Manchopper in….Eccleshall

 

Result: Eccleshall 0-0 Cheadle Town (NWCFL Division 1 South)

Venue: Pershall Park (Saturday 19th January 2019, 3pm)

Att: 56

A trip down to rural Staffordshire was on the cards as the twitterverse once again had the opportunity to decide my footballing fate. Extra responsibility was put upon them too, as it would be my first meet up with fellow hopper Paul in over a year but a draw would be the result for a second consecutive week – Lex and Eccleshall coming out on top. A meeting of our minds (or lack thereof in my case at least) was had and an executive decision made. To the, slightly tricky to get to, town of Eccleshall we would be off.

Grabbing the train into Stafford, I had a short wait, until Paul’s train from Liverpool would arrive and so I set about getting some of my Pontefract blog done because, you know, that’s definitely normal. Anyhow, Paul was soon setting foot in Staffordshire too – tales of a loaded guy paying out £118 to get to Southampton being the highlight of his trip down – as we caught the bus from outside the Lamb Inn (which I visited on my visit to Stafford Town a few weeks back) to the outlying market town.

Eccleshall

Eccleshall

Little George and its Barber Chair

After travelling through the midst of seemingly nowhere, a few villages and farmhouses being the only signs of civilisation on that route, we eventually pulled into Eccleshall. Disembarking, we quickly set about what we’d come here for. Pub…er, I mean a rest before the football. Definitely that. Unfortunately, we could only find pubs, along with a barber shop with a Carling pub board outside it, and so with the clock just approaching 11.30 (the buses were two-hourly, don’t judge us) we headed for our first stop of the day:- the Little George. The Little George wasn’t all too small in truth, a sizable bar aside a hotel with a fair amount of craft beers and the like on offer. Being a Bent’s tap, we each opted for a pint of their 30J’s which came in at a decent £3.70 each.

Sorting out our bets and the like in here alongside an interestingly placed barber’s chair at our table, we finished up and returned back up towards the bus stop and to the King’s Arms – a pretty old establishment, especially when it came to the kitchen/outdoor area. A pint of Warsteiner each was the order of the day in here (£3.90 pp) before we settled in within the beamed hostelry. From there, we began to work our way groundwards. After popping into the Bell for a pint of Sharps Atlantic each (£3.30 pp), that was still the intention, until I spotted a sign taking us down a narrow road and to the slightly out of the way Eagle.

King’s Head

The Bell

Eagle

A “Sports Bar” (it had a pool table and a few TV’s of racing/football) we had a quick bottle of Marston’s decent Resolution, bringing back memories of our visit to Alfreton (yes, I remember things like that), before swiftly returning to the town’s main streets and a pair of pubs standing on either side of the road from each other. First up came the Joules tap by the name of the Royal Oak where I coaxed Paul into having a Lakota-which I think he ended up being happy with – before, with a bit of time in hand, crossing and backtracking slightly to the Belgian Bar which was what you might expect from a bar with that name. With time beginning to conspire against us, just a half of Hell (it wasn’t Hell luckily) was had whilst Paul sampled the other type from the same brewer that was on offer before proceeding to almost bleed to death after making the mistake of locking the toilet door. Get the paper towels out…. 🙂

Eccleshall is a market town in Staffordshire and was mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book as a small village of around 100 inhabitants. The church that currently serves the town dates from the 12th century, eventually being completed by the 15th, though stone found on the land surrounding it suggests a chapel may have stood on the site from around the 10th century, with a cross stood outside the church dating from this time. The church is also host to the tombs of no less than five Bishops of Lichfield, with the slightly later castle being the Bishops’ Palace, with the estate having been given to the Bishops in the few centuries preceding the Norman Conquest.

Eccleshall had become an important market town from the mid-1100’s when it was granted the right to host a weekly market from 1153, eventually growing to gain “Borough” status by the early 1200’s and would go on to become a largely agricultural-based area. Land was apparently given originally to St. Chad and this would later pass onto the Bishops of Lichfield, with Geoffrey de Muschamp granted a licence to build a castle in 1200 by King John and the land on which this was built would go on to be in regular use by the Bishops through to the mid-19th century. However, 1867 would see the Bishop of the time decide to sell off the castle to distant relatives of Jimmy Carter (who’d later become U.S. President, of course) due to, amongst other things, the lack of railway access. Things haven’t improved much on this front, with the nearest station, Norton Bridge, rarely, if ever, used.

The old church and cross

Important dates

The castle ruins that our visible today are actually from a slightly later construction, dating from 1305 and the Bishop William Langton, who would later go on to become Chancellor of England. The impressive stronghold would later play a role in the Wars of the Roses, when it became a base of operations for Queen Margaret of Anjou and her Lancastrian troops ahead of their eventual defeat at the 1459 Battle of Blore Heath. Later, the castle would again feature in a civil conflict, as the Civil War saw it besieged by the Parliamentarian forces led by Sir William Brereton who camped out around the church. The Royalists held out for a good two months until late August of 1643, when it eventually fell – the Roundheads finding the Bishop dead from a heart-attack whilst many of the defenders were either drunk, or had abandoned the fight to drink in the town. My type of guys. The castle was sacked and the remnants becoming a prison for the Royalist high-brow.

As the years rolled on, Eccleshall has spells being a glassmaking area (when Bishop Overton brought French family glassmakers over) for a short period from 1580-1615, before later going on to be an important leather and shoemaking centre through to the late 1800’s when the industries in the town had largely died out on account of the growing machine-based factories in the nearby county town of Stafford. It also spent time being an important stop-off point for travellers on the main route between Chester and London as coach travel and road improvements began to improve and become more widespread and favourable. The largely Georgian high-street is a conservation area and the town regularly is placed in the Britain in Bloom competition. The market continues as a farmer’s market and is held bi-weekly, whilst an annual Eccleshall Show is held on the town’s Sugnall Parks.

Royal Oak

Belgian Bar

Arriving at Pershall Park

Finishing up and with the blood still pouring like he’d been shot, we headed onwards up the winding country road, eventually arriving at the Pershall Park gates with around ten-fifteen minutes to kick off. Programmes had sold out by that point (only around 10 were printed apparently), though I was lent one for a while by the gateman. £5 in, we headed to the bar for a warm before kick-off where I decided to see if I could get any extras printed out. I was pointed out Anthony, and on getting to him, Paul found out a couple had been kept back per our request and, with debts cleared, we headed out for kick off.

Pershall Park is quite a quaint, smart little ground and consists of three stands. As you enter from the car park in the corner of the ground, you have the bar/tunnel/food hut building on your immediate right and this has a few rows of covered seating out front. Behind the near end goal is another bit of covered seating and standing, though some of the latter is currently home to some deckchairs, giving you that holiday feel! The far side features a small covered terrace that straddles the halfway line, whilst the far end is open, hard standing, as is the remainder of the area around the pitch. That’s Pershall Park and this is the story of Eccleshall FC….

