Football

Uwdi Krugg will be spending the 2014-15 season watching non league football, eating the wrong kind of food and having a bloody good moan.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Return to Bower Fold

Loads of games this weekend but strangely none of them provided me with the get up and go factor to pump excess diesel into the Match Tank for a prolonged trip to a new venue. When Flint Towns game with Oldham Boro bit the dust in rather secretive circumstances I decided to just go to a match for the fun of it irrespective of whether it was a new ground or not. I decided to wander along to Bower Fold the home of Stalybridge Celtic, they happened to be playing Southport whom I also have a bit of a soft spot for. I enjoyed the match but had already decided to not do a full-on visit report. I've taken loads of photographs of the wonderful Bower Fold ground in the past, there was no urge to add to whats been done before.

Here is a cut and paste job of the message I left on the 'Non League Matters' forum under their classification of "where did you go".

STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 2 SOUTHPORT 2
Admission: £7
Attendance: 123 (head count)
Programme: None printed
Tea Hut Stuff: Too hot for grub (had a pint of weak lager in the clubhouse instead £3, not much choice, pants)
Weather: Hot and sultry, lots of sunshine
Parking: Just over the main road from the official club car park (which was charging cash).

I've had enough pre season friendlies now, the novelty has worn off.
Dont reckon this encounter warranted 7 quid entry but I seem to like both sides and Bower Fold is a superb non league setting.
Decent quality football for the most part, I'd give it 6/10.
Not many turned out crowd wise, the away end totalled 4 teenagers with Southport shirts.
The usually popular tea hut was mega quite, they were trying to sell off remnant pies (at half price) at the exit gate come full time.
The ground has been well covered on here over the years (I'll say no more other than its fabulous).
Bridge are badly in need of a striker to hack it at Conference North level for the upcoming season.
Southport looked to have something about them on this showing, plenty of positives to work upon.
Was going to do a visit report and some snaps for 'Wheres The Tea Hut' but I've been to Bower Fold too many times in the past.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Clitheroe 1 FC United 4

Tuesday 22nd July 2014
Pre Season Friendly
CLITHEROE 1 FC UNITED 4
Attendance: 304
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.50 (for 5 games) doh!
Tea Hut Stuff: Steak & Kidney Pie, Mushy Peas £2
Weather: Very warm sunny evening
Parking: Side street 5 minutes from the ground
26 degrees as I hit the town boundary. Constant sunshine. Clitheroe is a charismatic little town nestled in the scenic Ribble Valley. I know it well from various antique and house clearance auctions, it also holds a monster 7am Sunday morning car boot sale that has hawks and wannabe dealers fighting over junk and lots of other things that quite frankly would be better off left on a tip. There are some trendy local produce butchers specialising in fancy tasting sausages, a castle, a decent little market and some proper pubs. When you add the fantastic looking non league ground to the list, this is probably a decent place to live.
Clitheroe FC reside in the EvoStik Northern Premier League Division 1 North. They got to the final of the FA Vase in 1996 and also ended runners up in the much less important Lancashire Challenge Trophy in 2010, to be honest its been a pretty lean time in between.
Friendlies are what they say on the tin, mostly they act as fitness sessions, tactic testers and a chance to have a look at some trialists. This one had the bonus factor of witnessing the FC United peloton on a nice summers evening. I always enjoy seeing their loyal troupe of supporters with all the flags, banners and the cutting wit. Whether you love em or loathe them FC United are a tremendous asset to non league football both on and off the pitch, just the extra cash on the gate makes them a popular draw for their fellow clubs. 
FC have been really unlucky in recent years to have not progressed upwards into the Conference North, some cruel play off memories see them start this season (once again) as one of the top sides in the EvoStik Northern Premier Leagues Premier Division. With this game just a friendly there was obviously not the volume of support and colour as one would normally witness for a fully competitive fixture but there were still a good number of visiting supporters enjoying the evening in the Shawbridge stadium.

