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The Airfield – Airbus UK Broughton

28 Aug

Airbus UK Broughton – 1

Colwyn Bay – 6

Preseason Friendly – 11th August 2012

So my amazing week of sport finished with a preseason friendly against Airbus UK.

After taking in the Olympic Park on Wednesday and Eton Dorney on Thursday, the Saturday saw me head down the coast from Colwyn Bay to the small village of Broughton to see Colwyn Bay’s last away pre-season friendly.

Airbus UK have become a stable side in the Welsh Premier League, after winning the Cymru Alliance in 2004, and have had a pretty good preseason including a victory over new Conference North boys – Chester FC.

Luke Denson had a cracking game for the visitors.

I left for Airbus in a car pool (yes! Odd for me!) quite late on, and arrived at the ground about a quarter of an hour before kickoff. Nevertheless, in that time I took in the ground (a small ground located on the edge of Airbus UK’s Broughton factory, hence the name), bought a burger and a badge from the club shop. It is – to coin a phrase associated with us Welsh – tidy. The pitch was immaculate and the game kicked off.

Colwyn Bay started brightly against a tricky team, and took the lead after 10 minutes when Rob Hopley linked up well with Luke Denson down the left wing, and a ball across the box eventually found its way to Paul Ennis who rifled into the top corner. Hopley – who was dangerous all day – nearly doubled Bay’s advantage when he – linking up well with Holdsgrove – fired in a shot that hit the crossbar with the keeper well beaten.

Airbus never really threatened, and really had an extra man on the pitch with the referee seemingly give the home side a lot more of the 50/50 decisions. One such incident was after Paul Ennis pulled up off the ball with a twisted knee, the game was allowed to continue by the referee. It was a friendly game for goodness sake!

Ennis eventually, after lengthy treatment, continued for a bit, and set up Colwyn Bay’s second from a left sided corner, that Hopley allegedly headed in, though it looked more like an own goal from my vantage point. That was the last action from Paul Ennis, who was substituted on the stroke of half time, with the score 2-0 to the visitors.

Colwyn Bay created chance after chance after chance.

The half time raffle followed, with a fantastic gesture from the Wingmakers – all proceeds going to Danny Meadowcroft’s charity. Our captain Danny Meadowcroft’s daughter suffers from Short Bowel Syndrome and is running the Great North Run for “Short Bowel Survivors and Friends” and “Ronald McDonald House Charities”. You can donate if you want here.

The second half began and the game was effectively over ten minutes later when Kevin Holdsgrove scored a 6 minute hat trick, all three from fast break, and all three with confident finishing. Holdsgrove linked up well, and was immediately taken off following his hat-trick, to be replaced by Allan Collins. Collins got the sixth after beating the keeper to the ball on 65 minutes. Michael Thomas then got the ball in the net but it was ruled offside, Hopley hit the bar again, and Airbus UK got a late consolation, a penalty, to make sure that Colwyn Bay’s run of not keeping a clean sheet extends for one more game.

Nevertheless, it was a great day in the office for Colwyn Bay. After a wobble after the Rhyl game that lasted until the Caersws game, we’ve picked it up again. Holdsgrove and Hopley seem to be full of goals for this season. I’m excited for the season, bring on the Blue Square North!

Millbank Linnets Stadium – Runcorn Linnets

26 Jul

Runcorn Linnets – 1

Colwyn Bay FC – 0

Preseason Friendly – 24th July 2012

To coin a phrase from a certain Jamaican Alcoholic Beverage – the M56 on the 24th August was “total gridlock”.

Something happened. I’m not sure what happened, many people weren’t sure, but all was known that although the majority of the players for Colwyn Bay had arrived in Runcorn, the majority of the Runcorn players, the ref, the linesman and the Colwyn Bay kit were still stuck somewhere along the North Wales Coast along with a fair few fans. Kick off was due to be at 7:30pm. It was 7:22am at the time of writing.

I’ve been part of cancelled games before, the Woodley Sports vs Chester game was cancelled due to floodlight failure, and it actually turned out to be the best thing that happened – we spent the night in the clubhouse, and the replay was such a dull insipid affair that it’s one of the few games I have written about but yet to put live on this blog, due to me spending second half in said clubhouse.

