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

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Irlam lose the Cup!

Irlam lost the 2011 Salford Advertiser Cup by a single goal today.
Evo Stik NPL Division 1 North dark horses Salford City continued some pretty impressive pre-season form with a freak second half strike to take the trophy.
Me and Frugal Glenn battled tropical conditions just off junction 11 of the M60 to see it happen.
The new style cut-down visit report will be on here Monday morning (ish).

Sunday, 24 July 2011

FC Halifax Town

Saturday 23rd July
Pre Season Friendly
FC Halifax Town 0 Mansfield Town 1
Attendance: 743
Admission: £7
Programme: £1.50 (Not worth it)
Tea Hut purchase: Not at those prices!
Weather: Sunny and warm
Parking: Roadside, about 5 minutes away

Following a Friday night of spicy Indian food and a rash abundance of ale, perhaps I wasn't as keen for my Saturday afternoon football as normal. Todays destination was The Shay home of a resurgent FC Halifax Town, also known as The Shaymen. There's plenty of hype about at the moment that Fax are going to mop up in the Blue Square Conference North this season? Time will tell. Here's a bit of travel sludge.... I swung the Match Shed over the A58 passing dozens of African people all dressed in flowing white robes (honest), this strange site expanded as I witnessed them heading off over the rocky slopes of Blackstone Edge, what they were doing I do not know? Next up came the illegal windsurfers on the reservoir behind the famous White House pub, a great place for grub which is slap bang on the Pennine Way. Despite numerous big signs stating 'Strictly No Water Sports-This Is Your Drinking Water', the late twenties / middle thirties adventure seekers set a fine example, nice one yuppies. Dropping down into the county of Yorkshire the Match Shed fumed at being stuck behind a long line of slow moving traffic, some 1930's tractor was doing 10 mph all over the road. How satisfying that the relic wasn't carrying number plates or tax, made me wonder the number of years this farmer must have been getting away with it? I had to overtake six cars of OAP's and those silly women that struggle to drive 4 x 4's to finally get past Owd Ned (fag in slack jaw) and his smoking tractor. I gave him the fingers just before hitting the regeneration 'targeted' town of Sowerby Bridge, with its converted Mills and abundant restaurants and takeaways I'm not sure if all the effort on selling this old community as the next best thing is actually working? I was soon in Halifax, it looks a nice town if you take the Saville Park road down to The Shay, all big stone houses and well kept area's of greenery. If you take one of the other roads you soon realise Saville Park is the kind of area that is currently in a minority in this once fine borough. Sadly Halifax appears to be a bit rundown at the moment (but we could say that about a lot of places in broken Britain couldn't we). I parked the Match Shed up just across the junction from the old bus garage adjacent to the ground. Already there were middle aged blokes hurrying down the road in their replica tops, The Shaymen are a popular product in this part of the world.
The Shay Stadium rises up before you and the recently opened Main Stand is a splendid addition to this proud little ground. I remember coming here years ago when there was a speedway track and a couple of ramshackle stands, some dodgy grass banks and bugger all else. To say it had an open aspect would be an understatement. What we have now is a truly decent ground befitting Football League status. Its lost that humble rough and ready quirkyness that did have its own unique charisma but its been swopped for a big main stand with great views and two large covered terraces at each end of the pitch. The old Skircoat Lane stand is still there, all seater now rather than the part terrace it once had but its still got all the stanchions to block your view if you are still hanging on and hankering for the past. The supporters bar next to the main stand entrance reminded me a bit of the KC Stadium at Hull City. Not many ale heads today it seemed, after all, it is a friendly and all that. A very friendly chap took my 7 pounds at the turnstile and I was in. Despite a heavy presence of stewarding nobody took offence at my camera bag or me taking pictures inside the stadium. Must say the pitch looked immaculate, almost like a bowling green.
