Bower Fold – Stalybridge Celtic

6 Feb

Stalybridge Celtic – 0

Colwyn Bay – 4

Football Conference North – 28th January 2012

Stalybridge Celtic away should’ve been a minor inconvenience.

Plonked slap bang in the middle of a busy weekend, which saw TNA Impact Wrestling in Manchester, a Saturday with my mate playing video games in a pub, and another mate’s 30th Birthday party following in the evening, I really wouldn’t have cried many tears if the game was called off with a frozen pitch. However, with the game reported to be “99% on” at midday, the game went ahead.

Stalybridge are one of the great names of non-league football. The town located within spitting distance from Manchester City Centre, famous for it’s obscene amount of pubs (earning the former mill town the nickname of Stalyvegas) and it’s football team. Colwyn Bay and Celtic have played a fair few times in their history, including a fair games in the Northern Premier League. Since Colwyn Bay’s disasterous turn of the century and Celtic’s rise through the upper echelons of the Conference North, the game at the end of January was as good as chance as any for me to visit the Bernabower.

Although second in the table, Stalybridge’s form in recent weeks leading upto the game was patchy at best. A remarkable game the week before saw them 4-1 up against Hinckley United, only to fall 5-4 behind, relying on a late goal to salvage a draw broke a run of two successive defeats, and going into the game they were unable to get a win in six games. Couple that with Colwyn Bay’s recent run, that saw a bore draw at home to Vauxhall Motors the only blemish in a perfect January, then hopes were up for the visitors.

Rob Hopley got the first goal.

I caught the train at the wonderful time at 2pm in the afternoon to make the short trip to Stalybridge. I was meeting a friend of mine at the ground before heading in. After finding a place to park fairly close to the park, we headed in to Bower Fold. A lovely ground, perfect for a team of Stalybridge’s stature. The game was one of a few in the area to survive, presumably because of the distance of an hour or so between the two teams meant that a pitch inspection was late. The distance also made for a fair few Colwyn Bay fans making the trip, and we commandeered one corner of both the clubhouse (a nice little bar) and the ground. Although with the amount of Bay fans at the game, they had cleaned the club shop out of badges, meaning my scarf, that I worked so hard to complete with a Harrogate Town badge, is now no longer complete.

The game kicked off and Stalybridge had the majority of the early going, forcing the best of the chances. I genuinely couldn’t remember a Bay pressure up until about the 15th minute, where Bay forced a few chances many of them went high and wide. Stalybridge looked impressive, but the game turned on it’s head when Andy McWilliams was sent off following a two-footed challenge that, whilst didn’t catch John McKenna heavily, was rash and could’ve been dangerous. This saw the game swing firmly into Colwyn Bay’s control, though it took a while for them to take advantage, with the home side shutting up shop and playing for the draw. Their persistance was rewarded on the 41st minute with Shelton Payne, who switched wings, ran down the right wing to fire in a cross that was met by Rob Hopley’s header on 41 minutes. The lead was doubled on the half time mark when Jon Newby laid the ball off to Hopley who scored into the low corner to make the game 2-0, and to give the away visitors something to celebrate as they ate their half time pie.

Stalybridge pushed to get back into the game in the second half.

Not that the pies didn’t stand up on their own, though. A fantastic concoction was served in the pie shop, a meat and potato pie that had gorgeous pastry, and the right amount of filling that was consistant. Also on offer were spam fritters. I passed on that, and enjoyed my pie in the comfort of the club house.

The game kicked off with me still in the clubhouse, which meant I missed Hopley’s hat trick goal. According to the Pioneer, it was a looping header. There was no missing Colwyn Bay’s 4th, after new contract boy Gareth Evans ran straight through the Stalybridge midfield, he was fouled 25 yards out. Luke Denson curled the ball into the top corner, leaving the keeper diving at thin air. Absolutely superb goal, and a superb performance for Colwyn Bay to get all three points.

Pick That One Out!

I left the ground soon after the final whistle, which was a shame, not only did I want to revel in a Bay victory in the clubhouse for a bit, I also wanted to bask in the majesty of a proper non league ground. With a great setup, a good team on the pitch and a brass band (though I think they were only there for the day), Stalybridge Celtic will do alright.

About Rhys Wynne

Rhys Wynne is the editor & creator of You're Supposed To Be At Home. For his sins, he is a Colwyn Bay & Liverpool fan, and a serial blog creator. You can follow Rhys on twitter here.

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