Result: Denton Town 3-3 Eagle Sports (Cheshire League Premier Division)
Venue: Whittles Park (Monday 7th May 2018, 3pm)
Att: 28 (hc)
After a pair of costly and longer-range trips over the previous two days of the Bank Holiday weekend, I was looking for somewhere a little cheaper and closer to home to round off the three days of football. As such, when I came across the fact that Denton Town were welcoming Eagle Sports to their Whittles Park home on the Monday afternoon, the decision was made all the more easy. So on a fairly sweltering late morning, I boarded a bus into Manchester, before catching the connecting service from Piccadilly Gardens over towards Denton, not far from Hyde, in the Eastern side of the city.
Dan would be joining me also, though he would be arriving slightly later than me. This was probably for the best too from his point of view, as I made the fatal error of sitting at the front of the bus there, thus baking in the ever-rising temperatures and ending up something resembling a melting ice-lolly come my eventual arrival into the centre of Denton after a 35 minute sauna session. Luckily, I had a pair of pubs standing immediately opposite, the first of which, the large George Fitzpatrick, had bottles of the fine Hooper’s alcoholic Dandelion & Burdock in chilled bottles. With ice on it, it was the perfect tonic. Don’t have tonic with it though, I stress.
With the day starting off on a cheap note (the travel and first drink coming in at around £7.30 combined), Dan joined me in here before we headed across the way shortly after his arrival and into the very traditional Red Lion. In here, I found the lesser-spotted Boddington’s on offer and, being not too far from the former Boddy’s brewery, decided I ought to indulge in the nectar. At just £2.10 for a pint, it was a bloody bargain!
From here, we caught the bus from outside the pub and travelled a few stops down the road to the end of Prince Edward Avenue, the road to take to reach Whittles Park. The ground is signposted off of the main road too, so there’s little chance of getting lost, as long as you follow the road. After a short walk of around ten minutes or so, we arrived at the gates of the ground and upon heading in for no charge (free entry, not a blag), we took up a spot in the ground’s “stand”. Now, you may have noticed I’ve put stand there in quotes. That, dear reader, is because the “stand” is more a few tree stumps in a concentrated area! Alongside is the patioed, smart clubhouse that was re-constructed a few years ago, shortly after my first visit here. It’s certainly brighter and more airy than its predecessor, and is adorned by pictures, trophies and other paraphernalia from the club’s almost 100-year history.
Bar a little bit of paving to either side of the clubhouse area, the remainder of the ground is surrounded by grassy areas only, meaning it’s probably best to make sure to visit on a day like today, rather than a soggy one, though most of the ground isn’t exactly too easily accessible, with long grass towards and behind the far end being almost impassable. The far side isn’t much more pruned either, though is something of an improvement. The near end doesn’t really exist and backs onto a fence almost immediately after the goal, with a sharp dip down into a field behind giving views down the hill towards the northern end of Hyde and Dukinfield. The pitch is barred off on both sides, with the far end open and the other, as said earlier, just a fence. So, that’s Denton Town’s Whittles Park in a nutshell, and here’s a bit of back-story to the club….
Denton Town Football Club was founded in 1920 as Bradford Parish F.C. by the rector of Christ Church in the Bradford area of Greater Manchester, close to where Manchester City now play, with some of the Bradford Colliery seams now covered by the City of Manchester Stadium itself. During their inaugural season, the club competed in the Manchester YMCA league and with an average age of just 17, became League and League Cup winners in their first year, whilst playing at the David Lewis Recreation Ground also known as, far more interestingly, Donkey Common.
The following year saw the club join the Openshaw & District League and went undefeated during the league season, taking the title whilst also lifting the league’s League Cup, securing a second double in both of their first two seasons, no mean feat. They then went on to join the Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur Football League in 1922 and entered the lower ‘A’ (later 2nd) Division. Again, the club enjoyed immediate success, winning their divisional title whilst also taking an astonishing 17 coachloads of (apparently around 800)supporters to Urmston for the league’s Rhodes Cup Final, where they also defeated West Didsbury, securing another double for the club.
The following season saw the club in the L&C First Division, which they immediately won and defended their Rhodes Cup title successfully, meaning yet another double, keeping up their record of winning one in every season of their existence. They soon lost this record though and after winning the Hellawell Shield & Clayton Charity Competition Cup in 1926, would be made to wait until 1933 for their (sort of) next silverware, being joint winners of the Manchester & Salford Medical Charities Cup, but really until 1937, with that coming in the form of the Wray Cup and this was their first honour at their new, enclosed, Ashton Moss Athletic Ground. 1938 saw the doubles return, with the club lifting their second L&C Division 1 title whilst also achieving their third Rhodes Cup win. These would be their final successes before the outbreak of WWII.
