New Years Day (Sunday) January 1st 2012
Blue Square North
Stalybridge Celtic 1 Hyde 3
Tea Hut Stuff: Meat and Potato Pie £1.60
Weather: Surprised it was on with all the rain
Parking: Side Street off the Main Road, 5 minutes walk
Driving the Match Shed towards Stalybridge was a bit like a scene from that sea-faring film with George Clooney in it 'The Perfect Storm', I half expected the bloody fishing boat to overtake me. It was leathering it down. Up where I live on the hills it had rained relentlessly for days, I'd given up on the big local derby between the top two sides in the Conference North having any kind of chance of beating a postponement. It was more out of curiosity than expectation that I had rang the Stalybridge office at around 12.30pm. I was amazed to hear that the game was definitely on! I got my trawlermans gear out the garage and set out to pick Frugal Glenn up from a makeshift floating pier at the end of his lane. Upon arrival in Stalybridge the weather was almost as bad as up on the hills, some locals said it had only started raining around lunchtime? Unbelievable, there must be some some sort of micro-climate around here! The last minute jaunt in the Match Shed meant a loss of my dinner, Frugal Glenn had some emergency rations on board but I politely refused, sharing 3 cold samosa's left over from last nights dodgy Chicken Bhuna take away was not my idea of a snack, especially as one of the samosa's had broken up where the seat belt had been rubbing against his parka, half of the Indian delicacy had got through a hole in the lining, all I could smell for the rest of the afternoon were the remnants of that damp samosa in the unreachable parts of his coat. The scene on Mottram Road was one of hardened northern folk... backs bent into the driving rain as they ploughed up the hill like a line of football starved zombies moving towards the lights, me and Frugal joined them, the weather was disgusting.
At last we reached the car park and the queues at the turnstiles, a sodden Father Christmas looked up at me from a torn selection box lid half submerged in a dark brown puddle, you could just about make out the red of his tunic, must be a Hyde supporter, would this rain ever stop? Last time I had a pie at the Bower Fold ground it was crap, I had a burger in my sights as a dripped like a drowned rat in the Tea Hut line, wiping the water from my specs I spyed the price list.. £2.80 for a dodgy mincey cheese burger at a non-league ground! They can f*ck off! I ordered another of those crap pies like last time instead. I was that hungry it was more edible than previously, partly due to all the brown sauce I'd squirted on it.
Stalybridge had visions of a 2,000 crowd for this top-2-tussle and quite a good few Hyde fans had swam over to cheer on their league leader heroes, there was no trouble, despite fierce rivalry both sets of supporters seemed to pleasantly put up with each other. The sides had played out a 1-1 draw over at Hydes place on Boxing Day, rumour had it that Hyde had stopped Stalybridge playing that day and were intent on getting people behind the ball today? It was all nicely set up for a festive feast of football (even if it might be a bit soggy around the edges). I have to give credit here to the Stalybridge groundstaff, they had done a tremendous job in preparing an exceptional playing surface for this game, in view of the weather it was excellent, something not seen too often in non league circles. To emphasise this fact, it must be noted that other northern BSN fixtures had earlier been washed out at both Halifax and Guiseley, apparently some Halifax supporters had now headed here (just keen to see a game).
I'm not going to go into great detail about the match because there are some good reports already posted on the Stalybridge and Hyde websites about all the nitty gritty stuff. I'll just give my usual incompetent overview. To say these two sides were currently first and second it was a bit of a disappointing match, the wet conditions can be taken into consideration but for me... there were too many (simple) misplaced passes. Looking at the home side there was too much indecision going forwards, everything went well until they arrived at the 18 yard area then it all went a bit 'school-playground'. None of the forwards imposed themselves despite some great work from Jack Rea in midfield (he was tremendous throughout the game). Joel Bembo-Leta also applied some great wing back play down the right touchline but he couldn't deliver the final ball. Celtics deadly hitmen Phil Marsh and Connor Jennings just couldn't get going.
As for Hyde, they kept it tight at the back, built up play calmy without any panic and started to make it tell in the second period. The rumours of them coming here to spoil the game and take a point were completely unfounded, their forwards went up a gear in the second half and Scott Spencer was leading the way, his burst down the right followed by a precision strike to bang in Hydes second goal was a stunning goal (at any level). Hyde had taken full control after that second goal, Celtic tried to rally, their manager Jim Harvey had used all his subs to try and generate a bit more cut and thrust (these rotations started as early as the 60th minute), including the introduction of new striker Nick Rogan but the result was in the bag, Hyde had the more complete game plan and also (on the day) applied more composure and technical ability. The home fans started to casually drift off with around 10 minutes to go, with much mickey-taking from visiting supporters nearest the gates, the drifters would possibly have missed Hyde making it 3-0 in the 83rd minute before Connor Jennings got a last minute Celtic (consolation) penalty.
So the bragging rights certainly go to the Hyde club, a fine win in tricky conditions against what is normally a very good Stalybridge side... needless to say, the Hyde supporters absolutely loved it! I made Frugal Glenn put his Indian spiced parka coat in a plastic bag in the boot for the trip back home, he said it should stop smelling after a few days?