Manchopper in….Droylsden (2)

 

Result: Droylsden 1-1 Tadcaster Albion (FA Trophy Preliminary Round)

Venue: Butcher’s Arms (Saturday 13th October 2018, 3pm)

Att: 167

Non-League Day rolled around once again and with the seemingly never-ending train strikes continuing on unabated, another local revisit was on the cards for this week; the only question being “Where?”. Well, my regular accomplice on these pages, Dan, had already told me of his want to get to the Butcher’s Arms, home of Droylsden FC, the only “major” local ground he’d never made it to by this point. As such, the decision was a fairly simple one, made all the more attractive by the game in question being a tie in the FA Trophy. The visitors would be Tadcaster Albion, whom I’m sure had visions of less of a bloodbath at the Butcher’s than what happened just down the road from them at the Battle of Towton.

Setting off at just after half-ten, the easy bus journey into Manchester saw me able to grab an earlier than planned service into Droylsden. My original starting point was still shut up at this point, so I instead diverted back to the brilliantly named Lazy Toad, just on the edge of the town centre. It was here on New Year’s Day, that I had received the bad news of the late postponement of the Bloods’ game that day and I even repeated the trick almost as a whole, sitting in the same seat at the same table, though did mix things up beer-wise by opting for a pint of the Pravha, which came in at the quite astonishing price of £2.70. Considering I’ve seen how much it can cost whilst on my travels, this was a fine start! A nice welcome was had too as I got to the bar, which never goes unnoticed. Wasting away the extra-time I now had in here on account of my earlier than planned arrival, I planned out my itinerary for the day, which would see a slow and steady crawl along Market Street’s few offerings and up to the ground. Next up, the Silly Country. Some great pub names around here! (NB: This is apparently derived from a nickname given to the town by the Mancunians, relating to a legend that grew about the people of Droylsden putting a pig on a wall to watch the annual carnival and other festivities).

Arriving in Droylsden

Lazy Toad

Droylsden Square

Droylsden is a former mill town located between Manchester City Centre and Ashton-under-Lyne, just within the borough of Tameside. Originally settled in 900 AD, it would later grow in the mid-19th century to become a mill town, where the world’s first machine woven towel would be produced at Fairfield Mill under the name of W.M. Christy and Sons, with Queen Victoria being a regular user of their business and their newly created product, derived from the looped Turkish versions. Sadly, as with many places, the site is now a Tesco. Droylsden would latterly grow into an overflow housing area for the workers in and around Manchester around the 1930’s and was also the apparent host of Britain’s first ever Speedway meet in 1927, the sport then being termed simply as “dirt track racing”. More recently, during the mid-to-later-2000’s, the town became home a Marina just off the canal, which appears to be well used, though the predicted building and facilities don’t seem to have fully come to fruition.

The Silly Country is a recently opened ale/craft/bottle shop kind of place, and I arrived just prior to the place emptying out on account of the place having a tour of a brewery on the go. Regardless, I opted to be sensible(!) for now and went for a pint of the Brazilian lager beer, Cruzcampo which, at £4.40, would be by far my dearest choice of the day. Not that I minded whatsoever, as the Silly Country is definitely a nice place to enjoy a pint in if you’re into the above side of things. Anyway, after watching the world go by from its prime position at the corner of the town’s clock square and seeing a kid lose his hat on two very swift occasions by the hand of the apparent “Storm Callum”, I finished up and continued up the way, the Beehive Inn being just a few doors down. The Beehive is definitely my sort of place. A seemingly older pub than those around it, its interior is very timber-orientated and is nicely decorated with varied paraphernalia too – a real traditional kind of place. Split into two parts, it was still fairly quiet upon my arrival and I took up a spot in the corner whilst overhearing (unintentionally I can assure you) stories of drunken exploits from the night before, which were more than entertaining….especially when you can relate!

Trying to take up as much time as possible (the time hadn’t quite reached half-one by the time I was half-way through my pint) over the Boddington’s in front of me, I fell into the trap of clock-watching, a decision which never helps when you’re wishing the time away as I’m sure you are all well aware. Eventually, though, the clock did tick on round to ten-to-two and so I supped the final dregs and again headed on a few doors away, across the road from the large retail park and to the King’s Arms, complete with a large image of local hero Guardsman Tony Downes, the soldier from the town who was sadly killed in action whilst serving in Iraq. He also has an office building named after him too, which is a further nice touch of remembrance. I guess from the statement on said poster that he had links to the pub at the very least. Passing Tony with a nod, I headed in and was soon in possession of a pint of the fine Bootleg Brewery’s IPA at the ever interesting Holt’s price of £3.03. Dan arrived shortly afterwards to join me in taking up the remaining time leading up to kick-off, opting for a pint of Diamond Lager whilst bemoaning a lack of Carling – I don’t know what else I can do to solve this issue….

The Silly Country

The Beehive

King’s Arms

Eventually, it was finally time to head to the Butcher’s Arms and, after taking a pic of the ground’s perimeter from where the pub of the same name once stood up to its demolition almost a decade ago now (God, I feel old writing that) we headed for the turnstiles, paying our £8 entry, plus a further £2 for a programme, which I’d missed out on my other blog visit a few years back, when the Bloods took on the recently “Class of 92’d” Salford City in abhorrent weather conditions. A quick peruse of the teamsheet, which is helpfully on display as you enter, showed the likes of ex-Football League and Premier League academy players Liam Dickinson (ex-Leeds & Derby), Febian Brandy (ex-Manchester United & Wolves) and Javan Vidal (ex-Manchester City) lining up for the Bloods. Sadly, there’s no Jonathan Greening these days to compliment them from Taddy’s side. After heading around to pitchside, a twenty-minute wait faced up prior to kick-off, which allowed a look around the ground. The far end is open, hard standing, whilst the opposite end is host to a sizable, covered terrace. A small, older terrace is located on the far side, and has recently had a smarten up out front, with a big red sign proclaiming “Droylsden Football Club” across the field. The large “William Pace” all-seater Main Stand is right in front of you as you enter and offers decent views over the action, whilst a small amount of terracing is located out front. The clubhouse is right alongside to the left as you enter, with the usual food bar there too, though this was out of action today and replaced by a trailer. That’s the Butcher’s Arms in a quick summary, and this is the story of the Bloods….

