My highlight of the season was one hour of football played out on a sunny evening in Atherton. No Colls weren’t playing. Neither were LR. Though it was at Colls home, Oldham Boro their tenants were entertaining Ashton Town, who hailed from a place a fair distance closer than Oldham.
The first 35 minutes of this game was easily forgettable, both sides were pretty much awful, then all of a sudden Town’s striker McDonough turned with the ball 30 yards out and hammered in a goal fit to win any game. But for this game it was just the start. Boro equalised two minutes later as both sides missed penalties either side of half-time, Boro’s flying well wide, Town hitting the bar.
On the hour Oldham went 2-1 up against the then 10 men of Ashton, before with just 15 minutes left we were all square again. Parity wasn’t to last long when a couple of minutes later Jackson put Oldham Boro 3-2 up. A minute later it was 3-3 as McDonough got his second.
The best was saved until the very end, when in the last minute Town’s left-back Gouthwaite took possession of the ball just inside his own half, he went on a run down the wing. Memory tells me it was like something out of a film as a couple of players bounced off him, as he got to the byeline, with little on, he changed direction and headed towards goal, when a little more than 6 yards from the near post as everyone expected a pull back, he absolutely hammered the ball past the Boro keeper and into the far side of the net. What a goal!
Oldham Boro 3 Ashton Town 4
My season finally came to an end on a sunny and chilly evening in Ski, which is a few miles south-east of Oslo.
Away on my summer holiday with my long suffering other half, I’d had my eye on this game for weeks, I somehow managed to persuade her that this would be a good evening’s entertainment.
A decent game that saw Eidsvold take the lead before Follo pegged them back. The late pressure from the hosts and league leaders couldn’t find a way through and maintain their 100% record. Would also have been harsh on Eidsvold
Roll on 2014/15
GAME OF THE MONTH: Follo FK 1 Eidsvold Turn 1
GROUND OF THE MONTH: Follo FK
RED CARDS: 0
NEW GROUNDS: Follo FK
My opening season started to come to an end, just 3 matches in May.
Starting with a long long day on public transport to get to Ellesmere Rangers as they took on Burtlesholme. Neither side had a recognised keeper as Rangers ran out 4-1 winners and relegated their guests. It finished a fortnight later in Barrow-in-Furness, an end of season game between two mid table sides Hawcoat Park and Turton. Except nobody told the players. Both sides had a player sent off, there could have been more, but it made for a great game as Turton took the 3 points home with them with a 2-1 victory.
Sandwiched in between was a visit to a little place, Wembley Stadium if you know it. My first FA Vase. West Auckland Town victors from the semi-final I had witnessed at St Andrews played Sholing. Whilst I enjoyed my plush surroundings, the game was not a classic by any means, but the side from Hampshire were not complaining at the end as they won 1-0 and lifted the trophy.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Hawcoat Park 1 Turton 2
GROUND OF THE MONTH: Wembley Stadium
RED CARDS: 2
NEW GROUNDS: Ellesmere Rangers; Wembley Stadium; Hawcoat Park
As spring and April came around I intended to make up for lost time, making it to 12 games in the end I think pretty much did that.
On Fools Day I was in Flixton as Vics saw off Lancaster City quite easily in the end by a 3-1 scoreline, I followed this up on the Thursday at Rochdale Town, where I finally saw Cheadle Town win a game. The visitors finishing was the difference in a 2-0 win.
At the weekend I went to the East Midlands for the FA Vase second leg tie between St Andrews and West Auckland Town. A 1-1 draw in the 1st leg up in the north-east had the tie evenly poised and when the hosts took the lead it looked like the Leicester side were off to Wembley. In the last 10 minutes the original ‘World Champions’ scored twice and took the spoils. As I left to return home it all kicked off on the pitch with a fair number of police cars heading in the opposite direction.
Back to the calmness of the NWCFL and Hanley Town won 4-2 at Widnes in a game they dominated before I made my first trip to the Peak District to watch Glossop North End. The Hillmen won 4-1 as I celebrated my 50th ground.
On the Monday I was at Oldham Boro v Ashton Town. More on this at the end of my review as it was my ‘Match of the Season’, Wednesday was Flixton again, this time for Villa, they welcomed AFC Darwen and let them leave with all 3 points after a 2-1 victory.
So we made it to Easter. On a sunny evening in Stockport, 3,770 of us saw an entertaining 0-0 draw between County and Altrincham. My 44 game run without one had come to an end. Time to start another, so back to the Peak District and New Mills v Kendal Town, the Cumbrian side winning 4-0 in the sunshine on the Saturday. Easter Monday and another 0-0, my run this time just the 1 game as the Atherton derby started poorly and got worse.
