Monday 26th September
Doodson Sport Cup 1st Round
NEW MILLS 3 SALFORD CITY 4
Admission: A very reasonable £6.50
Programme: Decent enough at £1.50
Tea Hut purchase: Coffee 80p
Weather: Dry, mild evening
Parking: On the main road around the corner
The latest 'strangely titled' cup competition to hit the non-league scene is the Doodson Sports Cup, its not a new contest, Doodson are sports insurance brokers and have taken on the sponsorship of the Northern Premier League Challenge Cup for the next couple of seasons. This first round tie from the Derbyshire Peak District featured the upwardly progressive New Mills side taking on Salford City, a side that has gradually improved in quality despite the odd blip now and again. I've done the Church Lane ground before but this was my first visit under the lights. Its not the most elaborate or charismatic of places but it certainly provides New Mills with a stronghold, its ages since an away side got a win here (apart from Man Utd in a friendly). There is a social club behind the goals at the turnstile end, this also features a built in tea hut which was doing a steady trade just before kick off. The burgers and chips looked a bit dry so I just had a coffee. Frugal Glenn went beserk by splashing out on a bovril and some cheese and onion crisps.
Looking down the big wide (slightly sloping) pitch, a narrow covered terrace interspersed with a few rows of bucket seats and benches runs down the churchyard touchline before the open hard standing and big wooden perimeter fence kicks in for the other two sides of the ground. Already a few Salford supporters had gathered amongst the locals. New Mills are currently 6th in the Evo Stik NPL Division 1 South, Salford play in the Division 1 North and reside in 9th position. Both sides are already out of the FA Cup so tonights League Challenge Cup encounter was of a bit more importance than normal, something that was already being discussed by the rather fickle flat cappers with the amber and black home scarves.
Both me and Frugal Glenn were impressed with the admission pricing at New Mills, a reasonable £6.50 for NPL football is nice to witness, you also get a decent programme for £1.50, pity some of the other sides in the same NPL set up cannot be as competitive.
We were soon under way with the action and New Mills took an immediate 1-0 lead after a fierce free kick could only be parried as far as the prowling Daniel Douglas-Pringle. With 4 minutes on the clock Salford worked a superb equaliser after New Mills (normally) classy full back Michael Bowler had been turned inside out half a dozen times, journeyman hitman Gavin Salmon rifled in the equaliser. It was all action stuff and impressive end to end cup tie football, both sides went full-on for it and some slightly dodgy defending just added to the fun (for a neutral anyway). The New Mills manager Ally Pickering was going ballistic whilst Salfords player boss Rhodri Giggs calmly sat in the dug out. After 17 minutes the extremely sharp Jack Redshaw broke clear of the home defence and Salford had a 2-1 lead. New Mills bounced straight back through a Carlos Meakin goal 2 minutes later. It was the best half of football I'd seen for quite some time, 2-2 at the break.
The second period lost a bit of the cavalier spirit and Salford took a greater command of the game. Time after time they carefully created some tremendous scoring opportunities and it is a wonder they only managed to score just a further 2 goals through Scott Metcalfe and Cayne Hanley, both the woodwork and some wayward shooting prevented what could have been a rout, it is no exaggeration to claim that they should have had a dozen. New Mills spluttered to get into gear and the flat cappers with the cigars and the ready rub were in uproar. Scathing critisism echoed around the seating area in that second half. Personally, I thought this was a bit harsh as the home side played some good football in the first half and New Mills have been doing pretty well in the Northern Premier League after their runaway promotion from the North West Counties League last season.
Kristian Cox got one back for New Mills in injury time to make it 3-4 (very much against the run of play) and despite the referee adding on 4 extra minutes which he shouldn't have, Salford held on for a very impressive victory at fortress Church Lane. If only Salford could be a little more consistent and up the percentage 'completion-rates' a bit they could soon start reaping the rewards a lot of people in non-league circles consider them capable of, they are well worth a look if they are down your neck of the woods. Especially with players like Jack Redshaw, Scott Metcalfe and Mattie Burke in the ranks.