Manchopper in….Cheadle Heath (2)

 

Result: Cheadle Heath Nomads 0-8 Stockport County (Pre-Season Friendly)

 

Venue: The Heath (Saturday 6th July 2019, 3pm)

Att: 1,005

As pre-season rumbles (or maybe crawls is a more appropriate word) on, I was on a quest to discover somewhere local for a revisit for this weekend as I wanted to be on something of a tighter budget ahead of the following week’s trip over to Scarborough. This resulted in a trip into town to meet regular ‘hopping accomplice-in-chief, Dan, to sort out a final destination. Over a pint in Piccadilly Gardens’ Wetherspoon’s outlet, options such as Hindsford and Stockport Town, amongst others, were floated, but were discounted for varying reasons before we settled on a Father Ted-inspired visit to Crilly Park for Atherton LR vs a Witton Albion XI. So we were off to Atherton….

Or so we thought! Moments before we were to set off, Dan had a check of the NWCFL website and discovered the game was postponed (it actually wasn’t as it turns out, so no idea what was going on there) and so back into the pot of grounds we dipped, deciding on one of those options already mooted – Cheadle Heath Nomads vs Stockport County. Splitting our transportation routes to suit our respective needs and budgets, Dan headed for the bus station whilst I was off back uphill towards Piccadilly station for a service the short way over to Stockport – deciding this was an easier option than waiting for one bound for the closer stops of Cheadle Hulme or Davenport. Indeed, the plusbus would see the onward bus journeys be a breeze anyway….or so I thought; but more on that later!

Anyways, for the moment, all was running smoothly and I headed into and out of Stockport in quick time, arriving into Cheadle Heath for a touch after 1pm. With Dan still en route via the joys of Greater Manchester’s bus system, I reckoned I might as well squeeze a pre-Dan pint in before returning to our pre-planned meeting point in the Cross Keys. So upon disembarking at said Cross Keys, I instead took the short-ish walk around the corner and within five-or-so minutes was arriving at the March Hare, which is set back quite some way from the road itself and is accessed by its own, rather lengthy, access lane which is lined by old-school lights all the way down, giving it a quaint look. The pub itself was pretty too and a warm welcome was received which is always a bonus.

March Hare

Foxy

With a pint of Amstel (£3.50~) in hand, I settled into the largely timber-framed inside and was pleasantly surprised to hear the dulcet tones of Dawes over the stereo system; this had been a decent start to proceedings! With that said and Dan’s arrival becoming ever more imminent, I finished up and headed out on up the lane back to the main road only to, at that moment, catch a fox with its cub in the middle of the road. The cub soon made its exit into the vacant lot alongside, whilst the adult gave me a long, watchful stare before joining its youngster the other side of the wall. A definite first for me doing this….at least I think so!

Cheadle Heath is a suburb of Stockport within Greater Manchester, eight miles to the south east of the city centre, and has and still is home to numerous engineering companies. A large factory was built in Cheadle Heath by Henry Simon in 1926 and its distinctive tower went on to be used for testing of experimental flour milling equipment, whilst it has also been home to large oil equipment manufacturers and underwater sonar companies too. The town did have a railway station through to 1967, but this has gone the way of many a football ground and is now a Morrisons.

Cross Keys

Micker Brook

Park

I arrived at the Cross Keys once more soon after and waited only a short while for Dan to join me whilst supping a pint of Holsten (cheap at £2.75). Our initial coupling would be brief though as he headed off to the ground a little earlier so to enable him to not rush, whilst I (being quite happy and rather used to last minute arrivals by now) headed for a final pre-match beverage in the Micker Brook Smokehouse a short walk down the road. Not much to really report on here though and upon swiftly finishing my pint of Heineken (£3.80) I cut through the park on the opposite side of the road, to the bus stop to catch the carriage the few short stops up the way towards Nomads’ home – The Heath.

With the bus running a little late (shock, horror!) I had to do a short jog to ensure my arrival at the ground in time for the game’s beginning – well within earshot of the whistle anyway. The clubhouse building, set back a fair way from the pitch itself, was still rather busy with people finishing off their own last bits of respective drinks ahead of making their way to the turnstiles – a new addition since my previous visits here in the Cheshire League. A nice touch was when, upon handing over my £5, I was pulled up to ensure I awaited my match ticket, which it turned out was actually a free pass to a game at any point later in the Nomads’ season. A good idea too, considering they’ll likely pick up some extra numbers on the attendance figures here and there.

Tunnel vision

Heading on in….

