Wednesday, 20 September 2017

19/09/17 Review: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Bristol Rovers

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 Bristol Rovers [After Extra Time] (Carabao Cup Third Round)

With the year slowly closing in on us, last night would see me edge one step closer to my drunken New Year's Resolution of achieving 100 grounds before the end of 2017 as I stepped into the 30,000 stadium that houses Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers. For a fifth time I would be tempted to join Tom (aka Partizan Bristle) for a Rovers match and after seeing them draw thrice and lose once so far, I wondered if yesterday's Carabao Cup encounter may be the first time that I see the Gas win a game. Knowing that another top pal, Mikey, is a Wolves fan I was aware that any potential cup upset would give Tom weeks of dining out on the occasion and so with that in mind I purchased tickets for the Steve Bull Away Stand for myself, my Stafford-based Rovers pal Ian and his son Isaac. A bargain at just a tenner a pop!

Can't remember the last time I had to purchase a ticket for a game
With a busy day at work over and done with, I headed round to Ian's for some pre-match grub and a good chinwag about all things footy. After discussing everything from the Billericay Town circus to the great League One grounds, we jumped in Ian's little blue motor and drove the 16 mile journey down the A449 towards the promised land of Molineux. Having arrived just after 7:15pm, we had half an hour to grab a beer and take in the surroundings on this Gas away day. As mentioned before I'd seen Rovers four times prior to this and after bore draws with Grimsby and my beloved Macc, I saw them gather a point last season away at Vale Park before losing their last game of the season at the Mem during a 7-goal thriller with Millwall, and with transfer-hefty Wolves flying high in the Championship this season I expected Rovers would struggle on this outing- predicting 3-1 to the hosts beforehand.

A wee bit bigger than what I'm used to
Everyone has seen the Wanderers ground on the tele, so I won't bore you with the very generic details of Molineux. It is large, orange and filled with seats- not much in the way of quirks aside from the barely-humanised bar staff whom seem to lack understanding of what a beer or a hot dog is. Tom did take the time to tell me about how there is a mixture of real turf and astro-turf inside the ground, but for the full enthralling story of that you'll have to check out his entry from a couple of years back as he visited to see Charlton with a mutual pal of ours. With the best part of a couple of thousand away fans singing out to Irene, Tom, Ian, Isaac and I headed out just in time for kick-off and before we knew it we were underway and ready to see how the game would settle. The likes of Danny Batth, Ben Marshall and former Anfield starlet Conor Coady all started for the hosts, meanwhile Gunners loanee Marc Bola lined-up alongside Tom Lockyer and the other Gasheads in a strong starting eleven for Rovers. The first-half remained a 50/50 affair and as Rovers looked fairly assertive going forward, to one side I had Tom looking glad to have survived minute after minute without conceding, whilst to my right Ian kept telling me how long left until penalties. Safe to say that despite a positive start, Gas fans were feeling nervy about their defence when Wolves went forward and with the home side being the fourth highest-scoring side in the Championship so far as they sat joint-top of the table, Rovers owned a less enviable record of being the team to have conceded the equal-most goals in League One. These stats meant nothing tonight though and with one Championship scalp already claimed in the form of Fulham in the Carabao Cup, Rovers went into the break level and arguably in control of their own destiny thanks to a solid display and a particularly impressive start from Danny Leadbitter. New lad Liam Sercombe had made the best moment of the game so far after turning a Wolves player before hitting a solid effort at Will Norris's goal.

Nothing much for the Wolves lot to shout about at HT, 0-0
Tom and I rushed over to the quiet beer hatch and whilst queuing for an ale we discussed the inconsistencies of drinking as an away fan. At Moss Rose and Valley Parade Tom had noted there was no away beers flowing and I'd seen the same at Chester last month, yet when at Vale Park there was plenty of opportunity to intoxicate yourself as was the case when I went to the KC a few years ago- it must be down to personal preference rather than FA rules. Either way, we were chuffed to snatch an overpriced beer from the hands of the Molineux away end tonight and it passed half-time by very nicely indeed.

