Ram-Raid in Rochdale

It’s FA Vase day again & we’re off to Rochdale Town for their encounter with Dinnington Town, both Rochdale & Dinnington are struggling at bottom of their respective leagues with Rochdale only picking up one win from their opening 9 league games & Dinnington not even managing that! So we thought something had to give it was either going to be a goal-fest or a snore draw so we headed for the tram stop :-)

As the tram arrived at the station we were slightly confused with it having ‘Media City’ illuminated on the front as its final destination instead of the usual ‘Bury’? This meant we would have to change at Piccadilly in order for us to get to Victoria for our train to Castleton in Rochdale. “this may make us late” I told the big fella as our train was due to depart at 2 o’clock and it was now 1.20pm.

As we changed at Piccadilly, I was now fairly anxious as we only had 20 minutes to wait for the connecting tram, get the tickets from the machine at Vic & board the train! “No tram service to Victoria today” came the news from the Hi-Vis brigade “please change to the replacement bus shuttle service for journeys to Bury” this really wasn’t good, I was now convinced we would miss the train & a good portion of the match :-( The clock said 13.57 as we quickly walked along Victoria station concourse and after the Rhino had politely barged a bloke who had no idea what he was doing at the self-service ticket machine to one side, we jumped on the 14.00 to Leeds as the guard was blowing his whistle!

With standing room only on the train we took our positions near the doors & looked to Google maps to plot our short walk from Castleton station to Mayfield Sports Centre where Rochdale Town obviously play their home games and share with the Mayfield Rugby League team.

As the train approached our stop a familiar face was heading up the carriage who was also getting off here, a chap called Sam who is some sort of co-owner of FC United of Manchester or so his twitter bio says. We got off the train and walked up the steep station approach to join the main road at the top and we were now following Sam’s directions. After 10 minutes of walking up & down the streets of Castleton we arrived at the end of Keswick St. to find it closed off by temporary fencing because of the new houses being built! Sam then comes out with the shocking news that he had seen a sign saying Keswick St. was closed on the walk round!

I’ve never seen a Rhino turn purple but I could see the anger building up in the big fella’s face! “come out of the way” he said as Sam was now franticly re-plotting the way back, “I’ll ram-raid the bastard!” lol this I HAD to see! :-) unfortunately the big fella noticed the fencing was only tied to the gate post on one side so decided to break in without damage instead :-( and there I was with my video camera poised ready to make £250 off that piss-poor TV show!

With the fence re-attached & no further obstacles in the way we headed for the entrance and the big fella now turned to Sam, “don’t you think it was rather foolish of you not to share the ‘street closed’ information with us earlier? Like before we set off walking down the street?” :-)  the big fella actually phrased it rather differently than that using much more ‘colourful’ dialect and I’m pretty sure he called him worse than foolish but you get the drift ;-)

We bought a couple of beers in the clubhouse & Sam joined us with his can of Coke and started spewing out facts & figures about today’s teams as well as other clubs but I had switched off by now and it was just white noise reaching my ears as the mental images of a ram-raiding rhino faded into a ‘what might have been’ memory :-( at one point Sam said his football-watching would suffer this season as his Uni results had been disastrous & he would have to concentrate more on them, “shame they don’t do a highway code diploma” the big fella told him “you could fail that too!” fearing more of the same was to come, Sam left us saying he would meet us inside :-)

“wow that guy can talk some shite” I said to a now calming Rhino, “yep, although I’ve no idea what he was talking about I was just thinking about how many times you can fold a piece of paper in half when he was waffling on!” lol I understood perfectly! “we need a disguise when we go in, I’ll see what I’ve got in the bag”

Like all good football bloggers, I always carry various disguises and today was no exception with my selection of ‘Manly Moustaches’ for us to choose from :-) we paid the £5 admission and took our seats in the main stand to make our choices, I opted for the ‘casanova’ look while the big fella rather fittingly went for the ‘Villain’ and my mental images of him ram-raiding had now been completely replaced with visions of him tying Sam to the railway tracks in a 1920’s silent movie style’ie :-)

Both sides are ready to go and the very nice chap from the turnstile was now wandering round selling squares on a name card, “has Stoke City gone?” the Rhino asked as he approached us, the big fella then explained to the seller that he had once won 3 name cards all on the same day in 2 different pubs and amazingly each win was with Stoke City! The space was empty so he forked out a quid & entered his initials as the Ref got us going.

A surprisingly good opening half hour with both teams having a go and playing some good stuff. A few tasty tackles were flying in but the ref was doing his best to keep the game flowing despite the usual complaints being barked at him from the dug-outs. Matty Warburton opened the scoring for Rochdale with about 30 minutes gone when he had come up from the back for a set piece & he was on hand to squeeze the ball home after a bit of pinball-panic in the Dinnington area 1-0.

The first half came to an end with both sides still playing attacking football where they could but the Dinnington captain Andrew Sykes looked like he was carrying an injury clutching the back of his leg & stretching it whenever there was a break in play, the ref blew & we went in search of a pie. HT. 1-0.

£1.50 for a very nice meat & potato offering but I didn’t manage to get any information on where they came from or who made them, in fact the girl serving did her best to avoid talking to me at all apart from telling me the price??? Maybe I should have removed the Casanova Moustache as I left the main stand but then again, it was working! Sam was nowhere to be seen! :-)

Back in the main stand for the 2nd half and we swapped Moustaches to further confuse Sam and now I was the Villain! The chap selling the squares on the name card passed us again.. “come on now folks, only 4 left, £1 a go to win £20” meaning today’s crowd wasn’t exactly massive if he was struggling to fill 40 squares :-(

On the pitch, 2 goals in quick succession as Rochdale went from a goal to the good to 1-2 down! 3 minutes in and Lanzel Reid broke the offside trap and found himself one-on-one with Mike Smith in the Rochdale goal, the No. 9 made no mistake with a thumping right-footed drive to level the scores & just 5 minutes later substitute Jason Slew, now on for the injured Sykes, took one touch to steady himself 30 yards out before unleashing an absolute rocket into the top left hand corner that would have beaten any keeper! Fantastic goal 1-2.

Rochdale stepped up a gear but the visitors seemed happy to let them come on to them and then look for the quick counter with No. 11 Martin Wade & Sub. Jason Slew who were both beginning to catch the eye as the second period went on.

The home side had a few chances to get back on terms from corners & free kicks and left back Carl Fitton’s left boot was sending in some great deliveries but Dinnington stood tall in defence and kept their goal advantage even though there was a bit of desperate defending here & there :-)

Rochdale’s Jordan James was emerging as a man of the match contender for us, the big No. 11 was good with the ball at his feet, taking defenders on even if he did try and take on one too many now & again and he definitely wasn’t too shy when it came to having a crack at goal and it was his effort that had us on our feet applauding when he levelled the scores on 75 minutes.

James cancelled out the brilliant Jason Slew goal from the first half with an even better strike of his own. Again from about 30 yards out, James looked like he was going to cross into the Dinnington area for the forwards to attack but instead hit a swerving, dipping shot with power that had Marcus Weston scrambling across his line long after the ball had buried itself into the netting! Another brilliant goal & another shot in the arm for non-league :-) 2-2.

The half fizzled out towards the end with both teams not wanting to concede rather than push on for the winner, a golden chance fell to Frank Funzo who was on for Dinnington’s goal scorer Reid, but he blasted it straight at the keeper it what looked to be a certain goal & match winner for the visitors  and that was that. FT. 2-2.

I feared for the dog sat in front of us because as ever its owner had finished his tea & sandwiches not realising there’s an extra 30 minutes of play if it’s all square on 90 minutes in the Vase. Poor Fido would have to wait another half hour before he could cock his leg up against the Dinnington team bus (why else would you take a dog to a game?) but for us an extra 30 minutes is a bonus especially when you’re watching the end-to-end stuff we had seen so far :-)

First blood to Rochdale in extra time when Luke Bredbury netted a cheeky overhead kick, the No. 9 had his back to goal when a midfield free kick was lofted in and after cushioning the ball with his chest, Bredbury flicked the ball over his head to watch it loop over the keeper and Rochdale were back in front 3-2 at the break.

The second period of extra time started & both teams were looking tired, all subs had been used by both sides and players that had been on the pitch from the start were looking exhausted. The visitors didn’t seem to have anything left in the tank other than the odd long range effort from free kicks in the middle of the park and Rochdale sewn things up when James got his second after the keeper had parried the ball into the path of the tricky No. 11 to slot home the final goal of the day. FT. (aet) 4-2.

Back in the clubhouse we celebrated the win (and that our disguises had worked as Sam was nowhere to be seen) with a beer or 2 when the name card seller walked passed. The big fella shouted over asking if he managed to fill the card & had anyone won it? “yeah I filled it in the end, Stoke City won it but nobody’s claimed it yet” the big fella set off telling him that he was the winner & reminded him of the story about him winning 3 cards in one day with Stoke and at the same time he ripped off his Casanova Moustache! The guy looked puzzled at first and then said “oh yeah I remember now” lol lol it was as if removing the stick on facial hair really did remind the guy who had bought the winning square! I was laughing that hard I think I actually wee’d a little :-(

So with a crisp £20 note in his hand the big fella headed to the bar once more & we gave a toast to Stoke City! :-) not often a couple of blokes from Manchester have done that before. The rugby team was returning home with a very convincing away win as we left so we timed it just right as they were in full-on drinking mode & I think our manly moustaches would have come under attack at some point!

The walk back to the station didn’t involve any ram-raiding or temporary obstacles of any sort to hinder our progress, so much so we had time for a quick pint in the Blue Pits Inn opposite the station as we waited for the train back to Victoria.

A 20 minute train ride later and we were getting nailed for £3.90 a pint in the station bar at Vic for larger that looked like it had been stood there for 6 hours! More walking for us as we set off through the city centre in order to find the tram back to Droylsden as they’re still not running out of Vic, but along the way we think we may have found the reason for the lack of trams running to Bury that day. Some blokes were playing a massive game of Jenga with the things in the middle of Manchester! The Rhino went over to offer some help but was politely thanked & then asked to move along lol :-)

FA Cup next week folks and we’re still undecided as to where to go but Vegas is looking favourite up to now :-) until then blog Buds……….



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We’re Up 4 the Cup again

Saturday 14th and it’s FA Cup day once again for me & the big fella :-) we’re off to a new venue for the blog by dropping in on our top mate Jim Rushe at Northwich Victoria who now play their home games on the old Flixton FC pitch. The Vic’s FA Cup 1st qualifying round game against Skelmersdale United is our pick of the fixtures today but before I waffle on about that, did you know that the week before was Non-League Day! :-)

The International break for the premier & championship leagues meant it was time for the 4th annual “non-league day” a day dedicated to promoting non-league football across the country to try and get fans of top flight clubs to go along & support their local or home-town team & hopefully become hooked! so with me & the big fella hailing from Droylsden & the Bloods playing at home, we decided that in the true spirit of the day we should go……………… to CHEADLE!

Cheadle Town, from Stockport had been drawn at home in the qualifying round of the FA Vase against Daisy Hill from up Bolton way. This was a good chance for us to go & see 2 teams from our local 30 sides we’re keeping an eye on this season. Cheadle’s Park Road ground is easy enough to get to from Stockport bus station with lots of services going that way then it’s just a short 5 minute walk from the bus stop to the ground along what the Rhino calls a “doggers lane” type of road! not quite sure what he means by that but once you’re there it’s only £5 admission & free for dogs if that’s what he’s on about…. now that’s a BARGAIN ;-)

We’ve been to Cheadle before so I’ll just write a few lines about the game, there’s no need to review the place again but they must have known we were coming because the cage door on the tea hut was open early! :-) after deciding not to fall for this siren song until half time we wandered round to the club house for a quick pint before kick off instead.

Sat in the dark, musky-smelling bar we reflected on the last time we were here to watch Cheadle get beat 1-3 by Wigan Robin Park in the Vase in an awful game last season, I also remembered I couldn’t find a team sheet anywhere for the line-ups & today was no different :-( so I looked for someone who seemed to know who was who when the game started & asked him for help with names so if I get it wrong blame Billy Hargreaves from Edgley, Stockport ;-)

Right from the whistle Cheadle played like a team on fire! Only 5 minutes gone and they should have been at least 2 up, they passed the ball throughout the team with every possession that usually ended with an attempt to open the scoring, if they could find the target that is ;-)

A goal was inevitable and on 13 minutes Ben Connolly received the ball on the left & cut the ball back to left back, Luke Pearson to slot it home for 1-0. Mr. Hargreaves told us that this was the first time Cheadle had scored in the first half this season. Pearson & Connolly dominated the left hand side of the pitch presenting chance after chance for the home side to no avail with the half finishing at 1-0.

We left it too late for our usual half time savory treat as the big fella insisted on another quick beer before consuming solids & by the time we left the club house the second half had just started & the tea hut was closed :-(

It was more of the same for the second 45 on the pitch with Cheadle fully in control & their foot still firmly on the gas as they went in search of a 2nd goal. Mr. Hargreaves sadly didn’t know the names of any of the Daisy players but we both agreed that their No. 9 was a real handful & if an equaliser was to come it would probably come from him or in the words of Mr. Hargreaves “tricky Bastard that No. 9, someone should smash him” this made the big fella chuckle and ask “do they practice the ‘smash him’ technique in training here?”

Just about on the hour, Pearson & Connolly extended the home side’s lead but this time Pearson was the provider with a long diagonal ball into space for Connolly to run on to and then calmly slotted the ball under the keeper. 2-0.

There were some good performances & candidates for our man of the match within the Cheadle ranks today but it had to be a toss-up between the goal scorers in the end and when Connolly had his penalty saved with about 10 minutes to go, we opted for Pearson :-) lol football is a cruel game, even when you win!

The last 5 minutes was a bit hectic though, just when everyone in the ground thought we were heading for a 2-0 home win, Daisy Hill suddenly shown up & knocked one in! A cross came in from the right and Scott Winstanley got himself between the 2 centre backs to fumble the ball over the line. 2-1.

