Manchopper in….Manchester (Manchester Central FC)

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Result: Manchester Central 1-2 Beechfield United (Manchester League Division 1)

Venue: Manchester Regional Arena (Saturday 31st December 2016, 1pm)

Att: 28 (hc)

The last game of the year comes on the last day of the year. Who says football has to stop at all? Not me, that’s for sure! In fact there shouldn’t be multiple leagues, there should just be one huge division where every club plays each other at their own behest, whenever and wherever they want. No, I’m just kidding. But could you imagine the utter carnage? Oh, er, where was I again…? Ah, yes! The Regional Athletics Arena was the NYE party venue of choice. The event? The reborn Manchester Central versus Beechfield United in the Manchester League Division 1.

With an early afternoon kick-off (1pm) scheduled, thus an early-ish start was needed. After beginning the journey on the much-loved replacement bus service into Manchester Piccadilly, my first task was to secure tickets down to London for next week. I’ll leave you in suspense regarding the destination for now, just for the drama. Anyway, with tickets eventually sorted, I headed out onto the mean streets of Manchester City Centre before taking refuge in the, previously infamous, B Lounge.

To the City

To the City

'B Lounge'

‘B Lounge’

The Bank

The Bank

After being nice and changing my order as to not rush a barrel change, I soon downed a Coors ahead of moving down towards Market Street where I was to meet Dan. Before leaving though, I was wished a “Happy New Year” by one of the bar staff which, incidentally, was the only time this happened during the day. So, cheers for that!

Next stop was The Bank which, you may have guessed, is housed within an old bank. The big plus point in here though, wasn’t the décor. Nor was it the carpets as, you know, it’s not a Wetherspoons. It is, however, a free house and there was Punk IPA on draught. Oh, the joys! The £4.80 price tag was actually not that bad, considering what I was expecting but there was little going on here and Dan had informed me he’d arrived in town. However, I’d be slightly delayed in meeting him due to the spotting of a ‘Spoons right next door to the uni buildings. The Waterhouse actually had Asahi, the Japanese beer, on and so it was third time lucky in getting a pint of it, following two previous failed attempts. It wasn’t bad either but, sadly, there wasn’t much time to enjoy it.

Manchester

Manchester

He's still there!

He’s still there!

The Waterhouse

The Waterhouse

After meeting Dan over in Market Street, I decided I’d be nice and give him the option of where we should visit next. The choice was the historic Mr. Thomas’ Chop House or the underground bar Corbières, which had last been visited almost a year to the day previously as part of a Lost Boyos-inspired tour of the city ahead of Manchester United vs Swansea City. Anyway, Dan plumped for the latter only for us to soon discover it was still shut for another 20 minutes. As it happened, the Chop House was just round the corner and…well, you can probably guess what happened.

Of course, after a quick pint of Amstel in the Chop House, I still reckoned it’d be polite to honour Dan’s decision and head to Corbières. After assuring Dan there was nothing dodgy on his horizon, we headed down into the underworld for a couple of halves. With time against us, though, we had to be swift and headed back to Piccadilly for our respective transports; me on the tram, Dan on the bus. A mini Top Gear-esque challenge was on! Not the shitty new version ones though.

Chop House

Chop House

Corbieres

Corbieres

As it happened, I was defeated due to the walk up from the stop and arrived at the Etihad Campus with around 10 minutes to kick-off. The Regional Athletics Arena sits right alongside its more famed big sister and currently plays home to Manchester’s ‘third’ club. It had been the home of Northwich Manchester Villa over the last season prior to their demise. Some fun was had with Gibbo exploring unknown indoor arenas during a visit there earlier this year!

The Manchester Regional Arena must be the largest amateur ground in (at least) the area, as I think the likes of Millmoor and the Withdean are still used on occasion. It is an all-seater, multi-purpose ground that was previously home to the Manchester City Women’s team and some youth teams before the construction of the Academy. It does have an athletics track surrounding the pitch, but this doesn’t really matter as you can pretty much walk around as you please. Three stands, the two sides and left hand end, are of similar size, with the right-hand stand being the large and offering good views over the pitch. As for Manchester Central FC…

History Lesson:

The name of Manchester Central was originally used by a club playing at Alexandra Park during the late 1800’s. According to Central it is, therefore, unlikely that Newton Heath did, in fact, consider the name for their name change prior to becoming Manchester United and there is no real factual evidence to say they ever did, only written hearsay from later historical pieces. The original club folded around the turn of the century.

The more famed Manchester Central were originally formed in 1928 by a Manchester City director and the owner of Belle Vue Leisure Park, with the pair feeling East Manchester needed a League club following MCFC’s departure from the area. The club played at the Belle Vue Athletics/Speedway Stadium and originally joined the Lancashire Combination. After a 7th placed finish they applied for the Football League, but failed to achieve a place.

History

History

After finishing as ’29-’30 Combination runners-up another failed Football League application followed, this despite the fact the club were getting crowds around the 8,000 mark at times. The following year saw a third application be unsuccessful and the club pulled out of the Combination to focus on the Cheshire County League, where their reserve side was competing.

