Manchopper in….Kirkham (AFC Fylde)

Result: AFC Fylde 1-3 Chesterfield (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round)

Venue: Mill Farm (Saturday 20th October 2018, 3pm)

Att: 1,092

WE HAVE TRAINS!!!!! Yes, for the first time in a good month-an-a-half I could actually train it somewhere in the country. I know, I know, it’s unbelievable for me too! With it being the final round of qualifying for the FA Cup’s “proper rounds”, things were still hamstrung somewhat by the continuing strikes, however one option was doable and, as luck would have it, it was a new ground too – though not a new club. As you should have really figured by now, I was back off to Kirkham & Wesham and AFC Fylde’s new Mill Farm home, having visited their previous home (now academy/women’s ground), Kellamergh Park. Their shiny, relatively new home looked a pretty interesting prospect too, so the decision was made:- to Fylde it was!

Setting off a little earlier than originally planned due to my planned tour of Kirkham giving a very tight schedule otherwise, I headed into Manchester before switching back out towards Preston. A trouble free journey got me to the Lancastrian city in good time and there was little rush in catching what turned out to be a packed service to the tourist hotspot that is the “Vegas of the North”, Blackpool. Rather fortunately, I would be disembarking at the first stop on the route, but not before being asked in jest for a kiss by a guy in return for pressing the ‘door open’ button. I did concede he was, in his words, ‘pretty fit’ though and this was enough to seal the deal! This is clearly the season of random encounters, that’s for sure, which keeps things interesting I suppose!

Arriving into Kirkham & Wesham


The area incorporating Kirkham & Wesham (originally Kirkham-in-Amounderness) is thought to be the oldest inhabitaed area in the Fylde district. It owes its existence to Carr Hill, upon which it was built, which was originally the site of a Roman fort. The two neighbouring towns are situated within the Borough of Fylde. In the 19th century, the remains of a harpooned elk was discovered, pointing to the possibility the are was inhabited from around 8,000 BC. The town itself, though, is pre-Roman era, with its name deriving from the Danish ‘kirk’ (church) & ‘ham’ (settlement) and appeared in the Domesday Book as Chicheham and is described as being located on the Roman road between Ribchester and the River Wyre and latterly had a market charter awarded to it back in 1269-’70 by King Henry III. It remained a small market town through the 15th and 16th centuries, before eventually growing as a thriving textile making area with sailcloth being its mainstay, originally woven in cottages and latterly the Flax Mill, built in the mid-1800’s. Looms ran in the town right through to 2003, with the last of these, dating from the 1920’s, being kept on as a memorial of sorts, just a short way from the station. In 1925, Kirkham’s Church Street became the subject of a pencil drawing by the famed artist L. S. Lowry, and his later artwork named “A Lancashire Village” was created from this sketch. Several housing developments were added to the town through the 20th century, thus adding to the size of town (obviously) and growing the area in stature. The open prison nearby is built on the former RAF base which closed in 1957.

Wesham, meanwhile, is connected to the same parish, though is referred to as a town in its own right. It was reputedly given to the hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem by Cicely, daughter of Roger de Genet and later given by the Lancasters to the Abbey of Cockersand. Upon the dissolution of the monasteries, the area was given/sold to the Westby’s, the area including Medlarghe (later Medlar), Wessham (Wesham) and the separate manor of Bradkirk was later bought up the owner of nearby Ribby Hall. The area is believed to have been settled since medieval times and the bridleway of Mowbreck Lane is a roadway from the era, which led to Treales. The early 1900’s saw the area become home to a new workhouse, which replaced the aging one in Kirkham and this later became a military hospital during WWI and later Wesham General, prior to the remaining buildings later becoming home to the North Lancashire NHS Trust, which they remain as today.


First Stop- The Queen’s Arms

Stables Inn

Emerging from the station, a fifteen minute walk saw me at the far end of the Kirkham high street where I was planning to work back from. This plan would soon have to slightly amended, upon the two pubs up the hill still being shut, so my tour de Kirkham began in the early-doors pub, the Queen’s Arms. A nice enough place to start the day, a pint of Moretti kept me company for the first half-hour of my visit, alongside a few early Hallowe’en decorations. With the two up the way now open and ready to go, I back-tracked on myself and firstly headed into the Stables Inn, which seemed to be, rather unsurprisingly, a former stables. The place was surprisingly busy since, according to my phone’s maps, it had just opened, with the Chelsea-Manchester United game being a particular draw. Another pint of Moretti was enjoyed in the Stables while watching the early stages of the contest and working on my, delayed due to laziness, Droylsden blog prior to popping over the road to the Black Horse which definitely looked to have been an old coaching inn, with the large archway seeming to be the giveaway. This was a fair bit emptier than over the way and after sticking on the Moretti with the idea of being somewhat sensible for once, I once again headed back on myself, this time back down the hill and to my fourth stop of the day, the Tap & Vent.

Once inside the real ale-based Tap & Vent, I opted to go onto the fairly similar Cruzcampo, which I was able to sample for the second week running, having also sipped at a pint in Droylsden the previous week. A nice touch was the guy running the place offering some testers of freshly baked pretzel which were bloody lovely too. Unfortunately, my stay here would only be brief as with time beginning to run a little slimmer now with regard to the bus I was planning to get up to the ground, so I continued on the short distance to the Swan Hotel, which the bus stop helpfully sits right outside of. After opting to get my “refresher” pint of Dark Fruits in here, I was able to catch a little more of the Chelsea-United game before grabbing my carriage towards Mill Farm.

Black Horse

Tap & Vent and some brushes. Nice.

Final pre-match stop (sort of): The Swan Hotel

After just about managing to get “the Recreation Ground” out of my mouth, £1.50 allowed me to take the short journey up the road to around a five minute walk from the ground. Fylde run a system where you have to get a ticket from the ticket office prior to heading inside and so I reckoned I’d do this now whilst there were now queues to have to bother with, what with there still being some 40 minutes to kick-off. £10 lighter, I was in possession of my ticket to the ground, and a further £3 had me a fairly glossy programme too. With there being said amount time to waste, I thought it more beneficial to pop into the ground’s Bradley’s Sports Bar for, you know, research purposes. Heineken in one of those polycarbonate glasses emblazoned with the 2022 Football League target was bought and I got talking to a couple of Chesterfield fans (whose names escape me, as I forgot to note them sadly) along with a lovely fan they’d brought with them named Zoe. Happening to be disabled they told me all about how inclusive and helpful the club have been, which is certainly a nice touch by the Spireites, bias notwithstanding (haha)!! Having just come across her website, her story is quite inspirational to say the least, so do have a look: With kick-off quickly encroaching upon us, the trio headed out and round to the away terracing which played host to some of the travelling support today (the rest were in a seated block at the end of the Main Stand), whilst I followed shortly afterwards, the turnstile being, handily, right next door.

Arriving at Mill Farm

Bradley’s Sports Bar

Entering into Mill Farm properly, I entered from just down the side of the Main Stand, with the open end of the ground right in front. To the other end of the ground is a sizeable covered terrace, with another similar terrace running the majority of the far touchline. The Main Stand is a good sized all-seater stand and its arched roof gives it something of a different look, though not too dissimilar to its near neighbour at Fleetwood. Food and other facilities are located underneath here too, as well as the dressing rooms and the like. That’s Mill Farm in a nutshell, and this is the story of AFC Fylde….

History Lesson:

AFC Fylde began life following the merger of local clubs Kirkham Town and Wesham F.C., who together became Kirkham & Wesham Football Club in 1988. There had been a club of that name prior to the First World War, so it was a return to the old school, somewhat. The “new” club took Kirkham Town’s place in the West Lancashire League Division One, though success was hard to come by at first, the club finishing bottom in 1990 and being relegated to Division Two. After three seasons there, they would achieve promotion back to Division One in 1993 after finishing 3rd, though their return was only a short one, as they would suffer the drop once again in 1995.

