Saturday 24th November 2012
North West Counties League First Division Trophy Round 2
ABBEY HEY 2 NELSON 0
Tea Hut Stuff: Meat and Potato Pie £1.20
Weather: Grey, cold, miserable and damp
Parking: Inside the grounds of the club
As the UK was hit by more torrential rain, an awful lot of games never kicked off, from the South West to the North, waterlogging (even flooding) was a common problem. No disrespect to Abbey Hey and Nelson this was my third choice match, my initial selection and my Plan B had both been washed out by 10am. I'd heard and read a lot of negative feedback about Abbey Hey FC, none of it was related to the football or the state of the ground, most of it was down to the location and problems in the surrounding area. Abbey Heys ground is in Gorton, not exactly the most affluent of Manchester locations its just down the road from Belle Vue and within striking distance of Manchester City's Etihad Stadium. Some visit reports have described it as Beirut-like with hoodlum chav's running riot outside the ground. Well, I have to say I didn't see anything like that and it seemed a pretty normal area to me, I certainly didn't witness anybody lobbing half-enders at the Match Shed as I drove down Goredale Avenue to the gates of the ground (as certain reports had warned of). The Abbey Hey ground offers plenty of space to park up alongside the pitch or adjacent to the clubhouse, there is no need whatsoever to park outside the stadium complex, I parked the Match Shed just behind the Nelson teams mini bus.
First impressions of the place verified a tidy well kept arena, there is a large brick built clubhouse and changing rooms building alongside the halfway line and a covered terrace and seating stand running down the opposite touchline.
There is the usual hard standing and rails behind both ends and it was noted that the land runs down a slope at the back of the Goredale Avenue end, a fact that had numerous ball boys and club members continually chasing miss hit efforts on goal throughout the ninety minutes. One bloke looked totally fagged out at the final whistle. The clubhouse has heavily barred windows which give it a fortress like profile (which may be a sign that security is a primary factor in this part of the City), upstairs is the bijou bar and snack area which was bright and welcoming with plenty of plush seating and a nice little bar area. There was a retro pie tray warmer behind the bar and a friendly chap was recommending his stock of hot meat and potato pies. A bloke handing back his plate supported this viewpoint pointing out that he'd just ate a couple of them himself. I decided to get one and was promptly given a plate, I decided to eat it outside instead as we were only 10 minutes from kick off.
The pie was nice and hot but not molten lava scalding like some of the pies you get from grounds, it had the unmistakeable mass produced 'Hollands Pie' look about it (which I've eaten thousands of in the past) but it was adequately pleasing none the less. At £1.20p it was a world away from rip off places such as Arsenal and the likes. I thought there might have been a slightly better crowd than the 28 souls who turned out for this cup tie special, however, one had to equate the reality that only a few miles away Ashton United were playing Evo Stik leaders North Ferriby United and we also had the hype and glitz of Harry Redknapp and his QPR Shepherds Bush playboys over at Old Trafford. I'll stick with Abbey Hey thanks very much. Todays game featured both these North West Counties League sides playing out their first division trophy second round tie. This is the second tier of the NWCL but it is still a good standard of football. Abbey Hey are currently second in the table with 4 games in hand of the leaders AFC Darwen. Nelson are in a transitional period with both management and player changes still bedding in, they reside just above halfway up the league. Nice to see a few hardy supporters had travelled over from north east Lancashire to cheer them on.
The game kicked off under a miserable slate grey sky, it was bloody chilly and the forecast promised prolonged rain (theres a shock). I had 5 layers of clothes on, my woolly Spurs hat, scarf and gloves and I was still freezing cold. 'Must-be-mad' came to mind, I secretly hoped the match wouldn't go to extra time. Half a dozen home supporters sloped over from the bar and took up what must be their regular seats in the stand and we were off and running. The cold and the rain, which arrived 20 minutes into the first half, doubtless took the enjoyment factor down a few notches but I was much impressed with the quality and style of the Abbey Hey performance. They pass the ball about with confidence and have some very impressive young players. They took the game to Nelson and kept things tight at the back, their endeavour produced 2 first half goals and despite a spirited showing from the visitors I reckoned 2-0 was a fair half time scoreline. Seeing as the Match Shed was parked inside the ground I had the luxury of sitting in it trying to warm up during the break, at least the rain had eased off now.
Nelson pushed on a bit during the second half and they appear to be a much improved side since the last time I watched them last season. Perhaps they need more time to gel, they created some good moves but despite at least 3 goal scoring opportunities the final ball was lacking. Abbey Hey continued to sweep forward with great aplomb some of the flicks and interchanging of passing was very impressive, if they can keep this side together for any period of time then great things might start happening here, there was some very good football on offer. The game ended 2-0 and Abbey Hey have a quarter final tie away at Holker Old Boys (near Barrow) to look forward to. I'll keep an eye on their progress.
It will also be interesting to see how this much changed Nelson side get on in the next 6 weeks or so? I think they have more in the tank to offer, time will tell? I must say, with all respect to the football, I was glad to get the heater on full in the Match Shed, a rare stress free journey back around the M60 and up the M62 as well? They must've been all grid-locked around Old Trafford (or still doing compulsory Christmas shopping at the Tragic Centre).