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Saturday 19th April 2014 ko 15.00

Conference North

VAUXHALL MOTORS 2 (Tames 32 Clair 60)

WORKINGTON 1 (May 42)

Att 166

Entry £10

Programme £2

Badge £3.50

It’s a quirk of Rivacre Park that you use a different exit from the M53 to reach it than you do for the car plant. Nominally at least you’re in Ellesmere Port, the Cheshire town lying on the south side of the Manchester Ship Canal from the Wirral. It’s a town built on industry generally, and the efforts of the likes of Thomas Telford and William Jessop specifically. If you’ve not been here, but you own a Vauxhall Astra car, then do drive here, your car will be returning home!The ground sits in the middle of the firm’s sports and social facilities, and is a typical Northern Premier League ground adapted for life a ground-grade higher. In fact this would have been a typical end of season relegation scrap but for one terrible detail; on the 5th March the club resigned from the Conference with the following statement from chairman Alan Bartlam.

It is with great sadness that Vauxhall Motors FC have tended their resignation to the Football Conference to take effect from the end of the current playing season.

Vauxhall Motors, like many other football clubs, are confronted with the reality of low gates and ever-increasing costs. This now unsustainable position has been going on for several years despite the tremendous efforts of a dedicated and active committee to try and balance the books.

It is anticipated this season will result in another sizable financial loss eating into a legacy of finances that we were fortunate to inherit over a decade ago. And to do nothing would be foolhardy.

As a responsible committee administering a club that was founded over fifty years ago and a club that we would wish to continue for another fifty, with responsibilities beyond the Football Conference, to some thirty teams, youth, junior and ladies catering for over 400 children within Ellesmere Port and beyond, it has become necessary to withdraw the senior side from the established pyramid.

We have enjoyed nineteen fabulous seasons in that pyramid but now we must restructure, stabilise and rebuild again.

Nothing, of course unusual in that, and its good to see a club admitting to, and acting on the financial realities of the situation they find themselves in. The shocking and puzzling aspect of their departure is their apparent decision to take their reserves place in the West Cheshire League some 5 relegations below their current status. I’ve little doubt that the Northern Premier League would take them, and the North West Counties League have vacancies. There’s obvious wriggle room with that chairman’s statement, and there was obvious disquiet amongst the officials I spoke to. Apart from anything else its a waste of a decent stadium, they could easily find themselves playing on the railed-off pitch next door with another team moving on to the main pitch to gain ground-grading. Meanwhile the team are playing out the season in a state of half shock, half resignation, knowing at the end of it there’s… nothing. Goals aren’t celebrated and the glum supporters quietly watch the action.

Workington’s problems are far more straightforward; rock bottom of the league and needing a win and the footballing equivalent of snookers to even stand a mathematical chance of survival. Their fans made up the majority of the crowd, together with parties of groundhoppers from Germany and the Netherlands. Workington made a presentation to Motors, as a memento of a fixture that won’t be played again for the foreseeable future, and the game was played out in a funereal atmosphere. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I’m not sure I want to again. Football after all is about strong emotions, and I wouldn’t include resignation in that list.

Motors took the lead with Steve Tames ghosting between the centre-halves to slide the ball past on-loan (from Burnley) goalkeeper Daniel Nizic, with the Reds equalising just before half-time with captain Kyle May powerfully heading home Ben McKenna’s corner. His celebration seemed aimed at manager Ian McDonald who’d questioned his loyalty after missing the trip to Gloucester City due to work commitments.

I expected Workington to throw everything at their hosts after the break, but they offered very little and surrendered their place in the Conference in bizarre circumstances. Motors were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Reds’ box, and Nizic lined up his wall to defend his right hand side of the goal. He thought he’d placed himself to cover his left post so was horrified when Karl Clair’s kick skidded in, just inside the post he was meant to be covering. Truth be known the incident killed Workington and despite a late run of corners they never looked like getting a point, let alone the three they needed. Their fans sang, “We’re going down with a whimper,” and it felt like a summary of both clubs’ position, not just the Reds’.