The club would soon be forced to leave their new home due to bomb damage come the end of the war and move into the Melland Playing Fields in Gorton. However, they still won the title in both of the first two seasons post-war and 1950 saw another Rhodes Cup won with 1953 seeing a Cup double in the form of the Wray Cup returning for a third time whilst Bradford Parish also won the prestigious Lancashire Amateur Cup at Accrington Stanley’s Peel Park, overcoming Morecambe GSOB by 3-1. 1954 saw them defend the Wray Cup and a hat-trick of these was secured the next season. 1956 saw silverware continue to arrive at the club, in the form of their fifth L&C league title and also their first S.E. Wooley Aggregate Trophy success. This latter trophy was won for a second time in 1959 and the following 1959-’60 season rounded off the decade as it had been all the way through, with a sixth L&C Championship being won.
The Sixties began well, with 1961 seeing their seventh (but what would turn out to be penultimate) Lancs & Cheshire title being won, whilst the Whitehead Cup was won for a second, but final, time. The next season saw the Wray Cup & Rhodes Cup again be lifted by Parish, with the decade seeing two more of the latter (1965 & ’66) and one of the former (1967) arrive before a spell without success would finally be experienced.
Only a single Rhodes Cup (1982), S.E. Woolam Aggregate Trophy (1982) & Wray Cup (1991) would be won in the years leading up to Bradford Parish’s name change to Denton Town F.C. in 1994 and the newly named club moved to their current Whittles Park home the following year. Their first silverware at the new ground arrived immediately, the end of that ’95-’96 season saw the ninth Rhodes Cup be won, but that would be it for a further decade, until 2006 saw the S.E. Woolam Trophy lifted for a fifth time and the Whitehead Cup a third. The next campaign saw the double wins return, with another undefeated league season seeing them lift their eight and last Lancs & Cheshire League title whilst also attaining a tenth Rhodes Cup.
After winning yet another Wray Cup in 2008, Denton signed off from the Lancashire and Cheshire League and joined the Cheshire League, playing in the Division 2 after a successful application. Here, Town finished 12th in their first season, before rocketing up to 3rd in 2010 prior to lifting the 2011 title and achieving promotion to Division 1. They have remained here ever since, through its name change to the Premier Division in 2014 and despite struggling for the majority of their spell there (finishing third-bottom in 2014 & ’15 & second-bottom in 2016), things again took an upturn last year, as they finished 3rd. Alas, there was to be no repeat of their Division 2 title win afterwards, the club guaranteed to finish bottom come the end of the season, though restructuring of the pyramid will likely see them retain their spot in the top division.
The game got underway and after just three minutes or so we had our first goal and it was the bottom side, the hosts, who took the lead with a barnstorming strike from 25 yards by Godfred Amankwaa flying into the top corner past the helpless Eagle ‘keeper who could do nothing about it and, indeed, didn’t even attempt to. One-nil to Denton and it looked like that goal-fest I’ve been waiting on for quite a while could finally be on the cards!
It looked to be the case even more so soon after when Eagle grabbed themselves an equaliser. A ball through the defence found its way to Ged McAllister and the striker coolly slotted the ball beyond the ‘keeper and into the net. One-a-piece in around ten minutes and it was game on once more and both sides continued to trade chances, with Denton seeing a big rebound head towards the Eagle goal, which was eventually required to be cleared off the line, with the visitors responding with a low ball across goal that just evaded McAllister once again.
But it was Denton who would begin to gain control of the game from around the 20 minute mark, and Amankwaa would net his second goal of the game mid-way through the half from right out on the side of the box, his low drive somehow squirming its way through the Eagle ‘keeper and into the far corner. They looked to have all but sewn the game up shortly before half-time, when a long-ball over the top, allied with some slack defending, allowed Antonio Din Chin to steal in at the back-post and nod the ball over the line. Three-one going in at the break and for Dan and I, it was off to the bar! It was….”smashing”.
Getting a Magners each for just £4, we awaited the second half in the comfort of the very smart Geoff Gable Lounge, whilst also grabbing a couple of the cardboard leaflets that were put out on the tables as a sort of programme. Sadly, pies were a no-go today as, apparently, I was told by the guy who seemed to be doing pretty much every job under the sun (no pun intended) today, “It’s the first time he hasn’t put any in all season” as we looked at an empty pie oven forlornly warming air. Ah well, the football was soon getting started up once more.