After finishing as Division Two runners-up the following season, Kirkham & Wesham found themselves back in the Division One once again and this time they were there to stay and there to be successful. Becoming the Premier Division in 1998 upon league restructuring, two fourth placed finishes preceded a spell of seven titles over the next eight years between 1999-’00 & 2006-’07, the only season they didn’t take the top spot during the period being 2002-’03, when they finished as runners-up. During a 21 month spell between January of 2003 and October of 2004, the club went unbeaten in all competitions.

AFC Fylde

2006 saw the club complete a hat-trick of Lancashire Amateur Shield triumphs, and a fourth in six years. Kirkham & Wesham also would win four Northern Counties Cups as representatives of the Lancashire FA – these coming in 2005, ’06 & ’07. Following their title win in the latter of these years, the club took the decision to make the step up to the North West Counties League Division Two, winning their first game 5-0 vs Darwen and won their next game, their first under floodlights, against Holker Old Boys. They also played their first FA Vase game during that season, defeating Worsborough Bridge Athletic by 3-0. This would be the beginning of a successful campaign, as the club went on to win the competition in their first season competing in it, defeating Lowestoft Town 2-1 at Wembley, Matt Walwyn netting both. They also added the Division Two Trophy by defeating Bootle 1-0 (a game I attended, incidentally) at Trafford’s Shawe View ground, and also achieved promotion to Division One, a fine debut season!

For the start of the 2008-’09 season, the club changed their name to AFC Fylde and won the NWCFL’s Premier Division (as it was known for that season onwards) at the first attempt too, finishing above New Mills on goal-difference, so achieving promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One North. A management change from long-term boss Mick Fuller to Kelham O’Hanlon and turnover of playing staff saw a mid-table finish eventually secured, though the next season saw them go far better, reaching the play-offs and beating Skelmersdale United in the semi-final before losing out to Chorley in the final. A poor run of results the next season saw O’Hanlon replaced by Dave Challinor, who took a two division drop in doing so, and they reeled in a 16 point deficit to take top spot come season’s end and take the title and promotion to the NPL Premier Division.

Mill Farm

Fylde would reach the play-off’s in their first season here, but lost out in the semis to Hednesford Town, though added silverware the next season in the form of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy by defeating Chorley and the NPL League Challenge Cup with a 1-0 win over Skem. They would also achieve promotion through the play-offs on this occasion, besting Worksop Town in the semi and Ashton United in the final on penalties. Promoted to the National League North, the club finished a strong second at the close of their initial season, but again suffered play-off pain first time round, this time at the hands of Guiseley. Further disappointment followed the next campaign too, when they lost out in the 2016 version to North Ferriby United. However, it would be third time lucky in 2017, when the Coasters would bypass the play-offs and take the National League North title.

Fylde reached the Second Round of the FA Cup for the first time in 2017-’18, defeating Kidderminster Harriers in the First Round, and almost completed a shock win over Wigan Athletic to reach the Third Round, but went down to late strikes by Will Grigg. They went on to finish 7th come the end of last season, again reaching the play-offs, but continued the trend of losing out first time round, going down in the, now expanded, tournament in the qualifiers to Boreham Wood.

The game was soon underway and it was the hosts who had the better of the early throes, with Fylde taking just 12 minutes to break the deadlock, with dangerman Danny Rowe firing home from the edge of the area, after a corner was only half-cleared by the Chesterfield defence. However, the Spireites soon grew into the contest and began to take control, going close through Laurence Maguire, who is joining his brother in gaining International recognition as a member of the England ‘C’ side, before eventually levelling on 26 minutes when Will Evans rifled a free-kick from around 25 yards into the bottom corner.

Match Action

Denton nets from the spot

Match Action

After heading right round to the far corner of the ground where the segregation line separated the two sets of fans, I soon backtracked and set my sights on the Main Stand and its food bars within. In the meantime, back on the field, the Coasters almost re-took the lead immediately after being pegged back but after being played in a few yards out, a last ditch block by a Chesterfield defender managed to deny James Hardy’s shot. This would prove to be a vital moment in the match as the visitors would go in ahead at the break, with former Huddersfield Town target man Tom Denton being influential on this occasion, the tall forward winning a fairly obvious penalty, before converting confidently from the spot. Half-Time, 2-1 and I was off for some chips.

The second half began much the same as the first, with Fylde starting out well in their pursuit of getting back on level terms. Danny Philliskirk went close to finding the equaliser, nodding over a dangerous cross from the impressive Joe Cardle. Sub Gime Toure also saw his effort go just off target, before Chesterfield made the game safe with around twenty minutes left on the clock, Denton netting his second of the game when he headed past Fylde ‘keeper Jay Lynch following some slack defending. Ashley Hemmings almost set up a grandstand finish, but was unlucky to see his fine hit from distance thunder back off the crossbar, but it wasn’t to be for the hosts as the visitors went on to reach the First Round of the Cup, where they will meet the opinion splitting Billericay Town. Post-match, I beat a hasty retreat to the Lane Ends where I settled in for a fair while to wait for the train over a pint of Boddingtons. Because, why not?!

Match Action

Match Action

Late on….

Lane Ends to, fittingly, end the day

Eventually it was time to head back to the station, around a five minute walk away, where I caught the service back the short distance down the line to Preston, prior to heading into Warrington. Here, the walk over to Central was made, but with the better part of an hour to my train, I decided to pop into the station neighbouring King’s Head and watch the second half of the Huddersfield-Liverpool game. Moretti was on the cards here once again and kept me sufficiently watered through to my train home, which all went smoothly.

So ends another trip and another FA Cup day out. The town and ground were all good and the game was decent too. Food was ok, as was the programme and the travel, rather surprisingly, all went nice and smoothly too, so I can’t have too many complaints concerning the day overall. Onwards to next week and it’s, finally, a return to the chase of the ’92’ and to a very bright ground indeed….


Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Droylsden (2)


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

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

Att: 167

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

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

Arriving in Droylsden

Lazy Toad

Droylsden Square

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

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

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

The Silly Country

The Beehive

King’s Arms

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

History Lesson:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Match Action

From the back of the terrace

The old & the new covered terraces

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

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

Match Action

Match Action

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

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

Church Hotel

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


Game: 6

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Rochdale (Rochdale Sacred Heart FC)

Result: Rochdale Sacred Heart 2-3 Bolton County (Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: Fox Park (Saturday 6th October 2018, 2pm)

Att: 50~

Having all but promised to get over to Fox Park over the past year and a bit but seeing my attempts spurned by weather and other means here and there, this weekend finally gave me the opportunity to head up to Rochdale and visit Sacred Heart’s home. With the weather seemingly set fairly….well, fair, all looked good for the trip to finally be undertaken. Come the morning, the morning rain hadn’t fully materialised in the way it had been forecast, and so all roads led to Fox Park for their Manchester League game with Bolton County.

Arriving into the town centre via the mediums of buses and trams, my plan was initially to begin at the Sam Smith’s Corporation Inn, but I soon reckoned it might be best to have a scout of the Nelson Hotel up the way first. This proved a fruitful endeavour, the pub open with its early punters already dotted around the place. It was a nice enough, old-school pub too, the main take-away for me being the rather humourous sign behind the bar banning all “foul language”. However, the customers seemed to not take too much notice of said instruction, not to mention the (I assume) landlord too! All good fun, but I was soon having to head back on myself and having reset my traversing of Rochdale’s station area to grab a bus from outside the Eagle pub, next up was the second Sam Smith’s option of the day, the aforementioned Corporation Inn. As with the Nelson, a pint of Taddy Lager came in at the very pocket-friendly £2.30. I also had a chat with Manchester United fan Gary in here too about where it was going wrong and what would come of the game later in the day. Needless to say, neither of us predicted a comeback from 2-0 down (a 2-0 loss was more likely, tbf!).


