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

Monday, 16 May 2011

Prestatyn Town

Sunday 15th May
Welsh Premier League Europa League Play Off Semi-Final
Attendance: 383
Admission: £7
Programme: £1.50
Tea Hut purchases: Cornish Pasty £1.70, Tea 80p
Weather: Cloudy with a bit of light rain, stiff breeze at times
Parking: Side street off Bastion Road, 5 minutes walk, easy exit
Where I live up on the Pennines it has rained on and off (more on than off) for the last 11 days (every single day), hard to believe some parts of the UK have been bone dry? Todays 'pants' weather forecast put the mockers on what could have been a nice day by the seaside. Even the North Wales coast got the rain, it also got a chilly stiff breeze blowing in off the sea, not deckchair stuff by any means, yet again I put my winter woolies and waterproofs on. Looks like summers been and gone. Frugal Glenn wasn't on board the Match Shed today but he'd endured a compulsory caravan holiday in Prestatyn a couple of years back so he'd given me a good idea where the Bastion Gardens Stadium was. Apparently he was so traumatised by the confined holiday sleeping arrangements and the relentless campsite 24/7 bingo he couldn't face being within 20 miles of the place. I think Prestatyn is a decent little place really. I made the journey in good time travelling down a remarkably quiet M56, skirting north of Chester and then taking the coast road down through Flint. I was soon walking beside the open green leisure areas adjacent to the ground.
5 minutes further on I was able to take in the majestic view of the expanse of the Irish Sea as it stormed in on mile upon mile of golden sands, peeping through the broken rain clouds to the south lay the neighbouring resort of Rhyl, beyond that, even further in the grey distance rose the mighty peaks of Snowdonia and the coastal precipice of the Great Orme down at Llandudno. It all looked pretty good in these damp conditions... I wished I'd been lucky enough to see such a view on a sunny day. As I walked back to the ground you realise the football ground resides side by side with Prestatyn Cricket Club (not a bad little cricket ground), its amazing how many football grounds I've been to this season which lie right next to local league cricket pitches. My research for todays game ascertained local media opinions that this was Prestatyn Towns biggest and most important game to date. The clash against classy Welsh Premier League rivals Port Talbot Town was billed as a Europa League Play Off Semi Final, there was no second leg, todays winners would meet the winners of Neath v Aberystwyth Town next Saturday in the Final. Whomever won that final would gain entry to the qualifying stage of the Europa League, who knows where that might end? My mind boggled at the dream like vision of Prestatyn going 3-0 up against Spurs next February? Lets not go there. After sauntering over the nice green field to the seaside-side entrance gate I couldn't help overhear one of the stewards reading the match programme and conversing with the gateman in the admission hut "How the hell are we going to afford European Football" he said, I suppose there's no pleasing some folk?
Perhaps he wanted Prestatyn to concentrate on the Premier League (the Welsh one of course). I paid my 7 quid admission money and also got a decent little programme, it included some good news and views, colour pictures and a rather entertaining column titled 'On The Ball With Robbo Goch', I liked Robbo's jottings and wished we could have more writing like his in match programmes. The programme also advertised a clubhouse evening with Tommy Docherty on Saturday 18th June, you get a 2 course meal and a free glass of wine for £20 a ticket, I bet even Frugal Glenn would have jumped at that opportunity if he was back in that caravan park. It was some time since my  morning breakfast of scrambled egg, bacon and toast, I hit the Tea Hut as soon as I got to the clubhouse. Its one of those interior type Tea Huts you see in quite a few clubhouses, this one was positioned in the spacious entrance reception room leading onto the packed bar area. I opted for a cornish style pasty and a cup of tea. Both hit the mark and I've no complaints, good service too, the ladies behind the counter dealt with all the punters promptly and efficiently. Whilst I was scoffing the pasty I took time in reviewing the layout of the ground, basically the only viewing structure at the ground is down one of the touchlines, a low level all seater stand which has 3 rows of bucket seats.
A slight negative is the number of stanchions which appear at regular intervals. Behind the north end of the ground resides the clubhouse and changing rooms but the rest of the ground is just hard standing. There is the standard WPL tv gantry positioned between the dug outs on the touchline opposite the stand. The low level setting doesn't offer fantastic character and I suppose the ground is rather open to the elements blowing in off the sea but it is a pleasant enough place to watch decent quality football. Port Talbot brought a bit of support with them and 20 or so of their more vociferous followers took up a first half position slap bang next to the dignitaries VIP section, perhaps it was the drummer, or perhaps the trumpet player, or come to think of it, the swearing that brought along a couple of local police officers to shadow the proceedings running up to half time? The away supporters looked harmless enough and it wasn't long before the police relocated themselves to the Tea Hut room for cups of tea. The pitch looked in great condition for the end of season but that stiff breeze was definitely favouring the side kicking towards the clubhouse end. In the first half this favoured Port Talbot, they more or less completely dominated the opening 45 minutes of play with precision passing and creative movement going forward.
Prestatyn looked like rabbits in the headlights, surely it was more than just the conditions, they simply couldn't get in the game. The inevitable opening goal went to Port Talbot in the 29th minute via a Lee Surman header, Prestatyn could count themselves lucky that they went in at half time only 1-0 down. Port Talbot had bossed the proceedings completely.
During the break I eventually tracked down the singular toilet facilities at the stadium (not easy I may add), they consist of one urinal and two traps only! Needless to say a pretty long queue of nervously hopping males had gathered in dire need of assistance. This is something the club should improve sooner rather than later. I eventually gave up the long queue and went back during the second half (it was the only way). Apparently, Neil Gibson the Prestatyn player manager gave his side a major rollicking at half time, it must have helped as they came out a totally transformed side for the second half.
Instead of Port Talbot carrying on where they left off they surrendered both territory and midfield possession of the ball, the home side moved forward and expanded confidence with each passing minute, within 10 minutes of the restart Port Talbot looked like a bunch of holidaymakers with dodgy buckets and spades trying to stop the tide coming in, Prestatyn were all over them. The transformation in ascendancy came to fruition in the 84th minute when Paul O'Neill was hampered in the box and Lee Hunt smacked in the penalty. It looked all set for extra time and a delayed getaway, one bloke near me was moaning he would now miss his 5 'o' clock Sunday dinner, he need not have worried, up stepped Prestatyn Town captain Dave Hayes to head home an 88th minute sensational winner. The place went mad.
What a turnaround, I would never have imagined a side as dominant as Port Talbot in that first 45 minutes now being so clinically over-run by a gung-ho Prestatyn side who simply took the whole game by the scruff of the neck and made it happen. What a fantastic victory for them. Since full time I've learned that Prestatyn now face Neath away at 'The Gnoll' next Saturday in the final, it should be quite a game.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Vodkat NWC League Cup Final

