Evo Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North, Trafford 1 AFC Fylde 4, Attendance: 147, Admission: £7, Programme: £1.50, Tea hut purchases: Cheeseburger £2.50, Tea 80p, Weather: Cloudy, Parking: Car park outside the entrance, easy getawayI picked Frugal Glenn up from outside Booze Busters and swung the Match Shed around for the M62 come M60 around Manchester. It wasn't even dinner time. Due to the 'Overpaid-Spoilt-Jessies-Eleven' playing Wales this afternoon live on Sky a lot of non league sides chose to kick off at 1pm, Trafford was one of them. Cannot blame them really, its probable that more punters would turn up for an early kick off rather than not at all with the 3pm game on the telly (even it is the overpriced characterless Sky version that most people watch in the pub). Can you believe we didn't even get delayed highlights on terrestrial tv for this international qualifying status match, I'd only have a good moan anyway but thats not the point, pay for view television has already taken rugby league and cricket away from the normal man in the street and nowadays we're left to pay our extortionate BBC licence for a bit of poxy cycling, boring womens swimming and a few sports cars following each other around millionaires race tracks! Give me the Northern Premier League live action any day. As we approached Junction 10 of the M60 I half expected a traffic jam, besides this being the turn off for Trafford FC its also the connection for the unholy designer shopping hell of The Trafford Centre (cue shiver from Frugal Glenn), I kept a firm grip of the Match Shed steering wheel, dozens of daft women in big 4 x 4's were swopping lanes at random and generally failing to drive in a straight line, the Match Shed didn't like it one bit. Miraculously I got the car down the slip road without any of the women hitting us. No sooner had I got within a couple of miles of the ground when I discovered the local council had closed the road. Some jobsworths on triple time were digging a hole on the very road junction highlighted on my scribbled directions for the ground (unbelievable, I know). I thought councils didn't have any money any more? The only reason the road was closed wasn't because of the hole, that was on the pavement, it was for parking the bloody vehicle that they came in! Frugal Glenn admirably took on the responsibility of emergency navigator and promptly directed me into a multi storey car park (with no 'U' turns) in Urmston town centre. He was immediately sacked.Half an hour later we picked up some diversion signs and luckily fell upon the Shawe View Stadium, the nicely kept home of Trafford Football Club. You take a sharp corner by the Bird in Hand pub and the narrow lane takes you down to a spacious and well maintained large car park directly adjacent to the turnstile entrance. A gang of well dressed Fylde committee looking men entered the ground at the same time as me and Frugal, they made a direct dash for the Tea Hut (they looked pretty hungry) only to be extremely disappointed that the shutters were still down and it wasn't yet open for business despite it only being 30 minutes to kick off. To make the situation worse you could hear the burgers sizzling as they pre-prepared them on the griddle inside the hut, that gorgeous smoky smell of flash frying beef wafted out towards the slavering Fylde committee men who stomped around for a short while before following me and Frugal Glenn into the tiny bar in a nearby portakabin. I ordered a pint of Stella at £2.90, I needed a drink after all that stress in the Match Shed. We watched the end of Englands innings in the Cricket World Cup clash against Sri Lanka on the big screen, it was obvious we hadn't got enough runs.Ten minutes before kick off we were back pitch side and in a rather large queue for the 'now-opened' Tea Hut. Unfortunately the Fylde committee mob were ahead of us in the queue and appeared to be buying in bulk. Two nice ladies seemed to be doing a good job of getting everyone served and we were soon at the counter. I was taken aback at Frugal Glenn placing his biggest ever order at a football ground Tea Hut, it turned out his wife had put him on a diet and he'd been struggling for over two weeks now. He promptly ordered Chicken Curry Pie, Peas and Gravy with a Bovril on the side. I noted that the hut was dishing out Peters Pies which I've not been too keen on in the past so I went for a large looking cheeseburger which came on a nice fresh roll. It was most enjoyable which is nice to note after quite a few bad experiences at other grounds in the recent past. Frugal Glenn liked his purchase as well, apparently the Peters Pie was spot on? Looking around the Shawe View ground it comes across as an appealing environment to watch football, its well kept and has a spacious feel to it whilst still offering good views of the action.It has stands on 3 sides all of an identical structure, the two down each touchline offer seating and the one behind the nets offers a covered terrace, just beside the covered end a young lad with a rucksack pulled out a large Trafford FC flag and hung it on the nearby fence, there wasn't a massive crowd today and it was good to see a bit of enthusiasm for the local team, especially