Manchopper in….Hyde

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Result: Hyde United 0-1 Northwich Victoria (FA Cup Second Qualifying Round)

Venue: Ewen Fields (Saturday 26th September 2015, 3pm)

Att: 418

Still following the path of the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup,  I returned to the western side of Manchester, again to watch a team decked out in red. This time, however, it wasn’t Abbey Hey who I was headed for but Hyde United, who were to entertain their old rivals Northwich Victoria at their Ewen Fields home. With both sides having had well documented “falls from grace” in recent years, but with both having good form to speak of, this game had all the makings of an exciting cup tie.

So, after heading the usual way through Manchester’s rail system, I eventually found myself on the Rose Hill Marple-bound service from Manchester Piccadilly, alighting at Hyde Central station, after seeing a number of fans heading for Premier League games that, no doubt, the ticket for would have cost more than my whole day in Hyde was to.

So, after exiting Hyde Central station, I crossed back under the line and headed down the road and past the interchange, reaching the town hall and centre where I found my first stop of the day, the Last Orders Inn. The Last Orders looks a nice institution from the exterior and this is the case within. The place was packed, mostly with Blues’ fans watching their early kick-off against Tottenham Hotspur. After purchasing a pint of Strongbow for £2.70, I settled in to watch the first half of the game here, though did have to rein myself in when Spurs equalised. I may be mad, but I’m not stupid!

Arriving in Hyde

Arriving in Hyde

The Last Orders

The Last Orders, Hyde Centre

The Olde Town House

The Olde Town House

Anyway, after a mostly uneventful stop here, I headed down the road and more towards the location of Ewen Fields. Having scouted out “The Sportsman” pub, I surmised I’d head for there. It was only heading for there that I came across the “Old Town House”, and it reminded me of the time I last visited when I said I’d go in next time I came. But, I reckoned I’d stay on plan and head for the Sportsman. Alas, the Sportsman was dead. I poked my head in and it looked empty, so I headed back to the Old Town House which had advertised the game outside, and was accompanied there by a £3 Desperados for the second period of City v Spurs. I loved Hyde’s cheapness as a town!

As I witnessed Spurs take City apart in another Blue dominated pub, I was struggling to keep my emotions in check by the time the Londoners went 4-1 up, so it was lucky I was at the back where no one could witness my fist-pumping. Anyway, with beer finished and Premier League football removed from my mind for the remainder of the afternoon it was on to Ewen Field and my live footy fix of the day.

Arriving at Ewen Fields

Arriving at Ewen Fields

Refreshment bar

Welcome to Ewen Fields Refreshments

On Entry

On Entry

The walk onwards took a further 10 minutes to reach the ground, including a surprisingly steep section on the approach to the stadium. But, I was soon entering the car park through a small gateway and heading over to the turnstiles, where there was a small queue. Happily, these were all for the concessionary ‘stile, so I had a free run through the £10 entrance and was into Hyde United’s home. After purchasing my copy of “The Tigers”, the official programme of, well, The Tigers for £2.50, I made my way to see the teamsheet, on the wall of the Main Stand. Here, a home fan told me teamsheets were available from the programme seller, but I couldn’t see them, nor was I too arsed. But, it was a kind gesture, nonetheless.

I could have bought a seat for a further £1, but I took the easy decision to avoid this, as it’s usually waived for Premier Cup games, at least it was last time I was here, when I met the legendary Bruno Silva. Top fella is Bruno. Enough about Brasilian goalkeepers for now, though and more about English non-league grounds. Ewen Fields is a characterful ground, featuring five stands. The Main Stand, which you enter behind, is partnered on the near touchline by the “famous” Shed End, which is neither a shed, nor an end.

Towards the Tinker's Passage

Towards the Tinker’s Passage

Far side terrace

Far side terrace

The Lad Bible Stand...