History Lesson:

Eccleshall Football Club was founded in 1971 as Eccleshall Old Boys by members of the town’s Secondary School. The club would join the Mid-Cheshire League’s Division 3 and went on to lift the Division 3 Cup in 1974, whilst finishing as runners-up in the league and so were promoted to Division 2. The Division 2 Cup was won in 1975 and, soon afterwards, the club changed its name to, more simply, Eccleshall. Eccleshall joined the Staffordshire County League in 1979, playing in Division 1. Promoted to the Premier Division in 1981, they lifted the League title, Premier Division Cup and May Bank to complete a 1983-’84 treble.

Eccleshall FC

This would prove to be the club’s final season there too, with the team becoming founder members of the Staffordshire Senior League – becoming champions in 1990. In 1994, the league was renamed the Midland League and Eccleshall remained here through to 2003 when, after winning their second successive Midland League title, alongside that year’s Staffordshire FA Vase, the club were promoted to the North West Counties League Division 2, which became Division 1 in 2008 upon the “old” Division 1 becoming the Premier Division. They have remained there to this day, though silverware has dried up in the meantime.

The game got underway with the visitors starting the stronger, Matty German going close with a headed effort, before Eccleshall somehow survived a goal-line scramble in blocking out two consecutive shots from Rhys Clooney and Callum Knight prior to ‘keeper Louis McCarthy keeping out Connor Naughton’s own follow-up. Eccleshall would respond soon after and were awarded a spot-kick on 27 minutes when Tom Wakefield was brought down in the area. Up stepped Luke Walsh, but his shot was at a perfect height for Dan Whiting in the Cheadle goal to palm away to safety.

Match Action

Whiting saves from the spot

Match Action

Both teams would have a late chance each at the end of the half – Knight being denied by McCarthy for the hosts and David Neligwa firing wide but the teams would go in still deadlocked at nil-nil, whilst I managed to get the penultimate pie, one of the steak variety, along with peas and gravy too. Good stuff too for £3.

Back underway soon after I’d finished up and with Paul getting ever more distracted by Liverpool’s score, the game was a fair bit poorer during the second period than the first. Eccleshall did find the net after ten minutes, but Walsh was well offside. Namesake Isaak Walsh then had a shot creep narrowly wide despite Whiting seemingly deciding it was safely covered off, before Cheadle responded with a shot from range that McCarthy was forced to tip over.

Match Action

Match Action

Lesser-spotted half-way line flag!

The game continued to wind down and the spectre of another goalless draw began to loom large as Cheadle were reduced to ten men with a couple of minutes left when, seconds after a bit of a kerfuffle between the two, Oliver Hatfield-Banton needlessly pushed Brad Carr over off the ball. After a slight scuffle, the red card was brandished. However, this made little difference to the closing stages as Cheadle dropped in to secure their point.

The game finished up with a draw being fair and the final whistle meant that, after going 81 games and thirteen months without one, I’d now seen two nil-nil’s in the space of five games, over 18 days. Unbelievable. By this point, Paul had reappeared safe in the knowledge the Reds had secured a vital three points and we had kindly been offered two lifts back into town to save us from certain death. We accepted both, just in case something went awry along the way, but eventually our original offerer Malcolm returned to drop us back at the Eccleshall clock.

Old Smithy. The planned final stop!

Thanking him for doing so, we bid goodbye to him and the younger lad Elliott in with us before heading around the corner and to what should have been our final stop, the Old Smithy. A pleasant restaurant/bar, we settled in to await our carriage back, me with a £4.20 Moretti. We headed out to the bus stop where I spotted an issue. The bus seemingly didn’t exist. As such, I headed up to the top of the road to see if I could shed any light as Paul assured me that was the correct stop. Then the bus came around the corner. Only problem was it was on the wrong side and past it went. Cab? I asked.

The answer was to the affirmative, as was Paul’s suggestion of waiting somewhere a little warmer. On account of the fact the (I assume) landlord of the Bell had put the football on for us in the back room off his own back, I thought it’d be nice to head back to wait out there. They rang us a cab, we had a pint (more Moretti for me) and we were soon rocking and rolling back to Stafford a fair bit quicker than the bus would have allowed us to do. £13.80 too wasn’t too shabby for a twenty minute trip. Back at the station, we said our goodbyes and headed for our simultaneously arriving trains, a now normal nap on the way back allowing the hour-long journey to pass smoothly. Well, bar the mates’ attempted scuffle behind me just after I’d awoke! I tried to offer some help, but was called off, probably fairly, by one of the group, though did talk to one to lessen any tensions. It’s all fun and games in this world!

So that ends another trip. Bar the nil-nil result, it had been good one. Eccleshall is a very pleasant place to visit, as is Eccleshall as a club too. Nice people and places are what I’ll take away from my visit, I can’t recommend it enough. The only issue is getting back in truth of you’re not of a driving persuasion. Aside from that, beers were good, food at the ground fine and the game was decent considering it was goalless. That’s that and it’s off to the seaside to see the seagulls….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 7

Food: 8

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Manchester (Northwich Manchester Villa FC)

Northwich_Flixton_Villa_logoStockportTown

Result: Northwich Manchester Villa A-A Stockport Town (NWCFL Division 1)

Venue: Manchester Regional Arena, Etihad Campus (Wednesday 30th March, 7.45pm)

Att: Probably around 65-70.

A blog which should have happened the previous week for the visit of Bacup Borough to the Manchester Regional Arena was put off due to reasons beyond my control. With another game the following week, I reasoned “Ah, no bother there then”. Of course this was going to end up well, wasn’t it?

I set off into Manchester with time in hand and visited the Piccadilly Wetherspoon’s as to mirror my steps from the prior Wednesday. After a highly uneventful stay here, I decided it was best to head over to the Etihad Campus and to the stadium which stands in the shadow of its more illustrious neighbour, the City of Manchester Stadium. After a short 10 minute bus ride onwards, I arrived at Gate 11 of the Etihad and made my way along Citizens Lane to the next in a line of short term homes for the NM Villa.

I was so early, in fact, that I was the first paying customer through the gate (it actually is just a gate) and as such secured myself a programme which is much sought after, as this is the one and only season of the club under this name. I now have both a Northwich Flixton Villa and Northwich Manchester Villa programme in my possession, as well as a programme from a Northwich Villa/Woodley FC Cup Final appearance. The full quota!

Piccadilly Gardens' Spoons

Piccadilly Gardens’ Spoons

Arriving at the Campus

Arriving at the Campus

Cityzens Lane

Cityzens Lane

Wall of achievement from the Commonwealth Games

Achievements from the Commonwealth Games

So, after handing over £5 plus £2 for the full colour programme, bearing the club’s current name alongside the subtext of their next identity of Manchester Diamonds which is to bring the senior side in line with the junior section ahead of their next move into Tameside. I won’t say where though, under vow of silence….