The sun was out and The Shay looked mighty fine, dont get me wrong I wouldn't like to come to a place like this every week, I like moving around a ground and taking in different views from uncrowded environments, you cannot do that here (unfortunately), today for instance witnessed all the Halifax supporters in one half of the main stand only, both of the terraces behind each end were closed (I dont think you could transfer if they were open? Not sure about that?). The away support from Mansfield were placed in the corner of the opposite stand on Skircoat Lane. A bit over the top really as there were only about 50 or 60 Mansfield supporters. It will be interesting to see whether Halifax enforce strict segregation in the Blue Square Conference North? I favour freedom to roam all parts but maybe thats not possible at a place like this? As the Shaymen support grew before kick off it was noticeable that there is a buzz and a feeling of positive anticipation about the place. They seem keenly focused on doing well this season and have a confidence they have the right manager and the right kind of squad to succeed. A factor that must be brought into this equation is the apparent loss of one of the Shaymens best players, Jamie Vardy, he wasn't in the squad today, rumour had it that this was because he's on his way to a new club?. I settled down in my seat and pretty soon felt uncomfortable in my double jumper clothing, the trouble is its always a bit chilly up on the hills where I live, down at The Shay it was bloody boiling. I like the Halifax kit, its all blue features are set off by a vertical retro style stripe on the shirts, as for Mansfield, they adopted a very snazzy all yellow and old gold number which was spoiled by a blue sleeve running down from the collar. Don't like those odd sleeve style numbers, old school uniformity wins for me every time. Once we got underway the action was a bit slow paced to be honest, it was a friendly match remember and it was very hot down at pitchside.
As the game wore on I was able to make a few tentative observations (which may prove to be a load of tosh), I thought Halifax looked weak up front and lacked any kind of clinical finishing, they also appeared hesitant in defence, I thought Mansfield missed some clear cut opportunities in the first half especially. What Halifax do appear to have is some decisive midfield spirit, Tom Baker in particular was spraying the ball about and also battling in the tackle, he looks a good player. Mansfield put a few nice passing moves together as they occasionally pressed forward, they did look solid and I got the impression (for them) this match was more about fitness and strategy coaching rather than win at all costs. Half time arrived and it was 0-0. The side effects of too much Friday night beer and some Indian meal I could no longer remember the name of had 'at long last' started to yield. I fancied a look at that Tea Hut under the stand. Oh dear!
On arrival at the brightly lit characterless counter and sale boards (just across from the bogs), my heart sank. There in bright lights was the exuberant price list, Tea was a mind-blowing £1.70, a small pie was £2.80 and the burgers started at £2.90! I felt sorry for the Shaymen supporters having to put up with this daylight robbery every other week. A club needs an honest, decent, reasonably priced Tea Hut, its part of the matchday experience, sadly the Shaymen won't be getting anything like that! I reckon the Mansfield fans would have (possibly) been given access to a notoriously dodgy burger van in the stand they occupied, I cannot confirm this and dont wish to speculate, however, BSN clubs should check out facilities before travelling this season, you may wish to hit a local chippy instead of pigging out at the ground? Needless to say, I did not give in to these silly (and insulting) rip off prices and I bought bugger all.
The second half saw the usual friendly-match multiple changes and the usual fragmentation of what we had as a match. Perhaps the best 2 players who came on for Halifax in that second period were Simon Garner and 'Deano' (James Dean I think). Mansfield got the only goal just after the break and they held on for the win despite some Halifax pressure in the last 15 minutes, in my humble opinion this match should have been a draw but credit to The Stags they closed the game down and made sure they protected that 1 goal lead. Mansfield manager Paul Cox looks to have implemented some fundamental standards of method and organisation on the pitch, both of these principles became evident in the way they never lost a grip on the proceedings, surely this will improve The Stags performance levels ongoing.
Having been to The Shay to see what all the fuss was about I honestly reckon they will be a big plus for the Conference North this season. For one thing, they'll take a lot of away support everywhere they go. As for clubs visiting The Shay, they'll play at a very good ground, perhaps the players might appreciate it a bit more than visiting fans though, especially if they are in the corner of the old stand with only the dodgy burger van for half time sustenance? Perhaps things might be ok if they open up more of the stadium. Its a place worth going to and a lot of the time I reckon it will be a fortress for Halifax, I cannot see many away sides doing the business in that environment, it will be a test and more often than not a hard fought slog. The Shaymen mean to give it a good go, it should be interesting stuff over the coming weeks.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Shay Stadium

Went to see what all the fuss was about today.
Apparently this new Halifax team are better than the 1970 Brazilian side.
Mansfield Town provided the humble opposition.

