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

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Return to Bower Fold

Loads of games this weekend but strangely none of them provided me with the get up and go factor to pump excess diesel into the Match Tank for a prolonged trip to a new venue. When Flint Towns game with Oldham Boro bit the dust in rather secretive circumstances I decided to just go to a match for the fun of it irrespective of whether it was a new ground or not. I decided to wander along to Bower Fold the home of Stalybridge Celtic, they happened to be playing Southport whom I also have a bit of a soft spot for. I enjoyed the match but had already decided to not do a full-on visit report. I've taken loads of photographs of the wonderful Bower Fold ground in the past, there was no urge to add to whats been done before.

Here is a cut and paste job of the message I left on the 'Non League Matters' forum under their classification of "where did you go".

Admission: £7
Attendance: 123 (head count)
Programme: None printed
Tea Hut Stuff: Too hot for grub (had a pint of weak lager in the clubhouse instead £3, not much choice, pants)
Weather: Hot and sultry, lots of sunshine
Parking: Just over the main road from the official club car park (which was charging cash).

I've had enough pre season friendlies now, the novelty has worn off.
Dont reckon this encounter warranted 7 quid entry but I seem to like both sides and Bower Fold is a superb non league setting.
Decent quality football for the most part, I'd give it 6/10.
Not many turned out crowd wise, the away end totalled 4 teenagers with Southport shirts.
The usually popular tea hut was mega quite, they were trying to sell off remnant pies (at half price) at the exit gate come full time.
The ground has been well covered on here over the years (I'll say no more other than its fabulous).
Bridge are badly in need of a striker to hack it at Conference North level for the upcoming season.
Southport looked to have something about them on this showing, plenty of positives to work upon.
Was going to do a visit report and some snaps for 'Wheres The Tea Hut' but I've been to Bower Fold too many times in the past.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Clitheroe 1 FC United 4

Tuesday 22nd July 2014
Pre Season Friendly
Attendance: 304
Admission: £5
Programme: £1.50 (for 5 games) doh!
Tea Hut Stuff: Steak & Kidney Pie, Mushy Peas £2
Weather: Very warm sunny evening
Parking: Side street 5 minutes from the ground
26 degrees as I hit the town boundary. Constant sunshine. Clitheroe is a charismatic little town nestled in the scenic Ribble Valley. I know it well from various antique and house clearance auctions, it also holds a monster 7am Sunday morning car boot sale that has hawks and wannabe dealers fighting over junk and lots of other things that quite frankly would be better off left on a tip. There are some trendy local produce butchers specialising in fancy tasting sausages, a castle, a decent little market and some proper pubs. When you add the fantastic looking non league ground to the list, this is probably a decent place to live.
Clitheroe FC reside in the EvoStik Northern Premier League Division 1 North. They got to the final of the FA Vase in 1996 and also ended runners up in the much less important Lancashire Challenge Trophy in 2010, to be honest its been a pretty lean time in between.
Friendlies are what they say on the tin, mostly they act as fitness sessions, tactic testers and a chance to have a look at some trialists. This one had the bonus factor of witnessing the FC United peloton on a nice summers evening. I always enjoy seeing their loyal troupe of supporters with all the flags, banners and the cutting wit. Whether you love em or loathe them FC United are a tremendous asset to non league football both on and off the pitch, just the extra cash on the gate makes them a popular draw for their fellow clubs. 
FC have been really unlucky in recent years to have not progressed upwards into the Conference North, some cruel play off memories see them start this season (once again) as one of the top sides in the EvoStik Northern Premier Leagues Premier Division. With this game just a friendly there was obviously not the volume of support and colour as one would normally witness for a fully competitive fixture but there were still a good number of visiting supporters enjoying the evening in the Shawbridge stadium.