from the younger elements, lets remember Old Trafford is only a short distance from here. The match programme gives a good run down of the squads and recent performances, all in all a decent publication. Trafford are 16th in the NPL Division 1 North and have had a couple of welcome away wins recently against well respected opposition, namely Chorley and Clitheroe. AFC Fylde have strengthened their profile this term and currently reside in 4th spot in the table, they beat Lancaster City 4-1 earlier in the week, todays game had the makings of an interesting encounter. I dont think it was the Barcelona type kit that Fylde played in but they certainly put on a master class of entertaining passing football in the first 45 minutes. The first goal went in with only half a minute on the clock and by half time they were 3-0 up. To their credit the young Trafford side tried to match them and played some very neat football themselves, they never gave up but they couldn't create the clear opportunities to get back in the game.Shawe View offers a nice level looking playing surface but there did appear to be a few bobbly patches on closer scrutiny, not a critisism as there was a hell of a lot of good passing football on offer in this game, usually its hard to truly judge a pitch as the ball is usually being hoofed twenty yards up in the air. I'd say the pitch at Trafford compliments the high standard of the rest of the ground. AFC Fylde certainly appear a very good side, whether they can take the momentum to some end of season reward remains to be seen, they seemed to ease back a bit in the second half and let Trafford come onto them a little more but the game was never in doubt, they went 4-0 up when Michael Barnes finshed off a sublime move in the 58th minute, Trafford bagged a consolation goal when Kyle Harrops cross come shot sneaked over the keeper with a minute left to play. All in all a very convincing high quality performance from AFC Fylde, I'm impressed! They look strong in every department.Having said that I do feel there is some hope for this young Trafford side, they play the game the right way and with a bit more punch up front they could well develop into something like the finished article, Centre Forward Tom Bentham could do with a bit more support when they go forward, perhaps too often he was left on his own against some very competent Fylde defenders. I do hope they keep trying to play the right way though, such a welcome change after weeks of watching hoof-ball across the Northern Leagues. It was back to the Match Shed for me and Frugal Glenn come full time, neither of us fancied cramming into the portakabin bar to watch The Playboys on Sky, no disrespect to the portakabin bar either (my glass of Stella earlier in the day was first class), it looked a great place for a quite pint under more normal circumstances, besides Frugal Glenn had a date with a plate of grated carrot and iceberg lettuce.
Parking: On the field behind the kop end, easy exit
Having had some truly awful food at recently visited grounds I wasn't going to be taking any chances today. I stopped at an en-route chippy after setting off for Colne and had a splendid feast of a Hollands Steak & Kidney Pie, Chips and Gravy, it cost me £2.65p but certainly filled me up. I scoffed it in the Match Shed whilst listening to Spurs cocking it up against West Ham. Back on the road my journey took me past Todmorden open market with its little old ladies mingling amongst the old wooden stalls of cheap crimplene slacks and towers of cut price bog rolls, then down into Burnley and right alongside the famous Turf Moor ground, I see that the old pub next to the traffic lights just up from the away end is now a Turkish kebab house. Perhaps kebabs are cheaper than pints nowadays? Never been much of a kebab fan actually, though I do respect that they have quite a following with the late night crowd. Not long later the Match shed was entering Colne via the eastern conclusion of the M65, the massive Boundary Mill shopping centre gleaming in the bright sunshine, the car park beside the slip road was packed with cars and coaches. Colne FC is not far from here, you take a left at the first roundabout and climb up the long hill along Harrison Drive, its peppered with speed bumps and lots of resident-parked vehicles, at the very top the road turns into a badly rutted track which runs past the local Rugby Union club, the proud little football ground stands in acres of open space just a bit further on, matchday parking is in a field behind the covered end of the stadium. As I entered the ground it appeared most people had packed into an old lorry container which had been converted to what was trendily identified as 'The Reds Bar'. I detected a few Runcorn accents rising above the broad Lancastrian tones of the locals. The hilltop location of the ground really hits home when you notice the wide open vista beyond the open end of the ground, the spread of stone houses built on the steep sides of the far valley rises majestically until the sweeping fells become superb open moorland, mile and mile of greenery as it stretches east to Yorkshire (probably heading for Skipton and Silsden way). There is a really significant slope to the pitch at Colne