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Grange Lane – North Ferriby United

20 Jan

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North Ferriby United – 2

Colwyn Bay – 3

Football Conference North – 21st December 2013

It was the game before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a creature was sober,
Not even a mouse

I wasn’t sure if I was going to make the trip to Humberside to watch one of the new teams in the Conference North. By some remarkably unfortunate luck, I had three Christmas Parties, that were all on consecutive days. The last one was a predictably messy affair in Prestatyn, which meant that the daft decision to be up at Guy’s Newsagents pickup in Colwyn Bay at 8:35am was drilled into me with a dreadful hangover and tiredness.

I was umming and ahhing all week whether to make the trip to North Ferriby, there was a massive risk and reward. With the exception of Stockport County, I had hit Christmas and not seen any of the new teams in the Conference North. Whilst at Christmas Colwyn Bay were progressing well, three of the new teams in the league looked like they wouldn’t be in the Conference North in the 2014/15 season: Barrow are rock bottom, and North Ferthe riby along with Hendesford Town and Telford United are riding high in the league. With only Brackley and Leamington to go in the “Teams I’ve yet to visit in the Skrill North” List I have, I felt that I had to go, plus I could imagine it’s more expensive on the train than the tenner I spent on the coach.

Nevertheless, it didn’t make the early start that much easier, plus I did feel like a lamb to the slaughter. North Ferriby were unbeaten in 10 games at home, coming off the week before of a demolition of Woking in the FA Trophy. Bay on the other hand were unbeaten in 4, but the last game against Histon wasn’t exactly the world’s most convincing performance. Admittedly the pitch was dreadful, but it was more of a battling performance. Nevertheless, North Ferriby are currently riding high in the league, and the Seagulls were firmly in mid table mediocrity, this game had the Villagers as the firm favourites.

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In a rarity, I didn’t spend most of the pre-match build up in a local pub, but after one pint in The Duke of Cumberland (which produced a really nice session ale named after the football club), we headed through the lovely village to the ground, with comments usually relating to “How the heck can this place accomodate Luton, Wrexham & the like if they’re in the Premier?”.

The clubhouse was nice though. A good selection of tapped ales, and the football on. The supporters were friendly too, stating that North Ferriby generally support two teams – them and Hull City, and the gates were expecting to be slightly up due to the Tigers playing away. All in all, it was pretty jovial build up.

Another thing to point out is the food at North Ferriby was superb. A proper butcher pie with real steak pieces, and thick tasty gravy, with proper chips that tasted superb as well. All in all, we were well prepare for the not-unexpected loss.

The game kicked off and North Ferriby started brightly, looking dangerous every time they approached the goal, with Bay hitting on the counter attack that has worked so well in the run up to this game. Although Ferriby had the earlier chances, Colwyn Bay took the lead on 24 minutes when a ball found Jamie Ellison in the right hand side of the box, and he shot into the opposite corner with very few defenders back. Bay extended their lead on the half-hour mark with Sean Williams producing an audacious chip to beat the keeper from 20 yards, in a fantastic goal.

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Bay got an early Christmas Present with a third from Jamie Ellison, when he broke the offside trap to score and should’ve got a first-half hat-trick, with a harder chance than the first goal was skied over the bar. In short the game should’ve been out of sight in the first half, but this is the Bay, isn’t it?

Yes, North Ferriby in the second half produced a lot more quality as they showed in the game at Llanelian Road, with probably the key decision was bringing on Anthony Wilson just before the half hour mark, and Bay’s nerves began to set in when – with half an hour to go – Russell Fry headed in from a right hand side corner at the far post. The game changed again with – on 65 minutes – Mike Lea got sent off for being the last man. It was on the edge of the box, with a free kick, which was blocked. However, Ferriby pulled within one goal with Nathan Jarman scoring an overhead kick to set up a nervy last few minutes, but with some great saves from Chris Sanna, Bay held on for 3 points.