But drama followed. After later being accepted for a Third Division North place later that close season following Wigan Borough’s resignation, they were subsequently denied once more by a complaint by United and City, who said a third Manchester club would be detrimental to the overall support. Following this, the original Central resigned from the Cheshire County League after a single season and folded soon after.

They're back!

They’re back!

Central then went missing from the history books through until 2015 when the club “reformed” as a youth-based outfit, fielding u21’s as the top age group. Their first fixture for 84 years was against Irlam in the Cheshire u21 League. After largely playing at Platt Lane during their first season, the club decided to move into the Regional Athletics Arena, alongside the City of Manchester Stadium, and enter an open-age outfit into the Manchester League Division 1. They currently sit in 4th.

New club, familiar venue

New club, familiar venue

After heading through the gate, I was immediately greeted with the non-league dogs duo (minus dogs this time, shockingly) which is always a good bonus, especially when it comes to being awarded a sticker! The game got underway and it isn’t much of an understatement to say the first half was the better of the two. All the action came during it, beginning with Central taking the lead fairly early on, Cory Knight coolly slotting beyond the visiting GK. 1-0.

Around five minutes later and we were all square once more. Beechfield had begun to really get going after a sluggish start and earned a free-kick. The resulting ball in was headed into the net from the centre of goal by Kurtis Lee and it was all to play for again. Despite the equaliser, though, it was Central that looked to be the more likely of the two sides to retake the lead.

Early Stages

Watching intently…

Match Action

Match Action

Pen save

Pen save

However, with around 35 minutes played, it was Beechfield who would turn it around, Lee’s second of the game securing them the lead at the break. This was despite the fact Central missed a great chance to level the scores right at the end of the half, a penalty being fairly comfortably kept out by the Beechfield #1. Half-Time: 1-2.

To be honest, it was mostly a case of Beechfield being really solid and taking their chances, with Central guilty of being wasteful in good positions. However, the second half saw little of anything in the way of chances. The only two of note I can think of was an effort flying over for the hosts and a fine save by the Central ‘keeper with around 15 to play to keep his side in the contest.

From a distance

From a distance

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

As it was, there was to be no addition to the score-line and it was the Salford-based club who ran out the deserved victors in this clash. After bidding goodbye to NLD, Dan and I headed back into Manchester, once again in competition with myself coming out on top on this occasion due to our journeys taking us back to Piccadilly for more ticket purchases. This one is for a Scottish team who have, in their old guise, played in England before folding. Any guesses?

Anyway, that was that. A good day out and about around Manchester and a half-decent game to boot. It was then swiftly home ahead of getting ready for the celebrations later in the evening. Next up on Monday is a trip to wherever the weather allows…!!

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RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 4

Manchopper in….Manchester (Manchester United FC)

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Result: Manchester United 2-1 Swansea City (Barclays Premier League)

Venue: Old Trafford (Saturday 2nd January 2016, 3pm)

Att: 75,415

For the first of a trio of “high brow” games in the following week, I was heading to what is the closest ground in the league (if you accept it as such), Old Trafford. Yes, before you try with the stereotypes, I am a local United fan. So, yeah.

A couple of weeks prior to the game, I contacted Matt of LostBoyos to see if he was to be attending said game as it included his beloved Swans. The answer was the affirmative and it was soon the morning of the game and I was heading into Deansgate, decked out in my “Fletcher 24” chevron shirt where I was to initially head over to a bar to meet up with Matt and his entourage, which is beginning to resemble something of an army.

I’d not long begun my walk down past the Museum of Science & Industry that I was told plans had changed and instead it was off to The Piccadilly, pretty much sitting slap bang between the Gardens and the station. So, after heading back past the Roman ruins of Castlefield, I hopped on the Met over to the Gardens and onwards to the Piccadilly.

Castlefield, Manchester

Castlefield, Manchester

Manchester

Manchester

No sooner had I entered the bouncer protected establishment, ordered my first Cubanisto (the rum flavoured beer) and found the Swans bunch, namely Matt, his German Dortmund supporting housemate Niklas, Tom and Dan, than I was ordered to down it as fast as possible as we were heading over to a usual stopping point; the Piccadilly Tap.

The tap has been featured on a few occasions now on these pages since Matt and Gibbo introduced me to its delights on the way back from Emley back in October and I was immediately hooked, helped by the discovery of the football table on the first floor, which is sadly out of order as it stands. But, not to worry, there’s still a bar and after meeting up with further members of the Swans travelling support, “Chester Mike” (who you’ll apparently hear shouting at the top of his lungs at most games) and Martyn, I was soon in possession of a Bitburger, despite Niklas saying it was “shit” and being pretty much agreed with en masse. Used to being in the minority, I went ahead with the choice anyway.

Beetham Tower

Beetham Tower

Piccadilly Gardens

Piccadilly Gardens

After a pair in there, it was decided we’d move on to one of the Oyster bar (our initially intended first stop) or Corbieres, one of Matt’s hidden gems that sits down a back alley off Market Street slap bang in the city centre. The consensus eventually decided on the latter and so it was off down the crowded pedestrianised street leading to the Arndale Centre and finally down a pretty wet back passage. Oh, I say! Some steps leading downwards came upon me and down we headed into the underground cave that is the bar.

