Manchopper in….Atherton (Atherton Collieries FC)

Result: Atherton Collieries 1-2 Kidsgrove Athletic (FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round)

Venue: Alder House (Saturday 8th September 2018, 3pm)

Att: 161

After a pair of long trips down to Devon over the previous couple of weekends, it was a definite welcome change to only be faced with the short hop over to Atherton and Atherton Collieries for their FA Cup tie against league rivals, the strong starting Staffordshire outfit, Kidsgrove Athletic. It would be my third visit to Alder House, though my first on a Saturday for just over a decade, the last being when they put an end to 2007-’08 NWCFL champions Trafford’s long winning run. They pipped Salford that year, too. How things change….!

Anyway, enough about the past, let’s get back onto the day at hand. It was a damp and dreary day in Manchester as I caught bus out to the Trafford Centre where I’d catch another to take me the further half-hour or so to the town betwixt Wigan and Leigh. It did appear that Atherton, Tyldesley and other places en route weren’t exactly the place to be today, though, as I was the only passenger for a good twenty minutes! Eventually, I would be joined by a few elder states persons of the area prior to finally disembarking at the far end of Atherton’s Market Street, where I was to find two pubs facing off across a junction. These were, namely, the Punch Bowl and the Letters Inn. Only one had its doors open as the clock ticked on past midday, so in I headed to find the barman/landlord stocking the bar. Unfortunately for him, he hadn’t clocked my arrival, and so almost had a heart attack when he looked up to find me looming at the bar! I gave him £2.85 for a San Miguel as an apology!

The Punch Bowl slowly filled up as I sat there for the first half-hour of the day, as I wasted a bit of time to ensure the next place along would likely be ready to go. Eventually, I reckoned it would be safe to assume it was and so headed on over the way to the aforementioned Letters. Indeed, it was open and, yet again, I was the first punter in. Proper pisshead action going on here and I just hope it doesn’t become too much of a habit! The landlord here, like the first, bemoaned the change in the weather, and it certainly was a return to the norm as it began to bucket down as I looked out of the window and thoughts of the dreaded late postponement came to mind. But, I had great faith in the Colls team to have everything in line. I hoped….

The Punch Bowl

The Letters

Taphouse

Invited to sit and read the paper on the bar whilst supping at my Boddies (£2.40), a lady entered and seemed half disappointed to have been beaten to the post in terms of being first in, so I agreed to stay quiet in that regard when the remainder of her group came in! The ruse was soon abandoned though and I was soon heading onwards back down the street towards the ground a little more, finding myself at the next stop, the Taphouse 119. Shock of shocks, I was the only one in yet again, and after initially opting for a pint of one of the Rosie cider group, I spotted just in time it was a 7.4%, so decided to be sensible for once and instead opted for the far weaker one at a tick over 4%. A nice pint too, but I soon got the urge to go and watch some of the cricket in what seemed to be a fairly recently opened sports bar across the way, by the name of the Sin Bin. Unfortunately, the fact it was coming up to 1pm had completely slipped me by, and about a minute after taking a seat at the window, the players headed off for lunch. Ah.

Atherton is a town located within the Borough of Wigan and is historically a coal mining and nail manufacturing town, dating back to the 14th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, the town was described as “the centre of a district of collieries, cotton mills and iron-works, which cover the surface of the country with their inartistic buildings and surroundings, and are linked together by the equally unlovely dwellings of the people”. A nice description, then! The town’s last deep coal mine closed in 1966, the final cotton mills in 1999. Sadly, as in many places, a mining accident at Lover’s Lane took the lives of 27 men in 1872, with a further eight being lost in Chanters Colliery in 1957.

Atherton

Church

Evidence has been found of Bronxe age activity, as well as a Roman road passing through the area on the ancient route between Coccium (Wigan and Mamcium (Manchester). Following the Anglo-Saxon invasion of the country, Atherton became a part of the manor of Warrington through to the Norman conquest when it became a township (or vill) in its own right, as part of the parish of Leigh. Recorded as Aderton in 1212, it seemingly became Atherton around 1259, named after either the nearby brooks, or a manor house. For a while, the town took on the name of a part of the township, Chow’s Bent, named after the Chow family who lived in the area. Becoming Chollebynt (or Shollebent) in the 14th century, this would later become Chowbent, the name sticking until the mid-17th century, when it reverted back to Atherton once more. The area also saw two battles, one in each of the Civil War and Jacobite uprising, the area having been split in loyalty during the former, the latter seeing the Scottish forces routed. Latterly, it has been part of the county of Lancashire, before being incorporated into Greater Manchester in line with its borough, Wigan.

I was instead left to watch the rain continue to fall over a pint of the fine Marston’s 61 Deep and to become a part-time staff member for around ten seconds in helping to open a door to allow stock across the way. Soon enough and with the clock now ticking ever closer to 2pm, I thought it smart to continue onwards to the Atherton Arms, a short walk from the ground. This was a Holt’s’ affair and, as such, it allowed me to have a pint of the fine Bootleg IPA and to pay one of Holt’s’ ever interesting pricing methods, the £2.66 helping to rid me of a few coppers. Be gone 1p’s.

Sin Bin

Wheatsheaf

Atherton Arms

Aside from a small group of Kidsgrove fans and a couple of locals, it seemed there wasn’t many locals braving the rain to enjoy a pint out in Atherton today and so, after actually getting to watch some cricket, I swiftly finished up and turned just around the corner to reach Alder House. On arrival, I handed over my £8 entry, plus a further £2 for the very decent programme. From there, I took some shelter in the clubhouse for the lead-up to the game, meeting up with a few of the Colls group, namely Gibbo, Rob and Zach. Gibbo was testing out the new craft ale suppliers (and now stadium name rights holders) Skuna, but I didn’t test it out myself, thinking it best to play out the long game. A half-time pie would do for now!

The sides were soon entering the pitch and so it was onwards outside into what had now, thankfully, reduced to just drizzle. Alder House is a ground that is getting smarter by the year, it seems. It hasn’t changed much layout wise since my first visit way back when, but at least the roof of the stand near the turnstiles isn’t in danger of blowing off now! This all-seater stand sits towards the near-end goal, between the turnstile area and half-way. There is a strangely-located bit of terracing directly next to it, though this doesn’t give particularly great views what with the dugouts being directly in front of it. Both ends are open, hard standing, (though the near end does host the dressing rooms etc., with another stand being located towards the far-end goal on the far, clubhouse side of the ground. Slightly split in the middle, this is a mix of seating and standing, with a little area of uncovered standing protruding out back towards the clubhouse and food bar. So that’s Alder House in a nutshell and this is the story of Atherton Collieries….

History Lesson:

Atherton Collieries Football Club was founded in 1916 by miners from the six pits in the old urban area of the town. The club was created with the aim of becoming a welfare point for those left at home during the First World War and upon the pits being nationalised later on, the club was gifted to the people of Atherton instead. The club has played at Alder House since its formation and the club would initially join the Bolton Combination post-war, winning the title in 1920, alongside the Lancashire County FA Amateur Shield, the latter of which was lifted again in 1923, when the club were then playing in the Lancashire Alliance (joined in 1921).

After returning to the Bolton Combination and winning three consecutive titles between 1937-’39, the Second World War broke out, but Colls would remain in the Combination throughout the wartime period, winning two further Combination titles in 1941 & ’45, whilst also achieving a third County FA Shield in 1942. Post-war, the club joined the Manchester League, West Lancashire League & Lancashire Combination’s Division 2 for shorts spells, a further Shield being won in 1946, ahead of a return to the Bolton Combination in 1952. The few switches in leagues resulted in a slight lean spell, which saw it be over a decade until their next triumphs, these coming in the form of a Combination/Shield double in 1957. The club would eventually end their Combination stay with ten titles, adding a final three in 1959, ’61 and ’65, with one more Shield being achieved in 1965, with Colls then returning to the Lancashire Combination in 1971 and winning their first Bolton Hospitals Cup in 1974.

Arriving at Alder House

After an unsuccessful foray in the Lancashire Combination, Atherton would move into the Cheshire County League for 1977-’78 before the merger in 1982 meant Colls would join the newly-formed North West Counties League. Their first silverware in this period arriving in 1986 in the form of the Bridge Shield, just ahead of their second Bolton Hospitals Cup a year later. League success would soon follow, the Third Division title being won in 1987 along with promotion to Division 2. After narrowly missing out on Cup silverware in each of 1992, 1995 & 1996 (beaten finalists in the NWCFL First Division Trophy, Floodlit Trophy & Division Two Trophy respectively), the club were promoted at the end of the latter of those three campaigns, this being enough to ensure promotion to the Division One. 2002 saw Colls lift the Goldline Trophy at Bolton Wanderers’ ground, ahead of the renaming of Division One to the Premier Division in 2008, which proved an unlucky change for Colls, the club being relegated at the end of that season.

The relegation meant the club were playing in Division One, where they were an ever-present force towards the top of the table, consistently finishing in the top six, whilst also lifting the First Division Trophy in 2011. Promotion would follow in 2015, Colls winning the Division and thus being promoted back to the Premier Division, along with taking a third Bolton Hospitals Cup, however, they did go on to lose out in the 2015 NWCFL Challenge Cup Final, but would go one better the following campaign, lifting the trophy via a 5-1 thrashing of Colne. This would prove to be a sign of things to come, as the 2016-’17 season would end in Colls’ first ever promotion to the Northern Premier League, where they were placed in the Division One North. Their first season was immediately successful, the club finishing up a more than solid 10th, whilst grabbing further silverware in the form of the NPL Challenge Cup, after a 2-1 triumph over Coalville Town.

Now, I have to make an apology here. Unfortunately, my phone gave up on me over the weekend and so I lost my nots pertaining to this game, so am having to use the bits and bobs I can find from match reports and the like. As such, things may be skewed a little, but there we are. Whatever the case, the pitch was in fine nick come kick-off it seemed and the first chance duly fell to the hosts, Gaz Peet seeing his free-kick from a fair way out clip the top of the crossbar on its way over.

