Where's The Tea Hut reflects upon local football South West style with a few trips further afield. Keep the faith & stay safe.

Sunday, 31 October 2010


Saturday 30th October
FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round
Chorley 3 Marine 1
Attendance: 834
Admission: £7
Programme: £2
Tea hut purchases: Cheeseburger £2.20, Tea £1
Weather: Raining upon arrival, dry and fair later
Parking: Side street just around the corner
The Match Shed was going dizzy with all the incessant roundabouts in Chorley town centre, I counted at least 8 of the things. For a welcome change my downloaded ground directions proved 100% correct and I soon had the Match Shed parked up in one of the tight back streets adjacent to the ground. Victory Park is quite close to the edge of the town centre, nestling besides the old Plaza Cinema and a Morrisons Supermarket that has its own unique chimney. I'd made excellent time and even had time for a pint in one of the local pubs. A half hour later I was surprised to find it raining, certainly not what was forecast. Me and Frugal Glenn hurried along to the turnstile entrance to join the queue of eager locals shuffling through the car park. I always get a bit twitchy when I see stewards scrutinising everyone lining up, I had my camera bag with me and I had pre-read the Victory Park ground regulations which do not allow unauthorised photography. I'd been on the Chorley Fans Forum, the impressive 'Magpies In Space' and enquired if I'd be able to take some snaps? They'd assured me I wouldn't have a problem and so it proved, no hassle at all. Chorley are going great guns this season, unbeaten league leaders in the Evo Stik NPL Division 1 North, they pulled in over 1,100 spectators for their last home game, the town is obviously impressed with the new profile being set out by the board and the management team. This FA Trophy tussle pitted Chorley against wily and determined opponents from the Premier league division above them, Merseysides finest, Marine. The very good match programme provided lots of information on previous encounters and the publication set the scene 'just right' for the match, nice to see a value for money programme with interesting articles, I've bought some howlers at other grounds this season.As usual, I hadn't been in the ground very long when I got a hint of that delicate, entrancing, magical aroma drifting along the gentle breeze, the unmistakable smell of the Tea Hut. I decided to go and buy something. Chorley have just opened a second tea hut so you now have the luxury of one each side of the Main Stand, I decided to go in the traditional established one, The Magpies Nest Snack Bar. Most people were still sheltering from the rain so when me and Frugal Glenn marched in there was nobody inside. However, on the other side of the counter there looked to be around 8 or 9 pretty young girls all looking for a bit of action, food wise I mean. The strange thing about the girls is that they all had bright orange faces? I was thinking that they either did shift work at a local foundry or they'd been getting too close to the griddle pan? I seem to be seeing more and more orange women around nowadays, weird.I went for the cheeseburger at £2.20, worryingly it miraculously appeared in seconds without the aid of the nearby grill-plate, it also had those well diced onions which I'm not too keen on. To make it even worse the tomato ketchup bottle had a congealed-sticky lid and I got that awful leaky liquid before the real sauce came through the top (despite shaking it). I reckon Tea Hut teams should adopt more stringent sauce bottle management disciplines, it does affect the produce. Needless to say I still ate it all (but it was a bit 'luke-warm/cold' to be honest).Having a pre match stroll around the ground we decided to watch the first half from the large grass bank on the side opposite the big Main Stand. You get a great view of the pitch from the bank and it enables you to see the majesty and character of that Main Stand in all its glory, a terrific old school football stand which provides a tremendous backdrop to the action. Why can't we make stands like this anymore, they are miles better than the flat pack jobs you see at new grounds