Denis

WIDNES 1 COLNE 2

Northern Premier League North West Division

Little point in disguising it, this was not my first game choice. As Storm Dennis started it destruction of the fixture list I kept casting my eye to this clash. I am probably not alone with the thought that the Halton Stadium is not one of my favourite grounds to watch football, however, it has a great advantage, games are rarely called off. So, in the end I jumped on the Liverpool bound train and alighted at Widnes Station.

Following a 25 minutes stroll in the wind I was at the ground and trying to find my way in, this time it was at the turnstiles at the town end of the main stand. Drink and programme purchased I took my seat as the teams warmed up in pouring rain. Weather that had changed to bright sunshine with a glorious rainbow over North Cheshire by the times they came out for kick-off.

Very little happened for the first quarter of this match other than both teams trying to cope with the wind, especially in the south-east corner where the corner flag touched the ground at times the wind was so strong. Then we had a moment that the nome keeper Mottram will want to forget as soon as possible, a long clearance from Hasler-Clegg bounced harmlessly towards him just outside his box, he moved round the ball to clear it and missed it. Colne’s striker Bradley was onto the loose goalbound bouncing ball making sure and sidefooting into the empty goal. 0-1.

Widnes tried to get back into the game, but the visitors playing 3 at the back looked comfortable. Player/Joint-Manager Towey went close, Jennings tried a clever flick, but Colne stood firm. With 5 minutes to go Bradley was played in on the edge of the area, his first touch let him down, even so it needed a good tackle from Humphries to stop him, McQuade picked up the loose ball, forward to Steele, he waited for the defender to close and went past him with ease playing in Murray who was 45 yards out but through against the Reds keeper Burton, Hasler-Clegg in chase. What happened next was quite bizarre. As he got in the area Burton came out, he poked the ball past him, the ball was bobbling towards the goal, but Hasler-Clegg would surely clear it. He slid in, but didn’t even swing a foot. As the ball hit the post the defender slid into the net, the ball then spun off the post around the prone full-back and somehow across the line. 1-1. One of the weirdest goals I have ever seen. The Colne defenders team-mates and manager did not look best pleased with the number 3.

Back came Colne and Bradley, the lively forward was played in on the inside right channel, lobbing the ball over Mottram only to see bounce wide of the far post. Half-time. The second part of the half a lot more lively and better than the first.

After the restart both teams tried to assert themselves on this match, the visitors going close when Bradley failed to get a full touch on Hey’s cross. The Whites half-time substitute Hodkinson tested Burton from distance wit ha fierce effort in the swirling wind, the number one keeping it out. With a quarter of the game to go we got our winner, good build-up in midfield and Hughes was free on the left wing, free he had plenty of time to pick out Bradley who took his chance well from 7 yards out. Mottram no chance. 1-2.

The hosts came again, Steele went on a run, his placed shot bringing off a nice for the photographers save from Burton and that was pretty much that. As various non-league managers and coaches left just before the end, all taking in a game as their own teams had fallen foul of the weather this fan trudged back to the station in the rain and off home.

Attendance: 204

Moment of the Match: Cannot believe I am not going for either of the goal howlers, but it has to go to the worst electronic scoreboard I have seen in years. Needs a bit of TLC.

Match Tunes: Plastic Letters – Blondie.

Buzzbomb

TRAFFORD 5 RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2

Northern Premier League Cup 2nd Round

Terminator 2. Godfather 2.

Two films that I can think of where the sequel is better than the first one.

As meetings between two teams go this will go down as a much better sequel than the previous meeting. The game on New Years Day was not the best, I am sure all 243 of us who were that day would agree.

This was a belter. For the hosts made just 3 changes from the previous meeting, whilst for Rammy just 5 survived. Maybe, just maybe, they have one eye on promotion. Though the biggest change was on the Trafford left wing. Palma. Boy did he turn up. Virtually everything the hosts did either started with him or he was involved somewhere along the line. He turned United’s right-back Moran inside out. Several times.

The hosts took the lead on 10 minutes through Kenny, started on the left, involving Palma, the striker was left with a golden chance that he took. 1-0. The winger visibly grew in confidence. Minutes later he was in full flow running at Rammy’s defence, they stopped him by bringing him down. It was in the area. Penalty. Palma slammed it home. 2-0.