Match Action

Terrace view

Match Action

The remaining half-hour of the first-half was fairly uneventful, with both sides trading half-chances only, Jordan Cover firing wide, before later testing the Kidsgrove ‘keeper, sandwiching Peter Williams’ effort which forced the crackingly named Morgan Bacon into a stop. That was largely that for the first half, the hosts seeing marginally the better of the play. Meanwhile, it was off to the food hut for me, where I opted for the pie, peas and gravy, which was superb. But, then again, we are in pie country, so would you expect anything less?!

After a quick check on the half-time scores, the second half was underway and I decided I couldn’t really be too arsed doing another lap, so camped out in front of the clubhouse where I joined Gibbo and his partner Hannah, though I probably annoyed the latter somewhat with my incessant and, quite likely, nonsensical chatter, so you have my apologies for that. Further apologies notwithstanding, that should be the last time I have to offer up any during this blog I hope!

Kidsgrove got straight into action and took the lead just a few minutes into the half, when a loose ball allowed them to take on possession and Lee Williamson advanced into the area before clipping the ball over Bacon and into the net, to the cheers of the decently sized travelling support from North Staffordshire (and wherever else they may reside, I suppose). This really seemed to drive on Athletic from there on in and they largely dominated proceedings for the next twenty minutes or so, and doubled their advantage during this time. However, it was to be a highly controversial goal.

Match Action

Match Action

Kidsgrove advanced down the flank and the resultant delivery was headed goal-wards by Shayne Rhodes, whereupon it hit the bottom of the crossbar, bounced down and back into the grateful hands of Bacon, who’d seemingly tipped it onto the woodwork to safety. No flag, no goal, so it seemed. But, no! The referee began to signal back to the centre-spot and awarded the visitors a contentious second, much to the dismay and disbelief of the home support, players and officials alike, so much so that it ended up with Colls boss Michael Clegg being dismissed from the dugout. I have to say, it didn’t look as though it had crossed the line from my position and the initial players’ reactions, but being down the other side of the field, I couldn’t say for certain, of course.

Either way, Kidsgrove should have had another goal shortly afterwards, when Williamson was brought down in the area and the referee had the far more obvious task this time round of pointing to the spot. Penalty. But, Bacon was on sizzling form (sorry!) to palm away Anthony Malbon’s spot-kick and keep Colls’ hopes alive, just about. The game would begin to get a bit bad-tempered from here, with a few rash challenges and flare-ups coming and going, before the hosts grabbed a late, stoppage-time goal back, when Luke Giverin fired home, but a good bit of “gamesmanship” from one of the Athletic players in the goal-mouth ensured any possible sting was taken out of the moment. Clever stuff.

Late on….

…and to the Rope & Anchor post-match!

That would be that, however, and it was too little too late for the home side, who bowed out to a Kidsgrove side who, over the 90 minutes, probably edged the game on the whole, with 2-1 being a fair reflection of the game. As for me, I beat a hast exit to beat the crowds who would be setting off to drown their sorrows in the nearby Rope & Anchor, where I opted to end off my trip with a final pint of Boddington’s (£2.50), whilst watching the scores roll in from around the country. Before long, it was time to head back on the short walk back towards the town centre once again, where I missed my bus back on account of the driver having not changed the destination on the front, so I didn’t go for it. Great. At least it was only about 15 minutes to the next one though, but, with no phone battery left to play with, ’twas a long quarter-hour. Honestly, what did we do without them?! Ah, papers and programmes. Of course!

After getting back to Bolton, it turned out the express service back to the Trafford Centre was cancelled due to an accident on the motorway somewhere, which meant only one absolutely delightful option. The long way round, a whole 1 hour and five minutes of a bus trip with no music and the like to block out the incessant chat of nonsense (says me!). Thankfully, it did seem to go rather quick somehow – probably due to the bloody long trips down South – and I was back home within 20 minutes of arriving back at the TC. Once there, it was off to our bar once again for a final couple…or three….ok, five, whilst Trafford fan and occasional blog appearance maker, Cappy, popped in to celebrate the Whites’ win up at the Giant Axe in Lancaster via a couple of Jägers each.

Yes, it was one of those days, but it had been good, for sure! The game was decent, the ground too, programme and food all good and the town was cheap as chips (considering I’d spent £11 on a bottle of Sol and a pint of Tiny Rebel ale last week!). Can’t complain much and it’s back to the same neck of the woods next week, when I pay a second visit to New Sirs and Daisy Hill FC, the first time I’ll have been since the first post “Class of 92” takeover game. Salford have somewhat bookended this blog, and I have now ended it….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 6

Programme: 7

Food: 8

Value For Money: 8

 

Manchopper in….Alsager

Result: Alsager Town 1-2 Vauxhall Motors (NWCFL Division One South)

Venue: Wood Park (Monday 27th August, 3pm)

Att: 51

After a weekend that had seen a long trip down to Plymouth completed and me walking out on drinking buds at around 1am after “a few” pints on the Sunday, Bank Holiday Monday was planned out to be a local one, with a hop down to the North Staffordshire town of Alsager being the most probable destination. This then became the only POSSIBLE destination, as I duly awoke from my drink-induced slumber at just after 11am, a resultant rush out seeing me on the train into Manchester before midday. A swift walk over to Piccadilly Station saw me jump on the train I required in the nick of time, meaning I could have a little time pre-match too, before heading home post-game following a couple more drinkies, Alsager style (whatever that means).

Transiting back up from Stoke, I arrived into Alsager at just before 2pm, and after heading up to Town’s Wood Park home to secure a programme (which looked to be a good decision on my return), I back-tracked into town to see what I could find. Not much was the answer, with only the Bank Corner pub seemingly in the nearby area. This was one of those sprawling Wetherspoon style places, with not a whole lot to it, though it was ok for a swift one, a bottle of the fine Menabrea going down well prior to re-passing the Asda and undertaking the now familiar walk back to the ground.

Arriving at Alsager

Alsager

Bank Corner

Alsager was recorded in the Domesday Book as Eleacier, though nearby areas show evidence of Bronze Age habitation. It remained a small farming village right through to the 19th century, when its rail connections saw it become a home area of choice for many potteries managers from the nearby “Federation of Six Towns”, now Stoke-on-Trent. During WWII, a large armaments factory was built just outside the town, the area expanding as such for the workers. Also, a training camp for the Royal Marines was added soon after, under the name of H.M.S. Excalibur. This latterly became a refugee camp for persons from Eastern Europe, whose countries had been incorporated into the Soviet Union. Little Moreton Hall is also situated nearby.

Handing over my £6 entry to the friendly gateman, it was onwards down the steps and past the hospitality rooms and to the edge of the “Main” stand which you enter behind. This stand is all-seater, with benched seats being the main form of this, though there is also a small amount of red seats to the left of said stand, near to what I assume was once a press box, which I guessed must have come from one of Stoke or Crewe’s grounds at some point in time? A covered terrace combined with a small amount of further benched seating stands directly to the left of the Main Stand, with a further covered terraced area across on the far side of the ground, which is where the dugouts are also situated, the benched players having to make their way down another flight of stairs and through a gate before crossing over the field to get there.

Alsager town centre

Arriving at Wood Park

Behind the right-hand goal is the facilities, made up of bar area, food hut and medical centre, with the opposite end being open, hard standing, with an old wall still remaining, seemingly pointing to the fact the ground had been extended – ever so slightly – at some point in time. That’s Wood Park in a nutshell, and this is the story of the Bullets – Alsager Town F.C…..

History Lesson:

Alsager Town Football Club was founded in 1965 after the merger of Alsager Institute and Alsager United, under the name of Alsager AFC and purchased Wood Park in 1967. However, they didn’t play until 1968, however, making their bow in the Crewe League. They played there for three seasons before switching into the Mid-Cheshire League in 1971, changed their name to Alsager Town two years later and then remained in the Division One from when the league was split into divisions from 1975 and 1983. In 1985 they apparently folded (as per the programme history), though a team called Alsager United continued on in the Mid-Cheshire League, being renamed as solely Alsager FC in 1987 and finishing runners-up that season (this is when Wikipedia gives their folding as happening). The club reformed after a season out and retaking a place in the Crewe Premier League in 1989 with a youth outfit. (The club’s history in the programme seemingly disputes the above by a couple of years in and around the 1985/88 folding).

They re-applied for the Mid-Cheshire League in 1991 and took a place in the Division 2, where they remained through to 1998 when they took a place in the Staffs County League, where most of the teams in the area were competing in. Just pipped at the post by Norton in the title race, the club finished runners-up and applied to join the North West Counties League. They were duly accepted and finished 12th in their first season in the league’s Division Two. Promoted as runners-up in 2002, they competed in Division One through to 2006 when they were promoted again to the Northern Premier League after finishing third on account of restructuring. However, their stay in the NPL Division One lasted just two seasons, the Bullets relegated in 2008 from the South section on account of ground grading issues.

The Bullets

The club returned to the Counties top-tier (now named the Premier Division), where they remained through to 2016, a stay which took in a fire which destroyed much of the facilities in and around the clubhouse. They narrowly avoided the drop 2014 but the 20th placed finish in 2016 saw the dreaded drop suffered. A few strong starts over the next few seasons saw flirtations with promotion/the play-offs, but no progress league-wise has been made and Alsager remain in Division One for this season, having finished 7th and 8th respectively over the two seasons of their return to the NWCFL’s second-tier.

The players had just entered the pitch as I arrived, with the game getting underway shortly afterwards, if you could believe that(!). The visitors Vauxhall Motors – recently returned from the West Cheshire League – were on the front foot early on, and it was little surprise when they took an early lead, the ball played through by the impressive #10, Damase Kiwanda, with Ben Holmes running onto it and sliding his shot beyond Rhys Bills in the home goal.