nowadays. Just before kick off Frugal Glenn mentioned that there must be a lot of those 'Goths' in Chorley, he said he'd just seen one bloke with a red painted face and a big black cloak, the woman he was with was dressed like a blow up version of a ballet dancer come wrestler? I then realised that a lot of the Marine supporters had come in fancy dress (probably Halloween related), Frugal remained sceptical. He only believed me when I pointed out Father Christmas jumping up and down behind the nets, surely he wasn't a local Goth? The two magpies wondering around as Chorley mascots only confused the situation even further. Frugal Glenn can be bloody hard work at times, I dont think he likes Goths that much? A lot of people had this match down as tie of the round, me included, it was a great disappointment to witness something well short of that illustrious billing. It was a dog of a first half really, fragmented passing, over hit crosses, minimal midfield creativity.Both sides filtered in and out of the action (if you can call it that) without posing much of a threat. I suppose Marine just about edged the proceedings, a fact verified by a 35th minute Neil Harvey goal (which he took well enough). Half time gave me the chance to try the other Chorley Tea Hut, the Victory Snack Shack, I just about got my cup of tea before the mad rush, they certainly like Tea Huts in Chorley! Both me and Frugal expected Chorley to put a much better show on in the second half, surely they must play better than this to achieve such first class results in the league? As for Marine, I got the impression they would protect that 1 goal lead and let Chorley fall onto them. The next 30 minutes were pretty awful, there was a bit more goalmouth action but the general play was very flat and dare I say it dull. Marine as predicted seemed to be playing a holding profile, they got a few shots in, superbly saved by the decent looking Chorley keeper Dean Porter, but more and more possession was going to Chorley, the problem was, they couldn't find a way through, numerous moves fell down with the final ball going astray.Chorley manager Gary Fitcroft decided to play his final 'ace' card with just over quarter of an hour left, he took off new signing Aaron Rey (who'd done ok with limited service as a striker) and brought on player coach Matt Jansen. Marine would need to get close to Jansen and be resolute in totally shutting him out of the proceedings. His reputation alone warranted complete respect. It took Matt less than 3 minutes to smack in one of the sweetest best placed shots of the season. I was right behind the trajectory, the keeper never moved as it whistled low into the far right hand corner of the net, a clinical, lethal strike which shifted the balance of the whole match there and then. Marine went into panic mode, Chorley pushed forward, passes that before went wayward now found feet, width and pressure built upon the Marine rear guard, Jansen was everywhere, his presence had injected life back into a dying match, the home side surged forward urged on by the vocal support of the fans. When Jordan Stepien made it 2-1 three minutes later, I realised what was brewing in this ordinary Lancashire town, they were going somewhere and they all wanted a part of it, the supporters were going mad! In 6 or 7 minutes Matt Jansen had completed mission impossible, his influence and ruthless example re-ignited the rocket on the launchpad, this time they had lift-off! Marine had one bullet left in the barrel but would they get a chance to fire it, they re-grouped and pushed into occupied territory. It was brutal nerve jangling stuff, if only the rest of the match had been like this? The final whistle drew ever closer, Chorley seemed stuck between defending or going for another one! When Jordan Stepion hit a wonder shot in the last minute the Main Stand roof lifted off, what a goal, what a finish, Marine had been beaten and the Chorley rollercoaster rolled over another mighty peak, what a great end to a pretty dull match, 75 minutes of cardboard, 15 minutes of pure gold. Hope it didn't spoil Saturday night for Count Dracula and the merseyside Father Christmas?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Eccleshill United

