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

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Atherton Collieries 6 Bacup & Rossendale Borough 0

Monday 30th December 2013
North West Counties League Challenge Cup 2nd Round
Attendance: 76
Admission: £5
Programme: £1 (oh dear)
Tea Hut Stuff: Pigged out before I got there
Weather: Chilly but calm evening after a stormy day
Parking: 20 yards from the turnstile
"In the bleak mid winter" goes that hymn I always remember from school. Never was it more apt. After weeks of storms, gales and driving rain it was a miracle that this stand alone fixture survived the elements one day before New Years Eve. I've been to Colls before but never witnessed a match, I was a victim of a daft late postponement a couple of seasons ago that left me fuming at the gate. I swore never to return. I gave in, mainly as a result of post christmas boredom as day after day of crap tv and gross over indulgence took a grip. I have to give full credit to the Colls groundstaff for getting this game on against all the odds. The pitch was understandably a bit of a glue pot as the game wore on but they had done a fantastic job of providing a playable surface under the circumstances. I'm sure everyone thought it was well worth the effort as well, that is apart from the Brent Peters Bacup squad in the 'Pepto Bismol' style pink away kit. 'Pepto' is famed for its unique diarrhoea control, apart from the garish pinky colour it certainly had little in common with the visitors leaking defence during the game? 
I got the Match Tank safely parked down one of the tight backstreets surrounding the ground and entered the stadium via the brick built turnstile with the famous art deco lettering. 
I rashly gambled on a programme as it was rumoured that the North West Counties League hell raiser and new world journo Joseph Gibbons put a lot of it together. Bit of a bummer that the Bacup edition had received a diluted contribution from the editorial team due to some apparent printing difficulties and the muddled mid holiday planning of the fixture. I feared the worst when the first third of the programme got swallowed up by adverts for economy funerals, portable toilet deals and other local traders, ratings plummeted even further on my 1 to 10 scale when the first inch of the comments page went missing due to probable printer misalignment. I only paid a quid for it but sadly I have to say, I was ripped off. The Alder House ground has a bit of a well worn feel to it but still manages a quirky but homely charm of no frills non league architecture. 
It has the usual little main stand running towards the corner flag (why are so many non league stands down near corner flags rather than in more sensible halfway line positions?), there are some portakabin style changing rooms behind the nets with the snazzy addition of one of those fancy tunnel covers,
an imposing black and white striped tea hut on the far side (I'd had a very big dinner before heading down from the hills so I didn't get involved in tea hut action on this occasion), 
there is also a nice warm clubhouse full of half cut blokes supping lots of pints 
and finally we get to a further covered seating area down the touchline which housed a single solitary groundhopper all the way from Alfreton for long spells of this game (nice friendly chap he was too). 

As regards the match it was great if you happened to be a Colls fan but pretty much pants for the neutral (dare I say it 'suicidal' if you were supporting Bacup). The young Colls side from the lower division to their Premier League visitors handed out a calculated tonking and basked in the glory that a full-on 6 nil drubbing provides. 
The game was never in doubt right from an early 2-0 dart from the blocks and Bacup ended up chasing shadows for the rest of the chilly nights proceedings, much to the dismay and anger of a typically lyrical Brent Peters in the dug out from hell.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Missing in action... or not?

Have you seen this Hopper
Apparently the Match Tank is back on the road

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Shoot Advert

From an age when football magazines were eagerly awaited by the public. I couldn't wait to get down to the newsagents. The new 'Shoot' publication with its glossy colour pictures and team tab charts was just the ticket.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Curzon Ashton 4 Salford City 0

Monday 21st October 2013
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North
Attendance: 165
Admission: £3
Programme: £1.60
Tea Hut Item Sir? Not tonight Doreen
Weather: Dry & mild after a day full of rain
Parking: Club car park
"I am the passenger and I ride and I ride
I ride through the city's backsides
I see the stars come out of the sky
Yeah, the bright and hollow sky
You know it looks so good tonight"

Well so Iggy Pop sang? I certainly drove through the backsides of Oldham and Ashton to get to this game but unlike in the song this urban retreat didn't look that good at all I'm afraid. Bit like the Salford City performance.

Curzon Ashton look a cracking side this season and they had very little trouble swotting aside a lacklustre opposition who were sadly non reminiscent of previous Salford teams I've enjoyed watching. Where was the spirit, where was the fight, more to the point where was the football, to be blunt but perfectly honest... Salford were crap.