I got the Match Tank down a side street and was soon handing over my 5 quid entrance money. I gave them an extra £1.50 for a programme. The purchase was based upon the vision that the publication looked to have a decent number of pages in it. Unfortunately I found out that the club had sold me a programme covering no less than 5 home friendly games for this pre season period. Most of the pages were taken up by generic cut and paste club histories for sides not even playing. A bit of a con unless you are a die hard and intend to see all 5 games (even then the history write-ups were at least 12 months out of date). Its things like this that give even the humble non league programme a negative bad reputation and rightly so. It makes it so much harder for the clubs who do knock out a good programme. If I had known upfront I simply would not have purchased it.
The brownie points Clitheroe lost on the programme they more than made up for with the really good tea hut. I opted for steak and kidney pie and mushy peas for a very economical 2 pounds and it was simply wonderful. I'd eat here every night. After the horror of that cardboard pie at Frickley last season, which almost put me off football grub for life this was just what I needed to get back in the fast lane Mmmm.
Shawbridge is a splendid spot to watch football. My previous visit here was a night match against the old Woodley Sports side. Tonight on a sun drenched summers evening the place looked outstanding. If you've not been before you may be taken aback at the sloping nature of the well kept pitch, it seems to swell inwards like a shallow valley before climbing sharply to the right hand corner flag at the end opposite the entrance. As you step through that entrance you witness cover on all four sides which includes a seated main stand, various covered terraces, Lordys Bar and that Tea Hut I was going on about, the whole place is steeped in character. Lordys Bar seemed to be doing some fine service knocking out pints of ale for the thirsty spectators, its plastic glasses but you could still drink pitch side.
The match itself will be well documented on club websites so this is just a brief personal overview. I considered it a scrappy game for the most part, both sides had spells of temporary dominance but consistency of approach was often terminated by niggling challenges and foul play (more than is normally seen in a friendly). 
A 1-4 scoreline in FC Uniteds favour is a little unfair on Clitheroe who battled hard and cut out a good few scoring opportunities. FC had quality on the ball but it often vanished before anything clinical could be produced, even most of the goals appeared to be disjointed affairs. You pay your money and take your chance, as this was just a friendly I can't really complain, the pie and pea's and the glorious Shawbridge setting sent me home thinking it had been worthwhile.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Rochdale 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Saturday 19th July 2014

Not non league (I know) but my first choice fixture was unfortunately postponed because of overnight storms and continual rain.

Plan B was to play it safe and opt for a decent pitch and some shelter from the elements.

Time was running out so it was..........

ROCHDALE 2 WIGAN ATHLETIC 1
Pre Season Friendly
Attendance: 1,470
Admission: 10 quid
Match rating: 4/10
Weather: Humid indeed, cloud and rain finally gave way to some second half sunshine.

Duff kits, tepid football and (sadly) too many examples of diving.

Give me the non league experience everytime. I certainly wouldn't pay £370 for a season ticket here (or 20 quid for a single league match).

Rochdale will struggle in Division 1 and I simply fail to see what all the fuss is about regarding the high hopes for this Wigan side.

Spotland is a friendly smart ground already well known by many with an excellent playing surface and decent enough tea hut stuff.

I just couldn't get into it today and wished that Ashton Town v Mold Alexandra hadn't been called off due to waterlogging and pitch protection factors for the coming season.

No snaps I'm afraid, been to too many league grounds where they dont let you in with a proper camera. Left it at home.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Oxenhope Recreation 5 Barnoldswick Town 4

Saturday 12th July 2014
Pre Season Friendly
OXENHOPE RECREATION 5 BARNOLDSWICK TOWN 4
Admission: Free
Attendance: 32 (Head count)
Programme: None available today
Tea Hut Stuff: Don't have one at the moment
Weather: Lot of light cloud, odd sunny spell, warm
Parking: Tucked in beside the adjoining cricket club
Bronte Country, majestic moorland, scenic views and plenty of fresh air. Nowadays the only 'Wuthering Heights' you're likely to see around here are a couple of 'no-prisoners' centre backs, if you're lucky one might even be called Heathcliffe?
This hidden gem of a no frills football ground nestles in the lovely village of Oxenhope which is famous for the Worth Valley Railway and its nearby proximity to the honey pot tourist trap of Haworth. The main football action takes place on the bottom pitch where the first team ply their trade in the West Yorkshire Premier, the top pitch has a Scafell Pike type slope to it and doesn't meet ground grading requirements. 
There is a lovely introduction to the field down a wide tarmac path that runs past the changing rooms before meeting up with the local bowling green and a small playground. The pitch sits picturesquely before sweeping views of the Pennine Hills as the outskirts of Oxenhope village meet well kept farmland and the open fells. Due to the availability of practical space the spectator only has access to 2 sides of the pitch. 
There is hard standing down the touchline beside the bowling green and a cracking view from above the raised banking behind the goals at the cricket ground end. Don't expect fancy stands or covered terracing, this is non-league uncut but it provides a great setting for watching a football match.
In the official non league grading system you will find Oxenhope Rec playing in a competition somewhat below the level where Barnoldswick Town do their stuff, Barlick, as their supporters call them, reside as a much respected side in the North West Counties League Premier Division. A number of Barlick supporters had travelled across to get a first glimpse of their heroes as the pre season build up started to finally get more serious. Hopefully a good open game was on offer, especially as Oxenhope still had the Keighley Cup triumph still fresh in the memory. We certainly got what I was hoping for. No less than 9 goals were provided as both sides played some fine enterprising football in rather warm and slightly humid conditions. I wont pretend to know all the players, I just enjoyed a good open game. If I had to single out a special mention it would be for an extremely impressive performance from Barlicks young attacking midfield player Joel Melia. He looks a very good player indeed.
The impressive Joel Melia
The game ebbed and flowed, at one stage Rec led Barlick 5-2 and seemed to be coasting but all credit to the visitors for digging deep and getting right back into the match, the fact we ended with a 5-4 scoreline says it all, the players gave it all and looked thoroughly tired out after the 90 minutes. 
I was pleasantly educated for the second week running that sides from lower leagues can still provide high quality football and that is what Oxenhope dished out for Barlick. In response, Barlick themselves came back from some gearbox problems early doors to finish the afternoon with some scintillating attacking entertainment. A quick word of praise for the Rec keeper who must have appeared 10 foot tall to the Barlick front line as we hit the final quarter, a very competent looking keeper who wasn't afraid to tell his back four what was expected.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Charnock Richard 8 St Helens Town 1

