Manchopper in….Manchester (Manchester Gregorians FC)

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Result: Manchester Gregorians 1-1 Old Altrinchamians (FBT Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: Platt Lane Complex (Tuesday 1st September 2015, 6.30pm)

Att: 24 (hc)

Transfer Deadline Day?  No, not dramatic enough. What you need, is Manchester League Football! So, another Tuesday evening saw another football match to go to. Not only that, but it’s the last one before returning to work after a 4-and-a-half week break. So, when the last game of the Manchester League to be  played midweek was to be at the Platt Lane Complex near Rusholme, it was an offer that I couldn’t pass up.

So, at just before six, I was on the 15 bus towards Manchester, getting off in Moss Side for the short walk over to the ex-Manchester City training and academy site, now owned and used by the Man Met Uni.

It was due to be an easy connection getting me there about 5 minutes prior to kick-off but, as I’m sure we all know, the British public transport system isn’t exactly great at most times. I mean it’s not bad, but it usually abysmal; especially so when it comes to the buses.

Maine Road

Maine Road

The Platt Lane Complex

The Platt Lane Complex

Platt Lane

Platt Lane

Seating

Seating

So, as I traipsed down Upper Chorlton Road looking behind me for the every 5-minute scheduled 111, it was little surprise that I passed Maine Road and the still being built estate upon the former site of the old ground without the bus passing me. Indeed, after 15 minutes, the Platt Lane pitch nearest to the Lane itself came into view, as did the players and the game kicked off just as the ref blew his whistle. Time-keeping on point!

I had to walk to the far end gates, before backtracking on myself to get to the pitch, passing a guy having a barney with security over car parking restrictions. Before long, I’d  reached the pitch and met with Dan for tonight’s game and introduced him to the delights of Platt Lane, myself having visited once before, a couple of years back, when Gregs had entertained Prestwich Heys on a fairly bracing late-autumn afternoon. On that occasion, the sides clashed on the neighbouring, usually used, 3G pitch and five goals were scored, with the visitors coming out on top. Were we likely to have a repeat on our hands tonight, as Old Alts provided the opposition?

Breaking the rules!

Breaking the rules!

The Platt Lane building

The Platt Lane building

Visiting Dressing Room

Visiting Dressing Room

"Stand"!

“Stand”!

Having seen the Alts the previous week, I had to say that I wasn’t too hopeful, as they didn’t look a free-flowing side, more a hard-working defensive team. Gregs, on the other hand, looked very dangerous going forward early on and looked like they would probably net the opener and go on to get more, if there wasn’t any dismissals. But what were the chances of that hey? Anyway, before we get into the game, here’s the history of the Manchester Gregorians:

History Lesson:

Manchester Gregorians FC was formed by ex-pupils of the St.Gregory’s RC High School in Ardwick. The current side started life in 1959, though they were preceded by an Old Gregorians side in the 1940’s and ’50’s who played on and off during those years, with the current Gregs taking on the Old Gregorians name upon their (re?)formation, later becoming just Gregorians, before adding the “Manchester” prefix in 2009.

They began competing in the Manchester Junior Catholic League before switching after three seasons to the Lancashire Amateur League, where Gregs won a number of honours, including a strangely successful season in 1977-’78, when each of Gregs’ six teams won their respective divisions, plus the League Aggregate Cup (First and Reserves Points) & League Trophy (most points for all teams combined).

Hmmmm...

Hmmmm…

The usual pitch, The Maine Pitch.

The usual pitch, The Maine Pitch.

After remaining here for a long while, the club eventually switched to Manchester League for 2005-’06. Since the move was undertaken, the club has continued their success with them winning the Premier Division & Lancashire Amateur Shield in 2009 and again in 2011. They also won the Northern Counties FA Senior Cup in 2010, whilst representing the Lancashire FA. Since then, the club has been a solid mid-table outfit, finishing 10th in both of the last two seasons.