The Tameside Stadium is a nice enough ground and its seen many visitors from avid home and away fans to half-masted deranged groundhoppers over recent seasons, needless to say I'm not boring myself (and you) with yet another set of sterile daft pictures of big concrete empty terraces and a main stand straight from a lego box. Me and 18 other sad lost souls on the far side of the ground waited 7 full minutes past official kick off time for the referee to finish watching his favourite Monday night soap opera. After his Tetley tea and jammy dodgers we finally got around to the action (I wish).

Curzon coasted it from start to finish and hardly went higher than third gear. The Ashton side have not lost a league game all season and went 3 points clear at the top of the table after this light training session.

Never been a big fan of Monday night football, just needed some fresh air after a gloomy long day of rain, rain and rain, at least it was a dry evening over this part of the North West. Dont think I'll be doing any more Monday games for a while though.

Keep an eye out for Curzon Ashton, some good players and some attractive tactics. As for Salford, hate to say I fear the worst, I caught them a few weeks ago when they got a better result against Bamber Bridge but there's something not right, the style of football stutters and fragments far too easily, not sure if its the players needing to gel or too many Plan B's confusing confidence and consistency? They need to sort it out quick before they get sucked too close to the vent.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Witton Albion 2 FC United 2

Saturday 19th October 2013
FA Trophy 1st Qualifying Round
Attendance: 693
Admission: £9.50
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Meat and Potato Pie £1.60, Tea £1
Weather: Sunny spells turning cloudy, mild
Parking: Club car park
Uncut grumpy visit reporting is back in vogue. I've done the excellent Witton ground before so there's no twee little photographs or bland supportive statements about how nice it all is. As a token gesture I've put a pic of the programme up. There's too much arse-licking in non league blogging these days.

Flags, flares and a fashionable Karl Marginson v-neck, the best supported side in the NPL were in town. Although I reckon Albions officials perhaps expected more? They were block stacking the car park upon my 2.35 arrival, thankfully I got the Match Tank adjacent to the pot holed escape lane.

Wonder pies, smelly hot dogs and over priced tea bag stuff poured out from snack bar nirvana, my Meat and Potato was the best in 3 years, kid you not (almost as good as Glossop).

End to end football with chances a-la plenty. This was no hoof-a-thon fest. You always detect a good game when the time zips by. The flat capper next to me just giggled as Albion missed another 1 on 1 sitter.

FC's new signing Amjad Iqbal provided a faultless master class at centre back, perhaps he should have been down the road at Old Trafford? This bloke can play.

The FC fans sang the whole game long, Witton joined in a bit second half with that old dancehall classic 'Albion, Albion, Albion, Albion, Albion, Albion' (no problem remembering the lyrics then).

Late equaliser for the home boys before me and Noah surfed the storm from hell all the way home to the Pennine Hills. Did it rain or what! Think the 'odd light shower' forecast by those London luvin BBC smug faced weather droids was yet again totally incorrect. No apology given by em either. I nearly drowned on the M62 eastbound.

They do the Trophy tango again this coming Wednesday over at the wonderfully depressing Gigg Lane. Black puddings and tripe are strictly optional but remember the pies are pretty crap. Cant wait until FC can get that new ground built.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Rhyl 0 The New Saints 2

