Result: Broadheath Central 1-1 Blacon Youth (Cheshire League 1)
Venue: Salisbury Field/Viaduct Road (Saturday 19th May 2019, 3pm)
Att: 115 (approx.)
Rounding off the blogging season, the big highlight of those games remaining to be played was the one pitting two promotion rivals against each other, head to head, winner take all. The Cheshire League One had already seen Lostock Gralam take the title (indeed, my visit to Blacon a few weeks earlier saw them take the huge stride in doing so) and this game would sort out just who would be joining them in the top-flight next season – Blacon or hosts Broadheath Central.
Since my last visit, Viaduct Road has seemingly become Salisbury Fields, perhaps in some kind of attempt to attract hard of hearing Beatles fans, but being very familiar with the ground having already visited on a few previous occasions, I wasn’t exactly overly confused. A further bonus was the late time I could afford to actually leave at, though I did forget the local bus service that runs from near me to the ground now goes all around the houses and so I eventually arrived a little later than I had imagined. This didn’t matter all too much, in truth, with my first pre-match drinking stop being the strikingly tangerine-coloured exterior of the Pelican.
Upon entering, a further bonus was soon come upon as I saw that Punk IPA was on tap here and so I did of course opt to partake in a pint of the stuff (£4.73) before continuing on up the road and more into the area of Broadheath itself, of which the ground sits bang in the centre of. Alas, this didn’t go as comfortably as planned as I missed a bus by a matter of seconds and with the infamous traffic on the old Roman road leading into Manchester affecting timings by some margin, I decided that the short walk would be the best option.
Broadheath is a suburb of Altrincham in Greater Manchester and is located within the wider Metropolitan Borough of Trafford. Historically in the county of Cheshire, Broadheath grew up as industries arrived in the area, but these have slowly left as the years have passed and the area’s 1962 railway station closure – the line that provides the old ground neighbouring viaduct having run between Manchester and Warrington via Sale and Lymm. It does still hold a rail link courtesy of the Navigation Road dual train & tram stop, whilst regular buses also keep Broadheath well connected.
I was right, no buses passed me until I was settling into a seat in the Navigation pub with a pint of Amstel in hand (£3) having walked around twelve minutes or so between the two watering holes. Having arrived at the Navvy, this constituted the beginning of the trifector of pubs in a short area – with the Old Packet House situated just over the way and the Railway located across the road junction opposite the ground and in some juxtaposition when it comes to its immediate surroundings – the pub bang in front of a large expansive retail park with little in the way of anything like it around. It is next to the old railway viaduct that gives the ground one of its names, though, and it is on this road that Central’s clubhouse is located too; but more on that later.
Finishing up in the Navigation, I did indeed cross over the way into the Old Packet House which was, rather interestingly, only open to those who were over 25 (or it may have been 21, I can’t remember). Anyway, being lucky enough to meet that criteria, I entered into the old, largely wood-timbered building though there wasn’t a whole lot of variety to opt for drink-wise. As such, I reckoned I’d try out a Tim Taylor’s Landlord (£4), which wasn’t all that bad as it turned out, but it was rather empty and devoid of much atmosphere at the time of the day in question, as was shown by the large dog laid out on the floor.
Back over the bridge that crosses over the canal I went and having navigated the dual-carriageway-like A-road successfully, I finally arrived at the door of the Railway. A small, snug pub of a few separate rooms, it certainly was a hark-back to times gone and the lighting fit the décor too. It certainly had an atmosphere of its own to it and, being a Holt’s hostelry, meant a rather cheap pint was on the cards. A Crystal Gold lager (£3.20) proved as much, and I took up a seat in one of the side rooms but was soon joined by a kid who was engaged in a somewhat solo game of hide-and-seek with his less than enthused dad. When he eventually discovered him beneath a bench, the tongue-in-cheek warning of “If you don’t stop, this man will run away with and shout at you!” whilst pointing at me was quite out of the blue!!!
With kick-off virtually and, rather literally, around the corner, I headed back outside and over the road once more before heading on down Salisbury Road where the ground is located at the bottom of two rows of terraced houses, one either side of the narrow street. As it was, the sides were a little late coming out of the old viaduct archway where more modern doors allow the clubhouse and dressing rooms to link with the pitch on the other side, the players passing through a tea bar area to get there. They eventually did emerge from said doors via the tunnel (well, some tape and cones) and entered the pitch – which is fully barred off at the near side of a larger expanse of playing fields of which they themselves are within an open expanse of land, which offers walking routes etc.
The pitch has no other furniture immediately around it, though a small grassy mound does run the length of the near side and is backed with trees, a small road and the aforementioned streets of houses, with the remainder being open standing with no paved area in earnest, though an access road that allows parking on the grass behind the near-end goal and up against the viaduct does provide some respite if the weather isn’t quite playing ball. That’s the home of Broadheath Central and this is the story of the club itself….