Back to the action
Up until now both sides had struggled to carve more than half-chances so the second-half really did bring the game to life as the Rovers away support continued to roar Darrell Clarke's barmy army through the game. Just before the hour-mark everyone thought Wolves would open the scoring after a cross from the right was well met by teenager Bright Enobakhare, however Sam Slocombe produced one of the best reaction saves I've seen to tip the Nigerian winger's shot over the bar. At the other end the tenacious Ellis Harrison won possession for the Gas before Sercombe hit a ball out to Bola, who drove forward before powering a mighty drive on-target that had to be palmed on to the Wolves post. The game produced end-to-end action in the last 30 minutes and with time getting on Wolves decided to throw on a Portugal international, as you do, to try and see the hosts take the game before extra-time. Alas, the lively former Benfica and Monaco attacker couldn't make the difference and even though Wolves did hit the crossbar in the 90th minute, we were destined to see another half an hour.

"Up the Gas", as they say
Just before the end of normal time, Dom Telford and Rory Gaffney were introduced and the fresh legs for the Rovers XI gave them different options attack-wise. Appearing to play out on the left as a wide target man, Gaffney looked a real breath of fresh air and this new dimension to the side seemed to be giving the away support a case of the dreaded "false hope". Both sides continued to register their intent to grab the winner and in the 8th minute of extra time the inevitable goal came. Rovers were sliced open by a fine pass from the midfield and when the ball was eventually cut back to Enobakhare he found space, took a touch before hitting home a fine strike inside the box. Wolves 1-0 Rovers. This seem to wake up the Wolves fans around the ground and they finally got into the spirit of things, singing out such classics as "you're just a shit Bristol City" and other tunes they'd obviously acquired from 'the book of obvious chants'. This didn't deter the Gasheads though who continued to sing loud and proud as Rovers got the game back underway. Soon after the goal, Telford rattled the bar for the visitors and Gaffney hit a narrow-angled strike on-target, forcing another corner. During the second-half of extra time Rovers went forward again and as they did so, Wolves started to pounce on the counter and seemed just as likely to kill the game off. Former Rovers youth player Donovan Wilson came on and his main contribution was a forceful attacking run on the break that caused Tom Lockyer to pull his opponent to the ground and as the last man he had to go- red card and a suspension was the result and this put the final nail in the Rovers coffin. The whistle soon blew and although a spirited and proud performance was given by the visitors, they were knocked out of the cup for another season, following Southampton in falling to a good Wolverhampton Wanderers side. Next up for me will be a trip to Bristol and the surrounding area as I take part in the annual Western League Groundhop event- 7 games in 3 days, with 5 new grounds to add towards my 100 will mean many a Blog to follow in the upcoming weeks!
Thanks for the memories, Molineux

Saturday, 9 September 2017

09/09/17 Review: Florence vs Redgate Clayton

Florence 3-9 Redgate Clayton (Staffordshire County Senior League Challenge Cup Second Round)
Lightwood Road

This weekend's Saturday afternoon provided me with a very rare day off, meaning that I could once again get myself over to a ground in search of football, beer and whatever other delights I could lay my eyes on. I think, although I could one day be corrected, that Lightwood Road is the location of the closest ground to my house and lying just a mere 0.7 miles away from my Dresden digs, it was bound to be one that I'd tick off the list eventually- and with the weather being hit and miss, the Potters vs United game being out of my price range and goals guaranteed, I'd have been a metaphorical mad man to let Florence's Cup game with Redgate Clayton pass me by. Having said that, I was happily dropped off at my 88th ground by my girlfriend as she headed home from our short-lived outing to a local retail park.

Nothing like a cup match on a Saturday afternoon
With a 2pm kick-off, I expected there would be at least a small scattering of fans at this match having a bit of a get together before the big game in the area later on today- the 5:30pm kick off at the Bet 365 of course, where United were in town. Earlier today Stoke's Under 18 side had played a Liverpool side led by Stevie G, so it is safe to say that the South-East side of Stoke-on-Trent was being treated to a fantastic day of football and although I wasn't at either of the Potters matches, I was still keen to support a local side rather than travelling further afield on this occasion and this meant a cup tie between two sides from the Staffordshire County League would prove to be my choice. Both sides play in the highest league of the regional division, with today's Newcastle-under-Lyme based visitors sitting in 8th after 4 wins from 6, meanwhile Florence are struggling to cope with a poor start that has seen them take just 1 victory and 1 draw in 9 league outings. Having already seen one game at this level between Foley Meir and Newcastle Town Reserves, I had made a pre-match prediction of 1-4 to Redgate Clayton today and although I couldn't have adequately prepared myself for the 12-goal free for all that was to come, I did at least expect the net to be rippling on a regular basis- unlike the 0-0 I'd sat through during the international break at Shrewsbury.