The other two things of note in the programme where the bit where they apparently took over from Woodley Sports in 2005 (though I’m sure I went there in 2009 and then I’m sure it was Stockport Sports after that, prior to Town’s creation, which comes to the answer that Villa is actually spawned from Woodley FC and before that, Woodley Sports Reserves. Oh, there’s a JFK quote in there too, as we all know JFK loved his non-league football.

After a while and with kick-off approaching, I was joined by Gibbo and Ian from the Counties, who had travelled up together to clearly take in the hospitality and the strange sight of the officials getting themselves readied inside the tea bar. The Villa team eventually joined their counterparts from Stockport out on the field after a short time, but Gibbo was restless after his lap of photography and decided to go on a discovery mission. Invited along, it would be rude to decline.

This is where everything started to become even more surreal. In the process of looking for a toilet/bar, we ended up discovering, through a Narnia-like door, the expanse of the indoor athletics centre and the National Squash Centre further to the rear. This is certainly not something you find everyday when you head to watch football! After a lap around here and finding a tactics board in a meeting room, we re-joined the footballing folk who were completely unaware of our magical transportation.

The MRA's own Narnia

The MRA’s own Narnia

Novel.

Different

The hidden bar

The hidden bar, Starters Orders.

Gibbo was then put back somewhat by the sight of former Wigan player Jason Jarrett in his officials outfit heading out onto the field, and was quite amused when it came about that he was tonight’s official. It was certainly shaping up for one of those mad days where everything that was happening was trying to “one-up” the previous occurrence in terms of utter weirdness. Anyway, the sides were soon on the field, with Villa including Mohamud Ali and Socrates in their side, clearly harking back to the era in history of ’80’s heroes. Speaking of which…

History Lesson:

Founded in 2005 following the link up between Woodley FC and Northwich Victoria, Woodley FC/Northwich Villa took up a place in the Second Division of the Mid-Cheshire League an finished runners-up at the end of their first season at that level to be promoted to Division 1.

After winning the Cheshire League in 2009 and finishing as runners-up the following year, the people behind the club decided that it was best for them to begin to climb the pyramid, or at least to compete in it and as such successfully applied to join the North West Counties League for the season 2011-’12. Since their joining, Villa have been mostly strugglers and after a spell at Flixton along with apparent unofficial “parent club” Vics under the Northwich Flixton Villa banner, moved to their current abode for this season having again changed name, now to Northwich Manchester Villa. They managed a club-best finish of 11th last season.

As for the game, well, it was underwhelming and that’s being kind. I honestly can’t actually remember anything of note happening during the first half at all, and we were already confident that this was a stonewall 0-0. There was no way anyone was scoring tonight, though I can now claim to have made a successful pass to Socrates. It doesn’t matter if his surname is Martins, we can forget that bit can’t we?

Anyway, half-time thankfully arrived to break the monotony of the football and Gibbo and Ian headed for the hospitality area/tea hut/officials waiting area, while I headed for the back of the Main Stand and got talking to the West Didsbury/Alty supporting pair of Jonny and Danny. After a short talk about just what the fuck was going on at all around here and why there was a small buggy doing laps of the pitch for no apparent reason (despite Gibbo’s x-rated possible explanation). The guys on the gate where even trying to still charge full price at half-time to get in, apparently. This doesn’t exactly endear yourselves especially when, to use the eternal phrase “you’ve got no fans”.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision

Anyway, negativity out of the way, the second half began and I rejoined Gibbo and Ian for what was looking to be the next 45 minutes of action, until the unfortunate incident which caused the abandonment arrived around an hour into the action. It was nothing but a 50/50 challenge in the centre circle, but the unfortunate Stockport player Sam Scott came off much the worse and ended up with a broken leg. The stretcher was called for.

It the became apparent that there was no stretchers to be found. Nada. Zilch. Whether or not this would have aided him in his predicament is unclear, but it certainly isn’t a great showing when a game is going ahead short of usual medical equipment. So, the stricken Scott was left in the centre circle “chillin'” according to the quote from a Villa player (NB: this wasn’t meant in a nasty/mocking way whatsoever). Of course, after a half-hour delay and still waiting for the ambulance, the ref had no option but to abandon the game and we all emptied out into the darkness with the player still awaiting proper medical aid (which eventually arrived an hour after the injury occurred). This is what the cuts do, it seems.

Players start some tennis

Players start some tennis

The Etihad from its little sis

The Etihad from its little sis

More tunnel vision

More tunnel vision

So, that was that, and after a quick lap of the ground it was back out into the Manchester evening and onwards home on the bus routes. Best wishes to Sam on his recovery and hope all goes well and he’s back playing in the quickest time possible.

DSC01994

RATINGS:

Game: 2- Poor, nothing happened.

Ground: 5- Nice ground, but the facilities are non existent (beyond club’s control for the most part).

Fans: 3- Well, it’s improved since the ‘5’ at Valley Road a few years ago!

Programme: 5- Basic, but randon JFK quote gets a point.

Food: N/A (though there are snacks).

Value For Money: 0- No value really was there!

 

Manchopper in….Nelson

120px-Nelson_FCCongleton Town

Result: Nelson 0-1 Congleton Town (NWCFL Premier Division)

Venue: Victoria Park (Saturday 26th March 2016, 3pm)

Att: 93

Yet another weekend that began in some doubt with regard to just where I would find myself ending up for the Easter Saturday game. With the weather throwing up a few storms over the country, the forecast leading up to the game at Nelson looked less than helpful to ensuring the game would go ahead. But, after a quick check with the club on twitter, I was given some hope and decided to risk the trip to Lancashire.

After heading into Warrington, it would be at Bank Quay station where my journey from hell would begin in earnest. After a 14 minute delay in Cheshire, my train eventually pulled in and got us on the way towards my next stop off in Preston, where I then had a 15 minute wait for the train onwards to Nelson. Not too bad you’d think. But you haven’t heard about this train then being cancelled due to a door deciding it didn’t want to shut and thus meaning an hour’s delay. What a shame Northern Rail are to soon be gone…

Anyway, luckily the Preston Hero station pub came to my rescue along with a bottle of Birra Moretti, which kept me sane for the rest of my wait. Eventually, the clock ticked on towards 1pm and so I made my way over to the platform where I would be finally able to begin the final leg of the trip. This, I pondered, is why I set off early to games now.

Soon enough I was on the Northern service bound for Colne and was heading there via every possible town and village on the way. Seriously, even stations like Cherry Tree and Burnley Barracks were visited as we trundled slowly on towards my detraining. It did come as some relief to finally see the signs at the Nelson Interchange and to get out of the recycled bus and onto the soil of the Red Rose county.

The Hero. My Hero.

The Hero. My Hero.

Station Hotel

Station Hotel

Nelson

Nelson

First stop was the grand looking Station Hotel which sits, unsurprisingly, next to the station. With not too long to wait in here, I quickly finished off my Kronenbourg before heading through the streets of Nelson towards Victoria Park, which I had last visited no less than 8 years ago when watching Trafford on their way to the Counties title. But today I would be there as a neutral, and after heading through an underpass under the motorway, I followed some Congleton fans down a small entry which spewed us out right at the turnstiles. Easy! Entry paid and I was in.

