Friday, April 14, 2017

Yaxley FC

Yaxley 3 Peterborough Sports 3 - United Counties League, Premier Division

Yaxley is a village and civil parish in Cambridgeshire and lies approximately 4 miles south of Peterborough, just off the A15 road. Yaxley is situated within Huntingdonshire which is a non-metropolitan district of Cambridgeshire as well as being a historic county of England. The village is located near the Hampton township, and is approximately three miles north-east of junction 16 of the A1(M) at Norman Cross. Yaxley once belonged to the Abbey of Thorney, and at one time had a weekly market and an annual fair. The manor was the property of Colonel Proby in 1910. There was once a small mere on this spot called Yaxley Mere and navigable water between Yaxley, Holme and onwards to the sea at King's Lynn. The peat of the fen here used to be over 10 feet thick with occasional outcrops of Oxford clay, but there is no sand or gravel.

The current Yaxley FC was established in 1962 and joined Division Three South of the Peterborough & District League. In 1963 they were renamed Yaxley British Legion and in 1965 were promoted to Division Two. Although they were relegated back to Division Three South in 1967, they returned to Division Two after winning Division Three South in 1968–69. They won Division Two in 1970–71 and were promoted to Division One. The following year they dropped British Legion from their name. After finishing second in the league for four consecutive seasons, they were promoted to the Premier Division in 1975, the same season in which they won the Huntingdonshire Senior Cup for the first time. The following season they retained the Senior Cup. The club won the Premier Division in 1976–77 and again in 1983–84, a season in which they won the Hunts Senior Cup for the second successive season. In 1986 they were renamed Coalite Yaxley as part of a sponsorship deal. In 1988 they became founder members of Division One of the Eastern Counties League. A change of sponsor in 1990 saw the club renamed Clarksteel Yaxley. In 1992 the club were expelled from the ECL as their Middleton Road ground did not meet the league's requirements (it was in a park, had no stands and needed temporary dugouts to be put in place on matchdays). The club dropped into the Huntingdonshire League. In 1995 the club finally moved to Leading Drove and were accepted into Division One of the United Counties League and won the division at the second attempt, and were promoted to the Premier Division.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to Leading Drove, the journey via the M11, A14 and A1(M) was swift and we arrived at Yaxley in good time to take some early photographs of the ground before venturing along the High Street in search of refreshment. A good Chinese take-away assisted in this respect. Yaxley is clearly a mix of old and new with a number of thatched roof dwellings interspersed with more recent buildings.

It is clear that the ground at Yaxley has undergone tremendous change in recent times, the most notable aspect of this being the installation of a very impressive artificial playing surface. There is a decent sized covered seated stand adjacent to the main club building, which houses the bar, tea bar and changing facilities. This building is L shaped and fits very neatly into the corner of the ground. There are two additional covered areas, much smaller but housing a single row of seats. These are situated along either side of the ground, diagonally opposite each other.

This Good Friday evening fixture probably benefited from not clashing with Peterborough United who played in the afternoon. Also being a local derby, the foresight of the clubs was rewarded by a bumper crowd of 250. Peterborough Sports FC are the newly crowned champions of the United Counties League and were given a guard of honour by their hosts as they entered the pitch before the match. Yaxley themselves are also having a good season, sitting in 3rd place and therefore this fixture promised to be an interesting encounter.

Yaxley led twice in the first period before being pegged back at 2-2 by the interval. An improving Peterborough Sports began to show why they have had such a good season and soon in the second period had taken the lead for the first time. As the match progressed both sides created chances and it was fitting that Yaxley grabbed a 3rd goal in the closing minutes to gain a well-deserved draw. The quality of football was a great advert for the United Counties League – a very enjoyable evening out. This Pieman was back home in Cheshunt for 11pm and as ever, grateful for the lift.

