Talk About the Passion

Not everyone can carry the weight of the world

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GAME OF THE WEEK

Sandbach United 1 Abbey Hulton United 2

The Hallmark Security League First Division

Attendance: 136

Gate: £5

Programme: Not seen for sale

So with the festivities over for another day, time to get out the Christmas coat/scarf/hat/gloves/jumper, you get the picture, and head off to a local derby. Ashton United and Droylsden both called their games off, so as Mr Wilks picked me up there was no plan. I mentioned Sandbach United and we were on our way.

An unexpected new ground, my 214th and the second nearest to my home that I have never been to. That statistic has now gone to their opponents for the day, Abbey Hulton United.

After a quick tour of the streets of Sandbach trying to find a cash machine, we finally got to the Sandbach Community Football Centre, at least a ground without a sponsorship name, but not one that would roll off the tongue for the fans in a song. ‘We are Sandbach, super Sandbach, from…’ Once parked, we made our way in, passing the match board with the visitors name spelled incorrectly, always a pre-match winner for the opposition manager.

What a centre this is, football pitches all over and I am sure that the local community benefit enormously from this facility, just a pity that there isn’t more like it across the country and in particular the region. The main pitch is fenced off  and is only accessible on two sides. The main side where the clubhouse and changing rooms are housed behind is open standing and also includes a nice patio area that I am sure the club use to great effect in sunnier times. Behind the goal to the right of the clubhouse is also available to watch the game from. In addition to the Colin Oakes Stand, a covered seated new structure and then the best is saved for last; there are two wonderfully crafted wooden covered standing areas. Superb folks, superb, love them.

As the sides came out a 135 game run came to an end. At last a female official. Only the 13th I have ever seen and a year, two months and eighteen days since the last one I had witnessed. As the game in this country makes this great public parade about being diverse I think that seeing 11 in 438 games in the four home countries is a pretty poor show, especially when 3 of those are repeat appearances by a previously seen official. For those who cannot be bothered with the maths, I have seen a different female official once every 55 games. Hardly something to brag about is it?

Back to the match and another official made this game. The referee. From the off the hosts were in charge and attacked more and with a little more purpose, but also pretty much from the off the man in charge allowed things to go. He several times signalled he was playing an advantage when there wasn’t an actual foul. That should not detract from a cracking game though.

Sandbach were wasting chances, Abbey were defending manically at times but it took the hosts until the half hour mark for them to take the lead, as Abbey had been attacking the goal came on the break, Jones finishing off a good move. As the half-time whistle came, both sides were starting to turn this derby into a feisty affair. The referee just waved play on.

Out for the second period and we continued as we left the first half, tackles flying in, challenges that make this game, proper football. Sandbach were missing chances, surely they wouldn’t rue them. Abbey got a little more of the ball and looked dangerous on the break, then a moment of pure inspiration. Williams who had been battling in midfield picked up the ball and from 25 yards out unleashed an unstoppable shot, 1-1. Abbey were level. Surely they couldn’t win it.

The equaliser changed the game, Abbey started to boss the game more, Sandbach players were getting riled. Whether it was Abbey’s game plan or not, they had brought Sandbach into a battle and they were winning it. Then with 5 minutes remaining the comeback was complete. Abbey were in the ascendancy and pushing at this point, when Wooliscroft saw his chance he curled it beyond Moss into the back of the net. Abbey’s players celebrated. Abbey’s bench celebrated. Abbey’s fan celebrated.

Sandbach tried to get back into it, but their threat had gone. Abbey Hulton claimed all three points.

ADDED ON

After a great experience earlier in the year at Parkhead, another visit was always on the cards (as will another be). Another road-trip with Mr Wilks. Ducks at Tebay Services are always worth a visit as you pass.

Then onto Glasgow and a chippy lunch. Already pre-selected, we passed close by Hampden Park as we made our way to ‘Hooked’. If you are ever in this area, you must give this chippy a go. Delicious.

The match itself was watched from the lung bursting upper tier of the Lisbon Lions Stand, Mr Wilksy hiding the fact that there is a lift as we walked up countless steps out into the ground and another 30 or so when we emerged into the open. Breathing back to normal the teams came out and we got underway. Until the opening goal in the 40th minute this was an even game, both sides having half chances and looking to create. Boyata lost the ball to Mackay-Steven who then dragged his shot just wide, At the other end, Sinclair shot straight at Lewis when clean through.

Celtic then got their stroke of luck, Lustig’s effort striking Ball on the back and looping into the opposite side of the goal, Lewis had no chance, 1-0 to the Hoops.

