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

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Wigan Robin Park 0 Barnoldswick Town 1

Saturday 20th October 2012
North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 42
Admission: £6
Tea Hut Stuff: Ready Salted Crisps 50p
Weather: Cloudy, sunny spells, stayed dry, reasonably mild
Parking: Big club car park
I love pies. They love them even more in deepest Wigan. As the Match Shed crawled through the gridlocked town centre traffic a van in front of us had a security sign in the rear window 'No Pies Are Left In This Vehicle Overnight'! For the last 10 miles I had seen dozens of posters promoting 'Wigan Beer Festival - Drink Till You're Ill' and 'Silcocks Fair - All Rides for a Quid', both interesting events were designated for the very place I was heading in the Match Shed, Robin Park. I feared a car park full of vomit, either through queasy kids throwing up following 5 consecutive rides on 'The Tumble Dryer' or a gang of under 21's struggling to keep down 6 pints of Brain-Buster Bitter. Fortunately there was ample space for parking and not a sign of the St Johns Ambulance Brigade. The Robin Park complex houses a busy shopping park as well as the very large 'DW Stadium' home of Premier League Wigan Athletic, this place over shadows the smaller Athletics stadium beneath it, it is the Athletics Stadium that is home to newly promoted Wigan Robin Park who now ply their trade in the ultra competitive North West Counties League Premier Division.
Wigan RP have started the season reasonably well and sit in the top half of the table alongside todays respected visitors Barnoldswick Town (or Barlick as the locals call em). I entered the fancy reception area through the automatic doors and followed half a dozen Barnoldswick supporters down a corridor to a table acting as the admission point to the Stand. A couple of girls taking entrance money looked a bit flustered and I got to hear the back end of a conversation they were having with some hungry looking visiting supporters, I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  At 1pm they only had a bloody kitchen fire and managed to burn the entire Pie Stock for the afternoon! Of all the places where this could happen, surely not here, pies are king in Wigan. A bloke entered from a side room "Thats right lads, all the pies are gone" (I thought he was about to burst into tears) he composed himself and managed to continue.. "Burned out... alongside all other hot food items, including the tea and coffee", a Barnoldswick fan asked if they had anything else to offer food wise, the Wigan official told him they were trying to rustle up some crisps and soft drinks? I think he was suffering post traumatic shock. As for me, I couldn't take it in. What bad luck for one and all, at least nobody was hurt. No pies at Wigan! Its unheard of! I thought about doubling back to the shopping centre for a burger, it was too late, we were only 15 minutes from kick off. I handed over my 6 pounds and entered the Main Stand at ground level. With only an egg sandwich for breakfast I was running on empty. Lets get one thing straight about this visit report, it would be easy to have a go at Wigan Robin Park purely because they play in a corporate style athletics stadium with a big running track putting a big distance between the spectator and the pitch. You are not going to witness a nice little charismatic non league ground with rustic stands and bags of history, however, what we are going to see is a vibrant up and coming club making the very best of the circumstances in providing cost efficient football for the local population. They also tactfully target the away day visitor to the DW Stadium, Wigan RP promote early kick off games to capture people going to Premier League games at Wigan Athletic across the car park when fixture dates fall on the same date.
Looking around the ground just before kick off, everything is totally dominated by a modern large fully seated stand which provides suitable height to get a reasonable view of the pitch (despite the distance due to the running track). For those with itchy feet, you can walk around the entire pitch if you like, there is a black railed barrier on the outer side of the track which is a good height to lean on, I went all the way around and it does offer some nice views of the DW Stadium and the Main Stand. The Beer Festival was taking place in a long room underneath the stand and there was a fenced off open-air smoking area down towards the corner spot which had attracted a small crowd of people eager to take in a slightly obstructed view of the action (for free).
They seemed well behaved despite the odd abusive remark to the Liner. The club had quickly got a table together in front of the Main Stand with crisps, chocolate and drinks, at least I could now eat something! I opted for one of those tiny multi bag crisp packets that clearly state 'Not To Be Sold Individually', ironically, it also had the same days sell by date on it? For 50p I was desperate and wasn't going to deny sustenance any longer. I scoffed down the crisps immediately. I later saw people with tea and coffee so the club did manage to get some kind of service back in place (all credit to them). For some unknown reason we didn't kick off until 3.05pm but I didn't think much of it at the time, Barnoldswick did the 'Celtic Huddle' and off we went for what on paper looked an intruiging good looking fixture.
For some reason I just couldn't get into it. I don't know if it was the distance from the pitch or just the fact that a lot of the play looked disjointed, slightly frantic and increasingly scrappy. Both sides held possession well and did manage goal scoring opportunities, I would say Barnoldswick looked the more lethal of the two sides especially upfront where frankly Wigan RP struggled all game, even missing a penalty. Neil Chapman put the visitors ahead in the 8th minute and despite some nice passing sections from Wigan RP they never got near to threatening Barnoldswick enough where it mattered, around the 18 yard area. Come the second half, which due to the referee's obscure time-management principles kicked off at a very late 4.15pm, Barlick seemed to 'kick on a bit'. As Wigan chased the game, Barlick found the space with willing runners to move forward at pace, Wigan prevented at least 3 very good Barlick scoring efforts with some excellent goalkeeping and defensive support, one of the saves was almost as good as the Gordon Banks 'Mexico 1970' save against Brazil. Despite odd passages of quality the game failed to ignite, I can remember closing my eyes for a few moments and taking in the sounds around me, some karaoke singer was knocking out a dire version of 'Roll out the Barrel' from the inner chambers of the Beer Festival, stadium cleaning staff had an industrial vacuum cleaner going full pelt cleaning out the function suite at the rear of the stand and to top it all... a gang of under 10's were running riot trashing cardboard boxes behind the dug outs, despite them being politely told to behave by a club official (note: if adults bring young kids to games they should ensure they are reasonably and sensibly controlled, not just let them loose for 90 minutes).
This wasn't my best match day experience but that is not the fault of the Wigan Robin Park club, ok the match could have been better but we all see lots of disappointing games (England in Poland crops to mind), next week could be total-football again... and you cannot blame Wigan RP for the racket from the beer boozers, the cleaners and the unruly kids, I'm even going to forget the burnt pies (despite my greed at the time). To sum it up Barnoldswick just about deserved a 1-0 away win. Is it such a bad ground at Wigan Robin Park seeing as its got a running track around it? I'd urge you to give it a chance and take it on its merits, it offers a decent enough environment to watch NWCL football, dont go expecting old-glory quirky atmosphere, it is what it is and if it gives Wigan Robin Park a chance of progressing as a valuable member ot the NWCL thats good enough for me.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Nostell Miners Welfare 1 Formby 2

