Manchopper in….Kidsgrove

Result: Kidsgrove Athletic 2-0 Trafford (FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay)

Venue: Hollinwood Road (Wednesday 23rd August 2017, 7.45pm)

Att: 164

A first “proper” midweek blog in quite some time saw me heading into North Staffordshire for this FA Cup replay. Kidsgrove Athletic, based north of Stoke, forced a second go-around in this tie by holding Trafford to a 2-2 draw the previous Saturday and gain home advantage for a place in the First Qualifying Round.

Knowing there’s not much to Kidsgrove from other blogs and my own research, I was getting a lift straight to the game off Trafford fan Cappy, who has popped up in my blogs from time to time, the latest being in the round previous at Athersley Recreation vs West Didsbury & Chorlton. After being picked up along with other away fans Gaz and Paul, it was straight to Hollinwood Road for us.

After making good time in avoiding the usual trouble-strewn M6, we arrived at the gates of “The Grove’s” home at just before half-past seven. Being dropped off outside as Cappy went in search of a parking space (few and far between at that point), a quick entry (£8 in) plus grabbing a programme and a teamsheet off the lady within the closed off turnstile, saw me all set for the game. Gaz was most pleased by the fact he grabbed the last of the programmes on offer!

Hollinwood Road

KAFC

Before long, the sides were heading out onto the field with daylight still just about enough to mean the floodlights were not really required for the first half. As for the ground, it’s a pretty decent one, housing four stands with seating available on both sides and at both ends, largely orange-orientated, for some reason, despite Kidsgrove playing in blue and the older looking stand fitting in with this colour scheme. The ground also has a nice backdrop of trees at the far side.

Anyway, this older stand is split into two by the “tunnel” which protrudes through the middle of the seats, with the differently decorated “Phoenix Club” clubhouse & changing rooms to the rear. Alongside and towards the turnstiles is the food bar, with a few rows of covered seats separating it from said entrance way. The far side houses a newer, all-seater stand, with the near-end also playing host to something similar. The far end, though, plays host to a strange stand that has a couple of rows of seats at both sides, with covered standing also available within too. Ground description somewhat out-of-the-way, here’s a bit of back-story to Kidsgrove Athletic…

History Lesson:

Kidsgrove Athletic FC was founded in 1952, after a group of disillusioned local players formed the club after the re-formed (after WWII) Kidsgrove United decided to use players from outside the area. United had been the town’s club pre-war. Athletic, meanwhile, began life in the local Burslem & Tunstall League, originally playing on the Vickers & Goodwin pitch near the A50, before taking a year out of football in 1961, with all efforts on developing a ground on the current site at Clough Hall, which may give a clue to their success in this venture!

Old turnstile

Not sure what this once was?

The club returned to the playing field in 1962 and won the Burslem & Tunstall League that year. They’d go on to join the Staffordshire County League in 1963, winning the Division 2 title in their first year there before taking the Division One title in 1966. As a result of this, the ‘Grove switched into the Mid-Cheshire League for the ’66-’67 season, winning it on four occasions (1971, ’78, ’87 & ’88), along with lifting the Mid-Cheshire League Cup three times (1968, ’70 & ’86). 1990 saw the club take a further step up and enter the North West Counties League for 1990.

Promoted in 1991-’92 due to ground grading, the club struggled initially before finding its feet and winning the NWCFL title twice (1998 & ‘2002), the latter of which earned Kidsgrove promotion to the Northern Premier League. After struggling at the start of their stint here, they progressively moved up the table and they would eventually reach the play-offs of the now regionalised Division One (South) in 2010, but would lose out to, the sadly now defunct, Glapwell. After a period of managerial instability in recent years, the club ended up in a solid 12th place at the close of the last campaign.

Pre-match handshakes

The game was a tight affair during the first period, with neither side seemingly looking to push on, perhaps afraid of being caught as a result of doing so. Thusly, chances were few and far between, the visitors being restricted to a couple of long-range efforts and the influential, experienced frontman Anthony Malbon firing over when well placed with what was probably the best chance of the half.

Despite the lack of overall chances, the game was a watchable one on a good playing surface. Kidsgrove, with more width to their play, always looked the more dangerous and almost forged ahead on around the half-hour, but Trafford ‘keeper Grant Shenton held on well to a Ross Davidson strike, considering he looked to have seen it late. As it was, there was to be no breakthrough in the score-line and the sides headed in at the break in deadlock. At the recommendation of Gaz, my half-time snack consisted of chips & curry for £2 and they were well worth it. Really good stuff.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

After a swift visit into the Phoenix Club for a look around (whereupon I came across its numerous Nepalese/Himalayan area décor), it was back out for the second period. From the off it became more apparent that Kidsgrove had the upper hand now, indeed Cappy stated at the break that Grove seemingly had a “second gear” to go into, and that definitely looked to be the case.  Shenton got away with an early error, when a poor clearance was fired over but he was to be more unlucky soon after when Kidsgrove deservedly went ahead.