The result moved Bay into the dizzy heights of 10th in the Conference North, a fantastic result going into the Christmas period – Ferriby remain in the playoffs with results kind of going their way.

All in all, a pretty good day out, and a great way to shift a hangover, with a football match in the shadow of the humber bridge.

The Recreation Ground – West Didsbury & Chorlton

30 Sep

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West Didsbury & Chorlton – 0

Burscough – 3

FA Cup Preliminary Round – 31st August 2013

Ah, probably the greatest competition of club football in the world. Yes, sod the Premier League, the FA Cup is brilliant. The romance of the competition, that a team of misfits can take it from the Extra Premlinary round right through to the final at Wembley, it’s unseeded, and it’s fantastic. But screw the romance packages you experience in video montages on ITV, lets look at real romance. Real, sexy, romance. Romance that Adrian Chiles can only dream about. Romance that was alive and well in an area of South Manchester.

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Romance exemplified by West Didsbury & Chorlton. You see, since they were promoted for their first time to the North West Counties Premier League, West Didsbury & Chorlton this season entered the FA Cup for the first time. Furthermore, they are also have something many teams (including Manchester United, who are little over a mile away from the Whites) don’t have – a 100% record. Beating Abbey Hey in the first game, West Didsbury & Chorlton welcomed Burscough on something described in some quarters as a cup run. I arrived at the ground close to the Bowling Green pub in Chorlton a bit ahead of schedule, thankfully in the cricket pavilion that dominates one side of the ground was a makeshift bar, with a TV and also a rather impressive mural detailing the history of the club in the past 100-odd years. After a quick pint (which was too quick, as you could take beer outside), I took my space on the half way line (which was a bit troublesome, due to a large floodlight between the stand and pitch), to watch the match. West Didsbury started brightly, as the weaker team they seemed keen to get the early goal, but after about 10 minutes Burscough got more into the match, and come the 20 minutes mark the home team were under immense pressure, with only poor finishing leading to the teams being level. The deadlock was broken around the half hour mark when Jordan Williams seized on a mix-up in the back to slot the ball past the keeper. No further action took place in the first half and it ended up 0-1 to Burscough.

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I retried to the clubhouse, where a couple of Chorltonites were discussing Stockport County‘s defeat earlier in the week to Colwyn Bay (which I had great delight I informed them I was a Bay fan). I took my beer outside for the second half. Again it was the same story, West Didsbury started brightly but soon Burscough came back into the game, and were 2-0 up on the 75 minute mark when a sexy near post corner was headed in by Paul Williams at the far post. Absolutely stunning goal. The home side pressed to save their undefeated record in the FA Cup but were punished when they left space at the back for Mark Beesley to score in the dying minutes. Final score 3-0 to Burscough, a well deserved win, and West Didsbury & Chorlton’s unbeaten record in the FA Cup has gone.

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All in all though, I had a cracking day out in the third closest club to my front door. I must go again, the location was brilliant, the weather was lovely and the beer was outside. What better way to spend the last Saturday in August?

Edgeley Park – Stockport County

3 Sep

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Stockport County – 0

Colwyn Bay – 1

Football Conference North – 26th August 2013

And after the heroics of the last six games, here we go again.

Colwyn Bay fought brilliantly to remain in the (now named) Skrill Conference North at the last 6 games of last season, consigning (unfortunately) Corby Town to the drop, and played in their third season at Conference North level. From looking at the teams following the AGM Cup, one team stuck out.

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Stockport County.

When I started watching football Stockport County were a solid First Division (now the Championship) side. In fact they were in the Championship up until the 2001-02 season, but in probably the worst ever capitulation from any football club I’m aware of has seen them in the 2013-14 season in the Football Conference North. Admittedly they have been installed as either favourites or near enough favourites from some bookmakers, but early season results haven’t exactly been great – picking up one point from the first 3.