History Lesson:

Droylsden Football Club was founded in 1892 at the invitation of the landlord of the Butcher’s Arms pub and thus played behind said establishment. After spending their first two decades going in and out of existence whilst playing in local league’s and playing friendly fixtures – including winning the Ashton & District League in 1914. Post-war, the club would emerge as the village’s sole surviving team and became members of the Manchester League, whilst also adopting their now familiar red and white strip. They won the 1923 Manchester Junior Cup, gaining revenge on local rivals Hyde United who beat the Bloods in the 1921 final, whilst the 1930’s saw club legend Ernest Gilibrand net an astonishing 275 goals over four seasons, helping Droylsden to the Manchester League title in both 1931 & 1933.

1936 saw Droylsden successfully apply to join the Lancashire Combination and the club became a “nursery” side for Manchester City’s surplus players, though this link ruled the club out of the FA Cup. They would remain in the Combination through to the outbreak of WWII, with the Bloods joining the wartime Cheshire League and finished runners-up in 1945-’46. However, things went downhill quickly and the club failed in their re-election bid just four years later and also lost the lease of the Butcher’s Arms to Belle Vue F.C. who then renamed themselves as Droylsden United. Common sense would prevail from prior experience, and the two clubs merged in 1952, after the Bloods played a short time at the Moorside Trotting Stadium, affectionately known as “Pork Park”.

The Butcher’s Arms, via the site of the pub

In 1952, the Bloods returned to the newly rotated ground at the Butcher’s and began to see silverware on a far more regular basis than before. During their stay in the Lancashire Combination through to 1968, they won four Manchester Premier Cups (1947,’52,’ 60,’65) prior to returning to the Cheshire League, after they’d lost sides due to the formation of the Northern Premier League. The club didn’t see too much in the way of success in the league, though would add a further Manchester Premier Cup (1970) & three Manchester Senior Cups to their honours board, these coming in 1973, ’76 &’ 79. They also managed to reach the FA Cup “proper” on two occasions, losing to Grimsby Town firstly in 1976, before defeating Rochdale in 1978 prior to bowing out to Altrincham.

After another Premier Cup win in 1981, fortunes would again take a turn for the worse in 1982, when Droylsden finished a distant bottom of the Cheshire League, though remained at the level after the merger with the Lancashire Combination to form the North West Counties League, with Droylsden placed in Division Two of three. They would win the Second Division in 1987, though would bypass Division One after successfully applying for the newly created NPL Division One, gaining an effective double promotion in the process. 1990 saw Droylsden finish as runners-up and achieve promotion to the NPL Premier Division. They would spend six seasons in the loser echelons of the division, winning another Manchester Premier Cup in 1993, prior to being relegated in 1996 and being on the wrong side of the fastest FA Cup hat-trick in history, when conceding three in 2 minutes 28 seconds against Nantwich Town.

DFC

After lifting the NPL’s Division One title and President’s Cup in 1999, an eighth Premier Cup in 2000 would follow. This time they were more competitive in the Premier Division and finished high enough in 2004 to receive an invite to take up a spot in the newly formed Conference North. They would also win that year’s NPL League Challenge Cup and the Manchester Premier Cup for a ninth time. Finishing the inaugural season in third, they narrowly missed out in the following season’s play-offs – losing in the final to Stafford Rangers on penalties. 2007 saw the Bloods notch their tenth Manchester Premier Cup with victory over the sadly departed Flixton, before defeating Harrogate Town three days later to win the Conference North and achieve promotion to the Conference National. However, they would be relegated after just the one season. The 2008-’09 season saw the Bloods reach the FA Cup Second Round after beating Darlington in the First Round. However, it would become somewhat farcical come the Second Round as it took three matches to overcome Chesterfield, after fog, floodlight failure and an eventual 2-1 win, with Sean Newton netting both Bloods goals. However, it was then discovered he was ineligible and Droylsden were duly expelled from the competition. Crazy.

They would share the Tony Downes Memorial Trophy with Chester City in 2008, and added two more Manchester Premier Cup titles in 2009 and 2010, and again reached the FA Cup Second Round in 2011, when they took Leyton Orient to a replay at Brisbane Road and led two-nil, only for Orient to storm back and avoid the upset, winning 8-2 after extra-time. After missing out in the play-offs to Fleetwood Town in 2010, things soon dipped for Droylsden and they were relegated back to the Northern Premier League in 2013 after finishing second-bottom, prior to suffering something of an annus horriblis the following year as they finished a distant bottom with just nine points and were duly relegated to the NPL Division 1 North, where they have spent the last four seasons, finishing up 13th on both of the last two occasions.

The game got underway and, unfortunately, it was very much a slow-burner. True action was at a real premium in the first half-hour, with only Taddy’s Casey Stewart looking a constant threat, though Febian Brandy would occasionally show glimpses of his talent here and there throughout those first thirty minutes too. Stewart had an iffy penalty shout waved away by the referee mid-way through this period, whilst Brandy saw his attempted cross become more of a threat to Taddy ‘keeper Michael Ingham’s goal than intended, the stopper having to tip the ball over the bar, whilst Domaine Rouse wastefully placed a free-header wide of the mark from the resultant corner.

Match Action

From the back of the terrace

The old & the new covered terraces

Brandy would again pose a threat on the right flank, forcing his way into the area before firing a low cross-cum-shot across the face of goal, the ball evading both a Droylsden foot and the far side-netting on its way wide, before Taddy again saw a stronger penalty shout turned down as Stewart was played in before being clipped from behind, though his attempts to stay up probably went against him. Eventually losing his footing and going down in the area, his pleas fell on deaf ears. However, the visitors really should have been one, if not two, up at the break, as they spurned two glorious chances in the lead up. First, Lamin Colley was played in by a nice through ball, but his shot from the angle was tipped onto the post by Bloods ‘keeper Chris Thompson, before Aiden Savory would put it on a plate (sorry!) for Stewart to run onto around thirty yards out. Beating the offside trap, he advanced to the edge of the box and, with only Thompson between him and the net, he curled the ball against the outside of the post. Goalless at half time, it was off to the food trailer for some cheesy chips (£1.50). Lovely.

The second half began with Tadcaster again being the more dangerous side overall. Billy Whitehouse saw his own low ball just evade Savory at the back-post, before they deservedly took the lead when Colley advanced into the area and saw his effort well kept out by Thompson, only for the ball to land at creator-in-chief Savory’s feet once again and this time his ball to Stewart resulted in the striker placing the ball into the rather unguarded net from six-yards. Droylsden responded by replacing the largely ineffective Dickinson with another ex-Manchester United youth player, Phil Marsh, whilst also replacing skipper Brewster and, latterly Brandy with his replacement being Brandon Zibaka, a player whom, on our arrival, I’d stated to Dan I’ve always rated….

