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..