Matty Berkeley, one of the new faces on show for Colwyn Bay.

This time however, there is no friends to spend time with, and also no clubhouse with which to enjoy drinks. In truth, I was bored, and done something that I have never done before when writing this blog – started writing a blog post before the game began.

7:30pm came and went. Kick off was rescheduled to 8:00pm. Still no kit. Still no beer. Still bored.

However, floodgates opened 5 minutes later when the kit and a few friendly faces arrived. We still had one calamity which could materialise – with the game kicking off at the latest at 8pm, we still had no recognised keeper.

Eventually a compromised was reached – we borrowed Runcorn’s reserve keeper, to give him a full game. Apparently it wasn’t the first time this happened – the game he played against Clitheroe the week before he played a blinder.

Along with old faces, such as Rob Hopley, who is part of the furniture at the Bernabay.

Not you could tell come kick off. After one minute, the Runcorn Linnets left winger crossed to the near post, that was flicked on and scored with a diving header by Paul Bowes.

The Runcorn team was full of Evostik Colwyn Bay ex-players, in particular Billy Webb (who played under current Chester gaffer Neil Young), and Lewis Callaghan, who had two successful spells at the club.

In truth the keeper had a bit of a shakey start, and really couldn’t do anything about the goal, but soon Colwyn Bay came back into it, with Paul Ennis and Danny Lloyd looking dangerous down the wings, Rob Hopley hit the bar, and Matty Berkeley coming close a couple of times, but the keeper wasn’t too threatened, and it was 1-0 at half time.

Colwyn Bay had chances, but nothing too clear-cut.

Unfortunately, that is where we’ll have to leave this post, as in my infinite wisdom I booked a cheaper earlier fare back from Runcorn East train station, rather than a more expensive later fare. I’d hope to see the first half and much of the second, instead I got the grand total of 35 minutes. Some trialists play longer than that! Furthermore, I really didn’t fancy being on Runcorn East train station late into the night, it’s such a terrifying place.

Anyway, from what I heard the second half wasn’t much better. Lee Davey was ejected from the field of play for a bad tackle, and Runcorn missed a penalty in the dying seconds to put the game beyond doubt. Not the best game, but my excuses were already lined up.

Blame the M56.

The Northolme – Gainsborough Trinity

4 Apr

Gainsborough Trinity – 2

Colwyn Bay – 0

Football Conference North – 31st March 2012

What….you didn’t believe Sunday’s post, did you? 🙂

A football blogger, in one of his other pursuits (the church) wrote recently “It has been proven recently that when man has nothing else for comfort, they get comfort from God.”. I am not the most religious person in the world, so can’t really get comfort from God. However I do get comfort from omens, omens that were most needed on the trip to Gainsborough.

In truth, Colwyn Bay have been frustratingly dismal recently. After an amazing January and a February that started promising but petered out, March has been abysmal, needing the Bay faithful nervously looking over their shoulders at the dreaded “R” word. At the time of writing, upgrading the ground for the Conference North level of football is looking promising, however the team isn’t quite yet mathematically safe. Barring a massive collapse and the substantial cushion beneath us deflating, we should be okay. However, one the former is occurring, and the latter, well, let’s just say we don’t want to rely on the latter.

However, we haven’t played badly. Solihull should’ve been a point bar an amazing strike (more of which in a later blog) and Corby was a frustrating 1-0 loss. Unfortunately, it’s the time of the year where moral defeats count for nothing, and you crave 91st minute goals off the arse of the opposition centreback.

All in all, a trip to Gainsborough Trinity, who were pushing the playoffs, wasn’t exactly the most welcome. As such, I began looking for omens.

Gainsborough had picked up points liberally and were pushing the playoffs. The team, an ex league side, were dangerous opponents. Opponents vanquished at the reverse fixture early on in the season at the Bernabay.

That’s Omen 1.

