Saturday, 25 October 2014

Warrington Town 1 North Ferriby United 0

FA Cup, fourth qualifying round
Attendance: 691

‘Welcome to Warrington. Home of the Warrington Wolves’ read the sign after my turn off the M62. Well, blow me. Always thought the Wolves played in St Helens. A rather unnecessary sign, perhaps, but one that underlines that Warrington is very much a rugby league rather football town. The step 4 football club hasn’t shared the Wolves’s fortunes but they do have the same nickname of The Wire in recognition of Warrington’s history of steel wire manufacture which explains the steel sculptures on the roundabouts approaching the town centre.
The club should really be The Wire Men or something similar. Just calling them The Wire is a bit like referring to Northampton not as The Cobblers but The Shoe. Still it works for The Iron (Scunthorpe) and gives endless possibilities for headline writers (more of which later).

I began enjoying the afternoon immediately after I’d paid my tenner admission for my son and I (fantastic value) and entered the ground. The first thing I saw was a garden shed as a programme shop with two animated fellas selling pin badges and programmes as if they were at Petticoat Lane and, beyond that, a B&Q-type gazebo for flogging golden goal tickets. I entered at the same time as a man in a dog collar, a Tweedle Dee-shaped Ferriby superfan who I’d spotted two rounds ago at Cleethorpes, another away supporter in a white pith helmet and geezer in the classic 60s West Ham away shirt.

The clubhouse is what you might call open plan. VIP suite? That will be the table with a plate of biscuits. Press box? That’s the table opposite with the fella on his laptop. Among the early arrivals was George Riley, the sports reporter on 5 Live Breakfast who had also attended the previous round’s replay against Colwyn Bay. (This was Warrington’s seventh match in the competition this season.) At the top of the stairs is a fantastic Romeo and Juliet balcony with club initials on the balustrade.

An understated, characterful ground, Cantilever Park boasts a wonderful mish-mash of stands of differing vintages and, it seems, structural integrity. The backdrops are great too. Overlooking the ground in the same corner as the clubhouse is a chapel and little white villa and behind the goal, a new all-weather pitch where lads played oblivious to the main event just a slide tackle away. The view towards the far end of the ground is framed by the Cantilever Bridge (steel, of course, and from which the ground gets its name) over the Manchester Ship Canal and an apartment block which affords the same sort of free aerial view that Man City fans sought of the CSKA Moscow match behind closed doors last Tuesday.

Moments before the start a drummer struck up the best beat I’d heard since Basingstoke. “Wire on the telly, Wire on the telly,” the lads beside him sang before addressing the Ferriby fans as: “You’re just a bus stop in Grimsby.” The scene was well and truly set for a what was to be a cracking contest between two sides seeking to reach the first round proper for the first time in their histories.

The match was pretty even throughout despite the two division gap between the sides. Warrington had two good chances in the first half and, at the other end, their goalie nearly gifted a goal to the visitors when he spilt a shot. The turning point came mid-way in the second half when the Ferriby skipper was dismissed for pushing over a Warrington player. Facing 10 men and their tails up, Warrington entered their best spell of the match and crowned it when Field (sporting the finest Jesus hairstyle this side of Jonathan Woodgate) burst through the midfield to beat the North Ferriby offside trap and lob the onrushing goalie before tapping home.

As the tension mounted and number of spectators on the balcony of the apartment block swelled from one to three Ferriby surged back and put the hosts under huge pressure especially from a series of corners. Their 6ft 5 inch centre forward Denton looked forever menacing but the Wire goalie kept his side in the match with a string of five saves. So it did go down to the wire (sorry: couldn’t resist it). At the start of the game I told my son that I could smell an upset and, for once, I was right.

At the final whistle someone rushed onto the pitch with a cardboard cut-out of the FA Cup wrapped in tin foil that had been fixed to the shed door and Metcalfe sprinted over to where we were shuffling out to kiss his girlfriend, a length of cotton wool hanging from his left nostril as it had done since an earlier clash of heads (with the oppo, not the girlfriend). A vintage FA Cup occasion in all respects. My El Clasico.

Programme notes: Inexplicably, the programme inclues a review of four other programmes from random minor clubs, each scored out of 10 according to eight criteria. Chew Moor Brook’s four pager wasn’t much of a bedtime read, apparently. The programme also chronicles that in 1994 Warrington drew Darlington at home in the first round proper of the FA Cup before being knocked out in a replay in the final qualifying round. I like the way that a match that never came to pass is still part of club history. The reference reminds me of how Tow Law came within a replay of playing Arsenal at home in the Cup in 1967.

Star turn: Warrington’s manager is Shaun Reid, brother of ex-Everton, Bolton and England star Peter recently appointed manager of Mumbai City. You can see the brotherly likeness in the interview at the end of these brief highlights.


Rob Wood said...

Wire is actually short for Wirepullers, which was the predominant industry in the Town. I am the younger one of the animated duo selling programmes, its Rob BTW. Hope to see you back soon

Paul Kirkwood said...

Thanks for the clarification, Rob. Good luck in the next round! Will have to come over again when my local lads, Harrogate Railway, are in town.