Saturday 5th July 2014
Pre Season Friendly
CHARNOCK RICHARD 8 ST HELENS TOWN 1
Attendance: 113 (personal head count)
Admission: £2
Programme: £1 (very good for a friendly too)
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea 70p
Weather: Pleasantly warm sunshine
Parking: Car park nearly full, squeezed in by the gate
For me, the area between the M61 and the M6 is equivalent to a motoring Bermuda Triangle. If you live near Chorley fine, if not its bloody hard work finding anywhere. As a die hard I refuse to invest in a Sat Nav, I prefer to work it out from Google or my 25 year old map book. I'd done my research whilst scoffing a spam and egg sandwich earlier that morning. This research went down the pipe about 5 roundabouts into no-mans land from downtown Chorley when the Match Tank encountered 'Road Closed' signs just as I was finally bearing down on Charnock Richard village. I was sent on a massive diversion that typically ran out of those familiar yellow direction signs 3 miles down the road, they must have run out of spare signs on the van so just toddled off home. 15 minutes of riding around up and down a road I thought would somehow get me somewhere near the place I finally came across a roadworks type bloke in a high visibility vest with a stop/go lollipop sign. He kindly let me through some cones and gave me access to the village. I arrived in the crammed full car park just as they kicked off.
It was only 2 quid to get in and they even had programmes. I picked one up for a pound and it was informative and a very good read, well worth the money. Charnock are the West Lancashire League equivalent of Barcelona. They've won the Premier title 3 years in a row, last season they romped the league by 18 clear points and threw the Leagues Richardson Cup in the swag bag for good measure. Apparently they are a bit like Arnold Shwarzenegger in the original Terminator film 'a machine that won't switch off'. Poor old St Helens Town certainly got pushed through the grinder that's for sure. The Premier League side from the higher status North West Counties League got a proper tonking during a visit to Mossie Park they will be having nightmares about. I am not over exaggerating when I state that this game could have finished with a Rugby League score, 16-4 would be about right. Town didn't so much play bad as Charnock simply excelled. Going forwards the home side were downright unstoppable. There is a forward playing here called Carl Grimshaw who is probably the best striker I've seen in non league football, no disrespect to Charnock but this guy could be playing at a much higher level, what a player. Carl had knocked no less than 28 goals in last season, looks like he's going to carry on where he left off. 
The Charnock boss, Andy Westwell took Grimmy off at half time apparently Samaritans had been flooded by calls from the travelling St Helens contingent. The half dozen subs who got a run out in the second half simply carried on with the same ruthless exciting go-forward football, the 4-1 half time lead eventually reached 8-1 and it could have been more. If you get the chance to watch Charnock Richard in a game near you make sure you take the opportunity, it was just the tonic for me after the wrist slashing farce of the World Cup flop fest on TV. 
Credit to the visitors, they never threw the towel in. They kept working forwards and created a decent number of chances. The problem for Town was the Charnock keeper was just as good as the forwards. I think there is something to work with for St Helens squad wise, they had good individual ability on the field but they do need to cement a more constructive uniform strategy. Lets be honest, its early days indeed and these fixtures are as much looseners as anything else.
As for the set up at Mossie Park it is a very clean and tidy ground with clubhouse, built in tea hut, flat-pack main stand, hard standing (along with complementary astro-turf to give it the carpet feel) and a smart white pitch surround. The playing surface looked first class. When you can get a season ticket here for 30 quid and money grabbers like Arsenal charge over £90 just for 1 game way back up in the clouds behind the nets it puts the mismanagement of our national game into perspective. Another major factor is that you don't get diving and cheating in non league football. It was so refreshing to watch a game of honest endeavour instead of the pathetic jumping on the floor that has totally spoiled the upper echelons of mega-bucks professional football. I know what I would rather watch. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Tea Hut back full time for 2014/15


The Tea Hut will be back in earnest for the 2014/15 season.

There are already half a dozen Pre Season Friendlies scribbled in the diary and thats just for July.

More updates to follow.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Future for the 'Tea Hut' site

Due to other commitments it seems there is little opportunity for further reportable non-league action on the Wheres The Tea Hut site this season.

I'll still be keeping an eye on the leagues though.

The Tea Hut site will return next season.