Attendance: 250
Admission: £6:00
Programme: £1:0
Tea: £1:00 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Folkestone Invicta FC

Folkestone Invicta 1 Harlow Town 4 - Isthmian League, Premier Division
Folkestone is a port town on the English Channel, in Kent. The town lies on the southern edge of the North Downs at a valley between two cliffs. It was an important harbour and shipping port for most of the 19th and 20th century. The area of Folkestone has been occupied since at least the Mesolithic era. In 2010, worked flints were discovered below the remains of the Folkestone Roman Villa. The East Cliff area was excavated in 1924 and most recently from 2010 - 2011, which has produced artefacts from the Mesolithic period through to the Roman Era. On the East Cliff, an extensive Iron Age oppidum existed, which produced quern-stones on an almost industrial scale. These querns, or stones used for grinding cereals into flour, were traded for continental exports such as pottery and wine. A modest Roman style villa was constructed over the Iron Age settlement sometime during the first century AD, followed by a more luxurious one in about 200 AD. The villa was abandoned sometime during the third or fourth century for unknown reasons. The major landmark in Folkestone, apart from the harbour, is the Leas, the cliffs above the beach. A Martello Tower stands on the cliff above Copt Point. Built in 1806 as a defence against Napoleon, it has also been a Coast Guard lookout, a family home, a golf clubhouse and a Second World War Naval mine control post. It now houses a visitor centre. The Folkestone White Horse is carved on Cheriton Hill above the Channel Tunnel terminal.

Folkestone Invicta Football Club, which was formed in 1936 and played in the East Kent Amateur League (now the Kent County League), took over use of the Cheriton Road ground in early 1991 after the demise of the old Folkestone club who had enjoyed a long history in the Southern League. Under manager Gary Staniforth, Invicta joined the Winstonlead Kent League and completed the Division Two league and cup double during the 1991-92 season, also winning the Kent Intermediate Shield that season. Invicta achieved senior status and joined Division One of the Kent League, making steady progress in its first two seasons at this level. 

The nearest the club came to another trophy during these two seasons was when they lost the 1994 Kent Senior Trophy Final. The club continued to make good progress in 1998-99 as Southern League football returned to Folkestone. Invicta finished third in the Southern League Southern Division behind champions Havant & Waterlooville and runners up Margate, with the promotion race going to the final day of the season. Invicta also reached the final of the 1999 Kent Senior Cup The club also made its mark in the FA Trophy by beating Conference club Hayes to reach the Third Round before going out 8-4 in an incredible tie away to three-times winners Woking. The 2003-04 season was more successful for Invicta as the club finished fifth in the Eastern Division to win promotion via the re-structuring of the non-league game. The club switched from the Southern League to the Isthmian Premier League for the 2004-05. In 2016 Invicta won the Isthmian League Division One South Championship by 24 points and Manager Neil Cugley completed 1,000 matches as the club's manager.

A direct train service from London Bridge saw this Pieman reach Folkestone Central in around an hour and a half. Folkestone West is a slightly nearer station to the football ground, but local resident and retired colleague Paul Denham suggested the former as it was close to a couple of hostelries in town that he wanted to show us! The Firkin Alehouse on Cheriton Place was our first calling point. Once the site of a hairdressers, this small micro pub is outstanding in quality and range of ales and ciders. There is no bar, you select your choice from the displayed list and your drink is delivered to you from the back room. Oakham Preacher (4.3%) was an inspired choice. The full bodied smooth delicate bitterness was a perfect start to the day in Folkestone. A few doors along from here is Chambers, another pub dispensing a selection of real ales. I enjoyed my pint of English Pale Ale (4.3%). This fine beer is brewed at Hythe by The Range Ales for Chambers.

A swift walk to the ground enabled a further opportunity for real ale in the form of Hardy & Hansons bitter, straight from the barrel – superb. This was in Bar Invicta, one of two bars in the ground. The Cheriton Road ground is a fantastic throw back to a previous era. Three sides of the ground are terraced and sufficiently banked to afford a very good view from all points. One of the ends is fully covered and along part of the remaining side is a decent covered seated stand. Overall this is a fantastic stadium which oozes character.