The Lord is watching…

Corporation Inn

Finishing up my drink in here, I bid goodbye to Gary and continued on the short walk past the station and to the Eagle Hotel. Again, this was a Sam Smith’s place, though I’m not sure why the brewery is so prevalent in this part of town. Either way, a third Taddy Lager was had here at, yet again, £2.30, prior to me grabbing the bus up a little closer towards the ground and the Crown and Shuttle, where the most interesting/weird happening of the day (and likely season so far, despite Darwen) would occur. Having polished off my pint of Dark Fruits (£3.50) in here, I exited the door thinking that the Rod Stewart soundtrack would be the most interesting take-away from my brief stay, only to hear a shout of “Excuse Me!” from behind. Thinking I’d left something or whatever, I turned to see what was up only to be asked if I was from around there as I looked familiar. That was fair enough, but I answered to the negative, only to then be asked if I ‘…was on a gay website’ as the fella and his partner had thought they’d seen me somewhere before. Chuckling, I informed him that he was very much mistaken and he was fairly mortified. Pretty funny, and I assured him there was no issues, shaking hands before grabbing the bus slightly onwards down the road for a bit of thought gathering and to truly take in if I’d just had that conversation. This bloody hobby, eh?!

Having figured out the Hopwood pub wasn’t actually around here as shown on Maps, my next drinking hole stop would instead be the Bobbin, and this one is slightly more interesting to me, as it shared its name with a Wetherspoon’s close to me by the name of the Tim Bobbin until recently, when it dropped the first name of the satirical poet otherwise known as John Collier who died in Milnrow in the 1700’s. This was a comfortable pub in which to spend a while, spacious yet feeling close-knit at the same time, somehow. A pint of Amstel (£3.30) kept me company in here for the next half-hour or so while I wasted away the time through to the bus which would drop me back at the bottom of the road I’d take to Fox Park.

Eagle Hotel

Crown & Shuttle

The Bobbin

A short walk up the main road from the bus stop near to where I had my interesting interaction sees you at a small side road, which will lead you up over a small bridge and to the ground entrance. Upon arrival, you are greeted with a very smart clubhouse/other facilities building which takes in all that’s required at a ground, whilst the remainder of the ground is largely open, hard standing, though a little at the far end of the right-hand side of the pitch is grassy. The pitch itself is fully fenced off, apart from the grassy bit, with the benches to the left and a balcony atop the clubhouse providing some raised views for a privileged few! That’s Fox Park then and this is the story of Rochdale Sacred Heart….

History Lesson:

Rochdale Sacred Heart Football Club was founded in 1955 (I assume as a sporting arm of the nearby church of the same name) and have played in the Manchester League since 1987, having presumably taken part in local leagues through to that point. Despite not showing much in the way of challenging for the First Division title for their first run there, they would be promoted to the Premier Division in 1994 after finishing as runners-up, though struggled over their two seasons in the higher division, finishing 15th and 16th (bottom) respectively, being relegated upon the latter finish in 1996. Returning to Division 1, the club were more of a fixture in the higher reaches of the table, finishing 5th and 7th in the next two campaigns, though did drop to 11th in 1999, ahead of coming back strongly for the millennium season, winning the Division 1 title in 2000 and a second promotion to the Premier Division, where they finished their first season back in a solid 10th, which would be the last season the club would be known as simply Sacred Heart F.C.

Becoming Rochdale Sacred Heart for the 2001-’02 season, they spent a further two seasons in the top division prior to suffering the drop once more in 2003, having finished 15th (second bottom). 2005 saw the club again return to the Premier Division as Division 1 runners-up but again struggled in their five-season stay back there, with points deductions in each of 2005-’06 (3pts), 2007-’08 (6pts) & 2009-’10 (6pts) not helping their cause in remaining, the latter eventual being a fatal blow, resulting in the drop back to Division One being suffered once again as they finished 18th and last. 2013 would see Sacred Heart take their second Division One title, but this time they would be much more of a force upon a return, finishing 4th in 2016, before the next campaign would end in the club becoming the first from Rochdale (apparently) to lift the Manchester League title, whilst they also added the league’s Gilgryst Cup to their cabinet, defeating the recently departed AFC Monton, securing a double. They would also beat the same opposition in the Norman Noden Trophy (league vs cup winners/runners-up as applicable) midway through last season. Last season saw Sacred Heart drop back down to the higher mid-table, finishing up 7th out of the 15 competitors.

Arriving at Fox Park

the lounge: RSH’s clubhouse

The game was underway shortly after my arrival and it didn’t take long for the first goal to arrive, and it went to the hosts – a cross in was eventually met by #11 Kris King and he turned the ball into the net. Rochdale kept up their strong start and almost doubled their advantage through #8 Josh Woolley, who was unfortunate to see his powerful header come back off the bar. The two respective managers were, by this point, not seeing eye-to-eye, shall we say, though this proved to be something of an amusing side-plot to proceedings, rather than anything too OTT.

Back on the pitch, Bolton County began to gain a foothold and they went mighty close to levelling up the scores with around fifteen minutes or so to play in the first half. First, #8 saw his effort blocked out by a Sacred Heart defender, before an even better last-ditch slide would be enough to deny the follow-up shot and the third attempt by #4 would fly wide of the mark. The latter should have done better shortly afterwards too, but could only fire wastefully wide following a corner. The hosts would have the last chance of the half, with #9 hitting a shot straight at the ‘keeper, but there was to be no addition to the scores before the break and the sides headed into the dressing rooms with just the single goal between them.

Match Action

Match Action

Stand/Smoking Shelter(!)

After a quick tour of the facilities, I ended up in the bar where I partook in a steak & kidney pie which, for £1.50, wasn’t bad at all. Wasting away the ten minute-or-so break in the clubhouse, the teams eventually re-emerged from the bowels of the building and were ready to go once again shortly afterwards. It was Bolton who began the stronger of the sides, going close when the Sacred Heart ‘keeper could only parry a shot out but the visitors just couldn’t force the ball over the line. The #11 then saw his cross-cum-shot come back off the crossbar as they strove to get back level, but were made to pay for their wayward finishing shortly afterwards when Rochdale doubled their advantage through #9, who met a fine cross from #3 to nod home from close range.

To be honest, at the time, that looked to be that, as you could definitely see Bolton grabbing one back, but two looked to be something of an ask. Indeed, that exact thought went through my head just after the second had been scored. As it turned out they would get their goal with around fifteen minutes left on the clock when #10 Tom Aspen fired in from the edge of the area. However, they would prove me wrong almost immediately, when the same player met another fine ball in, this time from County’s #6 to again nod in from close range . Two-a-piece and we were set for a grandstand finish!

Match Action


Close Call.

It would be Bolton who would go home with the points as they completed a remarkable come back as we entered stoppage time and it would be that man Aspen once again who would be the hero as he would hit something of a speculative drive, which took a wicked deflection off a defender and flew into the bottom corner. 3-2 and full-time, which cued a further touchline disagreement! Either way, I was to meet up with Sacred Heart boss Danny McWilliam post-game as he’d attracted me in with an offer of beer (am I joking?!) and I eventually was able to ascertain his location. It turned out I’d completely missed him coming off the field. After a quick chat, I headed off upstairs to wait, whereupon I was soon in possession of a lovely pint of Boddies. Cheers, Danny, it’s very much appreciated.

