Wednesday 10th August 2016 6.45pm
Cheshire League Premier
Malpas 3 Congleton Vale Rovers 0 ht: 3-0 att: 45 (hc) Ent: £3 (inc Programme) Coffee: £1
Hailes, Morris, Sadler
from Malpas Sports & Social Club
The nascent season, the time to get county games in, during the few weeks of late sunsets, before September arrives and it’s Saturdays only for the un-floodlit fields of the minor leagues. My first such game of the season and indeed the Cheshire League, a 6.45er. I knew nothing of the ground or club beforehand, giving the evening a bit of mystery. I love this time of year, heading out after work in the sunshine for a pint and some early kick off footy, back home before 10pm. Shame it just bookends the bulk of the season.
Malpas is a village in Cheshire, population at the last 2011 census, just 1,673. It lies very middle-of-nowhere-ish between Wrexham, Whitchurch and Nantwich, twinned with French town Questembert, lesser known brother of Camembert. I drove from work across the country roads of Cheshire to the nearby No Man’s Heath and the Wheatsheaf pub. It sold a couple of numbers from Facer’s Brewery of Flintshire, of which I sampled the North Star Porter. I exited the heath that had no male owner for Malpas FC and the 6.45 kick-off. The ground lies to the West of the village centre along Church Street in the Malpas Sports centre – a cricket and football venue.
At county level I expect to just walk in and take position, so I was synonym for pleasantly surprised to see a man at the gate taking £3 entrance fee which, awesomely, included a programme! It may sound perverse but it gladdens me when county teams charge for entrance – to me it shows ambition and usually a thriving club. To have programmes too was completely unexpected and most welcome.
After entering you have the cricket pitch in front of you next to the clubhouse. Bowling, tennis and 5-a-side were also represented at the complex. The football ground is at the back of the sports centre, surrounded by fields with a few solitary and striking oak trees making for a good backdrop.
Another bombshell for the night was the stand, sitting in the top corner. While Arena or Atcost-esque, any stand at a county ground is a bonus. It was three rows of jet-black seats in a, from bottom to top 7-4-7, 7-4-7, 22 formation – the 22 on account of no gaps needed for access on the back row. 58 in total. (just in case you gave a shit).
Despite the stand action the pitch was roped rather than barred, I think the first time I’d seen such a combination. Even the roping was a bit patchy with stretches lying flat on the floor.
Malpas were brilliant first half, scoring early on through a well worked move and adding two more before the break (including the pen in the pic), with some exquisite finishing and touches. Congleton did step up a gear in the second half, but too late. Their efforts managed to cancel out the home threat, but no more than that. Malpas’s superb first half was enough for a great start to the season. It certainly was a Mal Pas for Congleton’s first game (Malpas derives it’s name from the French Mal (meaning bad) and Pas (meaning footstep, tread).