I got the Match Tank down a side street and was soon handing over my 5 quid entrance money. I gave them an extra £1.50 for a programme. The purchase was based upon the vision that the publication looked to have a decent number of pages in it. Unfortunately I found out that the club had sold me a programme covering no less than 5 home friendly games for this pre season period. Most of the pages were taken up by generic cut and paste club histories for sides not even playing. A bit of a con unless you are a die hard and intend to see all 5 games (even then the history write-ups were at least 12 months out of date). Its things like this that give even the humble non league programme a negative bad reputation and rightly so. It makes it so much harder for the clubs who do knock out a good programme. If I had known upfront I simply would not have purchased it.
The brownie points Clitheroe lost on the programme they more than made up for with the really good tea hut. I opted for steak and kidney pie and mushy peas for a very economical 2 pounds and it was simply wonderful. I'd eat here every night. After the horror of that cardboard pie at Frickley last season, which almost put me off football grub for life this was just what I needed to get back in the fast lane Mmmm.
Shawbridge is a splendid spot to watch football. My previous visit here was a night match against the old Woodley Sports side. Tonight on a sun drenched summers evening the place looked outstanding. If you've not been before you may be taken aback at the sloping nature of the well kept pitch, it seems to swell inwards like a shallow valley before climbing sharply to the right hand corner flag at the end opposite the entrance. As you step through that entrance you witness cover on all four sides which includes a seated main stand, various covered terraces, Lordys Bar and that Tea Hut I was going on about, the whole place is steeped in character. Lordys Bar seemed to be doing some fine service knocking out pints of ale for the thirsty spectators, its plastic glasses but you could still drink pitch side.
The match itself will be well documented on club websites so this is just a brief personal overview. I considered it a scrappy game for the most part, both sides had spells of temporary dominance but consistency of approach was often terminated by niggling challenges and foul play (more than is normally seen in a friendly). 
A 1-4 scoreline in FC Uniteds favour is a little unfair on Clitheroe who battled hard and cut out a good few scoring opportunities. FC had quality on the ball but it often vanished before anything clinical could be produced, even most of the goals appeared to be disjointed affairs. You pay your money and take your chance, as this was just a friendly I can't really complain, the pie and pea's and the glorious Shawbridge setting sent me home thinking it had been worthwhile.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Rochdale 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Saturday 19th July 2014

Not non league (I know) but my first choice fixture was unfortunately postponed because of overnight storms and continual rain.

Plan B was to play it safe and opt for a decent pitch and some shelter from the elements.

Time was running out so it was..........

Pre Season Friendly
Attendance: 1,470
Admission: 10 quid
Match rating: 4/10
Weather: Humid indeed, cloud and rain finally gave way to some second half sunshine.

Duff kits, tepid football and (sadly) too many examples of diving.

Give me the non league experience everytime. I certainly wouldn't pay £370 for a season ticket here (or 20 quid for a single league match).

Rochdale will struggle in Division 1 and I simply fail to see what all the fuss is about regarding the high hopes for this Wigan side.

Spotland is a friendly smart ground already well known by many with an excellent playing surface and decent enough tea hut stuff.

I just couldn't get into it today and wished that Ashton Town v Mold Alexandra hadn't been called off due to waterlogging and pitch protection factors for the coming season.

No snaps I'm afraid, been to too many league grounds where they dont let you in with a proper camera. Left it at home.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Oxenhope Recreation 5 Barnoldswick Town 4

Saturday 12th July 2014
Pre Season Friendly
Admission: Free
Attendance: 32 (Head count)
Programme: None available today
Tea Hut Stuff: Don't have one at the moment
Weather: Lot of light cloud, odd sunny spell, warm
Parking: Tucked in beside the adjoining cricket club
Bronte Country, majestic moorland, scenic views and plenty of fresh air. Nowadays the only 'Wuthering Heights' you're likely to see around here are a couple of 'no-prisoners' centre backs, if you're lucky one might even be called Heathcliffe?
This hidden gem of a no frills football ground nestles in the lovely village of Oxenhope which is famous for the Worth Valley Railway and its nearby proximity to the honey pot tourist trap of Haworth. The main football action takes place on the bottom pitch where the first team ply their trade in the West Yorkshire Premier, the top pitch has a Scafell Pike type slope to it and doesn't meet ground grading requirements. 
There is a lovely introduction to the field down a wide tarmac path that runs past the changing rooms before meeting up with the local bowling green and a small playground. The pitch sits picturesquely before sweeping views of the Pennine Hills as the outskirts of Oxenhope village meet well kept farmland and the open fells. Due to the availability of practical space the spectator only has access to 2 sides of the pitch. 
There is hard standing down the touchline beside the bowling green and a cracking view from above the raised banking behind the goals at the cricket ground end. Don't expect fancy stands or covered terracing, this is non-league uncut but it provides a great setting for watching a football match.
In the official non league grading system you will find Oxenhope Rec playing in a competition somewhat below the level where Barnoldswick Town do their stuff, Barlick, as their supporters call them, reside as a much respected side in the North West Counties League Premier Division. A number of Barlick supporters had travelled across to get a first glimpse of their heroes as the pre season build up started to finally get more serious. Hopefully a good open game was on offer, especially as Oxenhope still had the Keighley Cup triumph still fresh in the memory. We certainly got what I was hoping for. No less than 9 goals were provided as both sides played some fine enterprising football in rather warm and slightly humid conditions. I wont pretend to know all the players, I just enjoyed a good open game. If I had to single out a special mention it would be for an extremely impressive performance from Barlicks young attacking midfield player Joel Melia. He looks a very good player indeed.
The impressive Joel Melia
The game ebbed and flowed, at one stage Rec led Barlick 5-2 and seemed to be coasting but all credit to the visitors for digging deep and getting right back into the match, the fact we ended with a 5-4 scoreline says it all, the players gave it all and looked thoroughly tired out after the 90 minutes. 
I was pleasantly educated for the second week running that sides from lower leagues can still provide high quality football and that is what Oxenhope dished out for Barlick. In response, Barlick themselves came back from some gearbox problems early doors to finish the afternoon with some scintillating attacking entertainment. A quick word of praise for the Rec keeper who must have appeared 10 foot tall to the Barlick front line as we hit the final quarter, a very competent looking keeper who wasn't afraid to tell his back four what was expected.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Charnock Richard 8 St Helens Town 1