Wednesday 27th October
Northern Counties East Division 1
Eccleshill United 5 Staveley Miners Welfare 1
Attendance: 25
Admission: £5
Programme: £2 (Poor value I'm afraid)
Tea hut purchase: None
Weather: Mild but plenty of swirling rain in the second half
Parking: Club car park
I'm still getting Tea Hut flashbacks after the £2.80p horror-pie I stupidly purchased at FC United last Sunday. I decided to play safe and have a big tea at home before setting out for Eccleshill, a gut busting homemade steak pie was provided (with proper meat), chunky chips, peas and gravy. The Match Shed hit the outskirts of a menacingly dark Bradford just after rush-hour. I got around the ring road took the A650 out past Bradford City FC and veered off right up the Kings Road for the suburb of Wrose, home to Eccleshill United. I then got lost. I had to ask for directions, there was a shop open across the way, "Do you want a jumbo mate or just regular" shouted the man behind the counter as soon as I entered, it was a fish and chip shop, I resisted the temptation to take up the offer of a large fried haddock. A kind lady in the queue was able to help me and point me in the right direction, 'Jumbo Man' thought I was a nutter, he'd never heard of Eccleshill United? After a bit of riding around I got my bearings again and eventually found the Smith Butler Stadium hidden away down a quiet little lane in an eerily dark housing estate, not the easiest place to find.I took a couple of photo's of the entrance and the lady behind the turnstile said "taking photo's are we, does that mean we're going to be famous then"? After I gave her 2 quid for a rip off programme which was 95% beleagured with adverts I concurred that the photo's were only for my humble blog but the 'match-magazine' might just get a mention. I know clubs need to get money in from whatever sensible source necessary and I fully support that but there has to be an element of value for money, to charge 2 pounds and just publicise carpets, coffins and washing machines is taking the supporter for a mug, at the very least get someone to write (or cut and paste) something football related in it, preferably to do with the match. A couple of tiny paragraphs from the Assistant Manager alongside a bit about the history of Staveley is not worth 2 pounds! Sorry.Time to press on with the football I think. Staveley ran out in their all orange kit as league leaders with a respected reputation, you could sense Eccleshill were well 'up for the event', although United had dropped to 13th in the league table, they'd been doing really well in the FA Vase with wins over higher placed opposition. In went some crunching tackles and up went some shouts from the Staveley contingent, there would be no respect from the home side tonight that was for sure, one of the Staveley players was already being carried back to the dressing rooms. Both sides played some high paced attacking football, there were some nice passing movements as well, this wasn't kick and charge stuff by any means. Eccleshill got the opening goal halfway into the first half through Matt Dempsey. Staveley turned up the heat and really took the game to the home side. They were piling on the pressure as half time approached but they just couldn't get that equaliser, the Eccleshill defence were pulling out all the stops to keep the league leaders back. Goalkeeper Tahj Bell was unbeatable and in masterly form (seems a damn good keeper).The second half witnessed more Staveley pressure but there were signs that the football was a little more panicked and not as composed as earlier, if anything, Staveley seemed to be rushing it and as a result Eccleshill quickly picked up possession and started to hit them on the break. It was one of these breaks in the 53rd minute which brought the second Eccleshill goal, an excellent solo run and a thumping well placed strike from full back Antonio Kennedy, it was certainly a contender for 'goal of the month'. More panic and frustration hit Staveley, more men burst forward seeking a way back into the match. As we approached the hour mark pure pantomime took over the Smith Butler Stadium, a Staveley player was brutally hacked down in midfield, the referee shouted "advantage, play-on", another Staveley player burst into the box with two defenders on him, he was dragged down, a penalty was given. As the players assembled for the spot kick the Eccleshill bench started shouting to the referee that the linesman on the far side had his flag up before the foul but had taken it down again? The forcefulness of the protests resulted in the referee going over to the linesman for a chat (a long chat), he then ran back to the 18 yard area and gave a free kick to Eccleshill for offside! Well....., what happened next was worth the admission money all on its own.
The Staveley Bench Pre Penalty Drama
The Staveley management team of Billy Fox and Neil Ransom went absolutely potty! They were jumping up and down in undiluted rage, they produced a whirlwind torrent of insults and swear words at the referee, they were going at it like a couple of those demented rabbits with extra powered duracel batteries. The linesman on the nearside right next to the apoplectic duo had to get the referee over to sort them out. He sent them off! He told them to get in the clubhouse or go and sit in the Main Stand on the other touchline. They told him to f*ck off! After another 5 minutes of non stop swearing, the nearside linesman approached them saying they'd been sent off, they turned on him with a stream of explicit, 'uncut' abuse, this included gutter-classics such as fat w*nker, you big tw*t and that old classic you're a c*nt. Such was the heat of the verbal attack, the poor little linesmans glasses had steamed up. Oh dear, the upset managerial duo were really in trouble now, the liner said he was going to write all those names down and they'd have to answer to it. The referee showed up again, he shouted at them to clear off, NOW! One ambled round to the Main Stand, the other just slinked off to the side of the dug out, I think that was as good as the officials could hope for (without calling the Police or some kind of SWAT team). Classic drama! The rain had started and it sweeped across the stadium taking with it any real hope for a Staveley comeback, the penalty incident was ultimately the game-breaker. Eccleshill went three up through the very pacy Marcus Edwards, Staveley supporters looked on in depressed numb shock. The visitors got one back with 15 minutes left, a super strike from Robert Ward, they still tried to get forward and somehow get something from the game but they had to start leaving some massive gaps at the back, as the defence became nothing more than one defender and the keeper Eccleshill ruthlessly exploited the counter attacking options, two more goals came their way before the final whistle. They had won a famous victory, 5-1 against the league leaders! The 'flat-cap' regulars near the clubhouse seemed mighty pleased, Staveley trudged off thoroughly dejected. I wonder what fate awaits the management team, that referees report will be an interesting read. Shame only 25 people featured in the official attendance figure (looked over 40 to me at least) this was an entertaining encounter in deepest suburban Bradford, and not just for the ball play on the pitch.
Fancy new bogs