Saturday 12th October 2013
Welsh Premier League
Attendance: 814
Admission: £7
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea bag £1
Parking: Club car park
Weather: Slate grey sky, slightly blustery, remained dry
Made the effort to get to Rhyl before lunchtime so I could have a nice walk down the promenade and look at the sea. This proved rather uplifting despite the backdrop of massed banks of off-shore wind farms. I'm afraid the vista got a lot worse when ones eye followed the horizon inland to the autumnal realisation of a typical British seaside resort and Rhyl's slightly sleazy run down sea front. The tarnished charm of the place wasn't helped by a slate grey sky and a chilled gusty breeze. A bingo caller was addressing two fat ladies in an empty amusement arcade, above it the flats for rent with the stained curtains looked like they'd been caught in the crossfire of some military fallout on the Gaza Strip. Never mind, I'd had a good walk and headed back to the Match Tank, the only people around seemed to be a few pensioners walking dogs, the obligatory jogger with the fancy DJ headphones and the standard sea front alcoholic knocking back a pre dinnertime bottle of cut price plonk. I decided to head for the ground.
Rhyl were back in the Premier League (Welsh style) this season and todays visitors TNS are the current champions. Looked a really decent fixture on paper and I was looking forward to the Rhyl side using home advantage to put the full time TNS fancy dans through their paces despite the visitors already being up the top end of the table again.
The ground is a fairly low level stadium with seating on all four sides, the car park end is open to the elements with the dominant 'Lillywhites Legends Lounge' looming large behind it, all the other sides of the ground have cover. I must say it looks a decent little stadium with a fine playing surface, perhaps the only gripe is that there are a lot of stanchions which can impede a clear view of the action.
I purchased a £2 programme which was well overpriced despite a couple of interesting articles from Rob Marshall, without his witty content it would have been purely daylight robbery. Next up was the Tea Hut or should I say 'canteen' as they are identified in the ground. I was having speciality pie and chips for my supper after the drive home so I was in the market for a decent looking burger. Unfortunately I was not enticed to part with £2.50 for what looked like an economy button burger on a tiny white roll, it just didn't seem value for money. I ended up just getting a tea for £1 a bag, I still had a remnant sandwich in the Match Tank which I'd eat after the game. I sincerely hoped the game would be better than what I'd seen so far with the programme and the catering?
I took a seat near the halfway line in the stand of many stanchions under the Sgorio TV gantry. A couple of TNS pie monsters were grumbling about a lack of ascertainable pasty filling and wiping gravy stained freezer-shop chips off their car coats.
As the game got underway I was amazed how well that TNS were passing the ball about. This kind of structured calm mannered approach is a rarity at the non league levels I'm more familiar with. TNS quickly went 1-0 up and Rhyl had still to touch the ball? After another 10 minutes this slow building TNS passing game was still going on, the ball was going from side to side, back to the keeper, then side to side to side again and eventually they would get near the 18 yard box before they'd lose possession and somebody from Rhyl would blindly hoof it upfield for it to all start all over again. In a non league football world where 3 passes on the trot can bring gasps of incredulous admiration this was like watching a bargain priced PoundLand version of Spain. Then it struck me that I had been utterly stupid to not clearly recognise that the home side where continually sat back mega-deep entirely in their own half with only one bloke up front and even he hardly ever got over the centre circle. Unbelievably Rhyl looked like their entire game plan was to just keep the score down! They had no intention of coming out of the defensive parked-up-coach across the 18 yard area to take part in a football match (period).
What could earlier have been construed to be fine passing football had now become a boring training ground example of simple 'attack and defence'. If the Rhyl public have to watch this gutless drivel every week I'm surprised they get an attendance in the stadium at all, TNS simply coasted it without any sign of fight-back resistance from the home side. Sadly, despite some locals saying 'the lads' would come out fighting for the second half, they failed to change tactics. Why they didn't decide to have a go is beyond me, they were getting beat and showed zero capability of getting back in the match, why not shake things up, get forward and have a go at getting something, anything, even pride from the game?
TNS went 2-0 up in that second period and still Rhyl failed to challenge them. Surely their players cannot be so inferior that they just defend and chase TNS tails all afternoon, why not put more people forward, get the ball wide, apply more pressure down the flanks? The whole game fizzled out as any kind of watchable spectacle well before the end, TNS strolled around with the ball at will (mainly from side to side) as the home supporters started to head home shaking their heads in disappointment, whether this was a recurring theme or I had just caught 'The Rhyl Experience' on a bad day is open to debate.


Currently listening to Brian Blessed reading this every week night on BBC 2 at 4.45pm
The book is a bargain half price at both Waterstones and Amazon at the moment.

Thursday, 12 September 2013


Went to Padiham v Curzon Ashton last night. It felt good to just go along to the match without bothering about doing a visit report or taking lots of pictures, especially as half of the crowd seemed to be taking their own snaps in any case? The demand for expensive smart phones with fancy photographic technology shows no sign of decline.

I've tried to hack out a reprieve for 'Wheres The Tea Hut' regarding this season but I have to admit its now become a weary task taking along the old camera bag and trying not to repeat myself when compiling visit reports for grounds I've already been to.