Victoria Park hasn’t changed really from what I could recall, with it still housing its one stand on the far side. The stand houses both seating and terracing, with the small amounts of terrace flanking the seating on both sides. Behind both goals is open standing, though the far end houses the changing rooms and clubhouse, complete with one row of seats, and a few other huts. The near side is also open and houses the dugouts.

There's a ground around here...

There’s a ground around here…

...there it is!

…there it is!

Santa's had a change of career

Santa’s had a change of career

After a quick visit to the clubhouse to purchase a programme, for a  slightly pricey £2 considering the overall content (though thanks to the guy in there who helped me locate them due to my absolute blindness), and a steak and kidney pie for around £2.50 (much more worth the price) it was almost time for the game to begin as both sides’ players entered the cosy tunnel. But first, the history of Nelson FC for you lucky folk…

History Lesson:

Nelson FC was formed in 1881 and became founder members of the Lancashire League in 1889, their first silverware coming in the shape of the Hospital Cup (1889, ’92). They became champions in 1896 but folded just three years later. However, just two seasons later, Nelson returned and rejoined the Lancashire League for one season, before heading for the Lancashire Combination Division 1. After three seasons, Nelson were relegated, but immediately bounced back.

After WWI, the club reformed and joined the Central League in 1919. After two seasons they became founder members of the Football League’s Division 3 North, with their first game (vs Wigan Borough) attracting 9,000 fans. 1923 saw Nelson win the Division and with it promotion to Division 2. In preparation, the club travelled to Spain where they became the much heralded first team from England to defeat the mighty Real Madrid.

This, though, didn’t prove a good omen for the season to follow, as the Admirals were relegated (despite beating both Manchester Utd and eventual champions Leeds Utd). Back in Division 3 North, Nelson attracted their record crowd (14,143 vs Bradford PA in 1926) and reached the FA Cup Second Round the next year. After being re-elected once after finishing bottom in 1928, the club weren’t as lucky in 1931 as they finished bottom but saw them replaced in the League by Chester City. Following a stint back in the Lancashire Combination, the club folded again in 1936.

Facilities

Facilities

In the tunnel

In the tunnel

After a quick reform as Nelson Town, the club joined the local Nelson & Colne League for the ’36-’37 season and were due to take a place in the West Lancashire League for 1939, only for the start of WWII to halt the sport. After being reformed following the war, the club were back in the Lancs Combination and won it and the Lancs Combination Cup in 1950. They won the latter again in 1951 as well as again reaching the second round of the FA Cup for the third time. 1952 saw another League title won and the decade was rounded out with wins in the Lancashire Cup (1955) and the Lancs Combination Cup (’59-’60).

1966 saw Nelson relegated to Division 2 of the Lancs Combination, which lost most of its clubs to the Northern Premier League in 1968, though Nelson remained in the league until the founding of the North West Counties League, when the Admirals became founder members in 1982 and joined the short lived Division 3. After it was scrapped in 1988, Nelson played in Division 2, but problems with Victoria Park meant the club were forced to drop to the West Lancashire League for four years until 1992.

After re-joining the NWCFL in ’92, the club won the Division 2 trophy in 1997 and in 2006 were finally promoted to Division 1 after finishing 3rd, the club’s first promotion for 83 years. 2008 saw the club avoid relegation due to events off the pitch. 2010 saw Nelson resign from the league but returned for the 2011-’12 season and were promoted back to the, now named, Premier Division in 2014. Last season saw Nelson finish in a solid 11th place.

Random boat

Random boat

Caged Beasts

Caged Beasts

Victoria Park

Victoria Park

The game got underway after the usual pre-match pleasantries and both sides traded early blows, the away side having the best of the chances with a goal-bound effort being blocked on the line following an error by Nelson ‘keeper Davis, who looked a little shaky early on, but seemed to settle down as the game went on, as proven when he pulled off the first of a number of good saves, denying Brian Matthews’ effort with his right foot.

But, he was to beaten a few minutes later when the referee awarded , in my opinion, a rather harsh penalty for handball as the ball reared up on the defender straight off the pitch and struck his arm. Still, it was Matthews who stepped up and drilled the ball low into the corner. 0-1.

There was also a small scuffle not too long after the goal, involving a couple of players from each side, over not very much. But then came the best moment of it as the referee steamed over and unleashed the loudest voice I’ve ever heard on a football pitch. It was definitely something you notice and it was little surprise that everyone stopped and did exactly that!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

1-0.

1-0.

Despite the efforts of the Admirals’ Nathan Taylor, who I thought was brilliant in midfield, not much else happened after the goal, and the half fizzled out until the break. The half-time came and went with little to note, so straight onto the second half then and it was Nelson who were the dominant force as the half went on and they somehow contrived to miss an almost open net, when the ball was played to the striker a few yards out, but his touch eluded him at the vital time and after a short scramble, the Bears keeper claimed.

Then came the rain. Lots of rain. The sort of rain that brings up Ollie Williams “IT’S RAINING SIDEWAYS!” thoughts. But, this did little to stop the game, and as the pitch became more slippery, so more chances began to present themselves. Indeed, history repeated itself down the other end as a corner saw a goalmouth scramble after the ball slipped from the ‘keeper’s grasp and somehow the ball was cleared off the line and eventually cleared when it looked a certain goal.

To be honest, that’s the last I really took any notice of as the rain began to take most people’s attention off the field of play, although one guy got steadily more frustrated by Nelson’s inability to shoot on target and began to shout numerous “useless *insert obscenity here* at any spurned chance. The last real chance of the game fell to Congleton, but Scott Sephton’s low drive evaded all in the box and the far post, but this mattered little as the Bears held on to win.

Aerial

Aerial

 

Match Action

Match Action

Taking Shelter

Taking Shelter

So, it was back to Nelson station and with the rain abating somewhat, I was able to make it back without being swept away. After a short wait, it was back on the bus…er, train to Preston and onwards back to Manchester and home, with the highlight coming on the last leg of the journey. This was a quote that I hadn’t heard before and reckon I won’t hear again. Here it is… “I know it wasn’t great, but its not often a guy walks on with his penis hanging out!”. Absolutely no idea what happened there and I’m not sure I want to either.

I eventually arrived home in time to catch the majority of the Germany-England game, where the English did the usual to fill everyone with false hope before, of course, returning to the usual performance against the Dutch (which has just ended as I write this). Anyway, enough of international friendlies, there’s Cheshire League action on the horizon….

DSC01951

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Decent game and should have been more goals.

Ground: 5- Nice ground, but not too much to it. (Point deducted for the term “Little Wembley”!)

Fans: 6- No real reason, and indeed I think the rating system is ending this season for fans

Food: 8- Pie was very nice, not that this was a surprise!

Programme: 5- Average issue but had worse.