Monday, 25 October 2010

FC United

Sunday 24th October
FA Cup 4th Round Qualifying
FC United of Manchester 1 Barrow 0
*Played at Gigg Lane, Bury AFC
Attendance: 3,263
Admission: £8 Main Stand (no moving around)
Programme: £2
Tea hut purchase: £2.80p for a horrible meat & potato pie
Parking: Side street off Manchester Road, 10 minutes walkI've already mentioned my bad cold on here so I won't go on about it only to say I'd suffered all week and had to cancel yesterdays planned match 'Trafford v Clitheroe'. However, Sunday brought a nice sunny sky and fresh optimism, it also brought one of the best ties of the FA Cup 4th Round Qualifying stage, this is the last round before the Football League sides enter the fray. I wrapped up well, pulled off about a yard of kitchen roll and took my chances in the great outdoors.The Match Shed was pointed in the direction of Bury, Greater Manchester, home of the celebrated Black Pudding and Gigg Lane, football residence for 'The Shakers', Bury AFC. It is also the current home for FC United of Manchester, they rent the place for most of their home games. Perhaps FC United might have been doing a bit of 'shaking' themselves, the opposition today were the FA Trophy holders from the Conference Premier Division, Barrow. Hardened cup fighters whose players and fans have a reputation for playing it hard and fast. A side not to be taken lightly despite some recent poor league form. An added bonus regarding this Sunday afternoon fixture was finding out who the winners would be playing even before they kicked off, as the Match Shed approached the East Lancashire conurbation I got the draw for the FA Cup 1st Round Proper on the radio. Apart from Southport v Sheffield Wednesday, it all seemed rather dull, then up popped the opposition for the winners of FC United v Barrow, it was Rochdale away at the splendid Spotland Stadium.This was a real incentive for todays teams, FC United would have a great local derby and a guaranteed share of a big gate, possibly even TV revenue, whilst Barrow joint manager Dave Bayliss was a Rochdale player and a great 'Dale' fans favourite for many years, he would relish a return to his old stamping ground with his Barrow side. It was all to play for. I got the impression there was going to be a decent crowd for todays game when I passed by the pubs spilling dozens of punters onto the pavement, as I walked up the street to the ground a couple of Manchester taxi's zoomed past with the windows down, they were both full of boozed up chanting Barrow supporters, letting all the passing folk in red, white and black this was not going to be the usual type of encounter for a FC United home game. I counted around half a dozen coach fulls of cup crazy visitors parked near the ground. The approach lane to the turnstiles offers something you dont often see at non league encounters, stalls of traders selling FC United t-shirts, flags, hats, programmes and banners, you could even get a commemorative special t-shirt especially identifying todays 'historic-titled' game.There were plenty of interested customers as well, they mingled amongst the traders whilst camera crews filmed them and interviewed people. Its all done as part of the FC United community project. The club are eagerly saving up as much cash as possible to fund the purchase of their own ground which is planned for Newton Heath, the suburb of Manchester where the original Man United started up. Good luck to them too. There is a real all-in-it-together feel to the FC United profile, something which should be respected, although they do seem to get quite a few knockers from rival supporters. There was a definite buzz to the match build up, this was obviously a really major game for the home side, the chance to play in the 1st Round Proper was having a big effect on the atmosphere.Once inside the stadium I realised I had made a major boo-boo in not remembering this was a football league ground, I was hungry and needed something to eat but what I was faced with was a crappy old Tea Hut sanctioned by Bury Football Club at ridiculous prices. Burgers were well over 3 quid a go, my cheapest option was a Meat and Potato pie at an outrageous £2.80p. It was slid over the counter in its plastic wrapper, it had the name 'Wrights Pies' on it, it was molten hot and looked like cardboard. The wrapper identified its origins as some industrial estate in Crewe, oh dear.Needless to say, 40 minutes later, when it cooled down to non surgical injury status, I found out what I already knew, it was utter crap. Dry paste like potato mush inside stodgy dull pastry, no meat to be found at all, it was horrendous! Frugal Glenn kindly pointed out that he'd bought the very same Wrights Pies down at the market, although they weren't any good he'd been sucked in by a 'four for a pound' offer, thats a nice Tea Hut profit isn't it! I thought about a cup of tea but at £1.80 a tea bag, they could shove it! I'd forgotten how rubbish so called professional sports stadiums can be, having to sit in the same seat in a tired old stand all the game when normally I can move around where I like is a real negative, I know that with big crowds it has to be this way but it doesn't make for a pleasant experience, I wouldn't want to come here again any time soon. Hopefully they can get that Newton Heath project sorted out, I just feel that Gigg Lane is a pretty dull venue.The fact that the non stop singing, chanting and all round FC United support never once relented from start to finish made sure this match had a great feel to it despite the poor surroundings, I have to say the Barrow fans played their part as well, the massive blue and white flags waved behind the away end complimented the massive selection of red, white and black banners placed by the FC United fans all over the empty stand which was opposite the Main Stand. Some fantastic pieces of work which certainly gave an almost European feel to the proceedings. I think they were even letting flares off in the second half? The stakes were sky high and tension was at fever pitch, could FC United make it through to that dream game at Rochdale? Would the strong Barrow side be too classy and powerful to hold back? It was all set up for a ding-dong classic. In reality we got a pretty dull first 45 minutes. I'd say Barrow edged it in that first period, they started very defensive, very careful, very watchful, gradually they pushed forward and had at least 2 clear cut chances to take a lead, they missed them, the one involving Barrow's Nick Chadwick following a badly misplaced back pass from Jimmy Holden was an absolute sitter. FC United held their own but lacked that final touch, however, they did create some openings and Jerome Wright had a good effort which was only inches wide.To be honest I expected Barrow to kick on in the second half and stretch the home side via some experience and creativity, it never happened. It was FC United who started to build up a momentum, more and more tackles were won, more and more ground was taken, more and more width was applied, Barrow were under pressure and starting to look very uncomfortable. The noise and racket from the home fans grew and grew and they all went mad when Carlos Roca stabbed home a 78th minute game-breaking opening goal. Barrow looked dejected and the blank empty stares of the players didn't bring much optimism for a fightback, they were already out of this cup tie irrespective of the 12 minutes left on the clock. The scenes of unabandoned joy at the final whistle witnessed a piece of FC United history, what a great victory for them, I bet there will be thousands of them at Spotland for that big game against Rochdale, what a wonderful match to look forward to. As for Barrow, all they had to look forward to was that long trawl back up the M6 as the sun went down, perhaps the sun was already going down on their season, the poor form in the league and this crushing defeat to lower opposition (in league placings) was worrying enough but it was the manner in which they lost this game which was alarming, a shame for the tremendous numbers who made the trip, they need to sort it out fast.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Called to the Cup!

