Tuesday 7 October 2014

1874 Northwich - Barton Stadium

1874 Northwich FC
Winsford United FC
The Barton Stadium
Wharton Road

07975 679624 (Northwich 1874)

Ground number: 418
Sunday 5th October 2014
1874 Northwich 9-0 Wigan Robin Park
FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round


The match was to be played at Winsford United's Barton Stadium. The landlord club finished as high as 2nd in the NPL Premier during 1992-93, just one place short of going into the Conference. But a break up of the team followed and they suffered 3 relegations in 4 years at the turn of the century and found themselves in North West Counties Division 2. They have since recovered slightly, going back up one step, but it's still a far cry from their glory days. The town itself is famous for having one of only 3 remaining salt mines in the UK, indeed it is the largest of the 3. The town's most famous former resident is Neville Southall, the former Everton keeper who played for Winsford United for a short time in the early 1980s

1874 Northwich were formed in 2012, by a set of fans unhappy about Jim Rushe's handling of affairs at their club Northwich Victoria. The club had once been a mainstay of Conference Football but had tumbled down the divisions due to a number of on-field and off-field issues. For the 2012-13 season, the club would be playing their games at Stafford Rangers - 40 miles south of Northwich. The fan founded 1874 Northwich joined the North West Counties League Division 1 for the 2013-14 season and won promotion at the first attempt, finishing in 3rd place. Normally that would not be good enough for promotion, but following 2nd place Formby folding, they went up with champions Nelson. In the FA Vase, they lost to Oldham Boro but remedied that this season with a victory over them to set up today's game. They also entered the FA Cup for the first time this season, beating Maine Road before losing to Prescot Cables in a replay. League wise they were doing very well, sitting in 3rd place at the start of play, and looking good for another shot at promotion come season end.

Wigan Robin Park was another recently formed club coming into existence in 2005. I had actually met someone from the club at Cefn Druids last month and they said to let them know if ever I wanted to come along. Initially, in the Manchester League, they earned promotion to the North West Counties League Division 1 in 2008. 4 seasons later they won promotion to the Premier Division, finishing 12th in their first season. However the following season they finished bottom of the league and started this season in Division 1. They have not reacted well to relegation and are struggling again, but obviously, hope that things can turn around. Despite their ground being in the shadow of recent FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic, their own success in that competition has been hard to come by, with them exiting in the extra preliminary round on every occasion. They had a good run in the FA Vase though when in 2012 they reached the 3rd round before going out to Walsall Wood. They won the Gilgryst Cup in 2008 and have been runners up in the Lancashire Shield and Murray Shield.


Originally I was planning on going to a Hoddesdon Town v Arsenal Veterans game on this Sunday. At the Wycombe game, Anwar said he was unable to make it, but more importantly, I had an item to pick up in Sutton Coldfield. The said item was a PS3 60GB - one that will play all my PS2 games too, so I randomly looked for a cheap one online. I stumbled into what I thought was a good price - one without a hard drive or controller, but it only cost £25. Of course, there is the chance that it won't work once I have all the bits together, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it, as it was listed in a 'working' category. So, I started weighing up my options. The favourite was always 1874 Northwich as I had wanted to go there for ages. I'd probably have gone for one in the Midlands if possible, but being a Sunday, choices were limited. I was concerned that I might not get out of work in time to go, so I had some backup plans in place. A little further up the M6 and kicking off an hour later was St Helens Town v Nostell MW, and if the M6 was totally knackered I had the option of Belper United v Quorn. The previous day I had watched Wycombe get a 1-1 draw with Northampton - but the game was more memorable for an appalling set of match officials and the Northampton fans taking the piss out of my mate Paul for his dress sense and weight! It was quite a busy day at work - lately, on Sundays, I have had my bits done well before 9am but on this occasion, it dragged out till 11. On any other occasion, I'd be helping others finish their tasks, but those times I did not have a football game to go to! I didn't even have a break after working 6 hours, just getting my non-league paper and some grapes, before getting changed and leaving. When I checked my tank, it said 156 miles till I needed to fill up. I knew that it would be pushing it, so I went to the petrol station and filled the rest of the tank. By now it was 11.15, and the estimated time of arrival was 13.56 for a 2pm kick of, and that was with my traffic info reporting clear roads. So it was going to be tight, especially with the M6's appalling track record. Indeed fellow hopper Laurence had ended up at Winsford after his own trip to Nelson had fallen by the wayside. So I had backup plans of St Helens Town and Belper United, should the worst happen. In actual fact, the only delays were caused by the long roadworks and I actually ended up getting there at 13.30 - and that was without going over 80, as I didn't want to totally knacker my fuel economy by going over 3000 revs.

