The Colls FA Cup run took us to sunny East Manchester, Gorton to be exact, in the first round qualifying of the 2012-2013 FA Cup campaign. After convincing wins away at Dinnington Town and Congleton Town it was now time to face fellow NWCFL Division One outfit Abbey Hey.
Abbey Hey had drawn Sheffield FC away in the previous round, and after two postponements due to waterlogged pitches they finally beat them; much to the surprise of all interested. We were fully expecting an away trip across the Pennines to Sheffield, but as is so often the case with The FA Cup… the underdog won.
The Gibbons family were celebrating a wedding anniversary at a posh hotel in Sale at 18:30, so the fact Abbey Hey won was perfect for me. It meant I could watch my third Colls FA Cup match of the season, before then dashing across Manchester for the party. Brilliant!
Grandad decided he’d go with me to the match, so we used public transport to get to Gorton, which was interesting to say the least.
After catching the 12:45 train from Atherton to Manchester Victoria, we then caught the Metrolink up to Piccadilly Gardens. Piccadilly was its usual busy self on a sunny day, and I could have happily stayed in the Gardens sunbathing… but we had a football match to get to! Having only a few minutes before the 201 bus arrived, we were soon on our way to Gorton.
It took longer than expected on the bus as the drivers fancied a break, and a swap outside the Stagecoach depot. Whilst this was going I was listening to “The Courteeners – What Took You So Long?” – One of the lyrics is “What took you so long, was there a queue at the post office? Was there a double decker Stagecoach, you just happened to miss?” – I have a habit of listening to relevant songs on groundhops. Finally a new driver stepped on the bus and Grandad reckoned he was definitely Polish; so I took his word for it. Soon we drove past Belle Vue Stadium, and eventually got off the bus outside Tesco Extra in Gorton. Our bus driver, you know? The Polish one?… Who was in fact IRISH, was very pleasant, and told us where to catch the next bus.
The next, and final stage of the journey was to catch the 171 to the ground. It was whilst sitting at the bus stop I encountered a very strange woman who reminded me of Sue off the sitcom Trollied, or for you older readers, Joan off Early Doors. So for blog purposes we shall call this strange woman Jean.
Joan needed to sit down as she had just had her “back blasted” – whatever that means. I’m hoping it wasn’t a euphemism. If it is, I never want to go to Gorton Market again. Joan then went on to produce two Catholic related brochures which she had been handed, before then giving us all a lecture on how she didn’t need the brochures as she knew all of the Bible. Her final act before the 171 bus thankfully arrived was to show us all her brand new leggings, a peach of a bargain at just £7!
Now, you may have thought – just as we did – that when we got on the bus that would be the end of Joan. Well, you are much mistaken. She sat behind us on the bottom deck, and then began to rattle off exactly the same story to all of the other passengers. She went into more detail about having her back blasted. I sincerely hope that next time she goes into Gorton she has her mouth blasted rather than her back.
It was whilst sitting on the 171 bus I momentarily got caught daydreaming and thought I was travelling down the Khyber Pass. It seems the local council don’t really care about the state of the roads. The bus was travelling at around 5mph down a road which looked like it had been bombed, when suddenly it stopped, and its doors opened. Off we stepped, and found ourselves stood outside 3 peculiar looking shops slap bang in the middle of a vast council estate. I felt a little out of place in my Sunday best.
I needn’t have worried though. My initial worries about being mugged and/or kept hostage by locals were soon erased when I realised there was absolutely nobody around. Not one person to be seen. The area had an eerie feel to it, one which I hadn’t really experienced for a while. I suppose you could call it a sheltered childhood.
Arriving at the ground we were greeted by two friendly and helpful blokes who directed us to the clubhouse where we could get a drink. I knew that Tony and Johnny would probably be up there partaking in pie photoshoots and other such groundhopping festivities, so up I went. No sooner had I walked into the room I saw both of them sat on the nearest table; both being their usual unsociable selves, typing away on their phones. Maybe this was how they were communicating? After all, Johnny has been suffering with toothache for well over a week now! Perhaps his ability to come out with brilliantly timed one liners was no more?
The Colls Ultras were also up in the social club having arrived via Minibus and car.
Grandad and I sat down with Tony and Johnny whilst we had a quick pre match pint, to take us up to kick off. I also had a quick flick through the days matchday programme, which was fairly impressive. It had a nice laminate front, with a nice simple design. There wasn’t much writing in the programme, but it had all recent results etc, so for only £1 you couldn’t complain. What did strike me about the matchday programme though was the number of adverts for butchers/meat companies. So ladies and gents, if you are in Manchester and need some meat… head to Gorton.
The sun was still shining, and the teams were led out by female referee Jane Simms, to the sound of “Build Me Up Buttercup”. What on Earth was going on? Was I dreaming? (I am of course joking. I thought Jane did very well, and her dance along with the song was very impressive). The only thing which could have topped Janes performance was if the Abbey Hey female physio would have joined her on the pitch for a dance. She probably wouldn’t have turned down the opportunity, she always seemed a bit too keen to get on to the pitch. Okay, okay. Enough. Back to the match.
Colls were of course the underdogs with Abbey Hey favourites to leave our division as champions this season, so it was no surprise when the home side took the lead after just 8 minutes. Goalkeeper Josh Harris had no option but to rush out to the ball over the top. The ball came loose after the 50-50 challenge, and Wesley Harney was on hand to finish. He kept his calm, and hit the ball into an empty net from 25 yards out.