Could the visitors grab another in injury time? Were we going to have another 30 minutes of extra time? Answer – NO! Straight from the re-start Cheadle bombed forward & with the inevitable cross from the left, James Horan found himself all alone with just the keeper to beat and he did :-) a couple of minutes later & it was all over with Cheadle chalking up a very deserved 3-1 win. A tweet I received later in the day told me that Daisy Hill had fielded a weakened side on the day due to injuries and it would have been a very different outcome had some of Daisy’s first choice players been available so we’re hoping for much better the next time we see them but as for Cheadle, we both agreed it’s the best we’ve seen them play and that includes their 2-8 win at Chadderton in our very first blog! Well done & good luck in the next round guys ;-)

We thanked Mr. Hargreaves for his help & left him safe in the knowledge that his car hadn’t been involved in any ‘dogging’ incidents while we were watching the game and set off back to Droylsden to raise a glass or 2 for Non-League Day and look forward to next week’s trip to see Jim :-)

The following week and we’re on our way to Flixton on the bus! Unfortunately Man. United are playing at home today against Crystal Palace in the day’s early kick off & our bus goes up Chester Road passing the Old Trafford stadium, so we have to set off as late as possible to avoid the thousands of people who are going to the wrong game ;-)

The roads had cleared enough by the time we were passing the stadium so with no hold ups we should arrive on time for kick off. Whilst on this journey, me & the big fella were having a somewhat intense debate about the origin of the phrase “Dead Ringer” and we almost missed our stop as we discussed everything from cloned cars to boxers receiving fatal blows at the end of a round & even people who have been buried along with a length of rope attached to a bell they can tug on just in case they’re not really as dead as people thought!

The conversation continued along the short walk to the ground by which time race horses were now to blame for the everyday saying!? “well just don’t look it in the mouth” I told the Rhino who answered me with a stream of expletives which roughly translated meant he was having none of it! :-)

The freshly painted perimeter of Northwich’s green & white told us we were at the right place as we walked up to the gate of the old Flixton ground, that coupled with the fact the Vic’s share this ground with Northwich Flixton Villa who use the same colours for their home kit. We never actually got to see Flixton play before they resigned from the North West Counties League last year but I do know they played in blue & white so maybe it’s just half a paint job on the new gaff :-)

We paid the £7 to get in and bought a programme for £2 and headed for the club house but got tagged for another £2 for the raffle on the way :-) the pitch looked in fantastic shape, probably the best we’ve seen so far this year and it was the first thing Jim pointed out when we met up with him telling us “it’s perfect that, it’s like a carpet”

As the teams & officials lined up in the middle for the obligatory handshakes, Jim was directing us to a staircase that takes you to the function room above the bar & from there you can get out onto a balcony for a perfect view of the game and told us he would meet us up there later, perfect… top bloke :-)

The game kicked off and with only one chair to be had the big fella baggsied it and promptly started directing the young lad shooting the video of the match! I’m pretty sure the lad knew what he was doing anyway but it’s always nice to get a bit of help now & again even if you don’t want it lol :-)

On the pitch the game was in full flow and the Vic’s were doing their best to hold off Skelmersdale who looked like they had come to wrap things up as quickly as possible today. Riding high at the top of the Northern Prem. Skelmersdale’s attacking play shown just why they hold that position especially Joe Holt (no, not the beer!) who looked very impressive delivering crosses from the right for Skems front men Nick Rogan & ex-Vic’s hit man Kevin Leadbetter to latch on to.

The visitors opening goal came by way of a penalty in the 17th minute, Ashley Dunn was brought down inside the area and Leadbetter placed the ball on the spot ready to put Skem in front against his old club.

“isn’t it always the way that one of your former players comes back to haunt you in this game” the big fella said just before the spot kick was taken, “are you sure it’s him though?” I asked, “well if it isn’t he’s a dead ringer for him!” lol I wasn’t going down that road again! But I did video the pen for my YouTube channel and you can see it (here)

About 10 minutes later and Skelmersdale doubled their lead with a fine move started by Leadbetter, after collecting the ball in midfield he sent it out wide to Holt who crossed perfectly for Nick Rogan to head into the bottom corner leaving the Vic’s keeper stranded. 0-2.

The home side did have a few chances in the opening 45 but they were few & far between to make much of an impact on the Skem defence and the half finished with the visitors giving a lesson in keep ball & firmly in control of the game :-( HT. 0-2.

We went shopping at half time for another pint and of course a pie from the pie-warmer perched on the bar, we went back outside with our refreshments just in time to see an actual Lancaster Bomber flying overhead! There must have been an air show on somewhere? Either that or somebody had built a dam somewhere on the Manchester ship canal & the council had decided to demolish it old school style :-)

I managed to get a quick photo with Jim just before the second half started & while he was still in a fairly optimistic mood :-) the home side had made a double substitution during the break and hopefully this would shake them up a bit and test Skem keeper, Zac Hibbert a bit more.

The Vic’s did start to play a little better with quicker one & two touch passing but still no real threat on goal and the visitors began to gain the upper hand once again. Just after the hour Skem favourite Shaun Tuck came on to replace Rogan up front and within 4 minutes he netted the 3rd & final goal of the day much to the delight of the away supporters who had only just finished singing his name for coming on as a sub! :-)

With the game all over, the last 10 minutes or so seen the Vic’s best spell of the game, Josh Kenworthy’s shot going just inches over and Hibbert made a fine save from a Kieran Lugsden headed effort.

Skelmersdale soaked up the late pressure from the home side until Mr. Hayes brought an end to the game & Northwich’s Cup campaign was over :-( the visitors were worthy winners on the day and booked their place in the next round along with the massive £3,000+ prize for winning today! A prize that would have come in very handy for Northwich after Jim had told us how much is needed just to pay the bills each week at the club!

After another couple of beers downstairs in the clubhouse, we wished a few Skelmersdale fans good luck for the next round, said farewell to Jim and headed for the bus stop for the trip back to Droylsden :-)

During the day we had seen tweets from Matt Harrison who was at the Droylsden v Trafford game. Matt is a mad-crazy, groundhopping blogger we’ve known for a while now and after leaving the game he was now on route to the Sweaty SS! We caught up with him an hour or so later & the Rhino got him a little worse for wear by the time he left :-) you’re not allowed to wear hats in Droylsden pubs for CCTV reasons these days (apart from sombrero’s on Mexican night in the Salted Snail, they’re ok) but the lovely staff in our favourite watering hole said it was ok for Matt to put his ‘spirit of 58’ hat on for a photo with us before he got the tram home :-) follow Matt on Twitter & check out his excellent blog (here) he’s from the valleys with an accent you could spread on a mutton tostie, he now lives in Salford & teaches English!

Rochdale Town in the Vase for us next week for another new venue for the blog :-) until then Blog Buds……………… :-)

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2 Weddings & a Cup Tie

FA Cup preliminary round day and we’re off to the home of the flat cap, whippets, woodbines, clogs & pigeons…… Atherton Collieries! Technically Atherton is in the borough of Wigan but it seems more like Bolton to me, more importantly I seem to be a bit of a curse when it comes to the Colls, I really like the team but whenever I go to see them they never seem to do very well :-( so the big fella recommended that I should go in disguise!

We had to be a bit careful setting off on today’s trip, Man City are playing Hull City at 12.45 & we don’t want to get caught up in all the carnage that comes with a home game at the Etihad so we left it until 1.30 before catching the tram from Droylsden to Victoria station by which time everyone that’s going to the City game should already be inside.

This worked out ok as our tram stopped at the Eithad & set off again as if it was a Sunday morning :-) we arrived at Victoria with about 15 minutes to spare before the train was due to depart giving the Rhino enough time to collect his £4.10p day return ticket from the machine. A last minute platform change from 5 to 4 made no difference to us as we was on an island platform & at 2.07 we set off :-)

After a 15 minute walk from the station we arrived at Alder House, on paper it’s a tuff game for the Colls today as Evo-North outfit Radcliffe Boro are today’s opponents who are 2 divisions above in the football pyramid but of course… games are never won or lost on paper!

Radcliffe are routed firmly to the bottom of the first division north after not taking any points from their opening 4 games this season & only scoring once in the process :-( The Colls on the other hand are challenging at the top of the NWC 1st division with 4 wins & 2 draws from their opening 7 games so today should be a close encounter and maybe a few goals too!

None of the familiar faces at Atherton were to be seen as we entered the ground, not even club secretary Emil Anderson! The first time me & the Rhino went to watch the Colls we thought Emil was one of 3 identical triplets as the same face popped up all over the place. On the turnstile, in the clubhouse, the canteen & the changing rooms! As well as being a die-hard Colls fan we’re also pretty sure the guy even sweeps up after the game :-)

It turns out that Colls Vice Chairman Mark Riley was getting married today and had obviously invited everyone at Alder House to the ceremony, he had also made the schoolboy error of planning this auspicious occasion on FA Cup day! Emil did make a brief appearance on his way to the church but only to inform us that Gibbo was in charge :-)

Most of you will know Gibbo, the young fella from up north who writes his own football blog Gibbo’s92 just for fun but today our little flat-cap’d footy friend was employed by the non league paper to take some photo’s and write a match report.

Gibbo took his place squatting on the half way line for kick off wearing his hi-vis vest & looking like a ninja paparazzi with his long lens camera :-) the ref called the captains into the centre circle and we were underway! And it wasn’t too long before we had our first goal when Mark Truffas curled a free kick into the bottom corner in the 2nd minute to give the Colls an early lead, 1-0….. GAME ON!

For the next 20 minutes or so it was all Atherton as Boro’s recent form & lack of confidence going forward was evident. Their defence however was standing strong breaking down the Colls attacking moves quickly & efficiently restricting the home side to long range efforts from outside the area and when crosses did come into the box Sam Andrew in the Boro goal had them all covered despite the windy conditions.

Boro did have a good spell of possession towards the end of the half but lacked in creative play or even movement up front for the final pass to be converted into an attempt on target with their only real chances coming from corners taken by Chris Thompson. The half ended with the Colls taking a well-deserved lead into the break. HT. 1-0.

We of course went in search of a pie at half time & with Gibbo in charge today we felt sure they would be top notch :-) and they must have been because just about everyone at Alder House was queuing at the tea hut! It’s not a very big canteen and once you get 4 or 5 customers inside it’s full :-(

We decided to give the pie a miss after looking at the 30+ people in the que (I know, criminal not to have a pie at the match!) instead we decided to stay inconspicuous & stay in disguise just in case we were spotted as the “curse of the colls” duo! My phone had managed to pick up on some sort of distant signal so I took the opportunity to tweet out that the Colls were ‘Lookin Good’ as were we by the way :-)

The second half began with Boro looking like a different team. Quicker, sharper & all together a more stronger looking side, this didn’t go down well with the Colls fans we were sat with & comment of the day has to come from the old boy sat 3 rows in front when he said “I know there’s a fair bit of inter-breeding in Radcliffe but they can’t all be called Stewart Fell” lol the Boro kit had the sponsor’s name on the back of each shirt above each players number but the old boy with the smart comment comes from Wigan! Something about glass houses & throwing stones comes to mind ;-)

On the pitch a good cup tie was unfolding with Boro growing in confidence & Matthew Landregan began playing a fine game up front holding the ball well & playing in his team mates who were now moving into space and giving the lad attacking options.

The only problem Boro had was a Colls fan who turns up at every home game with his dog! ‘That can’t be a problem’ I hear you say, there’s plenty of dogs at non league games. The problem is that this one never shuts up barking! So much so that the clown on the other end of the lead has headphones on! Apparently lots of complaints have been made about this barking mad idiot and his dog by fans & visiting teams alike but the crazy duo can still be found near the corner flag at home games…. Just listen out for ‘em! ;-)

Just after the hour Boro made a triple change to keep up the pressure they had been building on the home side & 10 minutes later it paid off. Danny White pounced onto a loose ball in the area and slotted it home for the equaliser setting up an anxious last 15 minutes for both sides. The game finished with both sides preferring not to lose rather than go ‘all out’ for the win and a draw was probably about right on the day. FT. 1-1.

With trains home running every half hour we had plenty of time to go for a pint or 2 in the club house & after finding out that Carling was only £2.50 a pint we stayed for 4 or 5 (as you do) while Gibbo was busy tapping away on his laptop trying to get his match report done by deadline time :-)

He seemed to be coping well under this journalistic pressure but he had lots of help if needed with me & the Rhino throwing in the odd descriptive words like woeful, shocking & shite! What are Blog-Buds for if not to help one another out? :-) besides, he had nearly all of his family there with him… Dad, Grandad even his Sister! There was only his mum missing who I’m told makes very good gravy :-)

Safe in the knowledge Gibbo had made the dead line we set off back to the station, we just about made the train with only a couple of minutes to spare because it took us closer to 25 minutes to walk back but I’m putting this down to it being mainly up hill and nothing what so ever to do with the beer we had drank :-)

The big fella had organised a quick stop-off in Manchester to go to wedding reception at the Britannia Hotel he had been invited to, but he wanted to be fashionably late so we popped in Yates’s on Portland Street for a quick pint before going in. Going in here is never a good idea as they let anyone in! moving quickly away from the bar because it looked like a guy was about to start projectile vomiting I found a pound coin stuck to the floor & just in case you don’t believe me I had my picture taken with it as proof! :-)

Not wanting to get involved in the imminent fighting that was about to break out, we left Yates’s & headed for the hotel. The big fella knew most of the people at this shin dig whereas I only knew 2 or 3 of them. I need to get out more :-( not knowing anyone didn’t stop me from having a go at my John Travolta style dancing although Millsy came over saying I looked more like a chubby, white Usain Bolt & joined in!