The Lad Bible Stand… The “dive” was caused by it

Opposite these is a large raised covered terrace, that runs the majority of the far touchline, with both ends being populated by further covered raised terracing, with the far end housing the newer of the two. But, it is tainted with the name of “The Lad Bible Stand”. You do wonder who thought this was a good idea. Anyway, here’s the history of the Tigers, happily Lad Bible-less…

History Lesson:

An original Hyde FC was formed in 1885, later merging with Hyde St. George’s to enter the Lancashire Combination. But, they had folded by 1917 due to “war reaction”, before Hyde United was formed in 1919 after demands for a club were made. The United suffix derived from a match between two local groups who were instrumental in the club’s founding. The club’s first season was spent in the Lancashire & Cheshire Federation, but an immediate switch to the Manchester League was made, with Hyde having won five titles by 1930, alongside two Gilgryst Cups. In 1930, Hyde joined the Cheshire County League, where they won the league’s Challenge Cup in 1934, before the club became very successful during the period just after the Second World War.

After winning the 1946 Cheshire Senior Cup and 1953 Cheshire League Cup, they won a league and cup double in 1954 and made the 1955 title theirs too. After being beaten by Bill Shankly’s Workington side in the 1954 FA Cup 1st Round, Hyde became founder members of the Northern Premier League in 1968. After a short stay, the club returned after just two seasons to the Cheshire County League. They went on to add to their success in this league by winning a further League Cup in 1973, before having a successful 1980-’81, finishing runners-up and winning the Cheshire Senior Cup and League Challenge Shield.

A year later, the club swept all before them in the Cheshire League and were elected to the NPL again. During their first ear back here, they reached the FA Cup first round again, losing to Burnley and reached the NPL League Cup Final, losing on pens to South Liverpool. They got their hands on the trophy in 1986 via a 1-0 victory over Marine, before a new Main Stand and the infamous baspoturf pitch were installed after the Bradford City disaster.

Old Turnstiles

Old Turnstiles

Today's Teams

Today’s Teams

After again reaching the first round of the FA Cup in 1994, the short-lived baspoturf pitch was replaced by grass and saw Hyde play today’s opponents, Northwich Victoria, in a FA Trophy semi-final tie. After managerial upheaval, the club were relegated to the NPL Division One in 2003, but they responded immediately, winning promotion and the title at the first attempt. In 2005, the Tigers won the NPL Premier Division, after much controversy, with Hyde winning the title after an appeal was lodged to the FA, after Farsley Celtic were originally awarded the honour. Due to reasons to do with Spennymoor United’s demise and unplayed  fixtures, the FA agreed with Hyde and overturned Farsley’s win, with teams who had still to play Spennymoor twice being awarded a 0-0 win.

Hyde struggled during their time in the Conference North initially, being reprieved from relegation after King’s Lynn’s demise. The Tigers were then officially wound-up in 2009, before bucket collections and other fundraisers raised funds for the decision to be overturned. After a name change to Hyde FC in 2010, with the United suffix being dropped due to a link-up with Manchester City and the club switching from its traditional red to blue, the club avoided relegation on the final day, before Gary Lowe brough the Conference North title to Ewen Fields with a remarkable success. Lowe then shocked most people and resigned after this one season!

Welcome to Hyde United

Welcome to Hyde United

Ewen Fields

Ewen Fields

After two seasons in the top flight, the last of which saw Hyde become something of a non-league heroic icon due to their likelihood to get tonked every week, the club brought Gary Lowe back after sacking Scott McNiven. Lowe couldn’t save the Tigers from the drop back to the NPL however for this season. Although, back as Hyde United and back in red after the end of the City deal and now under supporters’ ownership, the club look to be on the up once more.

Teams on the line-out

Teams getting the line-out wrong

Getting underway

Getting underway

Hyde's physio looks the part as a manager!

Hyde’s physio looks the part as a manager!

So, back onto the current game then and I made my way round to the far side terrace for the majority of the first period as, for me, this is the best vantage point. It was Vics who began on the front foot, with a couple of chances going begging, the best of which saw Jordan Williams go clear before he was felled by Tigers’ keeper Josh Ollerenshaw, who was on his last appearance before leaving to join the Army apparently, so all the very best to him. Ollerenshaw was carded, the free-kick wasted.

After a Hyde header was saved well down the other end, Williams broke the deadlock, as he beat the offside trap expertly, before keeping his cool and slotting in past Ollerenshaw. 0-1.

Williams celebrates his eventual winner.

Williams celebrates his eventual winner.