One quickly became two, when a Vauxhall attack down the left flank ended with a low ball into the middle of the area, where Holmes gleefully finished off accurately. The visitors continued to dominate the first half-hour, though chances were at something of a premium as it went on, with only Kiwanda seeing his goalbound shot blocked out, with the resulting rebound seeing an attempted header being kept out on the line by the Town ‘keeper.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Alsager began to come into the game in the last fifteen minutes of the half, and grabbed a goal back when a long ball over the top was latched onto by Dominic Smith and, despite loud appeals for offside from the Wirral side, rounded the ‘keeper and slotted home. This spurred on the hosts and they went close to grabbing a leveller, when good work by Jack Edwards out on the left led to him crossing for David Neligwa, who then pulled it back for Kyle Goodwin to have a pop, but his shot went way off-target. Vauxhall then spurned a chance to restore their two-goal cushion with the last action of the half, but Kiwanda’s skill and resultant cross was put on a plate for Holmes to grab a first-half hat-trick, but this time his radar was off and his header flew high.

The break saw me devouring a rather large portion of pie, peas and gravy (for just £2 too), the sides re-entering the field duly as I was finishing up. Very good of them, that. I decided to camp out in the Main Stand for the second half, one because I couldn’t be bothered climbing my way over the seats and disturbing people, and also because I was just pretty lazy. Either way, the second period was a disappointing one for the most part, both sides seeing only one real legal chance go anywhere near the goal, a free-kick which flew well off target for the hosts, whilst Motors #8 saw a volley deflected just wide of the upright.

#15 then headed wide for Alsager, but Vauxhall began to control the game as it wore on, a dive in the box being punished by the expected yellow card and, after Holmes had seen a free-kick drift against the bar, the ball was retained by Motors, with the resultant cross finding the #4, Matt Carlin, who somehow side-footed wide from a matter of yards when unmarked.

Match Action from the Stand

Match Action

Kiwanda then went close on two occasions to getting the goal his performance deserved, his initial effort being well saved by the legs of Bills, before the rebound was fired wide. Holmes then ended the game with a final chance to secure the match ball, but his shot from the angle of the box flew far over the crossbar and into the public park out beyond the ground. Full-Time duly arrived, with Vauxhall holding out comfortably for the points, controlling the game very well in doing so. Alsager looked ok for the most part, but just didn’t make much in the final third to truly trouble their visitors.

As for me, it was off on the walk I’ve completed more than any other watching football in recent times, prior to heading back into the few hostelries Alsager has to offer. Checking back in on the still disappointingly shut Kraftwork, it was instead onwards to the Joules Brewery Tap offering by the name of the Mere Inn. This is a lovely little pub/restaurant, traditional yet still seeming somewhat modern, somehow. The bar is also a bit of a throwback in some respects. Anyway, I opted for a pint of Joules’ Arizona Pale Ale (£4) which was very decent, before continuing up the road for a very swift pint of Aspall’s (£3.60) in The Lodge, where I was given the option of a straight glass, or a goblet. I left the decision up to the lady serving, the goblet being the result.

Park

Church

Mere Inn

I did want to squeeze in the 19th century Railway Inn just round the corner from the station before I left, so after a march down the road and back over the level-crossing, I popped in for a quick bottle of Peroni (£3.30) before heading out for my train with a couple of minutes in hand. But, then, I saw a problem. The crossing gates were down and I had no chance of getting across for the train back. Shite. But then, I had a brainwave and remembered that I was, in fact, heading in the opposite direction and so needed the platform that the train just next to me had been waiting on for the last couple of minutes. A quick jog along said platform had me rescuing the situation and I was soon off to Crewe which, for once, I was happy to see! The remainder of the trip went easily. Phew.

The Lodge

Railway Inn

So there ends another trip. Alsager was decent enough I guess, with the pubs being all ok in their own way. The game was alright, the ground also, with the journey going easy enough, bar the couple of little blips! Back off on the long-haul Saturday and a return to Devon for the county’s “other” league club and the fine city of Exeter. Should be decent one….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 5

Programme: 5

Food: 8

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Todmorden

Result: Todmorden Borough 1-3 Little Lever Reserves (Lancashire Amateur League Division 2)

Venue: Bellholme Sports Club (Saturday 18th August 2018, 2.30pm)

Att: 22 (hc)

As the season’s first month advances on, I was given a rare early opportunity to drop into the local leagues and visit a town I’d wanted to look around for quite a while now. That town was, namely, the Yorkshire/Lancashire border town of Todmorden and I’d be heading to a ground a fair way out of town, but one that plays host to the newly reformed Todmorden Borough. With their folding towards the end of last season still fresh in the mind, I thought the chance to visit was one not to be spurned, and so, come Saturday morning, it was off on the train to Manchester once again.

After missing my planned train by a matter of seconds (it pulled away as I was crossing the footbridge), I caught the next one twenty minutes later, though initially had to endure a huge moth that had taken up a spot next to the seat I’d originally chosen. Could this day get any worse?! As it turned out, the answer, for once, would turn out to be no, unbelievably! The train arrived into Tod with little issue and I was soon making a mental plan of how my imminent pub-crawl would go. I reckoned it’d be best to start at the rear of town near the station and work back through the main road to the bus stop where I’d catch the bus down to Borough’s home, the Bellholme Sports Ground. As luck would have it, the stop was right outside a pub! What were the odds?!

Arriving in Todmorden

The interestingly built Todmorden town hall

The Polished Knob. Wonderful.

Todmorden is a market town in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. It hosts the historic boundary between Lancashire & Yorkshire, the River Calder (and tributary, the Walsden Water), which run through the town, its grand town hall straddling the boundary and duly shows images reflecting the histories of both counties. The first instance of Todmorden’s name being mentioned was in 1641, having previously been known as Tottemerden and other similar names, the title likely deriving from the valley surrounding the town, rather than death! A pagan religious and burial site was unearthed above the nearby Cross Stone in 1898 and was likely used solely for funerals and the like. The findings currently reside within the town’s library.

The earliest record of the area is in the Domesday book, with many local settlements that have since come together being mentioned as separate dwellings. After originally having combined producing corn with fulling mills, the area grew to include farming and woollen textiles prior to the switch to the cotton trade during the Industrial Revolution, due to Todmorden’s geographical position close to Manchester, the centre of materials and trade. The local Pennine waterways played a big part in the growth of the industry in Tod, with these being used to power the local machine looms. Through the 190th century, Todmorden grew from a small village to more of a town, with better road and waterway links being created, as well as rail links being introduced to Burnley. The nearby Summit Tunnel became, at the time, the longest tunnel in the world, at 2,885 yards. The links continued to grow, with lines to Leeds and Manchester added shortly afterwards. The town also became the second municipality in Britain to introduce a motorised bus service, this coming along in 1907.

The visit began with a pint in the interestingly (and hornily, if you’re that way inclined) named Polished Knob, a free house which had a rather American-styled diner/music stage interior. It also had a lovely pub dog which was more than happy to say “Hello” to you as well. Sadly, my visit would only be brief, as I had to continue onwards with my alcohol-fuelled trip, the pint of Moretti (£3.70) going down very nicely indeed.

Duke of York

Does exactly what it says….

The Wellington. Smallest pub in Tod.

Next up came the main road through the town, though this did come about due to me missing the suitably named “The Pub” en route, which made me have to backtrack a short time later. The couple of pubs here, both named after historical figures the Duke of York (one of them anyway) and the Wellington, were both kind of your more traditional, drinkers sort of pubs. The Duke of York yielded a quick pint of Kronenberg (£3.2/45, I can’t remember which), whilst the Welly, which proclaimed itself the prestigious title of “smallest pub in Todmorden” gave me a second pint of Moretti for the day. The (I presume) owner was proud of the fact his pint of it here was £3.70 and that it was the cheapest in the area. I didn’t have the heart to tell him….

In between the pair came the aforementioned backtrack to The Pub, a little real ale gem slightly tucked away off the main road. I opted for a pint of the Pennine Brewery’s Orange & Grapefruit ale here which was bloody lovely, and nicely priced too, coming in at £3.20. It also had a map on the wall pointing out the numerous places of interest in the town. A peruse of this was had, before I headed off over the river and to the Royal George, my final pre-match stop. It was rather quiet in here, though a Newcastle fan was intently watching the Magpies’ game on the big screen. Luckily, I’d finished my Corona (£3), before they missed their late penalty and so missed out on the inevitable drama!

Over the tributary

Royal George

Arriving at the ground

Hopping on the bus outside, a day ticket (£4.20) saw me back and forth from the Bellholme ground in good time. In the meantime, though, there was a game to watch. Todmorden Borough, now placed in the Lancashire Amateur League’s Division 2 after bowing out, folding and moving from the East Lancashire League over the previous few months, were welcoming the reserve side of Little Lever, a team from the outskirts of Bolton. I try to avoid reserves where possible (and definitely at home), but I’m not too fussed about aways, tbh. The Bellholme is a fully barred off pitch, with on grass standing giving full access the whole way round. Well it would have, if it wasn’t for the trees in the far corner anyway! A smart club building is located at the end of the access road, behind the near-end goal, with the car park leaving vehicles at the mercy of wayward shots. You’ve been warned. That’s the ground then, and this is the story of Todmorden Borough….

History Lesson:

I can’t find a date to say when Todmorden Borough was founded, and the earliest information I can find is in 2004, when the club were playing in the East Lancashire League Premier Division, winning the title along with the League Cup, whilst also reaching the Harry Walsh Cup Final. By 2009, Tod had joined the West Lancashire League, where they seemingly remained in the Division 2 right through to their eventual departure and return to the East Lancashire League in 2015, following a 10th (second bottom) placed finish. The club would resign towards the end of last season, re-emerging for this campaign in the Lancashire Amateur League’s Division 2.

The game got underway just as I arrived and it began fairly evenly, though it could be argued that it was the visitors who began the stronger of the two sides. However, both sides’ #9’s would share chances during the first fifteen minutes or so, Todmorden’s seeing his shot comfortably saved by the Little Lever ‘keeper and his opposite number seeing his effort come back off the upright. His strike partner, the #10, then also had a low shot saved easily as the game continued on towards the half-hour.