Value For Money: 6- Not a bad day overall and nice to revisit Nelson after so long.

 

 

 

Manchopper in….Prestwich

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Result: Prestwich Heys 2-2 Royton Town (FBT Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: Adie Moran Park (Tuesday 25th August 2015, 6.30pm)

Att: 68 (approx.)

A first foray of the season into the Step 7 FBT Manchester League Premier Division, saw me heading up towards Bury, to Adie Moran Park, home of Prestwich Heys FC. Heys, who narrowly missed out on promotion to the North West Counties League last season due to the cocks at the FA, once again have their sights firmly set on the pyramid system and I felt it was time to see just what they had been doing to reach it.

So, giving myself a good two hours to get through Manchester and onwards, it quickly attempted to unravel as I first managed to buy the wrong bus ticket, the jobsworth driver refusing to change it, the journey taking almost twice as long as it should, meaning a missed connection and a walk over to Shudehill Interchange for a further bus to Whitefield, where Heys’ Adie Moran Park is located. AMP is the second “ground” I’ve seen Heys play at, as I’d also seen them play a friendly against Lancs Amateur League side, Prestwich FC at the site of their former Grimshaws home. Though, I only lasted a half before boredom set in and I left for Abbey Hey!

From Sandgate Road

From Sandgate Road

Turnstiles

Turnstiles

After being joined by Dan, we boarded the 96 service and, within a further half hour, we’d arrived at the reservoir down the road from Sandgate Road,  the former name of the ground. A short walk later, and we were at the gates of Heys. Dan hadn’t bargained on there being an entrance fee for the game, so I bailed him out on the condition of a programme for a future game! After paying said entrance fee of £2, plus a further quid for the “Touchliner” programme, I had gained access to the ground.

Welcome...

Welcome…

Prestwich Heys AFC

Prestwich Heys AFC

Stand.

Stand.

Adie Moran Park is a fully enclosed ground, bordered by concrete walls and turnstile. There is one covered standing area, which is situated to the immediate right of the turnstile, behind the right-hand goal. The clubhouse/food bar and changing rooms sit down the left hand touchline, with the clubhouse in particular, though small, a rather smart construction. The rest of the ground is open hard standing, though there are seats available from in front of the clubhouse, if you do want to sit. There is also indications that seating is on its way, as there a few red ones on the far touchline, awaiting construction. Now for the history of the Heys…

History Lesson:

Prestwich Heys AFC were formed back in 1938 when a meeting at Heys Road Boys’ School led to an “old boys association” being formed. One man at the meeting was to go under the press guise of “Touchliner”, so there’s the connection with the programme, I guess!

Despite WWII, the association flourished with the football arm, Heys Old Boys AFC, being particularly strong, winning its first honours in 1943, whilst competing in the Prestwich & Whitefield League, in the shape of the Woodward Shield, which was repeated for the next three seasons. The side went on to progress through the Bury Amateur League and into the South Lancashire League, winning three titles here in 1960, ’61 & ’64. The club, now known as Prestwich Heys, also lifted the prestigious Lancashire Amateur Cup in 1967, followed by the one and only Lancashire Combination Grand Slam during 1970-’71, with all four trophies being brought back to Grimshaw’s Park.

Old pic of Heys' former Grimshaws home

Old pic of Heys’ former Grimshaws home

As Heys,the club began to gain a reputation as a strong side, reaching the last eight of the FA Amateur Cup, including defeating Sutton United the week before the latter hosted Leeds United in the FA Cup. But, the 1970’s also brought restructure, with professionalism entering the lower leagues and Heys gradually entered the ranks of the semi-pro’s after winning the 1972 Manchester Amateur Cup. A such, a move from the Cheshire County League to the new North West Counties League was undertaken.

Clubhouse

Clubhouse

Adie Moran Park.

Adie Moran Park.

Adie Moran Park in action.

Adie Moran Park in action.

Later ground grading issues would see the club drop to the Manchester League for 1986, the club won its first silverware for 15 years, when they won the 1988 Manchester League First Division. Just a few years later, the Bury Council forced out of their Grimshaws home to move to their current home on Sandgate Road.

After relegation in 1996, the club bounced back with the First Division and Murray Shield double, largely built on by he record 19 straight wins from the season start. Following a 2003 Goldline Trophy & Gilgryst Cup success in 2003-’04, 2004-’05 saw Heys finally win the Premier Division, which they retained the following season and again during 2006-’07, meaning a hat-trick of titles was attained. This was also joined in the cabinet by the Goldline Trophy, won at the Reebok Stadium via a penalty shoot-out win over another strong amateur side, Charnock Richard. Talk about buses…

Then, tragedy struck, when manager/chairman Adie Moran died on holiday aged just 43. This, as you’d expect caused a number of changes on and off the pitch as the next few seasons went on, but Heys have began to become a strong side again of late, winning the 2015 Kenyon Cup and competing up at the top of the table frequently and, as stated earlier, pushing for a return to the NWCFL, which looks almost certain to happen for 2016-’17, as the FA waive the top-5 finish rule.

Here come the sides...

Here come the sides…

....before exchanging pleasantries

….before exchanging pleasantries….

We're underway

….and getting us underway.

Through the net.

Through the net.

Back on to the game at hand and the teams entered the pitch as the sky looked as though it was becoming a little more threatening. With a decent crowd in attendance, the game got underway, with 1st placed Heys and 2nd placed Royton going at it hammer and tongs. Neither side could really get on top, with both having a couple of good early chances. But, just as it looked as though Heys were gaining an advantage, Royton attacked at pace and a long range effort should have been kept out comfortably by the ‘keeper, but to his horror, he dropped the ball over his head and into the net. 0-1.

The same player then missed a golden chance from a handful of yards, when he scuffed with an open net gaping, and Royton dominated the remainder of the first period, but were unable to find a second, but came mighty close, when a rasping drive was excellently tipped over by Heys’ custodian. 0-1 at the break, and this is when things took a  turn for the mildly bizarre, as Paul Scholes had took time out of his evening to head down to the first half of a Manchester League contest. Just shows, as that tongue-in-cheek article about meeting women at football said, you never know who you might see and when!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Lesser spotted half-way flag!

Lesser spotted half-way flag!

Me and Scholesey!

Me and Scholesey!

With Scholesey leaving in the rain, me and Dan headed into the clubhouse where I purchased a large hot dog for £2.20. It was a touch pricey at first glance, but the thing was huge and red hot, so was worth the price, just! Anyway, after a short break, the players emerged, once again, into the North Manchester drizzle for the second period.

Within seconds of the restart, Royton were punished for not making their earlier dominance pay, when Heys drew level. A low ball into the middle was slid home from close range by the onrushing forward. One-a-piece, and all to play for. Well, for a short while it was anyway, as Royton, pretty much, went down the other end and retook the lead. After winning a free-kick out wide, the set-piece was swung in and the ball only half cleared to the edge of the area, where the Royton #6 collected the ball, took a touch, before unleashing a low drive in via the inside of the post. He enjoyed it and ran off to the corner flag, punching it over and all his teammates were soon huddled over him. 1-2.

