Monday 27th October 2014 7.30
Staffordshire County Senior League Premier Division from Cumberland Arena, Crewe
MMU Cheshire 1 Audley 1 ht: 1-0 att: 60 hc
Goals: MMU 30, Audley 89
Manchester Metropolitan University Cheshire, to give them their full name, were promoted last year to the Staffs top flight. The Staffs League handbook claims the team were founded in 1960, which strikes me as odd, since the University was only founded in 1970. The University’s roots go back to the Manchester Mechanics Institute from 1824, so the football team either has some connection here or morphed from some other team…or the handbook is wrong.
MMU shared Sandbach United ‘s new development centre last year and played in Hassall Road, Alsager before this. This season they are playing at Crewe FC’s floodlit Cumberland Arena.
It was my first trip to Crewe since 2007, when I finished working there. While working there I’d developed a strong dislike of the place. These feelings were re-ignited as I approached the town centre and its ubiquitous gridlocked traffic. Almost 7pm on a week night in half term and still bumper to bumper traffic, in the shrivelled veins of Crewe’s heart.
Despite the delay I got to the ground and had time for a swift pint in the GBG listed Borough Arms, a short walk from Cumberland Arena. Nine guest ale hand pumps were on offer, in the inviting comfortable pub.
It is Crewe FC from the Cheshire League Premier division (also step seven) whose ground MMU Cheshire play at. It has a six lane running track, clubhouse with vending machine for snacks and hot drinks. No stands are present, nor terraces neither. You can stand on the crush brick track, however, to get close to the action.
The visitors Audley were unbeaten in the league so far in 12 games, won eight drawn four. MMU were in mid-table but had played less due to starting late (being a university team). The opening exchanges suggested the visitors would cruise to victory and an early penalty looked to vindicate their superiority. However, a brilliant save kept the score 0-0.
From then on the students got back into the game and defended resolutely. The game was searingly fast-paced and physical but, strangely for such a frenetic, physical contest, also beguiling. It took something special to break the deadlock on 30 minutes, when an MMU student deftly hooked a through ball over the defender and lobbed the keeper from 25 yards – his first touch reminiscent of a Bergkamp flick, followed by a perfectly weighted shot. The large student fraternity in the crowd went understandly berserk.
In the second half the pace didn’t wane and unbeaten Audley desperately tried to force an equaliser. Loads of tantalising crosses came in but with no one on the end. Easy chances were missed and it looked like it was going to be the night that ended their unbeaten run. As the clock wound down, though, it was another sensational goal that got them their draw. Eschewing far easier chances early on, a chest down on the edge of the area and half volley thlunk whizzed across goal and into the top corner. The Audley bench went mad – just in the nick of time they avoid their first league defeat of the season.