I then blatantly raided the buffet and picked a spot at the end of the bar to prop up and wait while the Rhino went ‘mingling’ amongst the guests. I also now had full internet on my phone so was able to catch up on the days tweets & facebook posts about games played that afternoon with a close eye on 4 lads who are trying the ‘follow the cup’ challenge for this year’s competition. They’re writing a blog about their adventure & if you get time check it out here it’s a lot better than this nonsense! :-)

(EDIT.. Radcliffe came from behind to beat the Colls 2-1 in the replay on Tuesday with some sort of dodgy Chris Thompson goal on the hour to win the game! Joking apart it was a fantastic goal according to anyone not from Atherton :-) well done Boro & good luck in the next round)

The FA Vase kicks off next Saturday and I’m sure me & the big fella will be off somewhere exotic and will report back post-haste…

Until then Blog-Buds.. :-)

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Didsbury or Doncaster?

Well Saturday rolled around again & with that the FA Cup campaign started all over again. So the only thing to decide was where to go for the extra preliminary round? West Didsbury were at home which is only about half hour away or we could take a train over to Doncaster to watch Glossop North End play Armthorpe Welfare…. Doncaster it is then!

A new season & new transport as little Droylsden is now connected to the big bad world via a light railway system or “a tram” to you & me. Every 12 minutes one of these shiny new yellow metal monsters sets off on its way to the city centre & stops at Piccadilly station which is an ideal way for us to start & finish one of our ventures, no more jostling with drunks in Piccadilly gardens for a decent place in the que for the bus :-)

Rhino – “How come we’re going to Doncaster? What’s the matter with staying on the tram to Didsbury?” I suppose It did seem a bit strange as a few of our 30 teams had home ties today and yet we we’re on our way to Doncaster :-)  “why not?” I told the big fella, “if you’re going out for the day then you might as well go out-out!” whatever that means???

After purchasing the usual Greggs coffee from the station the big fella then approached a very nice young lady called Anna who was working at a juice bar and asked for a bit of extra sugar for his hot beverage, unfortunately she didn’t have any but that didn’t stop him from trying to talk her into parting with something for nothing! However, she did look a little concerned when the Rhino offered to bash out his rendition of “Jungle is Massive” in an attempt to drum up business for the little bar!

I felt duty bound to rescue the poor mare & whisked the big fella away to platform 6 for the 12.20 to Doncaster. £12.55 each for a day return and although the train was a little crowded until we arrived at Sheffield, it took just over an hour to reach the famous South Yorkshire town and lots of people were all dressed up in their Sunday best as today was also race day in Doncaster.

We quickly found the bus stop for the 81 / 82 frequent service to the ground thanks to my new favourite App but the Rhino (who has no faith in my new App & the fact the driver seemed clueless) decided to enlist the help of a local chap to make sure we was on the right service & also where to get off. A bit of “lost in translation” had to be overcome with the word ‘two’ sounding like ‘toe’ plus a few others that are hard to put into text, plus the bloke’s wife seemed fairly keen on him not to talk to us? but i’m pretty sure that had something to do with me asking her if she was out spending all his money? lol they don’t like spending money them Yorkshire folk :-) other than that we were on course for the game & in plenty of time.

20 minutes or so later we arrived at Church Street with the welfare ground just a few yards to our right and a big pub called the Wheatsheaf even closer to our left. We headed down the little alleyway, paid the £5 admission but forgot to buy a programme! By the time I went back for one just after kick off of course they had sold out and the guy told me I should have bought one on arrival? Maybe he should have offered me one when he was taking all my change off me for the golden goal, raffle etc… lol.

First visit to the welfare ground and it’s not a bad little place at all. The pitch was in pretty good shape, as most are at this time in the season and the main stand looked a solid, well built & clean place to sit.

Glossop had brought a good traveling support with them of about 30+, they were hard to pick out at first as the Hillmen’s club colours are exactly the same as Armthorpe’s. fortunately the away fans were very vocal and in fine voice as kick off loomed & as the ref called the captains together for the obligatory hand shake & coin toss the teams changed ends which sent the Glossop Army scuttling from behind the goal to our left to the empty stand behind the goal to our right, now we could easily tell who was who :-)

Of course it was a lot easier telling the difference between the 2 on the pitch with the visitors wearing their tangerine shirts & black shorts away strip and it was the visitors who started much the better team. Just 3 minutes in when the first shot on goal went just inches over much to the relief of Richard Watson in the Armthorpe goal.

Glossop carried on creating more chances as the half grew on and finally made the breakthrough just after 20 minutes when Nathan Neequaye slotted his shot past the outstretched Watson to nestle just inside the far post to give the visitors a well-deserved lead. Armthorpe did have a good 10 minute spell of possession during the half but Glossop finished strongly as we reached the break and held their lead. HT. 0-1.

Half Time means pie time for me & the big fella so off we went to Welfare’s very well named tea hut, the “Welly Boot” :-) the Rhino ordered the first Bovrils of the season and a couple of tasty looking pies.

I went for the meat & potato with peas & gravy option and very nice it was too! The big fella sat down with a steak & kidney and we both agreed that the Welly Boot offerings were more than adequate :-) the Bovril was granules as well, which always puts a smile on the big fella’s face but not as much as the young ladies serving today who have to be the nicest we’ve seen for a long time :-)

Back to the action as the second half gets underway with Armthorpe on the offensive after what must have been an encouraging half time team-talk, the visitors sat back to try and soak up the pressure but 10 minutes into the half the home side had the chance to equalize with our first penalty of the season when Alex Byrne was adjudged to have brought down Callum Smith inside the area and Jonathan Mirfin made no mistake with the spot kick to level the game. 1-1.

Glossop reacted positively and went ahead again just 5 minutes later with the goal of the game when Lee Morris picked the ball up in midfield and dribbled his way past 3 defenders on his way into the box before picking out his spot to beat Watson on his near post. 1-2.

A decent cup tie was unfolding as the game went on with the ref playing his part too letting a few things go here & there in an attempt to keep things flowing. We were joined by fellow football tweeter from just up the road Tony Greenall mid-way through the second half & as I turned to talk to him I noticed one of those tight-arsed gits you see at non league grounds who blatantly watch the game from a vantage point outside the ground rather than spend a few quid to come inside! You know who you are!!!

We chatted with Tony about various grounds we’ve both been to while listening to the Hyde game on 26nil as well as watching the game in front of us, and who said blokes can’t multi-task? lol :-)

In the closing minutes of the game it was looking like Glossop would hold on and come away with a close 2-1 win but as ever in cup football the home side pushed hard looking for another goal to level the game & force a replay but that also means leaving holes at the back. 2 goals in as many minutes for the visitors as Tom Bailey & man of the match, Nathan Neequaye exploited the thread-bare home defence to give us a final score that doesn’t really reflect what a close fought game this actually was. FT. 1-4.

We had A couple of beers over the road in the Wheatsheaf while waiting for the barmaid to put the Swansea v Man United game on only to find out off the Landlady that they only show games on the BT Sport channel not Sky so we went for the bus back to town to catch the second half in a pub closer to the station.

The Rhino said that Doncaster looked like one big wedding reception as the bus picked its way through the town streets, all the pubs we passed had people outside that were all suited & booted fresh back from the races that day. All the women had long frocks on and most had some sort of head-wear and I’m quite partial to a woman in a nice hat :-) so we stayed in the pub just outside the station with a few of these race lovers until our delayed train was due.

No wonder the train was over 30 minutes late! I’ve been on football special services in the 80’s that were better than this! Gawd knows what happened on its way from Cleethorpes? I won’t go into graphic detail as to what was swimming around all over each carriage but considering this trains final destination was Manchester airport I’m pretty sure the holiday makers aboard were even less happy than us considering that all of the toilets were out or order as well……. IT STINKS!!!

About an hour or so later we were on a cleaner and much sweeter smelling tram back to Droylsden and it’s only a 2 minute walk from the tram stop to the Sweaty SS…. Happy days :-)

No cup action next week but as it’s the bank holiday weekend we have plenty of footy to go to but where to go? The big fella come up with a rather good idea… “why don’t we let Chilli decide?”

Bank Holiday Weekend Round Up…

Avid follower of this blog- John “Chilli” Reyes had a ‘free’ Saturday the following weekend, normally he spends his spare time having his photo taken outside various RBS branches from around the country for some reason? But this weekend he wanted to come to a game with us :-)

The Rhino sent him a small list of fixtures, told him to pick one out & we would meet him there but he must have struggled with this difficult task and Mrs. Reyes came to the rescue picking out Abbey Hey v Silsden in the North West Counties premier league. Mrs R. dropped our bank-hopping pal off at the Abbey stadium but didn’t come in herself which was a shame as me & the big fella was looking forward to meeting the brains of the Reyes household for the first time :-)

We had a good day out with Chilli and the game was pretty good too with Abbey Hey coming from a goal down to win 2-1. On our way back to the SS we called in at the Pig & Ball Bearing for a swift half and to see if we could talk Chilli into bringing his missus to a charity match at Ashton United the next day.

Me & the big fella have become involved with a local family who are raising money to send a 5 year old little lad with cerebral palsy to a hospital in St. Louis USA for a vital operation he needs so he can stand on his own for the first time, he’s a smashing little fella who always has a smile on his face & I don’t want to start ranting about how his own government or health service should be paying for this operation (even though I really, REALLY want to) instead we just give what we can when we can, hopefully you can too! :-) check out all about Marley & maybe donate a few bob on his just giving page here Thank You x :-)

The weather was quite nice for a change at Ashton United which is very unusual for a Sunday in Manchester especially a bank holiday weekend. On the pitch Marley’s all-stars (a local pub team Marley’s dad plays for) were taking on former players from MCFC while off the pitch the big fella was spending all his beer money on raffle tickets, name cards & guess how many sweets are in the jar lol he even told the young girl selling tattoos that he would only buy one if she chose where to stick it! So that was him with a big fairy stuck on his forehead for the rest of the day :-)

The game itself wasn’t too bad as it goes, I didn’t recognise any of the “former players” although I’m told ex-City legend Peter Barnes was in the bar. Marley’s boys took the lead in the first half but an equaliser from the blues made it level at the break.

I didn’t see much of the 2nd half as I was far too busy dragging my girlfriend away from the local firemen who had turned up to let the kids play on their fire engine for the day. I know Marley’s boys scored another 2 but when the blues were awarded a late penalty I was fairly sure it was to make the final score 3-2 but I’m told the game finished 3 all as an earlier disallowed goal for the blues was given by the linesman.

Either way, it was a good day out for all who attended & a few hundred quid was raised for a fantastic cause which still leaves the final total needed a long, long way off :-( The big fella emptied one of the collection buckets into another one & put the empty bucket in the pie hut saying “I’ll need that tomorrow…. Ashton are at home to Droylsden & I’ll twist a few arms to raise a bit more” difficult to argue with him when he’s in that mood lol :-)

Next day true to his word there we were for the Northern Premier game between Ashton United & Droylsden and the Rhino was pretty much “mugging” people as they came in! he had also recruited the young girl who had tattooed him the day before to do a bit of collecting during half time and a further £53 was raised for Marley on the day :-) well done that man……. & Chloe x

On the pitch wasn’t so good for the Bloods even though they took an early lead when Dom Silveiro picked up on a loose back pass in the 3rd minute to put the visitors 0-1 up, the only shining light for Droylsden on the day as it goes :-(

It seemed really strange watching an Ashton side who now have Droylsden stalwarts John Hardiker & Carlos Logan in their ranks as well as long time Droylsden keeper Paul Phillips who is not only the Ashton No. 1 but also joint manager of the team! Was it only 3 years ago little Droylsden were on live Monday night football on ESPN playing Leyton Orient? Well you wouldn’t think so if you went to see them now, relegated from the conference north last season the Bloods are now 2nd from bottom in the northern prem with just one point from their opening 3 games :-(

It only took 5 minutes for the home side to level things up when Chris Denham hit a sweet, dipping half-volley set up by Hardiker! Denham went on to stand out for the rest of the half and was involved in Ashton’s 2nd and 3rd goals in a totally one-sided game and the Bloods seemed relieved to hear the half time whistle & slumped off 1-3 down.

No improvement at all from Droylsden in the 2nd half and Ashton looked like they were playing in a training session rather than a league game restricting the Bloods to only a couple of half chances throughout the second 45. Ashton’s man of the match Chris Denham was pushed in the back & went down in the area on the hour and Gary Gee stepped up to dispatch Ashton’s 4th goal of the day.

The game fizzled out without any further real action, well apart from Droylsden defender Daryll Grant blocking a howitzer of a shot at point blank range with his face! Ashton took their foot off the gas and the Bloods come away without anything again L FT. 1-4.

Back to the FA Cup for our next game as we’re off to Atherton for the Colls v Radcliffe Boro’ it promises to be a goal-fest with the Colls at home & riding high in the league while Boro are routed to the bottom of the Evo north & leaking goals for fun!

Until then Blog Buds……. :-)



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2013/14 Pre-Season

Hello again! Well it’s been a while but I’m going to blame the weather and Gateshead FC for the demise of my usual weekly cyber-scribbles. I know the weather can be a rather unforgiving mistress for us non league nutters but the staff at Gateshead have to take some of the blame too! After calling off their 3rd round Trophy tie with Barrow FOUR times at slightly more than the 11th hour on a couple of occasions (2 of which were mid-week) they finally played the game on the 5th time of asking…… at Barrow?? And got beat 3-2!

By this time me & the big fella were well over £150 each out of pocket & sick of the sight of Tyneside! and our “FA 34” came to an end after 20 games and unfortunately without a back-up plan :-(

So for this season we’ve decided to concentrate on the cup exploits of 30 different non league sides from in & around Manchester. Hopefully a few of these teams will do well and go far in the various FA competitions but there’s also lots of other local silverware up for grabs so I can pretty much guarantee a full season for me & the Rhino this year :-) and we’re even setting up an internet radio station covering all that’s non league in Greater Manchester broadcasting (as soon as I get the paperwork through) via this website on Thursday nights at 7pm! How cool is that?!? lol with a bit of luck we should be up & running mid Sept. :-)

A full list of the teams & leagues we’re covering as well as how to contact us if you want to make sure your team gets the coverage it deserves or to be a regular part of this live non-league-nonsense, go to our “About Us” page or click here

On to the pre-season… Saturday 3rd of August was my 40+ something (can’t remember) birthday! and there was plenty of football in town for me to find a game worthy of celebrating the fact I had somehow managed to survive another year on this planet :-) for those of you that know me well, you’ll know I’ve already been dead once! OK it was only for 6 seconds but it counts! It was a long time ago & I was only a kid but after coming back to the land of the living I woke up to find that not only had I lost a leg I also had a really sore arse! The doctors told me they had removed skin from my butt cheeks to repair various other burns I had sustained but as I said, this was back when Garry Glitter was on Top of the Pops presented by Jimmy Savile followed by It’s a Knockout so a kid waking up with a sore arse back then was fairly common I suppose…..