'Change' is a phenomenon that can make people afraid, its safer and more comforting to simply carry on with the well-used routine. I disagree with this assumption. I believe we need to embrace change or risk becoming as tiresome and boring as the well worn record thats been endlessly played to death.

I'm not sure what this will mean for Wheres The Tea Hut going forward but I reckon it may be appropriate to change the format and leave the tired trusted formula to the increasing number of new reporters ploughing the very same fields that have already been ploughed so many times before.

Lets see what the next few weeks bring?

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Selby Town 0 Formby 5

Saturday 7th September
FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round
Attendance: 75
Admission: £5
Tea Hut Stuff: Crisps 30p
Parking: Rough & ready club car park
Weather: Mainly sunny, patchy cloud, slight chill second half
The great M62 decade long roadworks job creation scheme still hinders the worst motorway in Europe. Everytime I pass Junction 22 passport control on the Lancs / Yorkshire border I guarantee myself at least half an hours stationary boredom in grid-locked traffic. Today was no exception, particularly on the return trip. This intriguing FA Vase opener threw two sides together from the lower divisions of the Northern Counties East League and the North West Counties League. 
Selby have fallen in form over recent seasons and already find themselves in the wrong half of Division 1. Formby however have exceeded the parameters normally associated with a side from the lower league of the NWCL. Last season they won the league title only for ground grading problems to deny them promotion to the Premier Division. They also got to the final of the NWCL Challenge Cup. The reputation that the club has built up is a deserved compliment to the open and entertaining football they purvey. The Selby ground has a charismatic if 'used' feel to it.
The main focus is the bench seated stand behind one of the goals with the large red letters spelling out where exactly you are. The touchline clubhouse and internal tea hut are directly adjacent to the turnstile entrance from the car park. This side of the pitch has some terracing and there is also a short stretch of bench seating directly in front of the clubhouse. Across the other side of the pitch are the changing rooms, dug outs and plenty of pitch length hard standing. This leads onto the far end which behind the goals has a small flat-pack type covered terrace. The stadium has a galvanised metal sheeting perimeter fence which does take the visual ambience down a few notches. Its a decent enough place though and I've certainly been on a lot of worse grounds than this one. It has a certain charm but its not pristine (if you know what I mean). The locals seem to like it as well.
This wasn't the best of games I'm afraid. The match was going nowhere until Formby won a very dodgy penalty just before the break. They gladly took a one nil lead but it had been more or less a scrappy 50/50 until then. The Referee and nearside linesman came in for some terrible stick from the home sides bench but to be honest the penalty was really harsh on Selby and I detected that it took the wind out of their sails, some of the players looked visibly demotivated at the injustice of it all. 
Following the break Formby took Selby Town apart with the kind of open football that they have blessed the NWCL with these last couple of seasons, it was sublime stuff at times. They controlled the game for long periods and seemed to plough forward at will, without wishing to be disrespectful to Selby the final scoreline could have been far greater than 5-0. A special mention must be made regarding Luke Holden, not only did he knock in a hat trick his overall performance was absolutely top notch, it was a superb contribution for his side and one that merits much higher standards than the opening qualifying round of the FA Vase.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Ramsbottom United 5 AFC Liverpool 0