Match Action

Match Action

Zibaka was introduced in the 81st minute and, just four minutes later, he’d drew his side level. A cross in from the left by Rouse found the tall target man Sefton Gonzales in the box and he manoeuvred himself well to chest the ball into the path of the newly arrived Zibaka who drilled his effort beyond Ingham and into the net. At that point, all the momentum looked to be with Droylsden and they appeared to be pressing on to get the win but there was little truly created towards the end of the game and the sides would have to do it all over again on Tuesday night in Yorkshire. As it was, Droylsden would go on to triumph 2-0 in the replay, taking them into the First Round where they will travel to another White Rose County side, Pickering Town.

Post-match, there was time to pop in to the Church Inn right next to the bus stop we’d need, which was quite the amusing experience. Again, made to feel welcome, it was good to spend the final twenty minutes or so of our day in here, though it did end up being third-time lucky on beer option, after my first two choices were off. Eventually settling on Heineken (£2.10), Dan was in his element, having seen Carling. I’ll never understand how he manages to get that excited. Anyway, we eventually finished up and headed out just as the bus was rolling into the bus stop a little early, meaning we could jump straight on and be on our way. 20 minutes later we were back in Piccadiily and another quick connection was made to take us homeward.

Church Hotel

So ends the day and it had been good to finally do Droylsden properly, especially when considering the forecast weather looked to be similar to my first blog visit! Game was decent enough and I always enjoy a visit to the Butcher’s Arms. Pubs and food were all good and the travel was no issue whatsoever. Onto next week and MY GOD, I CAN USE A TRAIN! WHAT IS A TRAIN?! I’VE NO IDEA!!!! The FA Cup is back on and it’s a return to a club who have a pretty new home on the Farm….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Kendal

Result: Kendal Town 2-1 Radcliffe Borough (FA Trophy Preliminary Round)

Venue: Parkside (Saturday 7th October 2017, 3pm)

Att: 111

Non-League Day rolled around once again and, as usual, saw club’s up and down the country unveiling initiatives from lowering prices to my much hated promotion, the allowing in of Premier League season ticket holders for a discounted price whilst the rest are left to pay full. Without going off on a full-on tangent there, a more positive initiative was that of West Didsbury & Chorlton’s Non-League Dogs day, which invited dogs and their owners in for free and in turn attracted national attention from Sky Sports. A far more positive way of getting people through the gates, whilst avoiding the PL ticket horror show.

As for my game…well there was no promotion here whatsoever, which was something of a surprise, though no issue for myself. At least the PL ticket thing hadn’t been implemented (I think I may need counselling over this). Anyway, after an early F1-influenced start to the day, I decided that, being up already, I might as well get an earlier train up to the Lakes and have more than enough time for an explore. So having transited through Warrington and up to Oxenholme along with a group of Leyton Orient fans who were debating whether to get to Barrow early or not. The group made their decision and got off at Lancaster while I continued on one further stop to Oxenholme, where I’d grab my last connection for the short five-minute hop to Kendal.

The Lakes

Kendal Castle

Looking down on the town

After a short delay, I was soon heading past the castle ruins and into the station. I’d soon be back at the castle, having a quick look around the waterlogged remains before heading back down the steep-ish incline from the former stronghold and along the river until I arrived within the tight streets of the older part of the town centre. I still managed to take a wrong turn here somehow, before eventually righting myself and heading for my own stronghold, Wetherspoons, of which Kendal’s is complete with its own rather large chimney no less. There is a plaque outlining what the “700-foot” chimney was a part of too, but with the rain coming down at more of a rate, I headed inside for the staple Punk IPA before retreating back on myself and to the main street, where two pubs stood almost side-by-side. Both looked interesting enough, so I reckoned I might as well try both!

First up was the interestingly named Horse & Rainbow. It was fairly full in here, with a few punters taking advantage of what I’d soon find out were very cheap pints. At just over £2, I had a Strongbow in my possession, but not for too long as it was soon time to head a couple of doors down, but not before I’d berated a guy for watching the F1 qualifying on repeat and not getting up for it live…though I did warn against watching the screen he was facing for Sky’s spoilers.

‘Spoons, complete with chimney

Olde Fleece

Kendal

The Olde Fleece was the name of my next port of call and I again stuck with the Strongbow. Another pint at less than £3 was purchased, whilst I got far too excited by the “ghostly face” within my glass. This was, as I quickly deduced, no more than the shadow of the chair behind it, but I was then asked if I’d like to have a look at the pub’s very own “ghost picture” that shows a very see-through guy standing outside this very establishment during the early 20th century. The question remains: a trick of the camera…or something more unexplained? It’s that time of year, after all….

After another ghost story involving a mirror in there, it was time for me to continue my tour of Kendal. Next up was the interestingly named Bootlegger’s. This place is hidden through an alcove and a small alley and looks suitably shut up. Luckily, this wasn’t the case and I headed into the dimly lit, sort of old-Western-themed bar. After interrupting the barmaid’s attempts at warming up near some heat source close by the door, I plumped for a Staropramen, which came in at less than £4, though I did later see I’d missed out on an offer on Cubanisto which I regretted somewhat. Anyway, I finished up and bid goodbye to said bar staff who had now been joined in the quest for comfort by a few other regulars.

I’d previously spied a couple of pubs just off the main street and plumped for the closest of the three, the Globe, which sat within the bustling market place. Avoiding the stalls and those browsing them, I got myself a final pint, this time of Kingstone Press to take me through to around ten past two, whereupon it was time to head back past the castle and onwards to Park Side Road and Kendal’s ground.

Where in the world?

Bootleggers

Parkside from Park Side

After heading past a decent-looking pub near the ground I had no idea existed, I soon found myself in sight of the ground from the road. Navigating through the car park to the turnstiles, I was relieved of my £9 entry, plus a further £2 for the ok programme. Kendal’s ground is definitely one of my favourites, with a good mix of old and new(er) stands. The “Main Stand” sits on the far touchline, along with a further covered standing area and houses the dressing rooms, with the large terracing & seating stand located just to the right of where you enter, behind the near end goal. This also plays host to the clubhouse and tea bar, where I would buy a hot dog upon my arrival, as I was in some need of some “lunch” by now. The near-side houses an old covered area directly opposite that on the opposite side, with further uncovered terracing located towards the far end which itself is open, hard standing. Ground description done, here’s the story of Kendal Town…

History Lesson:

Kendal Town F.C. was founded in 1919 by employees of the Netherfield Somerfield Brothers factory and, as such, began life as Netherfield F.C. They won the Westmorland County Cup in 1925 to pick up their first piece of silverware before going on to join the West Lancashire League in 1936. Following the Second World War, the club moved into the Lancashire Combination, finishing their first season as runners-up. This season also saw them reach the FA Cup First Round for the first time, where they’d lose out to Barrow.

