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NWCFL First Division North

Finally. We get some proper football. The rain holds off for a couple of days and Crilly Park was managed by the LR staff to a level that was acceptable for the game to go ahead. The pitch a little heavy but the same for both teams, credit must go to those responsible, at any club, that manages to get a game on.

On a dry if a little chilly night at Crilly Park LR welcomed promotion hopefuls Shelley who had made the trip from Yorkshire.

Considering the amount of rain the pitch looked in heavy but in good condition.

I like the other club in Atherton. When I started watching football again they were at the same level as ‘Colls’ but as their rivals have gone on and on LR along with the other local NWCFL side, Daisy Hill, have struggled to get a foothold and climb the ladder.

LR kicked up the hill in a first half where both teams went for it. After 10 mins the visitors took the lead through Waller who finished clinically coming in off his wing.

LR hit the bar, Day saved well as LR threatened.

The club, once FA Vase semi-finalists, have had some good results this season, wins over Emley AFC and AFC Liverpool have shown they have potential, their lack of consistency means they are in the wrong half of the table. I am sure that they will look back on this season as an opportunity missed to challenge for one of the four promotion spots.

At the other end, the final ball was close but just missing as Waller and O’Keefe threatened.

The h-t score of 0-1 was probably right.

The 2nd half belonged to Shelley. A goal from O’Keefe on the hour was followed up 10 mins with the 3rd.

Which is exactly where Shelley find themselves, fairly new to Step 6 and after consolidating in their debut season they have certainly kicked on. I was impressed with their performance, in particular after the break and am sure the ywill find themselves in the Premier Division next season.

This came from the penalty spot. Waller claiming his second. He got his hat-trick at the death as a well worked move was finished off with ease.

A deserved win for the visitors. Though I am sure LR will be thinking what if?

Attendance: 78

Moment of the Match: Matthew Waller finishing off his hat-trick. A complete performance from the visitors winger.

Match Tunes: Damned Damned Damned – The Damned.


All That Jazz


NWCFL First Division North

I am not going to be too welcome watching The Mechanics at this rate. Following last weeks loss to Emley I was in attendance again as they were defeated; this time at the hands of The Little Reds.

Following a pleasant train journey I disembarked at Blundellsands & Crosby into a cold wind coming in off the River Mersey, not too bad when I was walking to the ground but biting once I was in Rossett Park, home of Marine AFC where Liverpool are tenants. That wind became bitter.

It has been a while since I have been here and a bit of work has been done behind the main stand, though sadly, most of it was closed for today’s game. I am glad to say that the Tea Bar was open and hot food and drink was served by two lovely, but very cold ladies. Thank you! I love this ground. The main stand is behind the goal at the College Road end, with standing below a fair size seating area, as mentioned with the food facilities, this is where you will find all the club’s amenities. Opposite at the River end is an open terrace that looks like it could hold a fair few if required. Now, for the quirkiness I like the best. The ground is sandwiched between houses on Rossett Road and Jubilee Road. So much so that only a narrow walkway/terrace along the Jubilee Road side is available to move between the two ends. On top of this, all the houses have their numbers displayed inside the ground so club officials know either where they get their ball back from or who they owe a few quid too for a smashed window!

I came to this game expecting goals. Especially from the hosts. In their last 4 home games they had found the net on 4 occasions, including against fellow promotion candidates Emley AFC, they would make it five on the trot today. There can’t be too many teams that are on that kind of run at the moment.

Liverpool took the lead after five or so minutes, a long raking ball from Stephens at the back was nodded down by McGrane, Blackpool’s keeper Kellett was off his line and Cockerline coolly lifted the ball over him and into the net. 1-0. For the next 15 minutes it was pretty much all Liverpool. They then got their second. Genius or good fortune? Only Hardacre will know. The hosts had a free-kick on the left-wing, Hardacre swung the ball in. Cross? Shot? Either way it doesn’t really matter as it sailed straight over Kellett’s head and into the back of the net. 2-0. This could be painful for Blackpool.

