Manchopper in….Denton

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

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

Att: 28 (hc)

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

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

The famous Denton Rock

Denton

First two stops (right)

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

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

En route

Arriving at the ground

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

History Lesson:

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

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

Wall of history

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

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

Clubhouse

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

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

Outdated honours list

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

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

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

Match Action from the “stand”

Match Action

Match Action

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

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

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

Shorts action

Match Action

Match Action

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

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

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

McAllister completes his hat-trick

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

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

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

Cock Hotel

Fletcher’s Arms

Chapel House

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

Toll Point

Gardener’s Arms from across the square

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

RATINGS:

Game: 9

Ground: 5

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

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

Value For Money: 10

 

 

Manchopper in….Walton (Liverpool County FA HQ)

Result: Eagle Sports 3-0 Byrom (Liverpool Challenge Cup Final)

Venue: Liverpool County FA HQ, Walton Park (Tuesday 28th April 2015, 6.30pm)

Att: 120

This was a game I’d planned to attend, ever since Eagle reached the final back in March. Finally,  the evening had arrived, and after finishing work at around about 4pm, it was straight to the station for the train towards Liverpool. Well, I say train, it was more akin to a battery farm, how everyone was crammed in. Anyway, after enduring these conditions for around 45 minutes, I hopped off at Edge Green, before embarking on the walk up to Walton.

However, I soon found out I had massively underestimated the walk, and it turned out to be a good three-four miles! This in addition to getting lost (shock) and ending up near Tue Brook. As such, I decided to make the most of a bad situation and go on a football tour of Merseyside, walking past both Anfield and Goodison Park. Amazingly, it was the first time I’d ever seen Goodison in my life.

The Kop

The Kop

Goodison

Goodison

Famous Stanley Park

Famous Stanley Park

After heading past Stanley Park and heading up Walton Road, I finally found myself at the entrance to Walton Park and the Liverpool “Soccer Centre”, as it was advertised on signposts. What a dreadful word, soccer. Before I set off on a rant, I will carry on. I handed over my £2 admission fee, receiving both entrance and a programme for my money. Upon entering, it struck me just how little there is featuring inside the pitch being used today. There is one stand, a slightly raised covered terrace, the changing rooms are built into the rear of the main building and there are some hedges. But apart from that, that was it. And it was very much the same story for the twin ground next door too. For me, there has to be a better place to host a final.

The Stand

The Stand

The Hedge End

The Hedge End

Clubhouse End

Clubhouse End

The game, featuring Byrom of the Liverpool County Premier League and Eagle Sports of the Cheshire League Premier Division was underway around 15 minutes of me arriving. Almost immediately, it was obvious that it was going to be a largely one sided affair, a Eagle gained the upper hand, which they were never to truly relinquish.

Handshakes

Handshakes

It's all kicking-off

It’s all kicking-off

It did, however, take them 20 minutes to finally break the deadlock. A free-kick was won on the left flank, the delivery wasn’t cleared and skipper Richard Chinn volley home to give his side the advantage.

Byrom were still recovering from this knockback when Eagle grabbed their second two minutes later. Again, it was an attack down the left that caused the danger, before a vicious strike was wonderfully tipped onto the post by the Byrom goalkeeper, who was rather unfortunate that the ball rolled along the goalmouth where Ged McAllister arrived to slide into the gaping net. 2-0, and game over, you felt.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

At thebreak, the  score remained the same, and I headed for the small refreshment window at the side of the main building, which seemed to be housing a referees course. They could do worse than to watch  the ref in charge tonight, who I thought officiated very well. There were a couple of minor errors, which are to be expected,, but nothing too major. Anyway, I managed to grab the last pie on offer, a Steak variety, for just £1. It was delicious and definitely worth the quid. So, with pie in hand, I headed back to the ground for the second period, which was soon underway.

The second period saw Byrom unleash their secret weapon, a quicksilver winger/midfield player wearing 14. He absolutely single handedly caused Eagle problems and looked like he might just give the Merseysiders a fighting chance. Apparently, he is a player for Skelmersdale Utd in the Evo-Stik League, and his class was showing. Unfortunately for him, the rest of his side weren’t up to it and Eagle’s Lee Boardman applied the finishing touch to the final with 15 minutes left on the clock. Boardman collected a through ball before delightfully chipping the ball over the onrushing GK and into the net. A fine finish. 3-0.

