Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ashton United 2-0 Rushall Olympic

I'm in a reflective mood on Friday evening as I sink a bottle of Yellow Tail Merlot, not on offer from Budgens (£7.49). On Sunday I'm having a little soiree to celebrate my forthcoming fiftieth year on planet Earth. Close friends and family will be joining me for a special 'Stella Sunday.'

My boss has invited me to watch Lincoln City v FC Halifax on Saturday. He used to play for the Shaymen. I'm hearing the Imps just launch it these days, so turn down his kind offer. The little U16 team I run on Saturday's have been rained off against Mansfield Town in the Notts FA Shield. Lord knows why they are in the competition, as most of their boys will be offered scholarships next season, while we're just a village team. I rib their Head of Youth, John Ramshaw, who is down in Devon with the First Team for the Stags' clash with Plymouth Argyle.

The weather forecast looks depressing with wind and rain sweeping in from the west. News looks encouraging from Ashton under-Lyne though, with both their Evostik teams hopeful of some play tomorrow. The Tameside Stadium and Hurst Cross have been on my radar for some time now.

It's Saturday morning and time for a birthday haircut. I can't be bothered to drive to Ruddington to get it chopped. I drop into a local barbers. I mention to the lass cutting my hair that I'm 50 next Wednesday, foolishly expecting a compliment. Not a sausage readers. Not a tip for her either.

Mrs P will be sauntering around some dreadful retail park in Thurmanston, near Leicester as I get to grips with cleaning the bathroom - it's the only job I'm any good at. Murphy is rocking on his swing to 10CC's 'Life is a Minestrone.'  All's good on the M1. I turn off at Junction 35A and by-pass the town of Stocksbridge. What a super ground they have there. I've fond memories of seeing FC United of Manchester play there a few years ago.

I head up the tight back streets in the High Peak village of Tintwistle and sling the 'Rolls Royce' in the car park of the Bulls Head. A familiar figure comes bounding up to me. It's Stanley the mongrel from four years ago. I order up a ham sandwich and some hand-cooked chips. Stanley perches his chin on my knee and slavers down my jeans. He about takes my fingers off when I offer him some ham. I wash it down with an award-winning Wren's Nest from Howard Town in Glossop.

The market town of Ashton under-Lyne is only a short drive away. It has a population of over 40,000 and sits on the River Tame in the foothills of the Pennines. Ashton United were founded in 1878 and were previously known as Hurst FC. Legendary forward Dixie Dean ended his career at Surrey Street, whilst World Cup winner  Alan Ball played here as a teenager.

Rich and famous born in Ashton under-Lyne include: Britain's first Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, Arthur Brooke, founder of the Brooke Bond Tea Company, singer-songwriter George Formby, Sir Geoff Hurst, Last of the Summer Wine actor Brian Wilde, 'Tracey Barlow' off Corrie, actor Ronald Fraser, cricketers Andrew Harris, Harry Pilling and Gary Yates and the footballers Alan Wright and Mark Robins.

It's a bit ropey for parking. I squeeze the car in the last available spot, smack opposite the Social Club. I have another pint. The dying embers of QPR v Burnley are featured on Sky. The room is full of noise and laughter. I really like the joint.

It's £7 on the turnstile and £2 for a programme. The ground is a belter, with sweeping views of the hills. I immediately recognise a Rushall Olympic player warming-up. It's none other than Dele Adebola. I once saw him go toe-to-toe with Middlesbrough's version of Jean-Claude Van Damme - Emanuel Pogatetz.

Chuffing hell it's blowing a gale. I need to find a bolt-hole to escape from it. I stand in front of a brick wall that shields me from the elements. Christ on a bike, how old is this referee? He looks about 16 years old.

There's a guy behind the far goal dressed in coaching gear bawling out instructions to the Ashton players. In eight years of groundhopping I've never witnessed this before. He's like Brian Glover in Kes.

Ashton are leading Rushall a merry dance. Their right winger is rinsing his full back. They take the lead on 18 minutes through Aaron Chalmers. An extraordinary thing happens moments later. Ahmed Obeng breezes past an Ashton defender, only to be blatantly pushed to the ground inside the area. The paperboy looks at his assistant for help, but receives no communication. The ref reluctantly blows for a free-kick. I'm giving the linesman pelters. "How can you have not seen that?" I enquire. An elderly, distinguished gentleman, suited and booted asks if it was a penalty. "Not even a free-kick, Sir," lino replies. Holy smoke.

Poor old Rushall's luck worsens on 45 minutes with Martin Pilkington finishing for the second time of asking. Jesus wept, the DJ plays two in a row from Olly Murs and Robbie Williams. I hide in the Club Shop, which is an Aladdin's Cave of it's own. I clock a guy at the tea bar pouring half a pot of pepper into a polysteyrene cup of steaming hot Bovril - it must be a northern delicacy.

There's a late start to the second period as the 22 year old referee finishes delivering Saturday's edition of the Manchester Evening News. It hoses it down for the second half as Ashton continue to pour forward. They hit the woodwork twice as Rushall throw men forward and chance their arm. I exit at bang on 90 minutes to thaw out in the Rolls Royce.

Attendance: 139

Man of the Match: The Ref (He was really good)

1 comment:

Mike Smith said...

Missed you again !!! A Saturday off so I ended up in Belper (visiting M-I-L ... and catching a game).

Had I been working ... Hurst Cross would have been my choice - hey-ho !