The two teams had met the previous Tuesday in the reverse fixture. Harlow Town led 2-0 until the 88th minute but two late goals meant that the Kent side enjoyed a share of the spoils. Therefore, the return fixture at Folkestone could be interesting! Played in gusty winds, it was the visitors that adapted best to the conditions and by half time had established a three goal lead. This was extended further after the break and although Invicta did grab a goal, this was merely a consolation. A late red card for a petulant kick reduced the home side to ten men.

Cheriton Road is a joy to visit. A wonderful old fashioned stadium with extremely friendly people. Easy to get to and good beer options. The 17:11 service from Folkestone West was caught with ease and a couple of hours later, via London I was home in Cheshunt.


Attendance: 328
Admission: £10:00
Programme: £1:50 (32 pages)
Tea: £1:00

Thursday, February 16, 2017

KAA Gent

KAA Gent 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0 - UEFA Europa League, Round of 32 1st Leg

Ghent is a city and a municipality in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province and after Antwerp the largest municipality of Belgium. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and in the Late Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe. The municipality comprises the city of Ghent proper and the surrounding towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbrugge, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. The ten-day-long Ghent Festival every year is attended by about 1–1.5 million visitors. Much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. Its centre is the largest carfree area in Belgium. Highlights are the Saint Bavo Cathedral with the Ghent Altarpiece, the belfry, the Gravensteen Castle, and the splendid architecture along the old Graslei Harbour. Ghent has established a blend between comfort of living and history; it is not a city-museum. The city of Ghent also houses three béguinages and numerous churches including Saint-Jacob's, Saint-Nicolas' and Saint Michael's. In the 19th century Ghent's most famous architect, Louis Roelandt, built the university hall Aula, the opera house and the main courthouse. Highlights of modern architecture are the university buildings by Henry Van de Velde.

Koninklijke Atletiek Associatie Gent, is a Belgian football, track and field and hockey club, based in the city of Ghent, East Flanders. The club has been playing in the Belgian Pro League since the 1989–90 season. They won the national league once, in 2014–15, in addition to three Belgian Cup victories. Gent played their home matches in the Jules Ottenstadion in Gentbrugge from 1920 until 2013, when they moved to the Ghelamco Arena. The team colours are blue and white. The field hockey and track and field divisions were founded in 1864, making it one of the oldest sports clubs in Belgium. The club was then known under its French name La Gantoise (and it is still referred to as such in the French-speaking part of Belgium). They changed their name to the current Dutch version in 1971. The football division opened in 1900. The nickname of the club is De Buffalo's, a term coined after a visit of the original Buffalo Bill and his Wild West circus to the city in the early 20th century. Ghent enjoyed a first spell at the highest level in Belgian football between 1913–14 and 1928–29, and a second one from 1936–37 to 1966–67. In the 1970s and 1980s, the club had several promotions and relegations between the first and second divisions, to come back at the highest level in 1989. The club reached the 1991–92 UEFA Cup quarterfinals, which is their best achievement ever in European competitions. 

The Ghelamco Arena (also called Arteveldestadion) was officially opened on July 17, 2013, making it the first new-built Belgian football stadium since 1974. The stadium seats 20,000 and replaced the Jules Ottenstadion, which had been Gent's home since 1920. The stadium hosted its first competitive match on 4 August 2013, when Gent won 2-1 against KV Mechelen. The stadium is situated on the site of the Groothandelsmarkt (Trade Market), near the R4 and the Ringvaart and close to the E17 and E40 motorways. 

A morning Eurostar departure from London St Pancras to Brussels saw this Pieman arrive in Gent early afternoon on the day of the match. A brief stroll around town en-route to my hotel was pleasant and I was able to appreciate the appeal of the place. I was also able to enjoy a few different Belgian beers in a couple of bars. The number 8 bus runs from the centre of town directly to the stadium with the fare being €3. Even a couple of hours before the match, the traffic near the ground was extremely slow and we walked the last bit. UEFA schedule Europa League matches during the commuter rush hour, which is a really clever arrangement!