Corbieres is definitely something that is unexpected, quite different from its street-level surroundings, a comfortable place to enjoy a couple of drinks in and to be told about what “being cute and speaking French” can get Niklas. It certainly wasn’t anything he was willing to actively hide and definitely created a good laugh did that comment! After a pair of Desperados in there for me, we exited and jumped a taxi, chipping in a couple of quid each into the £9 fare, to Old Trafford, arriving at around 20 past 2.

After bidding goodbye to the Swansea crew as they headed into the away end (well, corner) at OT and purchasing a programme at the kiosk on Sir Matt Busby Way (£3.50), I headed round to the Stretford End where I would be seated for today’s game. After passing by a late running Jesse Lingard at the players’ tunnel entrance, I soon entered through the turnstile after a fair old pat-down and was into Old Trafford for the first time in over a year for a first team game. I know, I’m awful.

Arriving at OT

Arriving at OT

Sir Matt stands guard

Sir Matt stands guard

The Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity

After climbing the stairs up into the upper echelons of the Stretford End’s top tier, I eventually clambered over to my seat three rows from the back and right in the midst of a main singing area in the stand. After 20 minutes of staring at a large flag on the pitch that was providing today’s pre-match entertainment, it was time for the big match. The players made their way to the field and past the stupid ball station and to the equally pointless BPL sign where the handshakes take place, but thankfully these were soon got rid of and we were set to go. But for now…

History Lesson:

Founded in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR by members of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton Heath, they initially competed against other depots but eventually began to compete against clubs, wearing the green and gold colours of the company’s name they carried. They became founder members of The Combination in 1888 and joined the Football Alliance a year later after the former league’s folding.

Three years later, the Alliance was merged into the Football League and Newton Heath (as they were now named) were placed in the First Division but lasted at that level for just two seasons before dropping into Division 2.

After a winding up order was served in 1902, the club’s Captain, Harry Stafford, along with others invested in the club to save it and subsequently a name change was prompted and Manchester United came into being. 1906 saw promotion back to the First Division which was won two years later. The club then lifted the first ever Charity Shield at the beginning of the next year and won the FA Cup for the first time at the end.

The second league title arrived in 1911, before the football was stopped as a result of WWI. Following the end of hostilities, the club was back in Division 2 after another relegation, but were promoted again in 1925, before almost going bankrupt in 1927 (until JW Gibson’s intervention) and following a further drop in 1931 became something of a yo-yo club but were back in Division 1 by the time WWII broke out.

Upon the resumption of football, Sir (as he was later to be titled) Matt Busby was appointed manager and his first trophy came in the shape of the 1948 FA Cup. This was followed by the First Division title in 1952, the club’s first in 41 years. In 1957, the “Busby Babes” side registered the club’s record win, a 10-0 success over Anderlecht, before the tragic Munich Air Disaster took the lives of eight of the side and 23 souls in total.

Munich Tunnel

Munich Tunnel

Memorial

Memorial

The 1960’s saw the FA Cup return to Old Trafford in ’63 and two league titles followed in ’65 & ’67 before the club became the first English club to lift the European Cup, before Busby resigned in 1969. The 1970’s saw United be relegated in ’74, promoted in ’75 and another FA Cup success in 1977.

This was the last silverware to arrive at Old Trafford until the cup returned twice in quick succession (1983 & ’85). Another future “knight”, Alex Ferguson, was appointed in 1989 following the dismissal of Ron Atkinson, though he may not have lasted long had his side not beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final replay, if the rumours are to be believed. As it was, unprecedented success over the next two-and-a-bit decades was to follow as Ferguson filled the trophy cabinet.

Next to arrive was the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup, followed by the Super Cup and the ’92 League Cup joined the pair. 1993 saw the first Premiership title arrive at Old Trafford and ’94 saw it retained along with the FA Cup to complete the club’s first “double”. 1999 saw this bettered with the historic treble: Premiership, FA Cup & Champions League, the latter being as dramatic as any (especially memorable for me as my footballing hero Teddy Sheringham had a rather big hand in proceedings). They later won the Intercontinental Cup to add gloss to the achievement.

Jesse Lingard arrives

Jesse Lingard arrives late. Fine.

Two further league titles followed in 2000 & ’01 and another arrived in 2003. The 2004 FA Cup was won in Cardiff and the League Cup was won again in 2006. The Premier League was regained in 2007 and won again in 2008, before this was joined by the Champions League following victory over Chelsea. The club later won the year’s Club World Cup and then the 2009 Premier League & League Cup, before the latter was retained. A record 19th title was won in 2011, which became 20 in 2013 before Sir Alex retired at the end of 2013 to signal the end of a true dynasty.

Since then it’s been something of a different story at Old Trafford. Despite winning the Charity Shield, David Moyes lasted all of 10 months before being sacked and after a short period under Ryan Giggs’ caretaker management, Louis Van Gaal was recruited and guided United to a 4th place finish last season.