#6 celebrates his goal

#6 celebrates his goal.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Martin Love smashes the penalty.

Martin Love smashes the penalty.

With the intermittent rain still in the air, it appeared Royton were once again beginning to gain the ascendancy in the contest, as Dan seemed to feel too, when I asked him who he thought would score next. “No change”, was his reply. But, oh, look at that. Penalty to Heys. Sub Martin Love stepped up and smashed it high into the top corner of the goal to draw his side level and create a grandstand finish with 10 to play.

But, as it was, despite both sides trying to endeavour to find a winner, neither could quite manage it and the referee, who I thought was ok but a bit too fussy overall, brought the contest to a close, with the draw a fair result over the ninety after both sides had treated the healthy crowd, for a Step 7 game, to a fine evening’s entertainment.

On the way out

On the way out

Ever present on  my visits!

Ever present on my visits!

Dan and I exited the ground and headed down to the main road to catch the 135 service to Piccadilly, which appeared to be driven by Jesus. Jesus wasn’t very charitable though, and took £3.10 off me. The bastard. Anyway, soon we were back in the Gardens and I bid goodbye to Dan who headed on his way, whilst I was asked by one woman to help a Chinese woman who was looking for Stratford, but being confused by Stretford. My only thought was how lost they must be then, as I only know two Stratfords, and both are a fair distance from Manchester!

So, she headed on her way to find Stratford, whilst I, for once, knew where I was headed for and was soon heading back in the night for home. Thanks to Prestwich for a good game hosted and I’m sure they’ll be a fine addition to the Counties league very soon.

DSC00147

RATINGS:

Game: 8- End to end, pulsating contest.

Ground: 7- Definitely one of the better Step 7 ones about.

Fans: 6- A fair few out for the game

Programme: 5- Quite a simple offering, but at least they both to produce one.

Food: 6- Nice, but a touch costly.

Value For Money: 5- Cost more getting there than it should, cheap entrance & programme, pricey food.

Manchopper in….Blackpool (AFC Blackpool)

AFC-Blackpool-logoWest_Didsbury_&_Chorlton_A.F.C._logo

Result: AFC Blackpool 1-3 West Didsbury & Chorlton (NWCFL Premier Division)

Venue: The Mechanics, Jepson Road (Saturday 25th April 2015, 3pm)

Att: 102

It was a decent morning in Manchester as I left my house and headed in my way up to Chorlton for my coach pick-up point and to join the West Didsbury & Chorlton side on their journey up to the seaside. It was to be my second trip to the seaside town of Blackpool in a few weeks, after my Easter Saturday visit to Squires Gate, the club who lie just across the road from the “other” Tangerine side in the town.

As it was, AFC Blackpool have been on my list to visit for some time before the opportunity of today’s game and the pure ease of travelling bought me into embarking and finally visiting the Mechanics ground. So, it was at around 12.15 and in the midst of a sudden deluge on Chorlton Green, that I arrived at the Bowling Green Inn, rather sodden and was joined on the coach by Dan Watkinson, who was also making his first visit to the club, having been to Gate 5 times before, he told me.

On arrival

On arrival

Turnstiles

Turnstiles

So, after around an hours journey, including getting a little lost at the end of it, we pulled into a windswept Jepson Road, which stands at the foot of the runway at Blackpool Airport., amongst the hangar spaces and workshops, giving it a somewhat unique backdrop. After being given a somewhat humorous run around in pursuit of a programme  (priced at a cheap £1), we headed for the sanctuary of the clubhouse, out of the wind and occasional rain showers that were now drifting across the pitch.

Programme

Programme

Dan took advantage of a vacated plug socket to charge his iPhone, before it was time for an early lunch, I purchased chips and gravy, whereas Dan opted for a pie of some assortment. Both were of good quality, and mine was certainly worth the £1.20 price tag. Soon after the completion of the meal,  it was time for the kick-off and we headed outside to find the seats most sheltered from the gale. The Mechanics is an old style ground, with a stand on all four sides. Behind both goals are covered terraces, with the far end featuring the larger of the two, and both touchlines featuring covered seating, with the near side stand housing the clubhouse and changing rooms building directly behind it/adjoining it. The far touchline houses a somewhat rickety-looking stand with a couple of rows of tangerine seats within.

Far end terrace

Far end terrace

Clubhouse/Stand

Clubhouse/Stand

Near side terrace

Near end terrace

Each stand was rather sparsely populated today, despite a few vocal Blackpool FC fans in attendance for the game, continuing their “Oyston Out” songs throughout the game! Before the review of the game though, a trip into the past of AFC Blackpool….

History Lesson:

Founded in 1947, AFC Blackpool began life as Blackpool Metal Mechanics before dropping the “metal” part of their name soon after. The club initially played at the Stanley Park Arena before moving to their current Jepson Road home. They initially competed in local Fylde Coast leagues, winning the Fylde & District League Division 2 in 1951, achieving promotion to Division 1, which was won twice during the club’s tenure. Before the end of the decade, the club won a first Lancashire Amateur Shield in 1958, before joining the West Lancashire League a year later.

Their first season ended with a runners-up spot, before winning the 1961 title and Shield double. They successfully defended their League title the following season, before joining the Lancashire Combination in 1962, competing in Division 2. There was little success gained in this league, bar he 1974-’75 Lancashire Combination Bridge Shield. 1975 was the club’s best finish, runners-up to Darwen, before they became founder members of the North West Counties League, competing92 in Division 3, which was won in 1985-’86, with the Mechanics gaining promotion to Division 2. They had a brief spell in the top flight of the NWCFL following promotion in 1992, but were soon relegated back to Division 2 the following season.

Here they remained until 2011, when they won the Division 1 (renamed in 2008), achieving promotion to the Premier Division where they remain. This came after a 2005 merger with Lytham St.Anne’s FC and a 2008 merger with Squires Gate Juniors. Upon the latter, the club changed its name to the current one, after approval from Blackpool FC.

After a few seasons of solid mid-table finishes, this season has seen the club stave off relegation, finishing just above the drop zone in 18th place.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Getting Underway

Getting Underway

So, with both clubs lying in the lower reaches of the table, though with a fair gap in points, the game was all about pride. West, whose manager, Andy Nelson, is handing over the reigns at the end of the current season, began the game on the front foot, though it was a tight opening half-hour or so. However the deadlock was broken just before the 30 minutes mark, when Dave Short was released before unleashing a vicious drive into the roof of the net from 20+ yards. A cracking finish.

Dan and myself went on a lap of the ground, past the ever more drunken BFC contingent who were dishing out some “banter” to the West GK, but there was little to shout about for either side, whose efforts were being lessened by the conditions, somewhat. It remained 1-0 at the break, and with the food already eaten, it was a simple time to warm up!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

It wasn’t long, though, until everyone was back outside to brave the cold, with West Didsbury still looking the better of the sides, and the more likely to score the next goal, which they did, from the spot. A rather brainless tackle in the area, with no danger looming, gifted the visitors the chance to double their lead. Scott Mason stepped up and confidently fired past the GK, Adam Caunce. 0-2, and it looked over bar the shouting, if the previous hour was anything to go by.

