Sunday, 31 January 2016

30/01/16 Review: Warrington Town vs Scarborough Athletic

Warrington Town 1-0 Scarborough Athletic (Evo-Stik First Division North)
Cantilever Park

For the second time this season I found myself watching a team from "back home" as they fought a tough away match against the Evo-Stik First Division North leaders. Scarborough Athletic have been on a poor run of form lately and look like a side who will be lucky to resist being dragged into the relegation dog-fight. I had seen them gain a bore-draw at home against Glossop North End back in September in a match which is still the most viewed Pint of Football Review to date, and also the worst game of football I've seen this season!

The Seasiders arrived on a bus which reminded me of Primary School trips. Ahh, memories
Warrington Town on the other hand have been on fire in the League. Unbeaten since Mid October, only 2 points in the past two months and a 100% record in January has left Town flying high at the top of the pile. Knowing that second-place Northwich Victoria had an astounding 5 games in-hand on the leaders, all that Town could do was hope that as they continued to collect win after win, that Northwich would drop a few points from their high amount of games to come. I arrived at Cantilever Park looking to compare the Evo-Stik North leaders to the South's equivalent, Stafford Rangers. Upon arrival at the ground I would have said that Rangers were 1-0 up in terms of having the better ground, which is understandable due to the heights they had fallen from. Warrington, on the other hand, had been in this league since the 2008-09 season, having switched from the South division after the 2007-08 campaign (the idea of Warrington being in a league labelled as the "South Division" is still madness to me!). Usually sitting around the mid-table region, this year Town had really pushed on and would hope to end January with another win against today's struggling opponents. My pre-match prediction would be for the leaders to replicate the scoreline I'd seen from their South Division counterparts in October, after watching Rangers thrash Rugby Town 4-0.
The season ticket holders were already in the ground, maybe?
On paper I guess I would have had to say that I was an Away fan for this game, being as how Athletic currently play their matches in my home town, Bridlington. However, the great news for Scarborough this week has of course been the news that they have begun work on building themselves a new ground, great news for the club who currently share Queensgate Park with Brid Town. Despite my away side allegiance and purely by coincidence, my attire of a yellow and blue scarf (from my trip to Sporting Khalsa) made me just look like another Wazza local, so much so that I was asked if I had joined the WTFC Supporters Club. I replied politely by stating that I wasn't from around here, to which he simply said back to me "Over 20 years we've been going!". With that, I turned to my left to see the sun-glazed pitch of Warrington Town. The first sight of a club's ground is always one of my favourite moments of any trip, and this one in particular had a buzz about it of a club with a spring in it's step. All of the classic sights were there, the subs training on the pitch, fans stuffing their faces with trays of chips, gents piling into the clubhouse for a pre-match pint and even the guy with a drum! I'm always amazed at the smaller clubs die-hard supporters and it is truly a great part of the non-league.

Sun to the east, Clouds to the west- I never knew Warrington was so tropical
Knowing that kick-off was a good while away yet, I decided to have a wander around the ground and my first stop was at the "Club Shop", which stood tall in all of it's metal storage unit goodness. I popped in to see if there was any cheap merchandise going and to seek a few moments of warmth before kick-off. I spoke to a nice lady who explained that the website had a larger stock whilst also quizzing me about my ground-hopping ways. I feel as though she may have seen me as a madman for travelling 36 miles to watch the Blue and Yellow Army.

Any non-league club worth their salt has an on-sight shed. Good work Warrington
I then progressed to check out the clubhouse which was actually very smart. With the layout and style of a classic Gentleman's club, there was a main bar on the outer of the ground which presumably was a public house to customers who just fancied a pint, but then on the side of that there was another bar, which was inside the ground and could be attended by patrons of the match. I grabbed myself a cheap pint of Fosters, which was a bargain for just 2 and a half quid, before walking around to the other side of the ground in search of a good seat by the half-way line. Another good thing about non-league games, on the whole, is that there is no segregation of fans and it means that the away fans can enjoy their day by having a full selection of facilities at a ground, which is more than some supporters of League sides get. Obviously, in the dizzy heights of the Premier League I think there may well be issues if they decided to let Man United and City fans sit together.
Lovely little clubhouse
To be honest, I think that the seating area at Cantilever Park was very nice and a decent size for the current support at the club. Compared to Queensgate Park and Leek Town's Harrison Park it wasn't quite as top-notch as other grounds I'd seen at this level, but it certainly was adequate and did the job for the home supporters who are the one's who count. Kick-off came at 3pm and all that I could hope for was a more entertaining game than the last time I watched Athletic. The last time I saw them, I was impressed with both sides in defence, but with neither in terms of looking like a good attacking side. Warrington started the strongest, with a heavy advantage of the wind being in Athletic's disadvantage. Pat Weaver often struggled to punt his goal-kicks past the 30-yard mark and as the ball got to a certain height it hung in the air as all 22 players stared at it and wondered if it would fall to his feet.

