The Watcher

ABBEY HULTON UNITED 0 ELLESMERE RANGERS 2

NWCFL First Division South

This was a trip that was long long overdue.

You see the problem this groundhopper has is that I do not drive, thus making trips to Stoke-on-Trent and the likes a nightmare for a midweek game, but also at times not far enough away for a Saturday. That needs to change. Every time I visit this part of the world everybody makes me feel very welcome.

If you get the chance to visit this corner of north-east Stoke then you must, where whatever the weather the warmest of welcomes awaits.

Entry to Drayton Beaumont Park is through the car park that is on Birches Head Road, the guys on the gate are very friendly and will assist with any advice required as will Dave who is the next person you will meet, he is on tunes duty and an absolute star. Any hopper will be made to feel right at home by the time you venture past the clubhouse, which is your place for a pint. Walking in the direction of the pitch the food bar is on your right and this is a must, the ladies working in there are so friendly, Staffordshire Oatcakes a speciality and available with a variety of fillings. For those not Oatcake inspired, pies, chips, peas etc are all available.

Unfortunately, only 50% of the ground is accessible, the River Side, where the dugouts are and the far end are off limits. At the Clubhouse end in addition to Dave and the Tea Bar are a number of fantastic wooden seats; to the east are 2 covered seating areas along with plenty of room for uncovered standing.

With both teams at the wrong end of the table this was always going to be a tense game. Somebody could have told the visiting keeper Cairns. Flying out he brought down a United attacker, was it in the box? The referee originally looked to have given a penalty, then changed his mind, his assistant was moving towards the goal to take up a position for a penalty. They then had a chat. Free-kick. Correct decision I thought. I also thought that Cairns was lucky to get away without a caution given United’s attack being halted.

The visitors looked the more likely to score, they hit the post midway through the half. It was a warning that went unheeded by United. A minute or so later they went behind, good work on the left and a dangerous cross was whipped that had to be dealt with. Unfortunately for the hosts it was one of their defenders who turned the ball past his own keeper. 0-1. The goal shook Abbey Hulton into a bit of life and they threatened a bit more for the rest of the half, but the visitors should have gone into the break with their lead double what it was, as their #10 went through in on goal only to slot his chance wide of the goal.

Following the chilly 15 minutes where substitutes warm-up a bit, also called half-time, United came out on a bit of a mission. The ball was played forward quickly, whether it be down the middle or from the wings and Rangers were under pressure. The bar was hit from a corner, it bounced down about a yard in play, though that didn’t stop a home fan from screaming at the officials that it was over the line, think he was the only guy in the ground that thought so. United were getting close.

Rangers defence held firm, the pressure was ramped up even more, but United just couldn’t create that clear cut chance. Then with a quarter of the game left Rangers got the goal that finished the match off. Again it was a good cross that was United’s undoing, only this time it was a visiting player who scored, 0-2. The club’s twitter account gave it to Taylor, the league’s website says Williams. Apologies, I can’t help you any more than that. Whoever it was it certainly took some of the wind out of Abbey Hulton’s sails. Which was a shame as the game had been building and building.

Abbey Hulton United continued to huff and puff but I think they realised it was not their day, Ellesmere Rangers continued to defend resolutely. Cairns in the visiting goal waited an age for the ball to come down outside of his box and fouled an onrushing striker, receiving a caution in the process. Lucky he wasn’t booked earlier.

For effort and continued perseverance United deserved something out of this game and their current run of 6 straight defeats must come to an end soon. Surely. They have a massive game next week against fellow strugglers Barnton.

Rangers are flying! Fourth in the form table, 4 wins in their last 6 games and since Courtney and Brown were installed as new managers in early October winning 9 out of 16 games shows just what progress the club is making and I am sure they are looking forward to their quarter-final in the NWCFL League Cup.

Attendance: 89

Moment of the Match: When Rangers keeper Cairns, fouled an opponent for the second time outside the area. The lad certainly plays without fear. Love it.

Match Tunes: Motorhead – Motorhead. Lemmy. For me, Stoke-on-Trent’s most talented musical son.