Wednesday 11th May
Vodkat North West Counties League Cup Final
Played at Curzon Ashton FC
Attendance: 365
Admission: £6
Programme: £1.50
Tea Hut purchase: None (massive queue)
Weather: Mainly cloudy, chilly with a light breeze
Parking: Stadium car park, quick getaway
This NWCL Challenge Cup Final was held at the initially impressive but chronically concrete Tameside Stadium in Ashton Under Lyne, probably better known as the spacious home of Curzon Ashton FC who ply their trade in the Evo Stik Northern Premier League. Two of this seasons Vodkat North West Counties League main shakers contested the prestigious event, New Mills the Premier League champions and the battlers of Winsford United who finished a very good season in a creditable third position below them. I'd seen the classy New Mills outfit 'just about' get past 'never say die' Runcorn Town in an end to end quality semi-final on Saturday. Winsford had seen off impressive Division 1 league champions AFC Blackpool 2-1 in their respective semi-final. It looked like we were all set for a ding-dong dramatic final (at least on paper). I'd willingly scoffed down a rather large chicken roast dinner with all the trimmings before setting off for the game and I was soon steering a slightly lopsided Match Shed down towards the Frugal Glenn pick up point outside Booze Busters down in the town. Frugal was even more grumpy than normal as he struggled to get his seat belt on, he'd apparently had a row with his wife and hadn't had his tea. Instead, he was carrying 2 bags of cheese and onion crisps, some past the sell-by-date scampi fries and a milky way.
The Match Shed hit Ashton Under Lyne a full hour ahead of schedule, the anticipated rush hour traffic in this eastern part of Greater Manchester never happened (perhaps a sign of the times in coalition doomed Britain). The question was what to do with all the spare time running up to kick off? Its not as if there is a great deal to do once you've parked up in the large Tameside Stadium car park. We decided on paying in and trying out the Function Suite Bar. There were already 20 or so New Mills 'dressed' punters in the room and 1 bloke with a Winsford top on. We got our drinks and sat at one of the big circular wedding reception tables specially fitted out for tonights game with sticky plastic table cloths. The place gradually filled up with a 75/25 mix in favour of New Mills supporters, a ratio which more or less matched what we saw in the stadium when we took up a couple of seats in the Main Stand (no extra charge). The opposite covered terrace across the pitch had been adorned with various New Mills flags of various sizes and quality, perhaps they dont do flags in Winsford, they didn't have any (not even for cup finals). The tannoy was apparently sponsored by Deaf Aid for the night, the last time I had my ears ringing like this was at a 'Who' concert in the 70's, talk about loud, to make it worse they played the absolute worst disco pap music you could ever be so unlucky to suffer, the music was so bad I wondered if it was some kind of pyss-take? Frugal Glenn was financially admiring how the sponsors Vodkat had taken up the in-charge spirit of cutting anything in sight, including the budget for cup final night trimmings, no nice looking girls in skimpy costumes, no fireworks, no give away free samples of dodgy coloured alcoholic liquid, all Vodkat produced was a three foot cardboard advertising board next to the centre circle. It sadly appeared about as much effort had been given to the flimsy 12 page match programme which they fleeced people £1.50 for, damn expensive pen pictures and a couple of cheesy adverts me thinks (because that was more or less all that was in the so called cup final programme), nice old school cover though.