The stadium is, as you would expect for a new build, decent with a good view afforded from all areas. The away section is tucked away in a corner. The refreshment facilities (like many on the continent) do not accept cash. Vouchers have to be purchased for €2 before you can use them for purchases. However, this itself seems rather daft as the cheapest fare available cost €4. The match itself was a poor spectacle with the home side edging a dull encounter 1-0 against a lifeless Tottenham Hotspur side.
After the match, we managed to squeeze on a solitary number 8 bus which enabled us to get back to town relatively easily, once it had left the immediate vicinity of the ground. I noticed that a lot of the Gent supporters either cycled or walked, which on reflection does seem the better option.

A frustrating evening for the Tottenham Hotspur supporters leaving little margin for error in the second leg at Wembley Stadium.

Attendance: 19,267
Admission: €40
Programme: Only available in VIP and Press Areas (Free)

Friday, January 06, 2017

West Ham United FC

West Ham United 0 Manchester City 5 - FA Cup, 3rd Round

West Ham is in the London Borough of Newham in London. In the west it is a post-industrial neighbourhood abutting the site of the London Olympic Park and in the east it is mostly residential, consisting of Victorian terraced housing interspersed with higher density post-war social housing. The area has been one of the most deprived in the country and as part of the New Deal for Communities programme it forms, with neighbouring Plaistow, a regeneration area. A settlement in the area named Ham is first recorded as Hamme in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 958 and then in the 1086 Domesday Book as Hame. The earliest recorded use of West Ham, as distinct from East Ham, is in 1186 as Westhamma. It is formed from Old English 'hamm' and means 'a dry area of land between rivers or marshland', referring to the location of the settlement within boundaries formed by the rivers Lea, Thames and Roding and their marshes. West Ham is located 6.1 miles east of Charing Cross.

The club was founded in 1895 as Thames Ironworks and reformed in 1900 as West Ham United. The club has traditionally played in a claret and blue home strip with white shorts. West Ham competed in the Southern League and Western League before joining the Football League in 1919; they were promoted to the top flight in 1923, when they also played in the first FA Cup Final at Wembley. In 1940, the club won the inaugural Football League War Cup. West Ham have been winners of the FA Cup three times, in 1964, 1975, and 1980, and have also been runners-up twice, in 1923, and 2006. The club have reached two major European finals, winning the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1965 and finishing runners up in the same competition in 1976. West Ham also won the Intertoto Cup in 1999. They are one of eight clubs never to have fallen below the second tier of English football, spending 59 of 91 league seasons in the top flight, up to and including the 2016–17 season. The club's highest league position to date came in 1985–86 when they achieved third place in the then First Division. Three West Ham players were members of the 1966 World Cup final-winning England team: captain Bobby Moore and goalscorers Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. Celebrity fans include Petch and Iron Maiden.

The team's supporters are famous for their rendition of the chorus of their team's anthem, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" introduced to the club by former manager Charlie Paynter in the late 1920s. A Pears soap commercial featuring the curly haired child in the Millais' "Bubbles" was well known at the time. The child resembled a player, Billy J. "Bubbles" Murray, from local schoolboy team, Park School, where the headmaster was Cornelius Beal. Beal was known locally for his music and rhyme and wrote special words to the tune of "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" whenever any player was having a good game. “I'm forever blowing bubbles, Pretty bubbles in the air. They fly so high, nearly reach the sky,Then like my dreams they fade and die. Fortune's always hiding, I've looked everywhere ... I'm forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.”

The London Stadium (originally known as the Olympic Stadium) is a stadium in Stratford, at Marshgate Lane in the Lower Lea Valley. It was constructed to serve as the home stadium for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, hosting the track and field events and opening and closing ceremonies. It was subsequently renovated as a multi-purpose stadium, with its primary tenants being West Ham United Football Club and UK Athletics. However, the stadium operators arrange many other events for the stadium. The stadium site is on former industrial land between the River Lea (which re-joins the Navigation below Old Ford Lock), the City Mill River, and the Old Pudding Mill River; parts of the Bow Back Rivers. To make room for the stadium, the already partially obstructed Pudding Mill River, a short channel of the Lea which ran from the west side of the stadium south-eastwards across the stadium site, was filled in.