After Trafford’s Ally Brown had been denied by ‘Grove stopper Dave Parton, in the visitors’ best chance of the tie, Parton’s opposite number pulled off a good initial stop to deny Malbon, but the ball fell to the feet of Lee Cropper who unerringly did the rest, in calm fashion. You felt it’d be a long way back for Trafford from here, considering the lack of penetration they’d had to that point in the game, the forward line proving ineffective in breaking down the solid-looking home defence, marshalled well by the “gaffer”, player-manager Ryan Austin, the ex-Burton Albion man who was part of the side who played at Old Trafford in this competition a number of years back.

The lights take effect

View from the old stand

Indeed, 15 minutes later, it was game, set and match to the hosts. A long-ball downfield found Malbon who was adjudged onside and he left the vain appeals of the Trafford defenders behind him to coolly finish beyond Shenton for two-nil, to send the crowd and those in the raised hospitality box into raptures. Kidsgrove were heading for the next round and a date with Clitheroe.

Not much occurred during the latter part of the game, and the ‘Grove saw out the remainder of the tie to signal a fine win against the seemingly depleted visitors (they only had three on the bench). As for us, it was straight off via an initial stop off in the fine, thatched roof-style “Bleeding Wolf” Robbie’s pub. Cappy’s observation of the match was this: “Well, the pub’s better than the match!”.

Bleeding Wolf

Inside the Wolf

It was packed within this old, carvery pub with standing room only in force, with a band relaxing at the rear having finished up their set. Nothing alcoholic for Cappy of course, but there was no such bad luck or responsibility for me and a pint of Stowford later (plus a read of the local legend regarding the pub, a huntsman and the King), we were headed back into the night for a second stop-off….and here’s where the silliness begins!

En route to Congleton, Cappy headed off for the Swettenham Arms , which cued us travelling along dark country lanes with no other souls in sight, bar the odd rabbit which would pointlessly risk its life by darting out in front of the car. Finally arriving in some sort of civilisation, we discovered the Swettenham was shut. No haunted pub for us…none at all it seemed. But then the Red Lion was remembered and off we went again. Shut. Ah. With all options seemingly exhausted, it was off home via the odd diversion. Until we got to a roundabout near Over Peover.

“There’s a sign for the Dog Inn”, I called to the rest of the car and thus we circled around said roundabout three or four times whilst debating whether we’d make the two miles in six minutes. Cappy decided to the affirmative for us and we arrived at the entrance to the Dog in some fashion, with my plan of action being put into force. That plan of action? The nearest to the door dives out and legs it in.

At one minute past eleven, we came to a halt, the door swung open and Paul sprung out to shouts of “GO, GO, GO!!!!”, with one guy walking past with his dog probably thinking he was about to witness the worst pub raid in history. After parking, we joined Paul within to find all things calm as…..it was open until midnight! Fun and games over, we settled in for the next half-hour (pint of the fine Portland in here) before setting off once more.

Gaz and Paul doginn

Apparently, my dramatized story pretty much came true. This is how things went: Paul jumped out the car, through the gate, threw open the pub doors as those inside turned to see what was going on, before asking if there was time to be served. He was met by the flat response “Yeah, we’re open until twelve.” I can’t do it justice in words, it was just pure craziness and a great way to end the evening, never mind the “Brian the mechanic” call-in show on the radio.

So ends this tale of an underwhelming footballing match transforming into a crazy pub search. But this is what the FA Cup does to people, I guess! Anyway, Saturday sees a return to the 92 trail, before the Cup returns a week after. However, before that comes around, it’s a trip to Runcorn and the Linnets….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 7

Food: 8

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 7

 

 

Manchopper in….Urmston (Trafford FC)

TraffordFC160px-Ossettalbionfc

Result: Trafford 0-1 Ossett Albion (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)

Venue: Shawe View (Saturday 5th December 2015, 3pm)

Att: 179

Game off. Match postponed. No game today, Just a few of the phrases that continued to come up on my twitter feed as the hours of Saturday morning ticked by. First, my intended game of Silsden vs West Didsbury & Chorlton fell by the wayside, followed up by my backups at Irlam and Northwich Manchester Villa. So, a short look down the road from my abode saw my gaze settle upon Shawe View and Trafford FC and a revisit to my old regular stomping ground.