Hello shelter, my old friend
As the players came out for kick-off I found myself to be one of two people in attendance today, which was a shock as there had been a fair few more than that at the McIntosh Arena in Meir last time I went to game of this calibre. Thankfully as the game got going, plenty of families and lads sporting tinnies appeared to bring the attendance up to roughly 25 overall. My first point of note was that Florence were sponsored by Carlsberg, a decent name for the shirts in this division, and for some obscure reason the home keeper was wearing a practically identical kit to that of his outfield players, which was a tad odd. Alas, this didn't stop the home side getting off to an unexpected flyer as they took the lead within 4 minutes of game time. With the ball being plunged into the Clayton box, the ball would eventually land into the feet of the number 11 who showed composure and bit of good fortune to lift the ball over the red-shirted opponent's number 1 and into the net. Florence 1-0 Clayton. With the wind blowing in the favour of the Stokey's and the weather clearing up somewhat, I decided to leave the almighty Dynamic Ceramic Stand and go over to the area that I can only describe as "the Porch" behind the goal so that I could get a closer view of the action. Time went by and surprisingly the only real crunch challenge of the game in the opening 15 minutes came as the Florence keeper was left injured after being on the end of a 50-50 challenge from a Clayton midfielder- he must've been mistaken with an outfielder in that kit!
I knew the sun would eventually pop out
The previously mentioned tackle left Florence's shot-stopper unable to carry on and with an unscheduled break in play to allow the keeper to be treated, the Florence number 9 used this time to head over to the crowd and ask one chap why he wasn't playing today. The man, with a can of Carling in one hand and a fag in the other, told his supposed teammate that he had his boots in his bag if needed, just before the Ref called everybody back into action. With a third of the opening half now gone, it was time to witness a second goal for the day and after Redgate's number 11 outmanoeuvred a statuesque yellow and black defence, he squared the ball to the frontman who tapped home an easy equaliser. Florence 1-1 Clayton. The Florence keeper continued to struggle in the home goal and shortly after being replaced by a man in a Glasgow Rangers jersey, Florence took another well-deserved goal after yet more sloppy defensive work. The number 6 for the hosts burst into the box and on to a ball that was in the realm of the keeper, before squeezing a touch in-between the defence and keeper alike to give himself an open net to pass the ball in to. Florence 2-1 Clayton. Tensions were running high by this point for the favoured away side and eventually Clayton's left-back approached his goalkeeper and politely asked him to stop "shitting himself". This motivation style of speech seemed to inspire, or scare, the luminous green side back into life though as they began to pressure towards the back end of the half. The number 7 had a good strike saved by the sub keeper, witnessed by the injured number 1 as he hobbled back over to the bench from the changing rooms, and despite having around half a dozen corners it didn't seem likely we'd see an equaliser before the whistle. Ironically, from the place I'd moved to in order to see the action closer, I then missed the final goal of the half as a tame looking shot seemed to be gathered up initially by the Florence keeper before it eventually rolled into the net to the home team's bemusement and the visitor's relief. Florence 2-2 Clayton.

Time to leave the Porch End in search of beer
My half-time adventure on this occasion involved a somewhat long-winded voyage to find a pint of Carlsberg Export in the clubhouse adjacent to the Bowls Green, an awkward interaction with the keeper who was almost certain that I'd won the half-time raffle prize of a box of choccy's, all before a mooch back to the Stand to listen to the latter part of a conversation that seemed to be about the Florence number 11 being married to a Mexican drug mule. Yup, roll on the second-half.