I left my house and headed to Picadilly Station. I just missed my first train, a trip via Doncaster to Gainsborough, instead I had to get a train via Sheffield 40 minutes later. To pass the time, I headed into the amusement arcade at the station and off the princely sum of one English pound, I won £70 out of the fruit machine. If I ever “jack a fruitie” (to use insider terms for winning Jackpot on a Fruit Machine) on a Saturday, Colwyn Bay win (I refer you to Stalybridge Celtic).

Colwyn Bay struggled to defend corners.

That’s Omen 2.

I jumped on the train and got myself sat down next to some Oldham lads. The guys were off to watch OIdham play Notts County, and were in a similar situation to us – 10 points off the drop, mid table, with a handful of games to go. “You’ll be fine!”, they said with the kind of confidence you can say when you haven’t spent £70,000 and worked your hands to the bone building a ground to meet Conference North standards. I informed them that I had been to Oldham before, to watch the preseason friendly via Blackpool. I didn’t mention the fact my camera got confiscated.

Halfway through the journey, one of them spoke to another guy on the train, who perked up when I mentioned Stocksbridge Park Steels. The fans were Chorley fans, of which we shared stories about useless players we shared, and generally had a chat on how the season was going. They were ironically the same fans I chatted to on the way to Eastwood Town about 3 months ago. A game that we won.

That’s Omen 3.

After rushing to the final train, I arrived in Gainsborough, where I met up with the Bay contingency in a pub called the Elm Cottage. It was nice enough, the building was lovely, but there was an uneasy “non mathematically safe” air to the game today. An air that wasn’t going to change, we thought, at final whistle. Nevertheless, we shared some stories with the locals, including one who was scarily into architecture, who said that Gainsborough Trinity’s ground was one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the country.

After a couple of pints we headed into the game. The ground was your typical Conference North ground, with plenty to it yet a little haphazard. I headed to the corner of the ground to the club shop (which was a portable building), before heading to get some food.

The food is worth a paragraph on its own. Although I’ve tasted better pies and better chips, they were easily the nicest whole plate of food I’ve had at a football ground. The pies were a work of art, large chunky steak pieces, perfectly cooked with just a little too much gravy, in a solid crust. The chips were proper thick cut potato chips, that were amazingly cooked. Comments on the curry sauce and the peas echoed this. Gainsborough Trinity may not have a lot, but their food is exemplary.

Allan Collins chased down every ball for Colwyn Bay

The kick off came (Gainsborough’s walk on music is “The Eye of the Tiger”), and although Colwyn Bay attacked early, Gainsborough took the lead after 5 minutes. Connor Roberts, who pulled off an amazing safe to keep the game level seconds before, pulled off a great stop to keep the game level from the resulting corner. However the ball was headed in by Luke Waterfall at the far post, and Gainsborough took the lead. Although Colwyn Bay pressed for an equaliser but never really threatened, and on 35 minutes, the seagulls conceded a free kick on the edge of the penalty box.  Luke Holden hit the bar with the shot, and the ball wasn’t cleared. Andrew Boyce scored a headed tap in to put the home side 2-0 up.

Half time came, and we experienced Gainsborough’s club house. It was nice enough, but it had the air of a clubhouse that would exist should there be an apocalypse, with large, school dinner tables in rows. Nevertheless, the beer was excellent, with a couple of great local brews. One of which, Titanic, I have been enjoying in Manchester recently.

The second half was a bit dull in truth. Colwyn Bay didn’t look like wanting to win, and Gainsborough seemed happy to rest on their laurels. Matty Hughes, who was rushed back for the game, was injured (which isn’t good for our run in), and Frank Sinclair got more than his fair share of light-hearted taunting because he is, well, Frank Sinclair, but beyond an amazing chance right at the death for Gainsborough to make it 3-0, there was nothing in the second half. Final score, Gainsborough 2-0 Colwyn Bay.

Results kind of went our way, but we could’ve used a win. With me, sat in a train as I write this, drinking extortionately Spitfire Ale bought from Sheffield train station, I realise something.

Omen’s are for losers.

Damson Park – Solihull Moors

26 Mar

Pointless Newsflash for you all: Up until recently, I had never been to Birmingham.

