Manchopper in….St. Helen’s (Langtree Park)

Result: Liverpool u19 5-0 Napoli u19 (UEFA Youth League)

Venue: Langtree Park, St. Helen’s RLFC (Tuesday 11th December 2018, 1pm)

Att: 350 (approx., no idea)

A chance to tick off a non-regular ground is always hard to pass up, and so this one proved as well. Liverpool u19’s have been using St Helens RLFC’s home at Langtree Park for their UEFA Youth League games this year and what better time to get it “ticked” than with a 1pm kick-off? Even better, it was a free one, with my Liverpool supporting Mum being quite eager to go and my Dad tagged along as transportation!! As such, there’s very little to mention pre-match as it was a straight journey there, though I did miss the first couple of minutes trying to find the open turnstiles.

Eventually the ticket office pointed me in the correct direction and for £3 (my Mum was free with her LFC membership), I was into Langtree Park – or the Totally Wicked Stadium as it’s quite amusingly known for sponsorship reasons. The ground is similar to most newer-build rugby grounds with two large covered terraces, one behind each goal, and two all-seater stands on the sides that run the length of the pitch. Two corners are filled in too between the Main Stand, where hospitality boxes are situated and either terrace, with a small scoreboard in the other corner of the left-hand goal end from my viewpoint in the North Stand. Liverpool were already qualified so little rode on the tie all things considered, bar the fact they could pip PSG to top spot with a win. With that being said, let’s get straight on with the action….

Arriving at Langtree Park

Heading up….

Mural

Finally getting into a seat in the…not so packed ground, it quickly became apparent that the Italian side’s youngsters were no real match for their counterparts. Goalkeeper and skipper Alessandro Fortunato D’Andrea pulled off a pair of fine early stops to deny Jake Cain and Paul Glatzel and keep his side level, though he did soon commit one of those truly blatant ‘keeper fouls when rushing out of his area and bringing down pacey winger, and my current Football Manager left-winger, Rafael Camacho.

Curtis Jones had earlier fired wide as Liverpool quickly stamped their authority on proceedings in the first twenty minutes or so, whilst Liam Millar shinned a shot high over the bar from around ten yards and with an empty net gaping, before the young Reds finally grabbed the breakthrough with around ten minutes remaining to the break, when a good move down the left flank resulted in the ball finding Jones whose initial shot was deflected into the path of Camacho, the Portuguese making no mistake in finding the net.

St Helen’s Flag (East) Terrace

North Stand

The “Marching Inn”

Liverpool sensed a quick kill now and duly added a second before the break when D’Andrea could only parry a low Camacho cross-shot to the arriving Millar who slotted home this time round. That would be it for the first-half action, with us lot heading down into the concourse beneath the stand, where I ended up with the final hot-pot pie on offer, thanks to my Mum kindly giving it up to me on blog purposes! It wouldn’t be one otherwise and I’ll make it up at Christmas. Anyways, she ended up with Haribo’s, so who really won here?! Food arguments notwithstanding, the game was shortly about to restart and so it was back to our seats for the second period…..and it started with a bang!

Just a couple of minutes after the resumption, the third goal would arrive through Glatzel playing the ball to Millar, before the latter returned the favour and Glatzel rocketed a shot into the roof of the net, the ball shaving the bar on its way in. D’Andrea may have been a bit disappointed in where he’d been beaten, the effort flying beyond him at his near post and this would have almost certainly have been the case almost immediately afterwards, when Jones beat his man and shot under the body of the Neapolitan custodian for number 4. The small number of Italian fans who’d come out to watch the first of a likely double-header for them were surely hoping this wasn’t a precursor of things to come, their very slight ripple of applause for the first band of subs not being repeated.

Glassworks just visible from the ground

Non-Match Action

The glut of allowed substitutes broke the game up somewhat and the visitors began to gain something of a foothold, including managing their (apparent) one and only effort of the contest during this period. However, the Reds soon put a stop to any kind of hopes of a consolation and added a fifth just before the end when sub Bobby Duncan fired a finely struck effort from outside the area into the bottom corner, leaving D’Andrea with no chance. However, without the ‘keeper being in very good form, this could have been double figures and that wouldn’t have been a surprise, considering the apparent gulf in determination. Perhaps this is unsurprising given that, as I said earlier, Napoli were playing for nothing but pride.

That was that and Liverpool u19’s marched on to the next stages and continued their European adventure post-Christmas, while the Napoli side headed off home licking their wounds. As for us, a bit of getting lost in finding a pub eventually ended up with us at the ground’s near neighbour, by the name of the Glass Horse – the name seemingly deriving from nearby Haydock Park and the famed St. Helen’s Glassworks. Whatever the case, I ended up with a pint of Greene King’s East Coast IPA which was pretty decent at £3.35 before the trip home was undertaken without issue.

