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 April 2013

Stockport Sports 1 Runcorn Town 1

Saturday 27th April 2013
North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 63
Admission: £7 (ouch)
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea £1.20
Weather: Bright and sunny, slight chill in the breeze
Parking: In the excellent car park facilities at the ground
This is Stockport Sports first season in football, never mind first season in the North West Counties League. They play at the rather nice Stockport Sports Village which has all manner of sporting facilities both inside and outdoors and is a very impressive set up. Many footy fans will remember the Woodley Sports side who once played at the same postcode in the Evo Stick Northern Premier League, that club is no more and the place has been significantly refurbished. What does remain is the tidy little Main Stand and the plastic pitch, or should I say 4G ground breaking playing surface? Some folk love em some despise em but this type of pitch is here to stay, they've even got them in Rugby League these days (Widnes Vikings) and there are a growing number of Scottish League sides employing them. I will always prefer grass but the 4G is miles better than the initial plastic pitches which were originally trialed through clubs like QPR and Preston North End, I remember the ball bouncing 20 yards high all the time. This new surface provides a much more natural experience and certainly provides a platform for decent standards of football. Compared to some of the uneven badly rutted surfaces in certain quarters of the NWCL its even a bit of a luxury.
I suppose the flash surroundings and the fancy pitch have to come at a price, in this case its a wopping 7 quid to get in (when the NWCL standard is normally £5) and you do witness an inevitable lack of character in the stadium which always seems to transpire when a corporate image is employed. Even a cup of tea is a tad more expensive than expected at this level. Perhaps these factors may be a reason why there are so few home supporters attending, I think its fair to say the vast majority of the 60 odd people in the stadium were following Runcorn Town.
Its a shame there are not more locals giving Stockport Sports a try as they do go out and play some good open football. The side they put out against Town had a bit of a continental feel to it with a sprinkling of French and East European players (which is a bit of a novelty for the NWCL). Despite the positive profile their current lower mid table league position has surprised a few pundits in the game, many people had expected them to be pushing for the title, they just haven't achieved the necessary consistency that is required in what is a very tough and competitive Premier Division.
Moving onto the visitors Runcorn Town, its fair to say the dream of winning the title has been destroyed by a Cheshire FA & NWCL directive to deduct 3 points from them during the crucial final furlong of the season long title race. I've already said my piece on the unfairness of this decision so I'm not dwelling on it here. Faced with making up the lost points 'immediately' Town found the pressure too great and failed to apply their usual quality football when it was needed the most, instead the Town side became victims of trying too hard and forcing crucial passages of play only to be exploited by the opposition which in turn was harshly complimented by some hard to believe refereeing decisions, when it rains it pours they say and Town certainly got a soaking when they lost 2 vital games in 3 days last week, both to title rivals at their home fortress 'The Pavillions', first it was Bootle on the Saturday followed up by another defeat at the hands of Winsford United on the Monday. This left them having to win their last 2 games (starting with Stockport) but more critically their respective title rivals, primarily Bootle & Padiham, had to lose all their remaining league games, a bridge too far I believe. With this in mind it was a more relaxed event for the good many Runcorn Town supporters who enjoyed some rare sunshine at the Sports Village, most acknowledged that the title had slipped from grasp with the consensus of opinion dictating that this would make the club double-determined to win the league next season (and I certainly wouldn't disagree with that, in fact they will probably start favourites). There are some fine sides in this NWCL Premier Division this season, classy Maine Road, the ruthless Bootle outfit, the steely grinders of Padiham, even Winsford have made a late run but the best side I've seen all season is by far and away Runcorn Town, the nearest thing to total-football this side of Non League. Who knows what may have happened if that bloody points deduction hadn't materialised? Lets get onto the action on the pitch.... Jakob Warchyka got free of the Runcorn defence on the half hour to put the home side 1-0 up, some full on challenges were being made in midfield with Burton & Keddie providing their usual 100% quality effort for Runcorn.
Unfortunately one of the Stockport overseas debutants Abdoulay Coulibaly just couldn't keep up with the speed and guile of the Town deadly duo and was sent off for persistent late challenges, I dont think Abdoulay was being malicious, it was more a fact that Scotty Burton & Mark Keddie were too quick for him. Both sides created good chances and a plentiful supply of decent football was provided.
With Town 1-0 down at the break Simon Burton took Chris Lawton off and put Will Dolan into midfield, Will took his opportunity well and put Town level in the 53rd minute. As the game moved into the final quarter Town started to dominate the proceedings and created chance after chance in the Stockport 18 yard area, how they didn't find the net is beyond belief, they just couldn't get the ball over the line, no wonder Simon Burton and Danny Salt were going beserk in the away team dug out.
This really should have been a clear away win but credit to Stockport for providing stern opposition even with 10 men, they never stopped trying to play their football. Sadly this was the last Runcorn Town away match of the season, I've seen them play some great stuff on the road when I've been lucky enough to be there, their supporters must be the friendliest bunch of fans on the circuit, if you're ever stuck for a game of football to watch and you find that Runcorn Town are playing nearby go along and give them a try, you wont be disappointed!
As the days other results came in it was a shock to learn Bootle had let 6 goals in at home to Barnoldswick, the defeat had opened the door fully wide for Padiham who won away at Ashton Athletic. Padiham now look odds on for the title, Bootle have to win their final two games and turn around a 14 goal differential with Padihams goal difference, looks done and dusted... unless there is a final twist in the last chapter of the book? Guess who Padiham have to play in their final game of the season next Saturday?...... Runcorn Town... away!