KTFC

When the Lancs Combination gained a second division in 1947, Netherfield were placed in Division One and this was won in 1949, which was combined with a second First Round appearance in the Cup, though this again ended in defeat. The following season, however, did see the club achieve a First Round win, as they navigated North Shields to meet Watford in the Second Round, where they’d end that year’s run.

First Round appearances became commonplace in the early part of the 1950’s, with three further seasons seeing this round reached. In the league, meanwhile, 1954 saw the club end up as runners-up in the Lancs Combination for a second time and 1956 saw the Lancashire Combination Cup secured. This was won for a second time in 1961, with a third league runners-up placing being achieved the following season.

Parkside

Following another Second Round Cup appearance in 1964, 1965’s Combination title win (final First Round appearance) and subsequent strong form saw Netherfield become founder members of the Northern Premier League in 1968. However, the club struggled here and finished bottom in 1974, 1982 & 1983, the latter of which saw the only relegation, with the club dropping into the newly formed North West Counties League. After just about avoiding relegation to Division 2, due to an Ashton United points deduction at the end of their first NWCFL season, the club maintained their place in Division 1 and became founder members of the NPL’s Division 1 in 1987.

Despite finishing bottom at the end of the division’s first season, the club weren’t relegated. They’d remain in the division through to 2006, (going through two name changes in the process, first to Netherfield Kendal in ’98 and latterly to Kendal Town in 2000), reaching the play-offs after a third placed finish before defeating Stocksbridge Park Steels and Gresley Rovers to achieve promotion to the NPL’s Premier Division.

Today’s game

A fifth-placed finish in 2009 would see Kendal reach the play-offs here for the first time, losing to Ilkeston Town in the semi-finals, and this was repeated the next season, only with Bradford Park Avenue being the vanquishers. Unfortunately, this form soon dropped away and 2013 saw the Mintcakes finish second from bottom which saw them relegated to the Division One North. Last season, Kendal achieved a 12th placed finish in the same division.

The game got underway with Kendal looking to avenge their league defeat to Radcliffe the week prior, the second time in a month I’ve had that happen, following my trip to Rhostyllen-Lex Glyndwr a few weeks ago. Indeed, my Radcliffe blog from a couple of years ago also happened to be this very clash too, so repeats aplenty were abound. The pitch didn’t look the easiest to play on and chances were at a premium in the earlier stages of the contest, with those mostly falling to the visitors, but being largely restricted to long-range efforts. But on 33 minutes, the home side broke the deadlock with Ric Seear arriving at the back-post to nod home.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Kendal wasted no time in adding to their lead, as Radcliffe quickly lost possession soon after the restart and Matt Clarke made gains through the defence before squaring the ball to Anthony Lynch who had the simple task of knocking the ball in from close range. From then on in, Kendal saw out the remainder of the half to head in at the break with a solid cushion, 2-0.

The second half began with Radcliffe looking to get themselves back into this tie. After a stinging effort was tipped over the crossbar by Ryan Jones early in the piece, the visitors began to take more control of the contest and grabbed one back through a Carl Peers tap in just before the hour. Not that I saw it, as I had surveyed the scene and decided there was little chance of me missing anything of note, so began a text only to hear cheers from the far end. Ah well, 2-1 it was and the game was well and truly on!

Match Action

On the front foot

Both Callum Grogan and Peers went close to levelling up the scores, but Kendal would manage to see out the remaining minutes to secure their passage through to the First Qualifying Round and a home tie against Atherton Collieries. Radcliffe could probably count themselves unlucky over the ninety not to have secured a replay. But it was Kendal who took their chances when they came.

As for me, it was back off towards the station with enough time for another two, though this did end up with me following one guy on the hunch he knew where he was going. He did, but I didn’t expect to be heading through a graveyard at some point! Can there be any more death-related things this day?! Ghosts, cemeteries…what next? Anyway. I decided to be sensible for once and settle for just the one final cider in the Castle Inn which is just around the corner from the station. Of course, this would prove not to make any difference whatsoever, as I got back to Manchester still fairly awake, before rapidly getting worse and flopping at home at some point around nine. The lesson there is don’t be sensible, surely*.

The Castle Inn

As for the day as a whole then. Kendal is a pretty cool place to explore, though I’d say I prefer Clitheroe castle to Kendal, on the basis I can see more of the ground! You can see Kendal County F.C. from there, though, so I’ll give some points back for th…..where were we again? Oh yeah. The pubs were good value too for the most part, with ghostly happenings being an added bonus. The game was ok without being spectacular, though the ground certainly made up for that. So it’s onwards back to the FA Cup for Saturday and a battle of Towns….

*DISCLAIMER: It’s probably best to be sensible tbh.

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 8

Programme: 5

Food: 5

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Leek

Leek Townkettering-town-fc

Result: Leek Town 2-3 Kettering Town (FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round)

Venue: Harrison Park (Saturday 3rd September 2016, 3pm)

Att: 416

The FA Cup trail continues into a third round and after seeing two home wins over the previous two rounds, for Padiham and Tadcaster Albion respectively, the draw threw up a fair few options of where to visit next. For the task of deciding, a liaison with fellow ‘hopper (and ever more regular blog appearance maker) Paul was needed and eventually we settled on the fine Staffordshire town of Leek and, more notably, Harrison Park, home of Leek Town FC.

Non-League Day started in the usual fashion, heading into Manchester while taking advantage of the city’s Wayfarer ticket which stretches all the way down to Leek, allowing a fairly cheap day of travel. After happening to jump on the Norwich-bound train to Manchester Piccadilly at the nearest door available, it just so happened that I’d got on just across from where Paul had stationed himself during his trip over from Liverpool. After a quick change at Piccadilly, we were onward bound for Macclesfield.

After being regaled by a guy about the fact the train journey to Oxford was the first his dog had ever taken (you do get some exciting tales), we disembarked in the Cheshire town at just before midday. With around an hour to our bus to Leek, we decided to seek out some cover from the precipitation. Unfortunately, the majority of drinking holes around town were still shut and so we fell into the ever faithful Wetherspoons, Macc’s being titled the “Society Rooms”.