Soon enough, the final whistle blew to signal Eagle’s win and first silverware this season,, whilst Byrom left empty handed, having never posed much of a threat. The celebrations began and after the champers was sprayed and the trophy was lifted it was onwards home.

Eagle's Chinn lifts the cup

Eagle’s Chinn lifts the cup

The champagne is finally sprayed!

The champagne is finally sprayed!

I hitched a lift back to Sankey on the Eagle team coach, as to aid my trip home. After a quick drink back at the club on Thornton Road, and a win on the football card to the tune of £20, I left to my own fanfare and headed into the night around Warrington and arrived at Sankey station, in a much more able state than usual! 20 minutes later, I was disembarking back at Urmston and back home after two cup finals in two nights. Next up, the May Day weekend, and a trio of matches…..

My Byrom M.o.M.- The #14, didn’t catch his name sadly.

My Eagle Sports M.o.M.- Richard Chinn.

RATINGS:

Game: 5 – A one sided contest.

Ground: 4- Very simple and not great facilities for a final.

Fans: 7- All round effort.

Food: 8- Pie was very good. And cheap too!

Programme: 4-More of a teamsheet.

Value For Money: 8- Cheap travel, admission and food makes for a happy hopper!

Manchopper in….Padgate

Eagle SportsGreenalls PSO

Result: Greenalls Padgate St.Oswald’s 2-3 Eagle Sports (The Hallmark Security Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: Tetley Walker’s Club (Tuesday 14th April 2015, 6.30pm)

Att: 50-55 (approx.)

Adding to my list of grounds visited is always a bonus, and the end of season period is usually a golden time for building up amateur grounds to the portfolio, after the postponements over winter and the subsequent rearranging of fixtures. Thus, when the opportunity to travel just down the railway from me to Greenalls PSO was offered to me, it wasn’t one to be passed up. Especially so when the game was to feature my adopted Cheshire Premier side Eagle Sports! So, at just before 5.30, I was on a Northern Rail train which was so full it wouldn’t look out of place in the documentary clips you see of Indian railways. Luckily, my journey was just 20 minutes, and I was soon released from captivity and into the wilds of the town which neighbours Warrington.

At this point, Google Maps was to be main help because, as usual, I had neglected to actually plan out a route. Hey, ho. A route was plotted and I was off. Well, I was, for about a minute, when it turned out you couldn’t actually walk down the road given on the planner. Superb. So, after a scenic route through a small housing estate, which I am lead to believe was a small WWII RAF station, I was soon heading towards my first objective, the Orford Green roundabout.

Arriving  at Tetley Walker. Add Moore Utd too!

Arriving at Tetley Walker. Add Moore Utd too!

Dressing Rooms

Dressing Rooms

View from the stand

View from the stand

Looking from the far side

Looking from the far side

10 minutes later, I was rocking up outside the Tetley Walker’s club. If this name seems somewhat familiar, it is because a club played under this name in the North West Counties in the early nineties and earlier, until the need for floodlights stopped them dead. But more on the history later on. As it was, I walked through the bowling area and through the entrance gate and into the ground itself. The structure that grabs your immediate attention is the one and only stand that looms above you to your right. To be fair, it isn’t much more than a slightly raised standing terrace, but it’s still something of a novelty to see a decent stand in an amateur ground. A hark back to the days of Counties football, I guess. The rest of the ground features a slim pathway, serving as hard standing. Now, it’s time to delve into the history of Greenalls Padgate St.Oswald’s….

History Lesson:

The first club at the venue, as alluded to earlier on, was Tetley Walker FC, who competed in the North West Counties League Division 2 from 1994-’95, strongly, with a best finish of 2nd in their final year of competing, when I imagine they were denied promotion and folded in 2001. Tetley Walker also reached the 4th round of the FA Vase in 1997.

The club in question, previously known without their Greenalls prefix, were founded in 1997, competing in the Mid-Cheshire League Division 2. They won this division, and promotion, in their second season before being relegated back to Division 2 for season 2003-’04. They immediately bounced back, again as champions, before changing their name to Greenalls Padgate St.Oswald’s for the following season, as they returned to Division 1.