The 'Tea Hut Visit Report' lowdown on the FC Halifax Town experience will be on here late Sunday / early Monday.

Monday, 18 July 2011


Saturday 16th July
Pre Season Friendly
Altrincham 1 Manchester City XI 2
Attendance: 1,298
Admission: £7 (almost half the price of league games)
Programme: £1 (ok for the money)
Tea Hut Purchase: Tea at £1.50 (poor)
Parking: One of the few spaces on Moss Lane itself
Weather: Pre match showers, then dry with sunny spells
As per usual on a wet Saturday afternoon, thousands of people with very little to do head for the Trafford Centre shopping complex, the Manchester shrine to stuffy crowded malls with lots of overpriced shops selling daft clothes. Each to their own I say, but the down side for those with a mind of their own is the ridiculous traffic gridlock on the M60 that just happens to be positioned slap bang next to the monstrocity. If, like me, you just want to get to a football match in Altrincham 30 to 40 miles away you end up spending 45 minutes extra travel-time on the Manchester motorway than you really need to. Frugal Glenn has refused to go on any car trip involving the M60 on a wet Saturday until further notice, its bad for the environment he says (and he's that kind of guy). In other words he's had a rollicking off his Mrs and he's been banished to a DIY world of cheap vinyl silk emulsion and 8 walls of hell, serves him right for coming back 2 hours after curfew with an 'Al Sami' deluxe kebab. Anyway, lets get on with it. I eventually hit Altrincham and managed to find the Moss Lane ground easier than expected. A five minute walk up the road and I was right outside the stadium. Across the street dozens of City fans where scoffing grub outside a bulging 'Barneys Fish & Chip Shop'. I was tempted, and I mean really tempted, but no, I wanted to sample Tea Hut stuff from inside the ground.
What a catastrophic massive mistake! Anyone who read my slamming of FC Uniteds (or should I correctly say Bury FC's Gigg Lane) tea hut 'pie of choice' last season will know of my abject lack of enthusiasm for 'Wrights Pies'. Guess what, as soon as I paid my 7 quid to get in, I see 2 tea huts, one at each end of the ground and both of them have big coloured signs up promoting the very same brand of pie.
The club even had pitchside advertisement boards up claiming "Love Football, Love Wrights Pies", what a shocker! To think I'd turned down Barneys take away fish platter, with chips, peas and curry for this desert storm of Pie atrocity was beyond belief and to be honest..... killed a bit of the day for me personally. I got a tea in a paper cup instead. The rip off price of £1.50 (no cup of tea should be over £1) witnessed my receipt of brown hot water totally devoid of taste. Not a great start. As I grimly sipped the hot water I watched on as numerous unsuspecting City fans threw half eaten pies in the waste bins. Good luck to Wrights Pies if they can sell them and people enjoy them, perhaps the Alty fans love em and its just me that doesn't quite appreciate them? My gripe is that I missed out on the fish and chips outside the ground, I made my choice so its my fault. Going back to the admission price, I dont mind paying 7 quid to see one of the favourites for the Conference North playing (supposedly) some of the best young players in the country (even if a lot of them are from overseas). My choice of taking in a visit to Altrincham now rather than in the actual season is purely based upon price. I was surprised (if thats the right word) to find that Altrincham are charging £12 & £13 to watch them in the league. Thats far too much for the Conference North level. Altrinchams reasoning is that they want to maintain a viable budget to achieve success? A very heavy rain shower hit the ground before kick off and it sent people scarpering, the Alty squad stuck it out going through their pre match exercise routines, City were having none of it and kept dry under the stand.
Moss Lane is a very nice ground, there is a tall and narrow Main Stand straddling the half way line with a smaller stand by its side at the 18 yard area. Down the opposite touchline is a good covered terrace running the full length of the pitch.
The town end of the ground also has a fully covered terrace, the other end of the ground is an open terrace but it seemed a nice spot to stand when the sun popped out. I must say the pitch looked first class and the whole set up was very appealing, it has that proper football ground feel to it. I had a look in the Main Stand before kick off but unless you get a central seat which were mainly taken or reserved for season ticket holders the wing areas are in the obstructed view category, this results from the large sides of the stand and the floodlight poles getting in the way. I decided to watch the first half near the halfway line on the covered terrace on the other side of the pitch. A decent crowd of 1,298 had gathered, it appears a lot of the City supporters had been enticed by the likes of Craig Bellamy, Michael Johnson and Nedrum Onuora being named in the squad. Wayne Bridge was also down to play by all accounts but rumours were going around that he'd refused to turn out? Not sure if thats true or not? 90 seconds into the action Altrincham went 1-0 up from a penalty, what a great start for them.
Bellamy started buzzing about for City and they soon applied lots of pressure with some neat short-passing football. This style of play looked fine and dandy but the Alty defence was mopping it up pretty well, it looked like City were intent on walking the ball into the net. Not much opportunity arose for Altrincham attacking but they did look sharp on the odd counter thrust. Despite some good defending and Alty's midfield closing down play City got a couple of goals before the break to take a 2-1 half time lead. It turned to grey skies again and although the rain kept off it did get a little cooler.
The second half saw Bellamy subbed on the hour and after that both sides made multiple changes, even Alty were using a lot of trial players as the game wore on. Inevitably this impacted on the pattern of the game, it all got a bit scrappy and disjointed to be honest.
With around 15 minutes left people started drifting off. Its hard to judge the potential of both sides from this type of encounter. Alty have some decent players and I would expect them to be there at the business end of the season battling for some success, as for Citys development players, yes, some of them are good footballers but I have a nagging doubt only a very small percentage of them will see first team action in the future. This maybe more to do with the finances and immediate needs of MCFC rather than an academy players true merits, we will see? I think the same City squad are taking on Stalybridge Celtic this coming Wednesday, that may bring some interesting comparisons.
Main summary points of my visit to Moss Lane:
Not impressed with the tea hut fayre.
I went today at 7 quid-in because I wont pay £13 for Conference North stuff when the season starts (call me tight if you like).
I reckon Moss Lane is a great looking football ground.
The Alty supporters are a keen and informed bunch and will be expecting a return to the higher division.
They also have an excellent website (well worth a look for general non-league addicts).