Lets hope the World Cup doesn't put us all off football before then?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Frickley Athletic 2 Nantwich Town 0

Saturday 22nd February 2014
Evo Stik NPL Premier Division
FRICKLEY ATHLETIC 2 NANTWICH TOWN 0
Attendance: 207
Admission: £9
Tea Hut Stuff: Pie & peas £2.40, tea bag £1
Weather: Bright spells turned to slate grey skies, stayed dry
Parking: Right next to the turnstile
Got lost twice between leaving the M62 at Pontefract and eventually stumbling across South Elmsall the home of Frickley Athletic. I suppose getting around deepest Yorkshire is fine for the locals well familiarised with these parts but it can be quite testing for an outsider, especially if the authorities don't bother putting any road signs up at those important journey stages such as major junctions, key turn-offs and roundabouts. The ridiculous trek through the uncharted, unidentified wilderness was made more difficult by a mass epidemic of badly constructed speed bumps every 20 yards. Has the area been suffering from joyriders partaking in some type of unofficial World Rally Championship? Seems Yorkshire has a growth industry of spending loads of money on completely pointless traffic management infrastructure, you only have to count the dozens of multi million pound matrix gantries they've fitted on the M62 around Leeds to find that out. 
Frickley Athletic was once Frickley Colliery and we are in what once was prime mining country. The traditional old-school ground is over looked by what was a big slag heap. They've put some grass over it and since called it a country park. Its complemented with walking trails and a few nice benches one of which was dedicated to a young miner who lost his life on a picket line during Thatcher's decimation of the area during the strikes in the eighties, a touching and polite reminder of the loss, hardship, and strife this part of the UK has suffered. The young miners bench has a first class view of the ground from the serenity of the country park. Hope he gets to see some better games than the dross I witnessed during my visit?
Once inside the ground you can fully appreciate the fine looking grandstand that proudly resides above the rest of the stadium. It is quite set back with access to its blue painted benches easily available from the terraced paddock below. A truly impressive stand in these sad times of flat pack lookalike structures that provide so little ambiance to proper football ground charisma. The up close presence of the stand was probably worth my admission money alone which slightly eases the fact that the football on offer certainly wasn't. 
Both ends of the ground are open to the elements with standard hard standing although there is a small disabled hut type cover near the Big Fellas clubhouse. The far touchline across from the grandstand features pitch length covered shallow terracing which is where a dozen noisy Nantwich supporters heartily sang various ditties in accompaniment to a small bloke earnestly banging away at a drum. Don't think the racket was entirely welcomed by the more traditionally orientated Yorkshire folk standing a bit further down the terrace. 
The Big Fellas clubhouse and bar is about as big as your average back bedroom and wouldn't fit many big fellas in it at all. There's a couple of tables and a TV and some shelter from the cold. I was actually looking for the Big Fellas snack bar which I then learned was a separate structure on the far side of the grandstand. Plenty of Nantwich supporters seemed to be buying hot food and I joined the queue. 
I was taken in by the visually pleasing sight of pie and peas as it seemed to be selling well to the unsuspecting visitors. I handed over my £2.40, added a cup of tea for an extra quid and hurried away to the back of the stand to scoff it. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! In all the time I've been consuming grub from tea huts I can honestly say I have never had a worse or more inedible pie than the sad and sorry monstrosity that was hiding under my mushy peas. It was like a plastic pie rather than one cased in pastry, I couldn't get in the b*stard, I even broke my plastic fork in the process. I had to get my hand into the mound of peas to break through the unidentified casing and when I did I came across only 2 tiny solitary lumps of grisly meat and some traces of dried up gravy. It was obscene, an embarrassment to matchday food and a complete waste of money, I'd been robbed, shame on you Frickley Athletic, this was a disgrace to catering. 
I then realised that I had earlier seen only the Nantwich supporters buying food from the tea hut, it appeared that none of the home fans bought food just the odd hot drink, maybe I am wrong but it seemed to be the case at the time? I was going to get a programme but on the basis of what I'd lost at the tea hut I decided to cut my losses and not risk it, my mood had already drifted into the red and we hadn't even got to kick off.
Frickley are just above the drop zone in the NPL Premier Division, Nantwich a bit safer in mid table. The game started at a pace with the visitors applying lots of pressure without getting anything clean on target. For 15 minutes it was quite entertaining but then I started to ascertain that despite lots of possession and attacking Nantwich never really came anywhere close to scoring. Frickley were even worse, their random attacks were few and far between and like Nantwich, the threat on goal was minimal. Neither side had the means of putting the ball in the net and we kind of drifted into this scrappy mish-mash of a match where the misplaced pass, the hoof and the charge became the chosen currency of choice. It all went off the boil very quickly and turned into a drab encounter limited to lots of effort, lots of daft shouting but very little entertainment. 
Half time came and went, sadly we got more of the same, I just couldn't see either of these two poor sides scoring. Needless to say Frickley somehow got in the box to win a couple of penalties from some insane defending and duly won the game 2-0. A totally forgettable fixture which left a bad taste in the mouth, in hindsight that's probably more down to the crap pie I tried to eat earlier on. I was quickly back in the Match Tank and headed off in search of the motorway, which again turned out to be easier said than done. Goodbye Frickley, nice stand, shame about the rest of the afternoon!
 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Southport 3 Salisbury City 1

Saturday 15th February 2014
Skrill Conference Premier
SOUTHPORT 3 SALISBURY CITY 1
Attendance: 719
Admission: £13.50 standing (ouch)
Tea Hut stuff: Tomato Soup £1.50 (jolly good too)
Weather: Wind, bright intervals, cold but dry. Ceased throwing it down at 2pm.
Parking: 100 yards up Haig Avenue


Storms, gales, property damage, more storms, more gales, yet more property damage etc etc etc. Living through a winter on the Pennines is bloody awful.