The game started with a flurry of New Mills attacks and Winsford looked all at sea, that first 10 minutes proved crucial to both sides, New Mills failed to get the early goal they had obviously set out for whilst Winsford gradually calmed down and slowly balanced the ship. Sadly after that, apart from a long range Winsford shot which rattled the crossbar, the rest of the first half was very scrappy and devoid of decent football. Winsford were proving to be stubborn opposition for the normally open 'free-flowing' tactics of the league champions. A half time snack attack in the Tea Hut below the main stand was a complete non starter, the queue was massive. Frugal Glenn stuck it out for a cup of tea (probably due to the excessive salt content from all his crisps and stuff) but he was gone for twenty minutes. We stood on the covered terrace opposite the main stand for the second half but it was a bit breezy and quite chilly. Despite all the New Mills flags, there appeared to be more Winsford United supporters over here and they were well voiced in getting behind a much improved side in that second period. Winsford seemed to want the ball more and it was obvious New Mills didn't like the buzz and bite of the proceedings, the normal pacy passing game adopted so often by New Mills was nowhere in sight, it all looked a bit hit and hope, dare I say it...long ball.

It was Winsford United who started to play the better football and more and more possession created more and more chances. The break through came with about 15 minutes to go, a Lee Duckworth free kick 25 yards or so out on the right flank skipped past static defenders and keeper alike to send the Winsford players into leaps of unbridled delight, they were 1-0 up against the bookies nailed on favourites. The expected New Mills fight back spluttered and chugged and never got into gear, if anything its a wonder Winsford didn't go further ahead. New Mills went down to 10 men near the end when Luke Horrocks hastily retaliated to a firm challenge by throwing the ball at his opponents head, his second yellow card meant he had to go. A couple of clear chances fell to Winsford deep into injury time but it wasn't to be, not that they bothered, they'd deservedly won the cup and given their small band of supporters a great deal to cheer about. Well done Winsford United!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


