Saturday 8th January
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 South
Kidsgrove Athletic 2 Carlton Town 5
Tea hut purchases: Minced beef pie £1.40, tea 80p
Weather: A dry bright start, obviously a bit chilly
Parking: Just around the corner, quick getaway
A solo trip in the Match Shed today, destination Staffordshire, Kidsgrove Athletic to be precise, just north of Stoke on Trent. I left Krugg Hall amidst a mixture of sleet and snow, certainly not was forecast (how many times have I referenced that before, useless weather forecasters). My confidence improved a few miles south, I could see a glint of brightness on the horizon and it was just where the Match Shed was heading. I still had a shovel in the boot though (I'd been plastered with the snow the day before). The big news breaking on the Match Shed radio was Roy Hodgson being scandalously and unceremoniously kicked out from Liverpool. Blind media hype and ridiculous internet campaigns hadn't taken long for the latest Yanks in charge to bottle it. The result, a very good manager/coach who inherited a dubious squad of (mainly) over-rated shyte players loses his job. After taking the Match Shed down the new Alderley Edge by-pass I had to indicate and violently pull over, the stupid commentary from brain-dead knobheads on the radio (guess the national station) made me physically puke up (mind you... it could also have been the dodgy sausage teacake I had after a night on the ale), poor old Roy was hung, drawn and quartered by unqualified radio hosts and a long line of yard dog 'talk-show-type' ex players with scouse accents, none of them had ever been anywhere near the inner workings of the club never mind playing for them. King Kenny was coming back and the Dalglish Army were going to immediately make LFC the number 1 club in Europe again (oh dear). I wiped my mouth and got back behind the wheel of the Match Shed, I'd switched the radio off and concentrated on what I might find at Kidsgroves Seddon Stadium, apparently a very nice place indeed? At 2.15pm I was purchasing my programme from the nice old lady stood at the door of the taxi-hut positioned just next to the turnstiles and it proved to be a decent enough publication. In fact I read quite a bit of it in the clubhouse bar over a £3 pint of Carlberg Export. The woman at the bar apologised for the plastic glass, there was a major problem with the pot washer (not sure if the pot washer was a machine or a person but it sounded serious)? The TV was showing the last routines of the Arsenal FC Ladies Formation Diving School, a young lass called Walcott was making a right tw*t of herself. Ten minutes before kick off my mind moved to food, I realised I'd left the cheese salad sandwiches my wife had made me back in the fridge (bugger). There was no alternative other than to hit the Tea Hut.Sadly for me it was peak period in the Kidsgrove kitchen, a long line of hungry punters snaked out to the door (double bugger). Eventually I got one of the last pies in town, a minced beef recipe (not usually my primary choice), I went for an 80 pence tea bag on the side. The tea was ok, I left the bag in the plastic cup for more flavour, the pie itself was dull, skimpy on filling and heavily crusted, not great and I'd also get a bollocking when I got home for forgetting my cheese sandwiches (triple bugger). The Seddon Stadium is a charismatic setting for NPL football, it has a stand on all 4 sides, none of them are very big (or deep) but all of them have available seats and there are numerous vantage points for those who prefer to stand. It's tree lined with a couple of nice 'vista like' views to surrounding hills and it certainly provides a superb atmospheric environment for getting close to the action.The pitch gently slopes from one end to the other but the condition of the playing surface appeared first class, especially in consideration of the recent weather problems. There is real quality and charm in the place, for anyone interested in witnessing a true non-league style football ground this is a location you will cherish, it oozes a character sadly missing from some of the newer 'flat-pack-style-stadiums'. The home end behind the nets is adorned with numerous flags which provide a nice colourful backdrop and some of the local fans gather to one side of the nets urging on their heroes whilst respecting the opposition. Speaking of opposition, it doesn't get much tougher than Carlton Town, already top scorers in the division they currently reside in second position and they definitely came into todays game looking for a maximum 3 points. Kidsgrove themselves have earned a respected profile these last couple of seasons, under Peter Ward and Dave Beswick they are hard to beat and more than capable of dishing out a hiding to their competitors, 5th place in the league could well be improved upon come judgement day. It was all set up for a good game of football at an excellent location. Despite missing prolific striker Dave Walker, Kidsgrove set Carlton Town some early first half problems with their cutting approach and forward play, big Mark Haddrell and Liam Shotton were a real handful upfront and Carlton just couldn't get the ball. In a topsy-turvy process that continued throughout the first hour of the game each side seemed to take a 15 minute period of domination and then suffer a relapse, it was end to end in a Directors Cut Extended Version style. Aidan Matangra gave the home side a 1-0 half time lead but it was obvious that the second period would hold lots more drama. Carlton got faster, meaner and tighter and gradually eroded the passing style of a fading Kidsgrove 11 who seemed to be losing far too many 50/50 opportunities. When Terry Hawkridge got the equaliser, the relief of Carlton Manager Les McJannet and his assistant Mark Clarke was more than evident, it was also clearly evident they now expected to take the game from Kidsgrove completely.4 more Carlton Town goals hit the back of the Kidsgrove net in the final 20 minutes, Nick Hall got one, Hawkridge got a second and Messiah McDonald got a couple to reward his tireless efforts upfront. Despite a very late reply from Haddrell, Carlton had achieved a superb away win at a very difficult location, Kidsgrove are a decent side, its just that Carlton Town were that much better, a fine win for them indeed. Overhearing some of the comments from the expert local supporters near the halfway line Carlton were "a bloody good team and deserved to win hands down", fine (and fair) comment indeed. This was a good game between 2 good sides and I certainly rate the Seddon Stadium. A quick getaway for the Match Shed was in order and I was soon on a pretty clear run up the A34 towards Manchester and the M60 North.