Sunday 5th August 2012 ko 3pm
North-West Counties League Division One
ROCHDALE TOWN 2 (Barnard 3 Adams 77)
NORTHWICH VILLA 3 (Barnett 3 28 Marshall 55)
The reason for this game being on a Sunday is rather convoluted. Originally slated to be at Northwich on the Saturday, Villa’s new pitch at the former Flixton ground was not ready so the fixture was reversed. However the Mayfield Sports Centre is first and foremost the home of Mayfield Rugby League Club, and they had a home game on the 4th. Handy for me, and judging by the attendance handy for a lot of hoppers.
Rochdale, is probably best known as the birthplace of of the Co-operative movement. The Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, founded in 1844, was the first modern co-operative; the Rochdale Principles are a set of ideals that current co-operatives are based on. For two decades the local MP was Liberal Sir Cyril Smith, reckoned to have been the heaviest British MP ever, having had a peak reported weight of 29 stone 12 pounds. Other famous people to hail from the town are singers Gracie Fields, and more latterly Lisa Stansfield. Actress Anna Friel was born here too.
The club used to be known as Castleton Gabriels and until the 1960s, the club’s players had to be Catholic and regularly attend both church and Sunday school. Once these restrictions were lifted, the club began to progress. The name was changed as a means of attracting more support and sponsorship from the wider Rochdale area, rather than just the Castleton area of the town. Judging by the club’s average attendance of around 30, that gambit hasn’t exactly paid off!
The larger than normal attendance completely threw the Gabriels. The 15 programmes produced had long since sold out when Lee and I had arrived at 2pm, so I suggested they take down names and addresses and do a re-print after the game. In fact they went one better and dashed off to do the re-print there and then. When I finally bought my copy I was even more impressed. The programme wasn’t photocopied, this was professionally done. It made an excellent impression, as did the NWCFL committee who took time to come over for a chat. They couldn’t do much about the fact that the food ran out before half-time, but full marks to this friendly club’s honest endeavour.
The game was fascinating, if only for the opposition. Northwich Villa, in essence are Northwich Victoria’s reserves. Of course, these days things aren’t as simple as that. With Victoria now homeless they are now playing at Stafford Rangers, whilst Villa at Flixton are 55 miles away, and playing under a seperate registration. There’s a new manager, Wale Kwik-Ajet described as “Former Pro'” on the Villa website, he seems to be most famous for missing an absolute sitter for Hamilton Academical against Queens Park, and never being seen again afterwards! This is his first managerial position, and he seems to have put together a decent team.
That said, he was shocked as Ricardo Brandao fired Rochdale into a early lead only for Kwame Barnett to equalise a few seconds later. Barnett was to be the key to the tie, and I suspect the season for Villa. Obviously talented, but suspect of both fitness and attitude, he did enough to win the game for his team but you wonder where he’ll be when the going gets tough. When James Marshall made it 3-1 and Gabriels lost Jason Hill to a suspected broken wrist, the thunderclouds gathering over the centre of Rochdale seemed somehow indicative of the home team’s chances. Nathan Adams’ goal with 13 minutes to go it made the finale interesting but unlike the previous day’s game there was to be no comeback.