Match Action

Match Action

Lever net the penalty

The deadlock was eventually broken when the Little Lever #11, Alex Ward, managed to fashion a sort of sliding tackle/shot into an attempt on goal and the ball duly flew into the bottom corner at a surprisingly good pace. I was at the opposite end of the ground to this, though, and so maybe it was a bit more of a full-on shot than it looked from my viewpoint. Either way, it was one-nil to the visitors and this became two just before the break, when a rather silly foul allowed Lever’s #10, Shane Evans, to double the advantage from the spot. Half-Time, 0-2.

The break came and went in no time, as it tends to do at this level, and we were back underway in good time for me, as I was now on for an earlier bus back to Todmorden town as I’d hoped. Unfortunately, the second half was a fairly uneventful affair, with only a couple of chances being created by either side. The best of these for both saw Lever’s #4 strike a long-range free-kick wide of the mark and into the bushes beyond the far goal, whilst Tod’s #3 fired narrowly wide after a corner had only been half-cleared.

Match Action

Match Action

Back in Todmorden & the Golden Lion

Todmorden did grab a goal back with around fifteen minutes to play, when the #9, Jamie Melvin, was played in nicely and despite getting his shot away and forcing the Little Lever ‘keeper into a stop, was adjudged to have been fouled in the meantime and a penalty was duly awarded. He stepped up to find the net and give his side some hope heading into the final quarter-hour of the game. Unfortunately for them, despite pressure being applied for the remaining minutes, they couldn’t grab an equaliser (or a second goal back, as it apparently finished 3-1 with Ward grabbing another) and so Little Lever’s Reserves ran out with the points. I ran out too, just across the way to catch the bus back for a couple of post-match drinks prior to getting the train back to Manchester. Note to self: remember that buses around here have a strange bar-code scanner thing going on….

Back in Todmorden, I disembarked just near the old, Unitarian church (which is apparently haunted, don’cha know) and headed for the nearby Golden Lion, where a canal-side pint of Cruzcampo was enjoyed (£4) prior to heading up the fairly steep incline for a quick look at the aforementioned church. From there, I backtracked towards the station for a quick Hooch in the town’s ‘Spoons outlet, the White Hart, before heading to the Queen’s Hotel, which stands opposite the station’s opening. A bottle of Corona (£3.20) was had in here, just so I didn’t have to rush it and could take it out if required. Drink smartly, everyone!

Haunted church. Woooooooo….

On the canal

White Hart

Queen’s

Soon enough, the train was due and I was soon back on board and heading back to Victoria station. Another walk back through the city centre was endured, though this one was via the more interesting St. Peter’s Square route rather than the dreary Deansgate one I’d taken on the way out, so there’s that. The train home was duly awaiting me as I got to Oxford Road, and so there endeth another trip. Next up is a venture down south and to the furthest league stadium from my dwelling….

***The game on Tod’s Facebook and Full-Time is confirmed and given as 1-3, I only thought it was two until writing this on Friday! Ah well, kept it more exciting.

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6 (plus point for backdrop!)

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Darwen

Result: AFC Darwen 3-1 Barnton (FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Round)

Venue: Anchor Ground (Saturday 11th August 2018, 3pm)

Att: 89

Once again, it’s time for the FA Cup dreams to return to clubs up and down the country, with the aim of, perhaps, reaching the “proper” stages and welcoming one of the big names to their respective home. Whilst, if we’re being realistic, this may be slightly off the radar for the sides entering at the first couple of hurdles, the prize money on offer is always a huge incentive, as is the likes of a possible tie with a local Conference rival and with it a bumper crowd, later on in the competition. For now, though, both AFC Darwen and Barnton had one aim alone, and that was to claim the £3,000+ cash on offer and progress to the preliminary round, where NPL side Trafford would be waiting to visit the victors.

As for myself, the Anchor Ground had always been one of those grounds where something had come up to stop me from getting there on numerous previous occasions. Indeed, it looked like the curse would again strike, as replacement bus services dominated the area north of Bolton and so it appeared that Darwen’s home would again fall on the back-burner. But I was given a glimmer of hope…but not from the source you really want. Bus. I hate our local buses and avoid them wherever I can, but for this one day, I would go into the Twilight Zone. Hopping on the first bus (which was shockingly delayed), I missed my connection by a matter of seconds, a jog to reach the other stop proved in vain and I was duly left with an hour’s wait for the next one….which was late. No trip up to Darwen’s Jubilee Tower now. Ah buses, how I’ve missed you.

Eventually, the carriage rolled in to take me and a few others on the express 25-minute motorway journey from the Trafford Centre to Bolton, where I’d then catch the ‘Lancashire Way’ service headed for Blackburn. Fireworks greeted my arrival (there wasn’t much need for the celebration, Bolton, honestly) before I was eventually en route on the half-hour trip up to Darwen itself. The journey (day ticket for £6.70) was uneventful and we rolled into Darwen town centre at a little before 12.30pm to find the place absolutely buzzing with activity. I’d already noticed a large amount of Union Flags fluttering from houses and businesses on the way in, and now a stage was set up alongside the market area of the town. What was going on, I wondered? Well, two guys in full US Army uniform sitting on a jeep, made things even more stranger, until a poster revealed all….it was 1940’s day. I’m not sure why it was, but there we are!

Darwen

Spitfire memorial

Anyway, after a failed attempt at getting to the Wetherspoon’s bar early on, I instead headed off towards the ground, with the intention of getting in a few of the pubs on the road leading down to the Anchor. After going past a Spitfire memorial to a pair of pilots who’d flown the “Darwen Spitfire”, I popped into The Cock for a quick pint of Moretti (£2.95) and to plan out the remainder of the trip. It was a bit dull in here, so I finished up in quick fashion and continued on my way down the road and towards the British Queen. This Thwaites’ pub was a real traditional mid-1900’s-style boozer, but with lagers at a premium (I wasn’t fancying ales much today), I opted for a bottle of Peroni (£3) to keep me company for the short time I was in here.

Locally known as (apparently) “Darren”, the Lancastrian town straddles the devil’s favourite road, the A666, which runs from the outskirts of Salford up to Blackburn. It stands upon the River Darwen, quite literally, as the waterway is underground within the centre of town, it only being visible towards the outskirts. The area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and the remains of a 2000BC barrow have recently been partially restored nearby, with artefacts found at the site now residing in the town’s library. A Roman road used to run nearby during their time in the area and, more recently, Darwen became industrialised, with the textile industry being the main exhibit of this, with rail and canal links to the cities following. Indeed, Samuel Crompton, inventor of the spinning mule, lived in the town for a few years.

The town grew to, largely, its current size between the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s and was also one of the first places in the world to have steam trains running through it. It is currently home to Crown Paints (located just down the road from the Anchor Ground) Lucite International (formerly ICI Acrylics) which made Spitfire canopies and thus cementing Darwen’s link with the famous aircraft.

The Cock

British Queen

Spitfire & Hurricane (zoom likely required!)

With time continuing to conspire against me, I was soon outside the Darwen Tap, but not before we’d all been treated to a fly past of a Spitfire and Hurricane in perfect situ. There was also a Lancaster Bomber at some point too, but I missed out on that one, sadly. After a quick pint of the interesting, yet very nice, Strawberry & Rhubarb cider in the Tap (£3.20), I reckoned I’d be best served going to the ground and getting a programme in bright and early, with 25 minutes still to go before kick-off. I would then return to the Anchor Hotel (from which, I assume, the ground gains its name) to finish up my pre-match tour of Darwen. This all went smoothly, the programme costing £1.50 from the girl at the turnstile, who must have been wondering who this sad bastard doing this was! Anyway, I turned back on myself for a quick one in the aforementioned Anchor, getting in a pint of Coors (£3.25), I realised I only had about ten minutes in which to drink it and get my arse into gear.

Darwen Tap

Anchor

Arriving at Darwen

Getting into the ground just as the ref got the game underway, I headed straight for the terracing behind the near-end goal, whereupon I realised I was missing something. Yes, I’d left my jacket in the Anchor. Great. A quick call had it all sorted out though and it was safely stored at the bar for after the game. Anyway, the Anchor Ground is a quirky one with its three old, crumbling terraces combined with a smart, modern all-seater (though a little standing does exist, admittedly) stand and smart clubhouse/food bar area, complete with outdoor patio. The three sides of terracing are all open, hard standing, though the few steps to the rear of the far touchline terrace have been reclaimed by the grass. Signs ask you to not go on said grassy knoll, though I only realised this after I’d breached the rule (sorry, Darwen). Both ends number only a few steps each, though go back a fair way at the top. That’s pretty much that for the Anchor Ground, then, and this is the story of AFC Darwen….

History Lesson:

AFC Darwen was formed in 2009 as a phoenix club from the ashes of the original, historic, Darwen Football Club. The original club dated back to 1870, and was a pioneer of the professional game in the North of the country, having adopted association rules in 1875, having previously played rugby and cricket. They played what is believed to be one of, if not the, first floodlit games in 1878 when they welcomed a Blackburn representative side to their then home at Barley Bank. The club reached the FA Cup quarter-finals in 1879, causing controversy in the process, following their signing of two professionals from Scottish side Partick FC, with the two players believed to be the first instance of pros in the English game. 1880 would see the club lift the first ever Lancashire Cup, defeating Blackburn Rovers in the final. Cup success continued somewhat into the next season, with Darwen reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup, beating Romford 15-0 in the quarters.

