Abbey Hey – 0
Congleton Town – 2
FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round – September 7th 2013
Ah. Non League Day.
Non League Day was a day set up in 2010 as a way to promote non league football. On the first international break of the season, social media users were encouraged to visit their local football club, rather than watching matches on Sky or watching a Premier League side. Three years after it began, clubs are getting involved running discounted entry or other events or entertainment in & around the ground. Now – 3 years after beginning – even the Premier League & the FA have backed Non League Day, and long may it stay.
But, as an event. I’ve never celebrated it.
I don’t know why. I’m not sure it’s usually either I’m busy or away orare playing in the arse end of nowhere, but I’ve never celebrated. I’ve kind of exonerated myself though due to the sheer amount of games I usually go to, so I encourage, I tweet, but never go.
Until this year.
Yes, I had nothing better to do, so I decided to go and watch a non league game. Now what game to go to? Well it was suggested to me to either watch Hyde,or Clitheroe (all playing at home), but all of those are relatively well supported clubs (Clitheroe were playing Darlington), so do I buck the trend and go to a League 1 or 2 club, many of which who are struggling? Or do I drop down a few leagues and watch a game I’d never see? All I wanted was a new ground. After some drunken research after the Macedonia/ game, I found my target – Abbey Hey Football Club.
Abbey Hey are a club based in Gorton in Manchester, and have a long and storied history knocking about the lower leagues in Manchester. This season they had returned to the top flight of the North West Counties league, and their opponents were fellow North West Counties Premier League mainstays – Congleton Town. This game was however in the FA Vase – the lowest ranked competition which has a Wembley Final – and was the first qualifying round.
I arrived at Abbey Hey’s ground, tucked away in Gorton, with about half hour to go before kick off. I headed to the clubhouse, a fine building with “ABBEY HEY” written on tiles on the roof, and whilst you couldn’t take beer out of the clubhouse, the fact it was elevated above the ground meant that you could’ve – if you wish – watch the game through the bars. It’d be good to do one day, as you can see the Beetham Tower in the distance, reminding you that the ground is well and truly in Manchester.
The game kicked off and Abbey Hey started brighter. They have had the better start to the season, and threatened, in particular the Abbey Hey number 7 and number 9 looking in particularly sharp. Congleton had their own worries though, with Jack Graham going off injured from an inconspicuous challenge. So it was a bit surprising when Griffiths Jones – given acres of space in the six yard box – headed in for the visitors on 40 minutes. The half time whistle came and Congleton took the only chance of the game, leading 1-0 at the break.
At the half time break I took in a rather delicious meat pie and a pint in the clubhouse, when I noticed something odd – a chap wearing a Llanrwst United shirt! I didn’t bother him to find out if he was local to Llanrwst, but instead I smiled. It got over the loss of the raffle.
The second half kicked off and Abbey Hey threatened again, with a few chances that were borderline 3/4 chances. However, thanks to Northern Rail, with their one-train-an-hour from Ryder Brow, I made a dash from the ground on the 65 minutes. And I paid for it.
Yes, you see as I was leaving the ground I heard a roar from the crowd. I debated heading back to the ground, but I didn’t want to miss my train. Turns out I missed an exciting 25 minutes, with a missed penalty, red card and a second goal for Congleton. Moral of the story – NEVER leave a football ground early. I’ll know next time.
The crowd were around the 70 mark. Without being familiar with how much they usually get, I’m unsure whether Non League Day was a success – I don’t think they advertised anything as thefeed and (the fantastically designed) website didn’t mention anything. Nevertheless it was a fun day out, though my curse of the Greater Manchester teams continues!