I would soon be off and headed backwards from whence I came, but this time I would head down the neighbouring canal path and to the tram stop at Milnrow. I was shortly on a service back to Manchester, where I would change onwards towards Altrincham before grabbing a bus home for a few more once again, with the view of staying up until 6am as to stave off the inclination of sleep ahead of the Japanese GP. I made it to 6.11am, only to give in as it was starting. Ah.

So there we have it. As for the day as a whole, well the ground was definitely smart (with the clubhouse being especially so) and the food and drink during the day all went down well, especially with regards to the pricings! Travel all went smoothly enough, despite the best efforts of the railways once again and the weather was far better than was forecast, so I can’t have too many complaints overall. Onwards to next week, and it’s another local revisit, as dictated by those railway scamps. Bloody hell….


Game: 8

Ground: 6

Programme: N/A

Food: 7

Value For Money: 9

Manchopper in….Sale (Mersey Valley FC)

Result: Mersey Valley 4-2 Club AZ (J.A. Walton Challenge Cup First Round)

Venue: Mersey Valley Sports Club, Banky Lane (Saturday 29th September 2018, 3pm)

Att: 8 (eight)

With the rail strikes continuing unabated for yet another week, my tour de local area continued with a return to one of the more local grounds to me. I was back off to Banky Lane, where I’d seen Sale Town on a couple of occasions, but there was a new kid on the block this time around. Having formed their own side a few years back, Mersey Valley Sports Club took on full usage of the ground under their own name and introduced Mersey Valley F.C. into the Cheshire League fray. Though only a fairly new entity, the club has established itself in the Cheshire League’s lower to mid reaches so far and looks to have a decent set-up to push on from. Anyway, enough about the past and future, let’s get back onto the present, shall we?

Grabbing the bus into Sale at just before 11am, an easy, swift journey had me in the (don’t mention Greater Manchester) Cheshire town for just about half-past. Upon arrival, I attempted to begin down the back of the canal somewhat at the Railway Tavern, only to find it still shut through to midday, so instead opted to begin my circuit at the King’s Ransom on the canal side. Entered by heading down a flight of stairs (disabled access is available), a further couple of lots finally spit you out in the bar area, where I was swiftly purchasing a pint of Amstel (£3.70) to begin the day. However, it was in a Carling glass and I’d like to stress that it definitely wasn’t. In an added bonus, it isn’t often you get to sit on a barge-like construction actually on the water and watch a number of rowers go on past, possibly a few preferring to be where I was rather than going through all that. Soon enough, it was time to continue onwards over the way to the pub-with-no-obvious-name, though it used to be the Steamhouse, so no idea if that’s still the case.

Arriving in Sale

King’s Ransom (and barge thing)

Pub with (possibly) no name

Either way, my first two options of Bootleg IPA and a cider were off, so I settled with a pint of Menabrea, which was alright, but is one of the minority that is better in a bottle in my opinion. It did grow on me slightly as I worked on through it, somewhat helping the £4.40 price tag be a little easier to swallow, if you pardon the pun. From there it was back off to the Railway Tavern which was now thankfully open and a quick pint of Heineken was had before heading back up to the main road and past the metro stop to the town’s Wetherspoon’s: the J.P. Joule. An ok if largely uninspiring ‘Spoon’s offering, I had my “refresher” of a Hooch in here for the usual £2.19, though I didn’t much welcome the cheers emanating from the top-tier of the pub when West Ham United netted their second against a more local side with that suffix. Not that is was too surprising, of course, but the less said about that the better….



Sale is a town historically in Cheshire as determined by the River Mersey, the historical border between Lancashire and Cheshire. A flint arrowhead found gives indications of possible pre-historic inhabitation of the area, though there is nothing else to back this up. The Roman-era gives the first true findings of activity in and around the Sale area, and the A56 (Cross Street) largely follows the old Roman road linking the fortresses at York and Chester via the fort at Manchester. The Anglo-Saxon invasion prompted Sale’s name to come to fruition, it deriving from the Old English word salh, meaning “at the sallow tree”, with Ashton-on-Mersey meaning “village or farm near the ash trees”. Although neither Sale or A-o-M were mentioned in the Domesday Book, this may be because only a partial survey was taken. The settlements did pop up in 1199 & 1260 respectively and were largely crop and cattle farming centric areas through the Middle Ages, though were described as townships rather than manors, again suggesting an Anglo-Saxon heritage for the two.

Sale would pass through the local de Sale, de Carrington and de Massey and later their descendants – the Holts and Masseys – with Sale Old Hall built for the latter’s in 1603 and though demolished for the most part in 1920, a couple of buildings remain, notably the lodge at Sale Golf Club. In 1745, the 14th century Crossford Bridge (the name by which Old Alts’ ground is known) was demolished by the government to delay the Jacobite invasion, though it was rebuilt by the Scots and a small force was sent into Sale and Altrincham to try to deceive the opposition into believing they were headed for Chester. This worked and the invading main army instead went by Cheadle and Stockport. 1765 would see the Bridgwater Canal reach Sale, stimulating the town’s growth and changing its rural surroundings into a more urban location. Later, Sale Moor was brought into use as cultivation for food during the Napoleonic Wars, with the area later becoming a village in its own right, along with Brooklands – the latter taking its name from the local landowner. Sale Moor would be the poorer area for a long while due to poor soil, but upon the introduction of the railway in 1849 and Sale Moor’s close location to it, Sale Moor suddenly turned the tables to become the most affluent and desirable part of the growing commuter town, Sale later merging with Ashton-on-Mersey in 1929.

Outside the Town Hall

During World War Two Sale, interestingly enough, was never evacuated, this despite its close proximity to Manchester and Trafford, with it even taking in evacuees. The town would, obviously, end up being hit and despite numerous previous raids and the 600 bombs dropped on the town during the Manchester Blitz, miraculously no-one was killed, though the town hall was severely damaged. Sadly, there would be a couple of wartime fatality nearby, as a Wellington Bomber went down in nearby Walton Park whilst taking part in a training exercise, killing the captain and bomb-aimer of the six man (one RAF and five RAAF) crew. More recently, the 1970’s saw the town centre redeveloped and largely pedestrianised in an attempt to grow trade in the town, whilst the construction of the M63 (now M60) allowed for greater and easier travel connections from and to Sale, whilst also contributing to the construction of Sale Water Park, from which the gravel for a nearby embankment on which the road would be built upon to minimise flooding was extracted, and the area then made into an artificial lake and water sports centre. Sale also played host to Sale Sharks at Heywood Road for a long part of their history, prior to their move to Salford, with Sale FC still taking up residence at the old ground, with Sale Harriers also a notable sporting club from the town.

Finishing up quickly, I walked through the largely pedestrianised high street to the Bull’s Head on the main thoroughfare to Altrincham, Cross Street. It was pretty packed in here with punters of many persuasions watching the game, with a pint of Coors being joined by a free raffle ticket which tied in to minutes goals were scored which would equal free pints in some way. I couldn’t really hear the whole explanation, but it seemed a cool touch to add. Watching the game through to the third Hammers’ goal through Arnautovic, I decided enough was enough and it was high time to watch a couple of teams who’d hopefully put on a better performance than the Reds could muster.