Moving swiftly on…. The game that stood out for me today was Curzon Ashton’s home friendly with the Isle of Man national team. Where else would a 1-legged bloke be on his birthday other than watching a football team whose shirt logo sported 3 legs?! The Rhino told me he had to work Saturday morning but would do his best to get there for kick off or get there as soon as he couldn’t make 3pm.

With my trusty bus pass in hand I made the short trip from Droylsden & arrived at the Tameside Stadium around 2.30. On entering the ground and as I was buying a programme, I was confronted by a very nice young lady called Gemma who is a die-hard Curzon fan and was also selling “golden goal” tickets, I’ve never won one of these things but today was my birthday & you’ve gotta be in it to win it! So I bought 2 and went off in search for the first beer of the day :-)

3 o’clock and with still no sign of the big fella, we’re off! I didn’t have to wait long for the first goal either, just 3 minutes in when the ball was whipped in from the left and met perfectly by Curzon’s Matt Warburton who directed his header passed the outstretched Dawson to give the home side an early lead. The announcement came over the PA that the golden goal was timed at 3 minutes, oooh 3 minutes on the 3rd of August… my birthday & I have 2 tickets???

The rest of the first half was a totally one-sided affair with the home side dominating possession and creating all the chances. Considering it was supposed to be a friendly, the IoM team were either really poor or hell bent on just kicking out at anything or anyone in close proximity to the ball as the pitch seemed littered with Curzon players clutching at their ankles & shins! Chris McDonagh managed to avoid the flak and put another passed Dawson in the visitors goal before Referee John Walton called ceasefire an end to the half & I went in search of a pie with Curzon 2-0 up.

Well, I was a bit disappointed that the canteen didn’t have any pies on my birthday & i had to make do with a hot dog, but on a lighter note I met Gemma again and she told me that nobody had come forward to claim the £48 golden goal prize! I quickly tore open my tickets to reveal the numbers 47 & 84 hmmmm :-(

Gemma must have felt sorry for an old bloke celebrating his birthday on his own so sat with me for a while as we watched Curzon increase their lead putting another 3 past the Manx outfit without reply with goals from Matt Kay, Ryan Humphries & Ryan Brooke. So things looking good for the Ashton side with a 5-0 win and five different names on the score sheet, but as for the Isle of Man… they were off to Salford City for a “friendly” with them the day after & all I can say is good luck trying to kick 7 bells out of those guys!

On the bus back to Droylsden I took one of those sad “I’m on my own” type photo’s of myself that I’ll put on here so you can download it & reduce to a wallet size then print off for you to keep :-) While taking this snap-shot, the Rhino texts me to say he’ll meet me in the Sweaty Spaniard… oops, I’ve been told by the 2 delightful Scottish landlady’s of Droylsden’s No.1 tapas bar not to call their wonderful establishment by that name so I’ll have to think of a new name for it because I can’t pronounce it’s actual name… anyway by the time I got to the SS the big fella was on parade :-)

The rest of the evening got a bit fuzzy with various people buying me stupid looking drinks for my birthday! Needless to say, I woke up the next morning with a nan bread stuck to my right ear & what i’m hoping was red onions in my hair :-( I do however recall reading a text on the Rhino’s phone while he was in the toilet congratulating him for coming second in today’s Wildlife & Nature presentation from the North West origami club??? Yeah right… working all day was you??? Of course he’s since denied all knowledge of such a text ;-)

One week later and I’m off to see my local team… the Bloods! Once again the big fella was “working” again but this time I had a back-up plan…. Burkey :-) yes my non league know-it-all pal was coming up to watch Droylsden take on Northwich Victoria.

The game was billed as a pre-season friendly but was chosen as host game for the Tony Downes memorial game. Local lad Tony sadly lost his life back in 2007 while on tour in Afganistan and there is now a cup in his memory to be presented to today’s winners by Tony’s parents, Ronnie & Sheryl who are also the Landlord & Landlady of the pub next door… the Kings Head.

Only £5 admission today with the proceeds going to “Help for Heros” which we were more than happy to pay and we made our way to the bar for a quick pint before kick off :-) while we were downing our pre-match refreshments, I explained to Burkey how I thought the Rhino was part of some sort of secret paper folding society & how convinced I was about seeing a text on his phone confirming my suspicions the week before… “really?” my flaxon friend replied, “I always had him down as a Morris dancer” lol lol… class :-) :-)

We took our seats in the main stand for kick off and without a team sheet or programme between us I relied on Burkey to fill me in on who’s who on the pitch, “I don’t know anyone 1 leg” was not what I wanted to hear from BBC radio Manchester’s non league expert so we just went off shirt colours & numbers in our match analysis with phrases like “that No. 7 looks alright for a fat lad don’t he?” – pure professionalism :-)

Latham, the Droylsden keeper had to be on top form throughout the day pulling off at least 6 fine saves from the impressive looking visitors but as Burkey pointed out they were all on his left side as the Vic’s took the lead slotting the ball home passed Latham’s right lol – smart arse!

The visitors were by far the better side on the day and considering they’re in the division below Droylsden i’m now fearing the worse for my home town team :-( Burkey didn’t make things any better either as he kept telling me he wouldn’t be at all surprised if the bloods were relegated again this season! Back to back relegations? I don’t think my old heart could take that :-(

The Rhino finally turned up with about 15 minutes left in the second half and Burkey said he could hear bells on his ankles as he walked up the stairs! I somehow can’t see him as a Morris dancer but knocking up a swan from the front cover of a Jizz-Mag?… yeah, I can see that happening ;-)

The less said about the game the better for me after Northwich battered us 3-0, although I did have rather mixed emotions when I saw Vic’s chairman & big friend of ours, Jim Rushe holding the trophy. Jim works tirelessly for his team and it’s always nice to see someone who deserves it winning something :-) congrats to Northwich & good luck for the new season.

Burkey on the other hand had stopped his relentless bloods-bashing as he had found out his beloved Hyde FC had been thrashed by a massive 8(eight)-0 away to Forest Green Rovers in the Skrill premier league! “I’m gutted 1 leg” came dribbling from his lips “that means they’re going to write the word ‘eight’ in brackets on the results page” lol I’m not sure fella but just in case… ;-)

Back in the SS and me & the big fella are hard at work consoling Burkey as he spirals into a massive bout of depression unable to shake off the crushing news from Forest Green. “cheer up fella, at least you’re not bottom of the league, don’t forget Aldershot had 10 points deducted before the start of the season so you’re golden”

It didn’t seem to be working so I called for back-up, after a quick call to my girlfriend she told me whenever she was feeling down custard always made her feel better so with that the Rhino lined up a few Warninks Advocaat’s on the bar and made him drink them :-) he disappeared for half an hour or so presumably in the Gents, before re-appearing looking a little paler and wanting to know what time the next bus home is? lol… bless him

So that’s that… we’re up to speed & looking forward to our new venture for the new season. Doncaster on the 17th as the FA Cup starts all over again with Armthorpe Welfare taking on Glossop North End in the extra preliminary round looking like a good day out for me & the Rhino to kick off with.

We’re hoping to get out & about each weekend and visit grounds we’ve never been to around the country but it all depends on our local 30 teams doing well in FA comps but if they don’t at least this time we have a back-up plan :-) hopefully some of you will want to be part of the radio show (gawd knows we’re going to need all the help we can get!) or if you are a non league blogger let me know and I’ll give your site a shout…..

Until next time Blog-Buds…..





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Step 20… Macclesfield Town v Cardiff City (FACup #9)

We’re back! Happy new year to one and all, well apart from Mario Balotelli that is! We were all set for the shortest of trips to the home of the champions for our first game of the New Year until the news broke that Balotelli had been involved in some sort of training ground bust up with City boss Roberto Mancini in the build up to the game. Photo’s & rumours hit the media and social networks big time and any chance we had of being guests at the Etihad went out of the window as the 3rd round cup tie with Watford immediately sold out! Why Always Us??? lol lol

Fortunately we had a backup plan :-) well we had a couple to be honest, but the first on the list was Macclesfield Town’s potential ‘Giant Killing’ game with Championship table-toppers Cardiff City which will probably more likely be a Cardiff goal-fest but at least we had a 3rd round tie we could go to keeping our FA 34 on track.

£4.35 day return to Macc. And as the train pulled out of Piccadilly station on our 20 mile journey we could see the Etihad in the distance which is only a 20 minute walk from the Rhino’s front door! And I can still honestly say i have seen more concerts at the Etihad than football matches which is mad considering the amount of football games i go to.

The train tickets clearly stated ‘any Virgin service’ so when the guard came along checking everybody’s tickets he was quick to point out that we were on a Cross Country train! “you needed to catch a red train, this is a purple one” he told me handing my ticket back to me. i was torn between excuses, should i explain to him about being colour blind (which is a difficult thing to explain) or should i just point at the Rhino sat across the aisle and blame him for putting us on the wrong train? I went for the latter :-)

The big fella then opted for the ‘keep him talking until we get to Macc. In 5 minutes’ solution but there was no need as the guard was sympathetic towards us asking if the last minute platform alteration back in Piccadilly had added to our confusion? “yeah… YEAH, that’s it… it’s the platform change!!” with that the train pulled in at Macc. Station and me & the big fella got off rapid before we were charged again!

It’s only about a mile from the station to Moss Rose so we arrived at the ground in plenty of time. Tickets were available at £14 for standing or you could buy seats for £18 each so we went for seats for our first game back after the break. :-)

As the big fella went to the ticket window i was approached by one of the Hi-Vis brigade who wanted to know if we were home or away fans? I told him we were neutrals and wanted seats close to the halfway line if possible, i then noticed the price list had a reduced price for ‘concessions’ “is there any price reductions for disabled?” i asked as the Rhino returned with tickets in hand, “coz i’ve got a leg missing” the bloke looked me up & down and then amazingly said “no, that’s not enough!”

I set of laughing as the shock of only having one leg missing isn’t disabled enough and the big fella stepped in on my behalf “wow that’s a bit harsh mate, i’ll take him home and chop all his other limbs off & bring him back next week in a carrier bag! Will that help?” we set off walking round to the far side of the ground and the same Hi-Vis stopped us again “if you’ve bought seats for the halfway line you need to go through this door, it’s all standing on the far side” the Rhino checked the tickets and told the guy there is a rather large seating block on the far side as he had just been looking at the plan of the ground with the girl in the ticket office? A puzzled looking Hi-Vis then said “well yeah, there is seating round there but…” the big fella didn’t let him finish… “look mate, you’ve obviously just borrowed that coat off someone & don’t really work here, there’s a lot of police down that end so if i was you i would stay away from them because they have them cameras that recognise trouble makers” lol lol CLASS! :-)

We got to the far side of the ground just as the Cardiff team coach arrived, i felt this was just the opportunity i needed to do my impression of a teenage girl at a 1D concert and was ready to jump & scream at the sight of the star players and thrust my programme & pen at them for an autograph, but as i watched each face step down from the coach i didn’t recognise any of them! Where was Bellamy, Helguson or Whittingham? I did spot gaffer Malky Mackay but he’s hardly the knicker-wetting superstar i was expecting.

We went inside and took our seats in the huge seating block behind the dugouts. The travelling supporters were to our right in the open air stand and the place was filling up nicely. Macc were 4/1 for any win with the bookies today & i was toying with the idea of having a cheeky fiver on them linked to a few home bankers to bump the price up but i just couldn’t bring myself to do it in the end thinking Mackay must have done his homework & put out a good enough team to see off his non league opposition today.

We’re off! A great crowd of 3,100+ were all in fine voice as Mr. Madley blew for Cardiff to get us underway and within 2 minutes they had the ball in the back of Lance Cronin’s net! A high ball into the area seen Etien Velikonja head the ball down for Nat Jarvis to finish off but the liner was already flagging for offside and i now convinced myself that i had saved a fiver with the bookies :-)

The home side settled after the early scare and were more than holding their own against a City team who were 7 points clear at the top of the Championship and just the odd 81 places above them in the pyramid! Charlie Henry’s powerful drive was on target but straight at City keeper Joe Lewis on 20 minutes and Keiran Murtagh put his first time effort just wide from range moments later, maybe i should of backed them after all? They were the better team as the half hour came up.

The Silkmen were dominating the midfield but not really creating chances, too many times the home side looked to play the ball over the top which was quickly dealt with by the City back four who were all easily six-footers. City were playing their part by hitting on the break as well as playing through the middle with some great passing but again no real threat in the final 3rd

The home support sensed an upset was on the cards and vocally did their best to be the 12th man as well as turning the game into an international match now & again with England songs as well. The game needed a goal and it almost came on 35 minutes, Pablo Mills sent his free kick from the halfway line towards the area, Nat Brown flicked it on and Charlie Henry but he scuffed his shot from 6 yards out into the side netting.

The visitors turned up the heat as the first 45 came to an end with a couple of chances in quick succession. Declan John powered his way down the left then cut inside the sliding defence to shoot from just inside the area, Cornin was equal to it and got down quickly to push it round his near post & away to safety. The resulting corner was whipped in and Ben Nugent’s header was on target but once again Cronin was on his toes diving to his right to gather the ball.

Macc players & fans alike were screaming for a penalty in stoppage time when Sam Wedgbury went to ground as he charged into the City area with the ball at his feet, the Ref saw nothing wrong with the challenge but was booed off the pitch moments later when he brought the first half to an end by the home faithful who felt he had given them nothing all day! HT. 0-0.