Whilst league surroundings have changed for the Nomads, so their ground itself has changed a bit too. Along with the pre-existing, but itself rather recent, changing room building, the ground now plays host to a covered standing and all-seater at-cost-style pair of structures at its far side which, on myself and Dan’s last visit here was not much more than a sodden swamp, so that’s quite the improvement, for sure! The pitch is fully-railed and is open, hard standing for the majority of the remainder, with a small food bar to the rear of the dressing rooms, between it and the turnstile, whilst another barred-off pitch lies behind the near-end goal. A railway runs right behind the other end too, for those who like that sort of thing, whilst the Manchester Airport flightpath allows excitement for those of a aluminium-based avian variety persuasion. That’s The Heath in a nutshell and this is the story of the Nomads of Cheadle Heath….

History Lesson:

Cheadle Heath Nomads were founded in 1919 with the club’s founders later purchasing land which would become the present Sports Club site in 1921. The club went on to join the Lancashire & Cheshire AFL soon after and bar a brief stint away in 1927, remained as members of the league right through until 1994 – a period which saw their pre-WWII season’s become a struggle money-wise, resulting in an enforced kit change to all-white, with all players having to supply their own tops! Post-war, Nomads took on their claret and blue kit which has become their regular scheme, although a switch back to their original yellow and green kit has been introduced for this, their centenary season.

Cheadle Heath grew stronger in the aftermath of the Second World War and the 1950’s produced a somewhat golden-era for the club and the expansion of facilities at the sports club as a whole. Springing forwards to 1994, and after maintaining regular strong showings in the Lancs & Cheshire League, the club finally undertook the much-mooted move to the Mid-Cheshire League after the pitch-clash with the cricketing outfield was solved by the demise of the leather and willow section. They immediately won the Second Division title at the end of their first season in the league and they remained in the First Division there through the best part of a decade prior to the club merging with fellow Mid-Cheshire outfit, Linotype, based in Timperley – a move which saw the Linotype name remain in the league (they were struggling to ensure their home at the Silver Wings Club) and enabled Nomads own struggles were somewhat abated.

At The Heath

Nomads

Competing as Linotype/Cheadle Heath Nomads, the side maintained a place in the First Division through a league name change (to the Cheshire League) and a divisional name swap (to the Premier Division), finally winning the league title in 2014-’15, a season which allowed Nomads to maintain a place in the upper echelons of the table for the next few seasons, with them just missing out on a successful defence of the title the next season, eventually ending up as runners-up. Attentions soon turned to aiming for the North West Counties League and swift ground improvements allowed for entry upon the league’s expansion ahead of the 2018-’19 season – with floodlights, further spectator cover and improved pitch barriers all being installed, with the second pitch also being spruced up. They finished last season, their first at Step 6, in a highly creditable 9th place.

County’s first pre-season outing ahead of their long overdue Conference return started off well for the Hatters as they struck to open the deadlock just a few minutes in. Nomads’ centenary-season special colours of canary-yellow and green did little to aid them against their illustrious neighbours as Ash Palmer got up highest to guide a header beyond Cheadle Heath ‘keeper Aaron Tyrer. Around quarter of an hour into the game and it was two when Frank Mulhern’s powerful long-range drive burst the gloves of Tyrer and hit the back of the net; the keeper surely feeling he ought to have done better.

Match Action

Match Action

However, he was pretty helpless just a couple of minutes later when left one-on-one against Elliot Osborne, with the County man rounding Tyrer and slotting home, before it was four on 25 minutes when Mulhern hit one across goal on the turn, the ball hitting the far corner beyond the beleaguered Nomads gloveman. The dangerous frontman then clipped the top of the crossbar as he searched for a double-quick hat-trick and was denied by a fine Tyrer stop from a well struck free-kick, but it wouldn’t be for Mulhern and instead it would be Jake Kirby who would make it five on the half-hour as he knocked the ball home after a corner wasn’t cleared. The rest of the half was largely uneventful outside of my visit to the food hut (well, the BBQ next door) for a cheeseburger; though was denied access to the chips being cooked as they were bound for those with the blue blood (no pun intended).

A much-changed County line-up emerged for the second half which seemed to be made up of a number of younger players, but this didn’t seem to dampen their forward forays. First, Michael Elstone hit a low drive which Tyrer was able to get down well to and push behind, though he would beat the Nomads stopper at the second attempt soon after when, after a cross was only half-cleared, a calm pull-back was fired home from the edge of the area. A couple of further Stockport chances came and went but the game was beginning to fizzle out at this point in truth – though Cheadle Heath did eventually get a sight of goal well into the second period when Jake Wright’s low drive was saved comfortably by the long-serving County stopper Ian Ormson.

