Result: Wythenshawe Town 2-2 Stone Old Alleynians (NWCFL Division 1 South)
Venue: Ericstan Park (Saturday 22nd December 2018, 3pm)
As the run into the festive season begins, so the want to do a few closer games rises. Having not visited Wythenshawe Town since their “Invincibles” days whilst playing in the lower reaches of the Cheshire League, I reckoned a revisit was in order and in doing so, just happened to cement the plan of a Wythenshawe double in the span of a few days with my intended Boxing Day fixture seeing me head the short journey a little further on past the home of Town and to Hollyhedge Park, the home of Wythenshawe Amateurs – the first ever semi-pro clash between the two. When you consider the strength of talent that has derived from the area over the years, the fact it has taken this long for even one club to rise into the Counties ranks is pretty unbelievable. But they’re both there now and I was off to sample Ericstan Park under lights for the first time too.
The morning of the game provided me with a little bonus of sad proportions as I found out one of the more interesting Russian aircraft was in at Manchester and leaving early afternoon. As such, my starting point was pretty much set in stone and after grabbing both buses and Metrolink, I was disembarking in the Town Centre at a little after midday, though my journey en-route did throw up the fact I’d forgotten my camera and so my phone would be employed on this one. Anyway, a short walk later had me at the Portway which had seemingly had its supplies hit hard over the previous couple of days, judging by the amount of pint pots on taps. As such, I opted for a pint of Strongbow (£3) to begin with and had a bit of a chat with the guy I presume is one of the owners before I had to make haste and leave as the Airport was calling. I had to be quick too and a short jog later had me at the crossing towards the appropriately named Airport Pub, where I would get my viewing up close. Rather surprisingly, there weren’t more people out to see it and so I could sit outside in relative peace whilst enjoying a pint of the fine Big Wave. Lovely, even at the princely £4.95.
Spending a good half-hour here, it was soon time to drag myself away and head back towards Wythenshawe, with further planned stops in the nearby Red Beret and Cornishman hostelries. The Red Beret was by far the busier of the pair, with my comment about not wanting to get between a pair of “experienced” guys at the bar being met rather jovially. A pint of Boddington’s (£2.90) was the order of the day in here whilst watching the early part of the second-half of the Arsenal-Burnley game before seeing out the remainder in the aforementioned Cornishman over a pint of San Miguel for a pretty cheap £3.20.
Wythenshawe’s name seems to derive from the Old English words wiðign (“withy tree”) and sceaga (“wood” with the similar dialect word being “shaw”) and is made up from the ancient townships of Northenden, Baguley and Northern Etchells, who merged together in 1931 when the town was transferred from Cheshire to the City of Manchester. Until then, the name only referred to Wythenshawe Hall and the surrounding ground of Wythenshawe Park. For many centuries, much of this land was owned by the Tatton family and after being pressured by the Manchester Corporation – who were in desperate need for more land for housing – the Tatton’s parted with the land in 1926. The surrounding farmlands were subsequently transformed into one of the largest housing estates in Europe, with the hall itself victim of an arson attack in 2016 and it’s still undergoing restoration today.
Wythenshawe is also home of Manchester Airport, the former RAF Ringway and before the airfield at Ringway was laid out in earnest, three farm fields in Northern Moor (now the north edge of the town) were used as Manchester Aerodrome. This was the UK’s first municipal airfield and operated for around a year between April of 1929 and early 1930. A barn was converted for use as a hangar and a farmhouse for admin purposes, with the last recorded flight departing from Wythenshawe’s Aerodrome in June of 1930. In other transportation affairs, the town’s railway station (Northenden for Wythenshawe) was closed in 1964, the nearest stations now being those on the Styal line and the Airport’s own. It has good links via buses and trams to the wider Manchester area with a new hub being completed in 2015 to take in the recently opened Airport Met line. The town now includes the areas of the aforementioned trio as well as Benchill, Peel Hall, Newall Green, Woodhouse Park, Moss Nook, Northern Moor and Sharston.
Upon the whistle it was back on the tram from the nearby stop and into the town centre once again for a visit to my final pre-match stop, the Silver Birch – not named after the Grand National winner from years back. Being a Holt’s pub, cheap-ish beer was always going to be likely and the Crystal Gold didn’t disappoint in that respect, setting me back at the usual random £2.90-odd price. Afterwards it was back on the tramways for the short hop to the ground-neighbouring Baguley stop from where it is about a five-minute walk to the gates of Ericstan Park, down a small back street behind the Tesco.
Paying my £5 entry, I met up with Dan once inside and was soon in receipt of the programme he’d kindly got me in upon his arrival and with just a few minutes to kick-off, I had little time to take in the improvements to the ground which included the small covered terrace right in front of where you enter having been extended quite a fair way and it has also had a fair amount of seating added. This is the case for the stand on the opposite side of the pitch too, which has more covered seating, whilst the far end is now open (though you may have to scale a bar to reach it) though isn’t paved as of yet. The majority of the far side is still to be paved too, with the bit nearest the clubhouse and car-park being the only bit to have received this upgrade to date. All facilities are located within the large, impressive club building including the food hut and dressing rooms. So that’s Ericstan Park and this is the story of Wythenshawe Town FC….
Wythenshawe Town Football Club was founded in 1946 as North Withington Amateur F.C. and initially played in the local South Manchester and Wythenshawe League through to 1958 when they were switched into the Lancashire & Cheshire League, after winning the league’s Division 2 in 1950 and the Barker Cup the following year. They would go on to spend the next 14 years in the Lancs & Cheshire adding the Division ‘C’ to their accolades in 1959, before winning the Division 3 the next year and going on to have further success throughout the next decade, lifting the Division ‘B’ in 1964 and the Division 2 in 1965 prior to winning the Division 1 in five of the next six seasons thereafter, only missing out on the 1968 title during that period.