and it dips even further once you get down towards the far right hand corner, it looks like the edge of the world down at the corner flag, have to say it did look a decent playing surface though (despite the runaway brow of the hill). It was time for a cup of tea at 'The Reds' tea hut, a great looking traditionally structured emporium knocking out the finest tea bags in East Lancashire for 50p a hit, I was dry after my Pie and Chips dinner. Looking at the pies on offer in the hut I was glad I'd gone to the chippy, they looked overheated, very brown and a bit burnt on the crust, I later witnessed a disgruntled old timer struggling to get his dentures to make in-roads on a meat and potato, he gave up after a while and a third of it went in the bin.Walking around the place just before kick off you realise the ground provides a really nice setting for non league football, it has the right feel to it if you know what I mean, the covered terrace behind the nets, the charismatic little main stand by the halfway line and a selection of odds and sods type structures here and there give it some atmosphere sadly a tad lacking at the more modern grounds. The teams came out to the speakers blasting out 'The Final Countdown' (what a shyte track to play) and we were soon into the business of the day. Colne were 5th and looking handy for a big push in the run in, the Linnets were lower midtable in 16th and probably hoped for a respectable final league placing, got to say they brought quite a few fans over from the River Mersey for this one, admirable support indeed, most of them spilled out of 'The Reds Bar' with broad smiles and red faces from their hastily gulped pints. Colne kicked up the hill in the first half but struggled to make an impact, Runcorn kicked down the hill and couldn't keep up with the ball, nine times out of ten it always ended up down at the corner flag on the edge of the world, I'm sure the winger disappeared over the precipice for ten minutes before the mountain rescue team and some ball boys got him back on again.I gave it 15 minutes before realising this was a terribly scrappy encounter with little cohesive play worthy of praise, far too many passes went astray and it seemed Colne had now adopted a very direct 'long-ball' style of play which wasn't pretty to look at. Runcorn countered this by hoofing the ball right back down the pitch at every opportunity, it was all 'thwack-bung-wallop', midfield craft had gone back in the wrapper. Not good. I stood near the dug outs in the first half and soon realised why there was quite a bit of room in what is usually a decent vantage point. The Colne Assistant Manager, Lol McMahon, provided a non-stop (and I mean NON-STOP) running commentary of touchline instructions which were yelled out to the poor Colne players at a truly deafening level, I wouldn't mind but most of what was being passed on was inane gibberish and this bloke never stopped for a breath, on and on and on he went, nearly everybody not already in the know soon moved on for a bit of peace and quite, I've seen a few yellers in my time but Lol is in a premier league all of his own.Perhaps a 1-1 half time scoreline was fair enough, it had been awful, the only piece of skill was the opening goal from Colne's James Crokern, a sublime 30 yard strike straight into the top corner, brilliant. Half time real-life drama Colne style hit the stadium during the break, the committee couldn't find the winning holder of raffle ticket number 68! They wouldn't rest until they'd hunted down the winner, they must have been desperate to get shut of that 5 quid meat pack with todays sell by date on it. Two of the committee went around the entire ground and asked every person if they had ticket 68, obviously the undercover winner had better stuff to store in their fridge than some dodgy Colne burgers and a few link sausages.The action on the pitch failed to improve in the second half, the game got a bit niggly and the Referee didn't seem to be making it any better, he got some major grief from the Linnets fans, some of his decisions did seem rather vague. Despite the visitors snatching a 2-1 lead which Colne levelled and then went ahead by 3-2 the quality of football was dire. The only magical moment was the appearance of a flock of sheep in the field behind the dug outs, perhaps Lols dulcet tones emitting from the Colne bench were somewhat similar to the Fellside Farmer announcing another bag of hay? Even the sheep cleared off after 5 minutes though, Lol was on fire. Runcorn rallied for a chance of a late equaliser and a welcome degree of late tension gripped the ground, a few quick attacks gave the Linnets fans hope, it quickly fizzled out when the Ref they admired so much sent a Runcorn player off for no apparent reason just before the death. Not a good match but I have to say.... I did like the ground. Wonder if they ever got the raffle winner?
Ok, there were some other decent fixtures knocking about this Saturday but I reckoned the plum game in North West non league circles (match of the day wise) centered on the East Lancashire town of Colne. The multi coloured yellow and green Runcorn Linnets provided the opposition (including noisy supporters.... dont think they liked the Ref too much?)