Back onto today’s game then and, as said earlier, it looked as though it would be the hosts who’d net first, with their #11 looking most threatening with his physique and pace combining menacingly. But, as it was, it was to be his strike partner, #9 who’d net, firing in from inside the area, low to the ‘keeper’s left. 1-0.

It looked as though Alts would be in for a long night, as they just hadn’t got going to that point and I think I commented something along those lines. But, all-knowing football man that I am, I was completely wrong. The goal seemed to stir the Alts into action and after a couple of wayward efforts, a breakaway attack was illegally stopped on the edge of the area by #5. As last man, he had to go. RED and he was heading back to the changing rooms. #3 stepped over the free-kick and duly whipped it into the corner. 1-1. The ‘keeper was far from impressed, I’d say, as he let out a frustrated “F*CK’S SAKE!!!

Gregs celebrate the opener

Gregs celebrate the opener

Match Action

Match Action

OFF!

OFF!

GOAL! 1-1.

GOAL! 1-1.

After a quick meeting with Jonny Keen, who was out doing some interviewing and such for the impressive Non-League Mag (look out for my pics too, perhaps?) with some Gregs people, it was time for a lap of the gro….oh, yeah. Problem was, it only has one side for spectators, hard standing, with TV gantry and a stand. Well, I say stand, it’s actually just an overhanging roof. But it’s close enough to a stand, damn it! The other parts of the ground are fenced off, 3G style, with roads running alongside the far touchline and behind near-end goal. Far end is lots of trees and assorted shrubbery.

Anyway, the second half was a very cagey affair with next to nothing in terms of clear cut chances, with the only one I remember of note being a shot from 25 yards that was tipped over the bar well by the visiting custodian. Despite a couple of half-hearted penalty shouts, a shot going over the road and some late pressure asserted by the 11 of Alts vs the 10 of Gregs, the home side held on pretty comfortably to take a deserved point from a tight contest.

Match Action

Match Action

Starting from the back.

Starting from the back.

Match Action

Match Action

From what I’ve seen, Alts will be one of those sides who are very difficult to beat, with Gregs looking decent before they went down to 10. I’d imagine both are destined for mid-table, with Alts being happy with that, I’d imagine, having just been promoted from the First Division.

The Dome

The Dome

Leaving the Lane

Leaving the Lane

As for me and Dan, we’d just missed the bus due to ref loving the football under the ever darkening skies, we walked back towards Moss Side, before getting the 111 through to Manchester for our respective changes home. Nice to see more of the Manchester League, which is always improving in my opinion. All the best to both clubs for the season, and I’m sure I’ll see both again before too long!

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RATINGS:

Game: 5- Average, cagey after the red.
Ground: 3- Basic, ex-u-16 pitch, with superb surface though. No fault to the club.
Fans: 4- Officials, really.
Programme: N/A
Food: N/A (though there is hot drinks machines and snack machines)
Value For Money: 8- Just travel of £4.10 paid.

Manchopper in….Chorlton (Maine Road FC)

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Result: Maine Road 1-0 1874 Northwich (North West Counties Premier Division)

Venue: Brantingham Road (Saturday 3rd January 2015, 2.00pm)

Att: 220

Another wet day of football beckoned for me as I began the short trip into Chorlton-cum-Hardy for the first weekend game of the year. Maine Road’s Brantingham Road, or St.Margaret’s Playing Fields, was my destination for today as they entertained the high flying 1874 Northwich.

Maine Road, who’ve, without wishing to be disrespectful in any way, overachieved in the last few seasons in challenging in the upper echelons of the table with a largely young side, have descended into the mid-table as they lost a number of players to the likes of Glossop North End & today’s hosts alike, but the players who’ve stepped into the first team are getting to grips with the demands of the league well now.

So, I stepped off the 23 bus in the middle of Chorlton Cross, which isn’t far at all from the town’s other club, West Didsbury & Chorlton. I decided, with around an hour and a half to kick-off, that I would shelter from the rain in the Royal Oak pub. Once inside the large, whitewashed building, I made my way to the bar and then to the TV, which was just about to show the Edinburgh derby, Hearts vs Hibs. So, I settled in, with Strongbow in tow, to watch the feisty clash.