Despite my massive cold I woke up this Sunday morning like a junky without a fix. Yesterday I missed my football match! In spite of last nights homemade prescription of flu fighting food and drink (Whisky and a big Lamb Sagwalla) I still felt like death warmed up. Probably more to do with the over spiced Sagwalla than the cold virus.

Sod it, what had I to lose? There was a terrific looking FA Cup tie on this Sunday afternoon and I for one was going to be at the FC United v Barrow big match come cold, flu or whatever! It was bloody freezing in the house (the central heating dried my throat up) and the Wife stopped handing out sympathy rations last Tuesday.

I rang up Frugal Glenn to see if he wanted to tag along and it was 'game-on'!

Less than 3 hours later I made it through to scenes which put the emergency shelter of the Chilean Miners into the 5 Star Platinum Plus category of Mayfair, I'd arrived at the FC United Tea Hut, courtesy of Gigg Lane, Bury Football Club. Oh dear?
More tripe, gubbins and match report findings will be posted on here around Monday teatime, Beechams Hot Lemon (and Night Nurse) pending.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


Unfortunately there will be no Tea Hut related food, drink or football stuff this Saturday.


My visit schedule has been cancelled.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Bit more Barnoldswick v Maine Road stuff

Frugal Glenn on the prowl

Gladiators Ready!

The touchline nobody takes pictures of (still nice though)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Barnoldswick Town