It actually seemed to do the reverse, it shook them into life and just before the half hour they were back in it. Minutes after forcing a good save from the home keeper they beat him. A free-kick just outside the box was curled home by Thomas through the wall giving Carr in the home goal no chance. 2-1. We had a game. The visitors were in control and looked the more likely to score again, though Liverpool looked dangerous on the break, especially Hardacre. It was the right winger who came closest to scoring again before the break, this time from the right. Did he cross? Did he shoot? Again it sailed over Kellett, fortunately for the keeper as he turned the ball bounced back into his arms off the foot of the post. Half-time and chance for a warming brew. Very much welcome.

The hosts looked a little brighter after the restart, but 10 minutes in we were all square. Again a cross cum shot was on hand to provide a goal. From Blackpool’s left wing it curled viciously and looked to be beating Carr, he made a great one handed stop, but the only player to react was Thomas who snapped up the rebound. 2-2. It was deserved. For a while the visitors were on top and it looked like they were going to be the winners if the game was going to get one.

With a quarter of the game we had the moment of controversy and it gave the hosts the lead. A through ball from midfield found Schorah in so much space that it looked suspiciously offside. Was it? I wasn’t level so I don’t know. The assistant said not, so lets be controversial and go with that eh? The Liverpool man drew the keeper before selfishly laying the ball off to McGrane to finish. 3-2.

That goal took the wind out of The Mechanics sails and whilst they continued to huff and puff you got the feeling the game was now away from them and any further strikes would come from the Reds. It did. As we were in time added on AFC Liverpool kept up that incredible scoring run. Another through ball, substitute Lyons was through on goal, on his own he finished with class. 4-2.

As the final whistle went, I headed back into the wind and rain to get to Blundellsands & Crosby station, the teams to the dressing rooms, I would expect AFC Liverpool thought they deserved the 3 points, their opponents probably thought they deserved at least a share of the spoils. I could understand both points of view.

Next up for AFC Liverpool at home is Cheadle Town. Another 4?

Attendance: 80

Moment of the Match: Not part of the match, but a nod and fist bump to whoever prepares what has to be the nicest toilet I have ever been to at any football ground. Amazing.

Match Tunes: Crocodiles – Echo & the Bunnymen – For me, the best band ever to come out of this city.

Play for Today


NWCFL First Division North

Some teams just catch the eye don’t they?

I have seen league leaders Lower Breck dismantle promotion chasing Daisy Hill, 4-0 up in 20 minutes and game over. Last week it was in-form Prestwich Heys play like a team and see off AFC Darwen. This Saturday, it was Emley AFC.

This was a different kind of performance. Playing with 3 at the back, wing-backs and a tight midfield, 2nd in the league showed why they are there. Though I must say after this performance I am a little surprised that they have conceded the second most of the top 7.

AFC Blackpool had a fair amount of possession. They attacked. But I cannot say that they troubled Clarke in the visitors goal too much. He, like Price, Kherbouche and Cyrus in front of him were solid. Claisse sat in front of these three was protective and made the team tick. Up front, Bordman and Eyles were eye-catching. Those not mentioned here put in just as good a performance.

The visitors took the lead after 15 minutes, Eyles finishing after being played in, it was a warning that wasn’t heeded. 0-1. Blackpool then had their best spell of the game, forcing a number of corners, trying to find a hole in the defence, whilst the Emley continued to look dangerous on the break or from 45 yards as Bordman went close with 2 very long range efforts.

The score remained close at the break after debutant home keeper Kellett, borrowed from their big neighbours, Blackpool FC, pulled off a couple of close range reaction saves to deflect efforts wide.

After a warming brew to get out of the biting Lancashire wind we were underway again, the game following the same pattern until the tangerine’s midfielder Fishwick was shown a red card after a second yellow. This booking was nailed on. I did think his first in the opening 45 minutes was a little harsh, but I wasn’t as close as the referee. Emley were now in total control.

