“Non-League Day is a celebration of the semi-professional and amateur game and a chance for fans of bigger clubs to experience football at a level they may be otherwise unfamiliar with. Moreover, it helps promote hundreds of clubs across the country who are almost exclusively volunteer run and do so much good for the local community.”
I was off to New Sirs to watch another fiercely contested local derby in the NWCFL Division 1 (regardless of it being Non League Day). With less than 3 miles separating the two teams, it is one match which I was looking for as soon as the fixtures came out.
I had never been to New Sirs before, and to be honest, I didn’t even know of its existence until a few months ago when I researched it. It turns out that I have been travelling within metres of the ground all of my life without realising it. If you look hard enough when travelling from Atherton to Westhoughton, you can just about see some floodlights sticking up over the trees of the neighbouring cricket club.
We picked Grandad up at 14:05, and we arrived at Daisy Hill just 10 minutes later. Parking was very limited, so we had to park on the road leading up to the ground. I think on any other matchday you’d be able to park quite easily, but with it being a local derby and Bolton having no match, more turned out than usual.
The first thing you see when approaching the ground is a peculiar entrance. The exterior really is something special, and I doubt I will ever come across something like it again. I can’t really explain what it is, or what it looks like… but it gives the place a bit of character! If Daisy Hill added a bit of paint here and there, the “thing” would look extraordinary, but as it stands, it looks unloved and forgotten.
After taking a few photos I decided to approach the narrow turnstyle. After my visit to AFC Darwen last season, I found it hard to imagine coming across a more awkward operator, however, Daisy Hill have managed to beat him. I flashed my student card, and asked for a matchday programme.
“We don’t do students here. £6 son.”
“You what? You don’t do students. Everybody else in this division does student prices. £5? £5 to watch Daisy Hill?!”
Now, seeing as though we were in Bolton, I was tempted to dig out the old Peter Kay quote of “How much? You should wear a mask and a striped vest!” but I decided against it as the bloke didn’t look happy with me anyway. Fearing that I would soon be refused admittance to the match, I handed over my £6 (including programme for £1) and squeezed into the ground.
Hardly anybody was in the ground yet. The players were warming up on the pitch. Atherton were in their usual Sunderland gear. Daisy Hill players in their Newcastle gear? Were the two sides purposefully trying to add a bit more of an edge to this local derby?
The ground isn’t the worst I’ve seen, but it is pretty basic. New Sirs has one seated area which is found behind the net. I would strongly suggest testing the seat before sitting on it though, as they do tend to tip over when you make contact with them! Found behind the seating area is the social club and pie hut, which are alright.
On the right hand side of the ground is a covered section. It isn’t the biggest and this is demonstrated by the sign saying “PLEASE MIND YOUR HEAD” – Even all 5ft4 of me nearly hit my head going underneath the shed!
Behind the other net there is absolutely nothing, and the same can be said for the whole of the left hand side of the ground. In fact, the left hand side is so bare, there is a chalk board telling you that you’re not allowed to view the match from down there. Everybody seemed to ignore it though. You were hardly going to get hurt, or get dragged into the perimeter bushes by the infamous non league murderer were you?
With the weather getting to me, I took refuge in the social club before my Dad and Grandad eventually joined me. Usually I would go straight to the pie hut, but after spending the morning in Wigan I was full. Not to worry though, they were only selling Hollands, so I didn’t feel as though I’d missed out.
The two teams had met each other just two weeks ago in the Lancashire Cup. Daisy Hill ran out 3-1 winners after a very convincing performance, against a disjointed Colls side. Since then Colls have added to their squad. Having lost two of their better players – in Gary Burnett and Phil Williams – the club has been keen to bring in fresh faces in an attempt to keep alive dreams of promotion.
New faces include Carl Williams, from AFC Liverpool. Zacary Thomas, from Squires Gate and David Hill who had joined from Runcorn Linnets. All three players arrived from the division above, so hopefully they will bring added quality to the side.
The teams soon emerged on to the pitch. Daisy Hill were in their all blue kit. Colls in their change strip of green shirts with black shorts. Luckily the 1930’s music had stopped booming out of the make shift sound system, allowing everybody to give their ears a rest.
The game started off at a fast pace, with challenges flying in everywhere.
I’ll be honest with you, I have no recollection of the match apart from the goals. I really should have taken a pen and paper and done a report myself, but I was far too busy doing my A-Level homework for Photography! Yes, that’s right, I now have an excuse to go to football matches!
Half time arrived with the score goalless, and I strolled around the pitch before heading to the pie hut for a brew. The queue was quite big, and with only one man running around the hut by himself, I could sense it was going to take a long time. The second half started and I was still queueing for my brew.
When I got to the front the bloke was bright pink, and sweating. Bless him. He told me it had been the busiest he’d been for years, and he hadn’t been able to watch one second of the match. He brewed up brilliantly, and handed me a china mug. It was fantastic! Off I went, back to my seat with my mug to warm up my purple hands.
A minute later and Atherton opened the scoring. It was defender Aaron Cringle who registered his first goal for the club, in rather fortuitous circumstances… although he claims he meant it! I thought rather than describing the goal myself, I would hand responsibilities over to the players themselves. So first up, here is midfielder Paul Townshend, on Cringles goal:
“Andy Walker looked up and clipped a delightful ball into Townshend. Upon hearing the shout from Cringle, he flicked the ball into the path of the advancing right back. What happened next? Only Aaron knows! His first touch took the ball out of his feet. He then looked up and spotted Colls centre forwards in the box. Choosing to ignore these options, he produced the most delicate of chips, catching the keeper off his line as the ball dropped into the back of the net.
Or, alternatively, and honestly, he miss hit a cross and it went in. The Gangnam Style celebration which followed left a lot to be desired!”
After receiving that description, I thought it would only be fair to let Aaron describe his first ever Colls goal too:
“I gave Townshend the shout to flick it on, as I was free behind them. As it was coming to me, I looked up and saw Paul Atherton at the back post. The keeper looked like he was coming out, as if I was going to cross it into Paul. So I decided to put the ball towards the back of the goal, and luckily enough it went in!”
BUT AARON! ANSWER THE QUESTION! DID YOU MEAN IT?
“Yeah! I did mean it! Because if it was a cross it was a shocking one!”
After us lot had debated the goal for a bit the home team found their way back into the match. Equalising on 67 minutes they took full advantage of a goalkeeping error by Carl Williams. Atherton should have cleared their lines, but instead found themselves defending a throw in. The ball was thrown in, and the Daisy Hill striker held play up by playing keepy uppy. He then looped the ball rather hopefully into the area, where again, it wasn’t cleared fully. The ball fell to Daniel Gregory who passed the ball into the bottom right hand corner to equal the scores.
With just 4 minutes remaining, Atherton grabbed a winner. A cross in from the right by Paul Townshend left the keeper in no mans land. Defender Matthew Boland then went to head the ball back to his keeper, only to find that he was miles off his line. The ball took an eternity to roll over the line, but it went in, much to the pleasure of the travelling Colls Ultras.
The game finished. Atherton had won with two lucky goals, but did they care? No. It’s that bit of luck which had deserted the team of late, and hopefully the team will use it as a springboard to start their season properly. I talk about luck, but probably in the wrong context. Atherton were good for their money, and definitely deserved to take all 3 points. To top off a pleasing day, it was good to see that the new players had settled in, and put in good performances.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 2.5 miles
- ADMISSION: Free with an Atherton Collieries pass
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £1.50