Saturday 16th October
North West Counties League Premier Division
Barnoldswick Town 2 Maine Road 0
Attendance: 125
Admission: A very reasonable £4
Programme: £1
Tea hut purchases: Home-made Corned Beef Hash £1.50, Tea 60p
Weather: Bright but chilly in the shade
Parking: Club car park, easy exit via a 3 point turn
The well tended allotments adjacent to the Barnoldswick Town car park were humming with the countryfying aromas of uncut Category 'A' Cow Shit. I'd left the Match Shed in its Le Mans type getaway position across the way. Boy that manure was bloody strong, good job the ground is set between a park and a cricket pitch, you'd need a gas mask if you lived near here. There was a really friendly bloke on the turnstiles providing a warm welcome to all the spectators, how jolly decent to find out it was only 4 quid in! Frugal Glenn was well chuffed, this was his kinda-scene. Not often you see Frugal break into a smile when he's got his Old Testament wallet out. I then noticed that he was unfortunately wearing his extra-long crocodile skin 'curly toe' shoes from Asda's again, the man selling programmes clocked them ten yards away, he said something to his mate and started shaking his head, I didn't mention it to Frugal, probably best under the circumstances. I'd only had a bowl of Ready Brek and some toast for my breakfast and I was now pretty hungry, I decided to go straight to the clubhouse to check out the internal Tea Hut come Snack Bar. I politely enquired what was hot? (Meaning warm not West End fashionable, this was Barnoldswick remember) The lady behind the counter went through the range of pasties and pies and then started telling me about a steaming bowl of home-made corned beef hash which I could add loads of mushy pea's and gravy to if I wanted. The last time I felt so enamoured by a woman was seeing Raquel Welsh in that skimpy furry bikini in One Million Years BC. I only had to pay £1.50 for it, I cant remember the last time I had proper cutlery at a football match? Me and Frugal Glenn got a nice table near the window overlooking the pitch, this was so civilised, we both complimented on our nice cups of tea in proper mugs, excellent stuff! I'd heard Barnoldswick always put on a good show grub wise, they've got my vote, top tucker, faultless. I asked Frugal why he hadn't spent the cash he saved on admission getting a decent dinner from the snack bar, he then pulled a flattened old plastic bag from his Car Coat inner pocket, "I'm saving this little beauty for half time" he declared. He'd brought along a cold Steak and Onion pie (Ex Morrisons Supermarket variety) which he reckoned was only 3 to 4 days past the sell by date! He couldn't believe he'd caught his wife in the process of throwing it in the bin? Vintage Frugal Glenn I'm afraid. After a quite stroll around the scenic little ground titled The Silentnight Stadium, it was time for the action. Promoted Barnoldswick had only been beaten in the league a couple of times this term and that was early in the season, they'd got a respected reputation as battlers who are hard to beat, their problem was too many draws, 7 to date, they need to finish sides off if they want to move up from 8th position. The classy visitors from Manchester were those cultured youth development facilitators 'Maine Road'. A place below Barnoldswick they had played 3 games less but had already started taking a few big name scalps in the league. This was going to be tight, tense and tricky and so it proved. Quality, flair and precision was going to be rationed today, it was all commitment, endeavour and pressure. Maine Road dominated possession in the first quarter but struggled to find that cutting edge going forward, a trait that ultimately hounded them for the full ninety minutes. Barnoldswick, or Barlick as the locals call em, seemed to take stock of the visitors game plan and stealthily found the combinations for unlocking the defences, a once confident Maine Road defence soon started rocking and reeling from some surging counter attacks. One player for Maine Road stood head and shoulders above the rest (for the whole game), that was the Captain Alex Jay, while others floundered around him he oozed class and composure. When Paul Barrett got between the visitors keeper and 2 of Alex Jays co-defenders for a 31st minute opening goal, it gave Barnoldswick a foundation to take the game away from Maine Road, the visitors frustrations were vibrantly illustrated in the half time derision their bench poured upon the Referee, Mark Powell from Halifax (who seemed ok to me). Mr Powell took it in his stride and didn't let things affect him. The half time break witnessed Frugal Glenn eating his cold stale pie, I tried to get a picture of the sordid event but he ran off (hobbled may be more accurate). The second half started off in Barnoldswick's favour in the same manner they'd finished the first, it wasn't very long before Lewis Jordan got the all important second goal. Now Maine Road were really up against it. To give 'Road' some credit they didn't go into free fall, instead they changed a few things around and got to grips with the circumstances, they pushed the home side back and applied real pressure, unfortunately they lacked a striker (on the day) capable enough of finding the space and the touch to finish things off. The locals looked well pleased at the final whistle, the unbeaten league run continues and Barnoldswick now climb up to 7th. There was even talk of a celebratory pan of fresh Corned Beef Hash? Perhaps they were just joking? In any case, I had to get back for my 'Saturday Night Treat', I'd been promised an Indian (a meal not a young belly dancer). I extracted the Match Shed from the close parking of a few late arrivals and I set the controls for the heart of the sun. I didn't think this was the best of games (entertainment wise) but it was a well contested match and the homely little semi-rural town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales is well worth a visit, if you give it a go be sure to leave enough room to try out the snack bar in the clubhouse, Mmmm.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Can't make my mind up?

Such is the splendid choice of charismatic non league venues, my palate overflows with the varied colours, aroma's and textures of wonderful football destinations.

Take tomorrows, as yet, unchosen, tantalising fixture, Saturday 16th October brings me the copious abandoned charms of two seductive and exciting potential Tea Hut locations, my mind is in turmoil... who should take precedence?

I'll cut the waffle and go straight to the frying pan, its either Hyde or Barnoldswick Town, both much respected venues.
Downtown Hyde

Uptown semi-rural Barnoldswick

To find out where I eventually rolled up (with a bad cold and a beer induced headache), be daft enough to have a look at my 'weekend visit report' which should turn up around Sunday evening. Unless I have a big tea again.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

AFC Blackpool

Saturday 9th October
North West Counties League Challenge Cup Round 1
AFC Blackpool 2 Rochdale Town 0
Attendance: 60 (Although my head count pulled in 76)
Admission: £5
Programme: £1 (Not what I rate value for money)
Tea hut purchase: Tea at 60p
Weather: Sunshine and a cool to chilly breeze
Parking: Round the corner on the playing fields car parkMega busy traffic pouring into the away-day sleazy underworld of Blackpool. The Match Shed wasn't happy about lane hopping scousers in fourth hand Mondeo's, too close for comfort, best leave the Roy and the Reds boys for the big coaches from Glasgow, double wheeled monsters full of imitation football shirts, shiny red faces and fizzy cans of Tennants. Whatever happened to innocent friendly holiday makers, whatever happened to Mums packed lunch, a flask of coffee and a piece of cake? Steady there Match Shed stick to the road we've a cup tie to see today!