Bull’s Head

Mersey Farm

Through the trees

Grabbing the bus just around the corner from the large, former bingo hall, I hopped off near the Mersey Farm pub and reckoned it’d be wrong not to pop in, especially considering the fact I still had a good 45 minutes-to-an-hour to get to the ground which was just over the dual-carriageway just behind the pub, though you do have to circle around the nearby church somewhat. Anyway, I opted for a pint of the Thatcher’s Gold in the Farm and wasted away the remaining time, before undertaking said ten minute walk over the footbridge and down a couple of flights of tree-lined steps which lead you pretty much to the ground, though the access gate is slightly further down the small, rural Banky Lane. Arriving just as the whistle went, there isn’t all that much to the ground in truth. It’s a three-sided barred off pitch with no hard standing around the pitch itself, bar the patio area out the front of the clubhouse itself. The clubhouse is a smart construction, containing all the facilities including a small kitchen serving hot dogs – which I partook in during the half-time interval, and a bar. The dugouts are out front too, though you do have to cross the home one to do a “lap”, interestingly enough! The far end is also open with no barrier, but no-one seems to fussed as long as you don’t intend to streak. So that’s Mersey Valley’s home in a very brief explanation and this is the short story of the club’s history so far….

History Lesson:

Mersey Valley Football Club was founded in 2014, evolving from the pre-existing Sale Town Football Club who previously used the venue on Banky Lane in Ashton-on-Mersey Village. Taking a spot in the newly formed Division 2 after Sale’s second-bottom finish in the previous season’s Division 1 (same level), Mersey Valley would go on to finish a strong third in their first season, just missing out on promotion. A sixth-placed finish followed in their 2nd campaign, before the league again re-designated their league names, with Valley being placed in League One, the middle division behind the Premier Division and ahead of League 2. They would go on to cement their place as a solid mid-table outfit, placing 7th in 2017 and lifting the Altrincham & District Senior Cup at Altrincham’s Moss Lane, prior to finishing up 8th last time out, out of the 15 teams in the table and reaching the semi-finals of the J.A. Walton Cup, bowing out to Vulcan. So far this season, having returned to League 2, they look to be following the usual script league-wise, sitting 7th out of the 14 competing clubs.

Arriving at the ground

With the game having just got underway, it quickly became clear that Mersey Valley had a ten-year-old, occasional Trafford FC partnership up front in the form of Troy Hayder and Scott Barlow, so my interest was immediately peaked somewhat. However, they weren’t given too long to try to give the side the advantage as, around half a minute into the contest, some awful defensive mistake I completely missed allowed the ball to find the net with those of a Valley persuasion being perplexed by what had just occurred, whatever that was. It was Beau Gatwood who took advantage of a poor clearance apparently (thanks to the Club AZ twitter for that!). Things quickly got worse for the hosts as a blatant trip in the box gave the ref no alternative to point to the spot and despite not making the cleanest connection on the spot-kick, Josh Pilley’s effort evaded the home ‘keeper, who will feel he ought to have done better than just getting something on it. 0-2 and it looked like only one side were going to win this game.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Valley did get themselves back into the game somewhat against the run-of-play, when Hayder beat the offside trap despite the protestations of the AZ players and went on to finish tidily. The complaints continued after the goal, but AZ soon got back on it and #7 forced the home stopper into a fine stop, before he did even better to somehow deny the #9, after a half-volley from a left-wing free-kick. The chances continued to come along at some pace, Hayder spurning a good position by only mustering a weak shot, but Dan Jones would draw the hosts level just after the half-hour, neatly tucking the ball beyond the AZ glove-man. The visitors would respond to this before the break with the ‘keeper redeeming himself after an initial mistake as he again showed his shot-stopping prowess in tipping #14’s effort onto the upright, before the ever-dangerous Hayder had the chance to put his side ahead going into the break, but took too long over the ball and the danger was eventually cleared by the visiting defence. Half-time duly arrived shortly afterwards and, as is usual in the lower steps, it’s a thankfully short affair.

Hot-dog in hand, the second period was soon underway and it was Valley who would have the first chance just as I exited the building, the skipper, #4, seeing his header come back off the crossbar. But they would soon grab the lead as Jones got in down the left-flank and advanced into the area before pulling back for sub Bilal Afzal to tap home from close-range. A fine come-back, but this was soon put in some jeopardy as Scott Barlow was shown two quick yellow cards in succession, a first for dissent and the second for a….rash challenge. Down to ten were the hosts and it just so happened I was chatting to his partner, Corinne (apologies if spelt wrong), as it happened. Ah.

Managerial stances en point

Up For It

As it was, the sending-off seemed to affect Mersey Valley very little and they almost immediately added a fourth to extend their lead and complete the switcheroo to their own two-goal advantage, as Hayder fired home. It was that close in fact that the dismissed Barlow hadn’t even re-emerged from his early bath by that point! Spending the remainder of the game likely annoying the pair with many a question and what not, the game began to fizzle out as AZ looked to wilt somewhat, though almost grabbed a consolation with the last touch of the game, as #6 headed narrowly over, but that would be that and it was the hosts who would advance in the J.A. Walton Cup and I also advanced….back to the pubs. This time, it was to Ashton-on-Mersey itself and to the village’s pair of pubs, which handily sit across the way from each other. That’s kind of them!

Ashton-on-Mersey Village

After a short ten-to-fifteen minute walk, I arrived at the village and decided to pop in the Old Plough first, before heading over the way to the Buck Inn from where I could take the adjoining road to the bus stop. A pair of Amstel’s in the pair kept me going for the next hour-and-a-bit through to the next service, with both hostelries being worth the detour. Eventually, it was time to leave for the bus, which actually turned up on time (what is this sorcery?) meaning I got back in great time, even being able to pop home first for some dinner prior to heading back out for the evening…..and much of the early morning. Somehow, I was still able to remember all the next day, though did miss the start of the F1 in my recovery, though that turned out to not be such a bad thing!

The day in full then? Well the game was all go and a very entertaining contest that had pretty much a bit of everything in it. The ground is simple, yet works fine and the nearby areas and their pubs all went down well too, not being overly dear in the pricing, which is always welcomed on these pages. So that’s pretty much that and it’s onto next week now and, guess what? There’s still strikes on. Great. Luckily, there happens to be a helping hand from a higher-powered heart that is able to come to the rescue….


Game: 8

Ground: 5

Food: 6

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Chorley


Result: Chorley 3-0 Leek Town (FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round)

Venue: Victory Park (Saturday 22nd September 2018, 3pm)

Att: 746

How does a trip to Glasgow & Hampden Park end up in Chorley? And no, there’s not even alcohol involved before that thought even enters your mind! You’ll be surprised to hear that, in fact, it was the Great British railway system that would end our journey before it had really even got going in truth, the third-world bordering thing we are forced to put up with seeing all services North of the border terminating before they’d even get there. Having booked tickets a couple of months ago, Dan and I were dropped off in Warrington, what with the strikes also being on yet again, with me dropping a line about the fact the train would break down and we’d end up in said Lancastrian town. How clairvoyant of me….

With Chorley not being Dan’s favoured club (on account of pretty much the whole Trafford squad going there a few years back while he was a fan there, rather than anything truly personal!) he wasn’t exactly keen on that coming up, but he would soon have his hand forced. Shortly after we’d left Wigan, we got the message through that a sleeper train had pulled down the overhead lines around Lockerbie and that was the death knell for any worthwhile visit to Glasgow this time around. As such, we stopped at Preston and began to see what options we had open to us. There was Carlisle City and a few local games around Preston on the go, but I was quite keen on going to Chorley – on the basis it would be a quick return home later that day and it was the FA Cup too of course, and so it was decided. Instead of Hampden Park, we would instead be off to Victory Park, though this did mean it will have been at least month since I last visited a new ground. Just not good enough, is it?!