Corners

Match Action

It’s all black and white

The hosts began to fashion a couple of chances against the ever-changing Stockport on-field personnel with a couple of chances coming and going – Andy Simpson nodding narrowly wide of the mark, but the Hatters would finish strongly and add a pair of goals late on. Number seven would come courtesy of Elstone’s second strike of the game – a close range knock home from a low cross – and Szymon Czubik added the eighth seconds later after charging down Tyrer’s attempted clearance in the flank. Eight-nil it would finish to a strong-looking Hatters and Cheadle Heath can take heart from the fact that County have since gone on to tonk Stockport Town for ten without reply and also defeated Curzon Ashton. Of course, friendlies are notoriously unreliable when it comes to a season’s predictions and outlooks, but the Hatters will be hoping that this isn’t the case for them!

Post-match I came up with the plan to undertake the walk in the opposite direction from whence we came, towards Cheadle and the Farmer’s Arms. Dan didn’t take too much in the way of encouraging to tag along(!) and upon arriving we were soon in possession of a pint of Boddington’s and a Carling…..bet you can’t guess which one is mine. The round was only £6.25 though, which wasn’t too bad and certainly not as bad as the attendance at the Women’s World Cup 3rd-place play-off on the TV, that’s for sure. We soon headed on out for the bus back towards Stockport only for a different one to turn up immediately meaning we jumped on. Of course, in my haste, I couldn’t find the plusbus ticket, but the driver allowed me on nonetheless. Despite much checking of all nooks and crannies of my bag, the ticket still wouldn’t show up but, to be fair, the guy said he’d give me the benefit of the doubt and only charged a quid to get back – which was decent of him, to be fair. Of course, I then found it almost immediately.

Farmer’s Arms to round off with

When I was getting off though, the driver actually apologised for charging me an extra £1 which was good of him as he’d actually done me a good favour anyhow, and I arrived at Stockport station to find all trains in disarray once again – though one was just pulling in much delayed which helped me at least, though I’m sure many more weren’t as lucky. A few minutes later and I was back in the sprawling metropolis of Piccadilly and took a sojourn to the Piccadilly Tap, a place I’ve been a stranger from for far too long. A pint of Budvar was enjoyable here (£4) before heading back to the station and the couple of connections through town and home to round off week two of 2019-’20. Goals galore, one-sided games aren’t my favourite, but in pre-season I couldn’t care less if I’m honest. It’s always nice to visit the Heath and I’ll be certain to make use of my ticket later this season. Food was good, the pubs were too and the programme was a fine edition, though I’m not sure quite what the regular size will be as this covered all PSF’s. Anyway, up next is Scarborough for football – but not at a football ground….

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 5

Food: 7

Programme: 8

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Lancaster

Result: Lancaster City 1-3 Stockport County (FA Trophy First Round)

Venue: Giant Axe (Saturday 16th December 2017, 3pm)

Att: 578

As the Christmas season gets ever closer, so the football season begins to turn up a notch. Fixture lists get ever more congested at this time of year, as the traditional festive dates are added to the regular weekend games and these, combined with cup competitions, mean a less than quiet yuletide beckons for players, officials and supporters alike. Nonetheless, the attractiveness of the FA Trophy – and a prospective Wembley appearance – is little to be sniffed at and so it was that those affiliated with both Lancaster City and Stockport County (along with other interested neutrals such as yours truly) headed to the Giant Axe in not so balmy conditions, the lure of the Trophy proving to overcome the icy conditions on the terracing.

Now when I say icy terraces, I say so without any sort of dramatic effect. For indeed the areas around the Giant Axe pitch were, we were warned by the PA system pre-match, still under the effects of frozen water and this would only prove to worsen as temperatures fell towards the close of the tie. But before any of that, I had a tour of a number of Lancaster’s fine hostelries to enjoy and having arrived in Lancashire’s county town (city?) at just before midday, I headed slightly out of the centre and to the canal side, where I’d visit my first scouted pub of the day, the Water Witch.

Lancaster Station

Water Witch

White Cross & Cathedral Spire

The Water Witch was still fairly empty at this early part of the afternoon, but most of those who were in were enjoying some of the food on offer which, I must admit, was giving off a more than attractive aroma. But I was more distracted by the offerings at the bar and plumped for a pint of Rosie’s Pig cider. A cloudy, still offering, it went down well at £4 a pint. However I soon had other places to see and so continued onwards down the canal towpath towards the towering spire of Lancaster Cathedral. Just before getting there though, I came across the White Cross, located within a large ex-warehouse, again by the side of the frozen waters. In here I plumped for a pint of the Blood Orange IPA. A nice pint.