1890 saw the club become founding members of the Football Alliance, before the next year had Darwen elected to the Football League upon its expansion to 14 teams and they went on to gain the dubious honour of the largest top-flight defeat, a 12-0 hammering at the hands of West Bromwich Albion. They duly finished bottom at the end of their first season and were relegated to the newly formed Second Division, with the club becoming the first league side to be relegated. Ironically, their bottom placed First Division finish remains Darwen’s highest! A third-placed finish in 1893 would see the club promoted back to the First Division via the test match route, but their stay would only last one year once more. They would remain in Division 2 through to 1899, when Darwen decided to not re-apply and duly dropped out of the League, having set a record (still standing to this day) of 18 consecutive defeats and a record 141 goals conceded. The club went on to join the Lancashire League and this also saw them move into their current Anchor Ground home.

AFC Darwen

1902 saw the Lancashire League won with Darwen remaining unbeaten throughout the season en route to the title, before they would switch to the Lancashire Combination’s First Division two years later, where they would compete for the next 70 years. After being relegated to the Division 2 in 1909, they would recover post-war to win the title in both 1931 & 1932, the latter season also saw Darwen defeat league club Chester City at the Anchor Ground in front of 10,000 fans and were rewarded with a trip to reigning English champions, Arsenal. They would lose 11-1, but were awarded an Arsenal strip in recognition of their sportsmanship, and the colours remain worn to this day. They also lifted a further trophy the following year, in the form of the 1933 Lancashire Junior Cup.

Darwen were relegated to the Combination’s Second Division for a second time in 1963,but the drop was a short-lived one, with the club returning after three years. Unfortunately, their return would prove to be even briefer, just a sole season was experienced before the dreaded drop was again suffered. They would bounce back immediately though, being promoted as 1968 Division 2 runners-up, before growing in strength to win the title a further two times, in 1972 & ’75, whilst just missing out on the 1974 title on goal average. 1976 would see Darwen join the Cheshire County League, with this leading to them becoming a founding member of the North West Counties League in 1982.

Anchor Ground

They would struggle here initially though, being relegated to Division 2 in 1984 and avoiding a further drop to Division 3 the next season after Padiham had two points deducted. Things did improve, promotion back to Division One was enjoyed in 1987 and they remained there through to 1998, when the club was demoted due to ground grading issues. They would remain in the Division 2 through to their folding in 2009, upon which AFC Darwen came into being, taking a place in the West Lancashire League. The Salmoners finished 8th at the end of their first season and this was enough to see them promoted to the North West Counties, taking over from where the old club left off. 2015 saw them win their first honour, in the form of the Division 1 Trophy, after a 3-1 triumph over Atherton Collieries, and finished 3rd in the First Division, earning a spot in the play-offs. This went well too, with victories over Hanley Town and Chadderton seeing them earn promotion to the Premier Division of the Counties. 2016 saw the Martin Vizzard Memorial Trophy also arrive in the cabinet, but last season would see relegation suffered for the first time as the phoenix club, after finishing 23rd and bottom of the NWCFL Premier Division and duly returned to the First Division for this season.

The game, as I say, had just got underway as I arrived and, well, if I’d have popped up on 43 minutes, I’d have missed absolutely nada. Nothing. Outside of an early Barnton tap in being ruled out for offside and a fairly comfortable stop by Darwen ‘keeper James Whittingham from Barnton’s experienced striker Chris Smith, nothing else of note truly happened up until the stroke of the break.

Match Action

Match Action

View from the balcony

As we entered first half stoppage time, a goalmouth scramble resulted in Danny Taylor sweeping the ball into the bottom corner with the last meaningful kick of the half to send the hosts in at the break with all the momentum they could have asked for. As they say, there’s not a much better time to score. Having already popped to the food bar for a small portion of chips (£1.50), I decided to do something I often don’t and head to the clubhouse for a drink. A Corona looked the best bet for an easy one and, for £3, I was in possession of said drink. Well, most of it, as a quarter went over the bar. Ah.

The second half was soon underway and I spent the majority of this in the stand, not really fancying another mooch around. However, on account of the goal, the game was now a far more open affair and this seemingly played into Darwen’s hands. They pretty much dominated the second-half and went close to adding a second three times early on, but each time the impressive Barnton ‘keeper, Aaron Lyons, was equal to the attempts, none-more-so when he pulled off a fine double stop to deny the initial close-range headed from the hosts’ Corey Harrison, before getting up swiftly to block the follow-up shot by sub Liam Cole.

View from the stand

Match Action

Match Action

He would be beaten eventually though, when a good, swift move saw Darwen get in down the right, with Taylor crossing for the Jamie Edwards and he, in turn, played it back to the feet of the #4, Adam Heaney, who fired home from just inside the area. This seemed to really demoralise the Barnton side and it was the red-clad home side who continued to look the most likely to net again, the ever-dangerous Taylor seeing his shot saved by the legs of the visiting ‘keeper, but he would get his revenge soon after, latching onto a loose ball and slotting in. Three-nil and game over.

A further few chances came and went for the hosts before Barnton did strike with a couple of minutes left, Smith bending a fine effort beyond the helpless home stopper to deny him a clean sheet, but this wouldn’t affect the end result too much as Darwen progressed into the Preliminary Round where they will again have the home advantage and will be eyeing up a “giant-killing”. Well, if you can call it that at this stage!

Post-match visit #1

‘Spoons to round off the day

Post-match, I recovered my jacket before yet another prolonged wait for a bus was endured (on account of Rovers fans having boarded en masse from Ewood), but I eventually got into Darwen in time for another couple. I totally forgot about the decent looking 39 brewery tap sadly, but did get to pop in a small, locals pub by the name of the Entwistle, tucked away between the houses and church to the rear of the centre. This was a “true” pub if you like, and a Coors was duly had in here for just the £2.70 prior to a very swift visit to the Spoons to end off the day, though the rush would end up to have been in vain, as the bus I thought was turning up to go through to Bolton was in fact the one that terminated in Darwen. A twenty-minute wait was on the cards. I hate buses…especially so as my phone had died and I now couldn’t block out the horrific noise and conversations that pick away at your sanity.

So that’s that. The journey back went as well as it could have done considering it was by bus (did I mention I don’t really like them?) and I was home for just before half-past eight. Not too shabby. Outside of transport issues, the day had been a good one. The game (eventually) and ground were both very decent, Darwen as a town was fun, with the added novelty of the ’40’s day celebrations and the Hurricane/Spitfire fly past was a huge bonus too. It was also cheap on the pocket (much-needed with the few weeks surrounding it) so can’t complain there either. Next up comes a drop down into the local football ranks, with a visit to a town straddling the border between the roses counties….

 

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 5

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Garswood

Result: Garswood United 2-3 Newcastle Blue Star (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: The Wooders (Friday 27th July 2018, 7.15pm)

Att: 55 (approx.)

The first of what was supposed to be a midweek double, prior to Helsby’s game the next day being switched without obvious prior notice, saw me heading to just outside Wigan and to the small village of Garswood. Here, I’d be visiting the home of the town’s Cheshire League outfit, Garswood United, the Wooders but, before I could get there, I would have to brave the unpredictability of a Friday evening Northern service. As such, the first question was whether the journey would work out, or would I be thwarted by those pacers.

Fortunately, I was only subjected to a six minute delay, which was nowhere near enough to make anything go awry and, after a walk through the warm late-evening Warrington sunshine, I was soon headed from Bank Quay up towards Wigan, where I’d catch the electric service which would deliver me the short distance down the track to Garswood. This all went smoothly enough, the highlight of the trip coming whilst sat on the stationary rattler at North Western, when a train passed through full of timber. Never seen that before. After reading that sentence back, the only thought that went through my mind was “God, am I that boring?!”…..

Arriving at two railways!

An interesting climbing frame

Obviously the answer is yes, and so let’s move on before I send you to sleep. After completing the ten minute or so hop over to Garswood, the station access road led straight to the haven of a pub, namely the Railway. In here, I opted for a pint of Hop House 13 which came in at a round £4. Heading out to make the most of the seemingly never ending sunshine, I came across a climbing frame in the shape of, what I assume was, Stevenson’s Rocket in the beer garden. An interesting touch for sure, but that was really the only thing of note and so I swiftly polished the pint off and continued up the slight incline and to the Stag. This was another decent boozer, with the pint of the fruity Boon Doggle Ale turning out to be a fine choice, made all the better by its £2.80 price tag. Bloody lovely!

The Stag

Simms Road Inn

Leaving the rugby shirt adorned pool table area to the rear, I set off on the ten minute walk from here towards the ground. As luck would have it, there is another pub just a few seconds from the gates of the Wooders, and this would prove to be a great little stop-off to wind away the remaining half-hour before the game. Getting in an Amstel for £3.60, I settled in whilst watching the WRC Rally of Finland (something I can’t ever remember seeing in a pub before) and also came across this interesting bit of the building’s history while doing so:

Bit of history…

Speaking of history, Garswood was firstly a farming before also becoming (perhaps unsurprisingly when looking at the above) a largely mining community in the past, the last drift mine closing in 1992. Opencast mining has taken place in more recent times and still continues to this day.

Soon enough it was time to cross the road with kick-off now imminent. After getting a beep from a car behind me whilst aimlessly wandering in between the middle of the gates (though the driver’s car-pool mates reckoned he was a “dick”(!)), I headed through the front of the stand/clubhouse/everything else and waited for the side’s to finish up their pre-match preparations and get underway. As I say, all the Wooders’ facilities are located in this main building adjoining to the car-park and behind the near-end goal. It houses a small area of covered terracing to one side of the clubhouse door, and a few rows of benched seating to the other.

Arriving at the ground

The Wooders

The tunnel stands between the “terrace” and car-park. Elsewhere, the ground only has a thin strip of open, hard standing surrounding the pitch, with a pair of dugouts on the right touchline for both sides to use, and an older one still remaining standing on the opposite touchline. It was the latter that the Blue Star boys would choose to make use of, which seems to be the way in most grounds set out this way for some reason. Anyway, we were soon all set to go but, before we get onto the game, here’s a bit of history with regard to Garswood United….