Up on the hill above the exit slip road for the M65 a hidden gem of a traditional and charismatic football ground resides at the slightly dubiously titled XLCR Stadium, its right at the very top of Harrison Drive just beyond the Rugby Union club.
This was hilltop football with all the mad trimmings of the sloping pitch syndrome.
Feel free to visit the Tea Hut around Sunday evening to see my visit report (and dodgy pictures) for some sublime North West Counties League hoofing and crazy charging around.
I'll be giving my humble 'uneducated' ramblings of a nice ground hosting a crap football match between a couple of sides a few chapters short of the entertainment-book, despite 5 goals. However, credit where its due, it was a very, very good location to watch a football match!
As local Diesel prices soared even higher today, (the garage down the road is now robbing people for 144.9 per litre), I regretfully decided to cancel my planned midweek match tonight.
I couldn't afford to drive to and from Harrogate Railway Athletic, it is simply costing too much money to put the Match Shed on the road for a 120 mile plus trip.
The ridiculous greed of cash hungry capitalists is beyond belief, the slightest oil related blip anywhere in the world immediately results in any type of garage slamming 5p a litre on the pump price (it hardly ever comes down again).
Sorry, can't pay it, wont pay it and lets not forget all the tax that the Government takes from this, I know times are hard but the situation is already on a 'Daylight Robbery' scale.
Like a lot of people who travel around to partake in a hobby, I am judging whether it is still affordable?
It is hard enough to afford fuel for essential travel as part of 'needs-must' everyday life.
Tea hut purchases: Tea 50p, Chips and brown liquid £1.50
Weather: Dull and grey, bit of rain in the second half
Parking: Not easy, slung it on the pavement by the ground
After a few weeks off the road the Match Shed was back on football business, a mixture of bad weather, multi-postponements and a mind sapping job had taken its toll. As the Shed sped ever eastwards it felt good to be going to a game again. Even todays planned procedures had to be amended at the 12th hour, I was booked in to visit AFC Darwen for their tasty clash against NWCL Division 1 leaders Runcorn Town, typically, it was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. I was about to set off over Blackburn way when I spotted the cancellation whilst glancing at the Runcorn Town website, well done to them for communicating it, neither Darwen or the official Vodkat NWCL websites had even bothered! So here I was en-route for Worsbrough Bridge Athletic just a few miles south of Barnsley. The route took me through the South Pennines and Calderdale before cutting across via Huddersfield to meet up with the M1 South beyond Flockton. I was only on the M1 for one junction before pulling off for downtown Barnsley. The Worsbrough Park Road ground is on the A61 heading towards Sheffield (if you are approaching from the North West that is). The main road drops down to a river and a bridge just beside 'The Yorkshire Gas Shop', across the road is the nicely presented ground. The Fire Brigade were in action by the side of the road, somebody had set fire to some grass (not the pitch)? Trying to park at this place is mission impossible, there is a nice big open car park behind the riverside terrace (and the river) but its obviously placed there to capture walkers and nature lovers off on woodland rambles, hence the very steep 3 quid fee to dump your car. The Match Shed doesn't do pay charge car parks unless its absolutely necessary, ten minutes later the Match Shed was slung on some pavement between a lampost and a fence, I was directly outside the gate but it was a difficult tight squeeze and anyone arriving after me would have had little option of free space for parking (it was 2.20pm). When I left the ground after the game there had been a mass outbreak of ridiculously discarded vehicles taking up every square inch of kerbside, village green and residents-only access drives, it would have been a traffic wardens dreamworld, I felt pity for the dozens of blocked in vehicles well deep in the grid-lock. Take note to arrive early if you are thinking of visiting here, and make sure you have a clear exit route when you park. I was hungry and in need of refreshment.I had a wonder around for a short while and realised its a bit of a weird set up at Worsbrough, I could smell that greasy whiff of a deep fat fryer preparing hot chips but I couldn't find a tea hut? It had to be in the clubhouse overlooking the pitch, however, if you go through the turnstile you cannot get access to the clubhouse from inside the ground, this means you have to go back out through the turnstile and enter the club from the entrance beside the main road. Once inside I asked the ladies behind the snack bar type counter for a list of pies on offer, despite it now being just 15 minutes before kick off one of the ladies told me the pies had only just gone in the oven but they would be hot later on? She said they had some pork pies knocking about somewhere and they might be able to get one of those warmer a bit quicker but I was getting a slightly concerning vibe that this may not be the usual tea hut type experience, I said I'd pop back for something later, perhaps