Broadheath Central Football Club was founded in 1922, but a previous incarnation of a Broadheath side served as a forerunner to Altrincham FC, prior to 1903 and I can’t find any details on whether the club had a senior side that may have competed in local leagues other than the Altrincham & District AFL – which the club won in 1956, 1966 and 1991, whilst also taking the league’s Challenge Cup in 1955, 1980, ’85, ’86 & 1990 and the Broadheath Central Cup in 1975, 1985 & 1987. The club then joined the Mid-Cheshire Division 2 in 1991 and won the title in their first season. They would spend the following five seasons playing in Division 1 before being relegated in 1997 whereupon a further tenure of four years were played in Division 2 until they were again champions and promoted in 2001. Relegated again in 2004, they remained in the Division 2 until 2008, when they resigned from the league after finishing bottom of the, now named, Cheshire League Division 2.
The club resurfaced in the Altrincham & District AFL, where they were an ever familiar name at the sharp end, winning the title on two occasions out of their seven campaigns there (and winning Division 2 in 2012) – and adding the 2012 Broadheath Central Cup and 2015 League Challenge Cup to their trophy cabinet – before their return back to the Cheshire League in 2016. Here, the club spent their first two years in the League 2 before being promoted after finishing up 4th last season, with this current one seeing Central again challenging for promotion from League 1 and looking to secure a runners-up placing, with 3rd at worst in the bag.
The match got going with Broadheath nearly taking an immediate lead, when a ball forward allowed #7 to just beat the onrushing Blacon ‘keeper to the ball, but he could only side-foot the gilt-edge chance wide with the goal at his mercy. Blacon responded, with #11 firing off-target, but they would go the one goal behind that they really ought to have already been just after the half-hour, when #17, Marc Bellingham showed great control to bring the ball down on his chest and fire high into the net, giving the visiting stopper little chance. 1-0, Central!
However, Blacon weren’t just about to lie down and they finished the first forty-five strongly. First, #3, James Henry was set-up by #7’s ball back, only to miss the target, but after Broadheath had wastefully spurned a chance on goal from a free-kick, he would make amends. A good attack down the right flank ended with a low ball into the box finding Henry and this time he made no mistake in hitting the proverbial onion bag. One-a-piece and half-time arrived shortly afterwards.
The break consisted of a trip to the tea bar area where, despite the food menu seeming to be well stacked, I was informed that this part of the offerings were only about on kids footy days and so with me wanting to give the club some money for the day, I ended up with a cup of tea. Tea? Feck! This was, I think, the only time I’ve been in the effective referee’s room at a half-time interval too, but I’m not too sure if I can count this….
Back out onto the pitch the teams emerged after a short break and we were playing once more. As with the first-half, Broadheath began the stronger – #10’s good work ending with his ball in just evading the player arriving at the far post and #7’s free-kick rippling the side-netting as the home side looked to ensure it would be they who would take the second promotion spot. A rather funny moment came around this moment too as the Blacon stopper launched a kids ball high into the trees after not being all too pleased about it popping up in his vicinity!
Anyway, the serious stuff on the field of play continued as a finely hit effort by the home centre-back wearing the #12 shirt flew just wide and Blacon almost grabbed the goal that would have likely sealed their promotion place, when a brilliant stop denied #9’s drive when it looked all set to make the net bulge. As Broadheath looked to chase the game, Blacon began to show their defensive credentials and effectively break, making a number of chances as they did so – the first of which saw #11 released clear of the home defence, but a poor eventual effort was kept out far more comfortably than it should have been by the feet of the GK.
However, if that miss was a disappointing one, then how #9 didn’t manage to secure the win for his side was almost inexplicable. Getting through to a largely one-on-one situation, the goal looked to be there for the taking, but his weak effort ended up nestling nicely within the ‘keeper’s grasp, as his attempt didn’t quite come off as planned. A further couple of good late stops by the impressive home custodian kept his side level but, at the whistle, it was the visitors who were the only ones celebrating….but anything can happen in non-league!!
Post-match, I had a fair bit of time to wait for the bus back, and so paid a visit to the clubhouse, in lieu of the brewery nearby not opening on weekends apparently. I opted for a pint of 61 Deep whilst watching the opening stages of the FA Cup Final, whilst both teams (plus an interested Lostock Gralam contingent) filed into the bar, which too was filling up nicely, prior to finally heading off and grabbing the bus homewards once again.
In doing so, I was ending my blogging season then and there – a season which saw a number of fine games sadly being rather equalled by those that were pretty underwhelming. This isn’t even including the horrendous snoozefest at the Deva Stadium between Chester and Southport that ended my goal-less game run that had gone on for over a year. Will 2019-’20 be better? There’s only one way to find out….
NB: Oh, as it turned out, the game was a dead-rubber as both were promoted anyway, so, yeah…..
Food: N/A (unless it’s junior football!)
Programme: N/A (found a flyer for something or other though)
Value For Money: 7