No chances to speak of after 10 minutes
As the first-half passed by it seemed likely that I may well be in for another Scarborough bore-draw. The away fans were vocal, as they chanted what first sounded like to generic slur of "Sheep, sheep, sheep shaggers", but when I listened in to it the next time actually was just an innocent gesture of "Sea, sea, seasiders". I clearly wasn't the only one admiring the Scarborough defence as they easily overpowered the home-side in every attack they threw in their direction, as one woman behind me commented that "they are a big side, aren't they?". Shortly after this, the first clear chance fell to the number 10 for Town within the penalty area. Unfortunately for the striker, instead of smashing the ball into the net, he only managed to sweep the feet away from his strike-partner and therefore missing the ball.

There was more changes in the weather than there was shots in the first-half
As half-time drew close the chants from the away fans, who were sharing an area with the home fans, turned into a friendly back-and-forth of the following, "Top of the league, you're having a laugh" and the response of "We are top of league, we said we are top of league". All in the name of banter, it was good to see the fans not being disheartened by a drab first-half of few chances. As I walked around to the clubhouse in preparation for the whistle, I witnessed the best two moments of the half. Firstly, the Warrington right-back showed an excellent piece of skill as he nutmegged Athletic's captain before running on to the return pass. And then just before the whistle, Scarborough had a chance of their own as their answer to Stephen Ireland powered a stunning 25-yard strike through the air, only for it to be met by the home keeper who produced a top save. Following this, I quickly headed inside to join an already sizeable queue at the bar. Half-time was all but over by the time I'd grabbed a pint, but I must admit that the atmosphere in the clubhouse was entertainment enough at the break. The home fans were very noble and where possible they gave way to the away fans, with a great amount of respect given to those who have travelled from the east coast. The bar-person also offered her light-hearted comments to help keep the punters happy. The person in-front of me in the queue had ordered a single-serve bottle of white wine, which because of being in a glass bottle had to be poured into a plastic cup. Upon searching the bar she could only find a pint-sized cup, which made for the comical result of what looked like a shot of wine. She simply looked at the customer and said "not very sexy, is it?".

Duh, duh, duh, duh, pint of hail
When I got back around to my seat I instantly noticed the change of temperature. Partially because of the hail falling upon me, but also largely because most of the fans sitting within range of it had moved further back towards the shelter. I stood (sat) my ground and remained where I was as the second-half got under way. The tannoy announcement let me know that a very respectable 502 were in attendance today and from a quick head-count around the ground it seemed that around 50 or so were away travellers. The Seasiders were obviously spurred on by the manager's half-time team talk and they came out with all guns blazing, creating some good passages of play and frustrating the clear favourites with their solid defence. As the ball came out of play towards where we were sitting, one fan shouted to the left-back from Warrington to let him know that Northwich were losing 2-0 at home to Farsley Celtic, meaning that a win for Town would put them 12-points clear at the top. As Scarborough continued to squander chances it seemed inevitable that with 15-minutes to go I was destined to see another 0-0 draw.

The Warrington fans, not to be confused with Sweden fans, were dreading a draw
The referee today, Mr Shaun Mohan, had a good game this afternoon and didn't over-complicate matters when it came to calling fouls. The lino's took some stick, as you would expect, but in general there wasn't much to complain about as Mohan tried to keep the ball rolling wherever possible. So much so that a crunching late tackle from a Scarborough midfielder was considered to be a-okay by the man in-charge. A few minutes later though, as Warrington started to look positive in the final-third, a free-kick was given from a decent position. With 10-minutes to go, this was the chance for the leaders to steal a victory over a resilient Athletic. Up stepped 3 players to surround the ball. Number 4 in centre-midfield, number 3 at left-back and the big centre-back number 5 all looked eager to have a shot at goal. In unlikely circumstances, it was James McCarten in the heart of the central defence for the home-side who took the run up, curved the ball around the Scarborough wall and watched his strike nestle into the goal. Town 1-0 Scarborough. As much as I felt sorry for the away side, who had looked the more likely to break the deadlock until this point, I couldn't help but also be relieved for the home-side who really needed another win. There wasn't much in the way of fightback from the demoralised visitors, as Town seemed very happy to see the game out. There was still a hint of suspense in the final 5 though, as one fan aggressively looked at his phone during a Scarborough attack and said to his mate, "who the bloody hell is ringing me while I'm at the footy!?" At full-time I heard reports that Northwich had been spanked 5-0 at home to Farsley, meaning that as I left Cantilever Park I could well be leaving the home of the 2015/16 Evo-Stik North Champions.

In the end, a very important victory for the Yellow and Blue Army
I hastily made my departure from the ground as the majority of the fans stayed to congratulate the team. My friend Will, who has watched a few Scarborough games this season, will not have been surprised that the Boro side went away with another goalless defeat. However, against the top-side in the league, they certainly will have gained respect from the home-side. Respect won't help the Seasiders stay up, but it will give them the confidence to hopefully go into February knowing that they can play good football against the better teams in the league. Overall, I'd have to say that compared to Stafford Rangers in the South Division, Warrington Town still have a fair way to go in their pursuit for greatness, but considering they have struggled in the mid-table of this league for so long, I think they are doing very well indeed.

Don't worry Warrington fans, I'm sure that Old Trafford has parts of the ground like this too

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