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Craig Bellamy goes to Altrincham shocker!

Well, ok, it was as part of the Manchester City XI Academy mob not as Alty's latest signing. Still a sight to be seen though, a (rumoured) 90 grand a week footballer down at Moss Lane (is that really what he's on)?

My visit report on Altrincham v City will be on here late Sunday or early Monday.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Old Standians

Tuesday 12th July
Pre Season Friendly
Old Standians 1 Ramsbottom United 3
Attendance: 39 (head count)
Admission: £2
Programme: Nope
Tea Hut Purchase: Tea in a freshly washed pot for 50p
Weather: Dry, a bit cloudy, slight chill later on
Parking: Nearby side street, small car park gridlocked
I had to do a few Starsky and Hutch manoeuvres in the Match Shed before tonights game, I'd taken a wrong turning off Bury New Road and found myself in Radcliffe town centre. I had 15 minutes before the big game kicked off at the Ringley Road home of the Old Standians. A couple of dodgy 'U' turns got the Shed back on the flight plan (despite a few shaking heads from the locals). Its not an easy place to find, it was made welcome by a well positioned portable road sign by the side of the A667.
The tiny lane leading into a totally gridlocked car park meant side street parking but it was just over the main road and only a couple of minutes walk. I parked up behind a car with a Southport FC sticker in the back, my Spurs tax disc holder was in fine company. This looked a very nice affluent area with lots of big houses, a fine setting for a ground that was set up as a memorial to the old Stand schoolboys from Stand Grammar School who bravely gave their lives in the Second World War. Originally the team was for Old Standians from the school, however, with the school closed this rule has been relaxed. As we look at things in the present day, this friendly little club has already started on a development plan, they currently reside in the Lancashire Amatuer League and have plans to move forward ongoing. It was 2 quid to get in, the bloke at the table by the gate kindly explained that my ticket also put me in the half time raffle for a bottle of wine. 
The ground is nice and tidy with open greenery everywhere, the pitch is mostly metal railed with a few advertisement boards, any gaps are dealt with by red and white tape. The only structure is a white painted clubhouse spanning half across the main road end of the ground, this houses the changing rooms and a welcome internal tea hut facility with tables and chairs. A good few Rammy supporters made up most of the small crowd, they seemed to be picking the bones out of last Saturdays 2-1 defeat at AFC Darwen whilst eagerly looking forward to the coach the club had put on for next weekends friendly in North Wales over at scenic little Conwy.
On the pitch, Glenn Moses was putting the Ramsbottom squad through their paces, it looked a mix of regulars and trialists. Glenn resigned as manager of Atherton Laburnam Rovers at the end of last season, he will be a positive addition to the existing Ramsbottom coaching team. Once underway, the first half was more than a bit scrappy with the visitors having most of the possession, nothing much took the eye and it was little surprise that half time arrived with a 0-0 scoreline. Time to check that tea hut out. I had a reasonably priced cup of tea in a proper mug for 50p. They had a nice little pie cabinet on the counter crammed full with Hollands meat and potatoe pies, they looked good as well. The lady behind was trying to drum up trade by shouting out "come on get your pies, they're only a pound". It was a tempting offer and one well worth a pound, the problem I had was the enormous bowl of spaghetti bolognese I'd scoffed down before setting off for the game, I was still pretty full.
I'm pleased to report that the second half was a much better game and very competitive, not a nasty challenge to be seen either, the referee tonight had a very good game I reckon, he certainly let things flow and nothing got over-heated. Ramsbottom put some good moves together and scored a couple of scorching long distance goals, Old Standians kept in the game and battled extremely hard, they certainly deserved their goal (they nearly got a couple more). It ended up 1-3 to Ramsbottom and they look to have some good young players, the pick of the bunch was Grant Spencer, he only played the second half but he was quick, strong and certainly pretty good on the passing and shooting, he looks a good midfield player. A pleasant enough visit all in all, good luck to Old Standians in their efforts to push the club forwards, as for Ramsbottom, it will be interesting to see what the squad boils down to come the start of the season. A lot of people are tipping them to win the North West Counties League this season? There were a few glimpses of real quality in that second half, bring it on.   