Runcorn Town 1 Bootle 2

Saturday 20th April 2013
NWCL Premier Division
Attendance: 218
Admission: 5 quid
Tea Hut Stuff: Too nervous to eat
Weather: Bright & sunny, mild
Parking: Pavillions approach road

Town hit the post, the bar, missed a penalty and had Phil Howard sent off (say no more).

Bootle still deserved the victory.

Title aspirations in tatters.

Sulking isn't the word!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Breaking News

Following recognition that I was right all along, I have diplomatically decided to review an appeal from previously unknown North West Counties League sources to restore a NWCL presence on the Wheres The Tea Hut site.

The appeal arrived in the post and was in the same format often witnessed in ransom demands, it used cut up newspaper text to make up a statement begging me to take the NWCL back into the fold and that they had been more than a little rash to (in what the letter describes) 'f*ck up the title run in'.

The letter was simply signed 'Yours Apologetically, Doreen'.

I would have favoured an official apology from the League but what the hell this Doreen woman sounds genuine and its only fair I consider the approach and review the situation accordingly.

My review of whether the NWCL get back in my good books will take place after a few pints and a big chippy supper later this evening (I can see them now... sweating on it in their 3 year old Vodkat League sponsored Car Coats).
Serves em right for messing about with the mighty Runcorn Town!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

North West Counties League Administration

Due to unacceptable NWCL decisions resulting in unfair points deductions the Wheres The Tea Hut site has been suspended until further notice.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Wigan Robin Park 0 Runcorn Town 1

Saturday 6th April
North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 76
Admission: £6
Tea Hut Stuff: Meat & Potato Pie and a Tea £2.30 all in.
Weather: Bright and sunny, slight chill in the breeze.
Parkng: Club car park

I've done the Wigan RP experience already this season (see visit report v Barnoldswick) so no pictures this time around.

This was a must win game for Runcorn Town, anything less than 3 points would give their title chasing opponents a vital edge in the exciting end of season run in.

Most of the crowd appeared to be following Town in the wide open Robin Park Stadium and quite a number were already in the lounge area at the top of the big stand when I arrived. You cannot go to Wigan and not have a pie, last time I came here they had a kitchen fire 2 hours before kick off and burned them all. This time around I was fortunate enough to sample a Meat and Potato special and it lived up to the hype. A bit brown on the crust but a really tasty filling.

I found todays action on the pitch a bit of a let down really. The important factor was that Runcorn Town won, the fact that they won 'ugly' will be forgotten soon enough, its the points that matter. No disrespect intended to Wigan the stadium is not the most atmospheric ground on the NWCL circuit and being so far from the pitch behind the athletics track seems to alienate the spectator.

Paul Shanley got Towns winner in the 13th minute, my early optimism for a goal fest proved well short of the mark. The first half witnessed Wigan playing a rather tentative formation with only one man up front on most occasions. In response the more open tactics applied by Town seemed to get bogged down in a busy midfield area. Few chances and fragmented scrappy football was the result.

I'd sat in the stand for the first half which was a bit like a deep freeze in all the shade, the option to stand in the sunshine on the far side of the stadium was a much more favourable option for the second period. Once over there it became evident that the pitch seemed about a quarter of a mile away, a sinking sun also made clear visibility a bit of a pain, I chanced my arm like a few others to stand on the running track in front of the barrier to get closer to the action, fortunately nobody stopped the incursion.

Wigan came back into the game much stronger as the game reached the hour mark, they fed on the nervous indecision of the visitors as intricately planned moves fizzled out halfway through the plot. As in the previous encounter with Runcorn Linnets, Town gave away far too many free kicks deep in their own territory, whether fair or foul, it was hard work watching the outcome. Fortunately (for Town) Wigan just couldn't grab an equaliser, despite hitting the inside of the post with a fine long range volley.

The thought that a seasons effort could fizzle out in this ping-pong non spectacle of a game made the tension even greater as the final whistle approached, I for one was more than glad when the referee blew for full time. Runcorn Town took the points but in fairness to Wigan Robin Park they probably deserved a draw. 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Runcorn Town 2 Runcorn Linnets 1

