Dennis 4, Gee 20: Gregory 41, Dean 90+1
Additional: Entrance £7, Programme £1.00, Coffee/Tea £0.80
Neil O’Rourke Stadium in pictures
Its weird how often when football records are broken they’re then broken again shortly afterwards. Remember the famous Ian Rush record that he’d never scored for Liverpool in a game in which they’d lost, then when it finally happened, (after he’d been at the club years), it happened again the following week? Well, until last Saturday, I’d never in my life seen a team with the suffix ‘Sports’; then without intention, three days later I was at another one.
Mickleover on Saturday, Woodley on Tuesday. The mathematical equation would read (Mickleover + Woodley) Sports. So were Woodley Sports? I guess so, allowing an injury time equaliser by Halifax. It was the second ground this season I’d been to as a result of Chasetown v Leek being postponed. The first time I’d plumped for Warrington. Tonight, carrying the unexpected disappointment of finding out that the Chasetown pitch was waterlogged, I’d opted for the virtually guaranteed ‘on’ venue of Woodley Sports. They are one of a handful of teams with a synthetic pitch, boasting one of the latest varieties known as ‘field turf’. As a result they pride themselves on never having matches postponed, so it’s a good contingency ground to have if you’re watching football in the north west and the weather is dodgy. As if to prove the pitch’s resilience to me, it was bucketing down all the way to the ground, and all through the game. The scant cover the ground had was occupied to capacity, unsurprisingly, already.
Their 3G pitch, while providing an all-weather surface and probable extra home advantage, prevents them from staging FA Cup games. If they’re drawn at home in the FA Cup the fixture is played at the away venue.
The Steelmen, as they’re known, play in Woodley in Stockport and were established in 1970. They won the Manchester League division One title in 1992 and after work on the ground to bring it up to step six standard was carried out in 1996-97, they entered the North West Counties League. They have progressed a fair way in quite a short time span, although they have played at step three in recent years, including a 4th place finish and play-off action in the Premier. They are also known for the infamous ‘arrow incident’ in 2006, when a 2ft steel arrow was fired onto the pitch from outside, narrowly missing one of their players. The game was called off 13 minutes from time when they were beating Alsager 3-0. Youtube footage.
The visitors this evening were the reformed Halifax Town, now going by the name of FC Halifax Town. It’s good to see they’re still playing at the Shay, a ground I’d been to twice and really liked (despite seeing two defeats). Having reached the Conference play-off final in 2006 (losing to Hereford 3-2 aet) the old Halifax went into administration and finally went bust in 2008. The club reformed and entered the pyramid at step four in the Unibond Division One North last season. As often happens in these cases they seem to have more fans now than they did before. They swelled a usual Neil O’Rourke Stadium crowd of 100 to over 500…on a Tuesday night with it absolutely pouring down. When they were in the league would they have got 400 at Stockport on a Tuesday night? I doubt it. Not that I’m complaining; it’s great to see the loyalty and support for these resurrected clubs and to see the more traditionally non-league clubs getting a bonus on their gate money.
The ‘glamour’ fixture was enough to warrant a policewoman turning me back from parking on the estate where the ground is situated. And I had to queue for an age to get a drink, partly due to the extra fans and partly due to the let’s just wait for a burger to cook before serving anyone else, rather than fast-tracking drinks-only customers or checking if anyone else wants hot food that could cook concurrently style of catering staff that crop up quite a lot in grounds.
Despite the Shaymen lying in second, behind Lancaster, and pushing for the championship, they really struggled to get to grips with the very bouncy astro-pitch. It reminded me of watching Brighton play at Deepdale and Boundary Park, with all the ball control of dogs on ice skates. Woodley showed them how it was done with two goals in the opening 20 minutes, the second of which reminiscent of many of Andy Ritchie’s at Oldham in the late eighties – a long shot that went skimming at speed off the ‘field turf’, too fast for the keeper.
Halifax got to grips with the pitch and got one back before the break. In the second half it looked like it wasn’t going to be their night as their luck deserted them…until injury time, when Dean ran on to a through ball to smash the ball in off the post, to the delight of 80% of the rain-sodden fans. Good game, nice ground. Since writing this Halifax have now won the league, including a 3,000+ crowd at home to fellow title chasers Lancaster (!) and a comeback at Garforth that sawthem go 3-1 down on 84 and then do an 88,89,90 to win 4-3. (!!)Good times for the Shaymen.
Neil O’Rourke Stadium in pictures