I’m not entirely sure why, just with most of my friends, family and work priorities spread between England‘s North West, Yorkshire, Wales and London, I had no need to go to West Midlands. Nothing personal, just never had the need to go. Besides, Birmingham was close, I could go when I could no longer afford to go to far flung destinations such as Thailand, couldn’t I?

well, yes I could, as this season and the promotion to the Conference North had forced my hand. A trip to Gloucester saw me glimpse the first view of Birmingham from the train, but the trip to Solihull would actually see me step foot in the UK’s second most populace city.

Solihull's Ground was Fantastically Quaint

It was alright, only saw the small walk between the train stations, as whilst New Street is the bigger station, Moor Street serves the odd London train. I took a photo of the bullring, and then headed off to Solihull for Colwyn Bay‘s visit to Solihull Moors.

The second youngest football club in the Conference North (behind FC Halifax Town), Solihull Moors was formed due to the merger of Solihull Borough and Moors Green. The new club took Moor Green’s position in the Conference North and became a solid Conference North side at the level.

Solihull Dugouts, proper dugouts.

After a weak start of the season, Solihull recovered and were safely in mid table when I visited, and were looking strong at home. Colwyn Bay on the other hand, had slipped a little from pushing the playoffs at the end of January. A dismal February that saw a few big losses (and a huge win against Bishop’s Stortford) saw us slip a little down the table. Very mid table. So a rather uninspiring clash presented me on my trip to Damson Park.

I arrived at Solihull Station and was surrounded by hundreds of other fans that were also in Claret and Blue. Unfortunately, the Seagulls doesn’t have a large Birmingham fan club, but instead these were Aston Villa fans waiting for the fan bus to Villa park. There was no such bus for me, instead a taxi ride to Damson Park. Which was lovely, as the chap was fascinated in why I made the journey to watch the game.

Solihull's Keeper Jasper Singh had an absolute blinder.

I pulled into Damson Park with a warning of the clubhouse being outside the ground. It was, but luckily you can head out at half time. After sitting down to watch a bit of the rugby with a pint of cheap Canadian Lager (unfortunately, as lovely as Solihull’s clubhouse was, it’s beverage choice wasn’t the best), I had an odd conversation with a local in Solihull Moors’ clubhouse:-

“Hey Mate”, this Brummie chap said to me, “who’s that team?”
“Colwyn Bay FC.”
“Never heard of them.”
“Ah this is the first season in the Conference North, we play Solihull Moors today.”
“Never heard of them either.”

After facepalming myself, I received news on the second feature on Damson Park – that the burgers are reportedly the best in Non League. A huge claim. Whilst pie’s are largely eaten at football matches so you know where the best ones are (Glossop North End‘s), burgers usually compete with restaurants, so your tastebuds compete with higher quality burgers. As such, the Solihull Moors burger, whilst not bad, it doesn’t beat the burger I had in Cubs 49 Bar in Chicago, Illinois. After finishing the burger, I headed to watch the game.

Colwyn Bay started brightly, coming off a good win against Bishop’s Stortford, and playing with confidence. But peppering the goal with shots from Karl Noon, Fraser McLachlan and Michael Lea saw saves from Jasper Singh, who was Solihull’s standout player in the first half. Solihull – whilst breaking well – created very few chances, and whilst Colwyn Bay had okay chances, the best came on half time where Rob Hopley, through one on one, hit the ball square against the advancing Singh.

Bay pressured, but couldn't find a way through.

The second half though saw Colwyn Bay struggle to get out of the blocks, and slowly Solihull came back into the game. Although Metcalf wasn’t threatened between the sticks, it was with 10 minutes to go that he was left flapping at air with a sweetly struck shot from Junior English to put the home side ahead. Junior was rather harshly sent off towards the end of the game for a second yellow card, but it was too late for Colwyn Bay to capitalise.

Overall a moment of brilliance decided the result. Frustrating day for Colwyn Bay fans, and the train home wasn’t the most comfortable! Nothing against Solihull though, hope to visit again next year.

Weatherby Road – Harrogate Town (Altrincham Perspective)

27 Feb

Harrogate Town – 3

Altrincham – 2

Football Conference North – 19th August 2011

Ah a new season, so much expectation, so much hope, the belief that “this could our year”, especially for those who have been relegated.

