Thursday 12 March 2020

Golcar United @ AVRO - Vestacare Stadium

Vestacare Stadium
Whitebank Road
Greater Manchester

AVRO FC Website
AVRO FC Twitter
Golcar United NWCFL Page
Golcar United Twitter

Ground Number: 910
Wednesday 11th March 2020

Golcar United 5-3 Ashton Town
NWCFL D1 North


The location was originally the Whitebank Stadium and this hosted Oldham Borough until they left in 2012. They were established in 1964 as Oldham Dew, changing their name to Oldham Town and finally Oldham Borough in 2009. Highlights of their history included a North West Counties Division 2 title in 1998, though the stadium lacked the facilities needed to take the promotion. Cup highlights included a run to the 2nd Qualifying Round od the FA Cup in 2003 before they lost to Radcliffe Borough. The FA Vase 2nd Round was also reached on four occasions. The club would go on for three further seasons in exile - two years at Atherton Collieries and one at Mossley before resigning from the North West Counties League in 2015. Pictures of the ground as it was in February 2008 are below -  at least the outside of it. These I took whilst passing through the area.


The stadium would remain without a tenant until 2017. AVRO FC, long term members of the Manchester League had won the step 7 Premier Division three times but their facilities had stopped them gaining promotion on the first two. In a move that suited all parties, the local council used their old Lancaster Club for housing and refurbished the stadium for them including lights and a 3G pitch. It was named the Vestacare Stadium in a partnership with a local care provider. AVRO won the Manchester League in their first season at the new ground and made it a double promotion last season by finishing as runners-up to Longridge Town in the NWCFL D1. There was also a notable run to the FA Vase 3rd Round before a loss to West Auckland Town. Latterly, Huddersfield based club Golcar United have been using the ground due to the weather rendering their home ground unplayable.


When I planned this little trip away, I tried to factor in an afternoon game. The only real choice was an NPL Academy game at Runcorn Linnets and so the North was my destination of choice. I planned in a couple of evening games and tried to do a couple of days as cheaply as possible by getting a cheap room and an overnight coach back home. There'd been a bit of drama on Tuesday, several games being called off so I had to go to a game at Manchester City's Academy Stadium. My weekend jaunt to Holland was also sabotaged by PSV calling off their game due to the Coronavirus and although the refund policy on the ticket itself is unclear, I did manage to cancel all my hotels and coaches on time. Time will tell if I'm able to salvage anything from the £108 I've invested into the Eurostar ticket.  I was hoping for better luck on Wednesday and I got a reasonable enough night's sleep, waking up 15 minutes ahead of my 7.30 alarm. After a shower and getting dressed, I was away at 8, walking the hour or so to the coach station as it was only marginally slower than taking the bus. I had half an hour to kill in Manchester, but soon enough, it was time for my coach to Liverpool, at a bargain £5 return. As I was arriving in Liverpool though, the game was called off, luckily before I'd headed to Runcorn.


I decided to make the best of a bad situation and have a day in Liverpool. The Albert Dock was close by and so I had a nice time wandering around there, seeing several Atletico Madrid fans over here for their Champions League clash with Liverpool. I needed a few bits and so set my Google Maps for Home Bargains. However, I spotted a Wetherspoons en route and so stopped off at my 199th in the chain for a pint of Black Dragon which was a pocket-friendly £2.99 a pint. I was feeling a bit better after this and so after spending an hour slowly drinking while I caught up with life and typed this blog, headed for my original destination at 12.30. I bought my bits and also had some lunch in the form of salt and pepper chips from a chippy called the Lobster Pot. They were great and a speciality on Merseyside apparently. After grabbing a few bits, I realised I had plenty of time to kill and so got a bus to the set of the old Channel 4 soap Brookside, which is now a real-life housing estate. It was smaller than I remember but instantly recognisable from TV. It was 3 by the time I got my bus back to Liverpool, so I had time for another pint or two. The bus seemed to stop at every stop and so time was not as generous as I'd hoped. I had a pint of Yarde's Devon cider and a half of Unruly Raspberry Lager which was brewed on the premises and a change from my usual selection. I was at the stop ten minutes early but my coach was a few minutes late anyway. I was glad to get a double seat to myself again as three devices were low on battery and I needed the USB sockets. We got to the coach station good and early and so that gave me plenty of time to dash across to Picadilly Gardens which was just as well as the stops were poorly signposted. My 6.50 bus left more or less on time with me paying £5 for the return which was OK, but I've had better value. I got to the ground at 7.30. Entry was £4 and a basic programme was £2. I also had a quid on the raffle and got a pie and a pint for £5.30 before going out to watch the game.