Big Flag

Big Flag

Here come the teams

Here come the teams

The game began with Ander Herrera having his shot charged down almost straight from the kick-off but from there the game became a tight and rather dour affair. Wayne Rooney selfishly drove into the side-netting while Swansea seemed content to contain and see what came their way during the first half, which wasn’t much. Nor was it overflowing with excitement for the Untied fans either, but us at the top kept ourselves entertained as much as possible with the usual songlist. But at half-time, it remained 0-0, despite one clear shout from Chester Mike resonating from the away end.

Underway

Underway

Match Action

Match Action

After deciding against heading down into the stand for food, on the basis of large crowds, the time and the cost, I remained in my place and delved into the trusty contents of the United Review, but soon bored and couldn’t wait for the second period to start. Thank God half-time is only 15 minutes.

United again began the half on the front foot and it was little surprise when Anthony Martial struck to head past Lukasz Fabianski from Ashley Young’s whipped cross. 1-0. But this goal only spurred Swansea on to better things as they decided to go for it and began to play with purpose, becoming the better side easily for the next 20 minutes or so.

Andre Ayew was first to come close, as his drive struck the woodwork with David De Gea beaten and after a penalty appeal was turned down, Gylfi Sigurdsson grabbed a deserved goal for the Swans, as he looped a header over De Gea and into the top corner, to send the Swans fans into delirium (I presume from sound as I couldn’t see them from my viewpoint!)

Match Action

Match Action

Martial celebrates the opener

Martial celebrates the opener

But, they had their joy cut short as United burst away down the left and Martial tuned provider for Rooney to cleverly flick home (though it looked like a header to my strangely wired mind at the time) and move into second on the Premier League’s all-time scorers list and in United’s own too.

But, late drama was almost supplied from the unlikeliest of sources. Swansea were really going for it again in the last five minutes, winning two corners in the last minute of added time. Up came Fabianski and even I thought “I may even concede a win for Fabianski t-…” Jesus, he was bloody close! On reflection no. No I wouldn’t have.

That was that, and I set off round to meet the guys again, onto find out they’d already jumped in a cab on their way back to town. This, as it turns out was a blessing in disguise as it meant I could go and have some further beers and food all for free back in Urmston! Bonus! My programme didn’t fare so well as it decided to take a dip in a puddle and as such isn’t in the pristine condition I crave. Damn weather….

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RATINGS:

Game: 6- Poor first half, decent second.

Ground: 8- Bit biased here, probably, but I do like OT. Views good as are surroundings.

Food: N/A

Fans: 8- Good to be in a true standing (er, sitting) and singing bit at Utd.

Programme: 8- As always, full of content but also bits of pointless stuff.

Value For Money: 6- Dear do at Old Trafford (£41.50) plus the extras!

 

 

 

 

Manchopper in….Urmston (Trafford FC)

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Result: Trafford 0-1 Ossett Albion (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)

Venue: Shawe View (Saturday 5th December 2015, 3pm)

Att: 179

Game off. Match postponed. No game today, Just a few of the phrases that continued to come up on my twitter feed as the hours of Saturday morning ticked by. First, my intended game of Silsden vs West Didsbury & Chorlton fell by the wayside, followed up by my backups at Irlam and Northwich Manchester Villa. So, a short look down the road from my abode saw my gaze settle upon Shawe View and Trafford FC and a revisit to my old regular stomping ground.

But first, a traverse through Urmston was to happen. After arranging with Paul of pitchsidepints a meeting place of the Steamhouse pub on the Liverpool-bound platform at the town’s station, I arrived in there for just before 12.30. After ordering a pint of Weinhenstephan (the oldest brewery in the world, don’cha know), Paul arrived along with his mate Dan and before long, the usual (on these pages anyway) Dan arrived. So, with our clique complete, we headed out of the station pub and up the steps back to street level and headed down the road to our next stop, The Britannia, after Dan had asked where the pool tables were at. Acting as tour guide, this was my recommendation.

Urmston

Urmston

The Steamhouse

The Steamhouse

Read closely!

Read closely!

The Britannia is nothing special in terms of anything really and is rather bland and lacks atmosphere. So, without a pool request, I wouldn’t have recommended it, unlike the Steamhouse which is full of character, due to it being a former station house and still set out in many ways as it was. So, with a defeat and a joint win, I declared my retirement from pool after the latter victory and we headed back out and onwards to Urmston’s Wetherspoon’s, The Tim Bobbin. The Bobbin is in an old electrics showroom, though the building resembles more of an old picture house as Dan enquired to whether it was. I’m unsure if it ever was, as it is before my time, but I’ve always had a similar idea from viewing it.

Either way, in here we all purchased our beers (2x Desperados in my case), before we were met by my mate and Trafford fan, Mike, better known as Cappy. I’d not seen Cappy since before I can remember, so it was nice to have a catch up prior to the game. It came about that Trafford were supporting Key 103’s Mission Christmas scheme and Cappy had bought one of those awful orangey-white balls that are used in the Prem for them to utilise. Sadly, I was unaware of this fact due to Trafford still being the only club to block me on the social media side of things largely due to…no, no I’m not going there again!