Do you realise that every public toilet in Blackpool demands an entrance fee? Once you pay up you gain entry to an automatic locking water closet. Do you know that the locking devices used for these places can eventually fail and not work? This renders the occupant trapped without means of alarm until the next council cleaner strolls along to service the facility (gosh knows when, days possibly). You could die in places like that? I never use them, I either go to a supermarket or a pub and so do a lot of other people. Reg Pont from Batley was apparently trapped in the bogs for three weeks just off the North Shore, he survived on two pork pies, a bag of quavers and a twix (obviously well rationed), good job these Yorkshire types take life protecting rations around with them at all times. Needless to say I called in at a local Tesco's.Talking of food for a change, I have been trying to find 'The Cottage' the world famous award winning fish and chip shop in Blackpool for many years. They have a website that boasts rebel rousing celebrities such as John Major in its clientele, all the other big wig politicians go there as well, it also attracts the stars from the theatre and the shows, it's supposed to be fantastic. Well this trip I actually managed to find the place. 'The Cottage' is shoe-horned into a really normal residential street in central Blackpool well away from the bright light attractions on the Golden Mile. I could eat in or for half price take away, I went for the latter, fish and chips in a tray, I scoffed it on one of the massive car parks hiding behind the sea front. It was ok but not mind blowing, I have had better in a lot of ordinary provincial towns to be honest, saying that I finished off the full greasy tray, batter scraps and all. The town was filling up fast, hundreds of cars and coaches seemed to be having a last decent weekend before Ice-Station-Britain kicks in. I drove along the promenade as far as Cleveleys, thousands of people thronged the pavements, especially along the Golden Mile, it was all Man-U t-shirts, Samsung replica's and Barca gear, originality in freefall.Match time was approaching. My chosen fixture was a quality looking cup tie from the North West Counties League, it headlined an intriguing game between the charismatic AFC Blackpool (orange is so 'in' at the moment) and bottom of the table under achievers Rochdale Town (Ex St Gabriels). The tounament was the NWC (Vodkat) League Challenge Cup 1st Round. The grey cloud which had affected the coast early doors started to quickly lift around the 2pm mark and apart from a chill breeze in the shade, the superb visual vista of the Jepson Way ground was the perfect setting for a competitive game of top non league football. A few die hards had travelled over from East Lancashire to watch Rochdale and they queued up in good mannered order for their fast fry chips and warm tea's from the friendly girls at the Social Club snack bar. The aroma of the chips and the boiling fat emitted that typical match day smell across the freshly cut grass, having had a really good wedge of fried fish and battered potatoes from 'The Cottage' earlier in the day I managed to go to the Tea Hut and just order a cup of tea (hows that for staying power)?AFC Blackpool were third in the league and their smart tangerine and white kit certainly made them look the business as the game got underway, however, never judge a match programme from its cover (Blackpools was pretty crap by the way), it was Rochdale Town who looked the better side in the first twenty minutes, despite their poor form in the league. Captain Matty Russell was having a fine game in midfield ably supported by right back Michael Shepherd. Blackpool battled back and it was all to play for as half time approached. What happened next changed the match. Rochdale created a cutting thrust deep into the Blackpool eighteen yard box, the ball was squared across goal, it slipped past the mouthy but competent Blackpool keeper Andy Speight, all Rochdale forward Matt Wilkinson had to do was simply side-foot the slow moving ball into the empty net, unfortunately Matt mistimed the bobbling ball and put it just wide, a tragic and game changing miss of massive proportions!Second half AFC Blackpool re-grouped took advantage of their 'get-off' and started to boss the game, despite a few Rochdale raids the momentum now lay with the home side, two quick goals in succession took the game away from the visitors and there was never going to be a way back. How different this game may have been if Rochdale Town had scored that sitter just before half time? It was a shame for really good players like Matty Russell who had played some top notch stuff for Rochdale but thats cup football, without doubt AFC Blackpool finished the stronger more competent side (no wonder they are doing well in the FA Vase at the moment as well). This was a good days football at a good ground. If you come here dont expect Bloomfield Road, it is a humble but well kept home for a character type club. It has covered facilities on all four sides a nice looking (but bobbly) pitch and some friendly local supporters who make everyone welcome. When the sun is out it looks great. After the game I had the chance of hanging around for the illuminations or hitting the motorway for the hills, as I had the promise of a home cooked 28 day rib-eye on the grill I sensibly chose the latter. It didn't disappoint.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

A cup tie day trip to Blackpool

Saturday 9th October
North West Counties League Challenge Cup Round 1
AFC Blackpool 2 Rochdale Town 0Fish and chips
Autumn sunshine
And a dodgy trip to the seaside

Cup tie drama, intrigue and suspense!

