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

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Skelmersdale United

Saturday 27th August
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North
Attendance: 206
Admission: £8
Programme: £2
Tea hut purchase: Meat & Potato Pie £1.80p
Weather: Mainly sunny and warm
Parking: In the club car park
Its not a rough looking town (like some have commented) but its certainly a characterless one, coming off the M58 Motorway I didn't spot a single person all the way to the ground. Its all bland carriageways and very large roundabouts. Me and Frugal Glenn had a drink in the clubhouse bar before kick off, it was here we first encountered the obsessive raffle ticket sellers who are more relentless than that bloke in Terminator (they won't switch off). I got cornered at the bar, at the tea hut, on the terrace, in the stand, one of them even followed me in the bogs, "I dont want a bloody raffle ticket and I'm not coming out till you've gone" I shouted from the secured confines of trap No.1.
With the coast finally clear I got myself a programme, I was somewhat dismayed to find they were charging a full 2 quid for it! I became a lot more dismayed when I found it wasn't worth nowhere near that kind of money. A five minute read with the usual fillers of history and cut & paste Evo Stik stuff from the league website. The chemical fizz of wishy-washy Carling Black Label had given me a second wind for some grub. I joined Frugal Glenn in the queue for a small caravan-type tea hut adjacent to the clubhouse. Frugal took one glance at the price list before making an excuse and leaving the counter, he'd want the bloody caravan thrown in with the burger for that kind of dosh (Frugal likes caravan holidays)! I grimaced in handing over £1.80 for a bog standard Hollands Meat & Potato Pie. I can get 4 of the same pies for just 20p more in our local supermarket. Without wishing to appear critical I did consider this tea hut to be expensive. You get it at League grounds and also a few Council owned grounds even in non league circles, Halifax for example... I didn't expect to see it at Skelmersdale. To add insult to the fleecing, the pie was so ridiculously hot it was nearly half time before I chanced a bite (and then it burned the top of my mouth). On a more positive footing, the ground at Stormy Corner did look very pleasing in the warm summer sunshine (especially as it had thrown it down back at home).
Its a modern ground but recently it appears that the natural backdrop of nice green banking has added some welcome charm to the clubhouse end of the stadium and to the areas next to the main stand running along the touchline. The clubhouse has got a kind of DIY add on roof-cover to protect people from the elements, pity they cannot tidy up some of the tubular steel protruding from the structure. As for the main stand its 4 rows of blue bucket seats are raised above pitch level but I was a little disappointed with the view in there.
The front of the stand has large metal fencing in front of it and the rows of seating are so shallow that anybody sitting in front of you blocks your view.
Never mind, I told Frugal we'd sit on the grass banking which spread around the far end of the ground. Unfortunately once we got there we were met with lots of little signs posted along the grass stipulating that you couldn't stand there because of the health and safety hazard? What a load of utter b*llocks! No wonder Safety Management gets a bad press with this type of bobbins going on. A tip for Skelmersdale United... take the silly signs down and let people enjoy the grass, what makes this situation any different from people sat (or stood) on grass banks in public parks?
I'd better get on with the football I think. Skelmersdale almost got promotion last season and have started this term in similar style. Mossley have yet to win a game and would have to admit that the start of the 2011/12 campaign has been somewhat disappointing. Skelmersdale dominated the first half hour with some nice passing football. They looked in complete control as Mossley chased them around the park. However, the expected (vital) opening goal they richly deserved never arrived and a tad of frustration and panic could be detected. Mossley fed on the home sides indecision and started to have a few trips up the field themselves. Unbelievably, against the trend of play we'd seen since kick-off Mossley grabbed a 1-0 lead through Tom Ingham just before the break.
This could be interesting, would Mossley be able to hold onto the lead and make things extremely difficult for Skelmersdale in the second half? Well the answer was a resounding NO. The 1-0 lead disappeared only minutes into the second half when Mossley haplessly failed to clear their lines allowing Robert McIntosh to head home, they gave away 2 more miserably defended goals to Paul Woolcott in the 50th minute and the impressive Shaun Tuck in the 77th minute. Such a shame for Mossley as all 3 of the Skelmersdale goals were very much avoidable.
I do have to say that the home side thoroughly deserved all 3 points though, they played the better football on the day and look a good side, the only negative was that last 15 minutes of the first half when they lost their way. No disrespect intended, a lot better sides than Mossley would be more than pleased to receive similar charity. Just to finish off on my day out in Skelmersdale, the Match Shed got lost on the way back to the motorway, no wonder because everywhere looks exactly the same and there are a distinct lack of road signs (at least for the M58 there are). Anyway we had a very nice 15 minute drive around all the roundabouts again before finally chancing on the slip road.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Skelmersdale New Town Experience