Across the field

Across the field

Insert caption here

Insert caption here

Despite goalmouth action being sparse during the first period, it was still a very watchable tie, with both sides getting forward regularly, but both lacking that extra spark up front on the day. Hyde’s most promising opportunity looked to be coming from the spot, when the forward ran through and went down under a challenge.  The referee decided there wasn’t enough to force him over and booked the Hyde man for simulation. I thought it slightly harsh, as despite me not thinking it was a pen, nor did I think it was a dive.

Vics almost went 2-0 up shortly before the break, as their winger cut inside but shot narrowly wide, but it was still enough to see the Nomadic side go in at the break ahead.

The attacking gymnasts

The attacking gymnasts

View from the Tinker's Passage End

View from the Tinker’s Passage End

The Shed

The Shed

As for me, it was to the refreshment window which sits in the rear of the main stand. After purchasing some chips for £1.50 and covering them in “bad boy chilli sauce”, it was over to the pub benches that sit outside the Hyde social club. After surviving the assault by acrobatic, cartwheeling girls, my chips and I survived in one piece and soon I was in the shed end, preparing for the second period. The chips are decent, nothing to write home about particularly, but the portion size is good for the price.

I decided to sample the “famous” shed (not an) end for the second period, but gave up after 5 minutes as the view is terrible. Stanchions block your view of the pitch at regular intervals and the vantage point isn’t great either. I think they Hyde flag felt what was to come during the game, as it hung from the wall in front of the Shed limply from one side from the 20-minute mark. To be honest, action was very limited during the second half, with Hyde looking laboured and Vics, understandably, sitting back on their lead.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

BIG Tackle

BIG Tackle!

Keepers!

Keepers!

But, as Hyde pressed forward, so Vics had more room to use. Adam Jones, the Tigers’ centre-back pulled off a terrific tackle to deny a one-on-one chance and despite a couple of goalmouth scrambles late in the game, Hyde never really created anything to speak of, and the game ended 1-0, with a few boos ringing out around the Fields.

So, I  headed back towards the station, arriving there 25 minutes before the train was due. It was then that the Cheshire Ring pub called to me. 25 minutes on a platform or in a pub watching a bit of the “only World Cup that matters” according to the sign outside. There was only one answer, really, wasn’t there? A half of Krombacher later, and it was onto the train back to Piccadilly and onwards home without anything noteworthy that I can remember off hand now.

Cheshire Ring

Cheshire Ring

Oooohh!!!

Oooohh!!!

Rugby and Beer.

Rugby and Beer.

It looks like my FA Cup run will take a break in the next round, as I head for the world’s oldest club, Sheffield. As for the Tigers, they need to find their roar again soon… Ok, I’ll stop now…

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RATINGS:

Game: 6- Decent game, not much in terms of chances though.

Ground: 7- Ewen fields is a good mix of old and new.

Fans: 6- Decent enough, no qualms there.

Food: 6- Decent again, but nothing outstanding.

Programme: 6- Standard for the level, with the price being that bit more.

Value For Money: 6- All the sixes, almost! Pretty cheap overall, but game not great for a £10.

The 2014-’15 Manchopper Awards

So, after a season consisting of 106 games, spanning 11 months and taking in grounds in all manner of places and surroundings within three countries and at all levels, it’s time the honour the best, the worst, the weird and the wonderful of my travels over the past season.

From Croston to Crewe, whether on the pitch or off it, there has certainly been some memorable moments and characters & both new and old friends have been made/re-acquainted during my ventures and the awards celebrate the most brilliant, or otherwise, of all the experiences & escapades that have occurred. So without further ado, Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, the very best of Season 2014-’15, Manchopper Style……

The “West Didsbury & Chorlton & Atherton Town” Best Animal Seen Escape In Order To Watch A Game Award:

Winner: The Howe Bridge Horses

Unsurprisingly given the title of this award, there was only one nominee and one result only, just like a FIFA Presidential election involving Sepp Blatter. Congratulations to the horses who escaped and decided to watch over a wall and through a gate. They were left disappointed, I’d presume.

Horses watching the game at Atherton Town

Horses watching the game at Atherton Town

The drunken escapade of the season, sponsored by #lostboyos:

The Nominees: Me at Morecambe & Me At Glan Conwy.