Following a quick diversion to the Cathedral, which appeared to be devoid of people, ’twas to the city centre I set course. Upon arriving at a statue of Queen Victoria outside the town hall, I next visited the neighbouring Borough Hotel. The Borough has a lovely bar area that was well populated today, again with families enjoying a hot meal and those partaking in both coffee or something a little stronger. As for myself, I decided on playing safe and so a Kingstone Press was had here, whilst sitting under the watchful eye of a shape-shifting picture. On one side a man, the other a demonic-like entity. I’d seen the picture somewhere before, though, so wasn’t as perturbed as I might have been otherwise!

Lancaster

The Borough

…..yeah.

Anyway, I soon finished up in here and began on a more linear route to the ground, though this did include a final stop-off in the Tap House, a place I’d been roped into visiting by the offering of Punk IPA on draught. Of course, the pint wasn’t cheap, coming in at £4.80, though some people not as used to this may share the expression of one of the trio of women’s pictures in the gentlemen’s….

Soon enough, it was time to head to the Giant Axe itself. Heading back over the railway bridge, I made use of the cut-through across the adjoining field and arrived at the turnstile, which I would soon discover read “Away fans only”. I was surprised by this apparent segregation, as I’d not seen anything suggesting this was going to be in place. Having handed over my £8 fee (decent for the level, fair play Dollies) and a further £2 for the quality programme, whose front cover design hasn’t changed since my first visit almost nine years ago, I soon discovered that there indeed was no separating of fans in place and all were left to mingle freely. This also meant a circuit round to Dolly’s Diner was made all the easier, and chips and gravy (~£2.50) were soon being demolished, in the way that the much-missed (to me anyway) Dolly Blue was. Good times.

The Giant Axe is one of my favourite grounds around. Though my expectations are now somewhat skewed compared to what they were, the Axe is still a great ground to watch a game at. Alongside the turnstile stands a large open terrace that affords raised views of the action behind the car-park end goal. To the left stands the Main Stand, a fairly sizable covered and all-seated affair, which is flanked at its far end by the aforementioned Dolly’s Diner. The far end plays host to a covered terrace area, though of a smaller size to that opposite in terms of height (possibly due to housing behind), still runs the length of the pitch too. This terrace is named after City’s former skipper, the late Neil Marshall, who sadly passed away just over a year ago aged just 31. The ‘Neil Marshall Legend’ End is a fitting tribute. The castle side is all open, hard standing, though plays host to a bar/hospitality area or whatever it is these days, along with a manually adjusted scoreboard which, at one point pre-match read City 0-5 Visitors. They were feeling optimistic then!

Lancaster Priory

Arriving at the Giant Axe

Before long, both sides were in the tunnel down by the Main Stand and we were all set to go soon after. But before we get onto the tie at hand, let’s delve into the annuls of Lancaster City F.C….

History Lesson:

Lancaster City Football Club was founded in 1911 as Lancaster Town F.C, following the previous losses of Lancaster-based outfits Skerton (resigned during 1899-1900) & Lancaster Athletic (resigned during 1910-1911). The latter played in the West Lancashire League, but the new Town club would instead join the Lancashire Combination, of which Skerton where a prior competitor in.

With no connection to either team, Lancaster Town were therefore allowed admittance to the Combination, and began plying their trade initially in Division 2 until the Combination became a one division league following WWI. The club finished as 1919-20 runners-up and went on to apply for the new Third Division North of the Football League after the following season, but were unsuccessful in their application. Instead, Town would go on to win the Combination (and Combination Cup) in 1922 and following a pair of successes in the Lancashire FA Trophy (1928 & ’29)  rounded off the decade with a 1929 FA Cup First Round appearance, where they lost out at home to Lincoln City .

The following season saw the Combination won for a second time (and a third Lancs Trophy success), along with a second Cup First Round appearance, but this again ended in defeat, this time to New Brighton F.C. However, the league continued to be successful for the club, with back-to-back titles arriving in 1935 & ’36, (the first seeing yet another Lancs Trophy adorn the trophy cabinet) prior to Town becoming City in 1937, after Lancaster was awarded City status as part of King George VI’s coronation celebrations.

Castle overlooking the ground….