For my team, Altrincham, this summer was an unusual one as for the first time we’d been relegated from the conference and actually gone down. With a large number of clubs going bust Altrincham had always managed to stay up – even when deducted 18 points. The summer had meant a large scale re-build of the squad and a new management team, and after beating Tranmere and putting some highly convincing performances there was much hope for this new season.

So after months of waiting for the real action start (Any real football fan, which are those who support teams below the Sky Sports Championship, knows the season actually begins one week earlier). This was my first ever opening day away game, and I was like a kid in the run up to Christmas. So after meeting up at 7:00am, consuming a full English breakfast and beverages we boarded the “9:12 party train” and took over the vast majority of the carriages.

We reached Leeds station still in high spirits and after numerous group photos, we took over the next train with the chant of “we’re the best behaved supported in the league” ringing out, we set off for Harrogate.

For those who live in Manchester and have been in the vicinity of Old Trafford, you’ll have seen hundred of foreign supporters taking souvenir pictures. This is what greeted us at one of the stations on that particular day. Pulling in to the station with flags out the windows and the songs in full flow resulted in a large group of Japanese tourists snapping away and joining us to document our next stage in the journey. Eventually we arrived in Starbeck around midday and invaded a local pub, which resulted in my favourite moment of the day. The pub was filled with fans both young and old, and this is where the atmosphere was kicked up a notch. Many drinks later the party moved on to Harrogate.

The ground itself is typical for this level. Very tidy and well maintained with a social club decked out in scarves from various clubs from across the globe. After paying a few quid to enter (a nice change from paying nearly triple in a lot of BSP clubs), a few refreshments, we began to build an atmosphere. The balloons were blown up, the flags were hung and waving flags given out and confetti and smoke bombs were prepared. This was it, the moment we’d waited for 3 months. With kick off fast approaching the Altrincham contingent began to become more and more vocal, with the chants of “we’re here and we’re from Altrincham” and the day’s signature chant “taking over, taking over Harrogate” belted out.

The game began with Altrincham looking sluggish, and typically the atmosphere was spoilt by the strong looking defence being breached early on. Undeterred by this, the atmosphere was pumped up, however after twenty minutes the awarding of a Harrogate penalty meant Altrincham were 2nd bottom in the conference north and 2-0 down. The game wasn’t pretty after that, both teams playing long ball football and the Altrincham fans wondering where a goal would come from.

After the re-start Altrincham looked sharper and brighter. Chance after chance came Altrincham’s way with Harrogate defending like it was their cup final. But just after the hour mark last years public enemy number 1. Michael Twiss converted his chance. This was quickly followed by his partner Damien Reeves equalising after 69 minutes. The comeback was complete…

In the final half hour, there were several incidents worth mentioning. The first involved a second yellow for Harrogate’s Tait leaving the home side with 10 men for the remainder of the game. It was then all Altrincham. Michael Twiss then had two successive shots cleared off the line as the game went into the final 10 minutes. Danylyk also had a volley cleared off line and when Paul Jones went close with a header at the back post in stoppage time, Altrincham thought that despite not clinching a winner they’d take home a well deserved draw. However with second to go, a long punt forward, Alty conceded a penalty and Adam Flynn was dismissed. This – even according to Harrogate players and fans (after the games) – was a poor decision. The spot kick was converted.

This wasn’t the end of the drama. Harrogate’s tunnel actually goes through the stand, and is effectively two metal gates which allow a mini tunnel to be temporally created at KO, HT and FT. After the game finished the Harrogate players and management staff decided to respond to the Altrincham fans that had congregated here to clap off their own players, trying to incite a bigger reaction. This involved several Harrogate players arguing and swearing at fans, as well as some foul language and threats in return.
However in true non-league fashion, all those involved went to the bar to have a drink with each other and discuss the rest of the season. The Altrincham fans who had stayed proceeded (with permission) to have a 7-a-side game on the pitch with some of the remaining Harrogate supporters.

There are some away days where the result is simply the icing on the cake, and this would have been one of them. This day was one not likely to be forgotten, and I’m glad I went. If Altrincham don’t bounce straight back, I will certainly be making a return.