This Pieman had not intended making his initial visit to the London Stadium until May 2017 when Tottenham Hotspur visit in the Premier League. However, a colleague was unwell and unable to attend the match. I was able to offer my services as a late replacement and in doing so, recompleted my set of all current Premier League and Football League venues (“the 92”). I travelled to Stratford and completed my pre-match journey by going a further one stop east on the Docklands Light Railway (Canary Wharf branch) to Pudding Mill Lane. This station is a convenient alternative to the main Stratford station where you have the additional clash with Westfield shopping and is less than ten minutes walk from the London Stadium.

Having grabbed (just) a couple of daylight photographs outside the stadium and purchased match programmes, I was able to have a wander around the site. I was surprised to see that here was still construction work taking place around the Olympic Park but can see that there are a number of long term projects. Pudding Mill lane station being one such building site. I decided to get something to eat and swerved Westfield by opting for some decent fish and chips near Maryland station. It had started to rain by this time and sitting in this restaurant provided a good interlude. When returning to the stadium it was not possible to continue through the Westfield Centre as this route is blocked. Spectators are directed around the centre. Once inside the stadium I was able to take some more photographs and reflect on my only previous visit (2012) for a track and field evening at the Paralympics.

My seat for the match was in the lower tier along the side; tenth row near the half way line and the view was superb. History was being made as this was the first ever FA Cup-tie to be staged at this venue. City led 3-0 at the break; Yaya Toure starting the rout by firing a debatable penalty into the bottom left corner. Havard Nordtveit bundled Bacary Sagna's teasing cross into his own net, just 146 seconds before David Silva's composed tap-in. Shortly after the restart, Sergio Aguero cheekily diverted in Toure's shot and John Stones headed in his first Blues goal as the visitors comfortably saw the game out. I felt that Manchester City could have stepped up another gear if necessary. Health and Safety is clearly taken seriously at this venue and many of the home supporters willingly joined in with an emergency evacuation from late in the first half through to full time. My walk back to Stratford station was slower than previously experienced due to congestion but still only took around twenty minutes. An interesting if unexpected evening out in East London!

Attendance: 56,975
Admission: £25:00
Programme: £3:50 (100 pages)
Tea: £2:30 (not for me at those prices)
Subsequent visit to this venue

5 May 2017 - West Ham United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0 - Premier League - Attendance: 56,992

Monday, December 19, 2016

Leiston FC

Leiston 5 Harlow Town 2 - Isthmian League, Premier Division

Leiston is a compact town close to the Suffolk Coast, between Aldeburgh and Southwold. Boasting a leisure centre with indoor Olympic size swimming pool & gym, a large supermarket and a variety of caravan and campsites. Leiston is also the closest town to the Sizewell Power station and Sizewell Beach. The town was actually an ancient Saxon settlement and you can see signs of this at Leiston Abbey ruins. Once a very wealthy Abbey, this fell into disrepair after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, but is now a stunningly beautiful ruin and home to a national school for young chamber music players. Leiston also offers the oldest purpose built cinema in Suffolk, which celebrated its centenary in 2014. The opening of a railway line in the 19th century brought a new kind of engineering prosperity to the town, and in 1862 Richard Garrett was employing over 600 workers at his Leiston Works engineering plant. Steam engines, munitions, shell making lathes and box making machines were all engineered here but it finally closed as a commercial business in 1980. Unfortunately, the railway line closed for passengers in 1966, so the nearest station (Liverpool Street line to Ipswich, then Lowestoft line from Ipswich) is a couple of miles away in Saxmundham.