After the break it was pretty much Celtic’s, Dembele fired wide, headed over from a corner, fired over. The Dons went close at the other end, a McLean shot taking a deflection and creeping just wide, though that was a rare foray into the bhoys territory. With 20 minutes remaining it was 2-0, a Sinclair cross was headed away, hit Arnason and bounced into Hayes’ path for him to slot home, 2-0. Followed minutes later by the third, clearing a corner the task of playing the ball back to Lewis was McLean’s responsibility. He failed. Ntcham intervened, went round Lewis and scored. 3-0.

The only thing left to do was have a fog effected drive home. We’ll be back soon.

GAMES

Sat: Glasgow Celtic 3 Aberdeen 0

Mon: Sandbach United 1 Abbey Hulton United 2

FACTS

Games: 452

Goals:  1547

Grounds: 214

Games since a 0-0: 65

Milestones: Total attendances over 400k; Season attendances over 200k; 200th Clean Sheet; 200th goal of the season – Stephen Jones (Sandbach United)

Performance of the Week: Abbey Hulton United’s fans. Sang and cheered their team to victory and made a great atmosphere from their temporary home in the Colin Oakes Stand.

Chippy of the Week: Hooked, Glasgow

Random Fact: For the first time in 135 games, or 1 year 2 months and 17 days if you like, I saw a female official.

SOUNDTRACK

Murmur – REM

 

Love is a Stranger

It’s savage and it’s cruel
And it shines like destruction
Comes in like the flood
And it seems like religion

GAME OF THE WEEK

Atherstone Town 13 Uttoxeter Town 1

Total Motion Midland Football League Division One

Attendance: 174

Gate: £6

Programme: £1.50

This was my 450th match. In the previous 449 I have only twice seen a team reach double figures. This was my third. I had never seen 3 players score a hat-trick in the same game. This was my first. What an experience.

On a day when the fixture list was once again decimated by the weather, when Mr Wilks picked me up we set off to the Midlands with a list of 6 games, by methods a bit silly we eliminated one by one we finished with Atherstone Town being our destination. As we progressed down the M6 the weather was getting worse. Would the game still be on? After a pit-stop at Keele Services we carried on into the heart of the Midlands and towards Atherstone, once ruled by Countess Godiva, home to the Shovetide Ball Game.

Luckily, pretty much as soon as we arrived the rain stopped, though with hindsight I am sure the visitors wish it had continued by the bucketful. Sadly for them, it would be goals that would be aplenty later.

Sheepy Road is just off the A5 and entry can be gained on either side of the ground. We entered to the west, where the main stand, covered seating and standing area, and changing rooms are housed. Both ends have open terraced standing. At the east side is the clubhouse and a covered terraced area behind the dugouts. It is an older ground and an absolute gem, I hope my pics do it justice.

Following a minutes applause for long time fan Frank Bartlam we got under way, the Adders took the game to Uttoxeter from the off Mitch Thomson who must have had his unluckiest day ever missed a glorious early chance before the visitors took the lead. Yes 1-0 up to a 13-1 defeat. Oops. Richie making the most of being through against the keeper and chipping him exquisitely. Probably my favourite goal of the day.

Cue madness. The fact it took the reds 17 or 18 minutes to register their first goal and in the following 77 minutes they scored another 12 was a true spectacle. Uttoxeter’s keeper Allen didn’t have a chance with most of them, though I am sure a couple will give him nightmares if he thinks too much about them.

The rout was started by skipper Baxter, who pulled strings all afternoon, following comical defending and a wandering Allen. A minute later another followed, this time following a bit of a scramble Miller started his hat-trick off by firing home. If Town thought that was bad, it got worse for them another minute later as Harris swung in a cross that missed everyone’s head and bounced into the far corner of the goal. What a turnaround.

As we approached the break the hosts stepped up their game again and scored another batch of 3 goals in 3 minutes or so. Stonehouse started his hat-trick off when he controlled a cross , was given all the time in the world to turn and finish easily. Miller’s second was even easier after tapping a through ball round Allen he followed up and put the ball into the empty net, before the last goal of the half by Quinn, the last of the hat-trick heroes to get off the mark, as he finished off a fine move by firing the ball into the top corner from a tight angle.

The visitors trudged off for a brew, it was to get worse.

Four minutes into the second period, seven, Stonehouse hammering home a cut-back for his second, made by Thomson. He was also to have a hand in the eigth as he was in the clear, his shot was saved by Allen fell to Quinn on the opposite side of the goal and he finished into the empty net. Stonehouse then got his hat-trick finishing under Allen who could only get a hand on the shot, it was now 9-1 with still 30 minutes to play.