Chorley is a market town in Lancashire (shock!) and its resultant wealth and growth drew largely from its cotton industry. Its name derives from the Old English Ceorl & Ley, likely meaning “peasant’s clearing”. There seems to have been no early habitation in the immediate area of the town until the Middle Ages, though areas around Chorley do show activity from the Bronze Age. A Roman road is located near to the town, though Chorley was not listed in the Domesday book, thought to have come under one of twelve “berewicks” in the “Leyland Hundred”. No, me neither. Chorley does finally appear in the 13th century around Market Street, being established as a borough, but this seems to have been short-lived as it was absorbed again shortly afterwards. It was also sacked by the Scottish raiders in 1322, with Chorley being one of the most southerly places reached by the invading force. St Laurence’s Church in the town dates back to the mid-1300’s too, with a market held annually in the town on his feast day.

Arriving in Chorley

The Industrial Revolution was, as with many places, important to the growth of Chorley with many cotton mills and the like dominating the skyline, one nearby the Morrisons’ being a throwback to the era. Only a few remain in use to this day, but none in the textile business, this eventually dying out in 2009. It was also an important player in the coal mining industry, being on the edge of the Lancashire Coalfield and also played host to the Royal Ordnance Factory during the Second World War, though this was located in the village of Euxton more specifically. The town is, of course, home of the Chorley Cake with the “Chorley Cake Street Fair” taking place (reinstated) from 1995 as a competition to see which local baker can produce the largest.

Having been kindly allowed onto the replacement bus service (yes, that’s how truly f*cked up our rail service is at the moment) with our tickets, we embarked on the short hop over to Chorley, arriving at the bright and early time of twenty-to eleven. It was even too early for me to consider drinking and Dan had already floated the idea of a Spoons breakfast, and I reckoned it was about time I actually tried one too. I was fairly surprised by how decent it was as well and you can’t complain at those prices either, can you? Having demolished that and supped at a coffee (how continental of me), the time was coming around to half-eleven and the bar was looking far more enticing than it had done earlier. Unfortunately for Dan, he still had his ticket debts to pay off, so off he went for a pint of Punk IPA and a Carling. I’ll let you decide which I was having.


Spot the footballer?

Chorley & Flat Iron on right

Wasting away a good hour over those, we agreed that we had gotten fed up of our surroundings by this point and sought something a little different. After a peruse of the nearby area on Maps, I picked out the Flat Iron as the pub that looked the nicer from the small selection of photos and it indeed was. Sadly, the place was rather dead and that was a real shame as it seems a nice place and further props to them for having the beer mats all lined up in neat rows on each table. That definitely appealed to my OCD side! A pint of Moretti was had in here prior to continuing on towards Victory Park a little more. Well that was the initial plan, but we stumbled upon The Shed. Doesn’t sound too exciting does it in fairness, but my word what a great little place it is. Rustic-themed with it being largely decorated with wood all around, it was definitely my kind of place. The Ursa Minor beer from Congleton brewery (£3~) was wonderful too, so this was a nice little bonus for the day. With us still having a fifteen minute walk or so to the ground, we reckoned it best to make our ways over to the final couple of pub stops nearby to the ground, these being, namely, the White Bull and Bootleggers. The first was your more traditional local boozer to a point, packed with punters, though we did manage to grab a table away in the corner, where I could watch the Fulham-Brighton game on TV by virtue of the mirror opposite. Good stuff, though I did opt to have my “refresh” pint in here, Dark Fruits was sufficient in this area.


White Hart


A few doors down is where Bootleggers can be found, a small, unassuming bar that is over two levels on the ground floor, with some steps shoehorned in there for good measure. Again, tables were at a premium, but this time it was standing room only….well for me anyway, as Dan grabbed a chair from the table alongside him. Tucked in beside the door, another fine pint was enjoyed here, this time in the form of Aspall’s Cider which, at just £3~was, just as the Shed, great value. Well worth a visit is Bootleggers, but time was of the essence at this point for ourselves, sadly, and Victory Park was now calling. Following a few fans down the way, we soon arrived at the gates of Victory Park, where we were happy to see a slight discount for entry for today, £10 instead of the usual £12. The programmes were also cut-price and cut-down apparently, just the £1.50 for this issue, with us securing the last two the seller just inside the turnstiles had left on him. There were more about though judging by what he said to a few other later arrivals, though it’s always good to sneak in and get the last ones!

Victory Park is one of those grounds that many seem to be familiar with, but here’s a description anyway for the benefit of those who somehow have contrived to miss out on seeing the grand, old stand the ground plays host to. The raised up seating gives a good view of the action, though the stanchions do get in the way at points. To the front of it is a few rows of terracing that run the length of the stand too, with it running about the three-quarters the length of the pitch. Behind the turnstile end goal is a large covered terrace that goes back quite some way, with another smaller and rather strangely designed terrace opposite. The old grass banking is now off-limits, though a stand-on-stilts has popped up at some point in the recent past, but looks horribly out of place and quite ungainly. The clubhouse is located alongside the turnstiles, away in the corner of the ground and there’s at least three food outlets, with us making use of the trailer on the old mound side of the ground, a steak pie going down well. That’s Victory Park in a nutshell and this is the story of Chorley FC….

History Lesson:

Chorley Football Club was founded in 1875, originally as a rugby club before switching to association football in 1883, following pressure applied to the club to undertake the switch. Chorley went on to join the Lancashire Junior League in 1889 but only spent a sole season there prior to switching to the Lancashire Alliance, where they won the title in 1893 and finished runners-up the next season, whilst also lifting the 1894 Lancashire Junior Cup, beating Clitheroe at Ewood Park in a replay. Following this, the club joined the Lancashire League where they again enjoyed success – winning two titles in 1897 and 1899 respectively. After the latter title was won, Chorley applied, unsuccessfully, to join the Football League, finishing the ballot in sixth, with only the top two being admitted. The club also went on to depart their Dole Lane ground after receiving notice, moving to Rangletts Road in 1901, but did take the hoardings and even the grandstand with them as they went.

In 1903, the Lancashire Alliance was restructured into a larger, two division Lancashire Combination and Chorley were placed in Division ‘B’, but would again find themselves on the move in 1904, being evicted from Rangletts Road and taking up residence at St. George’s Road. They would go on to achieve little in the way of success in the lead up to WWI, eventually finishing bottom of the Combination in 1914-’15, but the war would ironically, in the most unfortunate of ways, save them from relegation. They attempted to continue during wartime, joining the Northern Division but struggles in getting a team together resulted in their eventual disbanding until the end of hostilities. Upon the resultant reformation of the Combination post-war, Chorley retook their spot in the now one-divisional league and would go on to something of a golden-era, with one of their strongest ever teams.

Arriving at Victory Park

After moving to their current Victory Park home in 1919 (then known as Duke Street prior to its renaming to commemorate the end of the war), 1920 saw them win the Combination title and over the next 44 years, the Magpies would go on to win a total of eleven titles up to 1964. Upon the formation of the Northern Premier League in 1968, Chorley became a founder member in, left after one season to return to the Combination, before re-joining once more in 1970. 1972 saw them on the move league-wise once more, now joining the Cheshire League, where they finished a best of runners-up on three occasions (1976, ’77 & ’82). Re-joining the NPL once more in 1982, they became champions in 1988 which resulted in promotion to the Conference where they spent the next two campaigns before being relegated back to the NPL.

Chorley reached the FA Trophy semi-final in 1996, though things soon went awry in the league as the club were relegated to the NPL First Division in 1999. They would go on to remain here through to 2007 whereupon they were placed in the, now-regionalised, First Division North. A swathe of managerial changes would come and go over those years, yielding little success for the Magpies, until the appointment of Garry Flitcroft and an large upturn in crowds began to signal a resurgence, with 2010-’11 seeing Chorley finish up third and go on to the play-offs, where they went on to defeat Curzon Ashton in the semis, before overcoming AFC Fylde in the final and achieving promotion to the NPL Premier Division in front of almost 3,000 fans. Success continued to a point, with their first season back again yielding a third-placed finish and a play-off place, but defeat to FC United of Manchester put paid to hopes of a second successive promotion. They did however lift the Lancashire FA Trophy, defeating Kendal Town 2-1 at the Reebok.