Continuing in the Combination following WWII, the club finally progressed to the FA Cup’s Second Round in 1948, with victory over Spennymoor United. They would also gain some further cup silverware in the familiar form of the Lancashire FA Trophy in 1952, but 1970 saw City depart the Combination for the Northern Premier League. Here, the club would again reach the FA Cup’s Second Round in 1973 (bowing out to Notts County) prior to again lifting the Lancashire FA Trophy in 1975. However, following a 17th placed finish in 1982, City resigned from the NPL and dropped into the North West Counties League but financial issues gripped the club and forced City to fold prior to an immediate reformation. Things didn’t improve much and, three seasons later, City were relegated to the NWCFL Division 2. However, they were to get something of a break in 1987 when, despite only finishing up 13th, the club were accepted into the newly formed NPL Division One.

1995 saw NPL success finally arrive in the form of the President’s Cup, City’s first trophy in two decades, before the club would go on to win the Division One title the following year and, as a result, were promoted to the Premier Division. Remaining here through to 2004 and lifting two NPL League Cups along the way in 2000 & ’01, an eight placed finish enabled Lancaster to take up a spot in the newly created Conference North, the new Step 2 of the non-league system. This proved a successful time initially for the club, with good league performances and four further FA Cup First Round appearances being enjoyed but financial issues soon returned to haunt the club and 2007 saw the club fold for a second time after entering administration earlier in the season. Another summer reformation saw the club return to the Northern Premier League for 2007-’08 and took a spot in Division One North.

…and Giant Axe under lights

2010 saw Lancaster reach the Division One North play-offs, where they were defeated by Colwyn Bay.  However, regular managerial changes saw the club never quite make the play-offs again, with ex-Newcastle United & Blackburn Rovers defender Darren Peacock being the biggest name to take the reins during this period. After Peacock left the club in 2015, Phil Brown (no, not that one) took the reigns and led the Dolly Blues (the nickname apparently derived from the clubs kit being identical in colour to the dolly blue washing tablets manufactured in the town/city in the early 20th century) to the Lancashire Trophy final, where they would lose out to higher-ranked opposition in Chorley. But, Brown’s first full season in charge saw him lead the club to promotion, with City taking the 2017 NPL Division One North title and taking a spot in the Premier Division for this season.

The first competitive game between the sides at Giant Axe for over 80 years got underway with County quickly gaining most of the play during the early stages. Despite this, the contest was a bit of a slow burner, with little of note occurring within the first twenty minutes. However, it would take just a further seven minutes for the deadlock to be broken and it was County, pretty unsurprisingly, who got the opener. A fine ball in from the right flank saw Jason Oswell arrive to tower above the City defenders and head across City ‘keeper Josh Powell, the ball nestling in the top corner.

By this point I’d got talking to Colin & Ash whilst standing on the open terrace at the City end of the ground. Colin is a Scouse fella who watches Lancaster on a fairly regular basis, whilst Ash, it turned out, is the brother of County stopper Ian Ormson. As such, it was good to be getting a view from both camps whilst the game was going on and getting something of an inside track on how both had been performing, and playing, so far this season.

Match Action

Fully focussed fans

Match Action

The game continued on at a fairly serene pace, with County still maintaining their hold on the vast majority of possession, with City somewhat struggling to get much joy out of their sole striker, through no real fault of his own, whilst the supporting midfielders never really got the chance to get into any position to manufacture an attack on the County goal during the first half. This became more of an issue when, around five minutes before the break, Stockport doubled their lead. I somewhat missed the goal as I’d looked away in the opinion there was little to no chance of anything going on. But a roar soon alerted me to look up and see the ball settling in the bottom corner courtesy of Gary Stopforth. Apparently, a ‘keeping error had allowed Stopforth in and County now had an advantage that you couldn’t see them spurning. Half-Time, 0-2.

Following a spell of attempting to get Ash to visit one of the numerous portaloos in the most efficient time possible, the sides reappeared for the second half. What had also reappeared was the white settling upon the pitch. The temperature had begun to drop markedly and the pitch and the surrounding area had begun to be affected once more. Indeed, as I’d later find out, the paving area around the turnstile had begun to get rather lethal, so much so that I felt I best alert the steward to the fact before the final whistle.

Anyway, the second half began with Lancaster coming out of the blocks the quicker and taking the game to their higher-ranked visitors. This did, however, leave them susceptible to the County attackers and Powell had to pull off a good stop to deny Darren Stephenson. On 53 minutes, Lancaster introduced Ryan Winder into the fray and 60 seconds later he was placing the ball on the spot. Penalty! Winder’s first meaningful (if not actual first) touch was to send the spot-kick into the corner of Ben Hinchliffe’s net and spark the home side’s chances of at least grabbing a replay into life.