To be honest Bay’s start was the same, a point from the first three games, but the Seagulls went into this game brimming in confidence – said point came in the previous match against Guiseley – pretty much Colwyn Bay’s bogey team, after a 95th minute equaliser from 2-0 down saw them rescue a point. So it was with zero confidence County fans made the trip to Edgeley Park, and a mixture of nervous trepidation and a resignation to enjoy the day that 74 Colwyn Bay fans made the trip.

I t was probably my first ever Bay game that I took the bus to the match, so it was incredibly difficult to judge the highly irregular bus from Chorlton to Didsbury (there’s a running joke that it’d be easier to get from North Korea to South Korea than doing the jump from two of Manchester’s top suburbs), so arrived remarkably early. After a walk from Stockport bus station to Edgeley Park (which is up a massive hill), and buying a badge where I spoke to a few County club shop workers who enquired about the game at our place (on the Bank Holiday Monday), I decamped to the Sir Robert Peel pub to enjoy a few ales.

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It was quite nice, but outside was roasting, and it was much too hot for me. Instead I rested inside until kick off, where I made the small journey to the ground.

And took a look at the away end, which was in baking sunshine and completely without shelter from the heat. Not being allowed to stand up, we were thankfully let into the area under shelter in time for the teams (with Colwyn Bay wearing their unbelievably sexy red away kit) to come out and kick off.

Colwyn Bay started brightly, controlling the first 10 minutes with relative ease, without forming any clear cut chances. County played like a team devoid of confidence, and it was only Bay’s lacking of penetration that stopped them from taking the lead, with Rob Hopley shooting wide in front of the home end on about 30 minutes. Stockport did begin to come back into it, with a half chance cleared rather comfortably off the line from Danny Taylor the best chance of their half. Bay fans – who were looking for a day out when they woke up this morning – felt as if they didn’t get anything from the game it would be a travesty. Morally it was 1-0 to the Bay, but at half time it was still 0-0.

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Stockport started the second half brightly, bringing the locals into life which was surprising as the 2400 strong County contingent were rather quiet for the first half, but slowly the Bay came back into it, and two more clear cut chances from the forwards saw the locals quiet again, the best coming from James Ellison who failed to connect with a Cameron Darkwah cross. They were nearly brought roaring into life on the 69th minute when Aman Verma headed against the post and it bounced out in a goal that I was sure was going in, but from the break Stockport fell to sleep, and a 3 on 2 situation ended with Jamie Matthews scored with a backheel to send the 75 strong away following delirious. You could see how much that goal meant for Matthews, who seems to be really enjoying football at the Bay.

Bay had a chance to go two nil up, with Evans denied from some last ditch tackling in the 6 yard box, but as time ticked on, with no injury time board being held up, Bay held on for a final whistle that couldn’t have come soon enough. The first 3 points for Colwyn Bay of the season, and the season is kicking off again.

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For Stockport, you do feel sorry for them. Years of mismanagement has caught up with them, and it is rather sad, but take nothing away from The Seagulls. Yes they rode their luck a bit of it, but neutrals watching the game must’ve left with the satisfactory feeling that the better team won.

Overall though even if we hadn’t have won the match I enjoyed the day out. County fans are warm and welcoming, with a black sense of humour on their team. I genuinely hope they pull out of their predicament, and I’m sure they will.

The Greene King Stadium – Hinckley United

20 Jan

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Hinckley United – 1

Colwyn Bay – 3

So ever since that defeat to Chester Colwyn Bay have been on a bit of a downturn. The early season optimism was replaced with a run of defeats that saw us slump down the table. Even a victory against Warrington Town & taking the first points off Conference North new boys Brackley Town did little to lighten the mood, largely due to a disciplinary crisis. Nevertheless, two impressive performances in the FA Cup (that ultimately saw us eliminated) and a win against Hinckley United at home saw us unbeaten in the league in 2 games, the second best run of the season. A rearranged fixture vs Hinckley away at the Greene King Stadium could see us on our best league run since January.