They then went about closing it off in style, with a quarter of the game remaining, it was 0-2, Bordman cleverly laying off the ball behind him for Claisse to strike in from 20 yards, unstoppable. The third was added with a little more than 15 minutes remaining, when once again Eyles was played in on goal. Once again he scored. 0-3. And that was that. 3 points for the visitors and a class performance to boot. For Blackpool time to shake themselves down and come again.

Finally, a couple of mentions for the hosts, thanks to Billy Singleton for his time for a quick chat as he was writing out the teamsheet and club photographer Adam Gee for his time pre-match, hope to see you soon fella.

That walk back to Squires Gate station was a bit chilly I tell you!

Attendance: 72

Moment of the Match: Emley’s second goal. Bordman’s lay off with the sole of his boot backwards to the oncoming Claisse who then struck an unstoppable effort rising beyond Kellett’s grasp. Class.

Match Tunes: Seventeen Seconds – The Cure. A nod to one of the town’s sons, Robert Smith.

Geezers Need Excitement


NWCFL First Division North

I think every hopper has clubs that they prefer to go to for a variety of reasons. A really warm welcome. Ease of getting there. Exciting football. Well, Heys tick all three of those boxes for me.

Since their promotion to the NWCFL in 2016 I have been here five times. Five victories for Heys. 24 goals for and 6 against, almost averaging out at a 5-1 home win. I have been long overdue a return. With a new manager at the helm, Heys are in a mid-table battle with a few clubs (including their opponents on the day, AFC Darwen) where a nice little run is potentially going to have them in the promotion race.

I arrived at Adie Moran Park after a short walk from the Metrolink and was pleased to notice that we were joined by Assistant Referee Kat McEvoy, one of the rare Female Officials that can be spotted in these parts.

With the game underway it looked like the visitors who were the sharper of the sides and so it proved when they took the lead just shy of the 10 minutes mark. Heys playing the ball around at the back, keeper Simpson was put under pressure and his pass miss-hit giving Creech a chance, his low shot was well saved by the stopper, but he couldn’t prevent Edwards from slamming home the loose rebound. 0-1.

The next 15 minutes or so were a battle of wills, both sides trying to gain the upper hand, the change in the game came with Heys swapping their wingers, when Shawcross and Hill moved to their more natural sides they caused problems. Suddenly full-backs were being beaten. Crosses were coming in. An equaliser was inevitable. Surely? It came just after the half hour mark and from a cross. After more home pressure, Shawcross swung in a deep cross and the ball as if being remote controlled was too high for Stone’s grasp, hit the top of the far upright and nestled into the back of the net. 1-1.

Half-time came too soon for the hosts as they continued to press. After the break, the battle for supremacy was reset. The visitors had moments. Back would come Heys. Midway through the half Darwen had the ball in the net. Offside.

With 15 minutes remaining the ball was in the net again. AFC Darwen’s. This time it counted. This was the winner. A corner on the right swung in to the far post by Shawcross. Out of Stone’s grasp and met by Bellamy, Heys’ defender, his header hit the back of the net. 2-1. Cue celebrations. Whilst the defenders run, timing and header were spot on, his knee-slide was poor!

Heys won. The moved above AFC Darwen into 10th, just 8 points off a promotion place and they have a game in hand. They might just make it.

Attendance: 129

Moment of the Match: I don’t normally do this, but I would like to use this bit for a ‘Man of the Match’. Heys’ number 4 Rothwell. Starting as a holding midfielder, his protection was good, reading of the game excellent. Moving further forward later, his engine was incredible. A joy to watch.

Match Tunes: Original Pirate Material – The Streets

So Blue


Manchester Premier Cup Quarter Final

Sometimes things work out for a reason.

This game being postponed the evening before and put back 24 hours meant that I could attend. I ummed and aahed between this and my original choice, but the news that Mr and Mrs Fungalpunk and rljohnny were going to be in attendance swung my decision. Irlam it was.