History Lesson:

Garswood United Football Club was founded in 1967 and initially played at the no-longer standing RAF camp at Haydock. They soon set their eyes on their current Simms Lane site (despite warnings the land wouldn’t take to grass growth), and the residents decided to take on the task of improving it. There’s little else I can find about the club’s formative years, though they won numerous local cups and joined the Liverpool Combination at some point (these seemingly centred in the 1970’s and ’80’s from the slightly faded honours boards) and remained there through to 1988, their final season in the Combination’s Division 2 seeing them finish 12th out of 16 teams. After that year, the club moved to the Mid-Cheshire League and took a spot in their Division 2, which they won in their second season and were duly promoted to the Division 1. They would remain there for the next six campaigns before becoming champions in 1996 and achieving promotion to the North West Counties League’s Division 2.

Honours….

….and more!

After spending two seasons in the Counties, finishing 3rd and 8th respectively, they voluntarily returned to the Mid-Cheshire League’s top division. Garswood would go on to stay there for the next nine years through to its re-christening as the Cheshire League, finishing a best of 3rd in their return year before slipping into mid-table for the majority of the remaining years, though did win the Wigan Cup and the league’s Division One Cup in 2006. Upon the re-naming, they finished 6th in 2008 and regained the Wigan Cup before again falling away and finished bottom of Division 1 in 2010 (despite winning a third Wigan Cup), but avoided relegation. The next two seasons showed little in the way of progress, with 11th and 14th positions following, but a resurgence in form saw a fourth-placed finish attained in 2013, before United took the Division One title in 2014, alongside another Wigan Cup, and were promoted to the league’s Premier Division. They would go on to spend the next three years in the top division, finishing 7th and 13th in their first two seasons, but 2016-’17 would see them end the season bottom and thus return to ‘League One’, where they finished 13th out of the 15 teams last time out.

The game got underway and it was a very tight affair for the opening fifteen minutes. There was hardly a chance created in earnest, with both sides fashioning what can only be described as a half-chance each. After a good seventeen minutes or so, the deadlock was broken by the hosts. A fine through ball was latched onto by the tall striker wearing the #9 shirt and he coolly slid the ball beyond the Newcastle ‘keeper for one-nil.

Garswood take the lead

Match Action

Match Action

Newcastle Blue Star hadn’t really got into the game by this point, but they did grow into it after the half-hour and began to be the more dominant force. However, their best chance came just before the break, when a corner from the right led to a spell of disarray in the middle of the box, with a couple of efforts blocked out, and a free-header being spurned – the ‘keeper making a more comfortable save than he really ought to have been allowed to. As it was, that was that for a rather quiet first half, the sides heading in with just the solitary goal between them.

I headed for the clubhouse at the break and after initially not spotting any hot food on the go, I opted to give the club some money in the form of a bottle of Corona. This magically turned into a Desperado’s, though the guy at the bar offered some words that I’d definitely agree with “Well, it all goes down the same way!”. Indeed, it does and I wasn’t at all fussed as, let’s face it, it’s something of an upgrade. £3 less in the pocket, I took in a lap of the room, looking at the number of shirts and honours boards dotted around which eventually led to me spotting the pie oven in the corner. Lovely stuff! Handing over a further £1.50, I opted for a minced beef and onion offering which was really good too. As soon as I reached the door, the players were all set to get the game underway once again.

Clubhouse

Garswood again began the half in the ascendancy, though their rise was put to an end around ten minutes into the half, when their #17 was adjudged to have been the last man when bringing down the NBS forward and was sent-off for his troubles. Now, when I say sent off, it’s usually one of those “go off and sub him” but, no, he was actually red carded! It’s been a long-while since I’ve seen one of those, if ever, and it certainly breathed more life into the game in my eyes at least! A few minutes later, Blue Star were level when the #11, Richard Coulson, hit an effort from just outside the area and his shot took a slight deflection which took it beyond the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner. One-a-piece!

Newcastle were now playing with confidence against the ten-men of United and they soon forged ahead when a fine, swift move saw #19, Dave Parker, get in down the right-side of the area and he stayed calm and finished nicely to send his side ahead. However, the lead didn’t last all that long as Garswood soon levelled, when another good move forward saw “Ste” play in “Scotty” and the latter rounded the ‘keeper to make it two-each. It was all action now, and both teams went close to netting a third, the Garswood #9 seeing his half-chance well blocked out by a Newcastle defender, resulting in a comfortable save for his ‘keeper, and Newcastle’s Parker had a chance to double his tally, but a unfortunately timed bounce saw him only able to slice well wide.

View from the seats

Match Action

Match Action

After helping to locate a wayward ball that had found its way into the roadside undergrowth beyond the clubhouse building, the game looked to be meandering through to the end as we entered into stoppage time. But then, the touring Blue Star side grabbed the winner when something or other happened which allowed #17, Kurt Blacklock, to nod home from a couple of yards to send the visiting bench into scenes of jubilation/shock (delete as appropriate), before the biggest cheer of the night came just before the kick-off as their manager brought himself on for the last few seconds. They were definitely enjoying their first game of the weekend and why not? Full-time soon arrived and an entertaining contest ended up 2-3.

A swift return to the station saw me beat the rain and I was quickly back into Wigan where, for once, delays played kindly into my hands. A short wait saw me catch the Manchester-bound Trans-Pennine service, which took away any questions on whether I’d be able to make the earlier connection home. A good start to the weekend, but that was as good as it got, both football and transport-wise! Ah well, onto the “proper” season now and a trip down to the South Coast’s famed military port city….

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 6

Food: 8

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Lytham

Result: Lytham Town 1-3 Longridge Town (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Ballam Road (Saturday 21st July 2018, 3pm)

Att: 35 (approx.)

As teams’ pre-season preparations and schedules continue to roll on as the season gets ever closer, I decided that a trip to the seaside was in order. However, I wasn’t heading there for sun, sea or sand nor any other beachy paraphernalia that you may come across once there – I was instead headed for Lytham Town, the West Lancashire coastal town famed for its windmill, nearby golf course….and brewery, of course! So, having enticed Gibbo into joining me on this venture, I set off into Piccadilly to meet up with him, via a £226 stop-off at the ticket office for trips that will become apparent over the next month or so. I need my head testing, I swear.

Anyway, I digress. Having sorted all the above out in good time, I found Gibbo amongst the crowds on the platform before we managed to scout out the better carriage option for seating. This went well for once (it wouldn’t if it was me alone) and a pair of Brewdog’s Pale Ale’s were soon being supped at as we headed off towards Preston where we would have a ten minute changeover before the train to Lytham. Well, that was how it was supposed to go down anyway but, alas, Northern’s classic failings decided to rear its ugly head once more and we were subjected to a further twenty-minute delay. Why? Because the planned four-car train arrived with only two and another pair had to be sourced from elsewhere and, just to add insult to the injury, the two then struggled to attach together. I was forced into a second Brewdog as this was going, just to get me by!

Finally in Lytham

Lytham

Eventually the two stopped butting heads like a pair of angry rhinos and we were finally en route to the coast. Arriving at around 12.30pm, we were greeted by a number of Northern staff and police who were on guard at the station due to the expected crowds for the ongoing Lytham Festival which was today featuring the likes of Bananarama. Gibbo was highly excited for this and even more so by the Lytham sign up on the station wall, with one of the aforementioned staff being roped into taking a pic of the couple of us in front of it before we headed off into the centre of town for a bit of a peruse of the area, prior to continuing on towards the front and a look around the festival area itself. Much to Gibbo’s disappointment, the windmill was off-limits due to it being within the festival’s grounds and so had to make do with a further pic in front of more signage. Then, it was finally onwards to the most important part: pubs!

Lytham dates back to around the Bronze Age and 900AD saw a village by the name of Kilgrimol or Kilgromhow established by, who are believed to be, expelled Vikings from Ireland. The Fylde area, known as Amounderness by the Anglo-Saxons, where Lytham is situated saw the town named in the Domesday Book as Lidun. It was later handed over to the Benedictine monks of Durham in 1199 and later became part of the crown after the dissolution of their home. The Cliftons took over in 1606 and built Lytham Hall, a new house replacing the former one, in 1757. For many centuries, relied on the fishing and shrimping trades prior to the advent and rise of tourism, along with the arrival of wealthy industrialists spreading out from the nearby strongholds of Manchester, Liverpool and Preston. Its most famous landmarks include ‘The Green’, a strip of grass running between the shore and main road, the aforementioned windmill and the neighbouring old Lifeboat House – now a museum.

The Clifton name resonates around Lytham, the former leading family giving their name to numerous streets and buildings. Their estate on the outskirts of Lytham and Ansdell originally occupied a large area, with Lytham Hall playing host to the family seat. This remained in the family until 1963 when it was passed onto the Guardian Royal Exchange Insurance and later, the Lytham Town Trust in 1997. This plays host to open-air plays and car shows etc and several gates and walls of the original estate still survive. Lytham is also home to the Foulnaze cockle factory, though this has only been opened thrice in the last twenty years, the last time being in 2013. The town’s station lies on the single line between Blackpool South and Preston, with two other stations:- Station Road, Lytham and near to the Old Links Golf Course having shut in 1874 & 1949 respectively.

The Lytham Festival not quite at capacity….yet

Lifeboat Museum & the famed windmill

Ship & Royal

First up was the Ship & Royal, which was eventually located after I’d forgotten where it was. It wasn’t quite worth the effort as it turned out, the place being very disorganised. The two staff were having to do all things out front, serving, changing barrels and serving and collecting dishes. They were doing their best to keep up, so no blame on them per se, but they desperately needed more help, which eventually did arrive after a good fifteen to twenty minutes and a few people having left after waiting a fair while. Anyway, after Gibbo had something resembling a half (served in a pint glass for some reason) of Lytham Ale and I played it safe with an Amstel – the round costing £5.30.