The last Saturday of the month and I was over in Derbyshire for the third time in April, a promotion clash between Belper Town and Halesowen Town. In a winner takes all clash it was The Yeltz who won 2-0 and claimed the Evo-Stik South title. Belper would also go up via the play-offs. In the play-offs in the North Division I saw Bamber Bridge overcome Warrington Town in a feisty game, the hosts having a man sent off, could easily have been 2 or 3, the visitors had a penalty saved but still prevailed.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Oldham Boro 3 Ashton Town 4
GROUND OF THE MONTH: Glossop North End
RED CARDS: 4
NEW GROUNDS: St Andrews; Widnes Vikings; Glossop North End; Oldham Boro; Stockport County; New Mills; Belper Town.
A month that was interrupted for me by illness, an 11 day football-less period at the end of the month drove me crazy, but a 6 goal thriller at Shawe View put any bad mood to bed. Barwell were the visitors for my last game in March, beating Trafford 4-2. The hosts first season at Step 3 was certainly proving tough.
My month started on the 4th at West Didsbury & Chorlton, where on a chilly evening they entertained Silsden. A comfortable 2-0 was played in front of just 68 people, a record low for me at Step 5. The low attendances continued at the weekend as Northwich Flixton Villa welcomed Holker Old Boys, with just 20 of us deciding this was the game for us, the Cumbrians winning easily 3-0. This was my lowest ever attendance.
In the midweek, I experienced a late show match. Firstly, Stocksbridge Park Steels got stuck coming over the Woodhead Pass to Ashton United, this seemed to throw the hosts as we ticked towards midnight and as the 90 minutes were up Steels led 2-1, though United’s goal came from the penalty spot (my first in 8 attempts), the Robins scored twice in the added on time to nick the 3 points. I could swear the sun was coming up as I got home.
Sadly this excitement didn’t continue and didn’t reappear until after my illness, home wins for Irlam and Northwich Victoria over Cheadle Town and Radcliffe Borough respectively both came by a 1-0 scoreline.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Ashton United 3 Stocksbridge Park Steels 2
GROUND OF THE MONTH: Ashton United
RED CARDS: 1
NEW GROUNDS: N/A
Looking back on these games there is one over riding memory. Mud.
As we finished last month just starting with it, there was plenty to go round in the second month of the year. At Burscough, tenants Formby, in their last year at this level before they resigned from the NWCFL took on 1874 Northwich in a cup quarter-final, silencing the majority of those in attendance with an emphatic 4-2 victory.
The next to have a splash in the weather were Squires Gate and West Didsbury & Chorlton. As the rain and wind blew in off the Irish Sea both sides struggled to get any kind of game going as the hosts won 1-0.
I finally managed to get a midweek game in, Luton Town visiting Macclesfield on a very wet evening and somehow leaving with 3 points as the Silkmen totally outplayed the league leaders. The best and muddiest of the lot was to follow at the weekend, at Brantingham Road, Maine Road welcomed Wigan Robin Park in a game that i am not too sure should have gone ahead. The visitors, thankful to keeper Danny Lever for an awesome display, managed to get a draw.
I crossed the country to watch the second leg of the FA Trophy tie between Grimsby Town and Cambridge United the following week, where the lesser spotted female assistant put in an appearance, a 1-1 draw ensuring United a spot in the final at Wembley Stadium.
Unbelievably I finished the month with 2 midweek games, lastly was Mossley v Trafford in the Manchester Premier Cup Semi-Final, the visitors winning 3-0 in a bad tempered game that saw both sides having a player sent off. The evening before I was at Droylsden as Kings Lynn Town visited. Watching this one with George Cheetham I remember 2 things. Firstly, the visitors 2-1 win ensured relegation for the hosts. Yes, in February, their season had been that bad. Secondly, and whilst fairly serious, actually was funny to watch, two home fans had taken particular exception to a visiting winger, shouted threats and obscenities at him, ran up and down the wing following him, when he switched wings they followed him, and back again when he switched back. Ah, non league football.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Formby 4 1874 Northwich 2
GROUND OF THE MONTH: Formby (Burscough)
RED CARDS: 2
NEW GROUNDS: Formby; Squires Gate; Macclesfield Town; Grimsby Town
So a World Cup year. This is going to be our year isn’t it? Nah.
I continued my trip around the good and bad of the non-league football world, starting on New Years Day at the luckless Droylsden. Though, in this match, I think they got a little lucky as Ashton United appeared to ease off for the last 20 minutes. Still scored a hatful though, 9-0. This is still to date my biggest away win, and by some margin.
A few days later I was at Chadderton for my first visit, Rochdale Town ran them ragged and won 3-0, even saving a home penalty to rub salt in the wounds a little bit more. The following week I paid my first visit to Brantingham Road, the home of Maine Road. In a scrappy game they beat Congleton Town 2-0, though the quality was certainly hampered by a very heavy pitch. Again, no midweek game, but once again the following Saturday another new ground, this time Atherton Collieries. Their opponents Leek CSOB were languishing near the foot of the table and could easily have lost by a bigger margin that the 4-0 it finished.
