Saturday 7th March 2020 ko 16.20
North West Counties League Division One South
CHEADLE HEATH NOMADS 1 (Foley 58)
STOCKPORT TOWN 5 (Depieaza 2 20 70 Furguson 12 Middleton 19)
Saturday’s 3rd game on the North West Counties Hop saw a change of locale, from Wythenshawe to the leafy Manchester suburbia of Cheadle. Or if you’re the unfortunate type that thinks along the same lines as me, then the start of second pair of the day’s clubs. While I’d greatly enjoyed Wythenshawe Amateurs’ company, I’d found their rivals Wythenshawe Town’s attempts at one-upmanship grating and their staging frankly poor. That last fact had a massive impact on our next hosts.
Some many remember Cheadle Heath from their Cheshire League days, others may remember Linotype from the same league. The two clubs merged in 2004 to form Linotype & Cheadle Heath Nomads but the Linotype prefix was dropped at the start of last season when the club made the step up into the North West Counties League.
It would be all-too easy to paint that as a natural progression, but the club have made massive strides in getting the ground up to Step 6 standards, and those improvements were tested to the limit for their hop game, and even beforehand!
Beforehand? You may ask, but we’d had to switch the two Cheadle games around to take account of restrictions on Cheadle Heath’s new floodlights. Those restrictions meant the game had to kick-off at 16.20; it wasn’t possible to have it any later, which I do regret, it would have been better if we could given them a little more time before kick-off. That would have given even more opportunity to view the the planes flying in to Manchester airport, although since they do so every 90 seconds perhaps there was enough opportunity!
Even parking the coach took thought. We knew we’d be unable to get it underneath the railway bridge, so we ended up hovering outside someone’s house and shepherding the party underneath the arch, and into the ground. There the club had a problem, although it was the kind of problem I’m sure they liked to have.
Wythenshawe Town’s utter failure to provide anything like a reasonable level of catering saw 434 people either go hungry or go to Tesco. Chris Berezai took the sensible move and phoned Cheadle Heath and told to expect enhanced demand, and that is precisely what happened.
I can’t possibly criticize Cheadle Heath for being swamped, they did the best they could under the circumstances, and sold every single morsel of hot food just before kick-off. It was a supreme effort, I trust a profitable one, and the people at the sharp end handled the situation with good humour. Look no further for the heroes of the hop!
In fact the only issue I had was I missed the first goal! I’d just managed to buy one of the last portions of Chilli con Carne and heard a groan from pitchside. It proved to be the the start of an appalling opening 20 minutes for our hosts where Nomads were caught completely cold and Stockport scored 4 times. By the time Nomads substituted to bolster their shell-shocked defence the game was lost, and it will come as little consolation that they managed to draw the final 70 minutes of the game!
That mad first 20 minutes made me wonder how the club were feeling about the whole “Groundhop” experience after all they’d be asked to cope with. We got the answer at the final whistle, when the PA man thanked everyone for coming and then advertised the day’s final game at Cheadle Town. That stopped me in my tracks for a minute. After all the trouble we’d had at the previous club it was wonderful to hear a club think positively about the next club up, and a rival to boot.
And if you want to know why I help organise events like this, drive straight from work to attend local league committees and travel to grounds that “Normal” people haven’t heard of, it’s clubs like Cheadle Heath Nomads.