Mass postponements decimated the non league schedule in the North West of England. (The North West is the bit they never seem to mention on BBC/Sky News weather reports)? Strange but true.

Heard Southports pitch was holding up mid morning so I took the opportunity to escape the hurricane battered Pennines for a welcome interlude of Conference Premier Division Football. 

On a previous visit to Southport FC I had encountered a lot of hassle from their stewards about taking pictures inside the ground. I wasn't going to try and smuggle the camera through again to take under-cover snaps hidden behind the floodlights so there are no snazzy shots of the stadium accompanying this somewhat brief report.

Not at all happy about shelling out over 13 quid to get into a non league game but sadly that's the going rate these days in this division, it would have cost me even more to sit down in the half shut Main Stand (which had suffered wind damage to the roof and side panels).

Despite a strong wind this was an entertaining enough match which provided an attack minded home side with 3 welcome points in their battle to pull clear of the drop zone. Higher placed Salisbury faced a long trip home after failing to match the attitude and passion of a Southport side determined to come out on top. Have to say I expected a lot more class from the 5th placed visitors.

Haig Avenue is a nice enough ground that would easily match a higher League status. We all know their previous Football League history. The covered Jack Carr End behind the nets provided welcome shelter from the relentless sharp gusty wind but I prefer to watch my football from near the halfway line so I took my chances on the windswept open terrace (and shivered through the proceedings inside 5 layers of clothing).

There was some very nice piping hot Greenhaulghs Tomato Soup on offer from the tea hut come snack caravan.


Friday, 7 February 2014

Rain?

Its still raining.

The forecast for next Saturday and the five days following predicts continual heavy downpours with gale force winds.

Dont think you'll see much of it on the news though? Not up here.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Waterlogging

No game last Saturday.
Set off in good faith, got halfway to the ground when a dark navy-bruised grey sky spread like an oil slick from the bowels of hell. The evil cloud monster burst without mercy and the rain trounced it down relentlessly.
Needless to say the last available game on my list (which I had researched for pitch inspection updates all morning long) slid into the deep dank pond of waterlogged postponements swamping the UK nationwide.
Its January and this kind of sh*t happens.
If it wasn't non stop rain it would be snow or perhaps a sub zero frost?
It doesn't make it any easier though.
Once my game of choice was postponed I was hijacked for compulsory shopping at Bury Market, Boss Hogg from Krugg House was rubbing her hands at the opportunity of a free lift and somebody to lug all her bags around down at the black pudding stalls.
Needless to say I'm not in an entirely positive mood at the moment.
Bit sick of getting p*ssed wet through for very little return.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

FC United 1 Trafford 1

Tuesday 21st January 2014
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
FC UNITED 1 TRAFFORD 1
Attendance: 1,598
Admission: £8
Programme: £2 (From postponed game on New Years Day)
Tea Hut Stuff: Not paying Rick Stein prices at a Non League match
Weather: Awful! Absolutely poured down. Rain, rain, rain
Parking: Pants parking at Gigg Lane, 5-10 minutes walk (in the rain)
Two cars driven by two young women who were probably gaping at their trendy smart phones in the traffic light queue had run into each other. Punters pushing for a pre match parking spot were giving them the horn. It was pouring it down, the area surrounding Gigg Lane looked even more depressingly bleak than normal. The sooner FCUM get that new ground in Moston the better.
I paid my cash at the turnstile, once it was hidden away by the eager blokes facing me I got the warning that there was a big doubt whether we'd even kick off.. and if we did we probably wouldn't get to half time? The bloke doing the talking pushed me a ticket and said it was an abandoned match voucher. When I asked if I was going to be refunded later on, he gave me the stare of someone who was now in control of my cash and said no, you'll have to use your voucher for the rearranged game. So now, not only was I p*ssed through they'd also got my money and it looked odds on the game wouldn't even start! I went up the stairs to the Main Stand and looked out on a pitch that was already encountering patches of standing water, the rain was relentless.
Time to have a quick look at the programme to take my mind off Noahs Ark related biblical flooding. I'd read about tonight's issue via the club website and it provided some insight regarding what you get for your 2 quid. It seemed well worth it and flicking through the pages of well written articles and glossy colour pictures it certainly seemed impressive. What bugged me a little was the fact that this was the very same programme which was lined up for the postponed fixture from New Years Day. There was no supplement update sheet included and my frustration was that the website had not mentioned the New Years Day issue being used in their respective programme preview?