Winner: Me at Glan Conwy

Well, what can I say. After making a horrible mess of a bag at the hands of a Sambuca-fuelled Eagle Sports, I somehow managed to get home after being on the phone to keep myself awake, or I’d have been stranded in Warrington. I parted company with my sunglasses somewhere in the vicinity of Sankey Platform 1. I’ve not been the same since…

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The  “Non League Review” best away day of the season:

The Nominees: Barnet, Maine Road, Mottram Hall.

Winner: Barnet

Yes, Barnet was a clear winner of this award. After watching Barnet smash Altrincham for five at the Hive, Stew organised the first, and so far only, NLR Whistle Stop Tour. I was shown all the sights of London, before having some Chinese in A Box. Top day.

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Strangest Venue Of The Season:

The Nominees: Mottram Hall, Gresty Road (NI vs Qatar), Old Trafford (Portugal vs Argentina)

Winner: Mottram Hall.

For as strange as Gresty Road hosting a home international for scheduled 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar was, as well as Old Trafford hosting Argentina vs Portugal, the Messi vs Ronaldo 45-minute non-event, a game in the grounds of the 5* Cheshire hotel, Mottram Hall, tops all. Not to mention that it featured Romanian side Dinamo Bucharest, who were being entertained by none other than Cheadle Town.

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Most Memorable Day of The Season:

The Nominees: Glan Conwy, Barnet, Northern Ireland vs Qatar

Winner: Northern Ireland vs Qatar

An award for the fixture that has made a late entry into the gongs. All the fans, atmosphere & the day in general, and causing trouble whilst agreeing….

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The “Where Do Vics Play?” Award, Sponsored by Football Spoon:

The Nominees: Football Spoon telling me how to pronounce Glasshoughton correctly as to avoid being lynched, Football Spoon laughing at my misfortune at Newcastle Town & Football Spoon informing Trafford FC’s Twitter account of the presence of Northwich Victoria at Valley Road, Flixton.

Winner: Football Spoon helping Trafford to locate clubs in Flixton.

Yes, after Trafford’s account had said it was only Northwich Flixton Villa who played at Valley Road, the Spoon politely informed them of the presence of Vics and also helped remind them they’d played against them a year earlier. He was subsequently blocked. Nice.

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The Matt Harrison Craziest Character of the Season Award:

The Nominees: Neville and er….well no, one beats that!

Winner: Neville.

What can you say about Nev. An absolute legend and one that will live long in the memory of all of us who met him at Chapel-en-le-Frith two weeks before the end of the season. Matt has the knack of attracting these weird and wonderful folk, and he didn’t disappoint on this occasion! Neville. What a hero.

The Manchopper Craziest Team of the Season Award:

The Nominees: Eagle Sports…..And that’s it.

Winner: Eagle Sports.

As I said earlier, the club changed me on that day in Conwy, and it was damn crazy on the whole. Tbh, they’re not completely nuts, per se, but when the alcohol appears, specifically the Sambucca, everything changes. Maybe that’s just my drink-ruined mind talking, though.

Eagle Sports

Best Fans:

The Nominees: FC United, Salford City, Hemel Hempstead Town, Morecambe, Bury u18’s.

Winners: Hemel Hempstead Town.

Yes, The Tudors’ backing were the best I’ve come across this season. I saw them on two occasions, in the FA Cup, and on both occasions they were outstanding. Hemel take this award. King Henry VIII would be very proud.

Okay, onto on pitch matters now, and the best and not so good achievements on the field of play…Remember, this is only teams I’ve seen, so please no threatening messages or abuse, or I’ll send Alan Shearer round with Newcastle tickets. You’ve been warned….

The Hemel Fans complete with drummer

The Hemel Fans complete with drummer

Hemel at Bury

Hemel at Bury

Team Performance of the Season:

The Nominees: Llandridnod Wells (vs Flint), Penlake (vs Golborne), Wythenshawe Town (vs West Dids Res), Chapel Town (vs Walshaw Sports), Altrincham (vs Macclesfield)

Winner: Penlake

In the relegation spots at 3pm, Penlake had to win. They comfortably did so, disposing of Golborne Sports by 9-0, with striker Alex Grisedale netting five times on his way to finishing top scorer. Staying up in style.