By the time I had exited the establishment around an hour later, the weather had improved and was beginning to brighten up ahead of today’s game, which was a 2pm kick-off (due to lighting issues). Anyway,  despite the ground looking as though it is just down the road, it is in fact a fair bit longer, as you have to half-circumnavigate the ground to get to the entrance. So, I chose to grab the 85 to drop me off at the Sikh Temple, which serves as a landmark for the ground’s location.

5 minutes later and I was arriving at the ground, where you are left in no doubts you are at the right place with a large board stating “St. Margaret’s Church Playing Fields, The home of Maine Road FC”. Walk past this and a disused 5-a-side cage and you arrive at the turnstiles where I handed over my admittance money, the standard £5 and a further £1.50 for the programme. “You’ve come prepared!” was the response when I could give the exact monetary value owed. (Badges are usually available on turnstile).

The home of the Road

The home of the Road

Maine Road FC

Maine Road FC

Entrance to Brantingham Rd

Entrance to Brantingham Rd

Now inside, I was meeting with Dan Watkinson, who lives close by, so Maine Road now serve as his “local team”. As a result, he is now a regular down at their games. He was situated on half-way in the long, small covered stand that runs almost the full length of the far touchline. Inside it are benches that serve as seats and it was here that most of the large travelling contingent from 1874 had decided on watching the game from. Opposite this is a small covered terrace on the other touchline, which was as full as I’ve ever seen in all my trips to Road before. Then there is the Sunday Pink stand. Sadly, both stand & paper don’t exist any more, but the remnants are still there to the left of the surviving terrace & two dugouts. Behind both goals is open, the near end, behind which you enter the ground is a small open terrace, the far end is open, with hard standing and a large grassy area running towards the houses bordering the ground. The clubhouse/dressing rooms are set back from the pitch and reached by either tunnel or adjoining pathway. Brantingham Road has a capacity of around 2,000 with 200 seated in the “Main Stand”.

Main Stand

Main Stand

Covered Terrace, dugouts

Covered Terrace, dugouts

Open Terrace & turnstiles.

Open Terrace, clubhouse & turnstiles.

With the teams already on the pitch and the coin toss taking place, now seems as good a time as any to have a look at the history of the club known simply as “Road”.

History Lesson:

Formed in 1955 as City Supporters Rusholme as a Sunday League side, it wasn’t until the late sixties when the club played in the Manchester Amateur Sunday League and now based at Maine Road Social Club hence the name change to Maine Road FC.
After some success in the Sunday Leagues, the club were prompted to switch to Saturday football & the Manchester League. The club immediately won a stack of honours, a treble of Manchester Amateur Cup Manchester League Division 2 and Murray Shield arriving in their first season of competing in Saturday football. The division 2 title and Murray Shield were defended the following season before a pair of Manchester Intermediate Cups were lifted in 1975-’76 & ’76-’77. The Manchester Challenge Cup was added to the trophy cabinet in 1983, before the club finally settled on a home at Brantingham Road following a nomadic existence.

The club lifted four consecutive Manchester Leagues between 1983 &’86 as well as cup success in the Gilgryst Cup, Manchester League Open Trophy and Manchester Challenge cup. The Challenge Cup was successfully defended in 1987 along with the Open Trophy before the Manchester County FA’s new complex was built at Brantingham Road enabling Road to enter the North West Counties, a long standing ambition.

After achieving a cup win at the end of their first season at Counties level, the Manchester Premier Cup, to ensure Road became the first club ever to win all five County Cups. The remains a unique achievement. Road finished as NWCFL Division 2 runners-up the following season. After being denied promotion due to ground grading, these requirements were filled and the club won the Division the following season to be promoted to Division 1.
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This was the end of silverware for a long period for Road, and they were relegated back to Division 2 in 2001, the first, and so far last, time they have been. They returned to the top flight in 2004, after finishing third, and they won the North West Counties League Challenge Cup in 2008 under Ian Walker. The combined management of Chris Thomas & John Morrey oversaw the recent upturn in League form for Road, including the club finishing runners-up last season, before Lee Bennett was installed following the pair’s departure at the end of last season. He didn’t last too long, however, and Derek Barber, long time manager in the late 80’s-90’s, was installed as Caretaker Manager with Road beginning to pick up results once again.