Double figures came via Williams, a deep cross swung in to the near post and the number 6 powered his header into the top corner. This now equalled my second biggest ever win, with 15 minutes still remaining I saw a team score an 11th goal for only the second time ever. Miller completing his hat-trick with ease as a loose ball in midfield was capatilised on.

A minute later and the third hat-trick of the afternoon was completed, Quinn taking hold of a loose ball from a scramble, twisting and turning before squeezing the ball under Allen. We finished with a touch of class as Harris got his second, wrong footing the keeper and stroking the ball into the bottom corner. Records had tumbled.

I wanted to say a few words about Uttoxeter Town’s performance, they fielded a young side and appeared to only have one substitute even though 4 were named. They never gave up and attacked at times when they should probably have shut up shop, I counted 8 or 9 of the goals came as a result of a breakaway. Allen got his hand to at least 3. Yes they were outplayed by a good side, but they can hold their heads up for the effort they gave.

It was a weird game in the end, the Adders wasted a few chances when the game was beyond doubt and could possibly have finished with close to 20 had they been more clinical, but to have 3 players score a hat-trick on a special day for one of their own will make this a game to remember for years down at Sheepy Road.

GAME

Sat: Atherstone Town 13 Uttoxeter Town 1

FACTS

Games: 450

Goals:  1541

Grounds: 213

Games since a 0-0: 63

Milestone: Biggest ever win. Highest number of aggregate goals. 800th Home Goal – Danny Harris (Atherstone Town’s 13th). 100th Home Goal of the Season – Ryan Quinn (Atherstone Town’s 8th)

Performance of the Week: Atherstone Town. A true team performance.

Random Fact: Including programme, the goals cost 54p each. Pure football value.

SOUNDTRACK

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics

 

Slide Away

Don’t you feel alive
These are your times and our highs

GAME OF THE WEEK

Burscough 2 Northwich Victoria 1

Hallmark Security League Premier Division

Attendance: 103

Gate: £6

Programme: £2

Well the best laid plans and all that.

News came through that my original choice of Nuneaton Town v Harrogate Town was off, it was joined by numerous other games, in fact at one point only Hyde United and Stockport County were confirmed as being on locally.

Conferring with my partner in crime Mr Wilks, the decision was eventually made to head out to Burscough for their game with Northwich Vics and a clash between two clubs that look to be on a downward spiral, at the very least, they have both enjoyed better times.

So on a rainy afternoon we set off for West Lancashire. Parking in Tesco’s car park we headed off to the Village Fish Bar for some food to find it had closed 20 minutes earlier. Damn. However, it was going to re-open at 4:30. Post match chippy? Oh go on then.

After sheltering in the warmth of the car for a while we made our way to Victoria Park. A ground that may not be around for much longer, which would be a shame, it looks in need of a little bit of TLC. Entering behind the goal to the east, which is open standing, moving in a clockwise direction in the corner is the clubhouse/food bar/offices. On the south side as well as having open standing is a raised grandstand. At the ‘far end’ is a covered terraced area, unfortunately this area is cordoned off whilst maintenance work is carried out. Finally, on the north side, is another covered terraced area.

The sides come out, one in green the other in white, it took me a second to realise it was Burscough that were in white, a change from the last time I saw them. We got underway on a heavy pitch in horrible conditions. The opening 45 minutes were very much spent trying to cope with the conditions, as the players struggled with the ball and any kind of passing game, us spectators trying to stay warm.  Chances were at a premium and both sides were restricted to a fair amount of long shots as the referee had to keep changing the ball due to the condition of it. No surprise that it was 0-0 at the break.

Six minutes into the second half and a big moment of controversy, what looked like a fair tackle by Vics defender Kenny was punished by the referee Ince and a penalty was awarded. Justice was done when Donlon guessed correctly and pushed Whyte’s penalty away for a corner. Great save.

Was the dreaded 0-0 on the cards? As we neared the midway point of the half we got our answer. No! Burscough’s Ward sprinting clear in the inside channel and unleashing his effort that Donlon couldn’t keep out. 1-0 Linnets. Back came Northwich and they grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck creating chance after chance but missing time after time. That was until the 75th minute when they won a free-kick on the right hand corner of the box. Gorman took it. Gorman curled right into the far top corner. Keeper had no chance. What a goal! 1-1. Only one winner here.

Yes, I got that wrong. As Vics continued to dominate a Burscough break in added on led to Cummings slotting home the ball, big celebrations followed from the Whites, Vics looked on incredulously, Burscough had stolen the game.

When the final whistle sounded we finally managed to get our chippy. Very tasty.