Rhino – i make my way to the corner flag bar for today’s half time offerings which is just near the corner flag surprise-surprise. Inside there is only room for 150 people and this is sorted out before kickoff, basically if you go in the bar before the game and tell the staff you intend to come back at half time you are issued with a ticket & it’s first come, first served until 150 are given out. Fortunately i got this information from a real Hi-Vis chap who got a ticket for me earlier. Ya see, not just thrown together this shit ya know lol.

I ordered a Beef pie from the choice of 3 on offer as i’ve not had one before and I was a little disappointed if i’m honest, the pastry was hard & had way too much gelatine all over it, the meat didn’t really taste like beef & was dry. Overall, I got the impression this wasn’t the first time this particular specimen had been up for sale and i didn’t finish it all. The Bovril was made with granules but the cup seemed smaller than the many others i have bought over the years. A very poor 4.8 from me.

Mel B. – First of all Happy New Year to everyone foolish enough to read this drivel from me & my BAPS! secondly, what a poor show from Macclesfield a very disappointing opening to the new year! No wonder the lad selling them didn’t want his picture taken but i got a sneaky one of him just for you x

£2.20 for a pie & £1.70 for Bovril isn’t such a bad price but it doesn’t matter how much you sell for so long as your products are right. Beef pies are tricky to keep warm without going dry and maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to remove them completely and go with something a bit more traditional or even exotic and get in touch with Dean at Real Thai Pies! 4.6 from me giving a total of only 9.4  and the Pundit quote (Gary Neville on Liverpool FC) is.. used to be so much better years ago!

The game restarted with more of the same end-to-end action, Amari Morgan-Smith’s effort was deflected just over the bar by Nugent to deny Macc from taking the lead in the opening 5 minutes and at the other end Cardiff looked like taking the lead when Velikonja seemed certain to score only for a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Mills.

The opening goal came in the 57th minute, Velikonja burst down the left flank into the opposition half and some slick passing through midfield resulted in a ball being played into Declan John, he just managed to keep the ball in play on the by-line then squared it across the goal to Nat Jarvis who somehow managed to squeeze it in under Lance Cronin. 0-1.

The goal meant the away fans voices could now be heard and I have to say going a goal behind didn’t deter the home fans at all, if anything it made them get behind their team even more! Could do with a few like that down the road at Stockport County ;-)

On the pitch Macc were wobbling a little and if it wasn’t for a fantastic one-handed save from Cronin to deny Stephen McPhail’s thunderbolt from the edge of the area i think the home side would of collapsed if they would of conceded another as we reached the hour mark.

Macc dragged themselves back into the game and were looking for the equaliser. They forced a corner but all other chances were coming from distance. The class of Cardiff was slowly starting to appear and the chances were too. A powerful shot from Filip Kiss cannoned off Nat Brown and landed at the feet of Declan John but his effort safely found its way into the arms of Cronin.

With just over 10 minutes left there was a moment of madness for Lance Cronin. As he came for the ball near the right touchline, Velikonja dispossessed him. and his snapshot went inches wide of the far post. This was the cue for the home side to go for it!. First came an effort from top scorer Matthew Barnes-Homer, though his shot found the side netting. They then had a number of runs into the area but the Cardiff defence were dogged.

Macc then had a big penalty shout turned down when Craig Braham-Barrett dribbled through the City defence and went to ground. Not for the first time in the game the Ref signalled play on. The home side continued to throw men forward with the minutes ticking away. The ball was worked down the right flank and Jack Mackreth played a superb cross towards the back post over the keeper and landed at the feet of Matthew Barnes Homer who placed the ball safely home! 1-1.

A huge party had now erupted around Moss Rose and everyone was on their feet dancing & singing songs that invited the visiting supporters to use the red dragon from the Welsh flag as some sort of suppository!

Macclesfield did not seem happy with the prospects of a replay and once again continued to push forward. With just 5 minutes left on the clock they were awarded a free kick in the Cardiff half. Pablo Mills played a lofted ball into the area, and as the ball came over the Ref blew his whistle & pointed to the spot! He had spotted a handball by Nat Jarvis and awarded Macc a penalty!

BOOOOOOOOOOOMMM!!!!! No sign of nerves from Barnes-Homer as he smashed in his & Macclesfield’s second of the day sending (almost) everyone inside the ground into ecstasy & Macc into the 4th round draw! I didn’t get to see what happened in the closing minutes or in 5 minutes time added on because of the sheer pandemonium that me & the big fella were witnessing but Macc held on for a massive & famous victory. I’m sure the Cardiff faithful will play it down saying they only put their second or even third best team out on the day but that just goes to show you should never take the FA Cup lightly and days like these are what it’s all about. Well done Silkmen, well done indeed! FT 2-1.

We left the ground in search of a bus to take us back to the station so we could get a quick pint before the train at 6.40, as we waited at the bus stop all the street vendors passed us with empty trolleys having sold out of everything and i wanted a half-&-half scarf as a souvenir of the day. The Rhino took a photo of his ticket propped up against a pint when we got to the pub and asked me if that would do instead? lol i’ll just pin the actual ticket up on my desk at home thanks ;-)

While we was in the pub next to the train station and just as Man United had taken the lead at West Ham, a small group of Watford fans walked in! How mad is that? even more weird was that a scouse bloke went over to talk to them as he was writing some sort of FA Cup book and asked them about the game at the Etihad, it’s just crazy! These FA writers & bloggers get everywhere! He caught the same train back to Manchester with us & we told him all about our FA Cup journey from last season and i’m not sure if it inspired him or put him off lol still waiting for his email so it’s probably the latter :-)

Back in Piccadilly for 7ish and only waited about 10 minutes for a bus to the Sweaty Spaniard and the beer was on the bar for about 7.45… Job Done! although it will be a bit later next week as we’re hoping the pitch at Gateshead will finally drain the water that’s on it and their Trophy game with Barrow can go ahead!

A massive well done once again to Macclesfield for today’s result keeping the non league flag flying in the best competition in the world and i’m sure the £67,500 prize for today’s win will come in very handy but if you need any help spending it just give us a call :-)

Until then Blog Buds……….

Today’s Stats….

Travel Cost each – £4.35 Train + £1.80 Bus = £6.15

Admission each – £18

Mileage covered – 40.8

Total Travel Cost – £112.45

Total Admission – £102.00

Total Mileage – 1,209.4

Total Goals Seen – 82

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Step 19… Stockport County v Southport FC (FATrophy #6)

( apologies for the lateness of this post, major website problems :-( )

Our last game of 2012 and by the Saturday morning we still wasn’t sure where we were going, we had planned a trip to Matlock Town for their game against Luton Town for step 19 of our mad idea for this season but after spending all week worrying if the pitch at Causeway Lane would be spared by the plummeting temperatures, we ended up not sure if the game would be on or not due to the amount of rain it had on it!

The Matlock pitch was to be inspected at 9.30 Saturday morning and that was cutting it too close for us to spend £30 on train tickets for a ‘maybe on’ game so we opted for our fall-back plan of a quick bus ride to Stockport for County’s game with Southport FC.

With plenty of time to kill we decided that after today’s game we would hold the 1 Leg On The Cup Christmas party or ‘works do’ back at the Sweaty Spaniard so we set about shopping for decorations and other various items of ‘tat’ from the many £1 shops Stockport has to offer.

I noticed a young lady giving out self-help flyers along with free cup cakes to anyone who would listen to her 2 minute pitch & take a flyer, just what our party needed…. FREE CAKE! Wearing a £1 disguise i approached her and i didn’t even have to listen to her waffle! She just looked a bit scared of me and said “you definitely need help! Take a flyer & help yourself to a cake” job done! this Christmas shopping lark is easy!

With the cake secured we went in search of more party goodies, there was a kitchen sink plunger or plughole un-blocker on display outside PoundLand so while still in disguise i picked it up and went inside to the cashier… “hi there, can you tell me a little more about this plunger & is there any discount as it’s a display model?” for some unknown reason i was asked to leave!

Back in the bus station we jumped on the first bus that was heading Edgeley Park way and added up our shopping spree. We had spent £7 in total on various items to make our party run smoothly & a further £2 on a dozen mince pies from Greggs that we would hand out to people back at the Sweaty because after all… it’s Christmas :-)

We arrived at the ground around 2.15 and if i’m honest we didn’t really want to come here today, we came here to watch a game last season and thought that County were a bit up themselves suffering from massive club syndrome when in reality they’re just another non league outfit and after paying the whopping £16 admission you are detained in the Cheadle End, no moving about the place as non league fans like to do as the other 3 sides are out of bounds with plenty of the Hi-Vis brigade on hand to enforce this. I wondered if the Southport fans were more upset about this issue as they were kept penned in at the other end which is open-air and it was raining!

Still there’s lots of room in the all-seated Cheadle End with only a sprinkling of fans scattered around and even though there’s a block, row & seat number on the £16 ticket you can just sit where you like i suppose?

Unbelievably, a bloke and his son came walking up the stairs and the chap had hold of both tickets in his hand, he got to where me & the big fella were sat and i just knew what was coming next. He checked his tickets, looked at the floor markings, checked his tickets again then turned to the Rhino saying “you’re in our seats mate” I couldn’t contain my laughter as we both looked around at the army of empty blue seats!

The big fella turned back to the bloke and said “there’s about 10,000 empty seats and you want to sit in the one i’m in?” the bloke just held his ticket out in front of the big fella with his finger pointing to the information that proved him right! it really was unbelievable & as we moved seats i asked him if he had been coming here for years & sat there every week? I wasn’t in anyway surprised when he answered ‘NO’ lol lol

3pm and we’re off! The County fans at the back of the Cheadle end were barely through the first verse of their ‘United & City are shite’ song when Karl Ledsham came bursting through for Southport and smashed his shot past Ian Ormson in the County nets from the edge of the area to put the visitors a goal up inside the first minute! 0-1.

“if only we would have stayed in our lucky seats!” the big fella shouted loud enough for the father & son team to hear although he didn’t really have to shout to be honest now that Ledsham’s goal had silenced the home support.

I had seen in the programme that these 2 sides had played here at Edgeley only a couple of weeks before in the league and it had turned out to be a 7 goal thriller with Southport pinching the 3-4 win in the last minute so after today’s opener coming inside the first minute i was expecting another goal-fest! :-)

I was wrong! A very dull opening 20 minutes with lots of ‘kick & chase’ football. County had more of the possession while the visitors had the better of the chances even though there wasn’t that many & they were mainly from outside the box. The rest of the half wasn’t much better, Southport were dogged in defence and looking to hit on the break and County couldn’t find a way through which frustrated their ‘fans’ who were now booing every wayward pass or mistake from a blue shirt. I’ve never liked fans that do this to their own players but i suppose if you have to pay £16 to watch them play you might get a bit miffed if they don’t actually ‘play’ lol HT. 0-1.

Rhino – A Wright’s meat & potato is today’s weapon of choice and apart from it being very expensive at £2.80 it was surprisingly rather good, i say surprisingly as Wright’s pies are supposed to be one of the best out there but sometimes when you’re expecting greatness you end up with disappointment as it lacks in performance, depending on the mood i suppose. As you can see in the photo, Daniel – modelling today’s pie, is showing the fluffy, flaky puff-pastry on the top of the pie even though this has no place on any savoury snack as one bite into this sends the surrounding flakes shedding all over the eater.

The Bovril was well presented in its fully advertised paper cup and served at a good temperature & flavour but at £2 a cup this makes today’s half time treat an expensive experience but then again, that’s Stockport for you! 7.8 from me with points off for extortion.

Mel B. – Jack was more than happy to show us the goodies in his Victor Hot Cupboard and why wouldn’t he? Jack looked just as scrumptious to me as Daniel did modelling the pie! I asked the boys if they wanted to come back to mine after work for a spit roast? but they told me they get discount on the food left over at the end of the day so they we’re fine?!? Something lost in translation there me thinks.

Good but expensive food seems to be the order of the day at Stockport but i would like to ask everyone who might be thinking of going to Edgeley Park in the near future to keep an eye out for my Jack & Danny who will be there somewhere & happy to help. 7.6 from me giving a total of 15.4 and the Pundit quote (Niall Quinn on Rooney & RVP) is.. A fantastic partnership that’s very easy on the eye!

The second half kicked off and surely it had to get better, County changed their shape and brought Craig Hobson on for Danny Whitehead but it was Southport that started the half better forcing a couple of corners in the opening 5 minutes.

County did start to put the pressure on as the home team were now kicking towards the goal we were sat behind and the introduction of Hobson looked a good one as he seemed to be involved in most of their attacking play. A clever one-two with Sean Newton should of brought the sides level but for a fine save from Southport keeper Tony McMillan.

County then brought Tom Collins off the bench to join in the search for the equalizer, some great skill from the latest Sub forced a corner but once again McMillan was in top form this time blocking a blistering volley from Matt Mainwaring then got quickly back on his feet to save the follow up shot from Hobson.

As the half grew older, Southport were being forced deeper & deeper but it looked as if their 5 at the back would hold on to the slender lead and take them through. The very brilliant Conner Jennings had other ideas though and in the last minute the ex Stalybridge & England C team player had the Cheadle End finally cheering for once as he headed home an excellent cross from Newton to level things up. FT 1-1.

All-in-all a poor game but i suppose the draw was about right in the end. Stockport were the better team in the 2nd half mixing things up and pushed hard towards the end for the goal. it was good to see Conner Jennings in action once again and it’s no wonder Stockport are eager to extend his loan deal from Scunthorpe to keep him at Edgeley a while longer, the guy is brilliant :-)

With our final game of the year now done & dusted we headed back to the Sweaty for a 2012 review & Christmas party! One more try for discount the plunger on the way back to the bus station but Mr. Khann just wasn’t in the festive spirit and was adamant on the £1 price so i bought a Santa hat complete with beard that hadn’t been shop soiled off him instead :-)

Back in Droylsden’s No. 1 Tapas Bar… The Sweaty Spaniard we got busy arranging the decorations and set out the mince pies in a 4-4-2 formation (obviously) :-) A quick re-cap on the story so far this year as we drank the first of many beers on the evening.

