Saturday 3rd November 2012
North West Counties League Premier Division
RUNCORN TOWN 2 NORTON UNITED 0
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea £1
Weather: Started bright soon turned dull and cold
Parking: Adjacent Pavilions car park
This was an early 2pm kick off due to the adjoining playing fields being utilised for one of those noisy firework displays. Can't understand why people would pay £7.50 to witness a load of bangers going off? As I slung the Match Shed behind the Pavilions ale house I had visions of plenty of rockets and air bomb repeaters going off on the nearby football pitch in 15 minutes time. Todays Tea Hut visit was Runcorn Town, the Samba Style Maestros of the North West Counties League. Think of Bobby Moore era West Ham, think of the 1970 Brazilians, think of Total Football Holland with Johan Cruyff at his prime, if you add them altogether you get Runcorn Town, they're that good (honest)! Todays lambs to the slaughter came from Stoke on Trent way, the nervous Norton United must have been bricking it! Well at least thats what I thought to myself pre kick off, the actual reality turned out to be something slightly different. I handed over my 5 quid and entered the colosseum. I was pleasantly surprised to see the club had made a number of ground improvements since my last visit at the beginning of last season, not least a roof for the Main Stand. The Pavilions is a tidy little ground which offers cover on both sides of the pitch, the stadium is overlooked by the massive backdrop of an industrial stucture which is part constructed complete with gigantic extraction chimney, its quite a site really and offers a 'different' kind of backdrop to say the least.
Inside the clubhouse the place was busy with locals eagerley anticipating the goal fest. One bloke had even brought a calculator so he didnt get mixed up with the score. I dont think they do pies here and I wasn't in the mood for one of the £2 cheeseburgers so I just had a tea which came in a proper cup. The lady at the counter had just put a plate full of fancy cakes out which looked very nice indeed. This was all rather civilised especially in view of the doubtless carnage that would begin out on the pitch in a few minutes time. I took my place pitchside, I cast my eye back towards the changing rooms next door to the clubhouse, I reckoned a local priest was probably in with the Norton team offering them the last rites. I couldn't make my mind up if it would be 6 or 7 today and any thoughts of a Norton consolation goal was out of the question.
I was correct about Norton not scoring but that was about all I got right. There was no carnage, no slaughter, no stuffing, in fact apart from an early 15 minute spell Runcorn Town were pretty much 'very-ordinary'. Norton United could count themselves unlucky not to get a draw, especially as they had the best of the scrappy second half. This didn't look like the Runcorn Town dream machine I'd seen in the past, they still seem to set out to play open passing football, moving forward at pace, with the odd deft flick opening up a defence but it simply didn't pay off today, far too many moves broke down through rash passing or taking the wrong option, perhaps I just picked the wrong afternoon? I suppose the pitch didn't help, we've had plenty of rain again and it did seem a bit sticky and a touch bobbly, never a good thing for a side who pass the ball about. Lets be sensible though, clubs in non league do not have the cash or the time to provide an in depth groundsman and support package, they do well to get the pitch to the current standard under the circumstances.
Norton never looked overawed, they've taken many a prized scalp in recent times and seemed well prepared to give as good as they got, either side could have won today on the chances they created, it came down to finishing and Runcorn still had enough class to put a couple of decent shots in the back of the net (one in each half). This result puts Runcorn Town top of the Premier Division, a league they so nearly won last season, only for Ramsbottom to pip them at the post (Rammy are now going great guns in the Evo Stik league). Have Runcorn Town got the staying power, the nerve and the strength in depth to see it through this season? Time will tell, this is a very competitive testing league. The gameplan is still there, it was such a pity that the execution let them down today, still... they got the 3 points and thats the all important factor. As for gallant Norton they find themselves in the bottom four, for a club just promoted to this division it is proving to be hard going but they seem a spirited bunch and they have some good players, I wouldn't be surprised to find them mid table in the near future.