roads, a promenade and bridges, and were later joined by the Metrolink extension through to Media City, with the BBC and ITV having a large presence nowadays.

The Craftbrew was probably my favourite bar of the day beer-wise and had many a real ale on offer. I opted for a Hawkshead Pale Ale and it was bloody lovely too – very happy with that choice and the £4.05 price tag wasn’t bad at all considering its position bang centre within the Lowry complex. Finishing off my pint outside on the small outdoor area, I headed the short distance to the Harvester, which was only a small place and I felt more than a little out of place within the dining peoples, as I seemed to be the only person in there having a drink alone. Ah well, what can you do?! Upon finishing off the 61 Deep of Marston’s here, it was time to head towards Ordsall and a planned brief pop-over to the nearby, famed Salford Lads Club just around the corner. From there, I had hoped to get to the Welcome Inn a few minutes from the Ordsall Leisure Centre itself, but this proved to be impossible.

The reason for this? Well….bus. As I was setting off on my planned 25 minute-or-so walk, I spotted the #50 service popping in a little late. “Bonus!”; I thought to myself as I caught it, but this proved to be a fatal flaw in my plans, as it seemed to take an age to get around, whilst the walk from the stop itself seemed to take far, far longer than the phone map suggested. As a result, having reached the Lads Club, the heartbreaking decision to wrest myself away from the Welcome Inn was enforced and so direct to the ground I was forced to be. I’m sorry to have had to subject you to such scenes. Trust me, just be happy you weren’t there to experience it.

Lowry Area

Craftbrew

Harvester (on the left) at the Lowry Outlet

Ordsall itself is an area of Salford, historically in Lancashire, that is currently undergoing a large amount of redevelopment….kind of. It was first mentioned in an 1117 tax payment by Ordeshala and derives its name from the personal name in Old English ‘Ord’ and ‘halh’ meaning corner or nook, which accurately reflects the location of the Manor of Ordsall, with its boundary on the south Bank of the River Irwell featuring a large bend. However, it could also be from the Saxon primeval word ‘ord’ and ‘hal’ which, together, combine to become ‘very old den’ – the reasoning lying at the existence of a cave in the area known as Woden’s Den. This cave was located on a road that ran to Ordsall Hall and included an ancient, paved ford across the Irwell and is thought to have served as a Christian hermitafor local Kersal-based monks, or an area for early travellers to leave offerings to Odin before attempting the crossing.

Ordsall Hall itself dates back to the times of the Tudors and was the home of the Radclyffe family for over three centuries. It has also been home to a varied assortment of tenants, including a church for clergy, the forerunner of the Manchester Theological College and a working men’s club, and is said to be haunted… so that’s where the bus ghost was going! There is even a plausible, if unsubstantiated, rumour that the Gunpowder Plot was outlined here. The Salford Lads Club (made famous by the Smiths’ The Queen is Dead album) and musical themes continuity alumni of Ordsall including Peter Hook of New Order and Tim Burgess of the Charlatans. Football-wise, Busby Babe Eddie Colema was born in Ordsall, though was sadly one of those killed in the Munich Air Disaster, aged just 21.

Salford Lads Club

Arriving at Ordsall Park

I arrived at Ordsall Park, in which the Leisure Centre’s 4G pitch is located, to find the teams waiting around for the pre-booked training session before their game to finish up. It duly did and we were underway around five minutes late, by which time Dan had arrived and was pleasantly surprised to have made the beginning of the game. As for the ground, there’s not a whole lot to say about it, apart from it being a typical affair of its type, just this one has its spectator area running the full length of the park-side of the pitch, whilst some raised areas behind the far-end goal and the spectator area give a little more watching space, but the cage is an issue, of course; not that this was a problem this evening, unsurprisingly. The history part of Beechfield United can be found within my Salford Sports Village blog to watch their home game there, here, but let’s get straight on with the action of this contest….

The game eventually began once the pitch had been cleared of all and sundry and it was the visitors who came out of the blocks the stringer with #3 firing wide of the upright, and #9 seeing his attempted drive well blocked by a defender. However, they would be made to pay for their early misdirections, as Beechfield soon went ahead themselves. After winning a corner out on the right flank, the resultant ball was whipped in perfectly for the lanky frame of Beechy’s #5, Michele Fresneda, to climb highest and thump a header into the back of the net. One-nil Beechfield!

Match Action

Match Action

One quickly became two as well, when Kurtis Lee’s smart finish found the bottom corner, and they really should have gone and put the game beyond doubt shortly thereafter, but #2 guided his header wide and, down the other end and just before the break, #7 was unlucky to see his low shot fly narrowly off target, as Beechy held on to their lead through to the break, despite a scare when County had a goal ruled out for offside. Incidentally, the one thing I really do love about this level is the break times as, within 5 minutes, we were back up and running for the second half. County again began the stronger, and Matthew Leadsham spurned a fantastic chance to level soon after the restart when some fine work and a superb touch by #9 allowed him to be able to pull back. The goal was there, but the finish, alas, was not.

The ‘great chance, poor finish’ theme then continued right down the other end, as #11 broke clear to deliver a good low ball to the back-post, where the arriving #7 blasted into the side netting only. To be fair, it was a tight angle on this occasion, but nonetheless, they would be made to pay by County after this and two swift strikes from the visitors pegged them back. First, Leadsham made amends for his earlier faux pas by slotting in at the near post from a corner, before he himself then became the assister moments later, as he beat a challenge and pulled back to #8, Liam Short, who fired home from the edge of the area. 2-a-piece and all to play for in the last half-hour or so!

Under the lights

Match Action

Caged

Bolton then almost turned the match completely on its head as #11 got forward but did a little too much, and in giving possession back to Beechfield, indirectly allowed them to retake the lead, as they went right down the other end and sub Jordan Jones-Waite, who had been on the field a matter of minutes, slipped his shot across the ‘keeper and into the far side of the net. 3-2 and, unfortunately, the grandstand finish never quite arrived, despite pressure from both teams and a late header flying just wide was the last chance to get something from the game for County, as Beechfield held on for all three “home” points.

After the game, it was straight out of the park gates and to the bus stop a few minutes away for the first leg of the journey home. I bid goodbye to Dan back in Old Trafford and caught a second bus, only to narrowly miss my planned (yet very hopeful) connection by a few minutes. This wasn’t particularly a problem and after a 15 minute wait, I was on the way home to round off this rare midweek venture, and it had certainly been a worthwhile one. Both sides had put on a very entertaining game, with the surface being far better than I had expected it to be (no idea if the players think the same!), and it had been decent to have a few hours in and around the Quays for a change too – though I’m sure those who make their living around there may not be too enamoured. Back onto the norm Saturday games this weekend and the beginning of the FA Vase’s road to Wembley….

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 3

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 9