In goes the pen...

In goes the pen…

Far touchline stand

Far touchline stand

Oh dear....

Oh dear….

Blackpool, though, were handed a lifeline with 10 minutes remaining, when an optimistic effort from Ben Duffield looped up off a West player’s boot and looped over the stranded Paul Hughes and into the net. The goal seemed to excite the Blackpool FC fans, and one, not-so-athletic fan decided to unleash his upper body for all to see and run on the pitch. It wasn’t a great sight!
At 2-1 it was game on, it seemed. Well it was, but only for 7 minutes. Sub Kieran Brocklehurst tapped in at the back post to seal a last day win for the visitors.

So, after a short wait in the clubhouse, which included free cake(!!!) it was off to the coach after being wished a safe journey and all. I have to say that the people at Squires Gate were very hospitable, but those at AFC are just as much a friendly and welcoming lot. A true credit to those involved.

Dan needs AA

Dan needs AA

The coach journey home (which was FREE I hasten to add!) involved a keg of Krombacher, a stop off in the Bowling Green back at Chorlton, before heading back into Urmston where we watched the end of the cricket in a pub. Then it was onto a curry, though this didn’t go all that well, and it was off home, where I bid a goodnight to Dan after a long, eventful and slightly messy day. This is becoming the norm and I’m getting worried…..

My AFC Blackpool M.o.M.- Adam Caunce
My West Didsbury & Chorlton M.o.M.- Matt Eckersley

wpid-20150425_154149.jpg

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Decent enough, especially in the conditions.

Ground: 7- Nice ground, like the old-style of it.

Food: 7- Pretty decent, well worth the price

Programme: 4- Light on content, but at least there was one! Especially with my record of late!

Fans: 6- Friendly, and the Blackpool lot added humour with the hardly athletic pitch invasion!

Value For Money: 10- There and back for free, how can it not be top marks, and a good day in full.

Manchopper in….Glossop

GNE_afc_badgeDunston_FC

Result: Glossop North End 2-2 Dunston UTS; AET. (FA Vase Quarter Final)

Venue: Surrey Street (Saturday 14th February 2015, 3.00pm)

Att: 651

Valentines Day, the day where love is spread amongst people the world over. However, there was to be no love lost on the football fields of the country and nowhere was this more the case than at Surrey Street where Glossop North End, of the North West Counties League, would be playing host to Northern League side Dunston UTS.

As for myself, I set out on the journey into the High Peak at just after 12.30 pm, transiting through Manchester Piccadilly where I had appeared to have missed the majority of those travelling to games around the area. At just before half past 1, I was on the Northern Rail service to Hadfield.

On arrival into Glossop station, the train meets a dead end, despite this not being its terminus. Glossop is a one platform station, so therefore the trains are sent on their way both ways from the buffers. A stranger set up. The original plan was to have a drink in one of the nearby pubs, either the Friendship Inn, just down the road or one of a selection in the town centre. However, due to the expectancy of a larger crowd than usual dawned upon me, I thought it would be wiser to head straight for Surrey Street itself, if only to ensure a programme would be safely obtained.

So, after making my way up the slight hill climb down the side of the station and down a few side roads, I passed the aforementioned Friendship, which looked packed with what I reckoned must have been a number of visiting fans from the North East. Not being too familiar with the immediate area, I was grateful for the marker of a large steel chimney which towers above all around it and is located directly next to the ground. So, if you make the trip to GNE in this way, you have a sure fire way to get there that will also save on your phone battery life!

After passing by the rubble covered wasteland surrounding the chimney, I arrived at the turnstile at Surrey Street. I was informed that there was no Student Concession (which I can now use due to my NUS). Not to worry, though, I more than happily handed over my £6 entrance fee and once through the gate purchased my copy off “The Hillmen” programme for a further £1.50, which was celebrating the recent 400th game of club stalwart & captain Dave Young. Not a bad effort that! I trusted they were to be harder to find than the holy grail today so it was safely kept away in my bag.

Glossop North End, Surrey Street.

Glossop North End, Surrey Street.

Teamsheet

Teamsheet

First, I headed for the clubhouse which was showing the second half of the West Brom vs West Ham game. Of course, it would be rude to stay there and watch without contributing to the bar wouldn’t it? I figured it would, so with Strongbow purchased, I settled in to watch the final half an hour of the game and flick through the programme I had just bought. Not a bad read at all, including flashbacks and the game a few years ago between the sides that ended in a 1-0 win to North End thanks to Danny Yates’ goal as they eventually reached Wembley. There used to be a mural at the rear of the clubhouse celebrating this achievement, but this seems to have gone by the wayside at some point within the last 12 months or so.

In the Clubhouse at GNE

In the Clubhouse at GNE

Glossop North End Badge Board

Glossop North End Badge Board

As the clock passed a dentist’s favourite time, 2.30 (I’ll get my coat), I made my way outside into what was a rather pleasant afternoon in the High Peak area of Derbyshire and walked over to the Main Stand and took a seat within it. I was soon to be joined by a rather, vocal, group of young Glossop supporters and a few Dunston fans too. More on this later on. For now, Surrey Street. The ground consist of three stands. The Main Stand is the only one that offers seating, and is situated on the far touchline, from where you enter, in the final third of the near end. To the left, behind the goal is a covered terrace called “The Trenches”. This is where the Glossop flag bearers congregate, and they certainly have a decent amount to show. Continuing on behind the near end goal is the dressing rooms, clubhouse and food hut. The near touchline is accompanied by a covered standing area, to the right of the turnstiles and behind the far goal is open standing and a grassy area which today was playing host to some kids football games. Surrey Street holds a capacity of 2,374. Now onto the, rather colourful, history of the club…

The Trenches

The Trenches

The Trenches

The Trenches/Clubhouse

Main Stand

Main Stand

The KFC end. There's a KFC there.

The KFC end. There’s a KFC there.

History Lesson:

Formed in 1886, Glossop North End originally competed in local amateur friendlies at various local grounds, before settling at North Road. The club joined their first league, the North Cheshire League, in 1890 before switching allegiance to the Combination in 1894 and turning professional.

After two seasons, the club joined the Midland League, remaining there for a further two seasons until they were elected to Division 2 of the Football League for 1898-’99. They immediately won promotion to Division 1, as runners-up to Manchester City, when they also changed their name to Glossop, dropping the North End suffix to avoid confusion with Preston (?). The following season was to be their only season in England’s top flight, as they were relegated. The following 15 seasons were spent in the Second Division with the club reaching the quarter finals of the 1909 FA Cup. At this time, the club were backed by Sir Samuel Hill-Wood, the man who would later go on to hold the position of chairman at Arsenal.