Sunday, 10 July 2011


Saturday 9th July
Early Doors Pre Season Friendly
Marsden 1 Pontefract Collieries 2
Attendance: 44 (head count)
Admission: Free (hence the presence of Frugal Glenn)
Programme: In your dreams!
Tea Hut purchase: Nothing going today
Weather: Mild blue sky, odd cloud, nice sunshine
The trusty Match Shed recently taxed and M.O.T'd for the new season (ouch) gently ambled over the rolling Saddleworth hills en-route for semi rural Marsden. Frugal Glenn loves the pre season friendlies, especially those which offer free admission, he'd jumped at the offer of an early season loosener on a bright Saturday afternoon. He'd just got back from a caravan holiday to Blackpool (I believe the actual site he stayed at was just outside Preston). He was mighty pleased with the pair of Debenhams Action Slacks he'd got from a seconds outlet near the Central Pier, just off the Golden Mile, apparently the crimplene pants only set him back £3.99, they even had an elasticated waist band, he said the purchase had made his holiday. As I swung the Match Shed on a left turn out of the picturesque village of Delph we started the long climb up towards Marsden Moor. Just outside the village we passed one of the most scenic little cricket grounds in the whole of England, the road takes you up by a drop on your left hand side and there nestling below is the serene vista of Delph and Dobcross Cricket Club surrounded by lush green hills and picturesque rural charm, A game was taking place and there were more spectators watching from the roadside than in the ground, its a great view from the side of the hill. We had to crack on and soon the Match Shed was dodging suicide sheep as they casually ambled across the 50 miles an hour traffic. Having ran over a suicide sheep a few years ago they dont half cause a lot of damage to the under carriage of your car (my particular suicide sheep ran from behind a blind moorland wall with around 6 of its mates, it went straight under the radiator before I even got my foot on the brake, I got less than five yards notice).
15 minutes beyond Delph we dropped into Marsden, famous for the Standedge Tunnel which offers canal and rail routes deep under the moors. The little semi rural town looked a picture in the July sunshine, I parked the Match Shed adjacent to the ground and we took a stroll into the centre (5 minutes away). It was all a bit 'high class charity shop, fish & chips and people drinking ale outside the pub', pleasant but quite you could say. Marsden resides amongst some exceptional South Pennines countryside and its a popular spot for walkers just off the main Oldham to Huddersfield  road. We got back to the Fall Lane ground, home of The Cuckoo's at ten to three, some bloke on a small tractor mower had just finished cutting the grass.
A reasonable crowd of around 40 odd people were dotted around the white railed pitch, the only structure at Marsden FC is the well worn wooden looking clubhouse behind the Chinese Chippy end of the ground. It has a bit of a veranda before it gives way to the path leading to the groundsmans shed. I got a bottle of Budweiser (the inferior USA one rather than the better Czech variety) for £2.20 (double-ouch), I was a bit dry and it was that or a choice of a can of warm Carling or that horrible over-hyped Magners stuff. I have to say I am not a fan of football friendlies, especially early July ones but its better than nothing and I'll take it every time. There is no premise or expectation of fine quality football, lets be honest, its nothing more than a training loosener for most clubs, it just gets you into the groove for the new season, todays game would be judged accordingly. As the teams lined up for kick off Frugal Glenn was quick