But first, a traverse through Urmston was to happen. After arranging with Paul of pitchsidepints a meeting place of the Steamhouse pub on the Liverpool-bound platform at the town’s station, I arrived in there for just before 12.30. After ordering a pint of Weinhenstephan (the oldest brewery in the world, don’cha know), Paul arrived along with his mate Dan and before long, the usual (on these pages anyway) Dan arrived. So, with our clique complete, we headed out of the station pub and up the steps back to street level and headed down the road to our next stop, The Britannia, after Dan had asked where the pool tables were at. Acting as tour guide, this was my recommendation.

Urmston

Urmston

The Steamhouse

The Steamhouse

Read closely!

Read closely!

The Britannia is nothing special in terms of anything really and is rather bland and lacks atmosphere. So, without a pool request, I wouldn’t have recommended it, unlike the Steamhouse which is full of character, due to it being a former station house and still set out in many ways as it was. So, with a defeat and a joint win, I declared my retirement from pool after the latter victory and we headed back out and onwards to Urmston’s Wetherspoon’s, The Tim Bobbin. The Bobbin is in an old electrics showroom, though the building resembles more of an old picture house as Dan enquired to whether it was. I’m unsure if it ever was, as it is before my time, but I’ve always had a similar idea from viewing it.

Either way, in here we all purchased our beers (2x Desperados in my case), before we were met by my mate and Trafford fan, Mike, better known as Cappy. I’d not seen Cappy since before I can remember, so it was nice to have a catch up prior to the game. It came about that Trafford were supporting Key 103’s Mission Christmas scheme and Cappy had bought one of those awful orangey-white balls that are used in the Prem for them to utilise. Sadly, I was unaware of this fact due to Trafford still being the only club to block me on the social media side of things largely due to…no, no I’m not going there again!

The Britannia

The Britannia

Enjoying the frothy liquid

Enjoying the frothy liquid in ‘Spoons

Arriving at Trafford

Arriving at Trafford

With drinks (mine especially frothy) finished, our five strong group headed off down the road and out of the town centre towards Shawe View, which is actually located within Flixton. A shortcut through Chassen Park sees you exit at the mouth of Shawe Road and from here, you head past the neighbouring pitch and down a narrow access road that runs parallel to  the ground before you reach the turnstiles. Here, £8 was handed over for entry after Paul and Dan had utilised their very best ways and after a further £3 was handed over for a golden goal and programme together, I was officially into Shawe View itself.

The ground is only quite small, with the main stand sitting upon the half-way line. This is all seater and neighbours the “clubhouse” (a mobile), the food hut and the tunnel leads to the dressing room areas that sit to the rear. Beyond the clubhouse and next to the turnstiles its a small open terrace, which affords a slightly higher view of the pitch. Behind the far goal is a covered standing area and the far touchline houses a dual seater/standing area, with a couple of rows of seating in front of a row of standing space. Behind the near end goal is open standing, with the ground’s grass mounds rendered obsolete due to the FA’s (and the country’s) OTT Health & Safety rules. Booooo!

So, with not long to kick-off, Paul and Dan headed to get further beer from the clubhouse and usual Dan and I stayed outside. Prior to kick-off a minute’s silence was observed for a supporter who’d passed away during the week. Then it was on to what should have been a game of football, but for large parts resembled a struggle against a windtunnel as “Storm Desmond” added it’s influence upon proceedings. Before we embark upon the game itself, here is the history of the club still known as the North, Trafford:

History Lesson:

Trafford FC was formed in 1990 under the name of North Trafford (hence the still standing nickname). After originally being denied entry to the Mid-Cheshire League, a drop-out presented them with a place. After finishing runners-up in their inaugural season, the club were promoted to Division 1. After finishing fourth the next year, Trafford made the step up to the North West Counties Division 2. In 1994, they finished in second here and were promoted again, this time to Division 1 of the NWCFL. Upon this achievement, the club adopted their current title.

1997 saw Trafford win the NWCFL Division 1 and with it promotion to the Northern Premier League. In 2000, they won their first silverware at that level, the NPL President’s Cup, before being relegated three years later. After 5 years back in the NWCFL, the club were promoted again in 2008 and took a place in the NPL Division 1 North. Their first season back at that level saw further success, as Trafford lifted the NPL President’s Cup in the 2008-’09 season with a 2-0 over Quorn at the opposing side’s home ground, the host ground decided on a coin toss! Manager Ged Kielty then left the club citing personal reasons, before being replaced by “club legend” Garry Vaughan.

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Under Vaughan’s tutelage, Trafford gained a foothold in the Division 1, before surprising many by managing to reach the play-offs of the Northern section. After defeating New Mills in the semi final, they travelled to Cammell Laird for the final where they beat the hosts on penalties to secure a place in the NPL Premier Division for the first time ever. Despite a good first season, finishing 12th, the results began to slide away and Vaughan was dismissed, replaced by Graham Heathcote. Heathcote, however, couldn’t turn things around and the club kept sliding down the slippery slope to relegation, before Heathcote stepped down at the season’s end to be replaced by Tom Baker.

