In what will be a first (and – as at the time of writing 24 hours before the playoff semi final – hopefully last! My ticker can’t take it), I’m covering my home ground of Llanelian Road. However, instead of giving you the full matchday experience (which you can read with my guest post at European Football Weekends), I’ll give you the entire weekend playoff experience. It may be good, it may be crap, we’ll soon see!
Disclaimer: I’ve tried to maintain a sense of neutrality, but have failed towards the end. Sorry!
Evostik Premier League – 25th April 2011
There was a nice level of excitement going into the final game of the season. Colwyn Bay in the previous game againstsecured a position in the playoffs for the third season in a row (admittedly this time in a higher league). This game was all a matter of sorting out if who played at home. In this game, we worked out that the Seagulls needed to do better than or equal to give us a home tie. Answer both conditions and Colwyn Bay get second, and if they get to the final, it’ll be at Llanelian Road. Tunes for the one mile walk to the ground fitted the mood wonderfully (if a little premature) with “We are the Champions” and “I Gotta Feeling” played on repeat. There was probably some Radiohead in there to make the mood miserable, but it was a good walk, the sun was out and I was watching football.
Nantwich had things to play for too. They needed a draw to mathematically put thoughts of an unlikely relegation to bed, and as such they had come to the town in their droves. Not just the ground, the town. Outside the Marine pub in Old Colwyn, playing football in the park, even in the Bay View centre in town. They were everywhere, painting the town green.
The game arrived and the atmosphere was buzzing. A cheerful encounter unlike many that season. We had a chance to go up, Nantwich were likely to stay up and all in all, with beer flowing and gentle banter between the fans, I think we were going to have a belter.
Colwyn Bay rested players for the final, with major of the work done. Nantwich lined up with a strong squad, similar to the one that turned over Colwyn Bay quite convincingly earlier in the season. They threatened to do that from the kickoff and dominated pretty much the first half. Pressurising but not really creating a huge amount of opportunities, beyond two fairly decent shots that took Sanna off his feet. All in all, it was not looking good for the Seagulls – with half time struck the scores were Colwyn Bay 0 – 0 Nantwich Town, FC United 1 – 1 Kendal Town and Mickleover Sports 0 – 1 Bradford Park Avenue.
The second half began roughly the same, with Nantwich pressing for a goal to make it them even safer than safe (results were going their way), but a tactical substitution on the hour mark to bring on Jimmy McCarthey changed the game entirely. Within 5 minutes a cross from a corner that came from a mazy dribble by the sub landed perfectly on Rob Hopley’s head, and the Bay took the lead 1-0. Nantwich pressed for an equaliser from the restart, and had a couple of great chances. Mike Lennon having a certain goal cleared off the line, and Andy Carr shooting narrowly over. Nerves at the bay end were jangling, but were settled with Colwyn Bay scoring with 15 minutes to go, with a well taken Karl Noon volley that went through a crowd of bodies. Final score: Colwyn Bay 2 – 0 Nantwich Town. Nantwich Town were safe.
But what of the Bay? Well, FC United lost their game 1 – 2, meaning that Colwyn Bay finished second. As news filtered through, Colwyn Bay fans gave their team a standing ovation. Colwyn Bay were second, guaranteed two home games (health and bloody safety permitting) and generally looking up. Songs were sung in the clubhouse for half an hour, both sets of fans went home satisfied. What of the next game? Read on my readers.
Colwyn Bay – 2
North Ferriby United – 0
Evostik Premier League Playoff Semi Final – 28th April 2o11
On the Wednesday night, I slept 4 hours. A mixture of over analysing a driving lesson and nerves for the big game, probably one of the biggest in Colwyn Bay’s 125+ year history. I was a bit late leaving work, so I got caught in the rush hour of people desperate to get to the game (honest!). Finally arriving at the Bernabay at around 7, I listened to the same song going to the ground, ate the same food, and drank one of the same beers. It wasn’t up to chance this.
It felt like a huge game, with flag wavers, mascots and walk on music (“Mr Brightside” by The Killers, for those keeping score). Also with a crowd of 861, it was massive game for the town. Kick off came, and North Ferriby pressed early, much of the early part of the game was played in the quarter between the bay box and the half way line, with Wayne Brooksby, Alex Davidson, Gary Bradshaw and Russell Fry leading the line, so it was somewhat against the run of play when Jimmy McCarthy with a long throw was headed on by Danny Meadowcroft for Hopley to score the volley. 1-0 Bay. 81 minutes to go.
North Ferriby pushed for an equaliser and Colwyn Bay had to track back quickly, as the Seagulls invited pressure due to the speed of the forwards. So it was against the run of play that Colwyn Bay scored with what could be a crucial goal, not only for the tie, but also for the tournament.
On the break, the ball broke to Jimmy McCarthey, who had a shot blocked, to which he dived onto the ball, heading the ball past an outstretched keeper. In the process he got kicked in the face and went down. Furthermore, John Newby in the build up clashed heads and went down with a cut. Physios rushed onto the pitch to tend to both players. Neither player came out for the second half.