Post-Match

Glass Horse

Not much to say on this one really, all things considered. The ground was decent view wise, but obviously there was next to nothing in terms of atmosphere with 8/10ths being empty. The game was fine, albeit one-sided, and the food and pub were both decent too, the pie being well worth the effort if you get the chance. Onwards to Saturday and a rare trip down to the Southern League….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 7

Food: 8

Programme: Teamsheet

Value For Money: 8

Manchopper in….Sutton (Penlake FC)

Penlake Golborne Sports

Result: Penlake 9-0 Golborne Sports (Hallmark Security Cheshire League 1)

Venue: Sutton Leisure Centre (Saturday 23rd May 2015, 3pm)

Att: 40 (hc)

The penultimate weekend of the season signalled the penultimate game. A straight shoot out between two sides, Penlake & Walshaw Sports was decided when Walshaw’s gamewas switched to a 3G venue, thus leaving me with a trip towards St.Helen’s for a crucial game in the Cheshire League 1. Penlake, the home side, sat 11th out of 12 in the table and required no less than a win to stay up and send Warrington Town Reserves down instead. Golborne Sports provided the obstacle, looking to do their near neighbours a favour and put their opponents through the trap door.

Again, I was to be joined on another journey into the lower reaches of the English system by Dan Watkinson, who I was to meet at Manchester Oxford Road Station, for the train onwards to Newton-le-Willows. Whilst on the platform, we briefly met up with Trafford supporter Richard Parkinson, who was heading off to Southport for the Lancashire vs Derbyshire County Championship match. I’ve known Richard for a fair while now, and it’s always good to have a chat with him, however brief it may be, as a couple of minutes later, he departed off on his way towards the leather and willow. We, however, were on our way soon after, on the Llandudno-bound train.

After disembarking at the first stop on the route, it was soon onto a novelty of sorts, a comfortable Northern Electric train! How exciting. Dan, meanwhile, ended up meeting an old colleague, as you do, before we soon rolled into Lea Green station at just after 1.30. With loads of time to spare and with Sutton Leisure Centre, the venue for today’s game, just two minutes walk from the station, we decided to scout out the entry etc. first. After doing so and spotting the first players beginning to arrive in the car park, we decided to backtrack towards the pub, situated on the station approach.

Newton-le-Willows

Newton-le-Willows

Comfort

Comfort!

The Bull & Dog

The Bull & Dog

Now inside the Bull & Dog, and with a, rather expensive, £3.70 Kopparberg in hand, we made our way over towards the tables and benches running along the far wall. Here, we were greeted with a voice calling “Well, you’ve just avoided the worst game in the history of football!”. The comment was made about the Dundee-Rangers game, which Rangers scraped through by a guy sitting next to us. It turned out that, he too, was heading to the Penlake game and informed us that there would probably be quite a few groundhoppers down at the game, himself being one. After a further conversation about Minor Counties cricket and football in general, we headed off in unison to the leisure centre. On arrival, you make your way through the car park, past a sign warning of “No Ball Games”, and past a large blue penguin which stands guard at the entrance to the facility itself. P-P-P-P-Penlake then!!! No? No? Okay then.

Once inside, our fellow hopper, whose name escapes me, came across a familiar face to him, by the name of Andy, who wished us luck in finding the entrance. Surprisingly, it was I who had the best of this, spotting the signs for the way to the Athletics Track, which surrounds the ground. After passing by the dressing rooms of the respective teams, both bearing the names of their previous inhabitants for a cup final, we headed outside and back into the sunshine of St. Helen’s. As stated above, the pitch itself is surrounded by an athletics track, though this matters little, as it seems to not affect the views too much. This is probably aided by the fact there is a grass banking which runs the length of the far touchline, before curving round behind the far goal, Curva Nord style. Behind both goals is open, with a pathway leading behind the “road end” and grass and bushes behind the far net. The near side touchline is where the hatch with a Slush Puppy Machine is situated, with a patio-like area providing views of the pitch. This is where you enter the barred-off pitch area from when you first exit the Leisure Centre.

Approaching the Centre

Approaching the Centre

This May Be An Issue...

This May Be An Issue…

Dan and the Blue Penguin

Dan, our  hopping friend & the Blue Penguin

The players soon followed us through the door, before carrying some “mobile” dugouts towards the touchline! The two sides awaited kick-off, whilst Golborne struggled to get up to 11, but once they did, we were all set to go. But before then, here is a bit of history about Penlake Football Club….

