Countdown to Agony or Ecstasy: 21 Days Set to Shake Tameside Non League Football

A preview of the final three weeks of the 2013-14 football season

At around about this time last August, we were bracing ourselves for what would hopefully be a good season for all clubs in the Tameside area, and Glossop North End. At this time of writing, we are now three weeks away from its completion, that very point of the season which is often known as ‘the business end’.

In other words, we are at this very point where the polling station doors have closed. The very point where Sunderland North has announced its result. That part of the season where our morbidly obese chanteuse is stood in Forsyths looking for a suitable piece. This is 0835 in a 1980s Sheffield where people wonder why the cash machines aren’t working at Halifax Building Society. On a train, this would be Edge Hill en route to Liverpool Lime Street, or Vauxhall en route to Waterloo.

Unfortunately, for some of Tameside’s clubs, it is turning out to be a season to forget. Hyde F.C. and Droylsden have already been relegated – the first and second clubs at senior level to suffer this fate in England this season. Worse is it could be third time unlucky, if Stalybridge Celtic are relegated from the Conference North into the Northern Premier League.

Up to now, it is set to be a most memorable season for Curzon Ashton, who are a game away from joining the NPL Premier Division. Ashton United stand a chance of getting into the NPL Premier Division play-offs, whereas Mossley aim for mid table stability. Glossop North End, hope for a top half of the table finish – with possible aspirations of NPL First Division membership (whether First Division North or First Division South remains to be seen if in this position).

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The Final Furlong

For Hyde FC and Droylsden, they will be joining the Conference North and Northern Premier League First Division North leagues respectively. The season isn’t over yet for Glossop North End and the other four Tameside clubs, with a twitchy 21 days on the horizon.

Hyde F.C.

All the Tigers have to play for now is pride. Though already down, they wish to avoid the shame of having the lowest points total in the Conference, breaking a record set by Redditch United in the 1979 – 80 season. Unfortunately for Hyde, their last six fixtures are set to be challenging to say the least.

  • Saturday 05 April: Chester (A) (1500);
  • Tuesday 08 April: Salisbury (H) (1945);
  • Saturday 12 April: Cambridge United (A) (1507);
  • Good Friday 18 April: Kidderminster Harriers (H) (1500);
  • Easter Monday 21 April: Grimsby Town (A) (1500);
  • Saturday 26 April: Luton Town (H) (1730).

Stalybridge Celtic A.F.C.

An unenviable run-in awaits the ‘Bridge with most of their opponents pushing for play-off places. Oxford City – like the ‘Bridge – are hoping to avoid relegation, and Saturday’s game is definitely not for the faint hearted.

  • Saturday 05 April: Oxford City (H) (1500);
  • Tuesday 08 April: North Ferriby United (H) (1945);
  • Saturday 12 April: Boston United (A) (1507);
  • Easter Saturday 19 April: Gainsborough Trinity (H) (1500);
  • Easter Monday 21 April: Bradford Park Avenue (A) (1500);
  • Saturday 26 April: Workington (H) (1500).

Ashton United F.C.

Paul Phillips’ side could go one better than his former suitor by gaining a play-off spot. The real crunch match is likely to be against F.C. United of Manchester on Easter Monday.

  • Saturday 05 April: Ilkeston FC (H) (1500);
  • Saturday 12 April: Stafford Rangers (A) (1500);
  • Easter Saturday 19 April: Skelmersdale United (H) (1500);
  • Easter Monday 21 April: F.C. United of Manchester (A) (1500);
  • Saturday 26 April: Witton Albion (H) (1500).

Droylsden F.C.

Droylsden may have been relegated in late February, but results have started picking up a bit. This coming Saturday, they could do Ashton United and F.C. United of Manchester a little favour by blunting Chorley’s title hopes (but Victory Park isn’t the easiest of places).

  • Saturday 05 April: Chorley (A) (1500);
  • Tuesday 08 April: Barwell (H) (1945);
  • Saturday 12 April: Stamford (H) (1500);
  • Easter Saturday 19 April: Buxton (A) (1500);
  • Easter Monday 21 April: Trafford (H) (1500);
  • Saturday 26 April: Rushall Olympic (A) (1500).

Curzon Ashton F.C.

A memorable season awaits the Nash, which could be sealed this coming Saturday when Prescot Cables visit the Tameside Stadium. At this moment, Curzon only need three points to guarantee promotion into the Northern Premier League’s Premier Division.

  • Saturday 05 April: Prescot Cables (H) (1500);
  • Monday 07 April: Harrogate Railway Athletic (A) (1945);
  • Saturday 12 April: Warrington Town (H) (1500);
  • Monday 14 April: Farsley F.C. (H) (1945);
  • Easter Saturday 19 April: Clitheroe (A) (1500);
  • Easter Monday 21 April: New Mills (H) (1500);
  • Saturday 26 April: Lancaster City (A) (1500).

Mossley A.F.C.

Mid table stability is probably the Lilywhites’ aim, who have settled down of late. Former Hyde United favourite Peter Band and Lloyd Morrison – late of Winsford United would be pleased to see some stability in the camp.

  • Tuesday 08 April: Northwich Victoria (H) (1945);
  • Saturday 12 April: Burscough (A) (1500);
  • Easter Saturday 19 April: Ossett Town (H) (1500);
  • Easter Monday 21 April: Bamber Bridge (A) (1500);
  • Saturday 26 April: Farsley F.C. (H) (1500).

Glossop North End F.C.

So near yet so far? Glossop North End could be on course for a top ten finish. I would be surprised if anything other was the case.

  • Saturday 05 April: A.F.C. Liverpool (A) (1500);
  • Tuesday 08 April: Bootle (A) (1945);
  • Saturday 12 April: Alsager Town (H) (1500);
  • Wednesday 16 April: Bacup and Rossendale Borough (A) (1945);
  • Easter Saturday 19 April: St. Helens Town (A) (1500);
  • Easter Monday 21 April: Abbey Hey (H) (1500);
  • Saturday 26 April: Norton United (H) (1500).

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Into the 2014 – 15 season?

There’s every chance of next season’s Conference North league being the most competitive to date. Should F.C. United of Manchester and Ashton United gain promotion, there could be six Greater Manchester clubs at the very most – if Stalybridge Celtic avoid relegation, and Altrincham fail to gain promotion into the Conference Premier. At present, Hyde F.C. and Stockport County may be dead certs for Greater Manchester’s representatives. With recent form, F.C. United of Manchester have a chance of being its third.

If Stalybridge Celtic are relegated, they will miss out on potentially lucrative clashes between – worst case scenario – five sides from Greater Manchester. The ‘Bridge’s only Derby could be Curzon Ashton with Trafford possibly the next nearest. Droylsden on the other hand are likely to have Mossley as their Derby Day opponents with Salford City their second Derby opponents.

All eyes will not only be on Oxford City for the ‘Bridge faithful, but also on F.C. United of Manchester and Ashton United. The former will be boosted by their new ground in Moston. As for the Robins, their chance of a play-off place could be down to the wire.

The run-in is going to be pretty bumpy. Time to pack some spare underpants and avoid wearing white jeans.

S.V., 03 April 2014.

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