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Saturday 16th August 2014 ko 15.10

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round

WINSFORD UNITED 0

ATHERSLEY RECREATION 1 (Bennett 56)

Att 107

Entry £6

Programme £1.50

 

There are two great motorways heading north in England, the M1 and M6 but it does pay to have a series of back-up plans if you decide to take either of them on! For that the best modus operandi is the The Football Traveller, in fact I’m sure there’s been many a hopper stuck in a tail-back on the M6 that, frustrated at it all, grabs the little magazine for somewhere to go.

The idea had been to watch Nelson FC, a real cradle-of-the game assignment, and an urban contrast with the rural Forest of Dean football I’ve been watching for the last few weeks. With the M6 having killed off my chances of watching Nelson, I turned off the motorway and immediately drove past a dairy farm with the cows patiently awaiting milking. “Such is life” I thought.

The suffix “Wich” does seem to be popular in this part of Cheshire. The likes of Northwich, and Middlewich grew important through salt mining, the Norse term, “Wic” means “bay,” a nod to the traditional method of extracting salt through evaporation.

Winsford was founded on salt too, come to think of it, not putting salt on my chips, was rather sacrilegious of me, especially as the town still sports its salt mine, one of only 3 left in the UK. These days the area is a designated “New Town,” which has meant a massive influx of Manchester overspill.

The Barton Stadium is the kind place a hopper loves, with nooks and crannies a’plenty. The stadium used to host greyhound racing, and the outline of the track is still visible, as well as the boarded-up Tote, and kennel areas. For students of stadium architecture, the body of the stand is similar to those at speedway tracks such as Stoke, and Perry Barr, Birmingham.

What the casual visitor may not pick up on is that the club used to be Welsh! They were formed in 1883 as Over Wanderers are entered the Welsh Combination, despite being roughly 20 miles into England!  After folding for the First World War the reformed club entered the Cheshire League, and from there into the North West Counties League and up into the Northern Premier League. However rough times hit, and the club were relegated 3 times in 4 years and found themselves at the Step 6 North West Counties League Division Two for 2003-4. They were promoted in 2007 to the now rebranded NWCL Premier Division where they remain to this day. A 20 year-old Neville Southall played for the club before moving to Bury, then on to Everton.

Athersley Recreation have a much shorter history, being formed as late as 1979. The club from Barnsley have former Halifax, Birmingham and West Bromwich forward Geoff Horsfield as a famous son, and it was he who put up half the funds to secure the lease on their Sheerian Park home. Perhaps it was only fitting that I should be present to watch their first ever FA Cup game, after all with my GroundhopUK hat on we did set a ground record of 507 for their Northern Counties East groundhop game where they beat Askern Villa 8-1 on a freezing night. Here’s the article.

This game was never going to see anywhere near that level of goalscoring. It was a game for the powerful and committed, rather than the creative will o’ the wisp. All too often the tackling was late, the final ball misplaced, and the shot snatched.

The referee booked six, but Athersley did take the game with a classic piece of power football, Lee Bennett brushing off 2 challenges to slide his shot underneath Andy Jones in the home goal, but did he commit a foul in the build-up?

Athersley celebrated, Winsford looked crestfallen but I walked back to the car imagining ever footballer’s dream, to play at Wembley Stadium. For Athersley that’s now a mere 13 games away.

The latest in the series of Edward VIII post boxes is to be found on the intersection of Brackensdale Road and Greenland Avenue in the Mackworth district of Derby.