In truth, although we had 14 available players for Hinckley, the Knitters were in a lot worse situation. With 3 solitary points and rooted to the foot of the Conference North, the new board of Hinckley United have actually come in and actually promised to sort out the finances rather than the team on the pitch. Even more surprisingly, the fans have accepted this, even if the reprieved team from Leicestershire last year seem odds on for the drop. It is admirable but understandable – I think most fans given the choice would rather watch an unsuccessful club than no club at all.

 

We left for Hinckley at the obscenely early time of 8:45 from Colwyn Bay, heading towards Leicestershire. Making a stop in Keele along the way (which was teaming with Reading and Blackburn Rovers fans), we made good time, and arrived at The Greene King Stadium.

The stadium in Hinckley is your typical new build stadium, located on the outskirts of the town. One thing that did strike me about Hinckley was how pretty the town was driving through it. Nevertheless, after bribing the driver to drop us in town, we headed to the local weatherspoons for a few drinks. At £1.69 a pint for ale, it’s probably one of the cheapest pints I’ve had on an away day. Which is great. Also the locals were incredibly friendly, with Hinckley United fans introducing us once they realised that we “weren’t Villa fans”. After putting the world to rights, and as the most sensible member of the Bay away crew, we organised taxis to take us to the ground.

The ground on the inside was nice, with surprisingly low advertising hoardings, a nice club shop and okay food (the chips were nice!), though the music played over the tannoys was painful, like listening to R2D2 tripping on some psychedelic drugs or something. The tannoy’s didn’t like it, and ended up breaking half way through the warm up.

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The game kicked off and Colwyn Bay threatened early on, keen to avoid going two goals down like they did in the fixture last week. They got their deserved breakthrough after 10 minutes when Matty Berkeley crossed the ball into the box, for Sean Williams to bury into the corner. Hinckley attempted to get a foothold into the game, but found themselves 2-0 down after 25 minutes when Cameron Darkwah, on the run from the right wing, set Rob Hopley free into the box, who rounded the keeper to coolly finish in the bottom corner. Colwyn Bay had a 2-0 lead and looked comfortable.

However Hinckley got a lucky break, after a freekick (which seemed a little soft, the referee wasn’t the best), shot against the wall, the ball looped over to Aaron Wint who buried the ball to give Hinckley a lifeline. A further boost to the home team was handed to them just on the stroke of half time, when Tom Smyth pulled up with a foot injury. The change was cancelled out when Hinckley’s centre back went off after a clash of heads with his own player, and the game was 2-1 to the Seagulls at half time.hinckley3

Hinckley however seemed like the more likely to score, and after the half time break, another free kick saw the post rattled, and Colwyn Bay dropped deeper and deeper into their own half, Hinckley didn’t create many chances, and a break saw Sean Williams (who was my man of the match) square the ball to Johnathan Breeze, who scored his first goal for the club with 3 minutes to go. Despite a late rally by the home side, Colwyn Bay finished the game as 3-1 victors, lifting them further from the drop zone.

Overall, I enjoyed my trip to Hinckley, it’s a shame that the club is currently in a period of transition, and are likely to struggle this season. Colwyn Bay are now on a 2 game win streak, and are beginning to show a bit of form that characterised their early season.

The Exacta Stadium – Chester FC

7 Oct

Please Note: Due to the schoolboy error of me forgetting my camera, the pictures were taken on my mobile phone, so won’t be as good as normal, or as extensive. Sorry!

Chester FC – 2

Colwyn Bay FC – 1

Football Conference North – 25th August 2012

With all due respect for the rest of the Blue Square Bet North leagues, there was one game that was looked out for before all others. The trip to Chester away was the one game that most Colwyn Bay fans looked forward to. Not least because the game was between two local teams straddling the North Wales/England border, but for the early years of The Seals seemed to be intertwined with The Seagulls, Neil Young and his management team, days after winning promotion for Colwyn Bay to the Northern Premier League, left to take the helm at the phoenix club. Players soon followed out the door as well, although many of them returned after various stints, and the business of the first ever Chester game was against Colwyn Bay (that was – admittedly – marred in trouble), meant that the first competitive game against Chester FC could be a tasty one.

