Saturday 20th July 2013
Pre Season Friendly
KNUTSFORD 4 SALFORD CITY 3
Attendance: 52 (head count)
Admission: Free (or by donation)
Tea Hut Stuff: Coke 70p, Salt & Vinegar crisps 50p
Weather: Warm, mainly sunny and dry
Parking: Club car park
I drove the Match Tank a few junctions down the M56 alongside Manchester Airport before taking that road that links up with Tatton Park and the M6 South. Following directions for Knutsford I took a left and was soon passing some massive houses-come-mansions that apparently house some very famous Premier League footballers, primary property indeed. On the other side of the road sprawling idyllic countryside rolled out towards the popular Tatton Park. According to the signs Human League were on today in the special Picnic In The Park event. I once had an album by them, 'Dare' I think it was called? The thought of a 60 year old Phil Oakey croaking out "dont you want me baby" as I chewed on a curled up luke warm spam and pickle sandwich didnt quite do it for me so I carried on towards Knutsford FC a few miles further down the road.
Knutsford have won the Cheshire League two seasons running, rumour has it they are more than good enough to move up the non league pyramid. The apparent reason for them not blazing a trail in the North West Counties League is the cost of meeting developments and all the financial baggage that comes with that in these harsh and uncertain times. When I pulled the Match Tank into the car park and viewed the scenic setting of the ground spread out alongside the trees I just knew this was going to be a good visit. Its only 2 quid to watch the champions if its a league match, for the friendly against the charismatic Salford City from the Evo Stik First Division North it was free! The club had put a box out on a wooden table by the gate for donations but no pressure was applied. What a refreshing change from some non league clubs charging £7 and up for games they impudently admit are nothing more than run outs to blow away the cobwebs.
I took a look around the clubhouse which houses a bar and snacks facility with lots of informative pictorial club history tastefully adorning the walls, this leads through to the cosy TV room with sofa and chairs complemented by a big blow up back drop of the ground just behind the television set. Nice to see a pie warming range on top of the bar housing a few match-specials, would be nice to try one if it wasn't so bloody warm outside (heatwave level 3 proportions), I opted for an ice cold can of coke and an extra big bag of crisps all for a very reasonable £1.20.
Outside again I was amazed at the high quality playing surface they have at Knutsford, its better than some league clubs I've seen, the superb surface is a credit to the effort of this small club and sets a target for others to follow. There is a covered stand offering shelter and shade for standing supporters down the touchline and the rest of the ground is railed with quite a range of advertising boards. One side of the ground is tree lined, through the branches I could see that there was a cricket match in full swing only 500 yards away, this certainly looks a nice place to spend your match day afternoons.
About fifty odd people turned up for the game (from my rough head count), a good few Salford City punters complemented the mix. It seems Salford are going through a transitional period with a new Management staff and quite a large number of trialists on show. I recognised the ex Hindsford boss Barry Massay in the visitors technical area, Barry has played for Salford in the past and whilst at Manchester League Hindsford he plotted back to back Championship wins. An impressive CV and I'm pretty confident he will assist in moving Salford City forwards, the Moor Lane club are always good entertainment and a visit to their ground is recommended (not just for the cutting wit & humour).
We all know friendlies are friendlies and its as much a chance for tactics and fitness as for ending up winning, some are pretty dire, a few even worse, it is with great pleasure I can boast that I thought this particular encounter was an absolute cracker of a football match. Ok we had multi changes at half time and beyond (as expected) but the fluent fast paced football Salford City provided in the first half was a joy to watch. You would expect any side of Knutsfords league level to buckle, not a bit of it, they went toe to toe with Salford and even went ahead. Believe me Knutsford have some very good players and are very tactically aware. Salford changed most of the line up with almost a new set of players turning out for the second half. From my perspective this second half Salford side struggled as Knutsford started to dominate most of the proceedings with some fine quality passing and open football, the game ended 4-3 to Knutsford and they certainly warranted the victory. Not many friendlies as good as this one.
Its not doom and gloom for Salford City though. There were some good players out there for them, particularly in the first half, I'm sure Barry Massay and his colleagues will be planning a few things for the start of the league campaign, as for Knutsford, will it be 3 titles in a row, I know I wouldn't bet against it!