So for just the third time in the last 12 months I was off to Silver Street. The last 2 had finished in defeat for the hosts. In fact I had to go back to September 2017 for my last home win for them, a 2-1 defeat of Parkgate from Rotherham way in the FA Vase. It was only a few months later that I last saw Maine Road win on their travels, a 4-0 thumping of Abbey Hey in December of the same year.

A place in the semi’s and a trip to FC United of Manchester awaited the victors, a decent reward for either of these teams and a few quid as a bonus too, so there was a fair bit to play for as we got underway.

At half-time, I was stood with the afore-mentioned folks discussing just how charmed the visitors goal had been. Irlam had been the better of the sides and had looked the more likely to score, but that had not taken into account the luck of O’Carroll in the visitors goal. It started with a clearance bouncing off an attacker straight into his arms. The half finished not longer after the woodwork had been struck for the second time. There had been a number of other chances. Though to be fair, Road had some too.

As we got back to the action John remarked that a mistake would lead to the opener. He was correct, with both of the goals scored just before the hour. Maine Road’s defence did their best Jamie Pollock impression to allow Perry put the ball in their net. 1-0. Feeling outdone, Irlam kindly gifted Coop an open goal for an almost immediate equaliser. 1-1.

So to the final third of the half, and 3 more goals that were awaiting us all. With penalties peering over the horizon, substitute Malumo showed a trick, beat his opponent and flicked the ball over O’Carroll with all the nonchalance of a Premier League showmen. Brilliant finish. 2-1.

Any hope Maine Road had of recalling those disappearing penalties were well and truly stamped on by Irlam’s Cassell. With 5 minutes remaining he scored with ease from the spot. 3-1. He added his second and the hosts fourth with a fine header from a corner as the clock struck 90. 4-1.

So as we all made our way home, massive thanks to John for the lift back to Urmston, I think the general consensus of opinion was that Irlam deserved to progress but the final score was a little unfair on the visitors.

Attendance: 95

Moment of the Match: Malumo’s goal. Well his finish. So cool. Taken with an ease that you rarely see.

Match Tunes: For You – Prince

The Watcher


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.

Our Lips Are Sealed


NWCFL First Division North

A game of two halves they say. Well this was kind of like that, if one half was 30 minutes long and the other 60.

Following a nice tootle over the hills of Lancashire and into Yorkshire passing through Cowling, a ground there seen that I need to head back for. We dropped down to Cougar Park, home of Keighley Cougars and Steeton AFC. This is a gem of a stadium for non-league footy, another Rugby League ground I have seen footy at, a list that I hope to continue to grow beyond the few I have already attended. I need to look into getting to more.

Money paid, last programme bought, raffle tickets bought (not sure if we won or not) we went into the clubhouse for a bit of food and a drink and straight back out for kick-off. It was a good job we did as seconds into the game a burst of speed by the hosts Jeffery saw him through on goal and he slotted the ball past the keeper Kitchen, 1-0.

Garstang were straight into the game after that but just could not get going. Ten minutes in we had a delay; after a 2 minute wait for the hosts keeper to change his boots, then another minute whilst he put his gloves on we got back underway. The game was even, both teams trying to create without quite managing it, a number of balls disappearing into the Industrial Estates surrounding the ground it looked increasingly like we had were in for a cagey game.

Then came a game changing moment, Steeton wasting an outstanding chance to make it 2-0, a goalmouth scramble ensued, but the score remained the same. That was their chance. Five or so minutes later instead of being two goals ahead they game was level. A deep cross from the reds right-back Melling was perfect, Coar of the #10 variety simply nodded it in through Thorpey’s grasp. Maybe those gloves hadn’t been put back on correctly. 1-1.

After the break the game was as one-sided as I have seen for a while. Yes Steeton had moments, but they were too late and too infrequent. A minute after the restart and we had another goal at the Terry Hollindrake Stand, this wasn’t as stylish, but very simple. Coar #10 crossed to the far post for Coar #9 to nod in. 1-2.