After World War One, the club failed to be re-elected to the reformed Football League and, as such, they joined the Lancashire Combination for a season, before dropping into the Manchester League, where they won one championship (1928) and four Gilgryst Cups.

Angry skies gather

Angry skies gather

1955 saw Glossop relocate from North Road to their current home at Surrey Street. In 1957, Glossop joine the Lancashire Combination, again, this time spending nine seasons in the league before joining the Cheshire League as founder members, following one season back in the Manchester League. In 1981, Glossop won promotion to Division One of the Cheshire League in 1981 as runners-up and upon finishing sixth in Division One the following season, the club became founder members of the North West Counties League due to the merger of the Cheshire League and Lancashire Combination. The club played in Division Two of the Counties initially, winning the Division 2 trophy in 1991. After almost folding during the 1991 close season, the club soldiered on to be promoted to Division 1 the following year.

Now in Division 1 and back under the original Glossop North End name, the club began to challenge for honours on a regular basis, winning their first back as North End at Old Trafford, the Manchester Premier Cup with a victory over Trafford, before retaining it the following year by defeating Radcliffe Borough at Maine Road. They then lifted the 2001 Derbyshire Senior Cup, beating Glapwell.

Greg Hall, Through the net.

Greg Hall, Through the net.

2009 featured the club’s most famous day for decades, when they reached the FA Vase final at Wembley. Sadly, for North End, they were vanquished by Whitley Bay, who were to make the Vase their own for a short period. In late 2013, current boss Chris Willcock took the reigns from Paul Colgan and his first full season ended with Glossop finishing third, their highest league finish since 1980. This season, they’ve gone from strength to strength and are strong contenders for the NWCFL title.

Covered Terrace

Covered Terrace

Covered Terrace

Covered Terrace, full to bursting.

Glossop Team Huddle

Glossop Team Huddle

Kick-Off

Kick-Off

Back onto the present day now, and the sides came out to be welcomed by a large crowd, each expectant for their own side’s progression in the competition. A tight first period saw no goals and little goalmouth action but, in truth, the game itself was of a decent standard. Of the pitch, the standards were a little lower. The younger group of Glossop fans, aforementioned, began to get a little too rowdy with a female member of the Dunston following. The lady may not have exactly been helping matters, but the case is that some of the language being used shouldn’t have been directed at them. In addition, there was a family from the North East who had travelled down to watch the game and felt the need to move as to protect their youngest daughter from the language being spewed. Not a great impression to give off and I got the feeling a number of the “longer standing” Glossop fans were just as unimpressed with the goings on. They were also responsible for letting off a smoke bomb later in the game (after the second goal, I believe) where a Glossop committee member had to ask them to stop. I’m all for the support of younger people at games, but it can be done in a more respectful manner.

Watching the game

Watching the game

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Now that that’s out of the way, we can get back onto the pitch. Or, in fact, due to the lack of meaningful action, I’ll remain on the terraces and more pinpoint, the food hut and the famed Glossop pies. I had been given the tip of a Steak pie by the “Football Spoon” the night before at Atherton LR and I decided to take his word on this one. And my word was he right. The legends are true folks, and I can certainly say that I add my words onto the celebrations of Glossop’s pie industry!

Second half, and it was Dunston, the 2012 Vase winners, who came out of the dressing rooms the sharper of the two sides. It was little surprise, therefore, when they took the lead when Andrew Bulford swept home from inside the area. They were ahead for just two minutes, though. Glossop forced a free-kick on the right flank. The ball was floated in and met by the head of Jason Carey whose guided header gently placed itself into the far corner pat the rooted ‘keeper. 1-1.

Now it was all to play for, and the momentum was with the home side, and when they forced a penalty with 15 minutes to play, when Lee Blackshaw was tripped, it looked a good bet they would be progressing. It looked even better odds when the Dunston #4 was harshly dismissed, in my view, for the foul leading to the penalty as I felt there were covering players and he wasn’t the last man. That’s how it looked from my place, but then, the pitch is the best place to see the action. Tom Bailey took responsibility and coolly rolled the ball into the ‘keeper’s right hand corner, sending him the wrong way. 2-1.

Tom Bailey strikes the pen for 2-1.

Tom Bailey strikes the pen for 2-1.

Bailey is mobbed by team-mates

Bailey is mobbed by team-mates

But Dunston refused to lie down and caught Glossop unawares. With just under 10 minutes remaining, Dunston had possession on the left flank, and the ball came to Gary Ormston who fired low, under Glossop ‘keeper Greg Hall to spark wild celebrations from the visitors from Gateshead-way. Extra-Time to follow.

The Extra-Time came and went with little alarms for either side, and I spent most of the second period having a chat with GNE’s Danny White, who was banned for the game I learned. Glossop, as you would imagine, had more possession but struggled to truly break down the well drilled Dunston back-line, and so the final whistle blew to ensure the teams would meet again, the following Saturday (21st).

The extra-time had ruined my best laid plans to have my drink in the Friendship on the way to the station and indeed made me get a march on to get to the station in time, but I managed it just as the long, purple cylinder entered into the station. Taking my place alongside it, we passed back through the darkness and over the viaduct & sheer drop near Dinting station onwards back to Piccadilly and Oxford Road. Back on the train home, I ended up sitting with Amy who teaches at the same school that I work at, but I chose not to regale them (mostly) with the news of my ventures. I felt I would keep this Manchopper under wraps.

My Glossop North End M.o.M.- Tom Bailey.

My Dunston UTS M.o.M.- Daniel Halliday.

RATINGS:

Game: 8- Good, entertaining contest

Ground: 8- Good mix of the old and the new with some photogenic backdrops.

Fans: 5- Takes a drop for the reasons mentioned above. Otherwise, very courteous and polite, especially a couple of the junior side who were mascots.

Food: 10- Definitely the best pie I’ve had in a long time, possibly ever. No surprise is it really?

Programme: 8- A good, solid read. Better than some at higher levels. Interesting content.

Value For Money: 8- Cheap travel (£3-ish), okay admission, programme standard price. Good pie & cider too.

Manchopper in….Chorlton (Maine Road FC)

Maine_road_logo1874_Northwich_FC_badge

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

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

Att: 220

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

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

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

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

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

The home of the Road

The home of the Road

Maine Road FC

Maine Road FC

Entrance to Brantingham Rd

Entrance to Brantingham Rd

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

Main Stand

Main Stand

Covered Terrace, dugouts

Covered Terrace, dugouts

Open Terrace & turnstiles.

Open Terrace, clubhouse & turnstiles.

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

History Lesson:

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

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

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

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

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

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

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

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

Clubhouse & food hut

Clubhouse & food hut

The Church Pews

The Church Pews

RIP Sunday Pink Stand

RIP Sunday Pink Stand

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

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

Ryan Livesey. Man of the Match.

Ryan Livesey. Man of the Match.

Blinded by the Light.

Blinded by the Light.

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

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

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

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

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RATINGS:

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