Handshakes

Handshakes

Match Action

Match Action

The game got underway with both teams looking to attack early. Paul and Dan both commented on how impressed they were early on with the visiting Unicorns from Yorkshire, and the side in gold proved their eye was right as Luke Porritt fired in after being awarded an age to pick his spot by some dire defending. After five minutes, we headed on round to behind the goal, where I’d been advised by Trafford’s former manager/founder Dave Law, that a group of lads from London were located, dressed in a mix of weird and wacky Christmas related outfits, including one covered in fairy lights. After hearing their story of how they go to a game twice a year, give presents at Christmas and support charities, they originally planned to head to Stockport vs FC, but eventually settled on this game.

We all felt around the sack and pulled out our gifts, a mug for Paul, a calculator for usual Dan, some “Tupperware” (a sandwich box) for me and a Toblerone for Dan. We were, understandably, delighted with our prizes, though Ossett ‘keeper Brett Souter probably wished he was having a quieter weekend, especially as I decided to sing  “pretty in pink” to hi and everyone joined in. Sorry, Brett, but that kit looked awfully good on you!

Pretty in pink!!

Pretty in pink!!

Match Action

Match Action

So, with very little happening on the field, I headed over to the food hut towards the end of the half and bought a chicken balti pie, peas and gravy for £2.30. Well worth the money it was too, as it was pretty good. Heading into the clubhouse at the break saw further Cockney-related shenanigans going on as I caught up with some more old faces during the 15 minutes or so. Soon enough, though, it was time to finish up the pie and head back out and into the bracing winds of Desmond for a second period that a very small percentage of those in the ground would have been looking forward to.

As usually happens in such conditions, chances continued to be at a premium with Ossett continuing to have the better of the play, though without really looking like adding to their lead. Added to that, nor did Trafford ever look like equalising especially when bringing on a sub after about 70 minutes, who proceeded to do nothing apart from lose the ball over and over again. Luckily for us, we had been somewhat accepted by the cockney crew and they continued their friendly barrage of shouts towards various players, none more so than poor Brett, who was given a free Smurfs DVD for his Xmas gift.

Dark Match

Dark Match

Brett pulls a cracker

Brett pulls a cracker

Squad photo

Squad photo

Come the full-time whistle, the ‘keeper was clearly in celebratory mood as he retrieved his DVD and pulled a cracker over the perimeter boards. No, this is not a view on a person, but a Christmas Cracker. He did, however, refuse to read he joke, claiming there was nothing in it. Booooo.

So, after a squad photo, we bid goodbye to the London lot (not before one exclaimed “Wait!”. He fixed his beard before continuing “I’m not supposed to be here!”) and headed out of Shawe View and traipsed back to Urmston, but not before Paul and Dan exclaimed their dislike at the Conservative Club on the way! On arrival back in Urmston, the Liverpool pairing headed on their way home and Dan and I headed into Chadwick’s to watch Chelsea vs Bournemouth.

After an underwhelming first half, Dan said his mother wa in ‘Spoon’s so should we go there. The offer of probably free beer was te main selling point, so back to the Tim Bobbin it was for a short period before Cappy met up with us again and we finished of the Urmstonian pub crawl with a visit to the HopHouse (in an old funeral home) and the Lord Nelson, the traditional old boozer. Dan left us shortly after we arrived here toget his bus back home, and Cappy and I finished off with a short trip into Manchester and their endeth our story.

'Spoons

Late pub crawl as follows: ‘Spoons

Chadwicks

The Chadwick

Lord Nelson

Lord Nelson

Cappy loving the ales

Cappy showing his colours in the Hop House!

A good trip out and one just down the road. It just goes to show that you don’t always need to travel far to meet some great people, they’ll travel to your end sometimes! As for me, next week it’s back onto the FA Trophy trail once again. As for Trafford, it was good to finally got back after a long period away from the place. Old habits, as they say, do die hard…

DSC01157

RATINGS:

Game: 4- Poor overall, more down to conditions.

Ground: 6- Nice enough, but not much to it now the mounds are out of action.

Programme: 4- Very little in terms of club-related articles.

Fans: 5- Rather subdued, not much atmosphere at all, but I guess it’s understandable.

Food: 8- Well worth the price, as I said earlier.

Value For Money: 7- Poor game, but a great day otherwise.

Manchopper in….Platt Lane (Manchester Gregorians)

Result: Manchester Gregorians 2-3 Prestwich Heys (FBT Manchester League)

Venue: Platt Lane Complex (MCFC Academy,The Maine Pitch) (Saturday 14th December 2013,2pm)

Att: Around 16 at a count!

