FC41

Saturday 26th September 2020 14.30
Staffordshire County Senior League Division Two
FC41 2 AFC Alsager Development 3 HT: 1-3 Att: 30 (hc)
Tudor 15, Lawton 65 : 5, 11 Send off 22, 35 (pen)

from The Northwood Stadium

Aside from the 3G cage, Northwood Stadium hadn’t been used for football for nearly ten years. The last team to do so were AFC Milton, who played there in 2011. I heard that Stoke City Council, who own the sports facility, demanded too much rent for use of the pitch and it seemed like I’d missed the opportunity to watch a Staffs County game at the venue.

However, this season new team FC41 must have negotiated well, as they will be playing all their home games on the grass pitch. As Eastwood Hanley had used the 3G pitch in the last couple of seasons, when I saw that FC41 were now playing there, it didn’t register particularly, but I sent a tweet to them just in case, asking if they were playing on the grass pitch. Unbelievably, they were!

There can’t be many step 13 (nine of non-league) teams playing in front of a 750 seater stand. They’ve done well to secure such a prestigious venue. The club is brand new, formed by the same person or persons who own the gin bar in Millrise Road, Milton, just off the road I live in. To be precise, 41 Millrise Road, hence the name of the bar, No 41, and therefore the club, FC41.

The club have an active Twitter account which responds quickly to queries and I was impressed with their Covid-19 precautions. The NHS Track and Trace App Code was up by the entrance which all fans had to comply with. The crowd was around 30, although it’s difficult to tell who was in attendance and who were part of the squads, it could’ve been slightly more. It was nice to see some common sense in that fans were allowed right up to the pitch, rather than being forced behind the perimeter fence, which was quite a way from the action.

The stadium is home to City of Stoke Athletics Club and is certified by the International Athletics Federation. It hosts a vast number of sports and claims to hold 7,000 spectators. The main stand is 10 rows and approximately 75 columns of seating accommodating 750 fans. It lies, unsurprisingly in the area of Northwood, just up from Leek Road, not to far from Stoke Station.

From one side of the stadium looking at the main stand you have a sightline of the streets and houses of Northwood and five tower blocks in nearby Hanley, the ersatz centre of Stoke-on-Trent. The aspect from the other side is more tree-lined and backs on to the opening tortuous stretches of the River Trent

For the ninth level of non-league football the game was very watchable and competitive. Alsager put their chances away better and led 3-1 at half time including a penalty. FC41 had most of the possession in the second half and forced one goal back, but didn’t quite have enough to get the equaliser. I’d recommend getting here as soon as possible as you know how capricious local council’s can be.

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