ADDED ON

Original plan was to visit West Didsbury & Chorlton, which was postponed due to the weather. It did seem a little strange when Maine Road’s, which is about a mile and a half away, was more than playable. Anyway. Joined by 1874 mark, we soon witnessed bottom of the table Barnton arrived and found themselves 2-0 down in less than 15 minutes without doing much wrong. Sean Cookson was their villain. Road’s left winger scored a worldie of an opener, lashing home his effort from 20 yards out after just 8 minutes  and 5 minutes later reacted first to a looping ball in the area and nodded home.

A third was added after the break, Woodcock, the hosts impressive right winger, was fouled for the umpteenth time, this time in the box, penalty given, up stepped Coop, 3-0. A late consolation scored by Hamid, fine strike from distance gave Barnton a little consolation, but Maine Road still ran out worth winners, despite finishing with 9 men due to a late injury and sending off.

20171204_194941 (2)

GAMES

Mon: Maine Road 3 Barnton 1

Sat: Burscough 2 Northwich Victoria 1

FACTS

Games: 449

Goals:  1527

Grounds: 212

Games since a 0-0: 62

Milestone: None

Performance of the Week: Zack Woodcock. The Maine Road winger was a constant threat to the Barnton defence. Tormentor.

Chippy of the Week: Village Fish Bar, Burscough.

Random Fact: James Ormrod’s red card for Maine Road was my 99th.

SOUNDTRACK

A Storm in Heaven – The Verve

Integral Plot

Remember the cause
Don’t say because
I’ll fight to the end
Tell the truth
The energy’s gone

GAME OF THE WEEK

Ayr United 3 Albion Rovers 2

Ladbrokes League 1

Attendance: 1,426

Gate: £16

Programme: £2

For the second time this season I watched Albion Rovers.

For the second time this season The Wee Rovers provided top class entertainment.

One look at Rovers away record in the programme has your mouth watering. Prior to this their statistics on the road were P6 W4 D1 L1 F22 A12. Not many teams can match that record, especially when sitting 7th in a 10 team league.

Their opponents, The Honest Men, are in form. Sitting top of the pile they have won their last 6 games on the bounce and unbeaten since early September.

So the scene was set and the two sides did not disappoint.

As the two sides looked to find an opening there was little difference between them until the quarter of an hour when United took the lead, a flick over the top from Shankland played in Moffat who selflessly played in Moore, he was left with the easy chance of tucking the ball home, 1-0.

Rovers came back at their hosts, and 10 minutes later it was all level, a long ball down the left wing by McLaughlin should have been dealt with by Ayr’s Higgins as keeper Hart came out to assist, unfortunately for Ayr he just did nothing, the loose ball was presented to Rovers’ Higgins, who pirouetted and curled the ball over Hart from 25 yards out and near the wing. Absolute class strike. 1-1.

United looked to get control back, but 5 minutes later Rovers should have been ahead and Higgins’, the Ayr variety,  nightmare continued, he slipped 25 yards from goal, Trouten was in on goal, surely, no! he blazed over with only Hart to beat, what a chance. Now it was Ayr’s turn to try and make the most of a defensive error as Marr got all tangled up, Moffat took the ball away from him and hit the post with his shot, Albion broke and after a flowing move Shields fired well over from a good position, what a 15 minutes this had been.

As the clock ticked towards half-time United hit the post again, Ross’ header bouncing back out of the upright with Potts beaten, and right on the whistle Hart had to get down to stop an effort from Davidson.

I was off for a pie and a hot drink.

We were just getting started.

A driving run from Fisher ensured Hart had to start the second half as he finished the first with a decent save low down. United’s substitute McGuffie went through and pulled his shot wide from a tight angle. Hart pulled off a fantastic block from a close ranger header by Marr, who injured himself in the process.

With just under 20 minutes to go we started one of the best 5 minutes of football I have ever seen. United’s Forrest was played in on goal in the left inside forward position, his effort on goal was parried by Potts and as the loose ball ran across the goal Shankland was going to tap in, United fans celebrated. Only somehow his effort was blocked on the line by McLaughlin, Rovers fans celebrated. less than a minute later a burst of pace down the right from McDaid gave him space and time to pick out a pass to Shankland who this time made sure the ball hit the back of the net, United fans celebrated. 2-1

We were going now.

A neat move down Rovers right two minutes later, Vitoria’s ball gave Shields space to pick out his pass across goal, Trouten unmarked tapped into the empty net. Rovers fans celebrated. 2-2

We were cooking with gas now.

Straight from the kick-off the hosts attacked and won a corner, taken quickly a ball was played into the box by Forrest and Higgins of the Ayr variety arrived, a flick of his head and United were back in front. They celebrated, their fans did. 3-2

And that was that folks. Absolutely brilliant.

