Saturday 14th July
Pre Season Friendly
WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON 1 ASHTON ATHLETIC 1
Attendance: 46 (Head Count)
Tea Hut Stuff: Mug of tea from the clubhouse £1
Weather: A bit grey, some sunny spells, odd shower, mild
Parking: Pitch side (a first for the Match Shed)
WD&C (West Didsbury and Chorlton) are the new additions to the North West Counties League after providing sound service in the Manchester League. They start in Division 1, one league below todays NWCL Premier League visitors Ashton Athletic who play just across the M6 Motorway from Haydock Park Racecourse. I'm afraid there is still no Frugal Glenn on 'Wheres The Tea Hut' duty at the moment, due to local flooding he's currently living on a makeshift raft halfway down the Manchester Ship Canal. It was just me in the Match Shed as we took the A56 through Stretford not far from Old Trafford, the Recreation Ground nestling at the end of a tree lined drive is easy enough to find and its quite a pleasant trip from the M60 weaving through one of the more sedate sections of Manchester. I got there ahead of time, 1.15pm for the 2pm kick off, apart from the players I was the first one there. A few officials in casual dress had just turned up at a new looking wooden hut at the end of the driveway, the £2 admission was about right I reckoned. They also had programmes if you were willing to part with another 2 quid, not for me. I stopped buying non league programmes in general half way through last season (too many rip-off episodes of just blatant cut and pasting from league websites for my liking). The WD&C programme did have a stylish looking cover, perhaps its one of the better ones, a few punters who appeared to be following Ashton Athletic seemed to be snaffling up bulk purchases, one bloke looked like he'd bought half a dozen?
The layout of the WD&C ground provides 3 sides of viewing. One full touchline is out of bounds as it runs directly flush to the perimeter wall, the end were you pay in is tree lined hard standing and the adjoining touchline allows pitchside car parking on a grassed area that once featured tennis courts. The far end showcases the only structure on the ground, the clubhouse, this includes a refreshment area, toilets and changing rooms, there is a bit of cover outside which is complimented by a couple of rows of seats. To protect first time visitors there is a circus style safety net draped high behind the goals to stop you getting your head knocked off by some wayward piledriver from an angry centre forward.
The 3 sides available for viewing are all railed as you would expect and the ground has a pleasant, scenic, neat and tidy feel to it, if a little sparse on stands and enclosures. Obviously there is a potential for future development pending success, progress and planning arrangements. It was a small but eccentric crowd that turned up today, I got the head count to 40 odd. I thought there may have been a good few groundhoppers seeing as WD&C had become a bit more prominent with their newly gained NWCL status. I only spotted 2 or 3 (I think), put it this way, they looked standard hopper material, plastic bag, half mast kecks, unfastened shoelaces etc. You can't buy this type of fashion in the shops, you are born with it! There appeared to be about 4 Ashton Athletic followers who I had the discreet pleasure of being near for a good part of the second half. They were seasoned anoraks babbling on about all the places they'd been and the characters they'd come across over recent seasons, all was presented with a cutting form of wit and derision and it was most welcome indeed due to the fact that todays match was absolute shite and the 'entertainment-factor' had resigned its post in shame after only 20 minutes.
This early season friendly escapes the wrath of full Tea Hut criticism because it was little more than an exercise run out, however, for the mug (like me) stood behind the rail it was absolute bloody torture. Terms like 'hard fought encounter' come to mind. Imagine a life size pin ball machine going...ding...ping...bong...ding...for 90 minutes. It was full of misplaced passes, some bunging, odd examples of blatant hoofing all painfully integrated with plenty of shouting and running around with random groups of players (apparently) struggling to keep positions. This is what friendlies are for I suppose, to eradicate the elements of poor play which creep in over excessive summer holidays in all inclusive 3 star Western Mediterranean hotels (if you're so lucky). I'm sure WD&C can and will play a lot better than this. They matched a stuttering Ashton Athletic side today who put some nice passages of play together early doors. Time will tell for both sides, I am unable to provide a form indicator for the coming season from these performances, I simply believe both sides will play better next time out.
As for the visit, I'd encourage people to give the WD&C ground a try, don't go expecting a fancy dan set up, hopefully the venue will establish itself more and more as the club develops over coming seasons. Its a nice little ground, friendly people and a decent place to spend an afternoon watching football (hopefully you'll catch a better game than me).