The club would have their application to join the Manchester League accepted in 1972 and two years after they joined, North Withington would move from the Hough End fields and into a new home on Timpson Road in Baguley which would later become known as Ericstan Park – named after two of the club’s hierarchy at the time in the form of Eric Renard and Stan Hahn. The club’s new badge incorporated a cockerel and a fox (with the former’s name deriving from the French for fox and the latter’s from the German “Hähnchen” for cockerel). During their spell in the Manchester League, the club won the 1974 Division 2 and won further silverware in the cups via the Manchester Challenge Trophy on five occasions (1977, ’78, ’80, ’93 & ’95), the 1980 Lancashire Amateur Cup, the 1985 Gilgryst Cup and the 2000 Murray Shield.
Changing their name to Wythenshawe Town in the mid-’80’s, Town would remain in the Manchester League for the majority of their existence, only departing in 2014 when a disappointing season saw them relegated from the Manchester League’s Premier Division. A further drop in league was suffered as a result of the switch which led the club yo begin their tenure in the League 2, but this would only serve to hand Town perhaps their most famed year as Lee McGregor’s side went through the season unbeaten in the league and cups, winning all of their 39 competitive matches and being promoted to League 1, earning the moniker of ‘The Invincibles’. Their quadruple winning campaign saw Town secure the League 2 title, the J.A. Walton Challenge Cup, Manchester County FA Cup and the Altrincham & District Cup to round off the season. A second straight promotion was secured the following year and Wythenshawe began 2016-’17 campaign in the Cheshire League’s Premier Division. After two further mid-table seasons in the league’s top division, the club joined the expanded North West Counties League for this season under boss James Kinsey and were joined by local rivals Wythenshawe Amateurs in doing so, enabling a semi-pro rivalry in the town for the first time.
As I said a little earlier, the game was underway soon after my arrival and it was the visitors who looked the more comfortable in the early stages and duly took the lead on 12 minutes when they were awarded a free-kick just outside the area and Jake Vernon curled his effort beyond Town ‘keeper Ben Purdham, despite the stopper getting a hand to the ball. As we continued on round, Dan and I spotted Gillian, whom we knew from our days at Trafford when new Town centre-back Nia Bayunu was becoming a staple in the side before later becoming captain. We got clued up here and there and he’s back at it once more which is good to see. Anyway, speaking of new centre-backs in blue with a connection to Trafford, Bayunu’s partner at the back, Sam Heathcote, almost provided the assist to the equaliser when he played in Justin Pickering, but the winger placed his shot narrowly wide of the target.
As the half wound its way towards its conclusion, I continued on my lap of the ground as Wythenshawe looked to draw themselves back level, though never truly threatened the Stone goal in any real way. Lee Gregory saw a shot not trouble Adam Alcock between the Stone sticks, whilst Pickering again fired off target to wind up the first half of a watchable, if not too exciting game up to that point. For half-time it was into the clubhouse for us as we both managed to secure a pie with Dan getting the last one much to his delight. The Steak and Kidney offering I opted for was really good too and definitely worked as an effective warm up!
After catching up with the half-time scores on the doors it was back into the ever darkening evening and the new Ericstan Park floodlights were now beginning to take full effect. Once again, the start of the half was pretty uneventful with Stone standing firm (sorry) and looking rather comfortable in doing so. Vernon went close to repeating the feat of grabbing an early-ish goal but this time Purdham pulled off a fine stop to deny the Alleynians front-man. Wythenshawe responded in kind and had an effort cleared off the line following a corner, but they would draw level shortly afterwards when Adam Farrand struck an effort at Alcock who replied to Purdham’s earlier stop with one of his own.
At this point the game was beginning to fire-up and the hosts drew level on the hour when Pickering received the ball just inside the area and clipped it across the six-yard line where Liam Crellin-Myers climbed to guide the ball into the net. However, parity would be short-lived as Stone immediately restored their lead, a through-ball played into the path of Sam Wilson and he managed to beat Purdham to the ball and it duly rolled into the net. But there was yet more action to come as Town would again claw themselves back to level-terms within around ten minutes when a long-throw wasn’t cleared and Brad Byrne happily took on the task of firing the loose ball home.
Both teams went on to try and grab all three points and both had chances to do so, Luke Askey firing over when well placed for Alleynians, whilst Crellin-Myers could only head straight at the grateful Alcock as the game came to a close with the draw being a fair result in both myself and Dan’s viewpoints. Post-match, it was off down the footpath which separates the two pitches at Wythenshawe Town’s home and to the somewhat hidden Jolly Butcher (which I think has a team named after it in the Altrincham League if my sources are correct) and after one in there (around £7.60 for a round before grabbing a bus to the far side of Wythenshawe Park and paying a visit to the Gardener’s Arms, where we just happened to time our visit perfectly around the singer’s break. The round in here came in at somewhere around the same (I had a Moretti, so wasn’t too bad) before we hopped on our penultimate bus on the day back towards Sale – helpfully from right outside the pub door – and then our final one back, my phone surviving a dive out of my pocket en route. Cock.
So there ends my final pre-Christmas 2018 trip and there’s now only two left until a calendar year without a nil-nil is finally secured. As for this one, the game was decent when it eventually got going in earnest and the ground improvements have definitely made it a good venue for the level. The food was good and the programme ok and is one of your glossy £2 productions and you can’t really moan at it! The tour de Wythenshawe had also been better than I’d expected to be honest and the added Ilyushin bonus appealed to my sad side (as if these blogs don’t say it’s there already) and so, all in all, a good day was had. Anyway, onto the Boxing Day clash between the two Wythy sides and it’s “Shawe” to be a good one….
Value For Money: 7