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

Sunday, 26 January 2014


No game last Saturday.
Set off in good faith, got halfway to the ground when a dark navy-bruised grey sky spread like an oil slick from the bowels of hell. The evil cloud monster burst without mercy and the rain trounced it down relentlessly.
Needless to say the last available game on my list (which I had researched for pitch inspection updates all morning long) slid into the deep dank pond of waterlogged postponements swamping the UK nationwide.
Its January and this kind of sh*t happens.
If it wasn't non stop rain it would be snow or perhaps a sub zero frost?
It doesn't make it any easier though.
Once my game of choice was postponed I was hijacked for compulsory shopping at Bury Market, Boss Hogg from Krugg House was rubbing her hands at the opportunity of a free lift and somebody to lug all her bags around down at the black pudding stalls.
Needless to say I'm not in an entirely positive mood at the moment.
Bit sick of getting p*ssed wet through for very little return.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

FC United 1 Trafford 1

Tuesday 21st January 2014
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Attendance: 1,598
Admission: £8
Programme: £2 (From postponed game on New Years Day)
Tea Hut Stuff: Not paying Rick Stein prices at a Non League match
Weather: Awful! Absolutely poured down. Rain, rain, rain
Parking: Pants parking at Gigg Lane, 5-10 minutes walk (in the rain)
Two cars driven by two young women who were probably gaping at their trendy smart phones in the traffic light queue had run into each other. Punters pushing for a pre match parking spot were giving them the horn. It was pouring it down, the area surrounding Gigg Lane looked even more depressingly bleak than normal. The sooner FCUM get that new ground in Moston the better.
I paid my cash at the turnstile, once it was hidden away by the eager blokes facing me I got the warning that there was a big doubt whether we'd even kick off.. and if we did we probably wouldn't get to half time? The bloke doing the talking pushed me a ticket and said it was an abandoned match voucher. When I asked if I was going to be refunded later on, he gave me the stare of someone who was now in control of my cash and said no, you'll have to use your voucher for the rearranged game. So now, not only was I p*ssed through they'd also got my money and it looked odds on the game wouldn't even start! I went up the stairs to the Main Stand and looked out on a pitch that was already encountering patches of standing water, the rain was relentless.
Time to have a quick look at the programme to take my mind off Noahs Ark related biblical flooding. I'd read about tonight's issue via the club website and it provided some insight regarding what you get for your 2 quid. It seemed well worth it and flicking through the pages of well written articles and glossy colour pictures it certainly seemed impressive. What bugged me a little was the fact that this was the very same programme which was lined up for the postponed fixture from New Years Day. There was no supplement update sheet included and my frustration was that the website had not mentioned the New Years Day issue being used in their respective programme preview?

I'd had a very favourable tea before setting off for Gigg Lane, I must say some of these supermarket brand warm-up curry meals have really improved in the last 6 months or so, my Tesco variety Lamb Rogan Josh was spot on. 
As it was now 7.30pm I needed to top up, I fancied a quick snack and a hot drink and went into the concourse to find the tea hut, I'd heard a rumour they'd changed those awful pies since my last visit here a couple of seasons ago. Bloody hell! I had to rub my specs, surely that price list above the counter was a p*ss-take? £2.20 for a tea bag! A pound for a bag of crisps! 3 pound-odd for a pie! They can f*ck right off! Now I have to say here and now that FCUM apparently have no control on this rogue tea hut or its ridiculous robbing prices, it appears it is a franchise related to the 'approved-supplier' dealings of Bury Football Club (or so I'm told). I must admit that FCUM are perhaps one of the leaders in cutting costs for supporters of non league football so I can firmly agree that they have nothing to do with this scandalous situation, as I said earlier, the sooner FCUM get their new ground in Moston the better.

Back in the seats, fortunately the weather had calmed down a bit and we now had a light drizzle, thank goodness there was going to be some light at the end of the tunnel. In fact the rain then stopped completely for around half an hour. FC United really needed a win in this game to keep in amongst the play-off pack but it wasn't going to be easy against their classy neighbours Trafford who always play decent football despite having slipped down the table. The pitch held up remarkably well considering the deluge and the opening quarter of the match produced some good football with chances at both ends. Callum Byrne smacked in a long range classic bang in the top corner to put FC ahead but Trafford had got back on level terms after 22 minutes with a Steve Mason header from a free kick. Perhaps it was the weather, or the combative urgency of both sides closing each other down but the rest of the half seemed to fragment into scrappy sections of play. The second half followed a similar path, a bright opening but then long periods of misplaced passes and niggling little fouls. To make things worse, the rain was back and that pitch was getting mighty slippy and very heavy. FC United had a last bash near the final whistle but it wasn't to be and both sides got what was probably deserved from the proceedings, a point each from a 1-1 draw.