Missing out on the play-offs in 2013, Chorley would see an upturn in form the next season, a campaign which saw them go on to lift the NPL Premier Division title of 2014, defeating the beleaguered Droylsden side of that year 13-1 en route. Their first season in the Conference North once more saw a play-off place secured via a fourth-placed finish, but Chorley bowed out to 3-2 at Victory Park to Guiseley in the final, having overcome Boston United to get there. Following this, Flitcroft would resign due to other commitments, with former Blackburn Rovers team-mate and assistant manager Matt Jansen taking the reigns. Jansen would go on to guide Chorley to cementing their spot in the division, finish 8th, 6th and 6th again over the next three seasons, reaching the play-off final once again in 2017, this time being bested by FC Halifax Town, and last season reached the play-off semis but went on to lose to eventual winners Harrogate Town. That year did see Chorley reach the FA Cup First Round for the first time in 27 years, though, where they hosted Fleetwood Town, going out to a narrow 2-1 score-line, though did again win the Lancashire FA Trophy for the 18th time since 1894. At the end of the season, Jansen stepped down from his role, being replaced by his own assistant boss, Jamie Vermiglio, who has overseen a storming start to the season, with Chorley sitting atop of the National League North as of writing.

Whilst we were speaking to Leek supporter Margaret with regards to the injury and availability struggles of her team, the game got underway and it was a slow burner at first with little true action occurring in the first twenty minutes or so, save for a couple of shots for both sides that didn’t truly threaten, though the hosts’ were definitely the more nerve-inducing for Leek, Elliott Newby firing wide and then forcing Danny Roberts into a decent stop. However, this closely matched start would soon evaporate in the space of six minutes, as it all fell apart for the visitors. The opener came on 24 minutes, when a nice move saw Marcus Carver receive the ball in the box and he placed his shot into the bottom corner, leaving Roberts with no chance.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Two minutes later and Chorley doubled their advantage. After a trip on Carver in the box left the referee with little option other than to point to the spot, left-back Adam Blakeman did the honours, blasting home the spot-kick. Leek almost grabbed a goal back straight from the kick-off when Lewis Short (apparently on loan to Leek from the Magpies according to Wikipedia, so God knows if that’s true) fired an effort across ‘keeper Danny Eccles, only to see the ball rebound out off the inside of the post with the onrushing Jordan Johnson just unable to make contact and force the ball over the line, Eccles only too grateful to claim it as it ran loose. This miss would prove vital for the match as the Magpies added a third to kill off the tie moments later, a cross from the left was met by the head of Dale Witham and he guided the header into the net nicely, capping a fine first-half performance. Three-nil by the half-hour mark and from there, Chorley were in cruise control to the break. Half-Time, 3-0.

Not much happened during the interval and this would prove to be the case for the whole of the second-half too. Despite a change in formation at half-time by the visitors, this did nothing to aid their unlikely cause of getting back into the game and it pretty much died a death as it went on. I can’t remember much in the way of chances, but both did go close on one more occasion that is worth mentioning, sub Billy Reeves making debutant Eccles work for his clean sheet, whilst another making his Chorley debut, Jordan Lussey, but Eccles’ opposite number Roberts was equal to the task to keep the score at three. That was that for the game in general and a quick exit was made back towards the station, but a couple of nearby bars I’d scouted out were calling first. Dan had the unfortunate honour of being shat on by a bird, though tried to look on the bright side that it was supposed to be lucky. NB: No luck has yet occurred.

2nd half stand action

From the rear of the terrace

Match Action

First up was the Shepherds’ Hall Ale House, another small place offering a few ales on pump and a number of other bottled ones. This was another that was standing only for the first bit of our visit, before a large group left theirs vacated and we reckoned it’d be rude to let it sit empty. Blonde Ambition was had in here for just £2.60 and it was another fine choice, even if I do say so myself. Ending up across the road at the Ale Station, I opted to try the Mango Cider out of intrigue and now have something else to add to my collection of pure favourites. Oh. My. Word. It’s bloody lovely stuff, though it is quite sweet, so I couldn’t imagine stomaching more than two in succession. One was all we had time for this time around, before we had to pop outside for the bus replacement back to Manchester. Only we decided to stand on the wrong side, only realising our error when the Preston-bound bus turned up and ours left over the way. Ah.

Post-match visit #1….

…and #2

Luckily we only had ten minutes or so to wait for the next and got back into Manchester in time for the bus back home. Well, when I say home, I actually mean the bar where I had to partake in making customers welcome which, of course, means joining them in having a drink. Only problem is, there was quite a few about yet I miraculously survived the day (and night) unscathed. Hangovers?! Pah. As for the day itself? Well I think we rescued one out of nothing to be honest. Left in the lurch at Preston mid-morning, we had a good long day without the need to rush (which definitely helped in the drinking game, come to think of it), whilst the ground is always great to visit, especially after so long – a good six years or so. The game was ok, nothing special but watchable, the only shame being that it was over as a contest early on in the play. Food and town was all good, no complaints once more, and an even more local trip is on the horizon next week. To the Valley….


Game: 5

Ground: 9

Food: 7

Programme: 6 (cut back issue)

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Daisy Hill

Result: Daisy Hill 0-2 Seaham Red Star (FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round)

Venue: New Sirs (Saturday 15th September 2018, 3pm)

Att: 54

For the second week running I found myself out in this part of Lancashire. Having been at Atherton Colls fruitless FA Cup clash with Kidsgrove the previous weekend, this Saturday saw me just a couple of stops down the line at Daisy Hill. Of course, with the trains still in mayhem, this would be another journey undertaken by that fine medium that is the bus. If you can’t tell, I was being sarcastic….!

Anyway, I was indeed off to Daisy Hill for their FA Vase meeting with Seaham Red Star of the Northern League, a league which always prompts thoughts of a difficult tie for any club a member comes up against, so I was expecting goals as I caught the bus back to the Trafford Centre (a la last week), but this time headed off via Bolton on the express service, prior to catching the bus onwards 25 minutes or so to the far end of Westhoughton high street, where I would be having the majority of my pre-match bevvies today, what with there being very little in the immediate area around the ground and the fact the club once carried the town’s name.

Daisy Hill is located within Westhoughton, a town which was traditionally a coal producing, cotton spinning and textile making area during the Industrial Revolution. However, it does date back to around 1210, its name deriving from West and the Old English for “haugh/halh” – meaning nook or corner of land, and “‘tun” – farmstead or settlement. Starting out in 1210 as Halcton, it then became Westhalcton in 1240, then Westhalghton 1292, Westhalton ten years later and finally Westhaughton and Westhoughton through the 16th century.


Memorial Garden

Westhoughton High Street

In 1315, a group of men including Sir Adam Banastre, met in the Wingates area the town now occupies, the meeting would go on to organise violence against Sir Robert de Holland of Upoholland and, indirectly, the Earl of Lancaster. This would go on to become the Banastre Rebellion, but wouldn’t end well for most of the protagonists, as they would wind up meeting their maker. During the Civil War, in 1642, Lord Derby’s Cavalier forces met the Parliamentarian army, with the latter 163 men forced into surrender by the 1,000-plus Royalists. It is also believed that it was in Westhoughton that Prince Rupert massed his troops ahead of the attack and massacre of Bolton in 1644. Further activity is believed to have occurred at the nearby Hunger Hill and Chew Moor areas.