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Penlake

Individual Performance of the Season:

The Nominees: Alex Grisedale (Penlake), Craig Ellison (Congleton Town), Chris Venables (Aberystwyth Town), Nathan Tyson (Doncaster Rovers), Javi Ramos (Atletico Benamiel)

Winner: Alex Grisedale

Despite the feats of all the above, you can’t ignore someone scoring five in a game to keep his side up, even if he was playing against a depleted side.

Grisedale (#9) in front of shot.

Grisedale (#9) in front of shot.

Best Game of the Season:

The Nominees: Stockport Sports vs Selby Town, Greenalls PSO vs Eagle Sports, Chapel Town vs Walshaw Sports, Droylsden vs Salford City, Northwich Flixton Villa vs Atherton Collieries.

Winner: Northwich Flixton Villa vs Atherton Collieries.

This one just pips Stockport vs Selby to the title, mostly because Stockport no longer exists and the game ended up in a replay after a 5-5 draw anyway. NFV, meanwhile, ended Atherton’s winning run in the league in quite unbelievable circumstances, winning 3-2 after previously being minnows in the league. They remained only mid table, but this was their finest hour.

Goal Of The Season:

The Nominees: The Athletic Fuengirola player (shot from half-way), James Lawrie (Altrincham vs Macclesfield), Joe Clark (Wrexham vs Torquay), Shane Kelsey (1st goal, Shaw Lane vs Glasshoughton), Gaz Meredith (Altrincham Res vs Irlam Res)

Winner: Joe Clark.

Wrexham skipper Joe Clark’s opener in the FA Trophy Semi-Final 1st Leg is well worthy of the award. His 25 yard strike was put into the top corner in a gap the size of a postage stamp. Or, more precisely, a ball. Either way, it was a superb goal, and pips Meredith’s super hit.

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Ground Of The Season:

The Nominees: Cefn Druids’ The Rock, Runcorn Town’s Pavilions, Glossop North End’s Surrey Street, Squires Gate’s School Lane, Wrexham’s The Racecourse Ground.

Winner: Cefn Druids.

For pure backdrop and name alone it has to be the Rock. A nice clubhouse also features highly in my memories of the ground in Cefn Mawr. If you Smel…elllllll…ellll..el what The Rock is Cooking!

The Rock.

The Rock.

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Most Improved Club (primarily facilities)

The Nominees: Salford City, Wythenshawe Town, Chadderton.

Winner: Salford City.

Yes, the overall appearance and look of the club has changed massively since the “Class of 92″‘s well publicised take over of the club last summer. In my opinion, this is very much for the better, and the benefit of non-league football in general. It adds a bit of something different, as the likes of Darlington and Halifax and FC United do, for differing reasons. So, for me, Salford are well deserving of this.

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Moor Lane

Moor Lane

The Manchopper Team of The Season:

The Nominees: Wythenshawe Town, FC United, Glossop North End, Barnet, Rochdale.

Winner: Wythenshawe Town. (Glossop semi-pro award)

As much as you could argue that with the standard of players in comparison it wasn’t as difficult as others, in the case of Wythy, to go a whole season winning every game is some feat. In all competitions, lest we forget. A massive shout for Glossop too, who’s season was quite brilliant. I can’t split the two, really, considering the differing levels in which they play, so both sides can win an award here. If you like, Glossop win the “semi-pro” Team of the Season & Wythenshawe the Amateur award

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Greg Hall, a vital component of Glossop's campaign.

Greg Hall, a vital component of Glossop’s campaign.

GNE Huddle

GNE Huddle

Manchopper in….Flixton (Northwich Victoria)

Result: Northwich Victoria 1-1 Darlington (Evo-Stik NPL 1st Division North)

Venue: Valley Road (Saturday 15th March,3pm)

Att: 292

Today wan’t one of those last minute decisions, as many of my games this season have been. No. This one was planned way back since October, and it was mostly down to the chance to see the former league club, sort of, Darlington. The fact that Northwich Victoria, today’s hosts, were in such good form leading into the fixture was an added bonus, and one that led to the belief that a good, entertaining game could be in the offing.