This was truly an awful night for a football match and I must admit Gigg Lane is not my favourite location under any circumstances but the efforts of both sets of supporters (Trafford had 90 plus singing along there) gave the event some real atmosphere. FCUM are not everyones cup of tea (especially at £2.20, sorry) but I think they bring far more positives to the non league experience than a lot of smug, dare I say snobby non league folk give them credit for (or would have you believe). I will certainly continue to look forward to going to that new ground in Moston that I seem to keep going on about.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Ashton United 3 Blyth Spartans 3

Saturday 18th January 2014
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Attendance: 147
Admission: £9
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea £1
Weather: Cloudy but dry, bit of a chilly breeze
Parking: Adjacent to the garage on the main road 500 yards away
No fancy action pictures or arse licking style 'please pick my blog for an award' crawling (which seems to have reared its ugly head on some social media networks again recently), I've been this place before in any case and I didn't give it a flashy review that time around either. I admire Blyth Spartans supporters, they travel massive distances to away games from high up in the North East and always give 100% backing to their team (whichever one turns up on the day). In a sparse crowd on a typical January afternoon there was almost as many Blyth people as homers. As the smoke from a nearby rubbish fire in a neighbours back garden wafted across the pitch everybody huddled down in their winter clothing for a 90 minute 3-3 roller coaster ride without the thrills. A scrappy first half was tarnished by one of those new-age Refs who blows for even the slightest contact but completely bottles-it for any contentious decisions. No disrespect intended to the young guy but he didn't help the flow of this game and some of his second half howlers nearly ruined it completely. It was 1-1 at half time courtesy of opportunist efforts at both ends of the pitch, Blyth seemed the more dominant side in the second period, especially when they got a second goal after an undetected hand ball during the build up and soon after the Referee then sent an Ashton player off. Tempers were getting frayed to say the least, mainly due to the gross lack of consistent sensible refereeing, it was never a dirty game but it never got the chance to flow. Here was proof that even a 3-3 scoreline can still provide pretty pap entertainment, at least for a neutral sad pants like me that is. The tidy ground is a blend of scenic charismatic charm and counter productive annoying obstructed views, the main stand side of the pitch looks good but you need to know where to get the best spot to get a decent glimpse of the nets because there's plenty of ironwork stanchions propping up the stand and big f*ck-off dug outs in front of the terracing. They tend to be a bit tight on the fuel bills around here as well (I know I am), how poignant that the linesman had to warn club officials to "turn the bloody lights on" as darkness descended upon the meadow. At 9 quid a head to get in I expect the floodlights to be on well before half time if you dont mind. Various plus points arrive in the form of a well stocked programme and souvenir shop and a nice inviting tea hut. Good to see chips and gravy under 2 quid rather than the Mayfair prices Bradford Park Avenue were ripping people off for on my last visit to a game (its a few spuds and a bit of gravy isn't it, not lobster in a saffron sauce). There is an excellent warm and friendly clubhouse at Ashton United, just the job at half time. Plenty of folk were busy downing pints and watching the big screen TV's for Sky Sports News results (quite a few apparently didn't return for the second half outside).
Full marks for the programme, it was £2 but there is good content and pictures from the last away game, I thought it was an improvement from the edition I purchased when I was last here which I think was back in the 2009/10 season.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Bradford Park Avenue 6 Worcester City 1