Saturday 31st August 2013
FA Cup Preliminary Round
Attendance: 237
Admission: £7
Programme: £2 (a good one too)
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea in a mug 70p
Parking: On the lane far side of the Heritage Railway station
Weather: Mixture of clouds and sunny spells, dry and mild
The Riverside Stadium has to be one of the nicest non league grounds I've travelled to. If you've not been yet and find yourself in the area, get down there. It nestles besides the tree lined River Irwell and is tucked behind the scenic cricket ground, it also has the added attraction of being overlooked by the adjacent East Lancashire Heritage Railway. Locals will tell you that when the leaves fall in the winter you can always watch the passing steam trains and diesel locomotives (especially if its a poor match). The ground is just a short walk from the charismatic little centre where there is a small market, rows of quaint shops, good pubs and various eating establishments ranging from the sit down 'higher-end' standard to a really good fish and chip shop. Its got everything you could possibly want. If you can last out grub-wise until match time there is a great traditional tea hut at the ground, they do some good quality pies and you get a proper cup of tea in a mug, all at sensible low prices, you can also sit at one of the internal tea hut tables and look back at some of the club history and old team photo's on the wall. 
I'm giving non league football programmes another try at the moment, I'd stopped buying them previously due to the lack of readable content. Todays matchday publication was 2 quid but I have to say its one of the best put together programmes I've seen for a very long time at this level. It had various interesting articles from the club and sported the added bonus of lots of good quality colour photographs. The people who put it together should be congratulated for bucking the common non league trend of minimal info, cut and paste gubbins from the respective league website and loads and loads of adverts. If you go, I recommend you get one.
Todays game was chosen as one of my FA Cup ties of the round. I only live around 20 miles from Ramsbottom and seeing the other contenders for my attention seemed to be a considerable distance away in comparison, it was common sense (and economical) to take advantage of the circumstances. Ramsbottom were one of the surprise packages in last seasons Evo Stik NPL Division 1 North and only just lost out on promotion, this season however they have struggled to get points in the bank and have lost their first four league games. They have a good squad of decent players but for some reason things are just not clicking into place at the moment. 
Their opponents from the North West Counties League Premier Division, AFC Liverpool, are currently enjoying a very strong start to the season indeed. After a couple of seasons bedding into the Premier level they are now seeing some reward for a lot of hard effort and sterling foundation work. Could this be a shock on the cards? Could the Liverpool side from the lower league cause an upset? Looking at the stats there was definitely a case to consider. As we all know statistics mean nothing 'come-showtime' and today proved how foolhardy it is to rely on them totally. With no disrespect to a gallant effort from the visitors Ramsbottom United were well worth the victory. How they didn't score far more than five is a mystery. Time and time again they cut the Liverpool side open only for the goalkeeper and some wayward finishing denying them a much bigger tally. 
It wasn't all one way traffic though, AFC Liverpool needed time to settle into the game (which by then they were losing) but they still produced a good few scoring chances which warranted at least a reference on the score sheet. Ramsbottom keeper Grant Shenton was proving to be a major obstacle for them. The first half was superior to the second in my opinion perhaps the 2-0 scoreline just about kept the visitors in with a remote chance of a comeback. Once Ramsbottom went three up early in the second period the game was all but over. The rest of the game fell a bit flat, dare I say it scrappy. The obvious factor in the game was the difference in league status, Ramsbottom look a good solid side even though they are rumoured to have started their respective league campaign in the wrong gear, I reckon they will soon be back on the winning path soon enough in the Evo Stik, the strikers who played today Lee Gaskell and Tom Brookes look top quality, they are superbly flanked out wide by Dom Smalley and Phil Dean. As for AFC Liverpool their 'usual suspects' John Lawless and Steve Jones put in another couple of admirable performances which will hopefully have pleased their loyal band of travelling supporters (flags and all). I'm sure AFC Liverpool will continue to warrant respect and caution from their NWCL opponents as their increasingly threatening reputation sees them at the higher end of the Premier Division league table.
As regards the next round of the FA Cup Ramsbottom, or 'Rammy' as the locals call them are rewarded with an away tie at Stocksbridge Park Steels from the Evo Stick NPL Premier Division. I wish them good luck. Should be a good open game at another nice little non league stadium. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Runcorn Town 3 Stockport Sports 1

Saturday 24th September 2013
North West Counties League Premier Division
Admission: £5
Town seemed a bit out of sorts in this scrappy encounter. The fact is they still had more than enough quality to dominate a poorly organised Stockport Sports outfit. Perhaps the positive from this game is that Runcorn Town have the character to win ugly when necessary, something which may be called upon when they face up to sides whose sole intention is to stop them playing attractive open football. Its fair to say the result was never in question from the very moment Gareth Grant put the first goal in the net, it was that one sided. There was an unfortunate collision in the dying minutes of the match when Stockport keeper Callum Tongue slammed into Town forward Jason Carey as he flicked the ball past him just outside the box. The coming together appeared totally unintentional, more a case of Callum's momentum catching Jason as he passed him. Sadly Callum was badly injured and ended up being air lifted to hospital. The referee made it apparent that he was going to red card Callum as he was the last man and Jason Carey would have been clear on goal. Stockport did not want to continue with the last few minutes of the game so after consultation with the referee the game had to be abandoned with Town winning 3-1. As this report is written there is better news from the hospital that Callum's condition has improved and he has been diagnosed with concussion. Obviously everybody wishes him a speedy full recovery. Despite it now being Monday the North West Counties League have still to decide what to do about the outcome of the game. Common sense points to awarding Runcorn Town the 3 points, especially as they were 3-1 up with minutes left, but experience has taught me to never predict the decisions stemming from the NWCL Management Committee. We continue to await their decision.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Squires Gate 0 Runcorn Town 1

