Thursday 3rd September 2020 18.30
Wilmslow Albion 5 Westlands 1 HT: 1-1 Att: 20 (hc)
from Oakwood Farm
I’d driven past Wilmslow’s ground dozens of times and always had that pull you get when driving past an unvisited venue. It’s on the way to Manchester Airport, so every time I’ve been on holiday I think (twice) that I should watch Wilmslow Albion. The reason I hadn’t until now is that they play in the Manchester League, and not even the top division of that. Until this season I’d generally watched Step Six non league and above.
However, the weirdness of the start of the season, with fans not allowed even at step seven or above, had dispelled a bit of my prejudice towards minor leagues. At only 24 miles away it was one of my closest hitherto unvisited grounds at any level. And as if to reward my newfound progressive attitude, there was an unsuspecting stand on the side nearest the road, unnoticed in all those years driving past.
The ground is actually in Styal, the village to the north of Wilmslow. It is between Handforth Dean, home to a shopping village that all middle aged women within a thirty mile radius seem obsessed with, and Manchester Airport.
I’m not too sure of the history of Wilmslow Albion, but they joined the Mid-Cheshire League in 1951 and then switched to the Manchester League in 1998 where they’ve been ever since. However there is an FA Cup match recorded in the 1939-40 season against Buxton. They have played a total of four FA Cup matches.
The ground is called Oakwood Farm. It has a small car park but just down the lane there is more parking at the Wilmslow Phoenix Sports Club, next to a cricket pitch and five-a-side court.
The ground is a bit of a building site at present. On your way in you’re confronted with a sea of bricks and other general aggregate, mounds of earth, rubble and fine stone. This is in contrast to the smart clubhouse just beyond.
The pitch is snugly enclosed by the builders yard, trees and the Styal Road. A perimeter bar surrounds it, with the word Bank repeated down the far end on hoardings multiple times like a Dingbat clue.
On the side nearest the road is the bijou stand, two tiers of standing with a capacity of around 12, and maybe 6 during pandemics.
Wilmslow’s goals were unique. They had a triangle the like of which I’d never seen before. It was the stanchion equivalent of a vestigial organ, like the human appendix. It may once have had a purpose but no-one knows what now and the tiny quarter circle of a triangle is gradually being whittled out of existence.
The visitors were Westlands, also from Wilmslow, play in the East Cheshire Sunday League, division two. Seeing a Sunday league team was a first for me and it would be interesting to see the difference in quality.
The Westlands keeper was outstanding; never mind Sunday football, he wouldn’t have looked out of place multiple levels up the football pyramid. Wilmslow had so many one on one and shots, all expertly saved, including one of the biggest scrambles I’d ever seen. Then not long before half time Westlands took the lead against the run of play.
As if to punish the Sunday league side for their impudence in taking the lead, just seconds later the seemingly impenetrable wall of the Westlands goal was breached with a shot smashed in from 18 yards. It was as if they needed to concede to break the mental barrier.
In the second half Wilmslow’s dominance prevailed and they started finishing their chances with four more goals. It was another entertaining game with no let-up of effort from either side. Building site aside, it’s a great football venue for this level which I’d highly recommend.