The Britannia

The Britannia

Enjoying the frothy liquid

Enjoying the frothy liquid in ‘Spoons

Arriving at Trafford

Arriving at Trafford

With drinks (mine especially frothy) finished, our five strong group headed off down the road and out of the town centre towards Shawe View, which is actually located within Flixton. A shortcut through Chassen Park sees you exit at the mouth of Shawe Road and from here, you head past the neighbouring pitch and down a narrow access road that runs parallel to  the ground before you reach the turnstiles. Here, £8 was handed over for entry after Paul and Dan had utilised their very best ways and after a further £3 was handed over for a golden goal and programme together, I was officially into Shawe View itself.

The ground is only quite small, with the main stand sitting upon the half-way line. This is all seater and neighbours the “clubhouse” (a mobile), the food hut and the tunnel leads to the dressing room areas that sit to the rear. Beyond the clubhouse and next to the turnstiles its a small open terrace, which affords a slightly higher view of the pitch. Behind the far goal is a covered standing area and the far touchline houses a dual seater/standing area, with a couple of rows of seating in front of a row of standing space. Behind the near end goal is open standing, with the ground’s grass mounds rendered obsolete due to the FA’s (and the country’s) OTT Health & Safety rules. Booooo!

So, with not long to kick-off, Paul and Dan headed to get further beer from the clubhouse and usual Dan and I stayed outside. Prior to kick-off a minute’s silence was observed for a supporter who’d passed away during the week. Then it was on to what should have been a game of football, but for large parts resembled a struggle against a windtunnel as “Storm Desmond” added it’s influence upon proceedings. Before we embark upon the game itself, here is the history of the club still known as the North, Trafford:

History Lesson:

Trafford FC was formed in 1990 under the name of North Trafford (hence the still standing nickname). After originally being denied entry to the Mid-Cheshire League, a drop-out presented them with a place. After finishing runners-up in their inaugural season, the club were promoted to Division 1. After finishing fourth the next year, Trafford made the step up to the North West Counties Division 2. In 1994, they finished in second here and were promoted again, this time to Division 1 of the NWCFL. Upon this achievement, the club adopted their current title.

1997 saw Trafford win the NWCFL Division 1 and with it promotion to the Northern Premier League. In 2000, they won their first silverware at that level, the NPL President’s Cup, before being relegated three years later. After 5 years back in the NWCFL, the club were promoted again in 2008 and took a place in the NPL Division 1 North. Their first season back at that level saw further success, as Trafford lifted the NPL President’s Cup in the 2008-’09 season with a 2-0 over Quorn at the opposing side’s home ground, the host ground decided on a coin toss! Manager Ged Kielty then left the club citing personal reasons, before being replaced by “club legend” Garry Vaughan.

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Under Vaughan’s tutelage, Trafford gained a foothold in the Division 1, before surprising many by managing to reach the play-offs of the Northern section. After defeating New Mills in the semi final, they travelled to Cammell Laird for the final where they beat the hosts on penalties to secure a place in the NPL Premier Division for the first time ever. Despite a good first season, finishing 12th, the results began to slide away and Vaughan was dismissed, replaced by Graham Heathcote. Heathcote, however, couldn’t turn things around and the club kept sliding down the slippery slope to relegation, before Heathcote stepped down at the season’s end to be replaced by Tom Baker.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Match Action

Match Action

The game got underway with both teams looking to attack early. Paul and Dan both commented on how impressed they were early on with the visiting Unicorns from Yorkshire, and the side in gold proved their eye was right as Luke Porritt fired in after being awarded an age to pick his spot by some dire defending. After five minutes, we headed on round to behind the goal, where I’d been advised by Trafford’s former manager/founder Dave Law, that a group of lads from London were located, dressed in a mix of weird and wacky Christmas related outfits, including one covered in fairy lights. After hearing their story of how they go to a game twice a year, give presents at Christmas and support charities, they originally planned to head to Stockport vs FC, but eventually settled on this game.

We all felt around the sack and pulled out our gifts, a mug for Paul, a calculator for usual Dan, some “Tupperware” (a sandwich box) for me and a Toblerone for Dan. We were, understandably, delighted with our prizes, though Ossett ‘keeper Brett Souter probably wished he was having a quieter weekend, especially as I decided to sing  “pretty in pink” to hi and everyone joined in. Sorry, Brett, but that kit looked awfully good on you!

Pretty in pink!!

Pretty in pink!!

Match Action

Match Action

So, with very little happening on the field, I headed over to the food hut towards the end of the half and bought a chicken balti pie, peas and gravy for £2.30. Well worth the money it was too, as it was pretty good. Heading into the clubhouse at the break saw further Cockney-related shenanigans going on as I caught up with some more old faces during the 15 minutes or so. Soon enough, though, it was time to finish up the pie and head back out and into the bracing winds of Desmond for a second period that a very small percentage of those in the ground would have been looking forward to.

As usually happens in such conditions, chances continued to be at a premium with Ossett continuing to have the better of the play, though without really looking like adding to their lead. Added to that, nor did Trafford ever look like equalising especially when bringing on a sub after about 70 minutes, who proceeded to do nothing apart from lose the ball over and over again. Luckily for us, we had been somewhat accepted by the cockney crew and they continued their friendly barrage of shouts towards various players, none more so than poor Brett, who was given a free Smurfs DVD for his Xmas gift.