Sat comfy and ready for goals, goals, goals
Although there was still a further 8 goals to see here, amazingly until the 68th minute the score remained at two-all and on the hour-mark Florence could've altered there eventual destiny as the number 6 broke well and passed the ball to 10, who was unlucky not to score from a very impressive counter-attack. At the other end Clayton struck a post and one Florence player was told to "close his legs" after being megged by the all out attacking lime green's. The deadlock was eventually broken by a midfielder as the number 8 for Redgate pranced past a legged-looking defence before hitting home a left-footed drive into the net. Florence 2-3 Clayton. The floodgates seemed ready to burst by now and just two minutes later the number 9 for Clayton doubled his tally for the day as he pinged home a perfectly-placed long-range strike and caused mild excitement amongst the Dynamic Ceramic Stand. Florence 2-4 Clayton. In what would be a third goal in five minutes, a ball from the left was accurately placed into the path of the Clayton 10 and he made no mistake in putting the win beyond doubt. Florence 2-5 Clayton. Everybody on the Florence team looked ready to call it a day with ten minutes still left on the clock, apart from the number 11 who took the ball into his grasp on the halfway line- flicking the ball over a towering centre-back before outpacing him to hit home a great consolation goal that was perhaps goal of the day. Florence 3-5 Clayton. One lad joked that he ran like was dodging the Mexican mob as he showed a great turn of pace to score, but despite this there would be no more joy for the hosts in front of goal. Seconds after that goal the Florence lads imploded again as another cross from the left was this time met by 9 who completed a hat-trick with his headed strike. Florence 3-6 Clayton. In what seemed like an age in comparison to the last 15 minutes, we then had to wait a further five minutes before the centre-back of Redgate scored from a corner as the tenth goal of the day went in. Florence 3-7 Clayton. Stoppage time proved to be a cruel ending for Florence as the keeper misjudged the bounce of the ball as it rose above and over him, into the path of the number 10 who found himself bundling home his second tap-in of the afternoon. Florence 3-8 Clayton. And as if a cake of this type needed icing, we then saw the away side number 11 cap off the rout with a simple finish after latching on to a pass through the middle as he ran in across the right-hand side. Florence 3-9 Clayton.

12 goals at the footy, and in the meantime Reginald and Arthur have managed half a frame of Bowls
As some headed off to the Bet 365 in search of more live action, others and me included walked over to the pub to watch Soccer Saturday and calm down with a cold beer after an absolute monster of a goal glut. Despite being humbled by the away side, I'd say that the hosts could take pride in their performance in the first 65 minutes or so and in all honesty it was the fitness and quality of Redgate Clayton that saw them through to the next round. Next up for Clayton is a trip to Walsall to face Phoenix, whilst Florence host Eastwood Hanley and will hope for more stamina as they look to pick up much need points. For me, I don't have any firm dates in the diary but if plans work out I'll be at Wolves vs Bristol Rovers in a couple of Tuesday's time to see the continuation of the Carabao Cup. Cheers for reading!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

01/09/17 Review: England U18 vs Brazil U18

England U18 0-0 Brazil U18 [5-4 on Penalties] (International Friendly)
Montgomery Waters Meadow

The international break is always odd when it comes so early in the season, especially whilst also at the crucial end of the transfer window, but with England's Under-18 side just a month away from their trip to India for the Youth World Cup this was a good chance for the Young Lions to gain momentum in time for what will hopefully be another successful campaign for one of our junior squads. With Brazil making the trip to Shropshire for this one, I had no excuse to miss this warm-up match and so I hopped in my little red car and headed over to Shrewsbury for a debut visit to Montgomery Waters Meadow, the home of the League One club who call themselves the Shrews.

Oooh, there it is
An out-of-town ground, the Monty Waters Meadow is your bog-standard modern Football League stadium and compared to some of the more characteristic- aka old- grounds I've visited at this level, I found myself impressed by its neatness rather than inspired by its mishmash style and cobweb covered old stands. After trips to Roots Hall, The Mem, The Bescot and Fratton Park at this level, it is safe to assume that I would struggle to find too much of note to talk about at this stage. It is an ideal location for this kind of international fixture and I was pleased to see the Midlands being used again as a hub for the English junior football scene, having visited Burton's St. George's Park and Walsall's Bescot Stadium for other England matches last season. I was no stranger to football at this level, so as I arrived at the ground an hour before the 7pm start time, I headed into the Club Shop to start my survey of Shrewsbury's facilities.