First stop, Society Rooms

First stop, Society Rooms

The Society Rooms is a decent, if unspectacular, ‘Spoons, but one that more than passed the test of where to spend a half-hour. With Punk IPA’s finished off, Paul and I headed back uphill, past a restaurant offering “Bombs £1” and to Macclesfield bus station for our connection to Leek. After a small delay, we set off on our pink and sparkle-clad bus, though Paul was far from enamoured with his £5.50 ticket.

After a half-hour’s journey through the  Cheshire countryside, we pulled into the town centre and with the steady rain continuing to fall, headed uphill once more, this time to the town’s Market Place and, more specifically, the Red Lion pub. The Red Lion is a nice place with a selection of ales to suit. After being offered a taste of those before we had to request it (big plus for that), I settled on a Tiger Bullion which was ok, but nothing to write home about.

Red Lion

Red Lion

Nice bar

Nice bar

Miserable walk to the 'Spoons

Miserable walk to the ‘Spoons

With the clock heading towards two, we decided to head back towards the ground, stopping of at the second Wetherspoon’s of the day, the Green Dragon. This is a slightly strange establishment, with an old, timber-framed part being attached to a bigger hall-type space. It was here that we found the bar and, much to my delight, the F1 qualifying. With Punk IPA once more purchased, I watched on as the Iceman secured 4th place. Decent stuff. Again, though, not much of note happened in here and we soon set off on our way out from the town towards Harrison Park.

Arriving at Harrison Park

Arriving at Harrison Park

Paul still pleased with his tour experience

Paul still pleased with his tour experience

About 10 minutes later, we arrived at the far side of the ground, having to head round half of it to reach the turnstiles. £8 admission later (plus £1.50 programme from the kiosk next door) and we were into what is my 190th ground. As is becoming part and parcel now, it was straight to the bar with 30 minutes to kick-off. After deciding to have an impromptu passing match with a miniature ball, we eventually got this bit of childish “see ball, must kick ball” out of our system, we grabbed a table near the window where we could witness the early stages of the game. Magic.

Harrison Park is a really good ground to visit. It’s Main Stand is all seater, between the clubhouse and turnstiles, is raised above the pitch and provides good views over the game. The other three stands are covered terraced areas, with the stands behind the goals being closer to the pitch, slightly, than the one on the far side. As for Leek Town’s history…

History Lesson:

Leek Town FC was formed in 1946, though football was played in the town from 1876 at least, including an earlier Leek FC side who competed in the Combination during the 1890’s. However, the current club traces its roots from Leek Lowe Hamil, the team formed in 1946 (though it may have been earlier under a different name) and who won their first league, the Staffordshire County League, in 1949-’50 (possibly ’50-’51, very mysterious club this one), their third season in it.

In 1951, the club switched to the Manchester League, where they adopted the Leek Town name. They won the title at the first attempt, switched to the Mid-Cheshire League immediately following their glory, but again only stayed for one year here, before switching into the Birmingham & District League for 1954. However, during the ’56-’57 season, Leek resigned citing financial issues, had a brief stay back in the Manchester League which was als plagued with monetary problems, before eventually returning back to the Staffs League.

Old skool signage

Old skool signage

During the late 60’s & early 70’s, Leek were no strangers to silverware, seeing two titles in both the Staffs League & Manchester League (’72 & ’73) arrive. After the second Manchester League title, the club moved into the Cheshire County League, where they won the league at the second attempt (1974-’75). 1982 saw the league merge with the Lancashire Combination to form the North West Counties League, of which Leek became founder members, spending five mediocre years.

However, in 1987, the club were selected to be a founder member of the Northern Premier League’s new Division 1 and won this in 1990 and with it promotion to the NPL Premier Division. They also reached that year’s FA Trophy final, beating Conference champions Darlington along the way, only to fall to Barrow, under the famed twin towers. ’94 saw Leek finish runners-up, but were refused promotion due to financial problems. To compound this, the club were moved to the Southern League, worsening the issues, but after the sole year here, Leek were allocated back to the NPL.

Current standing

Current standing

In 1997, Leek went one better and won the NPL Premier by ten clear points to attain promotion to the Conference, but only lasted two years of struggle, before dropping back. 2001 saw a further drop back into the NPL Division 1, but regained their place in the Premier Division in 2004, as a result of league restructuring and the creation of the Conference North. The club had to stave off a winding-up order in 2006 as the financial problems returned, but the club survived this setback and continued on.

2008 saw Leek relegated into the Division 1 South and have remained there to this day. The closest the club have come to getting back into the Premier Division of the NPL was in 2012, when the Blues lost out to Ilkeston FC in the play-off final. Last season, the club finished up in a respectable 8th place in the NPL Division One South table.

Decent match poster

Decent match poster!

The game got underway and was played at a good pace. I was more distracted by the fact that a usual Football Manager signing of mine, Spencer Weir-Daley, was in the Kettering side and he was looking quite dangerous early on. But, it was his fellow forward, Rene Howe, who’d open the scoring after 23 minutes, his header dropping into the bottom corner. 0-1 to the Poppies.

This goal seemed to give Kettering the impetus and they looked more likely to add a second than Leek did to draw level. They should have done so just after I’d purchased my food for the day, a fine chips, peas and curry, but Leek ‘keeper Chris Martin (neither the Coldplay frontman nor ex-New Zealand bowler) pulled off a good stop with his legs to keep his side in the game.

This save proved even more important as Leek drew level five minutes before the break, Jordan Johnson whipping a fine free-kick around the wall and into the bottom corner. His celebration proved just how much he enjoyed that strike as he pulled out the ever-popular knee-slide. Only problem was, he chose the almost completely vacant open terraced area to do it in front of. But, it’s the goal that counts and the sides went in at one-a-piece. The timing of the strike was made better, though, by the fact I stated just prior to it “Let’s have a picture of food & a goal. Voila, Johnson delivered. Top man.

Match Action

Match Action

Food & Goal Combo

Food & Goal Combo

The second half began with Leek almost forcing an equaliser after putting the visiting defence under pressure and almost fashioning a chance, only for the goalkeeper to be alert enough to narrow the angle and the header went wide of the mark.