A visit report on Skelmersdale Uniteds 3-1 win over Mossley will be posted on this site Sunday evening. Some good things.... some bad.

In the interim, here is a picture of a debatably overpriced West Lancashire tea hut.
A pre-match nuclear pie which was still molten hot in the 75th minute
And a sign that (perhaps) recognises that Skelmersdale United haven't quite got the message regarding basic risk assessment and common sense safety management? The banking in question would pose zero harm to even a 2 year old!
It was the pie that needed the health and safety warning! It was liquid lava inside!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

AFC Darwen

Tuesday 23rd August
North West Counties League Division 1
AFC Darwen 3 Holker Old Boys 0
Attendance: 43 (My head count was 59)
Admission: £4
Programme: £1.50
Tea hut purchase: Tea at a quid a bag
Weather: Dry, fair, reasonably mild
Parking: Half way down Anchor Road, 2 minutes walk
The Anchor Ground is just up the road from Blackburn Rovers Ewood Park 'the home of finger licking chicken' (or is that another sponsors brand)? Anyway, there weren't many chicken nugget fans at AFC Darwen tonight, there were only 43 die hards in total, which included a few long distance Holker supporters all the way from Barrow. I got the crowd to an unofficial head count of 59 but there was a gang of noisy young kids running around the stand playing hide and seek for most of the evening... perhaps I counted them twice? I had earlier been greeted at the entrance by the 2010 winner of 'Most Unwelcoming Turnstile Operator'...Bert. I can see why he won it! Bet he got straight tens from all the judges. Bert later doubled up as someone who yelled stuff at the players, the referee and even a security guard in a neighbouring storage yard, he doubtless supplies hours of endless fun over a full season. AFC Darwen are currently bottom of the league, they've played 4 and lost 4, goals-for totals 2, goals-against is a worrying 18! The old Darwen club went bust at the end of the 2008/09 season. Re-born via the efforts of Derek Slater as a non-profit making concern they've bounced back as AFC Darwen. Having fought their way up from the West Lancashire League they currently reside in Division 1 of the North West Counties League.
The Anchor Ground is a bit of a rough diamond. I get the impression it was once quite a place? Today it still holds a character and charm sadly missing from quite a few other grounds at this level. The jewel in the crown is the Main Stand which runs almost the entire length of the clubhouse touchline. Its got a large water-tight roof (I think) and is reasonably well maintained. It has rows of very well spaced red bucket seats all offering excessive leg room, you certainly get some good views of the pitch (despite most of the seats being a bit dirty and dusty, best to wear a cheap pair of pants).
The other 3 sides of the ground are uncovered but they all offer a few steps of terracing.
Strange thing tonight was that not a single person (other than me) stood on any one of these 3 sides of the pitch throughout the whole match (apart from a photographer from the local paper)! 
Most of the small crowd seemed to cram onto the raised level adjacent to the entrance to the clubhouse down near the corner flag? The tea hut is also part of the clubhouse, I just got a tea which was slightly steep at a pound a tea bag but I can live with it at a small club, they need the money, its when the bigger clubs rip you off that it bugs me. There is quite a lot of red trim around the ground which compliments the all red strip of the home side. Tonights visitors Holker Old Boys (average age 57) turned out in their traditional green and white kit and didn't look at all jet lagged after the long trip down the M6 from Cumbria. The Old Boys (ok, they're not that old) had enjoyed a few decent results in the opening throws of the season and were one of a number of sides in second spot (on points). Apparently they usually do rather well against AFC Darwen, no wonder Bert was in such a bad mood. We kicked off to a backdrop of unruly 'unsupervised' screaming kids charging around the stand (in fact they kept it up into the second half), why bring them if they have no intention of watching (just a bit of) the match? Kids are kids I know but this was ridiculous, the adult in charge should have kept them in order. I decided to sod off to the completely empty side of the ground, at least the screaming lessened in volume. The game was a bit direct and 'the hoof' was the chosen move of the evening. AFC Darwen had the bulk of territorial advantage but the possession brought little reward. Holker seemed a bit more tactically aware and created a few sitters which they duly fluffed, much to the annoyance of Jon Balm and Maurice Watkin the management team on the touchline. The home side stuck at it, none more so than the beefy Gaz Brown, he was getting some clattering tackles in, much to the disbelief of some of the younger 'Old Boys'.
0-0 at half time seemed fair enough (bet Bert would disagree with that). As the committee went to scoff their corned beef and pickle complimentary sarnies to the backbeat of a bootleg Shirley Bassey cassette, I had another stroll around the ground... dodging the kids from hell. Second half action witnessed some cutting 'go-forward' stuff from the home side, bet there was a major rollicking on offer from Kenny Langford as part of his half-time team talk? The pressure paid off with well taken goals coming from Carl Lonsdale, Bobby Langford and Carl Turner. Holker Old Boys had 20 minutes to turn around a 3-0 deficit. The well timbered Old Boys keeper spurred the Cumbrians on with a silence splitting yell of "We've not come all this f*cking way for bugger all"! I'm afraid they had, the home side kept a tight ship and despite a bit of huffing and puffing the Old Boys went home empty handed. Bert was in dreamland as he held court outside the clubhouse entrance "We're off the bloody bottom" he boomed out across the pitch.

