Manchopper in….Royton

royton-townwalshaw_badge_400x400

Result: Royton Town 0-3 Walshaw Sports (Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: The Oldham Academy North (Saturday 25th February 2017, 3.15pm)

Att: 22 (hc)

With heavy rain in the preceding days putting pay to the majority of fixture lists in the English lower leagues I, along with many others I presume, was left to pick through the pieces that remained from the destruction. Of course, being in England (especially Manchester), you always have a safety net lined up and this week’s one was the Oldham Academy North’s 3G pitch which plays host to Royton Town FC of the Manchester League’s Premier Division.

As more and more games fell foul of the wetness throughout the morning, I decided I would play it safe and head up to Oldham and tick-off a “ground” that falls just the right side of my rules. The reason? It has a taped off area for spectators. That’s it, just a little bit of bright yellow tape. Now to be honest, I’ve mulled over this one for a while and whether it really warranted a blog but, as there was that designated area, which was still on the artificial grass even, I figured it just about made the cut. So, what of the day?

Well, it wasn’t an inspiring one. It began with a smelly bus ride into Manchester, before escaping the weather once more and travelling up on a “classic” graffiti-decorated First service up towards Boundary Park. Once within sight of the ground, I quickly debussed and made a hasty track for the Brewers Fayre pub which sits a couple of minutes away from the League One Latics’ home.

I quickly realised that Oldham must be at home due to the traffic in the streets around the ground, so was a little more optimistic that the pub would have an atmosphere that, I figured, my game would lack. I did, however, make a bad mistake by deciding on a “short-cut”, which turned out to only make things worse as I was soon squelching over the corner of the neighbouring playing fields and clambering up a small, soft mud banking to get there!

A quick, much-needed stop...

A quick, much-needed stop…

I survived this climb of Everest proportions and took perceived refuge in the Clayton Green. Once inside, I quickly got to the bar and was soon in possession of a pint of Beck’s for £3.45. I took my plastic pot and thought I ought to have a check about who was in town, having already overheard the accents and reckoning they were from somewhere in London as, you know, I’m obviously some sort of genius. So, who was in town?

Millwall. “I was expecting chairs and tables to be thrown!” came a quote from somewhere inside after the fans had exited and headed off to Boundary Park. There was nothing of the sort from this group, though, with no signs of any trouble flaring which was good. Alas, there was little atmosphere either, with the rain probably dampening that too as well as the Oldham area, as I braved the elements once more and headed up for my game. Interestingly, I was the only one in the Clayton Green who headed this way….

Arriving at the Oldham Academy North

Arriving at the Oldham Academy North

The spectator area

The spectator area

A five-minute walk saw me arrive at the gates to the Academy and I was soon gaining access through the main entrance to the Sports Centre. After heading out through the rear doors to the pitch area, the players from Walshaw followed soon after to join their Royton counterparts on the pitch and we were all set. So, about the ground. There’s a pitch. There’s the aforementioned tape. There’s a mill which towers over the venue gaining it some character, but otherwise there’s little to get the pulse racing. Nothing to do with the club, just the venue in pretty uninspiring and unfortunately, the action on the pitch didn’t do anything to warm the cockles either. Anyway, before I get too down on things, here’s a bit about Royton Town’s story…

History Lesson:

Royton Town Football Club began life as the Stotts Benham works side in the Rochdale Alliance League, before changing its name to Royton Town. The club won the “Rochdale Alliance Premier League treble” and went unbeaten for two-and-a-half seasons before moving up to the Lancashire Amateur League in 1994. The club spent seven years here before transferring into the Manchester League in 2001.

The club have competed in the top-tier of the league since they joined, bar the first season where they won the First Division. After just two seasons, Royton won the Premier Division before drifting into a lower-mid table outfit for the next few years. Their best season since was last time out as the club recorded a runners-up placing in the Premier Division and they currently sit in third-place this season.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The game got underway and, before long, the rain came in and made for an unpleasant experience for those watching, playing, coaching and officiating en masse. It definitely didn’t help the gameplay, as both sets of players, understandably, found things hard going. For the first half-hour, I think it would be fair to say that very, very little happened bar a couple of half-chances for the visitors, crafted chiefly by their quicksilver #11.

It was, though, unsurprising that Walshaw went in at the break ahead. A low ball into the box was turned in at the back-post by an unfortunate defender for an own-goal and that was pretty much that. Everyone without an umbrella was wet, cold and, those connected with Walshaw excepted, miserable. Half-Time: 0-1 and it was off to the indoor tea-bar within the main building for some warmth and a dry off.

Some local sports heroes

Some local sports heroes

Queue for Toany's!

Queue for Toany’s!

The raised area

The raised area

After purchasing a cup of tea for the princely sum of 50p from Toany’s, it was soon time to head back outside. Begrudgingly. I did think about watching the second half from the slightly raised, paved area on the academy side of the pitch, but the cage made that impossible. So, back to the tape it was, though a watching, very damp dog was keeping a bit of cheer going on a very dour day.

On the pitch, Walshaw came out of the blocks quickly and took the game, once more, to their higher-placed hosts. Indeed, they looked to have doubled their advantage not too long after the restart, but the officials judged the ball to have not crossed the line, following a crisp drive smashing down off the crossbar. This was followed by Sports’ Jonathan Hunter somehow managing to strike the post when one-on-one and you wondered whether the visitors would regret these misses when the hosts got it together somewhat.

As it was, Royton never got it together and looked nothing like a third-placed team. Indeed, it looked like a complete role-reversal with Walshaw dominating the ninety minutes, their hipster beard bearing ‘keeper only being forced into one save of note when he palmed away a decent drive. Eventually, though, Walshaw got their deserved second when Hunter atoned for his earlier slip-up to net at the second attempt after his initial drive had been kept out. Boundary Park was also audibly going mad on the occasions of Connor Ripley’s double penalty save exploits.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Gately celebrates his goal

Gately celebrates his goal

This goal didn’t mean Walshaw were going to retreat into their shell, though, as they continued to come at the out-of-sorts Royton the centre-back going close with a header before they netted a third late on, a close range finish by Connor Gately into the largely unguarded net serving the coup de grace to the hosts. A good day for Connors in Oldham! Full-Time: 0-3 and a convincing win in a strange contest. Royton are obviously a good side (being 3rd in the table) but they just didn’t turn up on the day and were convincingly outplayed by their mid-table opponents.

After the game and feeling as though I’d taken a dip in the nearby River Irk I was that wet-through, I was delighted to find the bus back heading to the stop just as I arrived. Soon on board, it was back past Boundary Park where a few content Latics fans joined and back down to Manchester very uneventfully. That was that. A very uncomfortable day overall, but at least the game improved markedly so credit to the teams, especially Walshaw, for that. With yet more rain forecast for the following weekend, it looks like we could be doing it all again. Oh, the joys of this ‘hopping lark…

dsc03884

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 2

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A (Chocolate and the like was available I think)

Value For Money: 5

 

Manchopper in….Prestwich

untitled (4)234466_large

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.