For today I had two choices. Either attend another game at Trafford, as they entertained Blyth Spartans, or travel the short distance to Fallowfield, just past the ‘Curry Mile’ to Manchester City’s Academy Complex at Platt Lane, for Manchester Gregorians’ Manchester League game with Prestwich Heys. I have been planning to do another Heys game this season to catch up with ex-Trafford man Chris Mackay who now plies his trade with the club, after missing him earlier in the season, at Old Alts. In keeping with my word that I gave on Twitter the previous day, I was off to the complex situated not too far from City’s old home, Maine Road.

Beforehand, I had discovered, again on Twitter(if you haven’t figured by now, I am something of an addict of the social media site), that FC United‘s Development side were entertaining Hyde’s at a Manchester College Campus in Ardwick. So, this was where my day of football was to begin, after getting horribly lost due to my f*****g phone’s GPS again. I have come to the conclusion that GPS stands for ‘Generally Pretty Sh…. well, you get the picture!

Arriving in the Campus, where Ardwick FC play, around 30 minutes late, I met up with my usual companion Dan Watkinson once again who would be heading to the Trafford game later in the day. I was also  pleased to see none other than Bruno Silva playing goals, however this turned into something of a horror, when he received the ball, tried to beat the striker bearing down on him with a bit of skill, but this went horribly wrong, and the striker nicked the ball of him and walked it into the empty net. Oops!

This was 1-0, and was how it remained until after half-time, when the same striker planted a looping header beyond the reach of Silva, to double his and his teams tally. FC dominated for much of the remaining 35 minutes, but endured a nervy last five, when they conceded a penalty, and the big, strong mountain of muscle wearing the 11 shirt confidently planted the penalty beyond the United keeper. However the Young Rebels saw out the game to take the points. After getting the bus back to Piccadilly (Ardwick is very easy to reach on bus btw), I bid farewell to Dan and headed off on the short trip to the Blue half of the city.

Upon arrival, you are met with one of the grass pitches adjoining the pavement, and opposite the bus stop, which is directly outside the ground. After walking round to the car-park entrance, you walk straight on past the indoor training facilities, and onto a small path alongside a 3G and the academy pitch. The 3G was to be where the game would be played, the clue being both sides were on it. After the teams had come out,  I had a small catch-up with Chris, who was starting the game on the bench, and observed the minutes silence, which was figured was for another league’s secretary. Chris made his way to the bench, whereupon I had a look round the ground to observe fencing surrounding it, which is commonplace in amateur football on these surfaces, and the indoor 5-a-side complex alongside it, where the dressing rooms are also located. The pitch, known as the ‘Maine Pitch’ actually played very well, but then considering where it is situated, this was of little surprise. So, a little bit of history is called for I think….

History Lesson:

The current Manchester Gregorians F.C. dates from 1959, though there was an Old Gregorians team who pre-dated them, playing sporadically throughout the 1940’s and 50’s. The current club was formed by pupils of the local St. Gregory’s R.C. High School in Ardwick Green, which is located very close to the City Centre. They began by taking on the name of Old Gregorians AFC, playing in the Manchester Junior Catholic League. In 1962, the club stepped up to the Lancashire Amateur League,  where it was successful throughout it’s time, including one season in particular, 1977-’78, when all six of the club’s sides won their respective divisions, the League Aggregate Trophy for most successful 1st and Reserve sides, and the League Trophy for most points per game taking into account all matches played by all its teams.

They remained in the Lancashire Amateur  League until 2005-’06 when they switched into the Manchester League,  dropping the ‘Old’ prefix from their name, becoming simply Gregorians AFC. The club has continued to be successful, winning the league in 2008-’09, whereupon they added the ‘Manchester’ prefix to their name attaining the name they currently carry, and the Northern Counties FA Senior Cup whilst representing the Lancashire County FA in 2009-’10. They also finished as runners-up in 2010-’11 and finished in 8th place in the last campaign.

The game began with little happening, but Gregorians slightly on top, until somewhat against the run of play, Heys broke on the counter started by goalkeeper Andy Jones, the ball was moved forward quickly to release ex-Manchester United player Paul Tierney, who squared the ball to young debutant Lewis Temple who fired confidently high into the net. Seconds later it was two, as the lightning-quick Erike Sousa broke down the right. The winger fed Tierney who rounded Gregs’ keeper Allen Mills before firing in from the tightest of angles.

By now, Heys were well on top, and appeared comfortable. However,  they gave Gregs a lifeline just two minutes later. They won a corner on the right which was whipped in, and Ric Gunby rose highest to head past Jones. 2-1, and that was how it remained until the break, despite Gregs’ impressive Matt Dodwell heading wide as they grabbed the initiative and Danny Eyres forcing a decent stop from Mills down the other end.

