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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