Tuesday 20th August 2013
North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 45
Admission: £5
Programme: £1
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea £1
Weather: Cloudy but dry, bit chilly later in the evening
Parking: Club car park

I once looked forward to an early season night match on the Blackpool coast, a stroll down the prom, fresh sea air and a big bag of fish & chips. Now you’re more likely to get mugged or catch a contagious disease.
I did however traverse as far as Cleveleys before kick off to visit one of the best chippies in Britain, 'Kays'. Its an unassuming take-out and humble sit down diner directly adjacent to the small Cleveleys bus station just a few miles north of the Golden Mile. I opted for a battered Haddock on a fresh white roll (or muffin, barm whatever you call em in your area). Absolutely fantastic fish believe me, well worth the extra drive. Its only an enthralling eye-opening 20 minute (slightly sleazy) drive back down the Blackpool sea front towards the ground afterwards. Squires Gate play just behind the small airport a stones throw from their NWCL rivals AFC Blackpool. Blackpool Wren Rovers also play in the same area.

Back to the football on offer tonight. Sadly only 45 souls turned down the attraction of Brendan and his organ at the North Pier Show Bar to watch Squires Gate take on one of the more entertaining footballing sides in the NWCL.
Town were just lining up in their green away strip when I arrived at the School Lane Royal British Legion Stadium. Looked a cracking pitch, I believe the groundsman Brian Addison has won quite a few awards for it over the years. Pity I couldn’t say the same for the advert ridden programme, it was only a quid but I reckon I was still ripped off.

There wont be a selection of cheesy photographs for this report, apart from the programme cover, I've done Squires Gate before and I'd just be going over old ground (excuse the pun), check out the link to this previous visit if you want more images:
Runcorn Town had found that winning formula again after a couple of set backs at Maine Road and Norton and without being disrespectful to the aspirations of a gallant Squires Gate outfit; they really needed to secure an away win tonight.

With light cloud cover and a reasonably dry surface both sides jousted forwards into a busy midfield. The familiar NWCL 100 miles an hour adrenalin fuelled football carved out early breaks at both ends of the pitch, Russ McKenna looked the main Gate co-ordinator whilst Keddie, Burton and Potter charged into the action for Town.
The visitors edged the proceedings first half but both sides had ample opportunities to open the scoring. Chances came and went, that elusive and important opening goal was proving hard to find. Squires Gate decided sitting back was not a long term viable game plan and started sweeping the ball wide and cutting forwards across the Town back four, time and time again they won free kicks in and around the box. I wouldn’t say the Town defence was rattled but they appeared to be clutching at the wrong options defensively which resulted in a few rash challenges in some very dangerous positions. Fortunately Karl Wills was at the top of his game and provided an excellent showcase of top class goalkeeping.

Half time 0-0.
As the dark sky spread and the lights took effect a chilly light breeze seeped in from the sea, I was glad of a warm jacket, saying that, a couple of Town regular away supporters still kept up their vanity driven fashion-horse image in flimsy tops and Daily Express action slacks, the ones with the elasticated waist bands. Fortunately the players weren’t put off by the quivering flesh and we were soon back into the game. A Town away match just wouldn’t be the same without a few supporters politely expressing slightly contradictory views to that of the match officials, it’s all done in the best possible taste and highly entertaining during the few duller moments of the action, I’d love a compilation tape of all the classic outbursts bellowed across the pitch. I don’t think that tonight’s officials got it as wrong as some of their colleagues have been guilty of at some games but there did appear to be some mighty close offside decisions as Town continually split the home defence with through balls via the channels.

This was a game that increasingly had that feel that just a single goal would win it; as a result both sides seemed to be hurrying their football which often witnessed moves breaking down in unchallenging areas. It was a welcome relief when Paul Shanley put Town in front with around half an hour left to play, it wasn’t spectacular but its verification on the score sheet provided Town with a valuable lead that Squires Gate were going to struggle to overturn.
The last quarter of the match drifted to a state of attrition and became a tad scrappy and disjointed, Town were holding Gate at bay with steely confidence and despite a few late scrapes they still had fuel in the tank for a number of cavalry charges up the pitch, Darren Kinsey was providing sterling service in beating man after man as he counter attacked the home defence, an inspired performance from the full back. It all came to an end without too much fuss and Town got the points they certainly deserved. A one goal win is still a win, it’s easy saying Runcorn Town should win at places like Squires Gate if they have genuine aspirations for promotion buts it’s not always as simple as it looks, a midweek away victory in the NWCL has to be earned and that’s just what Runcorn Town did.