Tuesday 10th May
Manchester League Premier Division
Attendance: 39 (Head Count)
Admission: Free in the Manchester League
Programme: Not available
Tea Hut purchase: None (had a cheese sandwich in the car)
Weather: Bit cloudy, odd shower and sunny spell thrown in
Parking: Grid locked club car park
The Bridgewater Office Supplies sponsored Manchester League offers fantastic value for money, its free to get in! I took up the option of a late visit over to Tyldesley to check out 5th placed Hindsford FC who were playing their last game of the season against top 3 opposition courtesy of the Stockport Georgians. I've heard good reports about the Manchester League and I was looking forward to seeing the Hindsford ground hidden away at the end of Squires Lane, a nice little area which isn't too far from the busy main road which runs through Tyldesley centre. The ground appears just as the lane ends at a footpath which in turn leads onto open meadows and trees, a rather nice setting really. The club car parks sit either side of a metal corrugated building housing a club house and changing rooms directly adjacent to the half way line. This is the only structure at the ground and there is a small roof attached to the front which provides a bit of shelter against the elements.
The rest of the ground is just a post and metal rail around the touchlines with a concrete perimeter fence set well back across the grass viewing areas. One of the ends is no access as the fence pushes in close to the pitch. I'd managed to get the Match Shed parked as close as possible to the car park exit gate but it wasn't long before I was block stacked in as the late comers hap-hazardly grid locked everybody, why dont people park down the street when a car park looks full? It causes chaos when someone wants (or has) to leave early (as happened once or twice tonight). I was lucky to find a way through not long after the final whistle. As regards the action on the pitch, this was a very hard fought energetic encounter with vociferous encouragment from the herds of coaches, assistants and other club members packing out the areas around the galvanised steel dug outs, they almost outnumbered the spectators who had gathered outside the club house. They all spoke the tongue of the sacred non-league football coach, if you've ever been within 20 yards of the dug outs you will doubtless know the phrases. It always appears to me that the players don't understand what they're going on about. I think the coaches enjoy it though.
Some ferocious tackles were going in and a lot of appealing was taking place, credit to the players for taking it in their stride, none of that fancy pants diving and handbags you see from the likes of Arsenal and Co on the tv ...thats for sure. Fair do's to Abid Hussain who was having a fine match as Referee, he kept the game flowing whilst still attaining discipline, not an easy task in such heated surroundings. Stockport Georgians looked the better side going forward in the first half and certainly deserved a 1-0 half time lead, the Hindsford lads were getting stuck in but there was hardly a goal scoring opportunity created in the first 45 minutes.
They received a verbal reality-check at the half time team talk just beside the centre circle. It must have had an impact because they appeared a lot more confident and cohesive on the ball during the second half, the Georgians found themselves under some consistent probing pressure for the first time in the match. The equaliser for Hindsford was a scrappy affair but very well deserved. This seemed to kick start a revival from the Georgians, who still had a chance to go second in the league tonight, it all helped to provide an exciting climax to a pretty decent game of football, I think I'll have some more of this Manchester League stuff come next season!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