Match Action

Match Action

Indeed, Winder was soon denied a second by Hinchliffe, before County began to wake themselves back up somewhat and begin to snuff out the remaining attacks that the hosts could muster. With a few minutes left on the clock, I said my goodbyes to Colin and Ash (I may have disrupted their viewing more than they may have wanted!) and headed for a quick word with County’s skipper Harry Winter, who’d been subbed off a little earlier in proceedings. Whilst having said chat with the ex-Trafford midfield dynamo (and occasional reader of these pages, apparently!), Bohan Dixon forced his way into the area before firing through the hands of Powell to secure the Hatters their place in the Second Round. City, meanwhile, felt the Axe fall upon them. Sorry.

Post-match saw me head back into the City centre and to Merchants bar, a cavernous-like place just by the castle. I indulged in some festive drinks, plumping for a Mulled Cider on account that it was bloody cold at this point. After finishing up in here, a further, final stop was undertaken in the form of the Robert Gillow (not a Wetherspoon’s surprisingly), where I decided on a bottle of Birra Morena. Now, if this was indeed over £3.50 as I remember…well, that’s certainly a fair bit more than we sell it for…

Merchants

Robert Gillow

Alas, it was only the final act that was a dampener and I was soon back at Lancaster station for the train back to Manchester. I’d contrived to grab the express on the way back, which got me back into Manchester in good time for my connection back. All had gone well so far. However, after a fifteen minute wait at Oxford Road, those dreaded words flashed up on the timetable…CANCELLED. Shite. There was only one thing for it. Yes, I had to get a bus home. The things you have to endure for this “hobby”…..

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 8

Food: 7

Programme: 8

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Stockport

Stockport_County_Logo_2014Harrogate_Town_FC

Result: Stockport County 1-2 Harrogate Town (Vanarama National North)

Venue: Edgeley Park (Saturday 26th December 2015, 3pm)

Att: 3,326

As rain once again ravaged vast areas of the North of England, it was obvious that the football fixture list would take a further hammering over the festive period, starting with the Boxing Day games. Of course, it goes without saying that it pales in significance to the issues that others are facing due to the wet weather and I’d like to pass on my well wishes to all those affected by the storms and the flooding aftermaths around the regions.

As for myself if there was football to be found, I was determined to find it. However, it looked like it was going to be a fruitless endeavour as game after game fell by the wayside and with public transport restrictions limiting me to the Manchester area, I was soon panicking until one club and one club alone came to the rescue of myself and, I’m sure, many others. That club was Stockport County and I felt it rude not to head over to Edgeley Park for the Boxing Day derby clash with…Harrogate Town. Oh.

So, with demons to exorcise at Edgeley following its place in the double 0-0 tragedy 18 months earlier (where I watched two 0-0’s in a day) I headed over to Stockport via the bus straight into the town centre, which I’m saving for when I go to Stockport Town as Woodley is a bit shit. Heading over on the bus did mean I had to endure some wannabe Vanilla Ices at the back of the top deck for a short while, which is always something that makes me cringe badly. Just no.

The highlights of Stockport include the large railway viaduct that dominates the area around the town centre, and towers above the Stockport pyramid. The pyramid houses the tomb of the pharaoh Ulysses II, who ruled Egypt around 90 BC. His body was brought over as part of a Manchester University display in the early 1900’s and was interred under the pyramid afterwards. Interested? Well you shouldn’t be, because that was all made up.

Upon hopping off the bus at the station by the side of the Hat Museum, I knew that Edgeley had a few pubs of its own in the high street so, after passing by the Stockport Plaza (where I’d been to the panto in the line of duty the previous week) numerous times in trying to negotiate my way out of the, not so confusing to anyone but me, centre I eventually undertook the short 10 minute walk towards the ground, negotiating the hill and ending up at the Armoury, which when I visited last year was busy with visiting Alty fans, but today was a home stronghold.

 

Stockport

Stockport

Viaduct at night

Viaduct at night

The Armoury

The Armoury

The Armoury was a friendly place, but with little happening in here I soon departed to Edgeley’s main shopping street and was a bit put off by most of the pubs appearances. Eventually, thanks to the football ground map site’s recommendation of the Royal Oak, it was here that I visited to watch the second half of Manchester United’s game at Stoke. It was a pretty good choice and I can safely say it is likely the better of the remaining four or so bars in the area. Not long before I headed back out and over to Edgeley Park itself, the County drum made an appearance and, needless to say, I expected it would be the first of many times I’d see (or hear) from this through the next couple of hours or so. I’d noticed I hadn’t seen many away fans as of yet and was hoping they’d stayed in Stockport itself and not got held up by the sinkhole in the motorway.