Monday, 22 August 2011


Sign of the times.

No Tea Hut visit on Saturday 20th August.

Spent a fortune on falsely overpriced diesel on the Friday & Sunday due to business commitments.

There was no money left for my football visits.

If the Millionaire Club (Cameron & Osborne) dont get 'very' lucky soon (which I very much doubt) there could be a good few more blank weekends as well.


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Bamber Bridge

Tuesday 16th August
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North
Bamber Bridge 6 Clitheroe 0
Attendance: 154
Admission: £8
Programme: £1.50 (Very good for the money)
Tea Hut Purchase: Tea 80p
Weather: Cloudy, late sunny spells
Parking: The street behind the full car park
What a cracking non league ground! I've meant to come here for a long while but postponements, mood swings and eating too much for my tea has always got in the way. Tonight I finally got to the QED Stadium (which is really called The Irongate Ground) and all the positive reports I'd heard were absolutely correct, its a great place to watch football. Even that tight-arsed Frugal Glenn had no complaints, an extreme rarity since he parted with 8 quid to get in. We got there about 20 minutes before kick-off. There is an impressive clubhouse, tea hut and small covered terrace at the turnstiles end of the ground.
Its here where you can purchase the match programme, a friendly chap has them all laid out on a table just inside the entrance. How refreshing to see a good quality publication with plenty of interesting articles, there's even colour pictures thrown in, must say it is well worth the £1.50 and the best programme I've seen for quite a while, far better value than the 5 minute cover to cover jobs I've come across lately. Apparently it's put together by Dave Rowland and Peter Nowell with some photography assistance from Steve McKelvey, well done gentlemen, a first class matchday magazine!
Moving along with the layout of the ground, the Main Stand is one of the best you're likely to find at this level, there are excellent views running down the touchline.
The far (wood yard) end is a small covered terrace which wraps around the corners before the open side of the ground rounds things off with hard standing running down in front of a small grass bank just besides the houses.
The stadium is nicely complemented by a good playing service, something which helped the quality of football this evening. I'd had a big plate of sausages and mustard mash before steering the Match Shed over to the South Ribble, I was mighty full but if I wasn't, the Tea Hut looked to have some tasty tray fulls of pie and peas on offer, judging by the amount of blokes greedily tucking in, it must have been decent stuff, one old timer, totally unaware, had got peas overflowing down his car coat!.
I just got a tea which wasn't overpriced at 80p. How nice to find teamsheets available for everybody on the counter. As regards the two teams this was a bit of a derby, Clitheroe are just up the road and a good few die-hards had followed them over from the charismatic Shawbridge this evening. Last Saturday was the start of the season and Clitheroe had suffered a disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Wakefield, as for Bamber Bridge, they went through the Mersey Tunnel (I dont like that tunnel one bit) to take on Cammell Laird and achieved an impressive 3-1 away win. Tonights game was only 9 minutes old before the drama began. Clitheroe lost their keeper Zach Hibbert through injury after a challenge with Brigs Glenn Johnstone, a crucial blow especially as the visitors didn't have a recognised keeper on the bench, midfielder Darren Green took the gloves of doom. Darren didn't do too bad in all honesty, ok he was a bit static on odd occasions but he also made some good saves (mostly with his feet). What happened in this game was weird.