United’s home, Somerset Park, is a gem to fans of the old grounds. Unfortunately, covered terracing behind the goal to the east is closed off, as is a fair portion of the open north terracing. This stand sweeps round to the west where it becomes covered. On the South Side is the Main Stand. What a treat this stand is, a warren underneath it, finding the toilet is a task in itself. As on Rovers fan who was trying to get from the seats to the small terracing below inquiring as to how, he received the instruction “Down the stairs”, brilliant reply, but not all that simple.

I know there has been talk over the years of United moving to a new home. Please folks, stay at Somerset Park.

I normally comment on my journey to and from the grounds. Their was an issue with overhead lines near Watford. What I don’t get, is why when they know, don’t they stop the trains at the last stations they can use and bus in-between? Then trains won’t get stuck. That’s all I am going to say as Ayr United and Albion Rovers deserve my words after a great match.

ADDED ON

Finally I made it to Stockport Town.

The mantle of the nearest ground I haven’t been to now passes to Buxton.

What a match to visit. Derby Day. The hosts took the lead in the opening five minutes as debutant Pickering somehow scrambled the ball over the line from a Dwyer cross. Both sides had a number of chances in the opening 45 minutes as myself and Mr Wilks were joined by the excellent company of Rob York and Mr i B Block. Thanks for the hospitality Rob.

In the second half everything changed on a refereeing decision. Cheadle’s Whyatt was put through on goal and he managed to toe poke the ball past Forth in the Lions goal and the pair collided. Penalty? Oh yes. Red card? Very very harsh. Looked to me like the keeper made a genuine attempt to play the ball and under the new ‘double jeopardy’ rules I am not sure a sending off was the right call. Shevington converted the spot kick.

Unfortunately, the match became a bit bad tempered from here on in, as the visitors looked to make the most of their one man advantage. Step up Dwyer. The best player on the park then scored a divine chip to give Stockport the lead with 15 minutes remaining, the winger was a constant threat to the visitors all night. With 2 minutes remaining the hosts were pegged back again as Gardiner levelled the scores. 2-2. A decent game.

After scratching the nearest ground off my list, on Wednesday, the sixth nearest went as myself and Mr Wilks headed over to Eccleshill United. After a visit to the excellent Bolton Junction Traditional chippy we made our way over to the Mitton Group Stadium. United are on form, 9 games on the bounce have been won and tonight it was Ollerton Town’s task to put a stop to it. On a freezing night they gave it their best shot and for 50 minutes were very much in the game. An opener midway through the first half when Irving somehow beat Town’s keeper Brooks to a through ball, took it round him and tapped into the empty goal.

In the 50th minute it was if Harrop had seen enough, he just took the game by the scruff of its neck, claimed it, owned it, stamped all over it and then strutted off. His first was an easy finish after a through ball. Fifteen minutes later a through ball was taken round Brooks with apparent ease and finished off. He saved his best for last though, running through the midfield with the ball like he owned them both he slammed an effort into the top corner from 25 yards. 4-0 and welcome to the Luke Harrop Show! United’s run was extended to 10 as they went to the top of the table.

I started my weekend in Wales. At Prestatyn Town. Though i am not sure if I will be welcome for much longer. This was my third visit. This was their third defeat in these games. Though things are improving slightly, at least they finished the game with 11 men this time.

Llandudno were on top early on and deservedly took the lead, but this was the cue for Town to come back into the ‘Seasiders Derby’. Chances were being created but going begging until early in the second half when the visitors extended their lead twice in the awful weather. Town got a late consolation which was the least they deserved, personally 3-1 was a very harsh scoreline, and they had a claim for a draw.

The day after the Lancaster City match as we wandered through the City Centre, we were treated to Scouting for Girls doing a small set as the city lights were turned on. All glamour here you know!

GAMES

Mon: Stockport Town 2 Cheadle Town 2

Wed: Eccleshill United 4 Ollerton Town 0

Sat: Ayr United 3 Albion Rovers 2

FACTS

Games: 447

Goals:  1520

Grounds: 212

Games since a 0-0: 60

Milestone: 60 games since my last 0-0 draw.

Performance of the Week: Albion Rovers. I had intended this to be for an individual, but when you are 7th in the league and you go to top of the table, a team who are winning every game they play and you have a damn good go at them, then you win.

Chippy of the Week: Bolton Junction Traditional Fish & Chips, Bradford.

Random Fact: I have seen 199 Clean Sheets in total, who will keep #200?

SOUNDTRACK

Scared to Dance – Skids