Saturday, 31 October 2015

Rochdale Town 2 1874 Northwich 4

FA Vase, first round
Attendance: 142

For the first time in 11 years I don’t have an FA Cup first round tie to go to. No ties within striking distance tickled my fancy. In fact I’ve pretty much done all the clubs that are ever likely to reach the proper rounds which led me to look further down the pyramid for an alternative fixture a week in advance. Today’s Vase tie caught the eye even though it was at a stage of the competition that’s so premature it’s hardly ejaculated. Why? I’ve long wanted to visit Rochdale Town having seen pics and 1874 Northwich are well supported (as I found out at Nelson two years ago) which meant the match would have the semblance of an occasion.

As soon as I arrived at the Mayfield Sports Centre I knew I was going to enjoy myself more than, frankly, as a neutral I ought. This is a cracking little ground, oozing character, and right up there with the manifold delights of its league rivals from other Lancashire mill towns, Nelson, Padiham, Bacup and Colne.

The ramshackle main stand, with painted wooden benches and an assortment of individual backs, is a gem. It comes in two parts that are held together in a linked arms sort of way by an uncovered new steel frame. Perched precariously on top and looking decidedly decommissioned is what looks like the upper saloon deck of a steamer and a static caravan. (There was one of those overlooking a corner). The stand is flanked on either side by giant dugouts easily mistaken for further spectator accommodation.

The smaller stand opposite follows suite being surmounted by a sort of bird hide shed, similarly unpopulated. The fragility of the structure is belied by the grandeur of its name: the Rochdale Fusiliers Association Galipoli (sic) Stand. Marvellous. Town used to have an equally fabulous monicker: Castleton Gabriels, which dates back to when players had to belong to the nearby St Gabriels Catholic church.

Behind the stand stretch the Pennine hills, today shrouded in a mist penetrated by a church spire and electricity pylons. The sole colour in the backdrop belonged to the red coat of a grazing horse which had been dulled by a very damp week. Later a sub warming up squelched with every step. One of the ends is covered and the other has three open terraces, hinting, as they always do, at bigger crowds in bygone days.

The khazi at the terraced end has a smirksome slogan inside and a great view to boot meaning you need not miss a moment of the action as you widdle. Judging from the stench and leaves clogging the drain this isn’t one of those conveniences that is inspected on the hour with the results recorded on a log.

“Problems with the lights?” I asked a geezer in an orange tabard in the gathering gloom as he investigated the interior of a steel cabinet immediately to my right. “Yes,” he replied, before explaining that the rugby league side that shares the ground hadn’t left the gadget that’s needed to open the cabinet to access the floodlight switch. “All they’re thinking about is their big semi-final today,” he griped. He found a solution a little later, though, although the lights behind one goal remained off throughout. As my gaze returned to the action, I put my hand onto a barrier and into contact with the remains of a meat pie merging with the rust.

What about the action? Well, “’74” (as the away fans addressed them) went in deservedly two up at the interval, in keeping with their status a step higher than their hosts in the North West Counties League. Town rallied earlier the second half and got one back only for ’74 to reinstate their leading margin soon after and seal victory with the best goal of the lot, a mazy run and drive from the edge of the box. Town got a consolation with the last but two kick of the match. (Click here for 25 mins of highlights).

Last season ’74 reached the third round of the Vase and this time I can see them sticking around until after Christmas when the competition really hots up and I hope to return for the main course. As for today I can’t think how I could’ve got better value from a fiver. Loved it.

Not up for the cup: Had I waited to see Rochdale Town in the FA Cup I may have been waiting a long time. They’ve qualified for the competition just once in the last 14 years and lost that tie, last season, 0-6 to Runcorn Linnets. (I had planned to go to the match before it was switched). They lost all six preceding ties between 1994 and 2001. Northwich Victoria, 1874’s parent club, contest the first round proper of the FA Cup against Boreham Wood on Saturday. For more about the internecine recent history of clubs from Northwich see this feature from When Saturday Comes.

1 comment:

Steve Mullington said...

Always good earthy fun in Rochdale.