The football club was established in 1880 and was initially closely linked to the Richard Garrett Engineering Works, playing at the old Recreation Ground adjacent to Park Hill, with players changing in the White Horse Hotel or at the Works Hall. They reached the final of the Suffolk Senior Cup in 1892, 1897 and 1904, losing on each occasion, although they did win the Junior Cup in 1895. In 1894 they joined the North Suffolk League, which they played in until 1909. Between 1912 and 1914 they also played in the Ipswich & District League. After World War I the club was reformed as Leiston Works Athletic and rejoined the Ipswich & District League and the East Anglian League. In 1935 the club was reformed as Leiston. In 2001 the club stepped up to Division One of the Eastern Counties League and in 2004 was promoted to the Premier Division. The club reached the final of the Suffolk Premier Cup three times in succession between 2006 and 2008, but lost on each occasion; 3–2 after extra time against Lowestoft Town in 2006, 8–0 to Ipswich Town reserves in 2007, and on penalties to Needham Market in 2008. In the same season they beat Brentwood Town on penalties to win the East Anglian Cup. In the 2008–09 season the club reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time after beating Conference club Lewes 3–1 in a replay. In the first round, the club was drawn at home to Conference North club Fleetwood Town. After drawing 0–0 in front of a record crowd of 1,250, they lost the replay 2–0. In 2010–11 Leiston won the Eastern Counties League Premier Division, earning promotion to Division One North of the Isthmian League. This was followed by winning the title and achieving back-to-back promotions, moving up to the Isthmian League Premier Division.

To reach Leiston by public transport can be something of a challenge. Therefore, I was particularly pleased to offered a lift to this match. The journey via the M25, A12 and A14 was straighforward but it had been foggy all morning and this was not lifting. Accordingly, visibility was not great. The nearerer we got to Leiston and kick off time, it was not unreasonable to question wether to match would be able to take place.

On arrival at Victory Road, we were immediately struck by the friendliness of Leiston and in particular the people running the football club. Everyone I spoke to had a kind word and it is clear to see that the football club is very much a focal point of this relatively small Suffolk community.

In terms of spectator facilities, there is a covered seated stand running along one side of the pitch. For some of the opposite side, there is a covered terrace and this met at the halfway point by the extensive clubhouse building. Which contains a decent bar and other refreshment facilities, an impressive boardroom and the changing rooms. A separate block contains a smart club shop and the administrative office. Behind one of the goals is a small covered terrace. Oddly you can make out the words 'no standing' on this structure.

It was in the fine clubhouse that this Pieman revelled in a couple of pints of Jolly Holly (4.3%) from the St Austell Brewery - a lovely festive experience! After this pleasant interlude it was time for the match. Harlow Town, having made a good fist of it following their return to this division, started well and for quite a time took the game to their hosts. This endeavour was rewarded when they took the lead. Gradually Leiston came back into the match and by half time had taken the lead, the first goal having taken a wicked deflection.

It was clear to see why Leiston are having are having such a good season and I was particularly impressed with their passing and movement. The final score of 5-2 perhaps underlines this, but Harlow Town will look back on a game where they did not always get the rub of the green. Amazingly for the latter stages of the game, the fog cleared which was good news for those driving home. It will be interesting to watch the progress of Leiston, a further promotion will be to the Conference (2nd tier) which would be remarkable.

Attendance: 224
Admission: £10:00
Programme: £2:00 (48 pages)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Mossley AFC

Mossley 7 Prescot Cables 2 - Northern Premier League, Division One North

Mossley is a small town and civil parish in Tameside, Greater Manchester, England. The town is in the upper Tame Valley in the foothills of the Pennines, 3 miles southeast of Oldham and 8.9 miles east of Manchester. The historic counties of Lancashire, Cheshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire meet in Mossley and local government wards and church parishes correspond to their boundaries It is the only parished area of Tameside, having had a parish council since 1999. Mossley - alongside neighbouring Stalybridge and Uppermill in Saddleworth - helped launch the annual Whit Friday Band Contest, an internationally known brass band event. This came about when the three towns held unconnected brass band events on 6 June 1884. From 1918 to 1950 the town gave its name to the Mossley constituency which returned a Member of Parliament; for most of the period, the MP was Austin Hopkinson, who was notable for being elected as an Independent candidate. 