Saturday 13th October 2012
FA Vase First Round Proper
Attendance: 43
Admission: £5
Tea Hut Stuff: Zilch today I'm afraid
Weather: Cloudy, late sunshine second half
Parking: Club car park
Firstly, on a day such as 'Non League Day', allow me to moan what a missed opportunity this was for lots and lots of people living in the Wakefield area to witness a bloody good game of cup tie football at a pleasant community stadium. Only 43 souls turned out in total and every one saw an end to end game between two evenly matched sides who played some really good quality football. Nostell MW are located in the village of Crofton just a few miles from Wakefield City Centre and their ground is at the local Community Centre, the modern set up houses a function and leisure profile with the actual stadium at the rear of the complex with a steep banking overlooking the well kept playing surface and tidy surrounding perimeter. Nostell play in the Northern Counties East Leagues Premier Division, they've not had the best of starts this season and sit lower table but the locals seem positive that things will definitely improve. Their visitors in this important FA Vase tie came from the West Coast, Formby is a nice little place just down the road from Southport, rumour has it that a good few Liverpool superstars live in the small town which nestles behind National Trust woodland and stunning coastal scenery. Formby are a Non League level (or step) below Nostell MW, they play in Division One of the North West Counties League and have received some very glowing reports in their climb to the upper reaches of the table. Time to find out what all the fuss is about? I took the Match Shed on the long and winding off-motorway route through West Yorkshire, the M62 is a waste of time as endless speed restricted roadworks continue to hound the motorist, 4 years now and they still can't sort it out? Somebody is doubtless making a lot of cash for multi-triple time diversions, closures and millions of cones. Anyway, I got there in the end but driving through places like Huddersfield and Wakefield on a busy Saturday is not easy going. Good to see the Formby mini bus got there before me. I had a feeling that gourmet cuisine may be slightly limited at the ground so I had a big dinner before I set off, 2 bacon rolls and a large bowl of rustic tomato soup, just as well, the internal community centre kitchen only had burgers and chips on offer. I thought about a cup of tea but the principle of paying a quid for a tea bag doesn't rest easy with me, even at this level, I skipped it. You enter the ground by walking through the community centre main doors and then taking twisting hidden corridors, if you're lucky you find the door to the bowling green and hey-presto you spot the magic match poster leading onto the turnstile.
Apparently an OAP Thackley season ticket holder entered the building for an away game here and has been missing for over 3 years now. Its even more confusing trying to leave after the game when some of the doors are closed, its a maze of random non-exits (or at least it seemed that way to a numpty like me). Going into the ground, as you pass through the turnstile you enter the only side of the ground with any type of structures, there is a narrow 2 row covered shelter of seats to the right, whilst to the left there is hard standing adjacent to the community centre wall above the grass banking, the other 3 sides of the stadium are purely pitchside hard standing. You get a good view from the top of the bank but overall, with the greatest of respect, the ground does lack a bit of character.
Formby had brought about 10 fans (25% of the crowd) and they seemed mighty pleased that their heroes were not overcome with the proceedings, in fact they appeared highly delighted when the Nostell keeper couldn't get a clearance away and the impressive Jason Carey pillaged the situation to put Formby into a sixth minute lead. Nostell tried to ignore the ruthless speed in which Formby continued to break forward and attempted to consolidate midfield superiority. A dangerous game and one can appreciate how Formby have taken so many sides apart this season, they pass it well, have supreme confidence on the ball and are never afraid to put a colleague away down a channel. Nostell played a percentages styled game that offered plenty of possession but revealed only half chances going forward. However the home side got a well struck equaliser through James Eyles half way through the half but they still continued to look vulnerable at the back.
Formby struck again 7 minutes into the second half, a sublime finish from Joe Walker. I expected a major Nostell push forward following this set-back but it was Formby who seemed to be the more dangerous and continued to play some really good football. We had to wait for the final 10 minutes before Nostell applied consistent threatening pressure. Formby went into siege mode whilst Nostell threw the sink at them. Formby held out despite quite a bit of injury time clock watching. It had been an entertaining game, Nostell don't look a bad side and I'm sure they can put this behind them, however, they need to be a bit more clinical in front of goal.
As for Formby, I was genuinely impressed, they have some very good players and the style of football is pleasing on the eye. This was a bit of a giantkilling on paper but I wouldn't like to draw this Formby side in the next round of the Vase, they could go further in this competition yet? They look a good side.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Non League Day

Its official Non League Day on Saturday 13th October.