I'd had a very favourable tea before setting off for Gigg Lane, I must say some of these supermarket brand warm-up curry meals have really improved in the last 6 months or so, my Tesco variety Lamb Rogan Josh was spot on. 
As it was now 7.30pm I needed to top up, I fancied a quick snack and a hot drink and went into the concourse to find the tea hut, I'd heard a rumour they'd changed those awful pies since my last visit here a couple of seasons ago. Bloody hell! I had to rub my specs, surely that price list above the counter was a p*ss-take? £2.20 for a tea bag! A pound for a bag of crisps! 3 pound-odd for a pie! They can f*ck right off! Now I have to say here and now that FCUM apparently have no control on this rogue tea hut or its ridiculous robbing prices, it appears it is a franchise related to the 'approved-supplier' dealings of Bury Football Club (or so I'm told). I must admit that FCUM are perhaps one of the leaders in cutting costs for supporters of non league football so I can firmly agree that they have nothing to do with this scandalous situation, as I said earlier, the sooner FCUM get their new ground in Moston the better.

Back in the seats, fortunately the weather had calmed down a bit and we now had a light drizzle, thank goodness there was going to be some light at the end of the tunnel. In fact the rain then stopped completely for around half an hour. FC United really needed a win in this game to keep in amongst the play-off pack but it wasn't going to be easy against their classy neighbours Trafford who always play decent football despite having slipped down the table. The pitch held up remarkably well considering the deluge and the opening quarter of the match produced some good football with chances at both ends. Callum Byrne smacked in a long range classic bang in the top corner to put FC ahead but Trafford had got back on level terms after 22 minutes with a Steve Mason header from a free kick. Perhaps it was the weather, or the combative urgency of both sides closing each other down but the rest of the half seemed to fragment into scrappy sections of play. The second half followed a similar path, a bright opening but then long periods of misplaced passes and niggling little fouls. To make things worse, the rain was back and that pitch was getting mighty slippy and very heavy. FC United had a last bash near the final whistle but it wasn't to be and both sides got what was probably deserved from the proceedings, a point each from a 1-1 draw.

This was truly an awful night for a football match and I must admit Gigg Lane is not my favourite location under any circumstances but the efforts of both sets of supporters (Trafford had 90 plus singing along there) gave the event some real atmosphere. FCUM are not everyones cup of tea (especially at £2.20, sorry) but I think they bring far more positives to the non league experience than a lot of smug, dare I say snobby non league folk give them credit for (or would have you believe). I will certainly continue to look forward to going to that new ground in Moston that I seem to keep going on about.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Ashton United 3 Blyth Spartans 3

Saturday 18th January 2014
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
ASHTON UNITED 3 BLYTH SPARTANS 3
Attendance: 147
Admission: £9
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea £1
Weather: Cloudy but dry, bit of a chilly breeze
Parking: Adjacent to the garage on the main road 500 yards away
No fancy action pictures or arse licking style 'please pick my blog for an award' crawling (which seems to have reared its ugly head on some social media networks again recently), I've been this place before in any case and I didn't give it a flashy review that time around either. I admire Blyth Spartans supporters, they travel massive distances to away games from high up in the North East and always give 100% backing to their team (whichever one turns up on the day). In a sparse crowd on a typical January afternoon there was almost as many Blyth people as homers. As the smoke from a nearby rubbish fire in a neighbours back garden wafted across the pitch everybody huddled down in their winter clothing for a 90 minute 3-3 roller coaster ride without the thrills. A scrappy first half was tarnished by one of those new-age Refs who blows for even the slightest contact but completely bottles-it for any contentious decisions. No disrespect intended to the young guy but he didn't help the flow of this game and some of his second half howlers nearly ruined it completely. It was 1-1 at half time courtesy of opportunist efforts at both ends of the pitch, Blyth seemed the more dominant side in the second period, especially when they got a second goal after an undetected hand ball during the build up and soon after the Referee then sent an Ashton player off. Tempers were getting frayed to say the least, mainly due to the gross lack of consistent sensible refereeing, it was never a dirty game but it never got the chance to flow. Here was proof that even a 3-3 scoreline can still provide pretty pap entertainment, at least for a neutral sad pants like me that is. The tidy ground is a blend of scenic charismatic charm and counter productive annoying obstructed views, the main stand side of the pitch looks good but you need to know where to get the best spot to get a decent glimpse of the nets because there's plenty of ironwork stanchions propping up the stand and big f*ck-off dug outs in front of the terracing. They tend to be a bit tight on the fuel bills around here as well (I know I am), how poignant that the linesman had to warn club officials to "turn the bloody lights on" as darkness descended upon the meadow. At 9 quid a head to get in I expect the floodlights to be on well before half time if you dont mind. Various plus points arrive in the form of a well stocked programme and souvenir shop and a nice inviting tea hut. Good to see chips and gravy under 2 quid rather than the Mayfair prices Bradford Park Avenue were ripping people off for on my last visit to a game (its a few spuds and a bit of gravy isn't it, not lobster in a saffron sauce). There is an excellent warm and friendly clubhouse at Ashton United, just the job at half time. Plenty of folk were busy downing pints and watching the big screen TV's for Sky Sports News results (quite a few apparently didn't return for the second half outside).
Full marks for the programme, it was £2 but there is good content and pictures from the last away game, I thought it was an improvement from the edition I purchased when I was last here which I think was back in the 2009/10 season.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Bradford Park Avenue 6 Worcester City 1