The second half was spent for Colwyn Bay defending very deep against the North Ferriby’s quick attack, with Colwyn Bay attacking on the break. The Bay had about three good chances, Karl Noon hit the post, Hopley couldn’t control the ball when through on goal, and Titchiner was fouled cynically . Most of the second half was spent attacking for the visitors, but not really creating much. A Sanna mistake that had to be cleared away for Joe McMahon and a comfortable save from Gary Bradshaw, and Colwyn Bay went through to the playoff final. For the second time in two years.
Furthermore, after the game, the most pointless presentation occurred – the awarding of the second place trophy. Whilst nice, it’ll be no consolation to the playoff finall. Of which, FC United beat Bradford Park Avenue 2-0. As such, the game became all ticket, and the tickets sold out from Colwyn Bay in 40 minutes. I got a couple, but what of the day of the final? Read on my readers.
Colwyn Bay – 1
FC United Of Manchester – 0
Evostik Premier League Playoff Final – 2nd May 2011
I was a wreck of the day of the game.
I woke fairly early on game day, ensuring that I was fresh for the biggest game in the club’s history, but primarily the nerves of the day meant that I hardly got any decent sleep. Although I awoke early, I spent the early hours of the day browsing the forums, both the FC United one and ours. Nerves were jingling when I was picked up at midday to go to the game. I was hopeful for a win, but not confident. Moreover, I didn’t want our club laid to waste through over enthusiastic celebrations or delegations from drunken idiots. There were reports of the hill behind the ground being invaded.
We arrived and the gates should’ve been opened at 12:30pm, but being fashionably late they opened closer to 1. After a bag search and entering the ground, I completed the same thing I did for the previous two games – a burger and chips, and a pint. With that said, I doubled up on the pints, the bar was already full.
I managed to grab a seat with the Colwyn Bay faithful in the one table we’d manage to commandeer. There was a general jovial spirit in the ground, with fans mingling and generally being friendly. Each team bigged up the other’s chances, with good reason – you couldn’t call the teams apart.
On one side – FC United had a largely strong squad, with two key players (Norton and Wright) missing. Colwyn Bay lacked influential playmaker Jimmy McCarthey who had a horrible eye injury, and the pre-match reading of tight hamstrings and various problems made for grim reading. Luckily for the Bay, all players passed their fitness tests.
3pm rolled around, and the players were welcomed on to the pitch with an almighty roar. Flares were set off by the FC United fans on the hill to welcome the crowd, the wall of sound was majority FCUM fans, but there were a few chants supporting Colwyn Bay. 5 years of history to 131 years of history. Hymns and Arias vs I am a Mancunian. Principality of the UK vs Republic of Mancunia. Exiles vs Rebels. Let battle chuffing commence.
From the offset, and unsurprisingly, the game was cagey with FC United pressing. Although Colwyn Bay hit on the break, chances were few and far between in the first half. Sanna with a few easy saves, and a nervy moment for FC where a back header edged just wide. At the break, it was 0-0, but FC United edged it, and it looked more like a mistake from FC would end up winning the game for us.
In truth the game was boring, but the atmosphere was like nothing I’d seen before. Brilliantly, the FC fans are credited for being completely self policing. Chants toward a rotund Colwyn Bay fan who wore a Liverpool shirt by two drunken yobs were drowned out by “on your own” by both the Bay and FC United fans. It was brilliant!
Colwyn Bay began the second half like much of the first half – under the kosh, without too many chances. In probably the turning point in the game, Chris Sanna turned in mid air to save a shot from Nicky Platt, sending the ball wide. That seemed to change the game, as a few other more comfortable saves, and the substitute of Alex Titchiner changed the game completely.
The first chance was from Rob Hopley, who beat the offside trap and shot first time well over. The second chance came minutes later when Jon Newby ran onto a similar ball. This time however there was no doubt – Newby slotted it into the bottom left hand corner, sending the bay fans ecstatic. Titchiner had a chance to seal it but shot just over, and FC United had a couple of chances to equalise, but it was all over. Apologies for the crap match report, but there’s very little of the game I remember (you can watch the highlights on Sgorio) Cue pitch invasion, and Colwyn Bay won 1-0, Colwyn Bay are in the Blue Square Conference North.
I joined the pitch invasion (injuring my ankle in the process), determined to celebrate, as well as comiserate the FC United fans. They behaved impeccabily as a unit, and I wished the players and the fans well for next year. I had a lot of people onsaying “well done” to me (which was odd, as I did very little beyond drink a lot of beer), and the trophy presentation was quick. Sidney Segaull was mugged, and we waited around to have a drink or 9 after the game.
Also joining us were a couple of FC United fans, who were a great laugh. It’s that which I love about non-league football: rivalries are often kept on the pitch, rather than between fans. Those who did try to cause problems were shot down pretty quickly. FC United have an amazing thing going on, and should not let it die! The second they get their own ground, they will be unstoppable, mark my words.
But for Colwyn Bay? An amazing season, and more content for this blog to done fairly easily (hurrah!). I may buy Football Manager 2012 as well and lead Colwyn Bay to glory. We should consolidate for next season, and focus on survival.
Then again, we said that last year.