Under their “new” name, the club have remained in the Division 1, through the league name change (dropping the “Mid” part), never finishing lower than ninth, which they have done for the last two seasons. They won the title once, in 2010-’11, before finishing runners-up the next season. Unfortunately, details on further honours are thin on the ground, though I did see they won the Warrington Guardian Cup at the end of 2013, beating, now defunct, Runcorn Albion 2-1. Then I got bored on account of it being almost 00.30 am.

So, onto the game. I arrived just as the teams had arrived onto the pitch. The referee was the same ref who had officiated at South Liverpool six days earlier, and I think is Leighton Baines’ brother, John. Regardless of famous siblings, we were underway and it was frenetic from the get go, with Greenalls having the better of the play, especially helped by Eagle having the sun glaring into their faces. But, they couldn’t blame the celestial body for the first goal. A free-kick was awarded about 35 yards out. Eagle switched off, the ball was played short into the feet of the striker, Ben McWilliams, who turned and fired past the ‘keeper. 1-0.

And it was soon two and a sense of deja-vu was clearly felt. Another free-kick, more poor defending and another goal, albeit in differing circumstances. So not very deja-vu-like then…. Anyway, the free-kick was drilled under the wall and into the net via the hand of the unlucky Eagle ‘keeper who almost kept it out. Phil Harrison it was with the goal and the not-quite-relegation-contenders had a 2-0 lead over their title chasing rivals.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

That is until a few minutes before the break, when Eagle were denied what looked a “stonewall” penalty when an attacker was taken out in the build up, before a low cross was forced home by Jon Shakeshaft, against his former club. 2-1 at the break, and with no immediate sign of food available, I decided to stay outside and remain in the sunlight. Of course, you have to take advantage in England, as you never know when it will be back….

With the sun still shining brightly into the far end goal, it was now the Greenalls ‘keeper who had to contend with it. Though it has to be said, despite Eagle having the majority of the play, they failed to test him on a regular basis as a result of resolute, robust defending and poor pass selection. The game also became somewhat niggly as Leighton seemed to lose his grasp on control, which was a shame as he was pretty good at Liverpool the previous week. As time ticked on, it looked as though Greenalls would gain a vital 3 points. How wrong that view was…

Eagle corner

Eagle corner

Kicking into the sun

Kicking into the sun

With around 5 minutes to play, Eagle finally drew level, and deservedly so. A long ball into the box was contested by the striker and the ‘keeper, with the Eagle number #10, Ged McAllister, getting the better of his combatant, and tucking the loose ball home. 2-2! Fair pay to the ref, though, for allowing a challenge on the ‘keeper.

Then, it was three, the turnaround complete. It did appear that the striker had just fallen over, but the ref awarded the free-kick anyway, and #12 Lee Boardman, who had just come on, stepped up. He drilled a low effort that flew past the seemingly wrong footed goalkeeper and into the bottom right hand corner. 3-2, management genius and that was that, even with an Eagle player imploring me to hurry up, after forgetting that his side were in the lead and was still thinking about being after the win. Oops. Don’t worry, no names here….

So, the full time whistle went, and it appeared I had broken my spell of poor games with this one, which was quite the exciting tussle. 3-2, and I headed into the club for a half hour wait until I made my way back to the station. Here, I had seen that pies had been available, judging by the sign behind the bar, but I wasn’t too upset. As for Greenalls, I quite liked the ground, mostly for it’s stand and bushes at the back that wouldn’t look out of place at Aintree. Anyway, despite the lack of a programme (as is to be expected in this division and most others at this level), it was a thoroughly good trip, and I got a lift back too off Eagle player Owen, who dropped me off at Birchwood after sharing memories of games against Broadheath Central. You know, as you do. Cheers for the lift mate, and to everyone for sorting it out. Appreciated.

The only problem was my ears were ringing with the shouts of FOUL, FOUL, WHEEYYYY!!! come the end!

Aintree Fence

Aintree Fence

All artsy

All artsy

My Greenalls Padgate St.Oswald’s M.o.M.- Ben McWilliams
My Eagle Sports M.o.M.- Jon Shakeshaft

RATINGS:

Game: 8- Entertaining contest, 5 goals. Can’t complain.