Easter Monday 1st April 2013
North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 665
Admission: £5
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea £1 (From the new 'Heres The Tea Hut' cabin)
Weather: Cold, grey & very bleak for the time of year
Parking: On the crowded lane beside the Pavilions car park
I'd persuaded Frugal Glenn to come out of exile for this massive local derby, he's always had a soft spot for Runcorn Town ever since he came along to see them in a classic end to end NWCL Challenge Cup semi final at New Mills. I got the tight sod to pay me in as recompense for the 100 mile diesel costs, having got in for free (so to speak) I splashed out on a programme from Big Kev and even had a go on Stephanies £1 football card, when I extended the rash spending spree to a cup of tea Frugal Glenn was absolutely fuming. I couldn't miss buying something from the newly titled tea hut which has opened on the far side of the ground, they've named it 'Heres The Tea Hut' which I think is in response to the title of this blog, fantastic stuff! The new hut first opened for the Vase match against Walsall Wood and compliments the main hot food outlet in the clubhouse beside the dressing rooms.
The lads in the Tea Hut had their work cut out as hordes of eager Linnets Supporters descended on the place, it was like a scene from Rorkes Drift as the tiny Town Tea Hut was besieged by hundreds of Zulu's (or in this case people in rather garish yellow and green hoops). I've always likened Runcorn Town to the Brazil side, their superb fast flowing football with clinical passing and decisive finishing reminds me of the 1970 World Cup winning squad. I know this is absolutely barmy to 99% of people. Lately I've had to agree with others that my silly claim that a NWCL side such as Runcorn Town are equal to the Brazilian national side is childish and stupid, especially after the way Brazil played last week in that crappy friendly with Russia, Town are miles better than the latest crop of Samba Boys! How nice to see todays pitch lightly sanded to typify Copacabana Beach, all we needed now was that Barry Manilow tune and Duran Duran singing Rio beside an impromptu barbecue behind the Toilet Block. Frugal Glenn felt dizzy after parting with 10 quid at the turnstiles so we had to sit down. What a mistake! We soon realised we were sat amongst all the Linnets fans and it was obvious from the start that they'd rolled out some of their very best one-eyed mega-moaning supporters.
What is it with so many Linnets fans, some of them just love to belittle Runcorn Town in any which way they can, I know its not all Linnets people, some of them are very fair and open minded but me and Frugal got sat behind a couple of old blokes on the halfway line who just trashed everything to do with Town for the whole of the first half, the players, the pitch, the tactics, the ground, you name it they had a bloody good moan about it. You cannot help but say something in defence, which of course makes them even worse, they reckoned me and Frugal Glenn shouldn't be even sitting in the stand because it was meant for Linnets Supporters, eh? Unbelievable. It reminded me of the great album title Dark Side of the Moon. Needless to say we moved to the clubhouse side of the ground for the second half, not sure if Frugal realised how much it seems to hurt a lot of Linnets people to simply see their neighbours doing well.
Anyway, reflecting on the first half of football, my personal opinion was that it was a dog of a match, awfully scrappy and disjointed, both sides seemed edgy and nervous to play football, a few chances came at both ends including a nailed on Runcorn Town penalty when Phil Howard was fouled in the box, I suppose 0-0 was an appropriate scoreline at the break.
It was critical that Town took 3 points from this match, the pack of clubs around them at the top of the table, Maine Road, Padiham, Bootle and Winsford had all been picking up speed whilst Town could only manage a draw in last Saturdays tussle at defiant AFC Blackpool. The local fans were well up for it in the second half and it was a tremendous atmosphere behind Simon Burtons dug out.
It was impossible not to get sucked into the passion of it all, not only was this a big local derby, the chance of keeping title winning aspirations depended upon it. Trying to be fair about the football on the pitch I think Runcorn Linnets appeared the more likely side to win this match in the second half. They reappeared from the changing rooms with more composure and drive and seemed to retain the ball a lot better than Town. The home side were snatching at things rather than playing their normal methodical football. When Linnets went 1-0 up as Towns keeper Karl Wills unfortunately collided with a post whilst handling the ball, a dark cloud seemed to appear behind the half built waste incinerator plant behind the far side of the ground. The big Linnets contingent in the big 665 attendance went mad with delight! Rather than throw in the towel, Town somehow found new spirit and faced up to the gathering gloom.
Whilst the told-you-so Linnets army danced with delight and threw their bobble hats in the air, Town got the ball forwards from the back and Paul Shanley brought a blinding flash of light to the proceedings.... Town had somehow managed to equalise within 4 minutes! It was the turn for the opposite side of the ground to erupt. I knew then that as good as Runcorn Linnets were (and they do have some very good players) Town would not be beaten, the question was could they calm themselves down and find some clinical passage of play to get the chance of a winner? With 15 minutes left of what was now a totally gripping second half Super Danny Dalton sent a Small Town From Weston to Dreamland! He rose like Thunderbird 1 to head home a second goal for Runcorn Town, Simon Burton the Manager was dancing on the pitch as normal blokes in anoraks punched the air like trojans on speed. It doesn't get much better. Linnets did all they could to spoil the party as everyone kept checking their watches.
The opposition fans howled at the referee and the linesman down the far end of the ground, Linnets players were dropping like flys under harmless challenges and far too easily in my book, surely victory wasn't going to be denied because of easily influenced officials who bottled it amidst the baying mob? Town just couldn't keep the ball, Simon Burton told them to get it in the corner, there was only seconds left now... and then the referee blew and every Town supporter gave praise for victory! The big local derby had gone to Runcorn Town and the dream of the title still had a heart beat, a loss or even a draw could have proved critically damaging. I can honestly say I've not been so totally wrapped up in a second half of football for a very long time indeed, it was simply superb.