Well, at least I wasn't the first to arrive
After resisting the temptation to buy one of last season's tops for a tenner, I made my way into the ground to watch the sides train whilst scoffing a steak and ale pie. Time soon passed and after receiving the team sheets for the evening I studied the web to find out a bit about the players on display tonight and also guess whether or not the next Ronaldinho, Neymar or even Roque Junior would be taking to the field tonight. I like to think that in 10 years time when one of these young Brazilians makes a £497m transfer to Man City, I can look back on this day and think "ha, I remember seeing this lad play at Shrewsbury Town against the current centre-back for Grimsby Town". Joking aside, the majority of the England squad are already in the top sides in the country with the likes of Curtis Anderson and Joel Latibeaudiere representing City, Marc Guehi and George McEachran coming in from Chelsea and captain Angel Gomes being a United lad. Over in Brazil's camp, all of their youngsters come from clubs of their home nation too and the potential megastar I'd picked out was Brenner Souza da Silva, who has already made an appearance for Sao Paulo despite being born in this millennium!

A few others had joined me by this point
In the end 1,876 were in attendance for the match and with 10 minutes to go the stand was starting to fill out a bit more. I made my usual pre-match prediction and went for a 3-2 England win- which was optimistic at best, this is England after all! Just 45 minutes before Kane and the gang kicked-off in Malta, we were underway here and it was not until the half-hour mark that the first chance came, despite much pressure from the hosts and in particular the wing-wizard Nya Kirby. A cleverly worked free-kick eventually led to McEachran hitting a shot towards goal, with the ball being deflected ever so kindly into the path of Rhian Brewster upon the 6-yard line. The Liverpool starlet couldn't quite get his shape right though and he practically missed the ball all together as his big chance went begging. Shortly after this Brazil had the first shot on target of the match, as Luan Pereira hit a Júlio Baptista-esque strike directly at Anderson in the England goal and thankfully he was more than equal to the thunderous drive. As the first-half came to a close, the main observation I had made was that no matter what level they play at, a simple clearance is not in the blood of any Brazilian. The lads in yellow looked at their most comfortable throughout much of the game when the centre-backs were in possession and they continued to pass the ball out of their own danger zone when a simple boot up field seemed to be the sensible option.
The Young Lions had huffed and puffed, but to no avail
With my usual half-time hankering for a pint I managed to negotiate my way into the clubhouse, despite not having the required wristband, so that I could basque in the glory of an ice-cold Grolsch amongst a load of folk in suits who were enjoying their tap water and token onion bhaji from the fancy buffet laid out. I, on the other hand, made the most of my newly found position amongst national coaches and England officials and tucked in to a handful of piping hot chicken nuggets and a couple of cheeky sausage rolls. Fully replenished and a little on the bloated side, I headed back out for the conclusion of the game.

Beats the stale butties available at most grounds I've been to
The second-half offered no goals either, but there was a few decent chances at either end in a more open bout on the field. Palace youth player Kirby continued to be the key player as he switched wings with freedom and showed off his excellent range of passing. After scuffing wide a half-volley on the hour mark, the opposition number 11 and aforementioned Brenner started to try his luck with long-range efforts that were high, wide and all but handsome. The subs came on for both sides and with an even second-half, Brazil seemed happy to try and settle for a winner on the counter, with Alan striking just wide after a good bit of build-up on the right.

Plenty of fresh legs, but none that could score a late winner
With this being a development friendly encounter, the final whistle from the Ref would never have been the last action of the game. It was announced beforehand that a Penalty Shootout would happen tonight after the 90 minutes as both sides looked to take advantage of a rare chance to play out a proper shootout. Kirby and Lincoln stepped-up first for either nation and scored, with the Flamengo striker opting to celebrate his tidy strike with a dab. England's keeper then stepped up and scored the second for the Young Lions before then expertly saving the effort of Helio Junio. Loader, Foden and Guehi all scored for England as did Henrique, Weverson and Alan, which meant that I was able to add myself into the rare group of people who have seen an England National Football Team claim victory in a penalty shootout. Yes, it may well have been a friendly and it was our youth side, but I'm marking this down as a good way to end my trip to Shropshire for this goalless encounter.