Darlington arrived in the Woodsend area of Flixton in 2nd place in the table, having been on a decent run themselves despite slipping up against fellow play-off chasers Lancaster City a few weeks prior, whilst Northwich came into the contest on the back of two straight goalless draws coming, curiously, against bottom side Ossett Albion the previous Saturday, and then leaders Curzon Ashton two days later.

I had previously arranged a meet up with Dan Watkinson at the game, and whilst he got there earlier, it was still too late to secure a programme, a good 40 minutes before kick-off, the reason being that only one box of the ordered two had turned up. Not good, and surely a decently large loss of revenue of the club. Upon my arrival, I witnessed something not seen at Valley Road for quite some time. A queue. And quite a significant queue at that, leading from the corner of the car park leading up to the turnstiles, which adjoin the rather smart clubhouse, which is still adorned by a sign bearing the name of the now, sadly, defunct Flixton F.C.

After paying my £7 entrance fee, which is about right for the level, I had entered the ground to find a large, but not too large, number of Darlington fans already spread out around the Valley. I met Dan on one of the park benches situated outside the clubhouse’s french doors, and awaited the kick-off, whilst deciding that, due to the rather blustery conditions which graced us today, the far side ‘bus shelter’ style stand would be our abode for the first half.

If you have not yet read my blog on Vics’ sister outfit Northwich Flixton Villa, allow me to introduce you to the ground. Valley Road is home to two stands. One is the aforementioned ‘bus shelter’ which houses the dressing room areas, and runs the vast majority of the length of the far touchline as you enter, and a small, refurbished (in Flixton’s latter days, you were in serious danger of suffering a lacerated leg or death), seated stand straight ahead of you as you enter, to the left of the clubhouse which is on your right. Both ends behind the goal are open, and this is where the four floodlight pylons are situated, a pair at each end.

Obviously, Northwich Victoria, a Cheshire town’s club, playing in Flixton, a suburb of Manchester, may seem strange to those of you not in touch with the ins-and-outs of Non-League Football, but the history bit may just explain it to you little better!

History Lesson:

Formed in 1874, officially, though some say 1870, Northwich Victoria played their first challenge games in the former year, under both football and rugby codes. In 1876, they played an away game at Farnworth & Appleton F.C. (now Widnes Vikings RLFC) under rugby code, then a home game under association rules, and won both. The first competition entered was the Welsh Cup, which was open to clubs near the Welsh border too, reaching the final twice, but losing on both occasions (1881-’82 & 1888-’89). In 1880, they entered the inaugural Cheshire Challenge Cup (CSC) (now Senior Cup), and won it for the first five seasons, beating Hartford St.John’s, Birkenhead, Crewe Alexandra (twice) and Davenham. They also won it again after four years in 1888-’89. In 1890, the club became founder members of the second incarnation of the Combination, and finished their first season as runners-up.

The club took a step forward by becoming founder members of the English Second Division in 1892, which saw the Trickies turn professional, and finished 7th in their first season, their highest finish ever recorded. During this season, Vics’ Tommy Scanlan scored the first ever penalty-kick in league football, the kick being introduced for that season, and they also signed Manchester City/United’s Welsh legend Billy Meredith. However, despite notable results against Newcastle United (5-3) and Woolwich Arsenal (2-2), the club finished bottom and as a result of the financial implications of pro football, decided not to apply for re-election and dropped back to the Combination as amateurs until 1898 when they left to join the newly formed Cheshire League, finishing runners-up in their second season.

As a result, the club switched to the Manchester League for the 1900-’01 season where they achieved immediate success, finishing runners-up in their first season in the league and won it eventually in 1902-’03 season, before leaving in 1912-’13 for the Lancashire Combination 2nd Division, where they finished their first season fourth, achieving promotion to the 1st Division.

In 1919, the club became founder members of the Cheshire County League, but only won the league title once in their stay (1956-’57) and two runners-up places (’24-’25 & ’47-’48) until they departed in 1968, although they did win a further four CSC’s (’28-’29, ’36-’37, ’49-’50, ’54-’55).