My journey back to the Pennine Hills featured a 10pm grid locked traffic jam on the M55/M6 which was later complemented by a major fire in my local village which shut 90% of the access routes for mugs like me living higher up the valley, nice!

Monday, 19 August 2013

AFC Liverpool 1 Cheadle Town 0

Sunday 18th August 2013
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Attendance: 179
Admission: £5
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Still enduring takeaway rehab
Weather: Mainly sunny, light breeze, mild and dry
Parking: Council car park 5 minutes from ground (free Sundays)
What could be better than a Liverpool v Manchester FA Cup Special? (Ok, I know Cheadle is also near Stockport with a Cheshire postcode but its near enough to Manchester for me). This one was free of nasty additives like overpaid namby pamby footballers who blow over in the breeze, there was no vanity, no diving and no nasty elements of people looking for trouble (unless you pushed in the queue at the tea hut). A nice change from the over-hyped, over-charged dancing classes we see with the big cities Premier League sides. AFC Liverpool are one of a select bunch of NWCL sides who always seem to have a certain style and charisma about them. Their escapades on the pitch are superbly backed up by an excellent website offering quality reporting and photography alongside the added attraction of well presented post match interviews with the respective Managers, you should give it a try on The club was only established in 2008 and following some pretty impressive form in the NWCL Division 1 this is their second season in the Premier Division. They've started the season well with 3 wins out of 4 in the league, some may argue if it wasn't for some dodgy refereeing decisions it would be 4 out of 4? Their opponents from Park Road play in Division 1 of the NWCL and have a decent squad who are more than capable of passing the ball around and playing good football, they certainly weren't entering the tie as also-rans. Cheadle arrived looking for a win which quickly became evident as the first half wore on.
AFC Liverpool play their home games at Valerie Park which is also the home of Prescot Cables from the Evo Stik Northern Premier League. The ground is full of old school charm and character.. besides a few rough edges. I've been here twice before in winter months and never been inside the ground. Both occasions witnessed very late postponements from new age referees who didn't fancy getting their socks dirty. The pitch has a few drainage problems and can be dodgy if it rains a bit (like 9 months of the year). That wasn't a problem today as the pitch looked in perfect condition for the game. The obvious feature attraction of Valerie Park is the large 1950's grandstand, it looms over the rest of the ground like a mountain of uncut vintage design, full of classic character, presence and style, it really does make the place a very impressive non league ground, its also a tremendous antidote for flat-pack-itis which pollutes so many new stands in certain quarters of the NWCL. 
The rest of the stadium sees a covered terrace stretching two thirds across the town centre end with the other touchline and the far end of the pitch remaining uncovered with shallow grass banking and hard standing. There is a great looking bar under the grandstand and a tea hut built into the front of it, unfortunately AFC Liverpool do not reap the rewards of ale and grub sales at the ground, it goes to their hosts Prescot Cables instead. There is a band of enthusiastic home supporters in red and white clobber, if you want to join them there is a selection of merchandise available online or from the selection spread out adjacent to the bar during home games. They also adorn the grandstand with various flags which sets a nice backdrop to the action. I didn't get anything from the tea hut due to some ongoing problems following a 7 day binge involving a chop suey house (say no more) so I spent my tea hut money on a match programme. I was relieved to find out there was something to read in it following some pretty naff purchases at other NWCL grounds recently.