The home side went 1 up in the 13th minute, made it 2 in the 21st minute, it was 3-0 after 32 minutes and 4-0 just on half time, me and Frugal Glenn both agreed (unbelievably) that it was actually against the run of play! Its true, in my opinion Clitheroe had far greater possession and played some excellent passing football. Clitheroe's problem (and credit to Brig, exploiting this) was that they opened up far too easily in defence and they simply couldn't finish worthwhile opportunities up front. Bamber Bridge were lethal with their finishing, John Cass in particular was extremely impressive. It was going to be a very hard task for Clitheroe to re-group and come again at Brig under the circumstances. During the half time break the Tea Hut looked to be under siege from masses of grub hungry punters (scenes from the Alamo or Zulu wouldn't be out of place), a quick Tea Hut snack was out of the question. Frugal Glenn shocked me by offering me something to eat free of charge for the first time in all the years I've known him (the miser). He'd purchased a new line of extra crunchy ginger nut biscuits from a backstreet Polish shop he's found, apparently there are major reductions if you dont take much notice of the odd 'sell by date'. Anyway, it turned out that Frugals ginger nuts were that crunchy his false teeth couldn't cope. After some swearing and a quick inspection of his lower-set he decided I could have what was left of the biscuit he couldn't finish off, such charity and generosity!
The first 13 minutes of the second half witnessed some more wonderful pass and move football from Clitheroe but still they couldn't create a clinical finish, Brig were pretty solid at the back (or was it the lack of someone to put the ball in the net)? The game ended as a spectacle in the 58th minute when John Cass prodded home the 5th goal.
You had to feel sorry for Clitheroe boss Carl Garner (who Frugal Glenn reckoned was a dead ringer for Norman Wisdom in his flat cap and raincoat), his side had played some great stuff in the middle of the park but the defence had let him down (and it was more than just the replacement keeper) and... 'importantly' so had his strikers. The 6th and final goal went in after 77 minutes courtesy of a sublime mazy Maradona type run from Brig midfielder Chris Marlow, a classic piece of football beating man after man before slamming the ball in the net. So 6-0 it was, a decent game partially spoiled by the loss of Clitheroe's keeper early doors but it certainly had some high spots, Bamber Bridge look a well drilled quality side who keep it tight but also have a dangerous cutting edge when they move forward.
To beat what looks a 'footballing' Clitheroe side 6-0 is a fine result. As for Clitheroe themselves, I reckon this defeat may take a short while to get out of the system but they do appear to be good enough to bounce back, its a bad start to the season for them and they do need to sort a few defensive and attacking techniques out but Carl Garner has players who can do a lot better and thats when (maybe) they'll start dishing out a few hidings themselves.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ashton Athletic