Saturday 4th January 2013
Skrill Conference North
BRADFORD PARK AVENUE 6 WORCESTER CITY 1
Attendance: 288
Admission: £11
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Not paying 3 quid for chips and gravy!
Weather: Dull, grey and cold
Parking: Cemetery Road 100 yards from the turnstile
I took the Match Tank on the high trans-pennine route into Yorkshire, dense fog spread over the hill tops as I crossed the border at Blackstone Edge and headed A58 eastbound through Sowerby Bridge, Halifax and beyond. Down in the valleys it was slate grey, miserable and cold. I thought about stopping for award winning jumbo fish and chips boldly advertised as only £3.50 in a place known as 'Shelf' a few miles from the ground but I stuck to the task and ploughed on regardless towards the Horsfall Stadium on Cemetery Road. I've been to Bradford Park Avenue before, the first thing I noticed on this trip was that the distinctive big pub at the top of the road had shut, it looked like somebody's house now? I got the Match Tank parked a little further along from what must have been the designated Worcester team coach, it was a big flashy red job sign written as the official team bus for Kidderminster Harriers? The nearby lights from the adjacent stadium were already making a visible impression on a significantly grimy afternoon. BPA's Horsfall Stadium has a running track around it and you need to prepare for this in advance. The fact is the action is quite a way from any respective viewing point so you definitely need the extra strong specs with the jam jar zoom lenses. Saying that the place is a lot better than other athletics type stadiums doubling up for football, there is a genuine passion and enthusiasm provided by the loyal BPA staff and supporters which takes the edge off vista infinity views of the weather hammered pitch which can initially appear to be a short bus ride away. 
If you come here looking to have a moan about it you can fill your boots, I'd much rather focus on the positives that this is a great little club who have fought back to hack out a credible respected position in the Conference North and the clubs name alone is one well known to football fans the world over. Its not so bad an environment when you acclimatise to the layout and you don't even really notice it after a short while. I edged into a busy club shop for a match programme, two blokes who seemed to know each other were having a row in front of the counter. Bloke No.1 with a Huddersfield Town bobble hat on was ridiculing Bloke No.2, who must have been a Leeds United supporter for not being at Rochdale for Leeds FA Cup tie that afternoon. The Leeds fan defended himself by saying he couldn't get a ticket. After some derogatory gloating from the Huddersfield fan stating "there's nothing worse than a part timer" there was a short pause before the Leeds fan hit back with a cutting backhand enquiring that if the Huddersfield fan was so against part-timer antics "why wasn't he at bloody Grimsby Town then" where Huddersfield had their cup tie the same afternoon. The insults got a bit more personal after that and a queue was building up, the chap behind the counter took it in turn to carry on with sales over and around the two West Yorkshire football fans as if he'd seen it all before. I next ventured to the Tea Hut to check out the chips and gravy that had been recommended in a visit report blog by 'Manc hopper'. 
I had to double check the price list when I saw they were asking 3 quid? I don't care if I was a tad hungry or not I'm not paying 3 pounds for chips. You can get a pie thrown in at most non league grounds for that kind of dosh (I think Pie, Chips and Gravy is just over 2 quid at Mossley FC for instance)? Somewhat insulted I left for a seat in the big green and white grandstand in a bit of a huff (I wasn't carrying emergency rations either). Having had a look at the programme I'd calmed down a bit, a nice glossy publication with good content and pictures, some good information on the visitors as well, a recommended decent read for £2.

Avenue were on a bad losing streak coming into this game, if you include an FA Trophy tie they'd lost 6 on the bounce and they currently held a mid table position. Worcester City themselves were having an even worse season just one place off the bottom of the league. There were a good few groans from the locals when Worcester went 1-0 up early in the game. Despite some terrible weather in this part of the country recently the pitch seemed to hold up reasonably well but obviously it would cut up more and more as the game went on. 
This didn't stop Avenue playing some fine attacking football as they set about getting back in the game and they gradually turned things around to command a 3-1 half time lead. I was most impressed with the quality of play, even Worcester had played some good stuff in response. I took a wander around the running track during half time and got a closer look at the changing rooms on the far side of the pitch which always looks like a big Brewers Fayre pub restaurant from a distance. 
Upon a close up inspection the enticing mystery of the place is quickly eroded. Especially with the shipping container bogs either side of it. I was looking forward to another half of fast paced entertaining football but the second period failed to live up to expectations. Worcester dug in and scrapped their way back into contention but couldn't got the ball in the net, a more sedate BPA still got the ball forward and eventually netted 3 more goals to underline their superiority with a slightly flattering 6-1 scoreline. Avenue were the better team of that there is no doubt but I'm not sure if it warranted a 6-1 'tonking' classification. It appeared most BPA supporters were having a double celebration when news filtered through on the air waves that Rochdale were beating Leeds United 2-0 with minutes left to play, old rivalries die hard in these parts, this is Bradford after all, perhaps the bloke having that row in the club shop earlier on was mighty glad he couldn't get a ticket for Spotland after all?
 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Chorley 3 AFC Fylde 1