Kettering recovered from their slow start to the second period and went ahead for the second time in the game, with Nathan Hick’s daisy-cutter skimming into the bottom left-hand corner from 20+ yards. Despite Weir-Daley being given the goal initially by the PA man, Hicks was eventually given his due. The 1-2 lead only lasted for 10 minutes, though, as Leek again found a leveller. This time, a quick move down the flank saw a ball into the area collected by Tim Grice and he slotted home calmly to make it all to play for once more.

Home support

Home support

Celebrations after Grice's leveller

Celebrations after Grice’s leveller

From the away ranks...

From the away ranks…

Both sides were going for the win, with neither wanting to replay the game in midweek for obvious reasons, but it was the Poppies who were having the better of it late on and as we entered stoppage time a pull in the area at a corner meant the referee was pointing to the spot. Up stepped sub Aaron O’Connor, but he fired the spot-kick wide of Martin’s left upright.

It was a poor penalty, but as fate would have it O’Connor went from zero-to-hero within a minute as, from the very next attack, the ball fell to O’Connor on the edge of the box. He took his time and smashed a low shot which creeped under Martin and into the net sparking crazy scenes within the travelling support behind the goal with no-one entering the pitch. No-one. Absolutely no-one at all. Leek’s assistant manager was sent off in the aftermath, as his side fell just short against their higher-level opponents. We looked suspiciously like away fans in the main stand, as we celebrated a game settled on the day, as attending the replay was a bit unlikely…..

O'Connor goes from zero...

O’Connor goes from zero…

....to hero within seconds!!

….to hero within seconds!!

With the final whistle blew, we quickly exited the ground and headed for the White Lion pub (as to not show any favouritism to Lions of any sort). Being the first ones in is always awkward, as it appeared to be more of a restaurant-pub than a pure pub. Luckily, though, we were soon joined by Kettering fans Chris and Dave who seemed a bit disappointed that none of their numbers had shared their fine decision to have a celebratory one here.

Talk, as usual, turned to grounds and famed Kettering games in the past, with Paul’s favourite being the Leeds Utd game which he seemed pleased to be able to talk about, having mentioned it a couple of times earlier in the day, but I have no real recollection of it, so couldn’t share the enthusiasm! Also, the trivia we were given was that Kettering are the FA Cup’s highest scorers, over the years, which was something none of us were aware of, but was also stated in the programme, so that is good to know.

White Lion

White Lion

Eventually, it was time for us to head up the road slightly for our bus back, so we bid goodbye to Chris and Dave and headed up the road, deciding we just had time for a quick one in the Dyers Arms. After having some issues finding the stop following our drink (signs aren’t utilised it seems), the locals told us that the road light doubles as the stop and so we trusted their word with bated breath, but knowing the Leek locals would be trustworthy, right?

Of course they were, if you thought otherwise then shame! The bus journey back was a strange one with a Geordie Liverpool fan talking to a Cumbrian Manchester United fan while we, as natives of both respective club’s cities decided it was our right to involve ourselves in the conversation! The United fan’s wide, though, had only come out for the pub crawl with her husband and wasn’t looking too appreciative of the football talk, but it certainly helped to pass the time for us as we were soon passing by Moss Rose and into Macc town once again. With an hour to our train back to Manchester, we decided the Queen’s Arms would be the best place for a quick stop, with a honey beer being a good accompaniment.

Paul’s celebrity non-league manager identifying-eye came into its own as her declared ” That’s Garry Hill!” Indeed, the Woking coat-clad Hill and his assistant were sat at the bar doing their own side’s post-mortem after their defeat to Macclesfield earlier in the day. As such, he wasn’t too talkative, as is understandable, but still gave a few minutes of his time in discussion, though I think he wanted us to go away, which we did soon enough!

A fitting named drink after today's game.

A fittingly named drink after today’s game.

In the Peveril of the Peak. No idea of the score, though...

Peveril of the Peak. No idea of the score, though…

After a quick trip to the station for a non-existent train, we spotted the banished Woking side populating the waiting room on the far side. Eventually, our train pulled in too and off we set for a final stop off in Manchester, namely the legendary Peveril of the Peak pub. What we didn’t know was that our fierce table football rivalry would be renewed in here, with the result sadly slipping my mind (that’s the truth…), but the real stars of the show were the Saharas nuts. Glorious!

Closing Thoughts: Anyway, thus ended our venture out to Leek and everything in between. It was a really good day, with the town, ground, game and just pretty much everything else lending itself to making the trip a fine one. Next round will be a continuation, but where will it be? Not long left to find out…

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RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

 

Manchopper in….Dronfield (Sheffield FC)

Sheffield_FC.svgLoughboroughdynamofclogo

Result: Sheffield 2-2 Loughborough Dynamo(Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 South)

Venue: Coach & Horses Ground (Saturday 10th October 2015, 3pm)

Att: 327

Previously on this blog, I’ve stated about overdue trips to clubs before, but none can outdo Sheffield FC for being such. Sheffield have been a club that have long been on both myself and my groundhopping partner-in-chief Dan’s wishlists and after  being denied a trip there by some extreme weather some 18 months or so prior to this, today the trip to the north Derbyshire town of Dronfield was finally on. The oldest football club in the world was finally to be ventured to by the equally famous Manchopper. I jest, of course….

So, I arrived into Manchester Oxford Road station at around 11 am, with more than enough time to catch the connection onwards to Sheffield. Soon, I was joined by Dan, who the night previous, had acquired some Rugby World Cup tickets for the game at the Etihad between England and the mighty Uruguay. Of course, I’m not  huge rugby aficionado, but I easily prefer Union to League. The latter is just a borefest to me, but that’s just me and my opinion, and I know I’m in the minority in the North!

Alas, despite the half-hour early arrival at MCO station, the train was delayed due to a door issue and when it did finally arrive, we were told we couldn’t board it due to the problem and that was that. CANCELLED. So, onwards it was to Piccadilly for the alternative service offered by Trans-Pennine Express. Hopefully, they were to be more reliable than there East Midland Trains counterparts. Good news is, they were as they arrived. Bad news was, due to the cancellation, we were all packed into a sardine tin that, if there had been an accident, would have certainly caused many deaths. I love our rail network.

Anyway, with yet another rail-related rant completed on these pages, it was off to the dark-side of the Pennines, Yorkshire. But only briefly, as a quick connection would see us head out of the worse-Rose County and to Chesterfield. But first, it was a battle to get off the train in Sheffield and was a welcome relief to have oxygen once again filling the air and not recycled breath, following a 55-minute experience of rubbing up against people you’d not usually welcome rubbing up against, nor would they welcome you doing it either. However, it must be heaven for a groper!