Dark Match

Dark Match

Brett pulls a cracker

Brett pulls a cracker

Squad photo

Squad photo

Come the full-time whistle, the ‘keeper was clearly in celebratory mood as he retrieved his DVD and pulled a cracker over the perimeter boards. No, this is not a view on a person, but a Christmas Cracker. He did, however, refuse to read he joke, claiming there was nothing in it. Booooo.

So, after a squad photo, we bid goodbye to the London lot (not before one exclaimed “Wait!”. He fixed his beard before continuing “I’m not supposed to be here!”) and headed out of Shawe View and traipsed back to Urmston, but not before Paul and Dan exclaimed their dislike at the Conservative Club on the way! On arrival back in Urmston, the Liverpool pairing headed on their way home and Dan and I headed into Chadwick’s to watch Chelsea vs Bournemouth.

After an underwhelming first half, Dan said his mother wa in ‘Spoon’s so should we go there. The offer of probably free beer was te main selling point, so back to the Tim Bobbin it was for a short period before Cappy met up with us again and we finished of the Urmstonian pub crawl with a visit to the HopHouse (in an old funeral home) and the Lord Nelson, the traditional old boozer. Dan left us shortly after we arrived here toget his bus back home, and Cappy and I finished off with a short trip into Manchester and their endeth our story.

'Spoons

Late pub crawl as follows: ‘Spoons

Chadwicks

The Chadwick

Lord Nelson

Lord Nelson

Cappy loving the ales

Cappy showing his colours in the Hop House!

A good trip out and one just down the road. It just goes to show that you don’t always need to travel far to meet some great people, they’ll travel to your end sometimes! As for me, next week it’s back onto the FA Trophy trail once again. As for Trafford, it was good to finally got back after a long period away from the place. Old habits, as they say, do die hard…

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RATINGS:

Game: 4- Poor overall, more down to conditions.

Ground: 6- Nice enough, but not much to it now the mounds are out of action.

Programme: 4- Very little in terms of club-related articles.

Fans: 5- Rather subdued, not much atmosphere at all, but I guess it’s understandable.

Food: 8- Well worth the price, as I said earlier.

Value For Money: 7- Poor game, but a great day otherwise.

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…Old Trafford (Gorse Hill AFC)

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Result: Gorse Hill 1-2 Signol Athletic (Lancashire & Cheshire AFL Division 1)
Venue: The Cage, St. Bride’s Playing Fields, Old Trafford (Saturday 15th November 2014)
Att: 10 (hc)

A short blog this one, which is just to do a small log for a small local club. Gorse Hill, who feature in my Whalley Range AFC blog from last season, have been my mate Dan Watkinson’s local side for a while now, as he lives almost next door to the St. Bride’s playing fields (formerly home to Old Trafford FC And known as the “Field of Dreams”!) on which they now play, having previously played on Turn Moss fields in Stretford. For a fair while, he has been pressing me to visit them, and with me on an economy drive this month, I figured “Why not?”.
So, I was soon heading down towards the ground, situated in between the City Centre & Old Trafford’s more famous sporting homes and not far from The Whalley pub, which has now closed. After hopping off the 255 bus, I quickly undertook the five minute walk along a couple of side roads and up an alleyway whereupon I could begin to hear the sounds of a football match being battled out. A good sign!

Arriving at "The Cage".

Arriving at “The Cage”.

After firstly spotting a kids training session, I soon spotted Dan watching the game on an adjoining pitch. The pitches, marked out on what becomes Old Trafford Cricket Club in the summer months, are situated within a large metal cage (hence the name), which surrounds the whole turfed area. That is all there is to see in the ground, as it is just a field, but I feel compelled to do a blog anyway and go against my usual rule of not blogging about grounds with no barred off playing area.

Looking across to the far "warehouse" side.

Looking across to the far “warehouse” side.

Towards the "Dan's Apartment" end

Towards the “Dan’s Apartment” end

So, there’s not much to talk about there, and with the game a couple of minutes old as I arrived, but still goalless, Dan ensured me there would be goals. I’d seen that Signol had earlier racked up a rather impressive 12-1 win at Santos FC, but also been on the receiving end of a 10-5 defeat to Newton Heath. Gorse Hill, meanwhile, had recorded a 7-1 victory over Chorltonians Rovers plus an impressive penalty shoot-out victory over Wythenshawe Town’s Reserve side. With both sides towards the top of the table, a good game was in order.
I had previously watched Gorse Hill twice, once in a cup final at the Regional Athletics Stadium (the ground that neighbours the Etihad) and in the aforementioned Whalley Range game last season, where they attained a more than respectable draw with the six-time straight winners of the Lancs & Cheshire League. Signol probably just edged the early stages and took the lead when a shot by #14 from just outside the area found its way past the keeper. That’s how it stayed until the break, despite both sides having great chances to add to the score-line.

Rushing for a corner.

Rushing for a corner.

The "school" end

The “school” end

The near side touchline.

The near side touchline.