19 games so far; 8 in the Cup, 5 in the Vase and now 6 in the Trophy. We’ve covered 1,168.6 miles to see 79 goals and spent £200.30p each on travel & admission. So on average we spend just over £10.50 on each game & travel 61 ½ mile to see 4 goals! So how’s your season stacking up watching your team home & away? ;-)

Before too long the party was in full swing! The damsels of Droylsden had turned up to join in all the festivities although the Rhino was a bit baffled and asked me “which one???” when i told him to pin the tail on the donkey!

We purposely didn’t get any mistletoe for obvious reasons and the only real mistake we made was during a game of spin the bottle when one of the party girls concentrated a little too hard on the empty Lambrini bottle and a few of us ended up covered in something not very seasonal at all! Other than that it all went well really ;-)

I’ll update our fixture list as soon as i find out where we’re off to next, until then blog buds i’ll try and figure out this self-hosting blogging & just how these websites actually work!

                    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!



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Step 18… Barnoldswick Town v AFC Emley (FAVase #5)

Well it’s that time of year again, no i don’t mean when everyone starts panicking about what to buy for that Uncle they don’t really like or setting their FaceBook status to ‘I’m A Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins’! I mean that time of year when football games are cancelled after 10 o’clock pitch inspections on the day they’re due to kick off at 3pm or sometimes even later giving us poor travelling fans even less time to come up with a back up plan!

We had done all we could for the build up to this game, the big fella’s job was to constantly refresh the Barnoldswick weather forecast on his browser, i had set up the 2 day return tickets for £13.10 on my Red Spotted Hanky app (it’s not my favourite app) so all i had to do was hit the ‘buy now’ button on arrival at Victoria station and we had been in touch with a bloke called Peter Naylor who writes in the programme at Barnoldswick who said he would ring me with any information regarding the game being called off as soon as he found out.

So Saturday morning we’re at Victoria for 11.40am and after Peter had rang to say there was just one small area of the pitch that was a bit suspect we decided to gamble! We bought the train tickets and went and stood on platform 5 to wait for the ‘on time’ 12 o’clock to Clitheroe, like i’ve said before “it’s not just thrown together this shit ya’ know ;-)

We’re on the train for 1 hour 20 minutes and it’s Greggs on the go all the way to Clitheroe! On the way we stay in touch with fellow blogger, Matthew. Probably better known as @mophead_88 in the non league world, the Swansea City-mad Welshman who teaches English in Salford had also decided to take the gamble on today’s game being on and was on the bus to Burnley for his connection to Barnoldswick. Matt had set off before us and i have to say his tweets were not looking good! Using words like ice, frost, snow and white fields the further he went into the Lancashire hills but i hadn’t had any other phone calls off Peter so it was still fingers crossed!

Ground-hoppers note-> A little bus station / interchange is right outside Clitheroe station and it’s £5.20 for a return ticket to Barnoldswick. The journey planner advised us to go to Colne station then; 10 min walk – 20 min bus ride – 15 min walk. Going the Clitheroe way means about £3 cheaper train ticket then; 1 min walk – 30 min bus ride – 4 min walk.

We only had to wait about 20 minutes for the bus and i thought the £5.20 ticket was a bit steep but then again Barnoldswick is 13 mile away and we were told by one of the locals at the bus stop that the service is very reliable and clean. In fact the only problem we had was the driver had no idea where our stop was! Even though i was showing him on a map on my phone he was still clueless. Fortunately the bloke behind us in the queue was a driver who was taking over and he knew exactly where we were off to :-)

Even though we were on the bus for about half an hour it only stopped about 3 times on the route, once we had left Clitheroe it whizzed its way through all country roads quicker than i would probably drive my car lol we were right out in the sticks today :-)

Obviously we got off the bus and went the wrong way! Either that or we got off the bus too soon but we ended up walking down the main street that had nothing but houses and one phone box on it until we came across a signpost pointing the way to the ground, so our 4 minute walk had just turned into a 15 minute walk anyway!

We finally arrived at the ‘Silent Night Stadium’ at about 2.15. Named after the famous bed company the place was also right next door to some sort of water or sewer works but with no sign of ice or frost to be seen and both teams were warming up on the pitch it was safe to assume our gamble had paid off and our Game 18 was on! :-)

Peter had organised a couple of tickets for us for today so after a quick chat with the guys on the gate we headed for the clubhouse in search of a radiator. Just outside the clubhouse door was a big net, it looked like one of those used by butterfly catchers but it had a telescopic handle and it had me a little confused for a while.

Inside the place was nice & warm with fans from both clubs buzzing about, the bar was in the far corner so i went to get a couple of pints while the big fella, who had spotted the kitchen counter on the other side of the room went to make reservations for half time pies! ;-)

We met Peter at the bar and he gave us a couple of programmes and told us we were on page 3! Yeah i know where else would you put a couple of tits other than page 3!?  I had to ask Peter what the big net i had messed about with on the way in was for? It looked to me like it was for fishing stray footballs out of a river or pond. “yeah that’s right” he told me “if the ball ends up next door we have to get it back somehow”

The teams were out and shaking hands with each other so it was time for us to brave the elements once more. We took up position right next to the corner flag in the ‘Sewer End’ suddenly, all became clear about that big butterfly net! Let’s hope they give the ball a wash before it goes back in play for someone to head it!

3pm and Mr. Kirk gets this tricky fixture for us underway and it was more of a relief than anything that today’s game was actually on. The temperature is set to plummet over the next couple of weeks so if it hadn’t been played today the chances of a midweek rearranged fixture before Christmas were pretty slim.

The first 20 minutes or so was all one way traffic, the yellow shirted men pressed forward time after time putting the claret & blue team under constant pressure. We were a little confused by this as a home win was odds on for today. Barnoldswick are in the top half of the North West Counties Prem league while AFC Emley are a division below them in the football pyramid, was there an upset on the cards? It certainly looked like it.

“alright boyo’s” I looked round to see the mad Welshman had done his lap of the pitch and come to join us at the Sewer end. “hiya Matt, all Yellows this game… upset on the cards maybe” my fellow blogger agreed with me then started to work one or two things out, “hang on a minute, this corner flag is blue & yellow and so is the flag with The Sewer End written on it and it’s got the Barnoldswick badge on it!”

I pulled the team sheet from my pocket and sure enough there it was in black & white, home team in yellow & blue! So both the Rhino and Matt had presumed that because Burnley is close to Barnoldswick the team playing today in a claret & blue, Burnley look-a-like kit were the home side and had done for the first half hour of the game! lol lol what a pair of numpties :-) not me you understand… i’m colour blind, have been all my life so… HA!

The first 15 minutes of the game was all one way traffic and going to form ;-) the home side were completely dominant and all the action was at the far end of the pitch. Full backs Jack Overson & Liam Blades both had plenty of room to run into for Town as Emley played a narrow but packed midfield. Shots from No. 11 Ashley Alderson & No. 8 Neil Chapman went close for the home side but player manager Stweart Airdrie went closest as his effort hit the side netting on 15 minutes as Town looked for the opener.

Emley looked to have the game plan of many an underdog by soaking up pressure then trying to hit on the break usually with a ball over the top for No. 9 Ashley Flynn to try and latch onto. As we approached the half hour and while some members of the crowd were working out which team were which, Luke Herriott was picking the ball out of the back of his goal but Town’s Lewis Jordan was ruled offside and we stayed at 0-0.

Just after the half hour we make it 47 games in a row without a nil-nil as we get our first of the day and it’s Emley who take the lead! it has to be said that it was against the run of play but this is cup football… anything can happen.

The visitors No. 10 Anthony Haigh crossed the ball from the left and No. 9 Ashley Flynn was just off the pace but went sliding in to stab the ball home through the legs of Town keeper Alex Woodcock. 0-1. It seemed to knock the wind out of the home side for the rest of the half with their only real effort coming in the last minute when Airdrie’s volley went just over the angle but the visitors had come with a plan and they were sticking to it, and it was working! HT. 0-1.

Rhino – As we walked into the clubhouse before kickoff i overheard the kitchen girls saying they were a bit low on stock for today’s game because nobody knew if it would be on or not for certain. Always the professional i acted quickly and asked Barney if she would hold 2 pies back for us for half time to avoid any disappointment and she said she would, bless her.

Looking at the tray of pies before they went into the oven at first glance i thought they were Holland’s meat pies but Barney explained that they were homemade Steak & Ale pies made by yet another secret supplier! A high score from me for today’s offerings, a steak-packed pie with very nice ale flavoured gravy and for just £2 it comes with peas and served up in proper crockery for the full experience. Spot on! 8.9 from me because i’m still not sure about the Bovril.

Mel B. – ooh i do like homemade pies! Well done to Barney and the girls at the silent night and i have also been told that they make a rather special pie to rival the mighty Goole AFC! And who knows? We might have even had a new front runner if the weather hadn’t put a doubt on everything this week.

I myself have an issue with the beef tea, it says Bovril at £1.20 on the price list but i can’t be sure if they’re sneaking oxo on the punters as it’s kept out of sight when you’re in the queue but at least you get served in a proper mug which is nice. A good score of 8.5 from me gives an impressive 17.4 overall total and the Pundit quote (Andy Gray on Matt Le Tiss) is.. Every club has its star or main attraction!

We were a bit reluctant to leave our warm, cosy surroundings and head back outside as it was now raining with that horrible misty rain that soaks you through! Emley had kicked off as we made our way back to our seats but we had to stop and watch Town No. 9 Mark Threlfall as he won the ball back from the restart and headed this way.

With less than a minute on the clock Threlfall had beaten 3 Emley players before cutting inside to shoot low and hard from the edge of the area giving Herriott no chance in the Emley nets and he levelled the scores before the visitors had time to blink. 1-1.

The following 20 minutes seen us watching some good old-fashioned cup football with both teams going for it. Emley responded well to conceding by immediately going on the attack when Flynn ran at the defence to set up Steven Kenworthy who shot just wide of the post. Back down the other end Alderson’s cross was initially dropped by Herriott but the Emley keeper was brave as he smothered the ball with Neil Chapman bearing down on him!

It was all getting messy in the Sewer end as Town pushed for another goal, Jordan should of done better from close range and Billy Priestley forced the best save of the game when Herriott just about got his fingertips to his perfectly place header from yet another fine cross from Airdrie.

Emley stuck to the game plan and full backs Liam Schofield & Anthony Leech always had room in front of them to run into with the ball before finding Flynn on the break. We passed the hour mark with both teams introducing fresh legs in an attempt to take the lead and with 74 on the clock we notched up our 3rd goal of the day.

A poor clearance from Woodcock in the Town goal presented the ball to Kenworthy who slotted the ball through the gap perfectly for Flynn to run on to and beat Woodcock on his near post, best goal of the day. 1-2.

The 2 front men combined again minutes later with Flynn this time the supplier for Kenworthy but this time a brilliant one-handed save from Woodcock kept his side in the game as Town were now committing more men forward & leaving holes at the back. Emley added another in the 80th minute when Flynn set up substitute Doran Jordan with the easiest of tap-ins to give the visitors a 2 goal cushion and when Town Sub Aaron Hollindrake somehow side-footed over an empty net from 3 yards in the last knockings, Emley knew they were through. FT. 1-3.

I’ve never seen anyone celebrate a 3rd round win in any competition the way Emley gaffer Daz Hepworth was. Jumping around, screaming & shouting and that’s being nice about it! Ashley Flynn must of woke up the next morning covered in bruises with the amount of back slapping his manager & teammates inflicted on him! I’m sure the Emley chairman will be pretty chuffed as well with the £1,500 from the FA for today’s win :-)

We had about an hour to kill before our 5.52 bus back to the station so we went back to the clubhouse for a couple of beers with Matt. we were hoping to get a couple of photos with the Emley team but by the time we left we could still hear them singing songs about going to Wembley as we passed their changing room :-) We said goodbye to Peter and he pointed us in the right direction to get to the bus stop which did only take about 3 or 4 minutes to get to this time. Matt left us at the stop and set off up the main street to catch his bus back to Burnley and i’m sure he will have his blog done by now on his site Lost Boyos

The 280 bus arrived right on time and once again we were speeding through the country lanes back to Clitheroe but this time in total darkness which seemed to make the journey quicker somehow. We got to the station to find the 20 minute wait on the platform had turned into 45 minutes as the dreaded ‘train is delayed’ announcement came over the speaker.

On the platform was a guy called Ian who we asked if there was a pub nearby we could go to rather than wait on the cold platform in the rain, he pointed the way saying there was a pub just up the street so we asked if he wanted to come for a pint with us? “not me lads, i’m in rehab & i’m 8 months sober!” what a top bloke though, i give him my phone number as we left for the pub and he said he would ring if the train made up any ground, which it did and he did! Cheers Ian :-)

The train ride must have been awful for Ian, everyone on the train seemed to be bladdered! Lots of different groups of people all heading for Manchester on various work & office outings that come around once a year under the heading ‘Christmas Do’ what a nightmare!

At least the bus back to Droylsden was ok! A much more happier bus than last week anyway ;-) there was even some Christmas songs being sung upstairs by a bunch of youths who looked more like they would be vandalising the bus if anything! I left the bus full of Christmas cheer thinking all was well in the world until we got to the corner of Market Street to find a bloke in his 20’s being sick in a bin while his mate, who was covered in blood, needed the support of a lamppost to wait for him!

It was close to 9.30 as we walked into the Sweaty Spaniard to bring an end to another day out and with the Vase now down to the last 32 for the next round in January we look at a few results from the day to see where we may be off to next. Newport Isle of White won, wonder if they’ll get a home draw?

FA Trophy 2nd round is next for us and it’s also our last game for 2012. We’re looking at Matlock Town v Luton Town but this time we have a backup plan! Stockport County are also playing at home against Southport so if the weather gods frown on Matlock but leave Stockport alone we may just have to switch at the list minute :-) until then Blog Buds…

Today’s Stats….