I finished the month with a weekend double header, Friday night, at a rain soaked Wakefield, myself and 123 others were packed into the Rugby League ground as Farsley beat Wakey 3-0 and had one penalty saved and another that hit the post. The last 7 penalties I had seen had all ended without a goal. The following day, another rain soaked pitch, another thumping. This time handed out by Bootle as they visited Abbey Hey.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Droylsden 0 Ashton United 9
GROUND OF THE MONTH: Wakefield
RED CARDS: 0
NEW GROUNDS: Droylsden; Chadderton; Maine Road; Atherton Collieries; Wakefield; Abbey Hey
Just 8 games attended in December. Three of them were at Northwich Victoria (even if one was officially an away game). I started the month off at Valley Road as Leamington visited for an FA Trophy 1st Round Replay. On a chilly night where I saw my second ever female official the visitors won 1-0, though the outstanding memory of the game is of a bloody good penalty shout for Vics that was turned down.
A week later I was back at Valley Road as Radcliffe Borough visited, got thumped and went back home. They even had a penalty saved as they lost 4-0 in a one sided match. Another 7 days I was back again, this time for a Mid Cheshire Senior Cup Semi-Final. Congleton Town were the hosts, however, they had experienced floodlight trouble the week before so the venue was switched. What a game this was. Extra-time was required as the Bears caused an upset by winning 3-2, this time it was Vics who saw a penalty saved.
In the middle of those 3 games I had trips to Runcorn. First it was to Linnets as they swamped AFC Blackpool 4-0, the scoreline flattered the visitors as the hosts ran riot. The following week I was at the Pavilions as Town hosted Alsager Town. The sky blues were the better side until an almighty clanger by their keeper gifted Alsager the opener, from then on Alsager controlled the match, easily winning 3-0 as Town finished the game with 10 men following a late red card.
My festive period started in Prescot, AFC Liverpool the tenant, Silsden the visitors, the tenants won 3-1. On boxing day I was at Shawe View as Trafford entertained Droylsden, there was a lack of festive spirit as the hosts won 1-0, had a penalty saved, a man sent off, the Bloods were not to be outdone as 2 of their players also saw red in a bad tempered affair.
I saw out 2013 at Vauxhall Motors, where ‘Pay What You Want’ on the gate was an offer not taken up by anywhere near enough people, just 267 seeing the Vanarama North game in Motors final season at this level. The hosts deservedly winning, the match finishing 1-0.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Congleton Town 3 Northwich Victoria 2 aet (played at Northwich Victoria)
GROUND OF THE MONTH: AFC Liverpool (Prescot Cables)
RED CARDS: 4
NEW GROUNDS: Runcorn Linnets; Runcorn Town; AFC Liverpool; Vauxhall Motors
My first game of November was by default, heading to Gresley (it would take another 4 years to complete that journey)horrible traffic in the Stoke-on-Trent area had me finally at Newcastle Town, what an unusual ground. Part of a cycling track too, it is a gem. Town ran out 2-0 winners against Sutton Coldfield Town.
A week later I was in North Wales for the first time, Prestatyn Town and their great ground and hospitality were my hosts as they lost 2-1 to Afan Lido courtesy of a late penalty and my first ever red card.
Chadderton away at Rochdale Town followed. Entertaining? of course it was, Chaddy on the wrong end of a 6-2 beating. A few days later my last (so far) coach trip with the West lot as they went to the seaside and thumped AFC Blackpool 4-0.
An Evo-Stik League Cup match followed, Trafford away at Northwich Victoria, who were playing in Flixton, so the visitors only had a couple of miles to travel, won 2-0 and travelled the 2 miles back to Shawe View. Another League Cup game followed, North West Counties League this time AFC Darwen hosting Cheadle Town, the match in rain, mist etc finished 3-2 to the hosts.
I finished the month at Southport. The Step 1 side losing 2-1 to Boston United, who were a division below their opponents.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Rochdale Town 6 Chadderton 2
GROUND OF THE MONTH: Newcastle Town
RED CARDS: 1
NEW GROUNDS: Newcastle Town; Prestatyn Town; Rochdale Town; AFC Blackpool; Northwich Victoria; AFC Darwen; Southport
Another groundhop month, but more of that later. October started very slowly, a poor match between the long named teams of West Didsbury & Chorlton v. Bacup & Rossendale Borough saw only 2 shots on target all game, luckily 1 hit the net as the visitors won in injury time.
A visit to Hyde followed, one of many games they lost this season, this one against Gateshead, before a cracking 2-2 draw between Nelson and Northwich Flixton Villa, the latter I saw a few days later lose 1-0 at home against NWCFL new boys 1874 Northwich.