Saturday 13th August
North West Counties League Premier Division
Ashton Athletic 2 Maine Road 0
Attendance: 56
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.50
Tea hut purchase: None (took too long to get served)
Weather: Overcast, mild and dull (after 4 days of rain)
Parking: Club car park
There are a few Ashton named clubs in non league circles, Ashton Athletic are posted just north of 'Ashton in Makerfield', a small town which is located on the opposite side of the M6 to Haydock Park racecourse. The ground is a sod to find if you've not done your homework (or got a fancy Sat Nav). The Match Shed didn't have any problems as it chugged down the winding narrow lanes (which is quite ironic because it usually gets lost on the bog standard journeys). The Brocstedes Park stadium is along what looks nothing more than an old farm track, its badly rutted and pot holed, as you bounce around the bend the open expanse of Brocstedes Park comes into view, the M6 is just below the trees at the far side of the ground, such a pity that you have to drive miles out of your way to get access to the place. I bet there's not many sides who welcome a visit to this spot in the winter months, especially on a bleak Tuesday night. With the Match Shed parked up behind the corrugated stand a few Maine Road supporters were commenting on the difficulty getting here, I bet a few gave up and went back to Manchester. I paid my 5 quid admission behind about 8 or 9 Maine Road committee types with free passes waiting for them. The bloke on the turnstile asked if I was a concession (OAP), bloody hell, is this a startling wake up call that I'm getting a bit haggard, or is it too much late night over indulgence, I hoped it was simply a case that the chap couldn't see very well?
The entrance brings you onto the clubhouse touchline half way along the pitch, the club itself is part pebble dash and part breeze block, it houses a narrow looking function room titled Aspeys Bar (I think its named after the clubs founder Tommy Aspinall) and it was nice to find some decent toilets for a change. There is also a small cupboard like room which miraculously manages to house a Tea Hut facility, there is a narrow serving window to dish the stuff through. Besides the changing rooms, as we run further down the touchline we find a small VIP stand with seats reserved for officials, must be a cracking view from right down at the corner flag?
The only other structure at the ground is the stand which runs down the halfway line from the opposite side of the clubhouse down to the other corner flag. Without wishing to sound negative, in reality, its more of a shack than a stand, it has tubular white poles holding the corrugated roof up at 5 yard intervals. There are 3 rows of red seats which unfortunately are almost at the same height (so most people tended to sit on the front row).
The other 3 sides of the ground are completely open with hard standing running behind the advertisement boards and the metal railed fence. Theres plenty of room to build a two tier cantilever stand on the M6 side of the ground for when Athletic enter the Champions League (which isn't going to be too long I'm informed). The pitch is pretty good but it does have a downward slope towards the motorway side of the ground. It was time to have a read of the programme, they had about 20 odd of them available from the turnstiles and although the publication had a nice bright cover it was a bit lightweight in content for the £1.50 asking price. The highlight was the page titled 'Match Action' which had 3 pictures of players ambling about doing nothing much at all, weird, I know my pictures aren't exactly sports page fodder but these were really naff, perhaps they'd deleted the good ones and put the rubbish ones in by mistake? The gate today was only 56, normally its less, I suppose there were about 20 odd from Maine Road boosting the attendance, hopefully numbers may start to rise for Ashton if they put a few results together, they won away at AFC Liverpool in midweek. Times have been hard for the home side in recent seasons, after last term they only retained Premier Division status because of a club going bust and another failing ground grading requirements. As for Maine Road they've lost both of their opening games this season (at Barnoldswick and Bacup Borough), word from the regulars is that they deserved better but its nil points on the doors at the moment. The first half was very scrappy indeed.
Neither side controlled the ball and there was an abundance of mistimed passes and poor first touches. Ashton had the better opportunites going forward and took a 1-0 lead just before the break with a weak looking effort from Lee Barratt creeping past the keeper. Maine Road must have been disappointed with their efforts in the last quarter of the pitch, time and time again they continually squandered decent approach play.
Bang on half time I managed to get in the Tea Hut queue with only 1 bloke in front of me. He had ordered a couple of pies and some hot drinks. Unbelievably it was apparent that the pies weren't properly warm! The girl in the hut took an age to sort the problem out, I think she was using a microwave and a camp fire at one stage? Needless to say I lost interest after about 8 minutes and thought sod-it! If you cannot serve 1 person 2 pies and 2 tea's in that kind of time you won't do much business. Surely the approach of half time warrants some type of tea hut preparation?...especially the bare basics of making sure the pies are warm, its not like we are serving up Anfield proportions. Fortunately the football improved a bit in the second half.
Maine Road put some increasing pressure on the Ashton defence but, to the home sides credit, they mopped everything up convincingly. Maine Road were still struggling with that final touch or the accuracy of the important pass, it must have been frustrating for Ian Walker the Manager. This Ashton Athletic side are an almost completely different set of players from last season and Steve Wilkes has brought in a tough attitude to fight 100% for every win, its even on the cover of the programme, the spirit amongst the Ashton players was very evident, they battled to hold on to that 1 goal advantage and matched Maine Road every step of the way.
The visitors changed a few things around midway through that second half and brought on some very young players, the lads didn't disgrace themselves and did ok against their more experienced counterparts. I'm not sure these lads got the nod because of injuries or whether the youth policy takes priority, without being critical, it was going to be very hard for such young lads to change things around in the way it was needed. Ashton sealed the victory with a penalty in the 85th minute from Jacob Wood. In fairness 2-0 appeared about right to me, Ashton battled to the end and had a better completion rate. Such a pity for some of the Maine Road players who performed well on the day, Alex Jay in particular, one of the best players in this league in my opinion, its a pity too many of his colleagues lacked that final touch on the day.
Ashton are now in nose bleed territory '7th'! Maine Road go bottom (for the time being anyway).