Saturday 5th July 2014
Pre Season Friendly
Attendance: 113 (personal head count)
Admission: £2
Programme: £1 (very good for a friendly too)
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea 70p
Weather: Pleasantly warm sunshine
Parking: Car park nearly full, squeezed in by the gate
For me, the area between the M61 and the M6 is equivalent to a motoring Bermuda Triangle. If you live near Chorley fine, if not its bloody hard work finding anywhere. As a die hard I refuse to invest in a Sat Nav, I prefer to work it out from Google or my 25 year old map book. I'd done my research whilst scoffing a spam and egg sandwich earlier that morning. This research went down the pipe about 5 roundabouts into no-mans land from downtown Chorley when the Match Tank encountered 'Road Closed' signs just as I was finally bearing down on Charnock Richard village. I was sent on a massive diversion that typically ran out of those familiar yellow direction signs 3 miles down the road, they must have run out of spare signs on the van so just toddled off home. 15 minutes of riding around up and down a road I thought would somehow get me somewhere near the place I finally came across a roadworks type bloke in a high visibility vest with a stop/go lollipop sign. He kindly let me through some cones and gave me access to the village. I arrived in the crammed full car park just as they kicked off.
It was only 2 quid to get in and they even had programmes. I picked one up for a pound and it was informative and a very good read, well worth the money. Charnock are the West Lancashire League equivalent of Barcelona. They've won the Premier title 3 years in a row, last season they romped the league by 18 clear points and threw the Leagues Richardson Cup in the swag bag for good measure. Apparently they are a bit like Arnold Shwarzenegger in the original Terminator film 'a machine that won't switch off'. Poor old St Helens Town certainly got pushed through the grinder that's for sure. The Premier League side from the higher status North West Counties League got a proper tonking during a visit to Mossie Park they will be having nightmares about. I am not over exaggerating when I state that this game could have finished with a Rugby League score, 16-4 would be about right. Town didn't so much play bad as Charnock simply excelled. Going forwards the home side were downright unstoppable. There is a forward playing here called Carl Grimshaw who is probably the best striker I've seen in non league football, no disrespect to Charnock but this guy could be playing at a much higher level, what a player. Carl had knocked no less than 28 goals in last season, looks like he's going to carry on where he left off. 
The Charnock boss, Andy Westwell took Grimmy off at half time apparently Samaritans had been flooded by calls from the travelling St Helens contingent. The half dozen subs who got a run out in the second half simply carried on with the same ruthless exciting go-forward football, the 4-1 half time lead eventually reached 8-1 and it could have been more. If you get the chance to watch Charnock Richard in a game near you make sure you take the opportunity, it was just the tonic for me after the wrist slashing farce of the World Cup flop fest on TV. 
Credit to the visitors, they never threw the towel in. They kept working forwards and created a decent number of chances. The problem for Town was the Charnock keeper was just as good as the forwards. I think there is something to work with for St Helens squad wise, they had good individual ability on the field but they do need to cement a more constructive uniform strategy. Lets be honest, its early days indeed and these fixtures are as much looseners as anything else.
As for the set up at Mossie Park it is a very clean and tidy ground with clubhouse, built in tea hut, flat-pack main stand, hard standing (along with complementary astro-turf to give it the carpet feel) and a smart white pitch surround. The playing surface looked first class. When you can get a season ticket here for 30 quid and money grabbers like Arsenal charge over £90 just for 1 game way back up in the clouds behind the nets it puts the mismanagement of our national game into perspective. Another major factor is that you don't get diving and cheating in non league football. It was so refreshing to watch a game of honest endeavour instead of the pathetic jumping on the floor that has totally spoiled the upper echelons of mega-bucks professional football. I know what I would rather watch.