Onto the action. We kicked off in resplendent sunshine before a healthy crowd and the home side soon started to create some pressure. I wouldn't say too many chances were created but Cheadle were definitely on the back foot. AFC Liverpool looked sharp in midfield with Steve Williams making a positive impression. 
Unfortunately for the reds supporters they just couldn't turn the possession into goals and slowly but surely Cheadle forced a remarkable turnaround in the proceedings. During the last 15 to 20 minutes of the first half the visitors cut Liverpool apart with some clinical passing opening up the defence at will, time and time again Cheadle broke forwards only to see their efforts unrewarded. I got the impression this was a critical period of the match for Cheadle, the fact that they went back in at half time without a goal turned out to be a deciding factor in the outcome of the game. AFC Liverpool manager Paul Moore doesn't strike me as the kind of person to hold back his words in expressing a home truth or two. I reckon a few home players got a clear message from him in the changing rooms to get out there and prove their quality and determination to grab the initiative back from Cheadle. That they certainly did. It was a much more dominant and controlled home performance in that second half. Players like John Lawless and Steve Jones looked much more dangerous as the Cheadle goal was peppered with incoming traffic. I reckon Liverpool hit the woodwork at least 6 or 7 times. It was Paul Brown who got the all important goal as he bundled it in after 54 minutes. Despite prolonged pressure there was no increase to the tally. Its fair to say Cheadle had a good few opportunities to equalise as they refused to give up and sped forwards on some dangerous looking counter attacks. They will be disappointed not to at least get a replay out of a game they seemed to dominate just before the break. 
I left the ground to the applause and positive comments from those nearby that it had been a thoroughly good cup tie which was in the balance right up until the final whistle. The reward for AFC Liverpool in the next round is a nice looking trip to one of the most scenic grounds in the North, Ramsbottom United, they can also play a bit as well, should be a cracker!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Norton United 4 Runcorn Town 1

Saturday 10th August 2013
North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 80
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.50
Tea Hut Stuff: Nah, took my own sandwiches
Parking: Club car park
Weather: Light cloud, mild and dry
Despite the usual M6 traffic jam heading south I quite enjoyed my first trip to the scenic Community Drive stadium. Apart from the result that is. Norton is part of the urban spread of what may best be described as downtown Stoke on Trent. I think there are 5 towns making up what outsiders call Stoke? Anyway the Match Tank passed a good few Port Vale FC signs on the way in. It was the Bobby Robson National Football Day and Norton were one of two designated NWCL clubs (Bootle were the other one) putting on special events to mark the occasion, this meant a busy little car park full of junior footballers and accompanying mums and dads. The car park was also serving an ongoing match at the adjacent cricket club, I was lucky to get one of the last parking spots. As this was a new ground for me I decided to splash out on a programme.
I soon remembered why I had stopped purchasing non league publications. It was full of adverts and recent results alongside generic league fixtures cut and pasted from the NWCL website, sorry no disrespect intended but this kind of programme is certainly not worth £1.50 and anyone with any sense would not be making return purchases, its a shame so many non league programmes fall into this trap. Surely in this day and age clubs can find somebody willing to contribute an independent club related article to a match day programme that is not blatantly copied from the leagues own website? To make matters worse, my programme was so dishevelled by miss matching folding I had to take it apart and restaple it! 
Fortunately that was my only negative as regards the host club, the pitch was in excellent condition and the whole place had the appearance of a spick and span stadium with a charismatic open aspect, it was a credit to the club and the NWCL. The charismatic pitch level experience is complemented by a smart white fully railed fence. Alongside the touchline set below the new changing and committee room block resides the low level Main Stand with seating arrangements.

Both ends are open aspect with hard standing. The opposite touchline has a new looking covered terrace offering protection from the winter-elements (once they arrive). 
I reckon its a nice ground. I didn't bother with any tea hut stuff as I was going to hit my local Chinese Chop Suey house on the way home, instead I had the pleasure of a couple of prison standard ham and cheese sandwiches the wife had thrown together, I suppose they served a purpose but the quality was appalling? I'm not going to drawl on about all the specific match details, there are reports on both clubs websites catering for all that information. All I will reference is that Norton fully deserved the win against one of the top sides in the league, not quite sure if it rated a 4-1 scoreline but Runcorn Town will have no complaints that they were outplayed on the day. 
Town have now lost two games on the trot after an impressive opening day victory over Brent Peters Bacup and Rossendale Borough? Its not panic stations but Town need to find the form they are capable of sooner rather than later, there are some fine sides in this seasons NWCL competition, can Norton be one of those sides staking a claim for glory? Just look at the excellent form they had in their 2011/12 Division 1 promotion season. This is a much harder division but they certainly played well enough today, it will be interesting to see if they can keep up the high standard, they look to have some good quality players and they apply an entertaining style of football.