Monday, 8 August 2011

Runcorn Town

Saturday 6th August
North West Counties League Premier Division
Runcorn Town 2 Padiham 2
Attendance: 93 (no way, my head count was only 63)
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.50
Tea Hut Purchases: Luke warm tea 70p, Multipack bag of crisps 40p
Weather: Started sunny, went dull, remained dry
Parking: In the Pavilions function rooms car park, next to ground.
Take a wrong turning in Runcorn and you could be lost for days. I'd done my revision and memorised the fact that the Match Shed had to take the 4th exit off the Liverpool bound express-way posted for Runcorn Docks. I couldn't trust armchair navigator Frugal Glenn with such important directions regardless of the fact that he was wearing his glasses. Diesel is just too expensive these days. We hit the Runcorn Town ground a bit before expected, 1.45pm in fact. As I slung the Match Shed up against the Pavilions Function Rooms (which just looks like a rather large pub) there was the welcome opportunity of a pint before kick off. As this is the only hostelry for miles around you would think it might be open just before Runcorn Towns first ever game in the NWCL Premier Division, nope.... it was padlocked and very clearly shut. Me and Frugal watched a bit of a local league game on the adjacent pitch to the Runcorn Town ground before we got attracted by the large 'Bar & Lounge' signs just through the gates inside the stadium. We made a B-Line to the turnstiles (new this season I believe) and raced after the arrowed signs for our pints. It was like a treasure hunt... we eventually went past a long blue building and entered into the well advertised 'Bar and Lounge'.
After a couple of minutes walking around what looked like a Tea Hut seating area, opening a couple of broom cupboards, a door to the ladies toilet and stumbling into the committee-only section we were left scratching our heads where this bloody bar was? "Can I help you lads" said a friendly bloke in shirt and tie, we mentioned we were looking for the bar, "Oh there's no bar here" chirped up a nice lady beside an over-smoking griddle pan, "You need to go in the Pavilions for ale". I politely mentioned it was shut, the bloke in the tie cut back in... "They usually open around 4 o-clock unless Man United or Liverpool are playing".
What this had to do with all the Bar and Lounge signs in the ground I do not know? The immensely tight Frugal Glenn had begrudgingly agreed to buy me a drink for my birthday (today), he was made up that a possible 3 quid hit on a pint of fizzy continental lager had now down-sized considerably into a meagre 70p cup of tea, the only liquid on offer! I decided to have a pie as well just to get my moneys worth, "Theres no pies here boys" replied the nice lady again, "I can do a hot sausage though"? I decided to take my cup of tea and get some air. The tea was barely luke warm, almost cold,  I'd bought a bag of crisps, I was met with a label on the packet which read, 'this is a Multipack item and is strictly not for resale', you understand why when you get half the content of a normal bag of crisps, oh dear, this was not the best Tea Hut experience I'm afraid. The Runcorn Town ground is apparently being developed to meet the demands of higher status football, to be honest its still got a long way to go.
Work has recently taken place in fitting a new turnstile entrance and a small all seater stand is taking shape down the touchline, it just needs a roof. Down the opposite touchline we have the phantom Bar and Lounge building which in reality is a snack bar seating area and changing rooms facility (might be an idea to remove the Bar & Lounge signs). Further down either side of this building we find a couple of shack-style structures which offer some plastic chairs cemented into what look like flowerpots, on closer scrutiny its cut up plastic piping.