In 1968, Vics were one of a number of clubs to leave the Cheshire League for the newly created Northern Premier League (NPL), but with little success, Vics missing out on the title on goal difference in 1976-’77 to Boston United, but did win the NPL Challenge Cup in ’72-’73, a further three CSC’s in ’71-’72, ’76-’77 & ’78-’79 and a Staffordshire Senior Cup (SSC) in ’78-’79 .Their stay was relatively brief, leaving in 1979 to form the Alliance Premier League (latterly the Conference), where they won cup silverware immediately, a further SSC and the Conference League Cup. In 1983 the club reached the FA Trophy final, but lost 2-1 to Telford United. However, this was avenged the next season when Vics defeated Welsh club Bangor City by the same score line in a replay at the appropriately named Victoria Ground in Stoke. The original tie at Wembley ended 1-1.

The following season saw a 14th Cheshire Cup lifted, but this was their last success until 1989-’90, when the club’s third SSC was won. In 1993, a cup double arrived in the shape of the Conference League Cup & Drinkwise Cup and the next season saw the 15th CSC success but that was to be their last success of the decade, although they did reach the FA Trophy final again in 1996, losing 3-1 to Cheshire rival Macclesfield Town.

But the troubles were to soon begin. After departing Drill Field, their long time home, the club moved into Wincham Park, home of bitter rivals Witton Albion. In 2003-’04,Northwich avoided relegation (brought on by restructuring) due to the demise of Telford United, the demotion of Margate & Hucknall Town not meeting ground grading, and as such stayed at Conference level. During ’04-’05. Vics entered administration. Deducted 10 points, the club still stayed up, but then didn’t as they were demoted anyone on legal grounds.

’05-’06 appeared to be a turning of a corner for Vics, as they reached the FA Cup Third Round, and beat Stafford Rangers 3-0 to achieve promotion back to the Conference Premier. The club again almost entered administration in 2007, before being taken over by Jim Rushe, who maintains ownership to this day, but with safety equipment being removed to help with a business involved in the consortium in receivership, this meant the ground was not up to standard and the club was forced to play temporarily at Altrincham’s Moss Lane.

2009 saw Vics enter administration for the second time in five years, with £50,000 in unpaid bills. They were threatened with a double relegation to the NPL, but won an appeal to be placed in the Conference North, but this lasted a season as ongoing financial problems forced the club to drop out of the Conference North to the NPL, but did achieve a little relief in the shape of the first CSC in 15 years.

In 2010, Vics played Unirea Urziceni in a friendly at the Victoria Stadium, the club’s purpose built stadium, losing 1-0. Urziceni are no more unfortunately, the Romanians gaining popularity competing in the Champions’ League in Manchester United’s group.

In 2012, it was announced Vics would be evicted from their own ground as an ‘unknown buyer’ (later revealed as the neighbouring chemical company) had purchased the land, the club forced into becoming nomads before settling for a time at Stafford Rangers’ Marston Road. After a managerial merry-go-round the NPL announced in April 2012 that Vics had been expelled from the league. On appeal, the FA ruled the punishment excessive and the club were instead demoted a division to the Division 1 South, and for the first time ever local rivals Witton Albion began a season in a higher division. After one season in the South, finishing eighth, the club switched to the North for this season.

The club have also had a distinguished history in the FA Cup, in 1883-84, they reached the quarter-final, before being beaten by Blackburn Olympic. In 1892, they beat Liverpool in the Reds’ first ever competition, therefore becoming the first club to eliminate them from the Cup. 1976-’77 saw Northwich reach the Fourth Round in arguably their best Cup run. After beating Rochdale (after two replays), Peterborough United and Watford, they drew Oldham Athletic. With the game being moved to Maine Road, the game drew over 29,000 fans, their largest ever attendance, where they lost 3-1. They have also reached the Second Round on many occasions, in ’79-’80, ’82-’83, ’84-’85, ’87-’88, ’88-’89 ’00-’01 and ’09-’10, when the club’s games at home to Charlton Athletic (a 1-0 win) and Lincoln City (a 3-1 loss) were televised. There was a further third round reached in there too, when they drew Premiership Sunderland, away, in ’05-’06 where Northwich lost 3-0.

After that marathon history effort, back onto today’s game, and it began with Darlington on the front foot, and it was little surprise when they drew first blood. In luminous Pink (or would they prefer Coral?) Steve Thompson outpaced the home defence to fire hard and low past Vics’ ‘keeper Tim Deasy.