Edgeley high street

Edgeley high street

Royal Oak

Royal Oak

Arriving at Edgeley Park

Arriving at Edgeley Park

Before the final whistle was blown in the aberration on the TV, I exited the Royal Oak and headed over the road to County’s home. After a couple of pictures of the exterior of the Main Stand, I headed over to the turnstile providing access to the Cheadle End, as I fancied getting a different viewpoint of Edgeley Park rather than the usual Main Stand position I’d taken on my previous visits. As such, I was soon lighter by the tune of £15 and was soon handing over a further £3, but not before I’d asked the guy on the gate where the programmes where being sold, only for him to point over to a booth joined by a large “Programmes sold here” sign. “Somewhere over there usually mate.” The nice thing was, it wasn’t even said in jest!

Anyway, another Manchopper faux pas out of the way and I was into the ground in earnest. You also get a ticket upon entry, for those who like that sort of thing. Edgeley Park is one of those grounds that I forget how much I like until I’m physically back there. It has the Main ” “Danny Bergara” Stand, which is an old-fashioned all seated stand, the Popular Stand on the opposite side which is a smaller all seater stand which runs the length of the pitch. The far end is the open Railway End, a terrace, and then there is the largest stand in the ground, the Cheadle End, which is almost a two-tiered stand. As for Stockport County as a club, well….

History Lesson:

Formed in 1883 as Heaton Norris Rovers by members of the Wycliffe Congregational Church, the club played its first recorded game the next year. Nicknamed “The Hatters” the name derives from the town’s famed Victorian industry, with the Hat Museum a staple of the town’s touristic trade. The club initially played in the Lancashire League until 1900 when they were admitted into the 2nd Division of the Football League and moved to their current home in 1902 from their former Green Lane ground.

After a highly unsuccessful first stint in the League, they undertook a two-year hiatus in which they competed in the Lancashire Combination, which they won, and the Midland League from where they re-joined the Football League. After finishing up bottom in 1921, County were placed in the newly formed Third Division North. They won this to lift their first Football League title. Apparently, as in this case, each time Stockport have won a Football League Division they play Lincoln City in the final game of the season. Spooky.

After relegation back to the 3rd Division North in 1926, the club remained here until 1937 when they lifted the 3rd North title again, but not before enduring the loss of their old Main Stand and all the historical information during a 1935 fire. Unfortunately for the club, they were relegated again the following season. During the years of WWII, Stockport played in the wartime league known as the Northern Regional League where positions were based on goal average, due to teams playing differing totals of matches. County finished 35th in the first season!

The 1950’s saw the regional Third Divisions combined to National Third & Fourth Divisions. On account of their 3rd placed finish the prior season, County were placed in Division 3 for 1958-’59, but as before were relegated again. After finishing bottom of the Football League in 1965, County survived re-election, the then chairman introduced the club’s current colours, replacing their black and white strip. It seemed to work, as County were promoted to seasons later by winning the 4th Division, though this was tempered by their resulting,almost inevitable, relegation in 1970.

Edgeley Park

Edgeley Park-Cheadle End

The Danny Bergara Stand

The Danny Bergara Stand

After a spell of mediocrity, Danny Bergara, the man who the club’s Main Stand is named in honour of, was appointed manager in 1989. Uruguayan Bergara gained promotion with County in 1991 back into Division 3 and reached the FL Trophy final in 1993, but the popular manager was sacked in 1995 following an “altercation” with the chairman at the time. The ’96-’97 season proved a mighty successful one for County, as they finished 2nd in Division 2, gaining promotion, and reached the League Cup Semi-Finals. However, success didn’t last and Stockport were soon back in Division 2.

2003 saw County share Edgeley Park with Sale Sharks RUFC which sparked instability off the pitch and a further relegation in 2006. They had a brief renaissance under Jim Gannon, almost reaching the League 2 play-offs the following year. 2008 did see County promoted through the play-offs, defeating Rochdale at Wembley, but was tempered with the sad news of the passing of former manager Bergara. In his honour, the Main Stand was named after him in 2013 and a Uruguayan flag flies at the Railway End

Then administration set in through 2009 and, as such, things fell away both on and off the field. County returned to League 2 in 2010 before their 106-year stay in the Football League ended the following year. After further management upheaval, County found themselves at Step 2 by 2013 but had regained sole tenancy of Edgeley Park. Last season saw County finish up in 11th place, with Neil Young taking the reigns this season.