Wednesday 1st January 2014
Evo Stik NPL Premier Division
CHORLEY 3 AFC FYLDE 1
Attendance: 1020
Admission: £9
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea £1
Weather: Blustery and grey, rain during the second half
Parking: Couple of streets away, easy exit
You can always get a good pie in Chorley, the local indoor market has loads of em, decent ones too, no rubbish street food in this town. There were quite a few pies on view at Victory Park as well. Chorley FC have not one but two busy tea huts and half an hour before kick off the locals were lined up out the door at the Magpies Nest which is the bigger of the two food outlets. 
Frugal Glenn had travelled ahead to get us a couple of seats in the magnificent traditional grandstand, when I joined him he'd already had a row with some bloke because Frugal had refused to move up a seat to let some bloke and his tribe on the end of the row. One of the downsides of a majestic old style football stand is all the ironwork and stanchions that can impede your view of the goalmouths, if you naively 'move-up' you can end up looking at a rusting metal column for the rest of the afternoon. Frugal Glenn certainly isn't the kind of easy-touch-charity-do-gooder to give up his prime view of the proceedings for 3 snotty chair-kicker kids and a 'chancer' in a British Home Stores car coat. I think BHS man had somehow got the message and was nowhere in site upon my arrival?
Todays big game was the pick of a healthy looking New Years Day Evo Stik Premier Division schedule despite a few earlier casualties sinking away due to waterlogging. When will these storms and winds ever end? Chorley look a very strong outfit sitting in 3rd spot in the table with games in hand over both Worksop and Skelmersdale ahead of them. Visitors AFC Fylde are a quality footballing unit who had been many punters favourites for the title until they have recently hit a surprisingly poor run of form, they've dropped to sixth place and badly needed something from this game.
Despite plenty of rain in the period leading up to the match the Victory Park pitch looked in perfect condition for the time of year and superbly complimented what must surely be one of the most charismatic 'old school' football grounds left on the circuit. The grandstand itself warrants your admission money as it holds court over the two covered terraces at either end of the ground. Across the pitch from the Main Stand is the popular grass banking, which due to ridiculous league-authority health and safety reasons is now out of bounds for spectators. You can still watch the proceedings from the hard standing adjacent to the pitch but the grass bank is blocked off with 'trespassers will be shot' signs. I've written hundreds of Risk Assessments for a living but I'd never dream one up predicting a major foreseeable risk to health for watching a game of football on a shallow bit of grass, jobsworths!
I had a quick shifty through the match programme before kick off and it was pleasing to see a publication that had plenty to read, interesting articles, decent photographs and the uncommon realisation that is was actually value for money. Down by the turnstiles the last few spectators were grabbing a copy just before kick off.
A blustery wind was blowing towards the town centre end of the ground as the action got underway and this seemed to blow Chorley forward only for Fylde to attempt to pass their way out of trouble. Chances came and went but the game never reached the promise of a classic, now and again there would be a superb passage of play only for fragmentation and broken play to rear its head, hardly surprising considering the wind factor. Both sides got on the scoresheet and we seemed set for a 1-1 half time break. The 3 minutes of injury time changed this closely fought encounter completely. Chorley hitman James Dean whacked a screeching shot from outside the box straight into the top right hand corner of the Fylde net before running like a deranged madman into the arms of Gary Flitcroft and the rest of the coaching staff in front of the dug out, what a goal! Fylde looked visibly shell shocked, what a bad time to concede a goal. They kicked off, immediately lost possession, the ball was punted forwards down the right, the Fylde defence failed to react quickly enough, the wind seemed to caress the ball into the on rushing path of Chorley's Josh Hine and he somehow lobbed the ball over the keeper into the empty net, 3-1 to Chorley! The place went mad. Fylde looked totally soul destroyed. 
The rain swept in for the second half, Frugal Glenn wanted us to stand up because his dodgy knee was giving him pain in the wooden seats of the Grandstand, an old war wound from his time as a yard dog centre half many years past. We ended up on the far touchline in front of the grass bank, needless to say we got wet. AFC Fylde steadfastly tried to play themselves back in the game but Chorley weren't for sitting back and they gave as good as they got in that second period. 
When the visitors went down to 10 men for one too many midfield non-compliance's the game was up. A fine win for Chorley against a decent AFC Fylde side who seem to be encountering a few gearbox problems at the moment? Great place to watch a game of football. 
The Match Tank returned us towards the Pennine's via Adlington on the A6 meeting the M61 adjacent to the brightly lit Reebok Stadium were Bolton Wanderers had just been hosting Middlesbrough (poor buggers). Frugal Glenn got one of his remnant samosa's out of his bread bag, obviously a survivor from the carnage of the previous nights unsavoury proceedings, we both agreed we'd picked the better place to be that afternoon.