A New Years resolution of mine was to try and visit a new football ground once a month over the course of the year. Given the plethora of non-league teams in Greater Manchester and the surrounding areas this shouldn’t be a problem. The first choice was Bower Fold, home of Stalybridge Celtic, about 30 minutes drive from door-to-door.
The afternoon didn’t get off to the best of starts. Twice I said I’d leave at 2.15 and twice my mate said “don’t you mean 1.15?” “Oh yeah,” I replied on both occasions. I got in the car and had to do a double take at the clock. It said 2.15. Luckily a speedy trip down the M60 later I arrived on time, albeit an hour later than originally planned! There was enough time to enjoy a pre-match pint of lager in the club bar before venturing outside to enjoy the action.
The hosts were lying in 14th place before the game, four points above the relegation places, following four league outings without a win. Their visitors, Tamworth, started the game in 7th position and in with an outside chance of reaching the play-offs, although they were in a similar vein of form, without a league win in five. I wasn’t expecting a feast of football.
There’s a reason I never win at the bookies. My prediction couldn’t have been wider of the mark. Tamworth completely dominated the first half, scoring four goals against the shell-shocked hosts, and given the well-refreshed travelling fans something to scream about. The first goal was the best of the lot. The Lambs broke down the left, whipping in a cross to the far post which was beautifully converted on the volley by Durrell. Seeing that we weren’t celebrating, a travelling Tamworth fan made a beeline for us, remarking: “what a goal that was! But he’s still a c**t!” You’ve got to love football fans. The Lambs ran riot, with striker Dan Newton completing a first-half hat-trick.
The pie, chips and gravy during the break warmed us up in the cold conditions, and the action on the pitch also heated up almost immediately. The hosts hit back with a quick goal, although only a few minutes later Newton struck his fourth to make it 5-1. Celtic immediately grabbed another less than a minute later, and on the hour scored a lovely goal to make it 3-5 with Tames deftly flicking it around the ‘keeper before collecting the ball on the other side and rolling it into the empty net.
The last thirty minutes remained goalless as Stalybridge pushed for an unlikely equaliser and Tamworth stubbornly protected their stunning work from the first half.
A great advert for non-league football, and an enjoyable first trip to Bower Fold.
Next month I’m going continental: Stuttgarter Kickers vs. Holstein Kiel in the Germany’s 3. Liga
Follow Dan on Twitter @winkveron