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

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.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Maine Road 2 Runcorn Town 1

Monday 5th August 2013
North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 110
Admission: £5
Tea Hut Stuff: Had a big tea before I got there
Parking: Busy club car park
Weather: Late sunshine after a day of rain
5am. The day after the night before. Surely, on occasion, you must have awoken with that awful realisation that something bad has happened? It normally takes a few seconds to recollect what the tragedy is. I had this uncomfortable experience first thing this morning, then it hit me... Brantingham Road, Maine Road FC and one of the most out of character Runcorn Town performances since.. well.. the last time Town came here, if anything, last nights debacle was worse than last seasons questionable poor showing.

Two of the best sides in the NWCL were expected to put on a feast of football, it fell as flat as an upturned takeaway pizza. This was a scrappy disjointed football match perpetrated by an up-and-at-em Maine Road side resolutely committed to hard and fast tackling in an aggressive pack formation. Runcorn Town never settled and got sucked into the trap. Despite ample possession Town failed to dominate, distribution could have been better, a calm controlling midfield presence was lacking and clear cut chances were very much limited in supply. Maine Road can counter attack very quickly and once they got the all important opening goal it was going to take something very special to unlock their solid defensive formation. Unfortunately, in this match, nobody had a set of keys on them.

The genuine frustration is that Town can play so much better than this, I remember driving home thoroughly fed up at such an ugly, fragmented brute of a football match. With no disrespect intended, the fact is sides like Maine Road and a lot more outfits not as talented as them are going to set out to stop Runcorn Town playing their normal attractive football. That's the game, its not breaking any rules, but it doesn't make it any easier to stand there and watch it. What I am sure about is that some side is going to take a tanking for last nights disappointment, the Management will make sure of that. Bring it on!

From a quality-football perspective, a game best forgotton, unless of course, you are a Maine Road fan, credit to Road they did what they had to do very well indeed. The Manchester side have now beaten Barnoldswick and Runcorn Town in the first 3 days of the new season. Their intentions are obvious and they are a clear and evident danger. Under estimate them at your peril.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Runcorn Town 4 Bacup and Rossendale Borough 1

Saturday 3rd August 2013
North West Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 141
Admission: £5
Tea Hut Stuff: Cheeseburger £2
Parking: Beside the Pavillions
Weather: Long sunny intervals, light cloud, pleasantly warm

Brent Peters drives the Bacup Squad home
The start of the North West Counties League season has been even more enticingly anticipated than normal. The niggling fact that Runcorn Town came so close to winning this competitive league last season only to suffer an unbelievable and cruel number of setbacks in the final run in still hurts. The new campaign has seen a number of big talking wide walking contenders throw their hats into the ring. Every club has large ambitions and positive objectives before a casey has been kicked. Runcorn Town are certainly one of 3 or 4 gunslinging clubs every glory hunting cow poke side across the North West aspires to, and theres no shortage of jumped up wanna-be's who think they're fast enough to replace them. The prominent forces of Bootle and Maine Road loom large again, two fine sides with strength in depth, these will probably pose the major foreseeable threat to Runcorn Town, as for the rest its simply a case of 'who knows'? Some people are touting Glossop, others Stockport Sports, what about Congleton, Barnoldswick even Bacup? I've also got a sneaky feeling a side currently 'off the radar' might shock a few people this time around, Ashton Athletic, under a new management set up with some decent signings they could certainly ruffle a few feathers. Its going to be tough, very hard and thoroughly entertaining. My reason for watching Runcorn Town quite a lot is that you always get quality football, Simon Burton and Danny Salt have blended a rich seam of total-football adherence with a very talented squad of players able to adopt various tactical strategies. Todays game against Brent Peters Bacup outfit was a typical example of how Runcorn Town take sides apart root and branch and deliver clinical finishing with lethal results. Bacup are a decent developing side but they were forced to play second fiddle throughout their thoroughly uncomfortable visit to the Pavillions today. I'm not going to go through a match report schedule of every kick and chance of who did what etc, thats already on the Runcorn Town website, what I will comment upon is that this was a very impressive Runcorn Town performance that provides confidence that they are going to be one of the main protagonists of this glorious NWCL season. Performances warranting special reference in despatches include Mark Keddie in midfield, Karl Willis in goal, Kevin Lester at full back and a resurgent Gareth Grant up front. We also got a contender for goal of the season in the very first match, an absolute cracker from Andrew Potter as he jinked around numerous defenders, cut into the box and lobbed the ball over the sprawling Bacup keeper with a truly sublime finish. Wonderful. On an end note I must mention what a bloody good cheeseburger I had in the clubhouse just before kick off. None of this mushy cheap dross you get at some grounds, it was a proper juicy burger with a nice griddled crust on a fresh white bun, excellent.
Next up... Maine Road away on Monday night (is that a tough looking fixture or what)?