It was Denton who again started the stronger of the sides after the break and almost made it four when a free-kick took an awkward bounce in front of the visiting gloveman, who recovered just enough to block the ball with his legs and it was eventually cleared by his defenders. This proved a crucial moment too as, around half-way through the second period, the ever-threatening McAllister found himself one-on-one after latching onto a long ball forward and he again showed confidence to lift the ball over the advancing Town number one to reduce the arrears to a single goal once again.
Ryan Bishop then forced a decent stop out of the home ‘keeper with a rocket of a shot from all of 30 yards, the rebound just evading the hat-trick seeking McAllister, and Eagle now found themselves well and truly on the front-foot and almost levelled in pretty cheeky circumstances, knocking a quick-free kick towards goal with the ‘keeper recovering in the nick of time to control the ball on the line before it crossed.
In between the few water breaks here and there, the Sankey-based visitors were now all over their hosts and thought they had levelled in stoppage time, when a long-ball forward saw McAllister and the ‘keeper jump for the ball together, the ball evading both and ending up in the net, but the referee adjudged that the striker had jumped into his opponent rather than against him, and awarded a free-kick to Denton.
However, he then went from zero-to-hero in the eyes of the Eagle team when a trip was committed in the area and the referee had little option to point to the spot and award the penalty. Of course, it was McAllister who would be stepping up with the chance to complete his hat-trick and the Eagle comeback to secure an away point with what would be the last meaningful kick of the game. He did just that, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way and unerringly finding the bottom right-hand corner to earn his side a share of the spoils, much to the chagrin of the hosts after the whistle, who felt hard done by, apparently due to previous happenings going against them too it seemed. Be that as it may, they couldn’t have many complaints with the awarding of today’s penalty and that was that. 3-3, full-time.
A great game and Eagle player-manager Rob Hope invited us pair of hangers-on to the Fletcher’s Arms for a post-match pint, though this one would be definitely more responsible than other occasions….
Anyway, after being given some directions by a couple of locals, Dan and I headed off towards the pub, though came across Cock first. No, I mean the Cock Inn, deary me. Anyway, a quick pint of Moretti (£3.30) was had in here, before abuse was aimed at me specifically out a red/burgundy Jaguar car just on the corner by a few players from a football team from somewhere. Good job I couldn’t work out who they were….!
Colin (Rob’s Dad and Chairman, Treasurer and groundsman at Eagle) soon dropped the rapscallions off at the Fletcher’s before kindly returning for us and taking us down there, saving a good ten minute walk. After enjoying a pint of Beck’s (by far the dearest of the day at £4.10) in the carvery-style pub’s beer garden with a few of the lads, where I learnt a number of the team weren’t available having been the worse for wear after a day at the Welsh Cup Final the previous afternoon (plus a few that played were too….Robbo?), it was time to return back towards Denton town centre and its many watering holes. Helped out by a seemingly non-timetabled bus turning up on our walk there, we headed up to the pairing of pubs that came along first, the Carter’s Arms and the Chapel House. The former didn’t look any great shakes and so to the larger, Edwardian-style Chapel House it was, where a pint of Holt’s Crystal Lager came in at the strangely priced £2.73. Why always Holt’s?!
From there, it was a short walk down the road to the next one up, the Toll Point. This was a nice enough little pub too and a quick pint of Dark Fruits (£2.70) was had in here before a final pint was had in the Gardener’s Arms back opposite the bus stop. In here, I had the horror of finding that I’d pretty much exhausted my cash and not really wanting to dip into using my card asked what I could get for about £2.50. “Foster’s” was the answer. I went cold. But, beer is beer and I went for it anyway. It wasn’t too bad either, though the fact it was my eighth beverage of the day may have helped matters somewhat!
The bus back into Manchester was easily taken before a trip back home for a couple more was had to round off the day in style. So, what of Denton? Well, the ground is tidy enough (if you ignore the overgrown grass at the far end) and the town is bloody cheap when it comes to the (in Father Jack voice) DRINK! The game had been a fun one and the ground being on the flight path to Manchester Airport always appeals to my geeky side too. Can’t complain about the weather either! So, that rounds off the early May Bank Holiday weekend, and it’s onto next week for another pair of games, which will likely see me at a title-deciding game (or something alike) somewhere, before heading down to the “Smoke” for the final time this season and to Selhurst Park. Got to get there before the bane of my life that is ground “improvements” begin….
Food: N/A (chocs and the like were on, pies usually too)
Programme: 2 (Not really one, just a basic history card, free)
Value For Money: 10