Good night Shrewsbury Town, it has been a heck of a hoot

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

28/08/17 Review: Maine Road vs Abbey Hey

Maine Road 1-2 Abbey Hey (FA Cup Qualifying Preliminary Round Replay)
Brantingham Road

It's not often you get to go to a Replay of a Replay, but that's exactly what the second match of my Monday double groundhop had in store for me as I headed over to Brantingham Road in the Chorlton-Cum-Hardy district of Manchester. Having already been to a game at Chester just a few hours prior to this game, I arrived in the south of Manchester nice and early in time for a top notch Hot Dog at the Wetherspoons just around the corner. It was during this between match downtime that I looked into the stats behind this derby match. Not only are the two sides in the same league, sitting 18th and 19th with 3 points and minus 5 goal differences apiece, but they were also playing each other for a third time this season already in the FA Cup. After a 2-2 Draw at The Abbey Ground in the original tie, the replay last week went into extra time following a 1-all draw before a 105th minute head-injury to Adam Hampshire for the Red Rebels player meant that the Ref had to abandon the game. With that being said, I'd predicted another draw for tonight's encounter which would mean the teams could potentially end up playing 315 minutes of football all-in-all!
Anyone for a pre-match wander around the on-site garden?
As I entered the ground via the tightly packed car park, I found myself with enough time to have a wander around the ground and see what was on offer in this one. The ground had two stands, with one housing a few wooden long benches and the other covering a section of concrete terracing. Maine Road is a team that was formed in 1955 by Man City's Supporters Club and these days they are still heavily involved as the club's main sponsor. The club is run by City fans and as if to make this tie even more tasty, Abbey Hey are very much a United lookalike that play in the infamous red and black colours known to be one half of the legendary Manchester Derby. So, needless to day that the scene was set and the 150 or so fans were ready to see how their sides would get on in what was my second derby match of the day- with the result being a home game this weekend against Evo-Stik Premier side Altrincham.

Third time lucky, let's hope!
Abbey Hey got the game up and running but it was Maine Road who pushed first, winning a corner inside the opening minute. Nothing came of this chance, but it signalled the first of many attacking plays that would come in an overall decent game of football. For Abbey Hey it was Ash Blake, pictured above, who had the first proper chance. As he ran inside from the left, the young winger slid to the ground and knocked his effort just wide in the 9th minute. This warning to the Maine Road defence was a let-off, but just a minute later they would not be allowed the same courtesy. George Noon had made a good run down the right for the visitors and when he crossed the ball in it was Rob Swallow who was waiting to apply a simple tap-in and the opening goal of the night. Maine Road 0-1 Abbey Hey. The Red Rebels continued to make chances and an 18th minute free-kick almost doubled their lead, but this time the ball smacked against the wall before looping on to the roof of the net.

I would say I was at the edge of my seat, but so was everyone
It wasn't all going the visitors way, despite their lead, and Maine Road showed intent of their own as the Sky Blues captain ran in on goal before shooting over the bar. Half-time came with the score still perfectly-poised at 1-0 to the visitors. I headed into the clubhouse during half-time where I got chatting to a few of the travelling football enthusiasts that had also made the trip to Brantingham Road. Apparently ground-hopping regular Tony Incenzo was here, as was a chap from Epsom in Surrey and also the chap I got speaking to was the father of the linesman. I spent a good five minutes talking to the man, a Chesterfield fan, and he told me that he was an involuntary ground-hopper these days as he travelled around providing travel for his son- and as a non-league lino, I imagine he also has to provide security on the odd occasion! I also had a brief chat with a hard-of-hearing Manchester veteran fan, who asked me about my travels in the following conversation: He asked me how many grounds I'd done, to which I told him 86. He said, "how many you got left to do?", and I just said "dunno, thousands?" before he looked at me and stated "oooh, you've got a few to go yet, kid!"