Travel Cost each – £6.55 Train + £5.20 Bus = £11.75

Admission each – Free

Mileage covered – 86.6

Total Travel Cost – £106.30

Total Admission – £78.00

Total Mileage – 1,148.0

Total Goals Seen – 77


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Step 17… Accrington Stanley v Oxford United (FACup #8)

Well we’ve reached the half way point of our 34 game adventure and with a choice of FA Cup 2nd round fixtures to pick from once the TV people had moved a few games to the Sunday & Monday, we went for a Northern team whose name conjures up images of flat caps, woodbines, whippets and a couple of scouse kids drinking milk in the 1980’s! Yes you’ve guessed it….. Accrington Stanley! And i know you have just said “who are they” in a scouse accent in your head :-)

After making our choice on what game to go to earlier in the week, the next choice was what to get from Greggs in Manchester for the train ride to Accrington. The Rhino decided to try out his ‘Lancashire’ accent on the Greggs staff that he had been practicing all week “’ow do, ya’ll reet?” which translated means ‘Hello, are you all right?’ after that, even i couldn’t understand what the big fella was talking about let alone the poor mare behind the counter! He just kept changing words so that they began with a ‘TH’ or making a ‘tut’ noise before pronouncing them lol so i left him to it and went outside.

He must of made himself understood at some point as we were now on our way to Victoria station for the 12 o’clock train to Blackburn with coffee & sausage rolls in hand :-) only £5.90 each for a day return to Accrington or should i say ‘th’ac-rin-tin’ oh bollox to it! i’ll stick with the Terry Christian accent god gave me ;-)

Our train was put back to 12.04 then 12.12! this was going to be tricky as we only had a 16 minute wait at Blackburn for the connecting train so if it gets delayed any more we knackered. Not only that our favourite ground-hopping blogger; Gibbo was joining the train at Bolton and coming to today’s game with us. Just in case you’re not familiar with the young Bolton Wanderer’s ramblings, he writes an excellent blog of his own covering all the 92 league grounds as well as a lot of non league stuff that’s well worth a read from the little pie chomping Jedi – Gibbo’s 92

The train didn’t make up any of its lost time but more importantly it didn’t lose anymore! Gibbo was there waiting at Bolton and we had about 3 minutes to spare at Blackburn for our connection which was just enough time for the young fella to have his photo took in his Bolton shirt in Blackburn! Fortunately for him there wasn’t any Rovers fans at the station as they were playing Burnley the next day in what the locals were billing as..  t’classico :-)

Only a short walk from the station to the ground but the hills were the steepest we’ve come across to date! Whilst me & Gibbo were marching on at full pace the Rhino was lagging behind by a few yards and was having some serious Green Cross Code issues as every time we looked back to see where he was, he was involved in some sort of game of ‘chicken’ with various motorists as he tried to cross the road lol lol

We eventually arrived at the Crown Ground and went in the pub just outside called ‘The Crown’ funnily enough. The place was packed with fans from both Accrington & Oxford United with everybody watching the West Ham v Chelsea game, you couldn’t help but watch the game as the place had more TV’s than Currys! And one or two of them was as old as me!

After a quick pint we move on to the ground to pick up our tickets that the very kind people at Accrington had left at reception for us :-) on the way we spotted the Accy mascot in the car park so not wanting to miss getting my photo taken with him, we went over. Gibbo was a little unsure as to what sort of animal the costume-clad chap was supposed to be, so asked “are you a dog?”

My first thoughts were what a wonderful chat-up line this would be in a dimly lit pub or club! It would save you a potential fortune on Rum & Coke’s and a late night kebab if you was to find out at the start of an evening rather than at the end, so i commended the boy on his choice of words :-)

Once inside the ground i realised how close this game had been to being called off, the covers that had protected the pitch from the frost had been pulled over to the sides and were covered with broken ice! With today’s game being an all League 2 affair it hadn’t dawned on me that i may need a back-up plan but luckily for us we were good to go :-)

Just before kickoff i nipped off for a quick fag (yeah i know! I’m giving up in the New Year!) and i returned to find the Rhino sat alone. “Where’s Gibbo?” the big fella then went on to tell me i get a bit ‘mumsie’ when Gibbo comes to a game with us! “You’re a bit like a women when she sees a new born baby, you get sort of.. well… Broody!” i told him it’s not my fault i’ve been a one parent family for most of my life and that my little lad has all grown up now. “well next time he comes with us you can tie a helium balloon to his belt loop so you can keep an eye on him and bring some Calpol & Gripe water with you in case he gets poorly!” only wanted to know where he was, wish i had never asked now! lol

3 o’clock and game 17 gets underway! Stanley are in a red & white kit and kickoff the first half playing from left to right. There was a bit of confusion right from the start as most of the Stanley faithful sat with us had no idea who their goal keeper was or had ever seen him before? The regular shot stopper had been injured and the emergency loan signing Paul Rachubka met his new team mates only 2 hours before taking his place between the posts! Love this game me :-)

First pop at goal came from the visitors in the opening couple of minutes when James Constable’s effort was easily saved by the debutant keeper, welcome to Accrington Paul, wonder if anyone told him Oxford won the league fixture between these 2 teams 5-0 back in September! ;-)

A pretty lively opening 10 minutes with the home side probably edging it after No. 23 Padraig Amond had U’s keeper Ryan Clarke well beaten only to see his chipped effort headed off the line and No.33 Rommy Boco hit the woodwork. But it wasn’t all one way traffic.

United front men were also looking good, Peter Leven had his shot blocked by skipper Luke Joyce and Stanley’s No. 6 Dean Winnard was quickest to react to clear the ball from a United corner as Jon-Paul Pittman was about to pull the trigger. But Pittman wasn’t to be denied just a couple of minutes later, the visiting No. 11 had pace to spare as he turned defender Aristote Nsiala inside out with some neat ball control before cutting into the box to open the scoring from close range 0-1.

Going a goal down just made Stanley step up the pressure, a couple of well taken Luke Joyce corners were scrambled away by the U’s defence and both Amond & Boco went close from range. Joyce was playing further up field than the team sheet suggested he should have been but it was his ball out to Boco that brought the home side back on terms.

Boco whipped the ball in for James Beattie, yes that James Beattie you had probably forgotten about ;-) the ex  Southampton & Everton man couldn’t take his chance but the ball fell nicely for No. 7 Craig Lindfield who knocked in the easiest of chances on 25 minutes. 1-1.

For the next 20 minutes we was watching some good old fashioned cup football, Pittman was looking increasingly dangerous for the visitors along with Peter Leven & James Constable, and it has to be said that Stanley defenders Nisala & Winnard were struggling to contain them at the back. Nothing wrong with Stanley’s offensive game; Boco, Amond & Beattie all had half-chances but United’s Michael Raynes was usually on hand to snuff out any real threat on goal. on the stroke of half time Pittman had to be stretchered off with one of his arms pointing the wrong way after a fairly innocuous looking challenge but i had to laugh as the stretcher crew came running onto the field to the sound of the fans chanting “nee-nor, nee-nor, nee-nor, nee-nor” Mr. Woolmer blew his whistle just after the delay and the game was nicely balanced at the break. HT. 1-1.

Rhino – With the temperature dropping almost by the minute i was looking forward to a cup of the Beefy stuff more than anything else at half time, Gibbo had offered to go to the tuck shop at half time for me but i was devastated by his news when he returned.

He told me that next to the word ‘Bovril’ on the price list was ‘N/A’ meaning they didn’t have any… Gutted! Not only that he came back eating a pie and hadn’t got one for me! this was a double blow for me and he made it even worse by telling me the pie he was eating was “very nice!”

But things then got a whole lot better for me as i spotted a vision of what i can only describe as ‘SHEER BEAUTY!’ from nowhere appeared a goddess with a hot box strapped to her chest that was full of pies and she was wandering around the fans knocking them out for £2 a go!

I’ve noticed over the years that people tend to go for good looks, personality or a combination of the 2 when it comes to the opposite sex but you can keep all the nonsense! I’m in LOVE! A girl who walks about with a shed load of hot pies over her shoulder is definitely the girl for me and even though the hills on the short walk from the station had made my doggy knee flare up, i rushed over to her, dropped down on one knee (the good one) and popped the question…………. “can i have a Meat & Potato please?” and she said YES! half a point off for not having Bovril so it’s a 9.5 from me.

Mel B. – Well it looks like i’m not number one on the Rhino’s Christmas card list anymore! And there was me thinking we might pick up where we left off at last year’s office xmas party with those rather embarrassing prints from the photocopier! I wonder if Gibbo’s 92 would consider coming in for me & my BAPS in the January transfer window?

Still, getting back to a more constructive pie review for the pie fans out there. Clayton Park supply the Crown Ground with the half time treats and with a choice of meat & potato only from the Bimbo with a Bag it was a bit difficult to award anything more than a 5. As you would expect from the well known supplier but there seemed to be a little more onion than usual in this one. A further 1.1 points for the extra tray & folk brings my total to a more realistic 6.1 and the Pundit quote (Lawro on Jamie Redknapp) is.. it’s not all about looking good, it’s about being good!

The second half gets underway and its getting pretty cold now so i’ve brought my cozy hat as well as my Shepshed scarf! Not only that, i’ve got thermals on that feel a bit like women’s tights :-)  “how do you know what tights feel like then?” the big fella asked me, the answer was simple, i used to drive a battered old black cab years ago and used to wear them then in a bid to stay warm but knowing he wouldn’t believe me i just told him i dabble in the world of cross-dressing every other Monday ;-)

Only a couple of minutes into the 2nd period the stretcher crew were out again to the sounds of the fans imitating an ambulance siren when United’s Andy Whing went down after over-stretching to get the ball. United had also made a tactical change during the break so when Adam Chapman came on for the injured Whing that was all 3 subs used by the visitors on 48 minutes.

With both teams still playing end-to-end stuff it was only the weather that was spoiling a really good game. both keepers were being tested, Clarke turned an excellent Boco effort round the post while Rachubka was looking like he had kept goal for the home side for years saving shots from Constable & Sean Rigg comfortably. Lee Molyneux came on for Stanley just after the hour as the home team went in search of a winner.

Boco is again denied by Clarke who easily gathered his long range effort but it was Rachubka at the other end who pulled off the save of the game as he got fingertips on a thunderous Sean Rigg shot that looked destined for the top corner.

Only 10 minutes to go and the game was perfectly balanced, it had ‘Draw’ written all over it but the way both sides had attacked on the break you just thought in the back of your mind someone could just knick it. Step forward, step up, take a bow.. whichever you want to use… James Beattie!

The ball was cleared by the United defence only to fall to the feet of Beattie who was about 25 yards out, the ex England striker rolled back the years with a fantastic effort off the outside of his boot that had all the right ingredients to take it past Clarke. Power, swerve & dip sent the ball clipping the inside of the upright on its way into the net for a mouth-watering goal that should wrap this game up.

In true cup football fashion the visitors wouldn’t lie down and take Beattie’s wonder goal as the knockout punch but stepped up the pace and went all out offensive looking for their second of the day! all good stuff for us :-)

85 on the clock, Alfie Potter goes on a magical (ooh bad one that) run through the middle then plays Constable in with a wizard (ooh worse!) of a pass. The United No. 9 carried on into the area with the ball at his feet then picked out a spot in the bottom corner to beat the very impressive Rachubka. 2-2.

Mr. Woolmer added 4 minutes to the game and both sides now looked to protect their own goal rather than attacking the other, any defensive slip-up at this stage would surely prove fatal. Liam Davis committed a foul just outside the area and Stanley sub. Lee Molyneux stepped up to try and pinch the win for the home side.

BOOM! One of the best left footed strikes i’ve seen for a while had the home support off their seats in the 92nd minute! 3-2. The perfectly hit strike had left no time for United to respond and surely put Stanley in the hat for Sunday’s live 3rd round draw as there was only seconds left on the clock. BOOM! In the 94th minute Peter Leven crossed the ball from the left for the outstanding Michael Raynes to get his head on and level the score once again in front of the travelling support, who went a bit mental at this point lol 3-3.

That really was that this time. Mr. Woolmer kept his whistle between his lips and brought the game to an end with the same breath he had restarted it with and this six goal thriller was over. I suppose a fair result in the end as both sides had played well and if the replay is only half as good as this one it will be another great game. FT. 3-3.

We didn’t hang around after the game, it was freezing! We had just over an hour to get to the station for our train but it was fortunately downhill for the most part :-) we stopped off at a different pub on the way back called The Oaklea for a quick pint & to kill a bit of time, rather be inside somewhere than waiting on a cold station platform.

Blending in well with the locals thanks to Gibbo’s new £40 Accrington shirt it was time to talk about Man of the Match. Debutant keeper Paul Rachubka & skipper Luke Joyce were definite contenders for Stanley while Pittman probably would have been a contender for Oxford if he hadn’t been injured but in the end we went for Oxford’s No. 4 Michael Raynes. Defended well throughout the game including a couple of goal-line clearances and of course he headed the late-late equaliser.

The train back was only a couple of minutes late so we didn’t have any drama’s with the connection at Blackburn plus Gibbo now had a Stanley shirt on over the top of his Wanderers top so no need for the Rhino to be on bodyguard duty either! :-)

On the train from Blackburn to Manchester we come across 2 guys who had been at today’s game that live and work in Bolton, nothing strange about that but they were both Oxford fans! Which did seem a bit weird lol. we parted company with Gibbo at Bolton and the big fella immediately ripped into me again… “have you told him to one-bell you when he gets home so you know he’s safe & sound?” there’s just no need for it! lol :-)


We got to Piccadilly gardens to get the bus to the Sweaty Spaniard to find that there hadn’t been a bus for over an hour! The 216 service is supposed to be every 10 minutes so you can imagine the amount of people who had gathered at the bus stop to wait for it, this was going to be tricky!