At half-time, the spectators headed for  the 5-a-side complex, to escape the perishing, forceful wind. The facilities inside consisted of three vending machines, one offering hot drinks, the other two a variety of snacks. I resisted the temptation of the sweet snacks, but got some much needed warmth off of a hot-chocolate, which was of good quality. I also took a Platt Lane leaflet to commemorate my visit due to the lack of a programme, which wasn’t unexpected. As the teams re-entered the field, the hardy bunch of fans, with 10 at least travelling from Prestwich, headed back outside into the wind, which at this time resembled something out of a disaster movie. Ok, maybe not that bad, but it was quite gusty!

Heys began the second period strongly, with Temple denied by Mills but the home side began to use the conditions, and with the wind at their backs you could hardly blame them, with Matt Klemperer proving a constant threat with his presence, providing a good foil for Dodwell, and in the 70th minute, the midfielder finally got the goal his performance deserved, when in a move very similar to Heys’ first the home side broke from a corner,  with Mills instigating the attack.  Dodwell received the ball on the left, stepped inside and fired past Jones leaving the visiting  ‘keeper no chance with a splendid strike. (I have somewhat made this description up with a bit of help from Heys’ report, as I actually missed the strike itself due to helping to take down the banner on the back of their dugout. This is what good deeds do to you!)

It now seemed as though all the initiative sat with the home side, and Heys introduced all three subs at their disposal, Darius Photiou, who  impressed me at Old Alts earlier in the season, Martin Love, who scored a screamer in the same game, and Chris Mackay, who scores from half-way on occasion. So, something had to give, one way or another!

It seemed as though it was Gregs who would take the points as Tom Ward broke clear and only a superb save by Jones with his legs kept him out. This seemed to dispirit the home side somewhat, and with just two minutes left Heys were awarded a golden opportunity  to take the points when Martin Love progressed into the box and was felled by a clumsy challenge, and the referee had little hesitation in pointing to the spot. This was much to the delight, and somewhat disbelief of the Heys faithful, as the ref had had a bit of a shocker so far, getting quite a lot wrong, and generally talking to players for much longer than he had to, sometimes going into a full-blown conversation. Cue the usual’ We’re here to watch the football, not you’ shout, which on this occasion, was more than justified!

Anyway, as it was, Love dusted himself down, stepped up and fired hard and low past Mills and into his bottom right-hand corner. It was a great spot-kick under pressure, and left the keeper with almost no chance. Heys had further chances to add gloss to the scoreline, when both Sousa and Mackay broke clear and had one-on-one chances but on both occasions Mills denied the wingers with two great saves, to ensure the deficit was just one goal. The whistle blew, and I bid my goodbyes to the Prestwich fans and Chris, who had the audacity to say I’d put him off with a shout as he was running through. I must put more pressure on players than Sir Alex Ferguson did in his time at United! Just kidding Chris!! 🙂

As I grabbed the 111 back to Chorlton and another bus onwards to Urmston, I was able to catch the last few minutes of the Trafford game too, which incidentally finished in a 2-1 success for the ‘North’. 170 minutes of football in one day. I was happy with that!!

My Manchester Gregorians M.o.M- Matt Dodwell

My Prestwich Heys M.o.M.- George Powell

RATINGS:

Game: 9- End to end, it was action packed all the way through.

Ground: 6- Not much to it really, but for what it is, it’s tidy and a quality surface.

Programme: N/A- although the club are looking at producing one later in the season & possibly next season too.

Fans: 10- The couple of Gregs fans/volunteers were very friendly and welcoming.

Food: 7- Well, drink really. Good for a vending machine.

Value For Money: 10- Just £6 all day. £1 for the chocolate, £5 for  transport

Referee: 2- Wasn’t great….Yeah….

TEAMS: (only Prestwich Heys available, other than those Gregs players named above)

PRESTWICH HEYS: 1.Andy Jones, 2.Mark Powell, 3.George Powell, 4.Rick Winstanley, 5.Phil Woodcock(c), 6.Gareth Walsh, 7.Erike Sousa, 8.Jon Lyons, 9.Paul Tierney(1), 10.Lewis Temple(1), 11.Danny Eyres  SUBS: 12.Brad Lyons, 14.Martin Love(p)(1), 15.Chris Mackay(p), 16.Darius Photiou(p) 17.-

 

 

 

Manchopper in….Stamford

Result: Stamford 2-2 Trafford (Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division)

Venue: The Vic Couzens Stadium (Saturday 16th November 2013-3pm)

Att: 271

Another day, another ground. On this bright, fresh Saturday it was a trip to the Lincolnshire/Rutland border to the historic town of Stamford. As usual when an away trip features Trafford, I boarded the team bus for the 2 and a half hour drive south-east. It was unfortunate that this trip clashed with West Didsbury’s trip to AFC Blackpool, but due to this being the last season Stamford will play at this old ground, it had to be done now, otherwise it would be lost in the annals of history. So, after the aforementioned trip was completed, I set off into Stamford Town Centre. After a quick pit-stop in the St.Mary’s Vault’s pub, which has a separate games room upstairs.