The away side then took the game by the scruff of the neck, and began to enjoy a lot of prolonged possession. Paul Prescott came close on 14 minutes, but his shot went just wide of the post. For all of Athertons possession and skilfull play, they rarely threatened to penetrate the Abbey Hey backline, much to the frustration of Emil who you could now hear from the other side of the ground.
The final chance of the first half came when Brad Cooke curled a free kick just over the bar from 25 yards out. He nearly hit the strange lads who had turned up at the match, and had decided to set up a game of jumpers for goalposts behind the goal. Still… at least they weren’t the cheap man who was watching non-league football from the top of a nearby hill!
I had been forewarned by Tony that Abbey Hey serve the pie of the devil; Hollands to you uneducated lot. With this in mind I was slightly disappointed that I wouldn’t be indulging in a handmade local pie, but not to worry, a pie is a pie! By the time I had arrived back in the clubhouse my Grandad was sat there with a pie and a pint already waiting for me. What a magical moment!
I was “mid-pie” when Grandad told me a story which will stay with me forever. Atherton player Karl Atherton had been carried off injured with ankle ligament damage. At the same time my Grandad decided he would venture off to the toilet. Grandad somehow found himself in the away team dressing room, where Karl was creasing over in pain. Think of it as a non-league version of the bloke who went looking for the toilets at the 2010 World Cup, before then bumping into David Beckham in the changing rooms.
After hearing that story which I will be telling my Grandchildren, when I take them to Abbey Hey in many years to come, it was time to head back down for the second half. I always look forward to the second half of Atherton Collieries matches because after all… We are a “second half team”.
The second half performance resembled that of the first first. Again, for all of Athertons possession they still looked unlikely to spark an FA Cup comeback. You sensed that every time Abbey Hey attacked they could score, especially with the threat of Martin Pilkington.
Eventually Colls got what they deserved. Nothing.
In the closing minutes Liam Murray ensured that the home side would be progressing to the next round. A mixture of great play down the wing and poor defending saw the ball squared to Murray who scrambled the ball into the back of the net. 85 minutes, 2-0. Hopes of seeing an Atherton team play at Wembley over for at least another year.
Now, I was going to tell you how Emil reacted in my own words, but after reading Tony’s blog, I thought he described it brilliantly, so here we are:
“The Colls, still with no real attacking ideas were knocking the ball about as if they were 2-0 up rather than down and this sent our passionate Colls traveller into overdrive who was now venting at anyone who had the misfortune of making eye contact with him! At one point he even threw his Racing Post to the floor in a fit of rage!”
When Emil had slammed his Racing Post to the floor, the Gorton representative for “Crap Non League Clothes” came running along with his bin bag, asking if the paper was rubbish, to which Emil then shouted “NO! I might have some winners yet!”
With 5 minutes still to play, most teams would have gone all out attack in an attempt to win a replay. However, Colls STILL continued to knock the ball around with no real purpose at all. It was both very disappointing and frustrating for all involved.
Eventually with 30 seconds remaining, defender Simon Howard pumped a long high ball up field. It fell to Brad Cooke who turned the defender well, before smashing the ball into the bottom left hand corner from close range. No sooner had Cooke picked the ball out of the back of the net, the referee blew her whistle, and that was it.
Now, if only all of us knew who we would have drawn in the next round, I think the players would have left the pitch in tears. FC Halifax Town, away from home in The FA Cup. It pains me typing it. It’s what you dream of really isn’t it. Halifax Town v Atherton Collieries. Halifax! Atherton away at Halifax! Halifax hosting cup minnows Atherton Collieries! Atherton Collieries playing in front of 1,500 people… it’s not worth thinking about really is it? HALIFAX!
I may go to Halifax Town v Abbey Hey in my Atherton Collieries shirt just to cheer myself up a little. We can’t complain though, the better team on the day won. Best of luck to Abbey Hey at Halifax. Let’s hope they do the NWCFL Division 1 proud.
Personally, I blame the defeat on the fact Abbey Hey didn’t play in a yellow and black kit. If you look back to both the Dinnington Town and Congleton Town matches, they both played in yellow kits, and we beat them. Here’s hoping next season we draw teams in yellow kits all the time, and play Oxford United in the final.
I didn’t have time to have one last walk around the ground before I left, as the taxi which my Grandad ordered had arrived bang on the final whistle. We got back into Manchester pretty quickly, before then catching the Metrolink from Mosley Street to Brooklands. With half an hour to spare until the Gibbons party started, we went into the Brooklands Tavern and watched Sale Sharks v Saracens on the TV. It was quite fitting really, seeing as though we were sat only 200 yards from where Sharks used to play.
It had been a brilliant day out, made even better by the glorious weather. Abbey Hey is definitely a ground I will be visiting again in the future. I’ll be honest, I was very sceptical when we arrived on the estate, but when I found this gem of a ground tucked behind the houses, I was shocked. The place is well kept, and I think it’s safe to say that the pitch puts some Football League grounds to shame.
Best of luck to Abbey Hey in the next round against Halifax. Do North West Counties football proud!
You can read Tony and Johnnys thoughts on the day here (Well worth a read as usual!) – http://1legonthecup.com/2012/09/14/step-4-abbey-hey-fc-v-atherton-collieries-fc-facup-3/
Finally, I’d just like to say a huge thank you to my Grandad for organising the trip out, and for providing such good company during the day. (He’s the one with the walking stick!)
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND – 19.5 miles
- ADMISSION – £2 as student
- PROGRAMME PRICE – £1
- PIE – £1.50