New Mills

Saturday 7th May
North West Counties League Challenge Cup Semi Final
New Mills 3 Runcorn Town 2
Attendance: 153
Admission: £6
Programme: £1.50
Tea Hut purchase: Tea at 75p, Frugal Glenns hot dog £1.60
Weather: Sunny spells, mild, a little breezy at times
Parking: On the main road around the corner, easy exit
Getting There:
I picked Frugal Glenn up in the Match Shed, he was stood in the pouring rain dressed in a big army fatigues anorak with his Bacup Borough black and white brolly, the downpour hadn't relented for over two hours. As the Match Shed headed due south through Oldham, Ashton and Stalybridge a chink of bright light appeared on the horizon, by the time we cut through Glossop things had dried up rather well, upon arrival at New Mills they were even playing cricket! It didn't look like it had even rained in the High Peak. We looked like a couple of party poopers from the deep mid winter as people strolled by in t-shirts and shorts.
The Ground:
The unpretentious home of New Mills football club is on Church Lane set back a small distance from the A6015 main road just beside the churchyard. I over shot the turning in the Match Shed and turned around in the conveniently positioned New Mills Cricket Club a couple of hundred yards further down the road. There are a couple of old style open plan turnstiles competently manned by a couple of club-stalwarts eager for your money. I thought it would be the standard 5 quid entrance charge which is normal for the NWCL Premier clubs but New Mills charge £6, perhaps its because they are champions? Frugal was a bit miffed about shelling out an extra quid on top of what he'd been expecting. I decided on one of the programmes the old timer had in a cardboard box, I gave it Frugal to read to stop him sulking. The ground has a small low level covered terrace down the churchyard side touchline, this runs two thirds of the pitch before another low level stand appears with two rows of shiny bucket seats. The pitch slopes gently down to what is titled 'The School End' which is just uncovered hard standing as is the opposite touchline where the dug outs are positioned. There is a large wooden planked perimeter fence running along these sides, you can see the tops of some oldish looking double decker buses popping out behind the fence behind the dug outs. That leaves 'The Club House End' which obviously has a clubhouse plonked behind the nets, this also caters for the changing rooms and a tea hut. One thing noticeable about the ground was the rock hard pitch which looked a bit bobbly and dusty in parts, understandable considering the recent dry spell and this being the end of the season. I'd not say this is a bad ground, its functional and well kept but it does lack a tad of character.
Todays Game:
New Mills have just been crowned NWCL Premier League champions with 102 points, eleven more than second placed Ramsbottom. They come with a fine reputation for fast paced all action football. Runcorn Town have made major efforts to progress onwards and upwards as a club and have just been rewarded by finishing runners up in the league below New Mills in the NWCL Division 1. This NWCL Challenge Cup Semi Final should be capable of producing plenty of thrills and spills... and importantly goals.
Match Programme:
One of the better ones I've purchased this season, some good news and views from the club and plenty of information about the visitors, all in all a good effort and well worth the money. A nice change from the ones that take 2 minutes to read through cover to cover.
The Tea Hut:
Not impressed I'm afraid. Looked a bit grubby with a table below the hatch offering dirty plastic knives and forks with no spoons for hot drinks. Also the sauce bottles were in dire need of a wipe, they had some badly congealed tops, Frugal Glenn got a hot dog but upon looking at the sauce bottle lids, he did without his standard choice of tomato ketchup and mustard, not a happy bunny. It appears that the pies quickly sold out so I just had a cup of tea, good job I stopped them lobbing the tea bag in the bin after 10 seconds in the hot water, I asked them to kindly leave it in the cup. I think the operation needs a bit more hands on practical management from more experienced personnel, no disrespect intended to the kids running the show over the counter.
The Action:
This match didn't fail to produce some quality football from two fine sides. It was full of twists and turns and end to end drama.New Mills played down the slope in the first half and quickly built up a clinically executed 3 goal lead courtesy of Daniel Douglas-Pringle (10), Nick Swirad (17) and Dean Crowe (31), the pace and cutting edge as they relentlessly broke forward from midfield was awesome.Many sides would throw in the towel and just try and keep the score down, to their credit Runcorn Town decided to have a go back. Slowly but surely they started to turn the New Mills defence and time and time again they got themselves into goal scoring positions, as the second half continued they got a goal back from Jason Carey (54) but to be bluntly honest they missed a whole host of opportunities.New Mills continued to attack down the other end and it is a wonder the scoreline wasn't 12-8. Runcorn Town wouldn't give up and battled on as the final whistle approached, remarkably the pacy Enine Adegbenro snatched a second goal just into injury time. The referee played out another 4 minutes as New Mills just about held on despite yet another chance which the visitors missed. It finished 3-2 to New Mills but what a great performance from both of these sides, a truly great semi-final.
I had expected coach party proportions of groundhoppers at this end of season event, in reality there didn't seem to be many around. I did manage to spot a couple of notebook scribblers deep into the second half though. Good to see a fair few Runcorn Town supporters making the trip, they really got behind their team as they fought back during the second half. Looks like New Mills will now take on Winsford United in the final, I'm informed its being played at Curzon Ashtons ground over in Tameside.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Vodkat Challenge Cup Semi Final Classic

New Mills 3 'Plucky' Runcorn Town 2

Cup tie drama in the Peak District as the Premier League runaway champions slogged it out with the runners up from Division 1. It all added up to some fine quality football. The fans got value for money but... oh what might have been? Sloppy report, cheesy hype and tacky photo's up Sunday evening.