For today, I was watching Harrogate for the second time in two weeks, following my visit to Wetherby Road the previous week for their game against Brackley. So, I’d gone from not intending to see Harrogate at all in late December (no, not back in’63) to seeing them on consecutive weekends. I’d brought them luck, I like to think, last weekend, so would this continue again? Well, the players entered the field of play from below the Main Stand and after the usual handshakes we were all set to go.

Pre-game

Pre-game

Handshakes

Handshakes

Continuing from the earlier point above, it certainly seemed as though myself being in attendance was inspiring to those decked out in black  and yellow. What do you mean it had nothing to do with me? Ah well, it was a fine start for the Yorkshire side, who opened the scoring in unusual fashion. Jerry Yates broke into the area, but saw his shot blocked out by Andreas Arestidou in the County goal, but he failed to reclaim the ball and Yates, still on the ground, managed to force the ball over the line. 0-1.

Alas for Town, they couldn’t hold onto their lead for long, and it was a debutante who’d grab the equaliser. From a Harrogate corner, the ball was cleared to Delail Brewster on half-way and he outpaced the defence comfortably before expertly sliding the ball beyond Peter Crook in the Town goal. The Everton youngster was off to a good start on his temporary new patch. From this, the game went into a lull with neither side creating too much and County’s fans getting a little annoyed by a number of mislaid and wasteful passes.

Brewster levels the scores

Brewster levels the scores

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

They were almost irate when Harrogate came close to retaking the lead, Danny Ellis’ header cannoning back off the crossbar, only for Arestidou to gratefully claim the ball in the resulting scrum. The Hatters faithful then went close to glee as Jonny Margetts was felled in the area for a stonewall penalty. Unfortunately for County and their supporters, Margetts penalty was awful, lacking both power and placement,  and was comfortably stopped by Crook who pounced upon the rebound.

Half-time was approaching and I headed over to the crowd control gate, where I’d seen people being granted access through to use the food kiosk on the opposite side, near the Main Stand. When I enquired if I could also go where many had gone before I was greeted with the answer that the food bar on the Cheadle side had ran out of supplies. I don’t know if that was true, but it seems astounding if it is. At least County had fixed the microphone by this point and it did keep working throughout the game after its shaky start!

As for me, I purchased a chicken balti pie for a princely £3.10 and retook my seat half-way up the lower “tier” of the stand. For this half, County were attacking the end I was at and with the more vocal of the support located here, you’d have thought it would make them more dangerous. You’d have thought it, but then the vocal support never really got going in earnest (not that there was much for them to shout about, to be fair), though the drum did get an airing more often during the second period. But, they were to be angered again soon enough.

With around 20 minutes left in the half, Harrogate introduced Jordan Thewlis. Within five minutes of his introduction, Harrogate produced an almost carbon copy of County’s goal. They cleared a corner, quickly cleared the ball toward Thewlis who wanted it more than Chris Smalley and slotted past Arestidou from a tight angle. From where I was, it looked as though the ‘keeper should have done better, but neither Thewlis nor the visiting “Sulphurite” fans in the Popular Stand could care less. County had been torpedoed by the sub (how original). 1-2.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Late on

Late on

County never really rallied, and their fans were not happy, summed up by one guy walking past me and exclaiming “BOLLOCKS!!!” at the top of his lungs. This, amongst other shouts of discontent is, to the neutral eye and ear, a bit harsh, but then I’m not the one shelling out the cash to watch it week in and out. Back on the pitch and after Crook had kept out Garvin’s late free-kick, the final whistle sounded with a fair few boos ringing out from the home end, but also applause from a large amount of supporters too.

 

 

After a quick walk through the darkened streets of Edgeley and back down to Stockport Bus Station, I was soon upon my carriage back home, discovering an extra route that isn’t too bad either. Bonus! As for the day as a whole, I enjoyed my brief stay in Edgeley on the whole, though I’d like to do Stockport in earnest soon. As for the game, there is no doubt that the right result was the one that was attained and good for the group of travelling support who arrived half an hour late, but got that winning goal to make up for it. If only County wasn’t so pricey, I’d definitely return more often as I always find it’s a friendly club. Onwards to FC on Monday…

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RATINGS:

Game: 5- Average game.

Ground: 8- It’s one that I like. Can’t say exactly why though, but I do!

Fans: 7- I like the passion they have, whichever side of the fence they sit.

Programme: 9- Properly good read, still shows hallmarks of its previous League foray.

Food: 7- Tasty, but pricey for the level. Usually have the Mash for £2!

Value For Money: 7- Pricey entry and food, not a great game either, but the ground makes up for it.