Garstang controlled things so much from here on in you had to wonder if they would regret not taking the number of chances they created. Luckily for the Lancashire side they didn’t. With 10 minutes to go they made the game safe. Again scorer turned provider, Coar #9 passing to Hothersall who had the simple task of putting the ball home. 1-3.

The final goal came courtesy of the guy who didn’t have the greatest afternoon of his life; Steeton’s keeper Thorpey. He dropped a corner straight to Coar #9. He did the rest. 1-4.

On this performance and having watched a few teams from this league this season, how on earth are Garstang near the foot of the table?

Attendance: 106

Moment of the Match: Not a match moment. The main stand at Cougar Park is a beauty. If you have not been then go. It is a gem.

Match Tunes: Beauty and the Beat – The Go-Go’s

No Dancing


NWCFL First Division North

This was a pretty decent game. A fine Dean Singleton header gave the visitors the lead shortly before half-time and the equaliser came with 15 minutes to go through Jordan Butterworth, though I am sure the Cutters keeper Dryden will be unhappy about letting it in.

However. With the visitors leading 1-0 Chaddy got a free-kick at the Fire Station end. I was down the other end. it looked about 25 yards out. It was hit well. It beat the keeper. It hit the bar. It came back out.

For those a little older than me, their man is Roger Davies of Derby County. In the early 1970s playing at Chelsea, he went on a run, went round the keeper and missed. He overran the ball. He missed a sitter.

My generation will remember Gordon Smith of Brighton & Hove Albion. In the dying embers of the 1983 FA Cup Final he was presented with an incredible chance against Manchester United. He managed to hit the ball straight at Gary Bailey. The match was drawn. United won the replay 4-0. He missed a sitter.

Those a little younger. Ronnie Rosenthal. Playing for Liverpool he latched on to a log kick by David James, he takes the ball round the Aston Villa keeper with aplomb. He takes the ball towards the empty goal and from 7 yards out he hits the bar. He missed a sitter.

Kids, they will think of Fernando Torres. Chelsea trailing 3-1 at Manchester United with 5 minutes or so to go he is played in on goal. He side steps van der Sar, the goal is at his mercy. He puts it wide. A deflating confidence is destroyed. He missed a sitter.

For the 73 in attendance at Chadderton, we will remember Leon Ilube. That ball that hit the bar came out and from what looked like about 5 yards out with the keeper prone, the goal gaping he missed. The ball went into orbit. He missed a sitter.

Attendance: 73

Moment of the Match: Chadderton’s second half onslaught. Hit the bar twice, had another kicked off the line. Should have won this comfortably.

Match Tunes: My Aim is True – Elvis Costello

Halfway to Crazy


NWCFL First Division South

Some games bubble along nicely. Some games are a slow burner. Some games peak too soon. This was definitely the latter. If it wasn’t for the late sending off of Town’s keeper Jakovlevs for a foul some 35 yards out of his goal you could argue that half-time would have been a good time to call it a night.

After a frantic opening, both teams attacking with pace and quite some intent this looked like it was going to be a cracker.  When a cross from the visitors number 7 Brandon was turned into the Town goal by Town’s defender Clarke, I for one thought we had a game on our hands. From this point on the game slowly descended into a very scrappy affair. The referee tried to let play run, but this was not to the players liking and by the time he tried to get control back it had already been lost. Neither side covered themselves in glory with their understanding of any Respect Campaign.

The second half was pretty much the same as the first and at the death when Town were pressing for a late equaliser, Motors forward Noon was through on goal in his own half, knocked the ball past Town’s keeper, the resulting challenge left the referee with no option but to show red. This was not a pretty game.

Attendance: 164

Moment of the Match: Has to be Jakovlevs ‘El Loco’ impression. No idea who ‘El Loco’ is, youtube will fill you in, his famous moment is the ‘scorpion kick’ at Wembley.

Match Tunes: Automatic – The Jesus and Mary Chain