Travelling in comfort

Travelling in comfort

Sheffield

Sheffield

Milk

Platform Milk

Upon arrival, the planned stop in the much-loved Sheffield Tap would be set aside, as a quicker trip to Dronfield was worked out that would give us a further 15 minutes in the town. After arriving over an hour later than planned, small graces were welcome. So, into and out of Chesterfield we went,  with the highlight being the Dronfield-bound platform’s Milk-vending machine. However, as I sadi to Dan at the time, I am curious to who stands on the platform and thinks, “I really could do with a pint of milk right now”. There must be some of you out there to warrant it and here it is in all its glory….

So, Dronfield was finally arrived in at shortly after quarter-to-two and headings were made straight for the Coach & Horses pub outside the ground, which effectively acts as the club’s clubhouse. This is probably of no surprise, as the ground is known as the Coach & Horses Ground, just as the Butcher’s Arms and others are named after their public house neighbours. Of course, the Butcher’s is no more but, happily, the Coach is in much ruder health and was a buzzing hive of activity leading up to kick-off, with people with all sorts of sporting paraphernalia inside, including one young “football hipster” wearing a Schalke 04 shirt.

This bridge appears more interesting than it is

This bridge appears more interesting than it is

First sign of Club

First sign of Club

The Coach & Horses

The Coach & Horses

Dan feels the effects

Dan feels the effects

After Dan had “fainted” on the grass verge near the ground due to the “high levels of intensity” (if you don’t know, we tend to give levels of intensity too things, with Sheffield being high on the list), the first beers of the day had been purchased in the warm, welcoming surroundings of the Coach & Horses. Sadly, due to our late arrival, we didn’t have more than 20-minues to enjoy the pub and we were soon heading up the small rise to the left of the pub and through the car park to the “home of football”. Due to it being Non-League Day, the club were offering those with Premier League season tickets £1 entry. This is where one of my biggest bugbears comes in. Though I understand the reasoning behind it, I do feel that it takes the support of those week-in, week-out supporters of this level for granted. Not that I’m singling out Sheffield, I’m not, but I just can’t see how it’s fair. One rule for all, perhaps? There must be better ways.

Today's Game

Today’s Game

On the way in...

On the way in…

So, after paying my £8 entrance fee, I was into the Coach & Horses ground, before doing a U-turn when through the other side and heading back to the turnstiles for a “bible”. A further £2 was taken, but that is a very fair price, for what is a very good read. Dan headed to the food hut for a pie, whilst I headed off for some pre-match ground browsing. The C&H (as it will be referred to as such from now on) is a mix of old and new, with the stands both being of relatively new-build, especially the seating structure behind the goal at the end from which you enter. Down the right hand side is a covered, raised terracing area , with the far end open, hard standing, complete with a large manual scoreboard. The far side is further hard standing, with the dugouts here too, but also here is where the ground loses points. It has a large blue tarpaulin covering a grassy mound, complete with FIFA logo. Tsk. Not that it Blatters….With that terrible FIFA related “joke” thankfully behind us, it’s time to have a look into the, only slightly lengthy, history of the original Club….

History Lesson:

After Sheffield Crocket Club had informal kick-abouts as far back as 1855, it wasn’t until two years that a formal meeting would take place regarding the formation of Sheffield FC. They originally played games amongst club members, taking on the titles of “Married vs Singles” & “Professionals vs The Rest”. (Thanks, Wikipedia!).

Soon, members Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest were responsible for creating the club’s rules, which became referred to as the Sheffield Rules, the first ever official rules for football, which were later adopted by the Sheffield FA upon its formation in 1867.

The Sheffield Rules?

The Sheffield Rules?

Following Hallam’s formation in 1860, the two contested their first local derby fixture and by 1862, 15 clubs were in situ around Sheffield. They became members of the FA in 1863, but continued to use their own rules, but did play outside of Sheffield for the first time in 1865, when they played Nottingham under Nottingham-rules, meaning an 18-a-side game. The club had also decided to only play clubs outside of Sheffield as they sought more of a challenge, and this saw them play in Battersea against a London side. London won by two-goals and four touchdowns to nil!

After playing Shropshire Wanderers in the club’s first ever FA Cup tie in 1873, the only tie to be decided by a coin toss, Sheffield finally adopted the FA rules in 1878, following the FA’s reluctance to sanction matches involving Sheffield.  In opposition to the club not wishing to play Sheffield-based sides, Thursday Wanderers were formed, made up of players wishing to play in the Sheffield Challenge Cup, but the Wanderers lasted just three years, but did win the cup in their final year. Following professionalism, the club fell into decline, and following a campaign by the staunch-amateur Club for an amateur’s only competition, the FA Amateur Cup was formed, that Club would go on to win in 1904.

Members' Wall

Members’ Wall

Their first league was the Midland league, joined and founded in 1889, but left after just a season. Club also founded the Yorkshire League  in 1898, but again only competed in one season. After largely competing in the local leagues from 1900, Club eventually joined the Sheffield Association League in 1925. In 1949, 50 years after last competing in it, Club rejoined the Yorkshire League. Three years later, they were promoted to Division 1,but were relegated after two seasons, but bounced back in their centenary year, 1957.

1961 saw Club relegated again, taking six years to reach Division 1 again, before continuing their yo-yo existence wih another drop after one season, and were relegated to Divison Three in 1970, where they remained until 1976,but by 1978,  they were back in the Division 1.  The same season as their promotion, Club played at Wembley in the FA Vase Final, drawing 1-1 with  the “should be an Irish place” Billericay Town, before eventually losing the replay in Nottingham.

After the merger of the Midland and Yorkshire Leagues to form the Northern Counties East League, Club were placed in Division 1 South. After reassignments and restructure, Club won Division 1, but spent just one year in the top flight, before being relegated on ground grading, but conformed and won the league again immediately. After a first ever Sheffield & Hallamshire Cup win in ’94 (since won four further times) and a pair of NCEL Cups, the club won promotion to the Northern Premier League in their 150th year, 2007, as runners-up. After celebratory games against Internazionale and Ajax, the former played in front of Pele and including the likes of Mario Balotelli and Marco Materazzi. Club have reached the play-offs of the Division 1 South on three occasions, to no avail and last season finished up in 15th place.

Back to today’s game and it was some sort of celebration of the “Kick It Out” movement and anti-discrimination in general, with free badges etc. being handed out and a flag being paraded prior to kick-off. Soon enough, this was all through and Club and visitors, Loughborough Dynamo, made their way to the field to undertake the pre-match pleasantries and formalities. With these sorted and out of the way, we were all set at the “Home Of Football”.