The football club was formed in 1903 as Park Villa and initially competed in local competition. After just one season the club's name was changed to Mossley Juniors. In 1909 they became Mossley AFC and moved to their present ground Seel Park in 1912 from their previous site at Luzley. The early years of Mossley AFC were spent in the Ashton & District League culminating in a superb season in 1914–15 when Mossley won the League, Manchester Junior Cup and the Lady Aitken Cup, progressing to the South East Lancashire League in 1915, the Manchester Amateur League in 1916, the Lancashire Combination in 1918 and then were founder members of the Cheshire County League in 1919, finishing runners up in the first season in both League and League Cup and returning to win the League Cup the following season beating Sandbach Ramblers in the final. After more than fifty years in the Cheshire League, the Lilywhites were elected to the Northern Premier League in 1972. During the late 1970s, Mossley grew into a formidable force in non-league football. They won successive League titles in 1978–79 and 1979–80 and finished runners-up in each of the next three seasons. With manager Bob Murphy at the helm the club also saw its greatest moment. May 1980 saw the Lilywhites at Wembley Stadium in the final of the FA Trophy where Mossley lost 2–1 in the final to Dagenham, their first defeat in 31 games.

Having caught the 09:00 train from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly and strolled across to Manchester Victoria, I was well placed for my onward journey to Mossley. The trains to Mossley are hourly, but This Pieman was inspired to catch an alternative service to Stalybridge (one station before Mossley) in order to visit the splendid buffet bar on the eastbound platform. I had ventured here previously some years back and was keen to repeat the experience as the place is a shrine to railway memorabilia, real ale and (although not eating) some fantastic food. It was rather busy but the service was excellent and I was able to enjoy a pint of Hopton (4.4% £2:90) from the Thornbridge brewery. 

After this brief interlude, I was able to catch the next train to Mossley and five minutes later I was walking to the ground. Seel Park is reported as being less than half a mile from the railway station and I agree with this. However, what I had not expected and was not prepared for, was the very steep climb up to the ground. My efforts were rewarded when I eventually spotted the floodlights. By this time I was on level ground, which in this vicinity is at a premium. 

Seel Park is one of those traditional type venues that make the groundhopping hobby so rewarding. There is a covered seated stand that straddles the half way line, a covered terrace directly opposite and a similar terrace behind one of the goals. The opposite end of the ground is uncovered, but is raised and like the other areas, affords a good view of the playing area. The location of the stadium is such that the surrounding Pennine hills provide a tremendous backdrop. On a gloomy overcast day, as it was for my visit the mist on the hills formed quite a picture but am glad it stayed on the hills! Having taken ground photographs and chatted to the friendly officials on the gate and selling match programmes, I adjourned to the clubhouse where the early Watford v Everton match was being shown on the big screen. It was here that I entered the festive mood and delighted in a pint of Rocking Rudolph (4.2% £3:00) from Hardy & Hanson. 

I have always enjoyed the occasion when I have visited clubs in the Northern Premier League and this match was no exception. However, I was not expecting the avalanche of goals that I was to witness. The home side scored five without reply in the first period. There were a further four goals after the break, but these were shared. At times Prescot Cables held their own in this encounter, but overall Mossley, in particular Mike Fish (4 goals in the first period) were far too strong.

The walk back down to the station was a lot quicker than the earlier assent. The 17:41 train was delayed by 14 minutes but did go on to Bolton, where I was staying. I really enjoyed my trip to Seel Park and recommend a visit to anyone interested. The facilities, friendly welcome and magnificent setting all combine to offer a great experience. The abundance of goals was a bonus of course, as was the real ale in the clubhouse. When Mossley played at Wembley in 1980, this Pieman was there. Little did he know that decades later he would be visiting Mossley to watch a match at their ground.

Attendance: 130
Admission: £8:00
Programme: £2:00 (32 pages)
Pie, Peas and Gravy: £2:20