Ground: 6- Not a bad one for the level.

Fans: 6- Vocal, which is something different. Maybe as it was a derby game.

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 10- After all that paying, it had to be!

Manchopper in….Knutsford

Knutsford_F.C._logoEagle Sports

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

Venue: Manchester Road (Saturday 17th January 2014, 2.00pm)

Att: Around 30 (hc)

After discovering that my long term choice, Chadderton vs AFC Mansfield in the FA Vase, was postponed due to the recent snow/freezing weather, it was time to scour the fixture lists for surviving game. After I’d considered both Northwich Vics vs Padiham & Radcliffe Borough vs Brighouse Town, both grounds I’d previously visited, I received news of a new ground opportunity. The ground was Manchester Road, home of Cheshire League high-flyers Knutsford FC.

The Cheshire side were to entertain Eagle Sports, whom I’ve had previous with this yea with, usually, quite drunken escapades ensuing. However, today was to be a rather more sober day, with my planned trip to Wales the following day (postponed). So, after a rush, I was off towards Warrington at just before 11.30. After arriving at Warrington Central, I took the 15 minute walk over to Bank Quay station where I would continue my trip onwards. After a 20 minute wait, I set off on Leg 2, to Chester, which went smoothly as hoped and I made my last connection to Knutsford just as the doors opened to allow embarkation.

Homeward bound, 45-minutes later, I arrived in the affluent Cheshire town. After coming out of the station & up the heavily gritted steps, I came upon the main road and headed right, through the town centre & past a 17th-centure inn. Noted for a visit after the game, as I had time to spare before my train home.

After passing the McLaren dealership, just as any town has, I was 10 minutes away from Manchester Road, with 10 minutes to kick-off. Luckily, as I turned the corner into the ground, which is signified by a large sign bearing club sponsors, the game was still not imminently starting. So, after paying my £2 admission and a further 50p for the programme, I was into ground number….you know, I have no idea what ground number it is. I’ll have to look it up. A ground-hopper who doesn’t know how many he’s been to. I’m a disgrace to the clan. Manchester Road is accessed up a dirt path up to a car park in front of the entrance, where a guy braves the elements with rocks to hold down his lightweight takings. He was very welcoming considering the brisk wind and all, so a nod to you, sir.

Leading to Manchester Road

Leading to Manchester Road

Welcome...

Welcome…

Programme

Programme

Manchester Road itself features the clubhouse, changing rooms and some benches as you enter. To your left, along the near touchline stands the one and only spectating shelter, a small stand where a small amount of seating is on offer, along with standing room. It was here that the Knutsford Choir had positioned. Behind the far end goal is a grassy area, as is the far,pond-side, touchline which is home to the visiting dugout, with the home one situated within the stand.

Changing Rooms

Changing Rooms

Clubhouse

Clubhouse & Entrance (r)

Anyway, after a couple of pictures, the teams made their way onto the field, as the sun shone brightly across the field and into the eyes of the away dugout, where I was to stand for the contest. A drum beat accompanied the sides onto the pitch, which I noted was provided by a group of 10 -or so young lads who’d took it upon themselves to come out on a chilly afternoon to become Knutsford ultras. Good on them. They also provided non-stop vocal support for the 90 minutes and boasted a flag. Not bad for a Cheshire League outfit. Anyway, there’s no time like the present to get underway with everyone’s favourite part of the blog, the history bit! Yeahhhh…..

History Lesson:

Founded in 1888, Knutsford initially played in friendly games and in local leagues in the Northwich, Sale Manchester & Crewe areas. The first known record of a Knutsford side is a 14-0 win over a Manchester “Aberdeen” side. However, the first recognised league that Knutsford FC competed in was the 1898-’99 Manchester Federation.

Following this, little is known about the clubs history, and it’s thought that they stayed in this league through until 1948, when they became founder members of the Cheshire Association League, where they remain to this day. In fact, Knutsford are the only founder members to still ply their trade in the League. They have won the League on three occasions, 1994-’95 and successively in 2011-’12 & ’12-’13, as well as achieving a further four runners-up spots. In 1949-’50, the club made their only FA Cup appearance. They were thrashed 9-0, at home, by Northwich Victoria. Last season, Knutsford finished in a lowly, by their recent standards, 6th place, missing out on a hat-trick of titles. The following is a link to some further historical bits to do with the club, from their website: http://www.knutsfordfootballclub.co.uk/club/History?id=25414.