Next up was a far more serene experience in the small bar known simply as “The Craft House”. In a weird happening, the guy in front of me turned round to enquire what his partner “George” was having. She’d already left, though, leaving me to be the only person there. Of course, I’d unfortunately just ordered mine in, so couldn’t take advantage of his kind, yet unintentional, offer! Now on first name terms with half the people in the Craft House and the barman, I grabbed an outdoor table on Gibbo’s orders (who, being an Atherton native, had just returned from a pie shop), the pint of the Lancaster Ale going down nicely and, at £2.80, was just as good on the pocket as it tasted.

Strange indoor roadway

Craft House

Gibbo’s happy with his Jaeger decision

With kick-off time approaching, we crossed over the way and to the town’s Spoons, the Railway. It was a different kind of ‘Spoons from outdoor appearance, with its covered outdoor seating seeming more akin to the bistros in the town centre. After a pair of Jägers were consumed (courtesy of Gibbo as it was his idea, honestly) a pint of the Windermere Ale was consumed at the always cost-effective Spoons price of £2.19 before setting off on the few minute’s walk back over the railway and to the ground, passing through the adjacent park to get there, entrance gained through a gateway in the perimeter fencing, Gibbo being the model for this below…

Into the ground we go

Lytham’s Ballam Road ground is a fairly simple one, but is also one that has its fair share of character. The pitch is fully railed off, but has no hard standing immediately around it. However, a raised patioed area behind the goal at the Ballam Road end does give a bit of an alternative, with a few park benches upon it too, with a covered area alongside it hosting a barbecue today. The clubhouse stands to the rear of this and the walls feature pictures and the like from through the years, but it is only a small, narrow room though does have a few tables within too, should the weather not be too great. That’s Ballam Road in a nutshell and this is the story of Lytham Town….

History Lesson:

A Lytham F.C. was first formed around the turn of the 20th century and joined the Lancashire Combination in 1904. However, they competed here for just the one season, finishing bottom, before departing for parts unknown. They would enter the FA Cup for the first time in 1925, reaching the First Round prior to being knocked out in convincing fashion by Oldham Athletic 10-1.

They re-joined the Combination in 1929 and this time remained there until 1936. After the war, the club again returned to the Lancashire Combination, playing in its second division. Here, they finished in the top half in every season through to 1959 and eventually then gained promotion to Division One. They remained there until 1963 when they were relegated back. However, 1968 would see both divisions merged.

Lytham clubhouse

LTFC

Lytham were again relegated from the Combination in 1971, but were absent for only four years prior to returning once again. The period of the late ’70’s also saw the club reach the FA Vase Third Round on two occasions, prior to the Combination’s merger with the Cheshire County League to create the North West Counties League in 1982. Lytham thusly became a founder member of the league, but would soon depart it. After being relegated from their founding placing in Division Two in 1984, they competed for one sole season in Division Three, finishing 6th, before folding at the end of the 1984-’85 season.

Somewhere in the meantime, the current Lytham Town club came into being and played in the Preston & District League prior to their move into the West Lancashire League in 2007. They joined the league’s Second Division and spent four campaigns there before achieving promotion to the Division One in 2011 as champions. They have remained there to this day, finishing up last season in ninth out of the sixteen teams competing.

The game had just gotten underway as we were heading over the road bridge across the railway and it didn’t take all that long for the first goal to arrive. As we were talking to one of the few Longridge officials who had made the short trip out, Longridge’s new signing Jay Hart finished nicely from the edge of the area to open the scoring for the day after around eight minutes and so it looked as though there could be more to follow. Unfortunately, the game became a fairly sedate one with little in the way of chances coming at either end.

Match Action

Match Action

As such, Gibbo and I continued on up to the clubhouse to indulge in Lytham’s self-proclaimed “famous(ish)” 3 for £5 Budweiser offers, though this almost became something else, with the lad behind the bar having to be told in panicked tones that it was only the Bud that was on offer and nothing more. Anyway all was sorted out in this regard and the game had largely been sorted out on the pitch too, with Hart skilfully keeping the ball up in the air and under control, nodding it up before laying it off for Stuart Vasey to fire home for two-nil. That was largely that for the half as the BBQ became the more interesting thing on the go for the next half-hour or so. Cheeseburger in for just a quid. Can’t complain with that, can you?

Having now set up shop on the opposite side of the ground for a while and listening in on the Lytham side’s half-time team-talk, the second half was soon underway. I guess the manager’s words did get to them as they got tighter at the back and thus the game became an even more turgid affair than the first half. I honestly can’t remember all that much going on up until the usual raft of substitutes after around an hour’s play began to liven it up a little. But, to be honest, it didn’t have much to improve on.

Match Action

Good save, but he’ll be beaten by the rebound

Ainsworth buries the pen

Either way, further goals were to eventually follow late on. After Lytham had created and spurned a few decent opportunities, Longridge would net a third goal via a rebound that James Sloane capitalised upon, the ‘keeper rather unfortunate in this as he had pulled off a good save from the initial effort from outside the area. However, Lytham continued to battle on and were awarded a pretty stonewall penalty in the last-minute of the game, the spot-kick duly converted with confidence by Ross Ainsworth.

So that was that and it was back into town for another couple of hours before the train back, in the hope of catching some of Bananarama’s set, of course. As I alluded to earlier, this would sadly not come to pass for one reason or another, so Lytham’s watering holes would continue to be a more than decent substitute. The Taps was the first up post match, the nicely decorated pub offering up a decent pint of Hop House (that just managed to survive me elbowing over) whilst Gibbo opted for an ale with some kind of ‘punnage’ to it that I can’t remember right now. I don’t think I was too impressed as it was certainly no Obi-hops Kenobi, that’s for sure.

The Taps

The Queen’s

Back at the Station to round off the day

After leaving Gibbo to finish up his pint in there, I made the solo trip over to the Queen’s on the front which was packed with festival-goers unsurprisingly, who were still waiting on crossing over the way to the gates. As such, I was actually held at the door for a while on account of the numbers, before getting in after a short wait. Sadly, this trip wasn’t too worth it, Dark Fruits in a plastic glass coming in at the inflated sum of £4.85. Four…eighty-five…

The trip ended with a brief sojourn in the Station bar, located in the station building which was definitely a little more cost-effective with a bottle of Sol costing £3.35. Gibbo soon joined me once again in here for a final helping of putting cash into the local economy before grabbing the train back out of the ever more crowded town, on account that the Bananarama fans would soon be going bananas I’m sure. Upon getting back into Preston, we went on our separate ways, with going via Warrington a far better option for myself, whilst Gibbo still had to endure the long trip around the houses to return to Atherton at some point next year.

So there ends off the penultimate weekend of pre-season for me. It had been a good one, Lytham’s a great little town and the ground was decent too. The game was a bit ‘meh’, but I’m not too fussed when its free (bar £1 on the football card!). Onto the final weekend then and a bit of a double is in the offing. A Cheshire League side, a former Cheshire League side, a newly reformed team and an old Merseyside non-league powerhouse all feature. It should be pretty good….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Programme: N/A

Food: 6

Value For Money: 7

 

Manchopper in….Cheadle

Result: Cheadle Town 7-1 Hartlepool (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Park Road (Saturday 14th July 2018, 2pm)

Att: 28 (hc)

After a week’s hiatus from the silliness of these pages whilst England continued their run through to the semi-finals of the World Cup via victory over Sweden, it was back on the road once again with a return to Cheadle Town’s Park Road. It would be my third visit to Town’s home but this one was a little more attractive of a proposition. With a North-East side providing the opposition, a tour of the town in the offing and the sun shining (which was certainly a little different than my last visit here!), all was set fair for another good trip to begin the new season with.

After heading into Manchester during the late morning, my intentions to sort out tickets for the first few weeks of the season “proper” were spurned by large queues within the ticket office, so it was off to the platform for a slightly earlier train over to Gatley station instead, Gatley being easily the closest stop to reach the ground by if travelling by rail. With the short journey taking just around fifteen minutes, I was soon somehow managing to get lost despite, as I said earlier, having visited twice before. Things never change, do they?!

Eventually found it!

White Hart, with wedding next door

After going the right way, then the wrong way, then the right way again, I eventually found myself at the foot of Cheadle ‘village’, with the bells of the 16th century (Henry VIII) Tudor-era church ringing out over it as a bride and groom entered, having struck lucky considering the weather! As for me, I was bound for next door, which just happened to be, by pure chance of course, a pub by the name of the White Hart. Who’d have thought it? The Robbie’s filled pub had a decent range of ales on and I opted to sample the local brewery’s finely (yet also quite poorly punned) named Obi-Hops Kenobi. No, me neither.

On Cheadle itself, the area can trace its roots way back to pre-historic times, with tools and evidence of occupation dating back to the Iron Age Celts, who occupied Britain at the time. Later, Cheadle also saw itself become home to the Brigantes (a large Northern English tribe centred largely in Yorkshire) before the Roman colonised the area within the first millennium. This period also saw the area begin to gain the basis for its current name, when St. Chad visited in the seventh century to preach to the people of the area. A stone cross dedicated to him was unearthed close to the nearby meeting of the Mickerbrook and River Mersey in the 19th century, with the area becoming known as Chedle, a corruption of Chad Hill.

Prior to this, the area was noted in the Domesday book as “Cedde” (from the Celtic for wood) and was held by the Saxons who would become the de Chedle family. The area was later split into two, with Chedle Bulkeley (now Cheadle) to the North and Chedle Holme (now Cheadle Hulme) to the South. The town later played host to the armies of the Scot “Bonnie” Prince Charlie, as his forces marched through the area upon his uprising before becoming growing largely in becoming an important Industrial Revolution stopping point for travellers heading into Manchester. However, the ‘village’ did lose its own train station in 1964, when the Cheshire Lines Committee station was closed (now a pub which you can see a little later on) with another having been closed earlier in the twentieth century, having previously stood near the still-standing railway bridge within the village centre.