I literally took a pew during HT
I got back out to pitch side having missed the first few moments, but as I stepped out of the clubhouse I just about saw the Abbey Hey keeper being forced into a great save after a good strike from a Maine Road midfielder. With the home side dominating the start of the second-half, I had a very strong feeling that I'd still be stood here in an hour's time. A free-kick sailed just wide and were it not for excellent challenge after excellent challenge from Matt Cook, Maine Road would have undoubtedly been level. The right-back was the best player on the park by a country mile on this occasion. With the darkness forming in the sky, the match began to come towards its conclusion and credit must go to the Abbey Hey manager for introducing a new striker to the pitch in the form of Rhys Webb, who would prove to be just the breath of fresh air the visitors needed.

Ready for some late action? I know I was
Webb ran the show in the last 10 minutes and really took advantage of a tiring Maine Road defence. He burst down the field and through the opposition, before hitting a shot straight at the keeper and then a rebound effort was blocked by the backtracking centre-backs in blue. The resulting corner saw him nod the ball just wide and then he even popped up as the free-kick taker in the 85th minute, with another effort being deflected away from the goal. With time almost up, there was yet to be a couple of goals in this one and Webb finally got his goal in the 89th minute after hanging the Maine Road right-back out to dry out wide before hitting his shot past a flat-footed keeper. Maine Road 0-2 Abbey Hey. Credit must be given to the hosts after conceding the second goal as they did not see this as game over. Deep into injury time Maine Road's number 8 looks up and sees his chance to smash home an expertly whipped strike from 25-yards, which gave the hosts a final straw to clutch at with seconds left. Maine Road 1-2 Abbey Hey. Needless to say that the equaliser could not be purchased for love nor money in the final minute and it would be Abbey Hey who would finally claim the victory after an almighty 285 minute series of footballing rivalry.
And you'll never guess who the Red Rebels face next Monday in a League away match...

28/08/17 Review: Chester vs Macclesfield Town

Chester 0-2 Macclesfield Town (Naional Premier League)
Swansway Chester Stadium

A Bank Holiday Monday afternoon jaunt to Chester is just what the doctor ordered in what would prove to be the first of two outings yesterday. Unlike everybody else on the planet who also seemed to be heading to Cheshire's county capital, I was not going for the zoo, the pleasant market-town vibes and delicious food, no no no, I am one of those weirdos who goes to some of the nicest places in the country to watch the football.

Still, at least I got to see this little fellar
As a Macc Town fan, it is a crime against the footballing gods that I'd never been to this derby day fixture before, but thankfully I was finally checking-in to see what all the fuss was about at the Swansway Chester Stadium, as it is known these days, to see how my beloved Silkmen would get on in what would be the first competitive fixture I'd seen them play since that heart-breaking afternoon at Wembley back in May. A lot has changed since then, as I'd seen from trips to Moss Rose in pre-season and also to another away day at Stockport County, and there was a new-look team trying to gel together under John Askey as the 2017/18 season got off to an indifferent start for the Silkmen. Following a great opening win at Wrexham, Macc then drew two and lost two before picking up their second 1-0 win of the season on Friday against over Dover, leaving them with 8 points from 6. Chester on the other hand, who host three Silkmen players from last season in the shape of Andy Halls, John McCombe and Kingsley James, as well as the Macc Captain from the 2015/16 in Paul Turnbull, had drawn their first three league matches before a defeat and a victory before today's game- meaning that before play they were just two points behind their rivals.
Should be a good one at Swansway Chester Stadium
I set off with plenty of time to allow for Bank Holiday traffic and it was a good job I did so! Almost an hour and a half it took me to get to the west of Chester from Stoke and I made it with just 20 minutes to spare. To save being held-up in horrendous post-match traffic, I parked up on the main road to the ground and joined many blue kitted fans, both from Chester and Macc, in heading down Bumper's Lane ready for kick-off. By the time I'd made the decision to go to the West Stand rather than behind the goal, it was time to take my seat and see the sides come out ready to do battle.
West Side iz dee best
The Macc fans sat around me were in their usual mixed-bag format, with young, old, entranced and barely bothered folk all taking up their views on the game. One man, just 10 seconds in to the match, already felt the need to say "it's a game of two halves" and that signalled the first of his generic football phrases throughout the afternoon. My first observation on the pitch was that Ryan Astles was an absolute giant and the ex-Rhyl and Northwich Victoria defender looked set to take the far inferior frame of Tyrone Marsh to the cleaners in terms of physical battles. The 23-year old partnered ex-Macc player John McCombe in the heart of the Chester defence and although they had the height, they could do nothing about the pace of the Silkmen attackers running rings around them from the off. With just 7 minutes on the clock, a cross came in from the right and like an unmasked version of The Flash, Mitch Hancox darted into the box and got his glancing header towards and into the goal. Chester 0-1 Macc. Needless to say that this amazing start led to shots being fired from the away end at last season's Macc captain Andy Halls, who now dons the shirt of their rivals. "Hallsy, what's the score? Hallsy, Hallsy, what's the score?" was the preferred opening chant that the former Stockport right-back had to endure as his ex-employers looked to build on their opener. The game seemed to be flying-by as a Macc fan and in the 30th minute the lead could've been doubled as Gime Touré rose high above everyone in the box to head the ball just a mere whisker over the bar. Chester had a couple of long-range efforts themselves but with the Macc fan proclaimed Kingsley "Silkmen Reject" James looking their best player, they didn't seem likely to get back into it before the break.