My second bus ride with the WD&C lot came for their FA Vase tie at Staveley Miners Welfare, where they lost 2-0 as the hosts ran out comfortable winners at their wonderful ground. After another Nelson goalfest match, a 3-2 win at Atherton LR on a murky evening I was off to the North East for my groundhop.
Friday saw me at Shildon as they lost 3-2 to Ashington in the pre-Steve Harmison days, before 4 games on the Saturday, Heaton Stannington (where a player had his jaw broken), West Alltoment Celtic (first 0-0), Team Northumbria (4-3 defeat) and Newcastle Benfield (as drunk and football weary fans stumbled around the ground). A shout out to Paul Chow, he scored all Whitley Bay’s 4 goals in the third match of the day.
I finished the month at Trafford, where Chorley popped along. They put 5 in the back of the net without reply, picked up the 3 points and headed back up the M61. Job done.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Team Northumbria 3 Whitley Bay 4
GROUND OF THE MONTH: Shildon
RED CARDS: 0
NEW GROUNDS: Hyde; Nelson; Northwich Flixton Villa; Staveley Miners Welfare; Atherton LR; Shildon; Heaton Stannington; West Allotment Celtic; Team Northumbria; Newcastle Benfield
On a sunny evening early in the month I saw a close game where the hosts Warrington Town overcame New Mills 2-1, considering the relative positions now, this match feels like light years away.
This was followed by seeing Trafford’s start to Step 3 continue to look like too big a step, easily beaten 2-0 by Ashton United, this was followed 3 days later by Whitby Town visiting Shawe View and leaving with 3 points after a 3-0 win.
Then 2 incredible games. Firstly, Bootle went to Worksop Town in the FA Cup, at the time the Merseysiders were 2 leagues below their hosts. 0-0 at half-time, Town scored straight after the break, the Bucks then battered Worksop. For 40 minutes it was one way traffic, chance after chance came and went, until right near the end, when they equalised from the spot. Great game.
Though not as good as a few days later. What did I say about Chadderton? They visited Irlam in the Manchester Premier Cup and lost 5-4, an incredible match played in awful conditions.
A coach trip east followed to the Doncaster area with West Didsbury & Chorlton in the FA Vase. Rossington Main the hosts. a late Baldwin-Willis strike, from what must have been all of 3 inches, giving West a 2-1 win and earning them a trip to Staveley Miners Wlfare in the next round. Another Manchester Premier Cup a few days later, only 6 goals in this one, Mossley beating Droylsden 4-2.
I finished the month off in the New Forest at a local derby between Brockenhurst and Lymington Town. A quite incredible 3-3 draw, 2 penalties for the hosts 1 scored and the other saved. Brilliant entertainment at a beautiful ground.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Irlam 5 Chadderton 4
GROUND OF THE MONTH: Brockenhurst
RED CARDS: 0
NEW GROUNDS: Warrington Town; Ashton United; Worksop Town; Irlam; Rossington Main; Mossley; Brockenhurst
The very start of my born again football fan career. Groundhopping gripped me straight away and August 2013 was when it all happened.
It was also a new start for Hanley Town, their debut at Step 6 on a beautiful afternoon, a 2-2 draw against the always entertaining Chadderton. A few days later, I caught Hanley Town again as they demolished Cheadle Town away 4-1, and saw my first penalty, Hanley were very impressive.
On the 10th I experienced my first ever groundhop day, it was part of the Northern League’s 125th anniversary and was based over on the west coast, Celtic Nation, Whitehaven and Penrith entertaining a total of 892 fans on the same day. Later the same week I experienced a penalty party at West Didsbury & Chorlton. They scored their penalty, Winsford United scored and had another saved as the visitors ran out 2-1 winners.
The 17th was another debut at a new level as Trafford went up against Matlock Town and won 2-1, this was followed a few nights later by Daisy Hill thumping local rivals Atherton Collieries 3-1, before it was back to watching Trafford, this time at Stafford Rangers where they ran out 4-1 winners.
Bank Holiday Monday, Shawe View, FC United of Manchester visited, went 1-0 up, Trafford scored 2 to take the lead before the visitors won the game with 2 late goals. This was also the venue for my final game of the month as Trafford welcomed Stamford, but probably wished they hadn’t as the visitors left with a 2-0 victory and 3 points.
GAME OF THE MONTH: West Didsbury & Chorlton 1 Winsford United 2
GROUND OF THE MONTH: Celtic Nation
RED CARDS: 0
NEW GROUNDS: Hanley Town; Cheadle Town; Celtic Nation; Whitehaven; Penrith; West Didsbury & Chorlton; Trafford; Daisy Hill; Stafford Rangers.