Saturday 4th January 2013
Skrill Conference North
Attendance: 288
Admission: £11
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Not paying 3 quid for chips and gravy!
Weather: Dull, grey and cold
Parking: Cemetery Road 100 yards from the turnstile
I took the Match Tank on the high trans-pennine route into Yorkshire, dense fog spread over the hill tops as I crossed the border at Blackstone Edge and headed A58 eastbound through Sowerby Bridge, Halifax and beyond. Down in the valleys it was slate grey, miserable and cold. I thought about stopping for award winning jumbo fish and chips boldly advertised as only £3.50 in a place known as 'Shelf' a few miles from the ground but I stuck to the task and ploughed on regardless towards the Horsfall Stadium on Cemetery Road. I've been to Bradford Park Avenue before, the first thing I noticed on this trip was that the distinctive big pub at the top of the road had shut, it looked like somebody's house now? I got the Match Tank parked a little further along from what must have been the designated Worcester team coach, it was a big flashy red job sign written as the official team bus for Kidderminster Harriers? The nearby lights from the adjacent stadium were already making a visible impression on a significantly grimy afternoon. BPA's Horsfall Stadium has a running track around it and you need to prepare for this in advance. The fact is the action is quite a way from any respective viewing point so you definitely need the extra strong specs with the jam jar zoom lenses. Saying that the place is a lot better than other athletics type stadiums doubling up for football, there is a genuine passion and enthusiasm provided by the loyal BPA staff and supporters which takes the edge off vista infinity views of the weather hammered pitch which can initially appear to be a short bus ride away. 
If you come here looking to have a moan about it you can fill your boots, I'd much rather focus on the positives that this is a great little club who have fought back to hack out a credible respected position in the Conference North and the clubs name alone is one well known to football fans the world over. Its not so bad an environment when you acclimatise to the layout and you don't even really notice it after a short while. I edged into a busy club shop for a match programme, two blokes who seemed to know each other were having a row in front of the counter. Bloke No.1 with a Huddersfield Town bobble hat on was ridiculing Bloke No.2, who must have been a Leeds United supporter for not being at Rochdale for Leeds FA Cup tie that afternoon. The Leeds fan defended himself by saying he couldn't get a ticket. After some derogatory gloating from the Huddersfield fan stating "there's nothing worse than a part timer" there was a short pause before the Leeds fan hit back with a cutting backhand enquiring that if the Huddersfield fan was so against part-timer antics "why wasn't he at bloody Grimsby Town then" where Huddersfield had their cup tie the same afternoon. The insults got a bit more personal after that and a queue was building up, the chap behind the counter took it in turn to carry on with sales over and around the two West Yorkshire football fans as if he'd seen it all before. I next ventured to the Tea Hut to check out the chips and gravy that had been recommended in a visit report blog by 'Manc hopper'. 
I had to double check the price list when I saw they were asking 3 quid? I don't care if I was a tad hungry or not I'm not paying 3 pounds for chips. You can get a pie thrown in at most non league grounds for that kind of dosh (I think Pie, Chips and Gravy is just over 2 quid at Mossley FC for instance)? Somewhat insulted I left for a seat in the big green and white grandstand in a bit of a huff (I wasn't carrying emergency rations either). Having had a look at the programme I'd calmed down a bit, a nice glossy publication with good content and pictures, some good information on the visitors as well, a recommended decent read for £2.

Avenue were on a bad losing streak coming into this game, if you include an FA Trophy tie they'd lost 6 on the bounce and they currently held a mid table position. Worcester City themselves were having an even worse season just one place off the bottom of the league. There were a good few groans from the locals when Worcester went 1-0 up early in the game. Despite some terrible weather in this part of the country recently the pitch seemed to hold up reasonably well but obviously it would cut up more and more as the game went on. 
This didn't stop Avenue playing some fine attacking football as they set about getting back in the game and they gradually turned things around to command a 3-1 half time lead. I was most impressed with the quality of play, even Worcester had played some good stuff in response. I took a wander around the running track during half time and got a closer look at the changing rooms on the far side of the pitch which always looks like a big Brewers Fayre pub restaurant from a distance. 
Upon a close up inspection the enticing mystery of the place is quickly eroded. Especially with the shipping container bogs either side of it. I was looking forward to another half of fast paced entertaining football but the second period failed to live up to expectations. Worcester dug in and scrapped their way back into contention but couldn't got the ball in the net, a more sedate BPA still got the ball forward and eventually netted 3 more goals to underline their superiority with a slightly flattering 6-1 scoreline. Avenue were the better team of that there is no doubt but I'm not sure if it warranted a 6-1 'tonking' classification. It appeared most BPA supporters were having a double celebration when news filtered through on the air waves that Rochdale were beating Leeds United 2-0 with minutes left to play, old rivalries die hard in these parts, this is Bradford after all, perhaps the bloke having that row in the club shop earlier on was mighty glad he couldn't get a ticket for Spotland after all?