A third was added just before the interval. Moments after the visitors defender Thompson lambasted an official for “killing” them, he trapped the ball beautifully in the area, fell to the side to allow Trafford’s Egerton an easy finish. Killing yourself sir. 3-0.

Trafford continued where they left off after the break. In an almost biblical parting of the sea, Palma ran right through United’s defence and finished with the lesser spotted right foot. Too easy. 4-0. Game over right?

Oh not on your life. Trafford’s skipper Egerton decided it was all too comfortable. A couple of minutes after his side went four ahead he glanced a perfect header past his keeper Cooper. 4-1. Another couple of minutes later he gave away a penalty. Oh Mr Egerton! Evangelinos got his third on this ground this year as he scored. 4-2. Very much game on.

And for 20 minutes the game went from end to end, the hosts looking increasingly nervy. The visitors increasingly desperate.

With five minutes to go the game was settled. A corner saw a bullet header from defender Baird leave United’s keeper Wade with no chance. 5-2. We had some handbags following the goal which helped to round off a fun evening.

Loved it!

Attendance: 129

Moment of the Match: Sorry Mr Moran. But it has to be Palma turning you more times than a steak on a bbq. You must have been dizzy when you got home.

Match Tunes: Plastic Surgery Disasters – Dead Kennedys. Keeping with the same band from the game on 1 January 2020.

Forward to Death

TRAFFORD 1 RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2

Northern Premier League North West Division

I have, over the years, seen some classic games on New Years Day. I am sorry to say but this will not join that list. In fact, at the moment, it is, safe to say, it is very much at the bottom.

Apart from a scrambled effort by Evangelinos after 10 minutes, 0-1, the first half can, by and large, be totally forgotten about. It can be best summed up by a passage of play around halfway through the opening period. The lethargy on show had spread to the subs who were warming up by standing still, in front of them, a ball was played back about 10 yards to the visiting keeper. Stewart wildly swung his right boot at it. He sliced it badly for a corner. The White’s midfield Palmer took the set piece. The corner was not good, the first defender had to duck down to head it away, the header was not good it went to a Trafford midfielder on the corner of the box. He played it out to Palmer. His pass was not good. It missed his team-mate by about 10 yards and went out for a throw.

Would the second half be better? Not really until we had a moment so bad that it warranted a substitute. The hosts broke, at speed and with accuracy, until following a beautiful pass, Palma was in on goal. He missed. He was 10 yards out with Stewart scrambling to get across. He missed badly. He made way for Grimshaw. The game livened up instantly. Trafford finally had a forward who would run at the opposition, United didn’t like it. Most defenders don’t. The substitute tried his best to drag the rest of his fellow forwards into the game. It had improved.

With both sides shook out of the opening 45 minutes of slumber, at least there was a bit of intent and after both sides had clipped the bar it was Rammy who struck next. With 15 minutes to go Evangelinos showed a bit of class and smashed the ball home from inside the box past Cooper, 0-2. That was a tad harsh on Trafford.

A little justice into the score was restored during added on time, another home substitute, Hazeldine showed a tad of class that was out of place in this game, turming and firing a wonderful effort past Stewart. 1-2.

Trafford’s star players had started the game sat on the bench, but then again so had one of their coaches, but he was shown a red. Bit silly really as there forward Walters had messed up the through ball he had been flagged offside for. Saved his blushes rivalling Palma’s.

Attendance: 243

Moment of the Match: Sam Grimshaw being brought on. He gave the game some purpose when to be honest, it appeared to be lacking any.

Match Tunes: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables – Dead Kennedys

It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It

MOSSLEY 3 OSSETT UNITED 2

Northern Premier League North West Division

I hope that those present remember this game for the good that happened, this was a decent end to end match with both teams creating a number of chances.

In a game where one set of fans or the others seemed to be unhappy with the referee I thought he got most decisions correct, including the early penalty awarded to United for a foul on Greaves. The striker picked himself up, dusted himself down and scored to give the visitors the lead. 0-1.

It didn’t take long for the Lilywhites to draw level, substitute Hanley cutting in from the wing and shooting low, unfortunately for Ossett’s stopper Souter, they ball somehow evaded him and found the back of the net. 1-1.