Looking back from the far end

Looking back from the far end

Looking towards the pond side

Looking towards the pond side

The far end

The far end

Back onto today’s game now and I was already pleased that Manchester Road was one of those grounds that put together my two big hobbies, football and aviation. For that, it goes soaring in my estimations. Sorry.
Anyway, on the field and it was Knutsford who started the slightly brighter of the two teams having the majority of the possession, but failing to test Eagle’s ‘keeper who was facing into the bright sun. They were made to pay for it when they fell behind after 20-ish minutes when #11, Liam Walker, cracked home from just inside the area. 10 minutes before the break, the Sankey-based side doubled their advantage. A fine move including three players worked the ball to the #6, Jon Shakeshaft, who slotted home coolly. Amid all this, there was some good humour shared with the assistant on the Eagle side, where I was standing and a Knutsford player crashing into their dugout too, just to keep the subs awake!

The Stand at Manchester Road

The Stand at Manchester Road

In the clubhouse

In the clubhouse

Half-time arrived, and I headed into the clubhouse for some food. Alas, the final pie was sold to the man in front of me. This seemed to be a rare occurrence of selling out that quick, as a further two people cam in for one, only to be as disappointed as me! As it was, I settled for a Tomato & Basil Cup-a-Soup, served in an actual cup(!). It wasn’t just any cup either, oh no. This cup had a ‘tache.

After watching the opening stages of the second half from the warmth of the clubhouse/refreshment bar, including Eagle’s third goal, a header by #5, Richard Chinn, from a left wing corner, I headed back outside to my place next to the dugout, still being hindered by the sunlight. Not too long after I arrived there, Eagle made the points safe, as #9 netted a chip from 40-yards. The ‘keeper was a fair way off his line, but it was judged to perfection. A fine finish. Take a bow, Ged McAllister!

From Neil McDermott's goal

From Neil McDermott’s goal

Match Action

Match Action

Action in the sun

Action in the sun

The Eagle bench & assistant look on

The Eagle bench & assistant look on

There was still time for Eagle ‘keeper Neil McDermott to pull off a super acrobatic save to preserve his clean sheet and both sides had a goal ruled out for offside, as Eagle kept out the second-placed hosts to record a superb victory. I shot off after the game to ensure I could make the stop off in the aforementioned pub, The White Bear, worthwhile. It’s a thatched inn, with Tudor façade, opposite the McLaren dealership, giving that clash of past & present. Once arrived and after receiving a knowing look from people as I struggled to open the door before dodging some low beams, I got myself a pint of Strongbow and settled in to watch the majority of Soccer Saturday’s second half coverage, before I was forced to leave and head back to Knutsford Station and the train back to Manchester Piccadilly.

Is this for sale?!

Is this for sale?!

The White Bear

The White Bear

Inside The White Bear

Inside The White Bear

Little extra history lesson

Little extra history lesson

After a rain dodging walk across to Oxford Road, I reached my train home just as it pulled in. Bonus! A good, if slightly nippy day out in Cheshire came to an end (luckily for me, the cold doesn’t particularly affect me) and because of the early kick-off, it meant I got home comfortably in time for the evening plans. No, I’m not indulging those facts, nosey….

My Knutsford M.o.M.- The captain, sorry didn’t catch his name.

My Eagle Sports M.o.M.- Craig Hall

Watching the game

Watching the game

RATINGS:

Game: 8- A good, entertaining game, which ended up one-sided in the scoreline.

Ground: 7- It’s one of the better Step 7 grounds I’ve visited.

Food: N/A- But an unofficial 7 for the real cup.

Programme: 6- Boosted for going through the effort to produce one.

Fans: 8- As previously mentioned, a rarity at the level, fair play.

Value For Money: 8- Cheap day, costing £16 in all. Can’t complain with that.