Although after 3 years the bitter rivalry sweetened a bit, largely due to a great working relationship that was established between Neil Young and Dave Challinor (then Colwyn Bay manager), meaning that there were often closed door friendlies between the clubs. The fans did their bit as well, donating collectively about £200 to the Raise the Roof campaign, and I wrote for the excellent Blue and White Fanzine, a lot of the issues became water under the bridge, and many of the fans were looking forward to the first game between the two sides.

Considering that for me it was one of the more “local” games, I set off to Chester ridiculously early. I think I left my front door at about 10am, which is only an hour after I left my house to go to Bishop’s Stortford. I headed to the station and jumped on a ridiculously busy train to Chester (the train’s destination was North Wales, so full of holiday traffic). After a while though, the train began filling up with Chester fans, outnumbering my one Bay shirt to the tune of about 15 to 1. I arrived at Chester, met a friend, and headed into town.

It was only midday, so I took my friend to one of my favourite bars in the city – The Temple. Whilst still amazing, the semi-boozy night the night before meant I was struggling a bit, and probably didn’t enjoy the curry as much as I usually do. Still, after food, we headed to the Exacta.

The last time I was at the Exacta Stadium (then the Deva) was a few days before the previous club, Chester City, closed their doors for the last time. On that day, I had helped support a friend in joining a protest against the owner (and all round nasty dude) Stephen Vaughan. There couldn’t have been more than 10 people there, as Vaughan had orchestrated a scheme to cancel the protest until the next day, where he could manipulate the protest to his own needs. After a while, we left and went to the pub. Not such today, with the car park full of happy faces, we headed into the club shop and then into the club house (which required a donation of £1 to get into). It was spacious with plenty of people there, and two big screens showing the football. We were – at the beginning – the only Bay fans in the club house, yet soon after more entered and we managed to commandeer a table. It was a friendly rivalry, yet still I wanted 3 points – to continue our 100% start to the season.

We arrived into the away end for the match. Whilst there was segregation, it was fairly lax, and I could’ve walked to the home end if need be. Nevertheless, I took my seat for the encounter. One thing that surprised me was how quiet the game was, with Seagull fans making seemingly more noise, beyond the odd “City” chant every now and again.

The first thing the home fans had to sing about was a rocket of a volley from Nathan Jarman that rattled the crossbar with Sanna well beaten. Most of the play was in the middle third, with Chester resigned to long chances and Bay looking to get their forward line of Danny Lloyd, Allan Collins and Kevin Holdsgrove into the game. Jarman did get Chester the lead on 26 minutes, finishing off a clever through ball that saw him celebrate in front of the Bay fans. Sod. The lead however was to last all of 3 minutes with Kevin Holdsgrove muscling his way through the Chester defence to equalise.

After the half time interval, Danny Lloyd had the chance to put Colwyn Bay ahead when he was one-on-one with the keeper, only to fire a shot straight at the keeper. Chester made Bay pay for that mistake with Ben Mills looping a ball, seemingly impossibly over Chris Sanna to hit the side netting and in. No matter what Colwyn Bay tried, including hitting the bar from a Lee Davey free kick, Chester held onto the win.

A concern for the Bay was Chris Sanna going off injured right at the death due to a clash of heads. The Bay shotstopper spent the night in hospital with concussion, though was released early Sunday morning.

Overall, the game wasn’t quite as exciting as the build up provided (largely due to the poor officiating taking a sting out of the game), but  the crowd was large (1000 more than when I saw the old Chester City play Mansfield Town) and friendly. After the game we spent it in the clubhouse, enjoying talking to the barstaff and volunteers. A credit to their club.

All in all, a good day out, bar the result.