Half-Time, happy days for the away support
As there wasn't much to see or do during the break, the joys of being an away fan, I sat back and soaked in the shade whilst looking over at the many Chester fans who would seemingly rather be in my shoes at this stage- both from over-exposure to the sun and also to the waves of Macclesfield Town attacks. With over 2,000 here for this derby match, I was eager to see the second-half get underway and see if we would kill the game off or let the blues back in. So far, Danny Whit, Tyrone Marsh and goalscorer Mitch Hancox had impressed me for Macc, as well as Elliott Durrell out on the right. Chester's side hadn't done much to inspire me and although I was impressed with the very familiar James, I couldn't help but feel the side's problem was due to a lack of passing and build-up play. Most of the time I'd seen Macc defending it was in the form of headed clearances and apart from the odd goal-kick, I don't think Shwan Jalal had touched the ball really.
Macc would start the second-half shooting towards the visiting support
The second 45 started poorly from the visitors and I feared for the first 15 minutes or so that Chester would get themselves back into contention. James ran in from the left and forced a decent stop from Jalal in what was Chester's biggest chance so far. At the other end, Gime Touré was having a woeful time of it and his self-frustration led to him lunging in on a Chester player and becoming the first player to enter Peter Wright's book. Chester's early efforts to get back into it had also led to man-mountain Astles leaving his defensive duties to go up-front and try to provide some added brute force in attack. This didn't shake Macc's focus though and with Durrell now pulling the strings out on the right the Silkmen fans were asking when, not if, the second goal would come. In the 62nd minute Durrell swung in a corner and Kieran Kennedy stuck his head on it to open his goal-scoring account with his new club. Chester 0-2 Macc. In truth, the floodgates could've opened at this point and Tyrone Marsh had a trio of chances towards the back end of the game. His third, a header from a Danny Whitaker cross, rattled the crossbar.

A lovely afternoon to get your first goal, Kieran
As with the start of the second-half, the end of it saw Chester doing their best to try and grab a goal of their own. In the dying embers, that man again Kingsley James found himself baring down on the Macc goal and were it not for an on-rushing Jalal and a backtracking defence it could've been a tense end to the game as the eventual shot was overstretched and looped over the bar. The final memorable moment of the afternoon was as Chester teenager Tom Crawford came on to make his senior debut for his hometown club- a lovely moment for the lad and the applause belted out around the ground as the lad entered the field for the final few minutes. The Ref blew the final whistle shortly after a final Chester attack in the Macc box and therefore secured a derby day defeat for Chester. I would have liked to have stuck around after the match to visit the clubhouse and shop, but as I had a second game to get to I jumped straight in my car and head on my way to Manchester in search of yet more football.