A stop in the Sam Smith’s brewery pub which was being visited by an American couple, showcasing Stamford’s historical attractiveness to tourists, both international and domestic, before on the way to the ground an unscheduled stop at The Golden Fleece was made. Here, I met a trio of Stamford fans, who remarked how similar the two clubs are in size and ambition, and how they would happily take 20th place, as I am sure would be a view shared by their opponents today. The Three Stamfordteers made their way towards their spiritual home past a needle structure in front of the pub. We followed soon after.

Interesting advertising!

Outside the Golden Fleece

The needle

On arrival at the ground after a 5-10 minute walk, including playfully trying to get in as u-16’s, ( based on the ages and appearances we have this was highly unlikely!!), I paid the £10 entrance fee, before I was delivered some shocking news. They had run out of programmes!!! A crowd of around 270 had taken all the programmes. This is a very rare occurrence so high up the pyramid. Happily for myself, I later acquired one from long-term Trafford fan Gaz. Cheers.

Stamford’s Vic Couzen’s Stadium (Kettering Rd) is a small, somewhat crumbling ground which is why the club are moving imminently. It has two small stands, one on either side of the ground. One is all terraced, two rows deep, whilst the other near-sided ‘Main Stand’ is seated, with ‘SAFC’ emblazoned on the front. The two ends behind each goal are open, the left-hand goal is accompanied by a very small terrace behind it. It has a  capacity of 2,000, with 250 of these seated in the main stand.

History Lesson:

Stamford A.F.C. have been in existence since 1896, and are nicknamed ‘The Daniels’. Many of you will already be aware why, but for the benefit of those who aren’t, it is after England’s fattest ever man, Daniel Lambert, who died in the town, and is buried in St.Martin’s churchyard, close to the ground. Back to the club, and after spending their first season in the East Midlands League, and winning their first silverware, a pair of Hinchingbrooke Cup wins in 1906-’07 and ’07-’08, they dropped out of league football for a number of years, until 1909, when they joined the Northamptonshire League, winning the title in 1911-’12. In 1933, the league was renamed the United Counties League. They left this league in 1939, joining the Peterborough & District league for a season. After a break in football due to WWII, they rejoined the UCL in 1946, winning the UCL Knockout Cup in 1951-’52. The same season, the Daniels also lifted the Lincolnshire Senior B Cup, winning the latter cup again two years later. In 1955, the club once again departed the league, this time joining the Central Alliance, before moving on again soon after to the Midland League.

In 1972, the club once again rejoined the UCL, and became champions in 1975-’76, as well as lifting the UCL League Cup and Knockout Cup and reaching the FA Vase Final, losing 1-0 to Billericay Town, the most Irish-sounding non-Irish team ever to have existed, after extra time. The league was won again in 1977-’78, going on to win a hat-trick of titles by taking the next two seasons as well, a Lincs Senior Cup (A) was lifted in 1978-’79, and the club picked up a further two Knockout Cups, in ’79-’80 and ’81-’82, (82-83 saw another Lincs Senior Cup (A) win). As well as winning the cup in the former season, the club lifted FA silverware at the second attempt in 1979-80, defeating Guisborough Town 2-0 in the final, but lost 4 years later to Stansted, this time a 3-2 reverse. A further Knockout Cup success followed in 1985-’86.

GroundHouse

After winning a UCL league title double in ’96-’97 and ’97-’98, along with a Hinchingbrooke Cup win, a further Lincs Senior Cup (A) win and the strangely named Benevolent Cup win in the latter season, Stamford joined the Midland section of the Southern League, which was renamed the Eastern Division, rather than Midland, at the end of their first season. In ’03-’04, the club finished in P7, and achieved promotion thanks to league restructuring, but were relegated after one season. In ’05-’06, they reached the play-offs, going on to defeat Wivenhoe Town 2-1 in the final to bounce straight back up. Their second experience of Premier Division football was a much more successful experience, as Stamford finished 8th, and lifted the Lincolnshire Senior Shield, beating Brigg Town at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank. The following season, the club was switched to the Northern Premier League Premier Division, but were relegated after losing their manager, Graham Drury, and half the squad to Corby Town in mid-season.

The club narrowly missed out on the play-offs despite a 20-game league undefeated streak, a club record, but did defeat Boston United 4-1 inn the Lincs Senior Shield to soften the blow. In ’09-’10, Stamford reached the NPL President’s Cup final, but lost out to Belper Town, 3-1, at Quorn, where, incidentally, Trafford had won the same competition with a 2-0 victory over Quorn the previous season. 2010-’11 saw a disappointing league performance, but another Lincs Senior Shield was lifted, with Stamford again defeating Boston United, this time via a penalty shoot-out. 2011-’12 saw an improvement in the league, with the club just missing out on the play-offs with a 7th place finish, before Graham Drury’s return in May 2012, replacing Tommy Bookbanks.