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Chorley 3 AFC Fylde 1

Wednesday 1st January 2014
Evo Stik NPL Premier Division
Attendance: 1020
Admission: £9
Programme: £2
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea £1
Weather: Blustery and grey, rain during the second half
Parking: Couple of streets away, easy exit
You can always get a good pie in Chorley, the local indoor market has loads of em, decent ones too, no rubbish street food in this town. There were quite a few pies on view at Victory Park as well. Chorley FC have not one but two busy tea huts and half an hour before kick off the locals were lined up out the door at the Magpies Nest which is the bigger of the two food outlets. 
Frugal Glenn had travelled ahead to get us a couple of seats in the magnificent traditional grandstand, when I joined him he'd already had a row with some bloke because Frugal had refused to move up a seat to let some bloke and his tribe on the end of the row. One of the downsides of a majestic old style football stand is all the ironwork and stanchions that can impede your view of the goalmouths, if you naively 'move-up' you can end up looking at a rusting metal column for the rest of the afternoon. Frugal Glenn certainly isn't the kind of easy-touch-charity-do-gooder to give up his prime view of the proceedings for 3 snotty chair-kicker kids and a 'chancer' in a British Home Stores car coat. I think BHS man had somehow got the message and was nowhere in site upon my arrival?
Todays big game was the pick of a healthy looking New Years Day Evo Stik Premier Division schedule despite a few earlier casualties sinking away due to waterlogging. When will these storms and winds ever end? Chorley look a very strong outfit sitting in 3rd spot in the table with games in hand over both Worksop and Skelmersdale ahead of them. Visitors AFC Fylde are a quality footballing unit who had been many punters favourites for the title until they have recently hit a surprisingly poor run of form, they've dropped to sixth place and badly needed something from this game.
Despite plenty of rain in the period leading up to the match the Victory Park pitch looked in perfect condition for the time of year and superbly complimented what must surely be one of the most charismatic 'old school' football grounds left on the circuit. The grandstand itself warrants your admission money as it holds court over the two covered terraces at either end of the ground. Across the pitch from the Main Stand is the popular grass banking, which due to ridiculous league-authority health and safety reasons is now out of bounds for spectators. You can still watch the proceedings from the hard standing adjacent to the pitch but the grass bank is blocked off with 'trespassers will be shot' signs. I've written hundreds of Risk Assessments for a living but I'd never dream one up predicting a major foreseeable risk to health for watching a game of football on a shallow bit of grass, jobsworths!
I had a quick shifty through the match programme before kick off and it was pleasing to see a publication that had plenty to read, interesting articles, decent photographs and the uncommon realisation that is was actually value for money. Down by the turnstiles the last few spectators were grabbing a copy just before kick off.
A blustery wind was blowing towards the town centre end of the ground as the action got underway and this seemed to blow Chorley forward only for Fylde to attempt to pass their way out of trouble. Chances came and went but the game never reached the promise of a classic, now and again there would be a superb passage of play only for fragmentation and broken play to rear its head, hardly surprising considering the wind factor. Both sides got on the scoresheet and we seemed set for a 1-1 half time break. The 3 minutes of injury time changed this closely fought encounter completely. Chorley hitman James Dean whacked a screeching shot from outside the box straight into the top right hand corner of the Fylde net before running like a deranged madman into the arms of Gary Flitcroft and the rest of the coaching staff in front of the dug out, what a goal! Fylde looked visibly shell shocked, what a bad time to concede a goal. They kicked off, immediately lost possession, the ball was punted forwards down the right, the Fylde defence failed to react quickly enough, the wind seemed to caress the ball into the on rushing path of Chorley's Josh Hine and he somehow lobbed the ball over the keeper into the empty net, 3-1 to Chorley! The place went mad. Fylde looked totally soul destroyed. 
The rain swept in for the second half, Frugal Glenn wanted us to stand up because his dodgy knee was giving him pain in the wooden seats of the Grandstand, an old war wound from his time as a yard dog centre half many years past. We ended up on the far touchline in front of the grass bank, needless to say we got wet. AFC Fylde steadfastly tried to play themselves back in the game but Chorley weren't for sitting back and they gave as good as they got in that second period. 
When the visitors went down to 10 men for one too many midfield non-compliance's the game was up. A fine win for Chorley against a decent AFC Fylde side who seem to be encountering a few gearbox problems at the moment? Great place to watch a game of football. 
The Match Tank returned us towards the Pennine's via Adlington on the A6 meeting the M61 adjacent to the brightly lit Reebok Stadium were Bolton Wanderers had just been hosting Middlesbrough (poor buggers). Frugal Glenn got one of his remnant samosa's out of his bread bag, obviously a survivor from the carnage of the previous nights unsavoury proceedings, we both agreed we'd picked the better place to be that afternoon.