Manchopper…in Sandbach

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Result: Sandbach United 2-3 Eagle Sports (J.B. Parker Challenge Cup)
Venue: Sandbach Community Football Centre, Hind Heath Road (Saturday 27th September 2014, 2.30pm)
Att: 40

Having been planning a trip to Sandbach United for a couple of years without success for one reason or another, this season I had been determined to make the trip, one way or another. When I had found out that my, seemingly adopted, Cheshire League outfit, Eagle Sports, had drawn the newly promoted side in the J.B. Parker Cup, my decision had been made & just after midday, I had transited through Manchester Piccadilly, which was just beginning to full with supporters heading to Old Trafford, and onwards into Cheshire.
Having rattled along through run down areas such as Alderley Edge, the train passed through Chertsey, which is effectively a platform in a field on one side, and within 40 minutes or so, I was walking straight up the road from the station which leads up to the ground.
Because of this, & having planned it out earlier I, for once, found my way to the ground with little trouble. I know, it’s a miracle! Having taken a right turn and then a left at a roundabout, I was then faced with multiple crossings to stay on pavements which disappeared on one side, rather inexplicably.
But, I then spotted both the Football complex & the cricket ground facing it. On the outside there was a sign informing anyone walking past about the game being played today. Though the lack of pavement provided this way & in general other pedestrians, makes this a somewhat futile gesture, at no fault of the club.

The Sandbach Community Football Centre

The Sandbach Community Football Centre

I made my way up the access road leading to the main pitch and smart clubhouse building. Upon reaching here, I was met by a man siting at a desk, and handed over my £2 entrance fee. Having known that Sandbach are one of a small number of clubs who charge for games at Step 7 previously, this came as no shock, and for £2, you can’t complain anyway. The standard is more than decent, and you, in effect, get a free programme, though I was encouraged to spend my £5 note “in the bar”, when I found the right change instead. Having been told that Liverpool had just taken the lead in the Merseyside derby, I headed inside to do just that.

The "turnstile" and clubhouse/dressing rooms

The “turnstile” and clubhouse/dressing rooms

Inside the Sandbach Utd clubhouse.

Inside the Sandbach Utd clubhouse.

The warm welcome continued once inside, at the bar, where the friendly lady serving was most engaging & I handed over my shrapnel in exchange for a bottle of Kopparberg as I awaited the 2.30pm kick-off. The clubhouse is rather plush, decked out with seating (comfortable, I might add, with the bar doubling up with a hot food serving hatch too. There is definitely scope for growth here, I thought, as a couple of Sandbach subs entered to watch the end of the game, though they were hastily returned once the game had begun by the manager, who seemed less than impressed!
As I say, the game had kicked off, so I made my way to the paved, patio-like, area directly outside the clubhouse and settled on a park bench to finish my cider. With little action going early on, I had a browse of the ground as I went on a photography stroll. Other than the clubhouse/changing rooms building and dugouts, there is little else, with one goal backing onto the car park, and the other onto further pitches. The far side is also backing onto other pitches, with one hosting a Sandbach Town game (which I was to see an equaliser in!) (NB: The exclamation shows how easy it is to get me excited football-wise!) With the start of the game being rather non-eventful, I reckon it’s a good time to explore the history of the hosts.

Looking towards the Cricket Ground end.

Looking towards the Cricket Ground end.

Looking out towards the far end.

Looking out towards the far end.

Looking across from the far side of the ground.

Looking across from the far side of the ground.

History Lesson:
Sandbach United are a relatively new club formed, as they were, in 2004 after the merger of Sandbach Albion & Sandbach Ramblers. This partnership is reflected through the R & the A on the club’s badge. Even then, the two club’s had only been in existence for around a decade, Albion having come into being in 1994, and Ramblers a year later. Albion, previously known as Hays Junior FC, played at Albion Chemicals, but were forced from there on more strict Health & Safety grounds, thus moving to the cricket club. Though Albion had its own youth section, Ramblers were very much the academy focussed side of the two, their first team playing their one & only season as the current Ramblers in 8th in the Midland League 1st Division, and were one of the largest clubs of its type in the South Cheshire area, which is still the case today. There were four incarnations of Ramblers, but never won a title, bud did reach the 3QR of the FA Cup in 1975. The current facility has only been in use since its opening a few years ago, and is one of the better (if not the best) facility in the Cheshire League. They joined the Cheshire League in Season 2011-’12 from the Staffordshire County League, and achieved promotion from Division Two to the Premier (as it is now known after league reconstruction) at the third time of asking, having finished 5th, 6th & then runners-up to go up.