Greaves then saw Mossley’s stopper Roberts deny him when through on goal and shortly afterwards with a spectacular save from his header. Then Basic curled in a free-kick on target, Roberts saved well, he had been warned. The break came with the game in the balance. Mossley having more of the possession, the visitors the better chances.

When we got restarted it was Souter’s turn to impress with a brilliant one handed stop from a Halfacre header.

Despite both teams pushing forward we looked like we could be heading for a draw with both sets of forwards having an increasingly frustrating afternoon. Step up United’s number 10, Basic. His free-kick from 20 yards out was curled perfectly over the wall and beyond Roberts’ grasp. Had the visitors snatched the game? 1-2.

Cue Mossley’s second inspired substitution. With Hanley already on for the injured Abadaki, the hosts changed Rainford for Halfacre. It worked a treat. With 10 minutes to go he turned and played a perfect cross-box ball to the oncoming Hanley who buried beyond Souter. 2-2.

A couple of minutes or so later Rainford hit the post. He had lifted his side. He then got the winner. Well I thought he did. Substitute Hanley fed another replacement Fitzgerald, his shot saw Souter get a hand to it, but he hadn’t stopped it. The ball hit the post and bobbled along the line. Rainford tapped it in from 2 inches out. 3-2. The man on the tannoy gave it to Rainford but then took it away. Either way the game was won.

A bloody good game.

Attendance: 341

Moment of the Match: When the ball was bobbling along the line before Rainford turned it in. Heart stopping moments like this are brilliant. Well, unless you were from Ossett.

Match Tunes: Fun Boy Three – Fun Boy Three

Tora! Tora! Tora!

HYDE UNITED 1 GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY 1

Northern Premier League Premier Division

Much like my history with Hyde United, their own has been one very much of ups and downs since their original forming in 1885.

I am sure all reading this will be very much aware of the 26-0 scoreline that the club lost to Preston North End in the late 19th century, though some sources advise that the true score was actually 28-0. Not the best of starts for the club. I first saw them in 2013 when they lost 2-0 at home to Gateshead in the then Conference Premier Division during a season when they only won once, away at Welling United. The club at the receiving end of a Twitter account @HasHydeWonYet which tweted after every game ‘No’.

After moving to their present home early in the 20th century, the club disbanded during the Great War. My next Hyde experience was on New Years Day in 2015, and a 7-1 humiliation at the hands of rivals Stalybridge Celtic in another season of woe and relegation.

Things would soon improve though, the club reformed in 1919 and went from strength to strength, winning trophies, runs in the FA Cup before joining the Northern Premier League in the 1980s. I saw United involved in another 7-1 scoreline in September 2015 when they at last won in my presence, thrashing Stamford as the club started to gain a foothold and stop the rot, just over a month later they overcame Colwyn Bay 3-2.

After a new main stand was built, runs in the FA Cup continued along with a couple of appearances in the FA Trophy semi-final where the trip to Wembley eluded them in consecutive years. I next saw them on a Monday night in February against Whitby Town. The visitors arriving late due to traffic and the game finishing very late, though the Tigers ran out 2-1 winners.

Following promotion after a controversial title award in 2005, money trouble, a partnership with Manchester City they reached the Conference Premier Division in 2012. They were on a high. It would be nearly 2 years after my visit for the Whitby Town match when I saw United again, beating Colne 1-0 on a bittely cold February afternoon in 2018.

Good times don’t last and the afore mentioned Conference freefall soon occurred with the Tigers eventually finishing up in the Northern Premier League Division 1 North. It was at this level when I saw them lose 1-0 at Trafford in March last year. Promotion followed for Hyde and they currently find themselves mid-table though not in the best of form. An indifferent November finished with a 0-0 home draw against Witton Albion. December has seen them lose at lowly Atherton Collieries before another 0-0 home draw in the League Cup against Lancaster City; they did win on penalties.

So to this game against bottom of the table Gainsborough Trinity. The first half was a non-event, neither side producing anything of note. The game took a turn for the better after half-time. United taking the lead through Dyche after five minutes or so of the second period, Trinity deservedly levelling with about 15 minutes to go through Dunne. My over-riding memory of the game will be of 2 misses by Trinity’s Hannah, luckily for him the second was given as offside, it was a sitter, of the bib variety. A draw was a fair outcome.

Attendance: 323

Moment of the Match: Trinity’s goal. One of the very few moments of class in this game. Wonderful through ball to Dunne who stuck the ball away with ease.