A non league white knuckle ride (who needs the Pleasure Beach)?

Report and pictures coming SOON!

In other words, my boring visit scribblings and a few crap snaps doomed for the 'delete' button.

Something expected Monday (or thereabouts).

Monday, 4 October 2010

Brighouse Town

Saturday 2nd October
FA Vase 1st Round Proper
Brighouse Town 3 Eccleshill United 3
(After Extra Time)
Attendance: 111
Admission: £5
Programme: £1
Tea hut purchases: Tea 70p, Crisps 45p
Weather: Dry, chilly, light cloud
Parking: In the crowded grid locked club car parkIt was ten past two when the Match Shed swung into the Brighouse Town car park and it was almost jammed solid. Not wanting to leave the vehicle on the isolated lane leading down to the ground I had the choice of two final spaces, in a bog squeezed beside the entrance gate or stuck out in the centre aisle perilously close to the oncoming traffic. Images of a part submerged Match Shed bubbling in the bog at the final whistle resulted in me plumping for the centre aisle. I checked other vehicles could easily get past me before locking up and entering the ground. This proved a lucky choice as I was one of the few drivers not blocked in by foolhardy late comers when it came to leaving at the end of the game (I hate being stuck waiting for some ignorant car-dumping oaf to wander back from the toilets or wherever they've been 25 minutes after everbody else has gone home). Brighouse mention that the car park is monitored in the match programme, perhaps they might consider putting a simple 'Car Park Full' sign at the gate to deter those who would grid-lock sensible drivers who've made the effort to arrive early.You may reckon I'm going on a bit here about something as minor as car park management. The whole car parking issue was magnified early in the second half of this game when the Brighouse keeper received a serious facial injury. An ambulance was immediately called. What resulted is that when the ambulance arrived it couldn't get through the blocked car park. It took that long for the route to be cleared we were already half way through extra time before the ambulance got access! All this time the injured player had been sat waiting wrapped in a thermol blanket waiting to get to hospital! Perhaps a lessen can be learned for future reference?
Brighouse have suffered greatly from the recent fire at the ground and although they have received a portakabin unit from Staveley FC (a tremendous friendly gesture) the reality is that the club can only offer a very limited service to visiting supporters. As regards Tea Hut facilities this means hot drinks, crisps and chocolate but no hot pies and burgers for greedy bloaters like me I'm afraid. Something which made me wish I'd brought a few sandwiches later in the afternoon. Everybody hopes that the insurance money comes through sooner than later and the club can get back to full service ASAP.A crowd of 111 had gathered for this local derby, Eccleshill United are only down the road in Bradford and although they play in a division below Brighouse in the same Northern Counties East set up, their travelling supporters appeared mighty confident. Eccleshill knocked another top division side out of this competition in the previous qualifying round, that was another local side, Liversedge, the Eccleshill supporters couldn't see why Brighouse shouldn't go the same way! Both sides ripped into the proceedings right from the start, Brighouse with their precise passing patterns whilst Eccleshill opted for a more direct approach.When Brighouse confidently went 1-0 up I thought that may be the start of a convincing win, how wrong could I be? Eccleshill simply would not give up and their determined style witnessed them come back at Brighouse 3 times in succession. Brighouse led 1-0, 2-1 and then 3-2 but every time the visitors dug deep and dragged themselves back into the match. The visiting keeper Tahj Bell made some tremendous saves along the way in what turned out to be a really good game of football. The term 'end to end' summed this game up perfectly, it could have finished 15 all, they were still going full pelt at each other deep into extra time, when the final whistle went at 19 minutes to six I'd certainly had my 5 quid moneys worth, this was proper cup tie football.The unfortunate injury to the home keeper Lee Ashforth put a sad twist on the afternoon and I'm sure everyone wishes him a speedy recovery and a lot of local supporters of good non league football will be looking forward to Tuesdays replay. On a slightly off game topic, one of the things I cannot stand in the modern game is players wearing their socks over their knees like silly schoolgirls (I blame the overated John Terry as one of the main perpetrators), well today was the first time I've ever seen the Referee doing the very same thing, absolutely shocking, I hope the referees assessor nips this in the bud before any more silly business gets out of hand, we need to keep traditional standards in our game and a sensible dress code is included in that remit.
I've done quite a bit of moaning in this visit report, my apologies if I've gone over the top, must be the fact that I didn't get my usual grub quota, something had to cop for it.