at half time? I ended up with a cup of tea which came in a proper nice pot and it was only 50p. I had a read of the programme which was decent enough for a pound and I particularly liked the simple but classic cover adorned with the red and blue club badge on a crisp white background. There seemed to be a good travelling support that had made the short journey from Emley, like Worsbrough they were more or less midtable and both sides needed a win today to have any chance of ending up with a respectable end to the season. Emley supporters always seem to wear the claret and blue club merchandise which is a credit to their following. The Park Road ground offers some good elevated hard standing around the clubhouse end and this extends to a charismatic little stand which provides seating across the halfway line. Moving further down the touchline we come across the tiny cricket pavillion and a scoreboard hut, both employed by the cricket team which uses the field in the summer, the pavillion doubles up as the referees and linesmans changing room. The far end only has some metal fencing behind it which is intended to protect the cricket square. Along the other touchline resides the covered riverside terrace which was built in 2008, this offers a decent enough view for those wanting a bit of space. The teams took the field and it looked a bit like one of those Anglo Scottish Cup Ties from the seventies, this one could have been Sheffield United v Hibernian, Worsbrough had the red and white stripes, AFC Emley had the green. The game took place on a bobbly sloping pitch and it was immediately apparent that 'The Hoof' was the chosen dish from todays specials board. Control was haphazard as ping-pong punting rained from left to right and back again.Shouts of encouragement, derision and anger echoed across the valley as players and coaches yelled incoherent statements littered with four letter swear words, a nice lady in a Marks and Spencers anorak was getting behind her Worsbrough heroes in the only way she knew how, she called the Emley right back a little weasel and a retard (oh dear). People should think about what they shout out before they say it I think, the fullback Max Joice took it in his stride and seemed to laugh it off, he told her she'd be better off at home where she belonged! Within 25 minutes AFC Emley had taken a 2 goal lead with very well taken goals from Dean Wharam and Mark Stuart. Dean went on to get in some very good positions throughout the game but unfortunately his finishing let him down, he could literally have had a sack full. Worsbrough just about held on in the remainder of the first half and they would have that slope in their favour in the second period. At half time I returned to the tea hut come snack bar, the pork pies looked tiny and the normal pies looked like those cheapo jobs from Iceland, I played it safe and asked the lady for just chips and gravy, a big mistake in hindsight, the chips were a stringy tasteless mush and the gravy was more like a chemical spill from a reprocessing plant than the anticipated delights of proper bisto, talk about a brown watery waste, it was truly awful.As predicted, once the second half got underway Worsbrough took the initiative and used the slope to their advantage, more and more pressure was built up and Rob Ward got one back with 16 minutes left. The pity was that Worsbrough couldn't create genuine opportunities and despite a disallowed Worsbrough goal Emley held on for a valuable away win. Perhaps if the visitors had taken their chances they'd fluffed earlier on, this game would have been well out of sight well before the final whistle. Not the best quality game I've seen this season but an interesting venue for a well contested fixture. I made my way out towards the turnstile gate passing the tea hut lady grabbing a crafty fag as she sat on the wall. Looked like she'd had a tough time with the half time rush for those slightly delayed pies. I suppose there is something to say for those punters who bring their own butties after all, it must surely beat what I had?
A mixture of 'pants' type weather and a mentally deranging job have got in the way of Tea Hut action these last few weeks.
Something had to give! Dramatic and drastic action has opened up the door for the possibility of top drawer North West Counties League Division 1 action this coming Saturday.
Heading past Premier League stadia at Ewood Park continuing on just beyond the outer edge of Blackburn, AFC Darwen (12th) will be taking on league leaders Runcorn Town in one of the non-league 'match of the day' classics that the month of March is so culturally famous for. I'm hoping it will be living up to the extensive local media hype poured onto the fixture?
The question is should I take my (still new) 3 quid flask or rely on the local tea bags in the club tea hut?
Lets hope I get there, all being well, my visit report should be posted on the Tea Hut site sometime Sunday evening.
UPDATE: Saturday Lunchtime
Just found out that AFC Darwen v Runcorn Town has been POSTPONED due to a waterlogged pitch. Gobsmacked! Didn't realise it had even rained? Nothing on the Darwen website, nothing on the VodkatNWCL website, I luckily spotted the call-off whilst casually glancing at the Runcorn Town site. What a joke! Darwen must have its own micro-climate? Very poor communication though.