Saturday 30th July
Salford Advertiser Challenge Cup
Irlam 0 Salford City 1
Attendance: 91 (head count)
Programme: Not today
Tea Hut Purchase: Can of chilled Diet Coke 60p
Weather: Very hot in the sun
Parking: Club car park, easy exit
The Match Shed temperature readout reckoned it was 24 degrees but it felt warmer than that to me and Frugal Glenn. We were like a couple of dodgy beefburgers griddling in the sun. The Match Shed aint got no Sat-Nav type gadgets, I missed the bloody turn again and nearly ended up in the next town. I finished up doing 10 extra miles to get back to Silver Street for the home of Irlam FC. Frugal Glenn was to blame, his side-splitting tales about a few dodgy jobs he'd done in Irlam 10 or so years ago, decorating jobs I mean... not nicking silver or copper piping, he's not that bad. A friendly bloke hanging about near the entrance took 2 pounds each off us for admission. Frugal thought it was a local trickster who would now be on his way to the bookies with our pound coins. The chap was nothing of the sort.
The ground looked a nice set up in the hot July sun, not sure if it would have the same pleasant ambience for a Tuesday night kick off in the middle of January? All the buildings are located in the corner of the ground adjacent to the entrance. A brick built changing room block, a shipping container (come) tea hut jobby, a small 'flat-pack' seated stand which straddles the 18 yard area down the touchline and a low covered terrace behind the nets (running from near the goalposts out to the corner flag).
The rest of the ground is open to the elements. There are quite a good number of advertisement boards around the pitch and all areas have decent hard standing complimented by a set back concrete slab section-style perimeter wall. The pitch looked nice and trim and more or less flat (which would prove to be a slightly incorrect judgement based upon what was to happen during the second half). Irlam is a town between Manchester and Warrington and they ply their trade in Division 1 of the North West Counties League, Salford City play in the Evo Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North a couple of steps above them. Salford were unbeaten in their pre season friendly campaign and rumour has it they look capable of doing rather well in the league this season. Salfords manager is Rhodri Giggs, Ryans brother. The first half set off at a pace and Irlam soon put the visitors under some early pressure. Things slowed down in the energy sapping heat midway through the half and Salford started to apply their passing game, I suppose 0-0 at half time was a fair scoreline, it was certainly competitive.
I joined a long queue in the Tea Hut for some half time refreshment, it appeared everybody in front of me was ordering varying numbers of £1.50 hot dogs, a real best seller for sure, strange because they just looked like those cheap ones you get from the supermarket? I'd had 3 hot dogs for my tea yesterday so I just got a can of coke from the fridge, it was too hot for warm drinks. The woman behind the counter kept yelling out "does anybody want hot dogs", I think she was on the verge of getting the can-opener on another tin? They like their hot dogs in this part of the world. A couple of forlorn pies rested in the warming cabinet, obviously out of fashion on a scorcher like today. We were soon back with the action, Salford bossed the whole of the second half and Irlam struggled to create chances.
The inevitable Salford goal arrived in the 65th minute courtesy of a well hit shot from Matt Cross. The keeper had it covered but the ball took a wicked spiked bounce in the 6 yard area and shot up into the roof of the net. The freak goal sent the Salford hordes into dreamland (hordes = 6 blokes in orange replica shirts behind the nets). We got the usual mass substitutions after that and Salford held onto the 1 goal advantage with some nice sections of progressive passing football, they look to have a decent squad. The win heralded the fourth successive time Salford have won this annual 'Salford Advertiser Challenge Cup' game with Irlam in the 4 years its been in operation. Thats 1 trophy in the cabinet for Rhodri Giggs already. More than what Ryan will be able to boast about come next May?