History Lesson:

Penlake FC was formed in 1971, by the current club president, Chris Duffy, along with Eddie Guinness. The club, Penlake Juniors, as a whole, derives its name from the British Rail Club within Sutton Junction. The traditional name of the club’s home is The Beeches Playing Fields, which is part of the wider leisure centre on Sutton Road.

The club hosts age groups from under 7’s up to the open age side, and their claim to fame is being in the Guinness Book of Records. This was achieved in 1986, when the Penlake first team went on a 153 game unbeaten streak, which lasted for over five years. This record still stands to this day, and apparently makes Penlake Juniors the “Team of the Millennium! Not a bad title to hold!  The club played just one season under the Penlake Juniors name in the Liverpool Combination, before dropping the suffix for the senior side. They continued in the league for a further two seasons, before dropping out of competition, it appears, in 2007. They returned, in the Cheshire League 2, in 2012, playing two seasons in that division, before gaining a place in the League 1 in 2014 as a result of the Cheshire League restructuring, after a ninth placed finish.

Helpful Signage.

Helpful Signage.

Mobile Dugouts

Mobile Dugouts

Kick-Off

Kick-Off

So, what would the Team of the Millennium have in store for us today then? Let’s find out….

The answer was fireworks! No, not literally, but figuratively speaking, they were on fire! After a rather even start to the game, the home side began to take control and it was no surprise that they struck first, with the Penlake #9, Alex Grisedale, being played in, before slotting in comfortably.

As we were undertaking a half-lap of the ground, taking pictures of many things including Dan’s foot, Grisedale grabbed his, and his side’s, second soon afterwards, when the striker hammered in an effort from inside the area off the underside of the bar and into the net. Great start for the relegation threatened side, who looked full of confidence and this was only enhanced before the break, when the #14, who started the game, again found the crossbar friend rather than foe, firing in off of the woodwork.

Miles Away

Miles Away

The Curva Nord, Cheshire League Style!

The Curva Nord, Cheshire League Style!

Dan's Foot

Dan’s Foot

Half-Time came and went with a spot of sunbathing (unheard of, I know) being undertaken upon the grass banking which Dan and myself found as our vantage point of choice, and I’m sure Dan also took the opportunity for a few, not quite 40, winks. As for me, I found more than enough entertainment on the field, as Grisedale notched his hat-trick soon after the restart.

Then came the goal of the game. The #11 picked up the ball on the left wing, before unleashing a volley from 25 yards which flew past the GK, with the crossbar again helping the ball on its way. The sixth and seventh followed shortly afterwards, #11 nicking a less spectacular second, tapping in after #14 had been his shot well repelled by the Golborne GK, and Grisedale got his fourth, again smashing one past the beleaguered visiting goalkeeper, just as an Airbus Beluga flew over. Even the large cargo aircraft would struggle to hold the amount of goals today!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

There was still time for Grisedale to become the league top scorer by grabbing a fifth goal, poaching one at the back post and lastly came substitute #12, who got inside the area before slotting it across the ‘keeper for #9. To add insult to an awful lot of injury, a comment from the crowd exclaimed “I don’t think he’s scored since he was 13!”.

If it wasn’t for an offside at 4-0, it would’ve been double figures and that wouldn’t have flattered Penlake at all, nor would it have been harsh on Golborne who were truly awful. True, they may have been light on numbers and playing for nothing but pride, but that doesn’t explain a 9-0 hammering against the side second bottom. Still, full credit to Penlake, who fully deserved their points.

Celebration of the last goal

Celebration of the last goal

The Leisure Centre

The Leisure Centre

As a result, the small band of Warrington fans went home slightly down, but I doubt they’d lose too much sleep. As for Dan and I, we headed back to the station, where we missed the first train back, but for me, this was for the best as the cancellation of a service was the one I’d have arrived for, therefore being left stranded. Happily, there was another in 20 minutes, so after wasting away the time with pointless conversation and the disturbing “Shrek is love, Shrek is Life” video, we soon set off for Victoria station and Dan again must have found me boring company as he once again visited the land of nod….

After arrival at Victoria, and Dan’s trouble with the ticket barriers there, we headed over to Piccadilly Gardens where I bid goodbye to Dan,who headed on his way home, whereas I walked on back to Oxford Road and parrived around about 10 minutes before my train home was due to depart. Perfect! A good day, at a nice venue and a very entertaining game, unless you hold a Golborne Sports point of view….

My Penlake M.o.M.- Alex Grisedale.

My Golborne Sports M.o.M.- The manager who was absent, referring to his many reporters on Twitter!

wpid-20150523_150402.jpg

RATINGS:

Game: 8- Entertaining, but very one sided.

Ground: 6- Athletics track a downside but, nonetheless, a very nice venue.

Fans: 6- Extra points for the comment above!

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 9- Only downside was the dear-ish cider in the pub!