After catching some strange scents not usually found in football grounds, and finding out the players have to walk from the pitch, across he fields, cross a road and walk through a car park to get to their changing facilities, the second half was underway. Gorse Hill drew level on the hour, when a long ball was won by the forward who retained possession long enough for support in the guise of Hill’s #8 (or #3) to arrive and lash into the far corner.
It looked as though there would be further goals, and it seemed inevitable on many occasions, but it took until the 87th minute for a winner to arrive, and it was the visitors who grabbed it. A good, quick attack down the right saw the ball pulled back to #10 who shot low. Low enough in fact to go underneath the ‘keeper’s dive and into the bottom corner. Not the glove man’s finest hour, and the side from Stockport saw out the remaining minutes to take the points and the victory.
After the game, Dan and myself headed back towards the Main Road, past a burnt out transit van and onwards. Dan headed home whereas I headed to Chorlton for the second half of West Didsbury & Chorlton’s home game vs AFC Blackpool, which ended 0-0 incidentally, with Blackpool’s ‘keeper having a superb game from what I saw and, by all accounts, before that too!
So, a good day’s football with another “ground” ticked off. Always good to get a step closer to finishing a league and to give a local side some support.

Manchopper in….Platt Lane (Manchester Gregorians)

Result: Manchester Gregorians 2-3 Prestwich Heys (FBT Manchester League)

Venue: Platt Lane Complex (MCFC Academy,The Maine Pitch) (Saturday 14th December 2013,2pm)

Att: Around 16 at a count!

For today I had two choices. Either attend another game at Trafford, as they entertained Blyth Spartans, or travel the short distance to Fallowfield, just past the ‘Curry Mile’ to Manchester City’s Academy Complex at Platt Lane, for Manchester Gregorians’ Manchester League game with Prestwich Heys. I have been planning to do another Heys game this season to catch up with ex-Trafford man Chris Mackay who now plies his trade with the club, after missing him earlier in the season, at Old Alts. In keeping with my word that I gave on Twitter the previous day, I was off to the complex situated not too far from City’s old home, Maine Road.

Beforehand, I had discovered, again on Twitter(if you haven’t figured by now, I am something of an addict of the social media site), that FC United‘s Development side were entertaining Hyde’s at a Manchester College Campus in Ardwick. So, this was where my day of football was to begin, after getting horribly lost due to my f*****g phone’s GPS again. I have come to the conclusion that GPS stands for ‘Generally Pretty Sh…. well, you get the picture!

Arriving in the Campus, where Ardwick FC play, around 30 minutes late, I met up with my usual companion Dan Watkinson once again who would be heading to the Trafford game later in the day. I was also  pleased to see none other than Bruno Silva playing goals, however this turned into something of a horror, when he received the ball, tried to beat the striker bearing down on him with a bit of skill, but this went horribly wrong, and the striker nicked the ball of him and walked it into the empty net. Oops!

This was 1-0, and was how it remained until after half-time, when the same striker planted a looping header beyond the reach of Silva, to double his and his teams tally. FC dominated for much of the remaining 35 minutes, but endured a nervy last five, when they conceded a penalty, and the big, strong mountain of muscle wearing the 11 shirt confidently planted the penalty beyond the United keeper. However the Young Rebels saw out the game to take the points. After getting the bus back to Piccadilly (Ardwick is very easy to reach on bus btw), I bid farewell to Dan and headed off on the short trip to the Blue half of the city.

Upon arrival, you are met with one of the grass pitches adjoining the pavement, and opposite the bus stop, which is directly outside the ground. After walking round to the car-park entrance, you walk straight on past the indoor training facilities, and onto a small path alongside a 3G and the academy pitch. The 3G was to be where the game would be played, the clue being both sides were on it. After the teams had come out,  I had a small catch-up with Chris, who was starting the game on the bench, and observed the minutes silence, which was figured was for another league’s secretary. Chris made his way to the bench, whereupon I had a look round the ground to observe fencing surrounding it, which is commonplace in amateur football on these surfaces, and the indoor 5-a-side complex alongside it, where the dressing rooms are also located. The pitch, known as the ‘Maine Pitch’ actually played very well, but then considering where it is situated, this was of little surprise. So, a little bit of history is called for I think….

History Lesson:

The current Manchester Gregorians F.C. dates from 1959, though there was an Old Gregorians team who pre-dated them, playing sporadically throughout the 1940’s and 50’s. The current club was formed by pupils of the local St. Gregory’s R.C. High School in Ardwick Green, which is located very close to the City Centre. They began by taking on the name of Old Gregorians AFC, playing in the Manchester Junior Catholic League. In 1962, the club stepped up to the Lancashire Amateur League,  where it was successful throughout it’s time, including one season in particular, 1977-’78, when all six of the club’s sides won their respective divisions, the League Aggregate Trophy for most successful 1st and Reserve sides, and the League Trophy for most points per game taking into account all matches played by all its teams.

They remained in the Lancashire Amateur  League until 2005-’06 when they switched into the Manchester League,  dropping the ‘Old’ prefix from their name, becoming simply Gregorians AFC. The club has continued to be successful, winning the league in 2008-’09, whereupon they added the ‘Manchester’ prefix to their name attaining the name they currently carry, and the Northern Counties FA Senior Cup whilst representing the Lancashire County FA in 2009-’10. They also finished as runners-up in 2010-’11 and finished in 8th place in the last campaign.