to spot the celebrity referee, I know the music business isn't all it once was but we didn't expect Rod Stewart to be refereeing Marsden v Pontefract today! Was it him, Frugal thought it was but he's not had an eye test for 8 years. It certainly looked like him, perhaps he might be doing a few numbers back in the clubhouse after the game? Frugal started singing 'The First Cut Is The Deepest' when there was a nasty clash of heads in the 13th minute. If they'd done a programme I'd have got it autographed. If it wasn't Rod, it was a dead-ringer and a very good copy.
The game slowly unravelled from a promising start into the 'hoof, charge and shout' disorder normally associated with friendlies so early in the season. It appeared that Marsden had invested in some silver looking match balls of a similar quality you usually see 5 year old kids knocking about on a holiday beach (before a gust of wind speeds them away towards the tide 500 yards away). Both sides were hoofing the ball out of the ground at an alarming rate and various players were complaining that the balls "just weren't right".
As the Fall Lane Ground lies directly open, elevated and adjacent to a busy unfenced side street you can imagine the mayhem of unsuspecting weekend drivers out for a quite country drive suffering the sudden shock of a 100mph centre-backs clearance smack bang on the half opened passenger window! The game itself witnessed Ponte taking the majority of first half possession which in turn brought a 1-0 lead, the commitment was present (from both sides) but a lot of moves broke down far too early. Marsden moved up a gear in the second half and realised there wasn't that much between the sides so why not have a go. They justly got the equaliser and could easily have stolen it. Instead Ponte used that extra bit of class to drive forward once again, they got the winner around ten minutes from the death. Marsden only have themselves to blame that they didn't get a draw out of this game especially when they fluffed an absolute nailed on '5 yard-out-sitter' just before the end, how the lad missed it I do not know? A credit to the fine location of Marsdens Fall Lane Ground was the number of passing walkers and hikers who stopped by to take in some of the action as they passed through the valley, many of them taking photographs, amongst such striking scenery it makes you realise what a nice little place this is to have a football ground.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

First game of the season today, MARSDEN

Me and Frugal Glenn did Marsden v Pontefract Collieries today, the first Tea Hut game of the new season. Ponte took it 2-1 but Marsden fluffed some sitters. The visit report will be up sometime Sunday evening. Thank goodness we've got some football back!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Some great looking friendlies on Saturday 9th July

I'm tempted by some tasty dishes from the Specials Board this coming Saturday.
Will I finally cast off the out of season blues and get back behind the controls of the Match Shed (Its due for an M.O.T on Thursday by the way)?
Lets have a look at the Wheres the Tea Hut menu blurb ....................

AFC Darwen v Ramsbottom United (Rammy's big season loosener)
Airbus v FC United (Uniteds European Tour)
Altrincham v Burnley (£7 admission, get it while you can here)
Prestwich Heys v Salford City (Salford may well be on the upgrade)
Lostock St Gerrard v Barnoldswick Town (Great photo opportunities)
Marsden v Pontefract Collieries (Classy NCEL opposition)

Lets hope I can shake off the wife for a couple of hours this Saturday afternoon. Surely there's a limit to how many times someone can get told off? Goodness knows how Frugal Glenn is going on???