Match Tunes: Speak & Spell – Depeche Mode

Down the Dip

CLITHEROE 6 OSSETT UNITED 1

Northern Premier League North West Division

It has been over 5 years since I visited this neck of woods and a return has been long overdue. As was seeing the hosts win a game. Six previous games had resulted in 3 draws and 3 defeats, including a quite bizarre 6-1 defeat at Burscough.

Burscough raced into an early lead and wiped the floor with Clitheroe, 3-0 up inside 10 minutes or so, the 6th came shortly after the half hour. The visitors claiming the consolation 10 minutes into the second half. The floodlights started going out at one end, the end Burscough were attacking, with the hosts obviously desperate that the game finished they practically refused to attack, the visitors wanting the game stopped as half the pitch was getting darker and darker. The referee finished the game keeping half of those there happy at least.

So here I was, back at Shawbridge and in search of that, so far, elusive Clitheroe victory. It’s a great ground Shawbridge, love the little bits dotted around, though changes have been made at the Castle End since my last visit the rest seemed pretty much the same. Including the pitch. This is one of my favourites. It slopes from side to side with dips and rises seemingly all over it. It is brilliant and if this was ever to be levelled then football will have lost a gem.

A friendly welcome at the gate by club volunteers, excellent food at the Tub Grub and a pretty decent clubhouse too; friendly smiles and greeting awaits all around this ground.

Underway it took a little while to get going, but once we did the hosts were in charge, though the opening 45 minutes were pretty much a tale of them wasting chances. The other action of note was a game changer. The blues forward Gaul was through on goal, fouled by Knowles and awarded a penalty, the red that followed for the defender looked a little harsh to me, but that would be being picky against the official. Especially when he and his colleagues looked to be spot on with their decisions for the rest of the afternoon.  Back to the penalty, Gaul coolly trotted up to the ball and scored.

Following the obligatory break the match continued and it struggled to get going for a while. Gaul added his second, played through, this time with no defender to foul him he scored and with 10 minutes remaining the score was 2-0. Then things went a bit crazy, Clitheroe’s sub Strizaker headed a third, United pulled one back through Greaves, who must have the whitest teeth in non-league football. Carney scored a fourth with a strike from outside the area, Strizaker scored again before Carney added the sixth with the defence just allowing shots from wherever the blues wanted.

As the ref blew time on this game and the fans headed for the warmth, United’s manager Benn must have breathed a sigh of relief that this was only 6.

Attendance: 416

Moment of the Match: When United decided after pulling a goal back to make it 3-1 to totally neglect any defensive duties. Opened the gates for another 3 from the hosts

Match Tunes: High Land, Hard Rain – Aztec Camera

Childhood Derby

ASHTON UNITED 1 STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 2

Northern Premier League Cup 1st Round

I grew up less than half a mile from Surrey Street and passed it every day when I was attending junior school about the same distance the other side of United’s home. When we moved as I headed towards my teenage years, the local non-league club changed to Stalybridge Celtic. I have never seen these 2 teams play each other, so following the postponement of Atherton LR v. Ashton Town this became my game of choice.

Arriving at Hurst Cross just in time, a queue at the one turnstile open, music playing to welcome the sides out, we just made it through as the game got underway. After a fairly quiet start the Nathan Valentine show of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly got started, and to be fair to Nathan it did it all in order. A fair strike put his side 1-0 up in the 12th minute when the ball broke to him on the edge of the box.

The bad came early in the second half with a ridiculous fall to the ground after his leg was caught for a foul. It angered United’s Tomsett and it looked like things would escalate, which they did in the 65th minute when for some reason with a United player down and the ball with him Valentine ran at him and tried to leather it at him. For me a red. Tomsett reacted and pushed Valentine in the back, queue throwing himself to the floor. Yellow for me but could have been red. Both were cautioned.

We also had a second for Celtic, Scott Bakkor profiting from great work by winger Osei, and a late penalty consolation for the hosts tucked away by forward turned defender Wilson.

It was ok. Valentine certainly livened it up. Enough that I might head over to Bower Fold for the league game on New Years Day.

Attendance: 182

Moment of the Match: United’s manager Banim bringing himself on in the second half. Need an even bigger shirt sir if you plan to do it again.