Just in case you forgot!

Just in case you forgot!

The game had been quiet, as mentioned, so it came as a surprise to me when the opener arrived, so much so that I missed it, for the most part. It was the Sankey-based visitors who broke the deadlock, Ged McAllister, who, apparently, controlled the ball well before firing a low shot into the corner.
After that, the game became a rather scrappy affair, with no real clear cut chances for either side. Eagle ‘keeper Neil McDermott was the busier of the two for the rest of the half, though his opposite number had to be alert on a couple of occasions to make two smart saves from Eagle breakaways.

The adjoining pitch hosting a Sandbach Town game. This finished 2-2.

The adjoining pitch hosting a Sandbach Town game. This finished 2-2.

After the break, and a catch up on the latest scores via “Final Score”, the game became a more open contest & the home side were to get a deserved leveller when the Eagle right-back diverted a low free-kick into his own net at the near post.
This seemed to stir the visitors into a response, and despite some dodgy offside calls from both assistants for both sides, including Eagle’s number 9 having a perfectly good strike ruled out for offside (I was right in line, and it was indisputably onside), they took the lead with around eight minutes remaining when the influential centre-mid Danny Nixon fed the left-winger, who saw his shot saved by the ‘keeper but, unfortunately for him, the ball fell to Lee Boardman who gleefully finished into the open net. 2-1, an it looked game over.
But, Sandbach came again, and looked more dangerous as the time ticked away. With “Cariem” and Josh Lane always looking a threat up top, especially the former, who was a strong, well built forward who looked a decent player. As it was, Sandbach won a couple of corners in added time, and it was from the second one that they looked to have earned extra-time, when the ball bounced around in the area before being dispatched at the back post by Cariem.
It looked as though my day would be extended by an extra 30 minutes, but McAllister had other ideas. Soon after the Sandbach ‘keeper had engaged in a game of head tennis with himself outside his area, Eagle broke down field at speed & James Maher threaded a ball through for the Eagle #10, who bested his opposite number and fired hard past the helpless glove man and into the back of the net to spark jubilant scenes from the visitors. The goal turned out to be pretty much the last kick of the game, and the whistle signalled Eagle Sports’ progression into the next round where they’ll travel to Crewe FC. It was slightly harsh on United, but, on the day, someone had to lose & whoever it was were going to feel unfortunate. It was a dramatic ending to a keenly contested cup tie. Well done to both sides.
After the game, I returned to the clubhouse and, with a second Kopparberg in hand, watched as the minutes ticked down around the country via Robbie Savage & pals. The Eagle players who, you may have noticed, I’ve had previous meetings and encounters with(!) made their way in & were rather impressed with the facilities & food that was laid on for them. I also got a lift back up to the station off Maher (thanks mate!), though I was almost kidnapped and held to ransom for Man of the Match awards! After a 40-minute wait, at a now sunbathed Sandbach station, I boarded the train back to Piccadilly and onwards to Oxford Road where I got to the train as it pulled out B***ard!! Cue an hours wait, just what everyone wants, and a lottery for a Southport bound train, which was announced at Platforms 5,4,3,then 5 again! Surely people missed it. My connection was, eventually, more straightforward!
A good day at a great club & a lovely ground. This is definitely one of those who join my list of planned returns in the near future!

My Sandbach United M.o.M.- “Cariem”.
My Eagle Sports M.o.M.- Danny Nixon.

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Pretty entertaining, though the ending helps the overall rating. Drama at its highest!
Ground: 7- Quite picturesque & rural, a nice setting and great facilities for an “amateur” club.
Programme: 7- Full colour, a fair amount of original content (more than many semi-pro’s) & no pointless info.
Food: N/A (Forgot to buy some at Half-Time…)
Fans: 10- I’ll count the officials in this, and they were great. Superb club.
Value For Money: 8- Cheapish travel, low entry fee (free programme) & good ground.
Referee: 6- Wasn’t bad himself, the assistants (more the guy on clubhouse side) left a lot to be desired.