The club created a small piece of interesting history, by becoming the first sports club in the world to promote their twitter ‘handle’ on their shirt. During this season, it was announced by new chairman Chris Rivett that the club will move to a new stadium on the town’s Ryhall Road. Drury left mid-season for Boston United,  with ex-pro player Wayne Hatswell given his first managerial job. This gamble paid off handsomely as Hatswell guided the club to 4th, and the lay-offs, culminating in a 2-1 win over Chasetown at home in front of 864 fans. Hatswell left to become a coach at newly promoted league club Newport County, with his assistant David Staff taking the reins.

Onto today’s game, and in all honesty it looked like two struggling sides, battling away for the points in a somewhat turgid contest, lacking in spark, other than Trafford’s captain, Shelton Payne, who netted two goals, and the man whose first goal his two strikes sandwiched, Ryan Robbins. Robbins first was converted from close range following Steve Mason’s slip. Payne’s first was a sweet strike from the edge of the area from Tom Schofield’s daisy cutting corner, and a free-kick delivered via the underside of the bar, past the rooted goalkeeper. Brett Mbalanda spurned a great chance to give the visitors a two-goal advantage, but struck the bar when he ought to have hit the target, the ball going over following the contact with the woodwork.

No Match Action

Match Action

Half-time came and went, with a quick visit to Stamford’s small but smart clubhouse, and a meeting with Stamford’s own non-league dog, before after an action lacking second-half ended in controversy, when in the 92nd minute of 93, Kieran O’Hara, Trafford’s young on-loan Manchester United goalkeeper, had a bit of a rush of blood and connected with Robbins. Despite winning the ball, the assistant on the near side signalled for a penalty, which the referee duly awarded, much to O’Hara’s dismay. I think it was given for intent which could be interpreted as correct, but it was very harsh to call it as a penalty. Robbins converted the resulting penalty impressively. It was an unstoppable shot, even if O’Hara had guessed correctly. 2-2 and full-time. O’Hara’s frustrations boiled over at the whistle, as he vented his anger at the officials, before being guided away towards the tunnel, not without a kick of the hoardings on the way off.

Stand action

After the game,  I received a call from Mike saying he was intending to go back into Stamford, and did I want to join him. I agreed, and after the short walk back we met a Welshman in the pub called The Millstone, before a second visit to the ‘Golden Fleece’ was undertaken, where we unwittingly rendezvoused with our new friends from the town. Cappy managed to namedrop my blog into the conversation, so guys if you are reading this, you know who you are, even if I don’t because I don’t think we ever found out your names! But it was great to meet such friendly and knowledgeable fans, who respectfully admit their club has limitations. A good day, in a ground soon to be consigned to  the history books. Sad, but things move on…

 

My Stamford M.o.M.- Ryan Robbins

My Trafford M.o.M.- Shelton Payne

RATINGS:

Game: 5/10- Poor on the whole.

Ground: 6- Nice and quaint, but outdated, The club will benefit from their imminent move.

Fans: 9- Know their stuff, but the younger lads who sang Trafford’s a s**thole lose a mark 😉

Programme: 8- Quite enjoyed the programme. Informative, and some interesting original articles in their too, including Douglas Bader!

Food: N/A: Line was too long and never moved from when I saw it! Think some were still waiting as the pen went in!

Value For Money: 7- As I say, standard amount for admittance, and a good programme for £2

Referee: 6- Felt he missed a fair bit, but did well to defuse the flair-ups that occurred.

TEAMS:

STAMFORD: 1.Alex Lynch, 2.Shawn Richards, 3.Richard Wesley, 4.Ryan Walker, 5.Richard Jones(c), 6.Jon Challinor, 7.Dan Lawlor, 8.Alvin Jarvis, 9.David Moyo, 10.Jordan Smith, 11.Ryan Robbins(2),(1pen). SUBS 12.Liam Richardson(p), 14.Ash Robinson(p), 15.Jack Ashton, 16.David Staff, 17.Andrew Stevens.

TRAFFORD: 1.Kieran O’Hara, 2.Chris Palmer, 3.Luke Heron, 4.Steve Mason, 5.Nia Bayunu, 6.Rory Fallon, 7.Shelton Payne(c)(2), 8.Tom Schofield, 9.Michael Oates, 10.Brett Mbalanda, 11.Paul Ashton SUBS: 12.Jake Parker, 14.Ali Nsangou(p), 15.Clevon Beadle, 16.Omar McKenzie, 17.Callum Jones.