The far end of the ground is out of bounds despite there being some bike shed type cover behind the nets, its probably just as well this end is out of bounds following the number of Padiham players having a slash at the edge of the pitch down there during the warm ups. 
The end of the ground nearest the entrance is just hard standing with a handrail to stop you falling down the banking behind you. Theres plenty of rough and ready character at the ground and it brings a certain charm, half the place is surrounded by greenery (ok some of it is weeds and the like) whilst the other half of the ground is overlooked by towering power station looking developments, something quite common around this part of the world. I pity the bloke who was constantly fagging the balls being hoofed out the ground, especially as numerous signs were posted warning people to keep off contaminated land with terms like 'Danger - Corrosive Chemicals'! Here's a bit about todays sides, Runcorn Town got promotion from last seasons Division 1 by finishing runners up with only 2 defeats, they knocked in 114 goals and conceeded just 39. I saw them at the end of last season when they just got pipped in the NWCL Cup Semi Final to the very impressive 'big-money' New Mills side, I have the opinion Runcorn Town will hold their own in this higher division and may even put in a challenge for a top 4 spot. The visitors, Padiham (from over near Burnley way) are a consistently hard side to beat and always provide stern opposition. In my opinion this was Match of the Day in the Premier Division today.
The first half witnessed some fast paced attacking from the home side and the impressive Graeme Mitchell put them 1-0 up with a superb dipping volley (come lob) from well outside the area. Padiham looked to be rocking. I predicted a 4-0 win to a snoozing Frugal Glenn as more waves of attacks swept down on the Padiham goal. It was a shame that there was only a small crowd of locals here to see it, I counted 63 although the official attendance total later referenced 93 (perhaps they included the players). Just when it seemed only a matter of time before Runcorn got the second goal to clinch it, Padiham got a penalty, it was 1-1 and it gave the visitors something to hold onto. Despite Runcorn getting that second goal before the break, the dominance was gone, Padiham passed the ball around and now looked like a side who could put up a challenge. Padiham took this better quality football into the second half and seemed more balanced, Runcorn lost the initiative and a lot of their play became forced and rushed. Padiham quietly went about the business and it was no surprise when they got the equaliser from a fine counter attacking move superbly finished off by Chris Ridehalgh.
Despite further chances at both ends the game finished a bit scrappy but it had been an enjoyable game and I think both these sides will be in the top half of the table longer-term. A draw reflected a fair result. As for the ground-match day-experience, I liked Runcorn Towns place, its not prim and proper but its got character and they are very friendly people, they've come a long way in a short time and I'm sure things will get even better for them. Dont come expecting a pint in that bar though! Perhaps they might add a few pies to the sausages as well one day (although I did see someone with a burger at half time)? Good ground to visit.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Take The 4th Exit for Runcorn Docks

Saturday 6th August

Went along to watch Runcorn Towns first ever game in the Premier Division of the North West Counties League today. Very friendly people.