During the Industrial Revolution, Westhoughton Mill was burned down by Luddites, the leading perpetrators sentenced to death and duly hung at Lancaster Castle. 1910 saw one of the worst mining disasters take place at Pretoria Pit as 344 men and boys lost their lives in an explosion. This is the third worst mining accident in history, behind only the Barnsley Oaks and Senghenydd Colliery disasters. It now has its own town council, which was achieved in 1985.

Beer School

Robert Shaw


Having arrived in the shadow of a church and alongside a mining memorial garden, I found the first pub along shut for what I later found out was a refurb, so instead headed on a few doors down to the Beer School – I just wish those were actually real, back in t’day! This was very much your modern real ale/craft beer place, complete with bottle shop, so all bases were covered! I opted to start off with a pint of the American Pale Ale that was on, which came in at £3.30. Not a bad start either. With the bar over the way also still shut, I finished off in here and made haste to the Wetherspoons here, the Robert Fuller. A modern, fairly boring affair, there’s little to report. Punk IPA was had and I was out of there and found the Victoria a few doors further down.

The Victoria was….a local’s pub, shall we say. It did seem to be one rarely visited by those from outside the local area, but it wasn’t a bad place overall. However, XFactor repeats being on TV weren’t conducive to my idea of a good time and so it was quickly onwards and over the road to the final pub on the High Street, the White Lion. This was a really traditional pub, with the bar being so low you have to duck under the stained glass windows running over the top to get served, if you’re tall enough anyway. A pint of Crystal was on the cards in here, whilst watching the Spurs v Liverpool game and getting regular updates on Lancashire’s ill-fated T20 semi-final from a table who’d set up their phone to have it on too. A cool place, and well worth a visit, in my opinion. From there, it was off around the corner and to the bus stop, though it did turn out there was one right outside that was used, so that went well…..

White Lion

Rosehill Tavern

Arriving into Daisy Hill village

Having got the bus down to Daisy Hill station, I hopped off for a final one in the Rosehill Tavern, which also allowed me to catch the end of the game at Wembley in the company of a pint of the Bootleg IPA, one of my favourites (take a note everyone :)). Soon enough, though, it was time to continue onwards to New Sirs for the game, the ground located around five to ten minutes on from the station, depending on your speed. Being a fairly quicker walker, I was soon at the turnstiles and, after handing over my £5 entrance fee, was onto the ground to meet Dan, who’d arrived bright and early (well, around 45 minutes earlier) which allowed me more time to drink. A good man, is he!!

New Sirs is a fairly simple ground, but is also a quintessential non-league ground that sits nicely between Counties and Manchester League standard. It comprises 2 stands, a largely all seated affair behind the goal, which also plays host to the food bar, clubhouse and changing rooms, whilst the other is a small, covered terrace, where you really do need to watch your head, or you will knock it, as Dan found out to his cost! The rest of the ground is open, hard standing, bar the far side, which is out of bounds anyway. That’s New Sirs in a bitesized amount and this is the story of Daisy Hill FC….

History Lesson:

Daisy Hill Football Club was founded in 1894 and joined Wigan & District League, winning the title in 1897, prior to adding that year’s Westhoughton Cup to their unbeaten, double-winning campaign. By World War One, the club had moved into their current home at New Sirs, though had moved into Sunday football at the point, taking part in the Leigh & District Sunday School League. They moved back into the Saturday game in the Westhoughton League, winning a number of honours during their period here, though the original club would fold at some point pre-World War Two, reforming in 1951.

Arriving at Daisy Hill

New Sirs

Returning to the Westhoughton League in that year, Daisy Hill found themselves playing at a new venue, namely the St. James Recreation Ground, where they shared with a local cricket side. They would return to New Sirs in 1957, acquiring the ground’s lease and entering the Bolton Combination, where the club enjoyed considerable success over the next two decades, winning two Lancashire FA Amateur Shields in 1962 & ’72, four Bolton Combination titles (1963, ’73, ’76 & ’78) & also added four of the Combination’s Premier Cups to their cabinet, these coming in 1960, ’62, ’72 & 1973 respectively. After their final Bolton Combination title, Daisy Hill moved into the Lancashire Combination, where they remained for the next four seasons prior to the league merging with the Cheshire League to form the North West Counties League. Daisy duly took a spot in the new league’s Division Three, upon which a clubhouse was added to the ground and 1986 & 1987 both saw silverware lifted, in the form of the Bolton Hospitals Cup and a third Lancashire FA Amateur Shield respectively. The latter season also saw Hill finish up fourth in Division 3, with the division then merged with Division Two at the close of the following season.

1989 saw the club begin a short stint under the name of Westhoughton Town, though the name change brought little success and they reverted back to Daisy Hill come 1994. The club would go on to remain in the Division Two for the next 14 years, only “leaving” when it was re-designated as Division 1 in 2008. The club did finish in a relegation spot in 2014 and were due to drop into the local leagues, but were reprieved as Leek CSOB and Formby both handed in their resignations from the league. Last season, Daisy Hill finished up bottom of the Division One, but were again given a reprieve as the league added to its numbers overall, adding a second, regional division to its ranks.

New Sirs

The game got underway and, to be honest, it was a very dull first half. Despite that, Seaham were the dominant force, having a strong penalty shout turned down, before the resultant shot was saved. The visitors followed this up by finding the net, only to be denied by the offside flag. Seaham continued to be on top for long periods of the first half, Paul Gardiner firing well over from around 10 yards and Lee Hetherington hitting his effort straight at the ‘keeper, though Daisy Hill grew into the game during the last 10 of the half, Nick Hepple firing over after an effective counter attack, before his strike partner, Ryan Farnworth, clipped the outside of the post just before the break. Half-Time duly arrived, the score remained goalless and I headed for the food bar for a very fine pie.

From the stand

Match Action

The second half was soon underway and, just a few minutes in, a fairly clear trip on a Seaham player resulted in a penalty, with Daniel Wilson duly converting from the spot to give his side what was, in truth, a deserved lead. His own striking partner, Vincent Gash, then went close, forcing the Daisy Hill stopper into a low save, before he doubled his side’s lead on the hour, getting clear of the defence and rounding the ‘keeper to slip home. 0-2. Daisy Hill did respond with some late pressure in the last 20 minutes or so, and did find the net through Adam Owens, only for his goal to be cancelled out for offside. Jack Iley then fired just wide and sub Alex Guest hit the bar, but it just wasn’t to be for the hosts, the visitors running out deserved winners over the 90 minutes and progressing to the next round.

View from the seats

Match Action

Grey Man

Post-match, it was off to to the pub again surprise, surprise, but this time it was off to the Grey Man, a pub just off the beaten track, accessed first by cutting down a small alleyway and then through a housing estate, of sorts. The Green Man is then found just on the left of a crossing, which is handy enough, without even mentioning the fact that there’s a bus stop right outside which takes you back to Bolton. Heading in, I opted for a pint of Stella, whilst Dan went for the very exotic option, Carling. Deary me, he just won’t learn that boy….

Afterwards, it was back off to the bus stop and to Bolton. Upon returning, a swift one was had in Spoons before we popped over to the bus station once again for the express service which again proved a fruitless endeavour as it proved to not exist at such a time. As such, it was another hour long trek home via the long route. A couple more were waiting for me there, though and so it was tolerable!

That was that in terms of the day then. It had been a decent one too, with an OK enough game being preceded and followed by some decent drinks. The day had been pretty cost effective too and the trip wasn’t too bad, ignoring the extended journey home. All in all, it had been good to get back to New Sirs for a second time, and it was off to Glasgow the following Saturday. Well, that was the plan anyway!


Game: 5

Ground: 5

Programme: 5

Food: 7

Value For Money: 7

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


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.



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


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….


Game: 7

Ground: 6

Programme: 7

Food: 8

Value For Money: 8