The game began with little happening, but Gregorians slightly on top, until somewhat against the run of play, Heys broke on the counter started by goalkeeper Andy Jones, the ball was moved forward quickly to release ex-Manchester United player Paul Tierney, who squared the ball to young debutant Lewis Temple who fired confidently high into the net. Seconds later it was two, as the lightning-quick Erike Sousa broke down the right. The winger fed Tierney who rounded Gregs’ keeper Allen Mills before firing in from the tightest of angles.

By now, Heys were well on top, and appeared comfortable. However,  they gave Gregs a lifeline just two minutes later. They won a corner on the right which was whipped in, and Ric Gunby rose highest to head past Jones. 2-1, and that was how it remained until the break, despite Gregs’ impressive Matt Dodwell heading wide as they grabbed the initiative and Danny Eyres forcing a decent stop from Mills down the other end.

At half-time, the spectators headed for  the 5-a-side complex, to escape the perishing, forceful wind. The facilities inside consisted of three vending machines, one offering hot drinks, the other two a variety of snacks. I resisted the temptation of the sweet snacks, but got some much needed warmth off of a hot-chocolate, which was of good quality. I also took a Platt Lane leaflet to commemorate my visit due to the lack of a programme, which wasn’t unexpected. As the teams re-entered the field, the hardy bunch of fans, with 10 at least travelling from Prestwich, headed back outside into the wind, which at this time resembled something out of a disaster movie. Ok, maybe not that bad, but it was quite gusty!

Heys began the second period strongly, with Temple denied by Mills but the home side began to use the conditions, and with the wind at their backs you could hardly blame them, with Matt Klemperer proving a constant threat with his presence, providing a good foil for Dodwell, and in the 70th minute, the midfielder finally got the goal his performance deserved, when in a move very similar to Heys’ first the home side broke from a corner,  with Mills instigating the attack.  Dodwell received the ball on the left, stepped inside and fired past Jones leaving the visiting  ‘keeper no chance with a splendid strike. (I have somewhat made this description up with a bit of help from Heys’ report, as I actually missed the strike itself due to helping to take down the banner on the back of their dugout. This is what good deeds do to you!)

It now seemed as though all the initiative sat with the home side, and Heys introduced all three subs at their disposal, Darius Photiou, who  impressed me at Old Alts earlier in the season, Martin Love, who scored a screamer in the same game, and Chris Mackay, who scores from half-way on occasion. So, something had to give, one way or another!

It seemed as though it was Gregs who would take the points as Tom Ward broke clear and only a superb save by Jones with his legs kept him out. This seemed to dispirit the home side somewhat, and with just two minutes left Heys were awarded a golden opportunity  to take the points when Martin Love progressed into the box and was felled by a clumsy challenge, and the referee had little hesitation in pointing to the spot. This was much to the delight, and somewhat disbelief of the Heys faithful, as the ref had had a bit of a shocker so far, getting quite a lot wrong, and generally talking to players for much longer than he had to, sometimes going into a full-blown conversation. Cue the usual’ We’re here to watch the football, not you’ shout, which on this occasion, was more than justified!

Anyway, as it was, Love dusted himself down, stepped up and fired hard and low past Mills and into his bottom right-hand corner. It was a great spot-kick under pressure, and left the keeper with almost no chance. Heys had further chances to add gloss to the scoreline, when both Sousa and Mackay broke clear and had one-on-one chances but on both occasions Mills denied the wingers with two great saves, to ensure the deficit was just one goal. The whistle blew, and I bid my goodbyes to the Prestwich fans and Chris, who had the audacity to say I’d put him off with a shout as he was running through. I must put more pressure on players than Sir Alex Ferguson did in his time at United! Just kidding Chris!! 🙂

As I grabbed the 111 back to Chorlton and another bus onwards to Urmston, I was able to catch the last few minutes of the Trafford game too, which incidentally finished in a 2-1 success for the ‘North’. 170 minutes of football in one day. I was happy with that!!

My Manchester Gregorians M.o.M- Matt Dodwell

My Prestwich Heys M.o.M.- George Powell

RATINGS:

Game: 9- End to end, it was action packed all the way through.

Ground: 6- Not much to it really, but for what it is, it’s tidy and a quality surface.

Programme: N/A- although the club are looking at producing one later in the season & possibly next season too.

Fans: 10- The couple of Gregs fans/volunteers were very friendly and welcoming.

Food: 7- Well, drink really. Good for a vending machine.

Value For Money: 10- Just £6 all day. £1 for the chocolate, £5 for  transport

Referee: 2- Wasn’t great….Yeah….

TEAMS: (only Prestwich Heys available, other than those Gregs players named above)

PRESTWICH HEYS: 1.Andy Jones, 2.Mark Powell, 3.George Powell, 4.Rick Winstanley, 5.Phil Woodcock(c), 6.Gareth Walsh, 7.Erike Sousa, 8.Jon Lyons, 9.Paul Tierney(1), 10.Lewis Temple(1), 11.Danny Eyres  SUBS: 12.Brad Lyons, 14.Martin Love(p)(1), 15.Chris Mackay(p), 16.Darius Photiou(p) 17.-