Opposition came courtesy of the respected Padiham outfit.

Some good end to end football on offer, pity I couldn't say the same about a pie and a pint?

It ended 2-2. Looked to be a few hoppers taking in the action?

Background and observation notes will feature in the 'Tea Hut' Visit Report which should be posted by Monday lunchtime.

Monday, 1 August 2011


Saturday 30th July
Salford Advertiser Challenge Cup
Irlam 0 Salford City 1
Admission: £2
Attendance: 91 (head count)
Programme: Not today
Tea Hut Purchase: Can of chilled Diet Coke 60p
Weather: Very hot in the sun
Parking: Club car park, easy exit
The Match Shed temperature readout reckoned it was 24 degrees but it felt warmer than that to me and Frugal Glenn. We were like a couple of dodgy beefburgers griddling in the sun. The Match Shed aint got no Sat-Nav type gadgets, I missed the bloody turn again and nearly ended up in the next town. I finished up doing 10 extra miles to get back to Silver Street for the home of Irlam FC. Frugal Glenn was to blame, his side-splitting tales about a few dodgy jobs he'd done in Irlam 10 or so years ago, decorating jobs I mean... not nicking silver or copper piping, he's not that bad. A friendly bloke hanging about near the entrance took 2 pounds each off us for admission. Frugal thought it was a local trickster who would now be on his way to the bookies with our pound coins. The chap was nothing of the sort.
The ground looked a nice set up in the hot July sun, not sure if it would have the same pleasant ambience for a Tuesday night kick off in the middle of January? All the buildings are located in the corner of the ground adjacent to the entrance. A brick built changing room block, a shipping container (come) tea hut jobby, a small 'flat-pack' seated stand which straddles the 18 yard area down the touchline and a low covered terrace behind the nets (running from near the goalposts out to the corner flag).
The rest of the ground is open to the elements. There are quite a good number of advertisement boards around the pitch and all areas have decent hard standing complimented by a set back concrete slab section-style perimeter wall. The pitch looked nice and trim and more or less flat (which would prove to be a slightly incorrect judgement based upon what was to happen during the second half). Irlam is a town between Manchester and Warrington and they ply their trade in Division 1 of the North West Counties League, Salford City play in the Evo Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North a couple of steps above them. Salford were unbeaten in their pre season friendly campaign and rumour has it they look capable of doing rather well in the league this season. Salfords manager is Rhodri Giggs, Ryans brother. The first half set off at a pace and Irlam soon put the visitors under some early pressure. Things slowed down in the energy sapping heat midway through the half and Salford started to apply their passing game, I suppose 0-0 at half time was a fair scoreline, it was certainly competitive.
I joined a long queue in the Tea Hut for some half time refreshment, it appeared everybody in front of me was ordering varying numbers of £1.50 hot dogs, a real best seller for sure, strange because they just looked like those cheap ones you get from the supermarket? I'd had 3 hot dogs for my tea yesterday so I just got a can of coke from the fridge, it was too hot for warm drinks. The woman behind the counter kept yelling out "does anybody want hot dogs", I think she was on the verge of getting the can-opener on another tin? They like their hot dogs in this part of the world. A couple of forlorn pies rested in the warming cabinet, obviously out of fashion on a scorcher like today. We were soon back with the action, Salford bossed the whole of the second half and Irlam struggled to create chances.
The inevitable Salford goal arrived in the 65th minute courtesy of a well hit shot from Matt Cross. The keeper had it covered but the ball took a wicked spiked bounce in the 6 yard area and shot up into the roof of the net. The freak goal sent the Salford hordes into dreamland (hordes = 6 blokes in orange replica shirts behind the nets). We got the usual mass substitutions after that and Salford held onto the 1 goal advantage with some nice sections of progressive passing football, they look to have a decent squad. The win heralded the fourth successive time Salford have won this annual 'Salford Advertiser Challenge Cup' game with Irlam in the 4 years its been in operation. Thats 1 trophy in the cabinet for Rhodri Giggs already. More than what Ryan will be able to boast about come next May?