GAME OF THE WEEK
Sandbach United 1 Abbey Hulton United 2
The Hallmark Security League First Division
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.
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.
Sat: Glasgow Celtic 3 Aberdeen 0
Mon: Sandbach United 1 Abbey Hulton United 2
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.
Murmur – REM