Normally i take a photo of us on the bus to Droylsden that’s usually quite a happy little snap of us but the amount of carnage i caused when the bus finally arrived meant i was in everybody’s bad books on the bus so i thought the best thing for me to do  was just sit quietly while the big fella tried to calm everyone down then make a break for the exit when we got to Droylsden! HA! It worked :-)

Once we were safely in the SS we celebrated the fact we were half way through the FA 34 now that game 17 had been successfully completed. Gawwd knows what the big fella was drinking by the end of the night be he looked happy enough although i think that was more to do with today’s pie seller than anything else! ;-)

The second half of the 34 is obviously going to be a lot tougher for us with no local teams left in the Vase and only Stockport left in the Trophy that’s close to us. The weather will also play its part as well with games at non league grounds being called off due to frost at this time of year. So with that in mind we’ve opted for Barnoldswick Town v AFC Emley in the Vase 3rd round for our next game, reason being i can steal my son’s car for the night if the game is cancelled and rearranged to a midweek fixture! It’s only 43 mile away and he’s got a really quick BMW so easy-peesy lol until then Blog Buds……

Today’s Stats….

Travel Cost each – £5.90 Train

Admission each – Free

Mileage covered – 57.0

Total Travel Cost – £94.55

Total Admission – £78.00

Total Mileage – 1,061.4

Total Goals Seen – 73



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Step 16… FC Halifax Town v Altrincham FC (FATrophy #5)

Back on the Trophy Trail for step 16, probably my favourite of the 3 competitions we’re doing this season, and we’re taking the short train journey to Halifax as they take on Altrincham in todays 1st round proper tie. £5,000 is up for grabs for the winners from the FA’s healthy back pocket so let’s get it done without a replay & more importantly let’s make this game No. 45 since this blog began, without seeing a Nil-Nil..!

“On It” the text read from 4 stops back, meaning the big fella was aboard the 217 bus coming my way. We arrive in Manchester just after 11.30 and it’s only a 2 minute walk to Victoria station so we’ve got plenty of time to catch the 11.48 to Halifax.

Only £6.85 each for a day return plus Halifax have told me that one ticket will be left on the gate for me and we’ll have to split the £10 for the other keeping today’s cost pretty cheap for our first visit to The Shay. We met a Blackburn Rovers fan on the train who took the photo for us and told us he was on his way to Ewood to watch the game there, he also told us he had put £20 on QPR to win at Old Trafford and Willy Hills had matched it so he had £40 at 18/1 for any win! I must admit our thoughts were with him later in the afternoon especially when the news filtered through that Jamie Mackie had put Rangers 1-0 up!

We arrive in Halifax about 12.40 and the Rhino’s first thoughts are.. “more hills here than Buxton & New Mills put together!” fair point, it was a bit up & downy :-) still we set off into the town in search of food as we had missed out on our usual Greggs pre journey ritual.

It wasn’t long before we came across the famous blue & white sign and according to a couple of tweets on the day, Halifax has 2 Greggs shops! Unfortunately for us we found the one that had sold out of sausage rolls so we had to settle for a coffee only breakfast even though the very helpful girl was pushing some sort of turkey & cranberry lattice thing at me that was on special offer.

Looking at the map, the sat-nav appeared to be sending us in the totally wrong direction even though we had it set to the ‘walking’ mode and we were using the postcode taken from Halifax’s website that states ‘use this for sat-navs’

We were sure we had passed the floodlights of the ground as the train was pulling into the station and it just didn’t look right so we decided to go old school and ask directions from someone who ‘looked local’ i’m still not sure how someone can look local but the Rhino enlisted the help of a young chap waiting outside a shop for his girlfriend who pointed the way saying “you can’t miss it” HA! Famous last words so i went into a newsagents to double check and when i asked the guy if i was going the right way for The Shay, he told me “no idea, never heard of it but then again, i’m not from around here!” Great!

As luck would have it the young fella was right, after walking for about 15 minutes through the town centre in a fairly straight line we come to a ‘T’ junction and the choice was to turn right up a very steep hill or left and go down it! we went left :-) good choice for once and we arrived at the ground just after 2 o’clock.

Not much happening outside the ground but then again we were there pretty early, we had arranged to meet a guy called Alan who writes for the programme & the website for an interview about doing the 34 so after splitting the £10 ticket we went to the bar inside the Shay to meet him, what a nice chap, bought us a beer too!

3 o’clock was soon upon us and it was time to get step 16 underway. Halifax  in their blue shirts & socks with white shorts were attacking the goal to our right but it was Altrincham in their red & white stripe shirts who got us going at the sound of Mr. Millers whistle.

The floodlights were on right from the start on a cold, rain-threatening afternoon at The Shay but both teams play in the Blue Square North so they should be used to shite weather and with Halifax 6 places above Alty it came as no surprise when it was the home side who had the first shy on goal after just 2 minutes when No. 9 Dale Johnson tried his luck from 30 yards but it turned out to be one of those ‘the corner flag was in more danger’ efforts as the centre forward’s shot went woefully wide.

With only 5 minutes on the clock we went yet another game avoiding a nil-nil when Alty took the lead. I can’t really say if it was with or against the run of play because we hadn’t really had any but it was against the form book as bookies had this game down as a home banker.

A poor defensive clearance presented the ball to Nicky Clee out on the right, he carried the ball to the edge of the area and fired the ball at goal. Matt Glennon between the sticks made a good save to block the shot only to see the ball fall to the feet of No. 10 Damian Reeves! Obvious what was to happen next lol. the unmarked Alty Hit man had the easiest of tap-ins to take his goal tally for the season to an amazing 21 in league & cup! 0-1.

The visitors pressed again with Reeves this time the provider, a great run down the left from the Alty wonder kid sending in a good ball across the area that the Halifax defence had to deal with before No. 9 James Lawrie connected with it. Altrincham were leaving themselves a bit vulnerable at the back playing such an open game and front men Lee Gregory & Gareth Seddon both had chances to pull the home side level.

With 20 minutes gone we were enjoying a really good, open game with Halifax beginning to have more of the play & creating the better of the chances although Clee was leaving Town’s left back Phill Bolland for dead every time the visitors came forward down the right and it was obvious Bolland was struggling with some sort of injury.

Forced into an early change Bolland comes off for Ryan Toulson to make his return to the team with cheers of “should have been on from the start” coming from the East stand we were sat in. A very chilly Rhino seemed concerned for the substituted defender as he asked “does he have to sit on the bench with an ice pack on his foot in this cold?” lol ‘how thoughtful’ i thought as we both started betting each other how long it would be before his toes turned blue!

Halifax were now beginning to dominate the game and every time they had the ball it ended with either a shot on goal or a corner, Alty keeper Stuart Coburn made a couple of easy saves but when he was beaten, the ball was just off target or hacked away by the defence but you still felt it was only a matter of time before Halifax made the breakthrough.

The temperature off the pitch was dropping but not on it, three yellow cards were dished out in quick succession as both sides continued to play open & attacking football. tackles were flying in from all over in this ‘end to end’ encounter and the only thing missing was goals but on the half hour we got our second of the day.

Gregory carried the ball down the flank before cutting inside to shoot from the corner of the area across Coburn, the keeper made a good effort to stop the shot but there was just too much on it and the ball nestled into the far corner to level the scores. 1-1. It was no more than they deserved and they continued to press forward looking for another before half time.

As the first half came to an end i can only really talk about one man, Gareth Seddon! 43 minutes on the clock and Jason St. Juste swings the ball in from a corner met by skipper Danny Lowe, his header was parried by Coburn for Seddon to stab home to give Halifax the lead 2-1.

45 on the clock and another corner for the home side, Gregory climbed highest to nod down for his strike partner and Seddon made no mistake from close range for his second of the day with Alty screaming for an offside flag that never came. 3-1.

45+1 From the restart, Alty midfielder Jake Moult lost possession in the heavily sanded area of the pitch close to the half way line, the ball ended up with Seddon who went charging up field in search of his hat trick, he struck hard & on target and even though Coburn got a glove on it the ball still had enough power to get through to the top corner… BOOM! 3 goals in 3 minutes 17 seconds must be a record in the FA Trophy surely? Even if it isn’t, it was definitely an ‘i was there moment’ for me and the big fella as the Ref brought the half to an end moments later. HT. 4-1.

Rhino – Half time pie review? Well no, not just yet. 1 Leg had been posting in the Halifax forum all week and had been told to steer clear of the food in the East stand, which was where we were! We had also been given the same information by a few of the staff here at the Shay but they didn’t want to be named for obvious reasons, so it would be foolish to ignore all this advice and i’ll be reviewing a rather special pie later on :-)

We did get a Bovril each from the canteen at £2 a cup and while we were indoors getting warm & enjoying the beefy goodness, 1 Leg noticed the club mascot walking passed and insisted on a photo! He’s become obsessed with having his picture taken with these furry creatures even though they don’t want to half the time lol 1 Leg’s the one on the left!

The second have started with the rain that had been threatening all day now lashing down. A slight delay to the restart as there was no sign of the Alty keeper who was probably still feeling a bit shell-shocked after Seddon’s lightning hat trick at the end of the first half.

Coburn finally appeared so we could get started and if he wasn’t already feeling as miserable as the weather he soon would be! The first attack of the half seen Lee Gregory through on goal with the ball at his feet only to be pulled back by Alty’s Danny Hall. Mr. Miller deemed the defender was the ‘last man’ and had denied Gregory a goal scoring chance with the foul and Hall’s card was red.

There’s no doubt the red card changed the game, Alty had to reshuffle their defence to keep a back 4 meaning they were now limited in attacking options. A few breakaway chances were soon snuffed out by Halifax who know came forward at will keeping the visitors under constant pressure.

With just 51 on the clock Halifax registered another when one of their ex players, Dale Johnson slid into the box to bundle the ball over the line after a cross from the left. 5-1. It looked like a route maybe on the cards and i said as much to the Rhino, “no, not yet” the big fella told me “5-1 is officially known as a spanking” 

Just a couple of minutes later Nicky Clee chalked off Johnson’s goal with a superb effort of his own. A free kick from about 35 yards out was placed with pin-point accuracy into the top right hand corner of Glennon’s net from the left footer for the best goal of the day. 5-2.

Halifax continued to dominate the game and it was nice to see the introduction of ex Droylsden favourite Dan Gardener come on the pitch for the home side. Lots of ‘oohs & arhhs’ from the Halifax support as chance after chance went begging until Alty finally waved the white flag swapping Reeves & Clee for Ryan Brooke and Paddy Lacey to shut up shop and close the game out as it stood. FT 5-2.

A quick dash to the Three Pigeons just up the road from the ground as we’ve got time for a couple of pints of real ale before our train back. The barman in the pub suggested our choice of beer as we try and decide on a man of the match. On any other day, Jason St. Juste would have been the only choice, the left back not only defended well but was involved in nearly every attack from the home side, and there was far too many to count!

But how can you take it away from Gareth Seddon? Scoring a hat trick is a great achievement in any game but to do it in less than 4 minutes is quite incredible! To be fair he could have had a lot more if it wasn’t for Stuart Coburn’s heroics in the Alty goal who despite letting 5 in, saved an awful lot more. I Really hope Seddon’s triple is a record in the Trophy but just in case it isn’t, he can be safe in the knowledge that he’s our MOM! Praise indeed! :-)

Back in Manchester just in time to get to Piccadilly gardens and more importantly, a pie stall! After being told by lots of people to avoid the food at the Shay, unless you have access to the burger van behind the goal, which we didn’t. We headed for a Thai Pie stall I had been told about and i thought the big fella could do a report from here rather than no report at all because they’re supposed to be Thai-rrific! :-)

Rhino – well this is different but i must admit after reviewing over 40 pies during this blog it’s about time i came across something a bit unusual. Dean & Becky are a man and wife team who have combined various authentic Thai ingredients with a 30 year old family pie recipe to come up with The Real Thai-Pie Company and all i can say is…. FANTASTIC!

After much deliberation i went for the meat & potato that had an unusual name that i couldn’t pronounce but it was lovely! You can always spot the quality of a homemade pie and this was indeed, quality! Generous portions of meat inside a thick, short crust pastry housing with various spices giving different flavours with almost every bite and real potato pieces instead of that mush you get in other pies complimented this fist-full perfectly.

Such a shame this bad boy wasn’t purchased at the match meaning it can’t be given a score on the pie-ometer page because it would be up there with the best of them. even the little pastry elephant on top played its part as 1 Leg convinced the twins on their 13th birthday the following day that the pie was made from real elephants lol so if you’re in Manchester over the weekend go and check out Dean’s stall in Piccadilly Gardens or order from him on line he’s only in Bolton, check his FaceBook page for more details here

Last leg of the journey that always makes us happy is the 216 bus to Droylsden and home! by home i of course mean the Sweaty Spaniard, the very best Tapas bar in Droylsden :-) (you would think i would be on free beer by now the amount of plugging i do for this place!)

A fairly uneventful trip after last week’s heroics when the big fella had to rescue a young girl stuck in a toilet on the train so i thought i would see if he would offer me the same kind of assistance when i told him the toggle on my coat was stuck down the back of my seat and i was stuck! After a quick look at me & my coat he just wandered off down the bus muttering something to himself and just left me there! Charming!

We arrived at the SS for about half 7 and spent the next couple of hours checking the results from today and trying to narrow down where we would be going on the next leg of the Trophy on the 15th Dec. When the draw is made on Monday. This will also our last game of the year before our Christmas break and our ‘works Christmas doo’ :-)

A trip to Barnoldswick on the 8th in the Vase is also planned but before that the next step on the 34 is this Saturday’s FA Cup 2nd round! Our 8th game in the Cup this season and now the TV people have decided which games to swap from a Saturday 3 o’clock kickoff we get to pick from what’s left, so where are we going? Accrington Stanley! And why not, Oxford United will be at the Crown Ground playing for the right to be in the hat with the big boys on Sunday and when i first suggested going to watch Accy to the big fella you can just imagine how the conversation went (with a little scouse accent thrown in) “Accrington Stanley, who are they?”……. “Exactly!”   :-)

Today’s Stats….

Travel Cost each – £6.85 Train

Admission each – £5 (split the one £10 ticket)

Mileage covered – 71.4

Total Travel Cost – £88.65

Total Admission – £78.00

Total Mileage – 1,004.4

Total Goals Seen – 67





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