Now sat alongside Dan in the Main Stand, the game was underway. It was Northwich who made the early play with Road ‘keeper Ryan Livesey keeping out a well struck free-kick. It was a sign of things to come from Livesey later in the piece. However, Northwich were granted a great opportunity to open the scoring when a rash challenge by a Road centre-back on 1874’s Stuart Wellstead gave ex-Maine Road skipper Neil Chappell the chance to net against his former club. But he couldn’t do it, as he blazed over from 12 yards.

Road seized their chance and made Northwich pay for Chappell’s error. Just four minutes later, the ever impressive Connor Hughes rifled into the top corner from just outside the area, leaving ’74 custodian Matt Conkie rooted to the spot. It was a fantastic strike. 1-0.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Northwich continued to have the better of the play for the remainder of the half, hitting the woodwork direct from a corner, but were unable to break down the Road defence, so the score remained at 1-0 at the break. I headed for the clubhouse and the indoor food hut, where I bought some Chicken Curry for £1.50. It’s well worth getting too. What I did recognise, though, is that Maine Road’s clubhouse must be the only one within a rather large radius to feature church pews as seating inside a clubhouse. Anyone else seen anything as such before?

After finishing the curry, Dan and myself headed back outside for the Second Half, but first we had to pay our respects to the departed Sunday Pink Stand. A moment of silence, please. Sad times.

Clubhouse & food hut

Clubhouse & food hut

The Church Pews

The Church Pews

RIP Sunday Pink Stand

RIP Sunday Pink Stand

Back to the football now, and stood behind the goal Northwich were attacking this second half on the open terrace, and we had a great view of the award of the second penalty, when Livesey was adjudged to have brought down a Northwich forward, and the referee had no hesitation in, correctly in our opinion, pointing to the spot. This time it was Mike Duckworth who stepped up, could he break the Northwich penalty hoodoo?

NO! 4 missed in two games! Livesey dived to his right to palm away the spot kick, which had also seen Road down to ten-men as Mike Shenton received his marching orders after continuing to be wound up by some crafty sportsmanship!

Ryan Livesey. Man of the Match.

Ryan Livesey. Man of the Match.

Blinded by the Light.

Blinded by the Light.

Northwich were pressing desperately now and Steve Foster thought he’d equalised in the 89th minute, only for his strike to be ruled out, correctly, for handball, before Livesey again came to Road’s rescue by superbly palming away a fierce shot right at the death. The corner came to nothing as the Road ‘keeper claimed, as the ref blew up (not literally) to signal a big three points for the hosts and a huge dent in Northwich’s already thin title hopes.

After a quick chat with Stuart Wellstead, whom I know from Eagle Sports & bidding goodbye to both him & Dan, it was straight home after the game with the weather as it was, so not much to write about here, you’ll be pleased to know. Still, it was a good day at a good club who are always worth a visit if you are in the area. The club play the right way and give young, local players the chance to enter into a good level, and with their Man City links and results over the last few seasons, they’ve begun to add support. And flags, I noticed. They must follow the road….

My Maine Road M.o.M.- Ryan Livesey.

My 1874 Northwich M.o.M.- Daley Woods.

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RATINGS:

Game: 6- Nothing particularly special, but entertaining enough.
Ground: 5- Simple, good playing surface.
Programme: 6- For the most part, it’s a standard issue. No manager’s piece or original content. Lots of reports though.
Fans: 6- No particular reason behind this rating.
Food: 7- Not bad, all the better as it was cheap!
Value For Money: 8- £4 fare, £5 in and £1.50 programme.- Cheap day out.