Club

Club

Handshakes at dawn

Handshakes at dawn

It all gets too much for me.

It all gets too much for me.

After we’d taken our seats in the stand behind the goal Dynamo were attacking during the first period we found ourselves next to a group of fans ranging from 7 to 77, with the elder fans coming up with some songs and hitting the rear of the stand to the beat. Loughborough made all the early running and it was no surprise, therefore, when they did eventually take the lead. After missing a great chance moments earlier, Dynamo skipper Rob Norris made amends, nodding in a header at the near post from a whipped in cross from the left.

After Club had recovered from their poor start, they fashioned a couple of long range efforts, but not too much to speak of, while the visitors’ striker, sporting that short ponytail look that’s in vogue for some reason, gained less friends by the minute on the terraces as they adjudged him to be going down far too easily on a number of occasions and thus, when he was booked himself for a foul, the cheers went up and would have been confused for a goal had someone heard from outside.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Getting a stride in

Getting a stride in

As Dan and I went on a wander of the ground, we ended up in conversation with the Dynamo goalkeeper, who told us about his many previous visits to the ground whilst in the colours of Rainworth (apparently pronounced Rennerth) amongst others. He also mentioned that he usually gets beaten 4-0 here, so this was a far better day so far for him. But, when I suggested this to him, he warned that his Dynamo team tend to tire as the game goes on and he wasn’t “counting his chickens yet”. Leaving the ‘keeper to his concentration for the rest of the game, we went off on our way, just after this happened….

Loughborough doubled their lead. Norris showed tenacity to pounce upon a loose ball and after seeing his initial effort smothered, he recovered to round GK Tom Dunn, and slot into the empty net. Dynamo still had time to strike the post before the interval, though the effort appeared to be covered, left somewhat by a confident Dunn, and the sides went in at the break with the home side about to receive a bollocking from manager Andy Kiwomya, you’d have imagined! As for me, it was to the food hut, where a Chicken Bali pie was purchased for (I think) £2. It was your standard Pukka offering, nothing special, but decent nonetheless.

Before long, the sides had re-entered the pitch and if you wanted the epitome of a game of two halves, then this one was just that. Sheffield dominated this half, just as the visitors had the first. Joe McCormack, the Dynamo GK had to pull off a decent couple of saves to keep his side’s two goal lead intact, but was helpless to deny James Gregory’s fizzing drive from the angle of the box, which flew into the top corner. 2-1, game on!

Game On!!

Game On!!

Match Action

Match Action

The Club fans in action

The Club fans in action

Equaliser on its way in

Equaliser on its way in

Club’s Bruno Holden then headed narrowly wide of the target soon after the goal, but eventually McCormack’s prophetic words came to fruition, when the ball was only half-cleared out to Club sub Temi Raheem. The #15 steadied himself, before lofting a measured chip/shot over McCormack and into the top rightt-hand corner. A tremendous effort and it looked like Club would likely go on to win the game from here, but it never really carried on that way as Dynamo appeared to show resolve to hold out for the draw. In fact it was Dynamo who had the best chance to win it in stoppage time, when Steve Hart’s drive from close range was well kept out by Dunn.

So, 2-2 was the final score, as the ref brought the fluctuating game to a close and a fair point for both sides. Dan and I had a cab waiting for us to take us into Sheffield, with the cabbie seemingly perplexed by what we were doing in Dronfield watching this game in the first place. He thought he’d grasped it after deciding we’d come to watch the visiting side, but when we said it was Loughborough and not a Manchester side, he was dumbfounded. Despite this, he beat the Blades traffic leaving Bramall Lane, getting us to Sheffield Station with half-an-hour to spare, meaning a brief stop in the Tap would now have to happen. Shame. Oh, and if you need a cab from the C&H, City Taxis are the ones. See, advertising boards at non-league ground pay dividends!

Dan in his new purchase

Dan in his new purchase

Spares

Spares

The Sheffield Tap

The Sheffield Tap

Mirror image

Mirror image

After a quick stop in the Tap , including Dan informing a guy “we’d” drew 2-2, but our stranger deciding “we” was Rochdale, then quizzing him on Dale matters, we left the crowded pub for the platform and  the train back to Piccadilly and the Etihad for the Rugby World Cup crunch tie….oh, yeah that’s right…Ah well, still. It was to be my first live rugby experience and in international form, even if one of them was the minnows of the South American nation, Uruguay.

After being toilet doorman on the train for some reason, as the doors kept breaking down, we were getting down to the Metrolink station after our arrival back in Manchester and getting on a Ashton-bound tram. Well, we were to, but they were more sardine tins and we eventually got on one that the Met had sourced from somewhere that was empty. Probably after my ingenious heckle that public transport companies didn’t do common sense, after two terminated in front of us and left empty. Still, we eventually managed to leave and arrived in the Etihad to find a guy selling half/half scarves at the top of the steps from the stop and bemoaning his luck in doing so: “This is what happens when you don’t listen in school”.

Story of the day!

Story of the day!

Ready to go at the Etihad

Ready to go at the Etihad

National Anthems

National Anthems

Good attendance at the Etihad

Good attendance at the Etihad

Before long, we’d arrived in our seats in the front row, North Stand, on the touchline behind the posts at the Etihad, and thus saw the only Uruguayan points of the game at close quarters. After the half-time break, we then saw them taken apart by the English side, including Owen Farrell, who is definitely a hit with the ladies, if the female a few rows behind me is to be believed on her reactions to his successes.

Scrummage

Scrummage

Catch the Robshaw

Catch the Robshaw

Farrell kicks for a conversion

Farrell kicks for a conversion

TRY!

TRY!

So, upon the end of the 60-3 thrashing, we got to the Met stop quick enough to be in the second wave allowed down to the platform, which was a definite success. Before too long, we were disembarking in Piccadilly Gardens , where I bid goodbye to Dan (thanks for the tix, by the way) and I continued on to Oxford Road for the last train back to Urmston. A superb day, ticking off two sporting ambitions in it, visit the oldest football club in the World and watch a live Rugby game. Now, what’s next on the list?….

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RATINGS:

Game: 8- Great game, entertaining. Good goals too.

Ground: 6- It  was alright, nothing great to speak of.

Food: 6- See above for description!

Programme: 8- A decent read, full colour publication too.

Fans: 8- The old and young mix in the stand was quite something!

Value For Money: 9- A great day all round.