Deasy was called into action soon after, when former Durham City danger man David Dowson force him into a stop, and the game settled down somewhat afterwards, with Darlington still on the front foot, with Amar Purewal and Thompson especially looking dangerous, and it was the former who almost doubled both his and his side’s tally, when he rifled in an effort from 20 yards that cannoned back off the crossbar with Deacy beaten. Half-time arrived, with Darlington looking the more likely but Northwich weren’t out of it yet, despite not having a real clear chance in the first period at all.

Half time, and a trip for chips was called for. The kitchen, which is the old clubhouse entrance with a hot serving trolley in it, wanted £1.50, which was a decent price, for the decent portion received. After a quick trip  into the clubhouse to  catch up on the scores, or the Six Nations, your choice, the second half was soon underway, whereupon we decided the best place for this was to be in the sun with the Darlington fans in behind the goal.

With the Vics defence, ‘keeper and referee all being heckled in a fun manner by the Darlo photographer, the home side, now under new-ish manager Jim Gannon, began slightly stronger with a goalmouth scramble ending in a melee of legs and a goal-line clearance by, I think, Joe Tait on the post but this was to deny the inevitable as Vics grabbed a deserved equaliser, when the influential Brian Summerskill, took a corner forced by the tall, powerful substitute Aboubacar Sanogo, and Gary Burnett finished from close range to level the scores.

From here, Vics seemed happy to waste time to the best of their ability, with Deasy quite enjoying riling up a few of the travelling support behind the goal, by strategically standing just under the net so the ball, when thrown would go nicely over his head. Very shrewd! As he endured (or enjoyed I’m not quite sure) a 10-minute rant, which was quite humourous to many, but it should’ve been the fans having the last laugh as Purewal was kept out splendidly by Deasy, and Nathan Fisher, off the bench, blazed wildly over when one-on-one. The game ended in a flashpoint when the visiting star man Thompson was un-ceremonially taken out by Marc Joseph who, quite rightly, received his marching orders.

But, with this being pretty much on the whistle, there was no effect on the game, and both sides ended with a share of the spoils, which on the say was definitely the correct result. I have to say, I was surprised by the lack of noise from the Darlo contingent, maybe due to a lack of travelling numbers for this game(?), but the hardcore ones who made the effort to travel seemed really good, with no airs and graces which was a good thing to see. Vics also seem to be in a false position, and if that side stays together, expect a strong challenge next season, as they look to rise back up the pyramid!

My Northwich Victoria M.o.M.- Brian Summerskill

My Darlington M.o.M.- Stephen Thompson

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Good quality, on a good surface. lack of chance holds it back slightly though.

Ground:7- A 10 to how it was a couple of years back!

Fans:6- There aren’t many travelling from Northwich, but there are some. Think there may have been more neutrals/locals.

Programme: N/A- Who knows?

Food:7- Tasty chips, and a decent sized portion as well.

Value For Money: 6- Not a terrific open game, and only two goals to show.

Referee:7- Had a decent game & got most things right. Was lenient with time wasting tactics though!

TEAMS:

NORTHWICH VICTORIA: 1.Tim Deasy, 2.Chris Smalley, 3.Ryan Schofield, 4.Marc Joseph(sent off), 5.Danny Meadowcroft, 6.Jordan Hadfield, 7.Danny Wisdom(c), 8.Brian Summerskill, 9.Gary Burnett(1), 10.Michael Clarke, 11.Scott Harries. SUBS: 12.Aboubacar Sanogo(p), 14.Callum Henry, 15.Matt Greenwood(p).

DARLINGTON: 1.Mark Bell, 2.Stephen Harrison, 3.Terry Galbraith, 4.Joe Tait, 5.Gary Brown(c), 6.Jordan Robinson, 7.Nathan Fisher 8.Jonny Davis, 9.Amar Purewal, 10.David Dowson, 11.Stephen Thompson(1). SUBS: 12.Steve Johnson, 14.Adam Mitchell, 15.Dale Hopson(p), 16.Lewis Wing, 17. Peter Jameson(GK).

REFEREE: Mr.M.Cunliffe.