Golcar United were going well in the league, sitting 5th, just below the four promotion places. Their last six games included three wins (including a notable win 5-0 wins over St Helens Town, two draws (including 4-4 draw against Cleator Moor Celtic) and a 3-1 defeat to AFC Blackpool. Ashton Town were a place below in 5th, but both teams had considerable ground to make up on 4th place Shelley, albeit with a few games in hand. They were in slightly less favourable form, winning two, drawing one and losing three of their last six and this included two defeats to lowly Garstang during this period. The hosts started the brighter side and nearly went ahead after a couple of minutes after #7 fired into the side netting after a couple of minutes. They did take the lead on 18 minutes, #8 firing a free-kick into the all before Michael Tunnicliffe followed up with a shot that thundered in off the bar. Ashton Town would equalise a minute later. A free-kick was put into the area, Chad Whyte's shot was saved and Anthony Walsh followed up from close range. But almost immediately, Golcar were back in front when Karl Jones capitalised on a weak header by nipping in and putting the ball past Chris Cheetham. It was 3-1 on the half-hour, Alex Hallam showing strength to win the ball from his opponent and composure to finish well in the bottom corner. Ashton Town pulled one back on 34 minutes, Chad Whyte advancing into the area before slotting the ball in the bottom corner. Half time came in what had been a pulsating game and on 49 minutes, Walsh got his second, capitalising on indecision in the home defence to equalise for 3-3. The visitors were much the better side at this point and they fired into the side netting on 62 minutes and seeing lots of the ball. Ashton were denied a penalty soon after, leading to the Golcar manager to brand the felled player a 'cheating fuc*er' and a fan in the stand called him a 'big doylem' according to Urban Dictionary, that's a Geordie word for 'complete and utter idiot'. That was after Golcar dispatched a penalty of their own on 68 minutes, Nathan Tayo scoring after a push inside the area. The scoreline was harsh on Ashton, who had bought a good few fans, though both teams deserved a win from a game like this. The points were sealed on 86 minutes, Hallam getting his second with a shot that clipped the left-hand post on the way in to make it 5-3. It had been rich entertainment for the 48 in attendance that had braved stormy conditions to watch the game and for me, it was my game of the season.

I left the ground at 9.50, having to wait 15 minutes in the drizzle for my bus. It took half an hour to get back into Manchester and I got dropped off near my favourite pub in the city, The Crown and Kettle. But for the second day in a row, it was closed. I did consider trying the one Wetherspoons in town that I'd not been to, this would have taken me up to a landmark 200 visited, but it was a bit far. Instead, I headed straight for the bus stop, hoping to spot something on the way. Limited cash funds meant I could only afford a pint, I really could have done with more to send me off to sleep, but it wasn't to be. I was at my coach stop 20 minutes ahead of time and it turned up 10 minutes later, the service quite a popular one. We left on time at 11.45 and stopped at various places - Leeds, Wakefield services, Sheffield, Loughborough, Leicester and Milton Keynes en route. The seats were uncomfortable compared to National Express, but then that service would have been an extra £20. I barely got any sleep, if any at all, not helped by them blasting out announcements at ear-splitting volumes or perhaps I was sitting under the only speaker on the coach. There were delays on the M1 due to roadworks and this meant we got back to London at 6.05, twenty minutes late. It was a serene and peaceful walk along deserted streets to Victoria Station and I got there well before 6.30 when the cost of my journey home would go up by £3. The Victoria Line was very busy, even at that time in the morning and after switching to the Bakerloo Line, I opted to head to Marylebone instead of Baker Street to get the more pleasant Chiltern Line back to Chalfont. I was back by 7.30 and home just after 8, having enjoyed a couple of days away, despite the setbacks. It had not been as cheap per game as I'd hoped due to losing my middle game, but it still wouldn't ruin my footy budget too much. Bad news was received as I type this blog - all football suspended in Belgium, so that's my weekend over there off, thankfully refunds were claimed on all but the Eurostar, leaving me £108 down.


The Vestacare Stadium is a decent setup, with a combination of old and new. The new is a large metal stand, capacity around 150,  although this is enhanced by it being elevated. There are also two covered areas - one behind the goal and another opposite, capable of holding 100 between them. The rest of the ground is open, with a few steps of terracing in places. Food and drink facilities are fairly limited - there are two well-sized bars with your usual clubhouse selection and Hollands pies too - sample cost - £5.30 for a pie and a pint. There is AVRO merchandise available, but not on my visit as it wasn't their game. There is also a convenience store a couple of minutes walk away, but not much else in the area. Travel wise bus 76 gets you there from Manchester at a cost of £5 return (day ticket) while there is plenty of parking on the streets around the ground. 

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