As soon as I got there, I parked up, got my things together, paid a very reasonable £5 entry and also got a programme from a friendly programme seller who my mate Jack had told I was coming. From then it was onto the club shop which had a whole load of stuff. Scarves at £10 and Pennants at £8 were more than I wanted to pay - instead I got a pen for 50p and a glass from their recent beer festival for £1. From then it was onto the bar for a swift pint of Strongbow. While I was at the bar, I got chatting to a fan who had spotted my Wycombe badge on my top. He said that he remembered beating us in the Conference League Cup in 1993, in the final at Adams Park. I remember it well too, it was the first time that I had shed tears over a football match. Well, I was only 13 at the time! In any case, it was a Gordon Davies hat trick that won it for the Vics, but the player that really impressed was their pacy striker Tony Hemmings. I was really happy around 6 months later when we signed him up to play in the football league with us. Northwich wore a strange kit that night, but a decent one. It was green and white diagonal halves and I've not seen anything like it since. I then watched the end of Manchester United's lucky win against Everton before going outside with around 5 minutes to go before kick off. I got some chips and as a consequence missed the first few minutes of kick-off. The chips were OK, french fry type, but they were freshly cooked. During the first half, I chatted to 1874 fan Craig, as well as a few hoppers that had made this their game of choice and it was nice to get to know and catch up with old and new faces alike. Sadly I didn't see Jack, as we hadn't really arranged anything, due to me not knowing for sure if I could make it or not. At half time, I got myself a pie, which was very good. Made by local firm Birtwisles (which I was told was a Northwich institution) I don't normally get meat and potato, as I don't really like potatoes other than chips. But on this occasion, I did as it was all they had left. I was glad I did, it was huge and had plenty of meat in it. The pastry was good too and it was a whole load better than the usual shop bought stuff that clubs sell. Of course, being up North, you got peas and gravy on it as well. Try as I might, I have been unable to persuade my fellow Southerners that this is how it should be done!

Well, I'd figured that Northwich would win, but I was shocked at the margin of the hammering. That 9-0 result was my biggest competitive win by a team (previously AFC Wimbledon beating Chessington & Hook 8-0) and indeed was 1874's biggest win in their short history. Due to injuries, Wigan Robin Park put on outfield player - Patrick Hamid on goal. It was not to be a good day for him as the home side dominated from start to finish. 1-0 ahead after 9 minutes and 5-0 up at half time, the visitors looked a sorry state. They kept going till the end though, credit to them and actually did some good work to prevent it from being double figures. 4 goal hero Matt Beadle was also the first player to notch a hat trick for Northwich, so I saw another record being set, Sadly, the crowd of 232 was one of 1874's lowest, even so, its a very healthy figure for a team at this level and the share of gate receipts at least, should help out Wigan for a bit. 
Getting home was a bit of a pain, taking me 4 hours. First off the road back to the M6 was closed. I am guessing it was an accident as it was all coned off and I could see a police car up there. With no diversion signed and my sat nav directing me via the closed road for ages, I just took a back route to Nantwich, and eventually, it caught on. Then there were queues getting onto the M6, probably as a knock on effect of the road closure. Further delays on the M6 meant that I got to Sutton Coldfield to pick up my PS3 at around 5.40. It was fine for a while after, but after stopping at Warwick services for a brief toilet stop, but the M40 was the worst of the lot with nearly an hours delay with it being slow from Oxford onwards. I eventually got in at 8.20, and although it was frustrating being stuck in traffic, I was glad that it happened on the way back, and not on the way, as time was very tight. I spent the rest of the evening catching up on Facebook and typing some of my blog. Unlike other trips, I didn't do any of my research before the game, as I wasn't sure whether I would make it or not, or even end up at a different game altogether. Normally it's nice to do some prep work in advance, plus it gives you an idea of things to look out for, but it was not possible on this occasion.


THE BARTON STADIUM has been the home ground of Winsford United since the 1800s and 1874 Northwich for the couple of years that they have been around. It really is a delightful stadium, with plenty of nice bits to point a camera at. The ground has 2 areas of cover, with seats for around 250 on one side, and a large terrace holding around 800 on the other. The 2 ends are open and are a fair way from the pitch, owing to it's former use as a greyhounds stadium.

The bar is pretty good, having Sky TV on the big screen and lots of Winsford related stuff on the walls. It had a reasonable range of drinks, Strongbow being the cider on tap at £3 a pint. The tea bar is a real cracker, with lots of choices, the highlight being the excellent pies from local firm Birtwistle's. Finally, for Northwich games, the club shop is excellent, with lots of choice of things to buy, though prices vary compared to other clubs. All in all, a cracking ground and club to visit, and well worth the effort I made. I just wished I'd had more time, as I'd like to have some more chilling time pre-match, and also a look around the town, which is very near with lots of food and drink places.

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