Cheadle

Not sure who this guy is! He’s pretty wooden though…

I spent a fair amount of time in here whilst trying to come up with something of a plan of action with regards to which pubs to visit when, before continuing on just across the way to the surprisingly spacious Crown Hotel. I say surprising as you’d never think it was anywhere near as big inside as it appears from the narrow exterior. It’s not huge by any means, but certainly wasn’t cramped with space freely available with only a handful of punters in at this early part of the afternoon. A pint of Amstel (£3.50) kept me company in here whilst watching a bit of the cricket, where another wedding was entering its first stages. Aw, it must have been in the air!

After a stop off in the café-bar Lounges chain by the name of Brezo Lounge for a pint of their session Goose IPA (of which I’d already braced myself for the £4.85 price tag) where the staff were really friendly, so props to them, I continued the zig-zag nature of the crawl down the main road through the village, popping into the James Watts which, surprisingly considering the name, wasn’t a Wetherspoons. Instead, it was something of a crafty bar with a good range of ales and the like on, though with time beginning to go against me, I played safe with a Thatcher’s Haze and headed up onto the rooftop terrace out back to take advantage of the sun. A good spot to see some of the arrivals into Manchester Airport too and no I’m still not sad, ok?!

Crown Inn

Brezo Lounge

James Watts

From there, it was off to Park Road where I was to meet regular blog appearance maker, Dan, making his season’s debut. Speaking of Dan, he even had the experience of seeing a pure doppelgänger at Alty the following midweek too which may already be giving an indication that another strange season is on the way! Anyway, without wishing to get sidetracked, we met up at the turnstiles and handed over our £5 entrance fee as Dan finally got the Park Road “local ground monkey” off his back. No Hartlepool pun intended.

With kick-off already imminent as the clock struck 2pm, we headed up into the fairly unique stand the ground plays host to, which is also the only covered area. The remainder of the ground is open, hard standing only, with a small 3G pitch to the far side of the stand and the clubhouse/food bar and other club buildings standing in the gap between it and the turnstiles. The changing rooms are located within the stand with the players entering from underneath, on the half-way line. Interestingly, the ground has previously played host to the Portuguese national side during the 1966 World Cup and also hosted a ‘soccer school’ run by the Brazilian legend, Jairzinho. Anyway, that’s Park Road in a nutshell and this is the history of Cheadle Town FC….

History Lesson:

Cheadle Town Football Club was founded in 1961 under the name of Grasmere Rovers, their formation can apparently be traced to a 14-year-old asking a neighbour to help him and his friends form a side. Crazy. Anyway, this all came to fruition and the club took their original name after the street they lived on. They originally competed in the Sunday afternoon Manchester Junior Football League (on account of the lads’ ages, of course) which they won in 1968 prior to moving into Saturday football and the Manchester League in 1972 and winning the Manchester and District Cup in season 1972-’73. The club had moved from their original home in Belle Vue to Glossop North End’s Surrey Street ground and were growing ever stronger, becoming a force in the Manchester League which eventually saw them lift a quadruple of the Manchester League Division One, the league’s Gilgryst Cup, the Manchester County Amateur Cup and the Derbyshire Junior Cup all in season 1979-’80.

Today’s game!

After finishing runners-up in each of the following two seasons in the Manc League’s Division One, Grasmere Rovers moved to Park Road for the 1982-’83 season and, rather interestingly, the club played Al Sadd in their first ever game at their current home, with the Qatari side running out 4-1 winners. The end of that season would also see the end of Grasmere Rovers, as they became Cheadle Town F.C and joined the North West Counties League for the 1983-’84 season, taking a spot in Division 3. 1987 saw this division absorbed into the Division 2, with Cheadle going on to spend much of their existence since within that division, the highlights of their first stint before promotion being runners-up finishes in the 1990-’91 Lamot Pils Trophy and the 1995-’96 NWCFL Division One Trophy.

Upon the 1998 promotion to Division One after a 4th placed finish, Cheadle went on to spend three years in the top division before being relegated back to the Division 2 again in 2001, after finishing bottom. Since then, the club have failed to escape the Counties’ second-tier, though are now a Division One mainstay since the “Premier Division” rebranding in 2008. They are still to win further silverware since their golden 1979-’80 season, with a final appearance in the NWCFL Division One Trophy for a second time in 2010 again ending in disappointment. The reserves have lifted the Stockport DFA Cup since then though (when they also finished runners-up in this competition), winning it in 2013 and 2017. Last season, Cheadle Town finished up in 12th in the Division One, prior to its regionalisation split for this coming season.

CTFC

On a side note, Cheadle Town are a well-known touring side when venturing abroad. Under the name of AFC Manchester, they have travelled over 200,000 miles whilst competing in 96 games covering 30 countries. They have played seven national sides, became the first (and, apparently, to date only) English side to play in and against Cuba in 1975 whilst having also graced the turf of the legendary Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. They also own the infamous honour of being defeated 0-22 by a touring Russia u-19 side as the Russian youngsters warmed up for a game against their Northern Irish counterparts at the Mottram Hall Hotel where, incidentally, I watched Cheadle entertain Dinamo Bucharest a few years back now too.

We were soon underway and it was soon apparent that Cheadle were going to be on top. They quickly stormed into a two goal lead, the first arriving courtesy of Luke Hincks who met a Chris Sherrington cross to head past the Hartlepool GK Elliot Coils. The second came via the boot of that famed journeyman A. Trialist (later found to be Rhys Webb), who finished nicely, tucking the ball away in the corner. A strong start by the North West Counties South outfit against their Wearside League opponents.

View from the stand

Guinness & football. Not a bad combo!

Smart clubhouse

Hartlepool did grow into the half as it went on and grabbed a goal back after around half an hour when striker Jamie Tumilty – last season’s Wearside League top scorer don’cha know – took a good touch, turned and swept the ball into the corner from twenty yards. However, they would soon find themselves two down again before the break when Webb added a third, his shot from the edge of the area finding its way underneath the Coils for 3-1. The ever busy Hartlepool ‘keeper did pull off a good save soon after but, just before the whistle, the fourth Cheadle goal arrived via Luke Cotton before the sides headed in. Meanwhile, I headed off to the BBQ out the front of the clubhouse for a burger. Really good too, so kudos to the chef(s)!

After Dan and I had watched the very early stages of England’s ill-fated 3rd-placed play-off against Belgium in the clubhouse, the teams were back out onto the field and were back playing once again. A few subs had been brought on here and there, but this did little to disrupt Cheadle’s flow and they swiftly added a fifth through the second trialist of the day. Through a bit of digging, I’ve found this may have been Jake Ambrose, but whatever the case may be, it was certainly another member of Mr. and Mrs. Trialist’s extended family.

Match Action

Webb (aka A. Trialist) secures his hat-trick

Late on….

Cheadle’s domination of the game continued unabated as it continued on past the hour mark and they added two more strikes before the end of the game, Webb converted a corner at the near post to secure his hat-trick (though it may have easily been the one before that he scored, I don’t know) before Tom Ratican rounded off the scoring, arriving at the back-post to finish a good ball across goal. So it was seven-one with a good ten to fifteen minutes to go, but that was to be that in terms of goals, though both sides did have late chances to add to the score-line. A very entertaining but, fairly obviously, not close game came to its conclusion with the hosts running out easy winners, but as we all know, it’s not about the result in pre-season….unless you win I guess! Fair play to Hartlepool though, who continued to play against what I assume is still a higher-ranked side, but just couldn’t fashion as many chances.

Post-game, Dan and I re-traced our steps back along Park Road itself, passing by the adjoining cemetery and the park at the end of the road once more prior to heading over the road and into the Red Lion for a bottle of Bud and a pint of San Miguel respectively. We took advantage of the long-term sunshine of the day and took a table out on the decked area to the rear before continuing on back the short distance to the centre of Cheadle and the George and Dragon, a pub that has one of the more impressive pub signs I’ve seen in a while! I’d scouted this out as the best place to watch the remainder of the England game and it definitely seemed to be the case, giving an opportunity of an easy journey back our respective ways afterwards. A round of Moretti and Foster’s came in at around the £6 mark, so not too bad at all to be fair.

Red Lion

George & Dragon w/ great sign.

As England well and truly saw their World Cup campaign come to an end, so did Dan’s first visit to Cheadle Town. He headed back for his bus back home, whilst I continued on up the road back towards East Didsbury station, via a stop off in a bar within an old station house by the name of the Cheshire Line Tavern, the name reflecting the long-gone line the building once served. This visit was slightly delayed, however, as I came across the Ashlea pub just underneath the railway bridge and I reckoned it’d be rude to miss it out. However, the £4 bottle of Corona made me think it may have been for the best after all.

The pub was decent though, so I wasn’t as aggrieved as I might have been, though my stay was a short one as I wanted to get up there in decent time to hopefully still catch the train at just after six. A fifteen minute walk later saw me descending the steps from the road down to the ex-station where I was soon handing over a cool £4.50 for a pint of Heineken (I was less bothered at this as it was at least an interesting place) prior to again taking the opportunity to sit out front on the large patioed area. An extra bonus came along soon after when, having resigned myself to missing the aforementioned train, a check on the lifeline that is Maps revealed that the walk was a fair bit shorter than I thought and so I swiftly finished up before making haste towards Parrs Wood to close off the day with the connections going oh so smoothly. I hope that’s a sign of things to come too!

The Ashlea….

….and the Cheshire Line Tavern to end with.

So there ends the first true game of the new season, and the last home Cheadle game with this badge (they have a shiny, new one with a bull on it and have gone all red). It had been a good one too, with a hatful of goals being seen and a nice day in Cheadle being enjoyed (bar the getting lost for a half-hour bit). All was priced ok I guess – helped out by knowing what to expect, whilst the ground and food were all good too as my last visit to Park Road had been before the upgrades to the clubhouse. They had a caravan instead (which you may have seen in the other blog linked to earlier on). So the pre-season period rolls on into another week, whereupon I’ll be enjoying a large Lancastrian windmill. No, not like that. Honestly…..!!!!

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: 8

Programme: N/A (see other blog for (I assume) a fairly reflective rating)

Value For Money: 7