Real football in our area, with real fans
Football, real football. The Association game that is played by 95% of footballing sides out the 92 English Football League and the English Premier League in England and parts of Wales. Whilst the English Premier League breaks up for international fixtures, the first Saturday in September is known as Non League Day.
Non League Day is a celebration of football outside the 92 clubs. From former Football League sides to the reemergence of old names, the non-league football scene is far from boring. In Greater Manchester alone, there will be fourteen home matches contested by non-league sides from the North West Counties League upwards. In the Manchester League, Gilgryst Cup matches in the Preliminary and First rounds will be contested, as well as league matches.
National League North
In English football’s sixth tier, there are three Greater Manchester clubs with home matches on Non League Day in the Vanarama National League North. At this time of writing, two of the three hosts are managerless.
- Altrincham v. Stockport County;
- Salford City v. Alfreton Town;
- Stalybridge Celtic v. Nuneaton Town.
Whoever steps into the dugout at Moss Lane faces The Mother of All Challenges. Stockport County take a short trip along the A560 to a club once referred to as The Manchester United of Non League Football.
Sticking with Manchester United connections, television’s favourite non-league side, Salford City, see Alfreton Town taking a trip to Moor Lane.
At the other end of the table, Stalybridge Celtic face a critical fixture with Nuneaton Town. The Boro’, alongside the ‘Bridge, occupy a position in the bottom three of the National League North table.
- Altrincham (Moss Lane): regular buses and trams to Altrincham Interchange, plus hourly train service to Manchester Piccadilly and Chester via Knutsford and Northwich. Moss Lane is off Stamford New Road (on leaving the interchange, turn left). The ground is 10 – 12 minutes walk.
- Salford City (Moor Lane): the 98 (First Greater Manchester), X41 (Transdev Lancashire Bus Red Express), and X43 (Transdev Burnley and Pendle Witch Way) buses stop at Bury New Road at the stop nearest to Moor Lane. Alight then turn right onto Moor Lane, and turn left onto Nevile Road, continuing till you see the main entrance on your right hand side.
- Stalybridge Celtic (Bower Fold): the 236, 237 (Stagecoach Manchester), and 387 (First Greater Manchester) stop outside the entrance on Mottram Road. All three services offer a frequent link between Mottram-in-Longdendale, Stalybridge, and Ashton-under-Lyne. The 236 and 237 services continue to Glossop whereas the 387 continues to Hattersley and Hyde.
Northern Premier League
NPL Premier Division
This week sees Northern Premier League Premier Division clubs starting their F.A. Cup adventures. In Greater Manchester, this affects Ashton United.
NPL First Division North
- Ramsbottom United v. Droylsden.
There are only two sides in Greater Manchester with a league match in the First Division North. This Saturday sees Droylsden making a short trip to the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium, where they face Ramsbottom United.
- Ramsbottom United (Harry Williams Riverside Stadium): the 472 and 474 (First Greater Manchester) buses stop at Bridge Street, a short walk from the ground beside the River Irwell. They form a circular route from Bury via Holcombe Brook and Walmersley. A driveway, along the side of the Bury platform of Ramsbottom (ELR) railway station is accessed from Bridge Street, directing you to the football and cricket grounds.
- If you wish to travel by rail, the East Lancashire Railway from Rawtenstall to Heywood will be operating its Yellow Timetable. Trains will be every 45 to 50 minutes. Steam or diesel locomotives may be used.
North West Counties League
NWCL Premier Division
Due to the F.A. Cup First Qualifying Round, what would have been Greater Manchester’s only home game in the Premier Division has been postponed. That was the fixture with Maine Road and Padiham.
NWCL First Division
- Ashton Town v. Sandbach United;
- Atherton Laburnum Rovers v. St. Helen’s Town;
- Daisy Hill v. City of Liverpool;
- Prestwich Heys v. Eccleshall;
- Stockport Town v. AFC Blackpool.
This week’s stand out fixture is, without question, Daisy Hill versus City of Liverpool. Making their first ever visit to the New Sirs, the newly formed Liverpudlian club has been attracting attendance figures that are the envy of some NPL sides.
- Ashton Town (Edge Green Street): the 600 service (Stagecoach Wigan) operates every 15 minutes. The journey time from Bryn station is 10 minutes. If you prefer to board the 600 from Wigan bus station, allow up to half an hour. Alight at Golborne Road/Cross Keys stop.
- Atherton Laburnum Rovers (Crilly Park): by train, you cannot miss the cantilever grandstand as you head towards Wigan or Southport on the Atherton line. Crilly Park is a short five minutes on the 682 service from Atherton railway station. Alight at the Hillside Avenue bus turnaround; the ground is right in front of you.
- Daisy Hill (New Sirs): the nearest railway station is Daisy Hill, which is served by regular trains to Wigan Wallgate, Southport and Kirkby. The ground is 10 – 12 minutes walk via Leigh Road and St. James Street.
- Prestwich Heys (Sandgate Road): the 94 bus (First Greater Manchester) offers a hourly link between Prestwich tram station and Sandgate Road.
- Stockport Town (Lambeth Grove): pretty straightforward; the regular 330 bus (Stagecoach Manchester) has journeys every 10 minutes from Stockport, Bredbury, Woodley, Hyde, Dukinfield, and Ashton-under-Lyne. Alight at the Woodley Precinct stop then walk towards the Iceland car park for Mill Lane. Then right onto Woodlands Avenue and left towards Lambeth Grove. Carry on till you see a grey building with the ‘Life Leisure’ sign then take the gate on your left hand side.
F.A. Cup First Qualifying Round
- Ashton Athletic v. Mossley;
- Ashton United v Nantwich Town;
- Hyde United v. Colne;
- Radcliffe Borough v. Spennymoor Town;
- Trafford v. Cheadle Town.
In the First Qualifying Round, Ashton teams at both ends of the conurbation have home ties. Ashton Athletic, in the Hallmark Security North West Counties League face Mossley. At the eastern end of Greater Manchester, Ashton United begin their F.A. Cup campaign at Hurst Cross. Nantwich Town are the visitors.
About to set foot on the 4G artificial pitch at Ewen Fields will be Hyde United’s opponents, Colne F.C. The Lancashire club play at Holt House, formerly the home of Colne Dynamoes, Graham White’s all-conquering team of the 1980s. Taking a trip to Stainton Park will be Radcliffe Borough’s opponents, Spennymoor Town. The club has its roots in Spennymoor United and Evenwood Town (where the Town element came from).
Another all-Greater Manchester clash comes awaits us at Shawe View. Cheadle Town face a trip to Trafford’s ground on the outskirts of Urmston.
- Ashton Athletic (Brocstedes Park): from Bryn railway station, you have the choice of either the 157 (Cumfybus) or the 603 (HTL Buses) for Ashton-in-Makerfield’s more northerly North West Counties League side. Alight at Brocstedes Road/Booth’s Brew Road stop. The ground is a short distance along Brocstedes Road.
- Ashton United (Hurst Cross): bus-wise, you are spoilt for choice. From Ashton bus station, the 231 (Stagecoach Manchester), 331 and 333 services (First Greater Manchester) stop on Queens Road (look for the stand visible from Hurst Cross itself). Better still are the 38 and 39 services (First Greater Manchester). They stop on Kings Road (alight at Hurst Community Centre then walk down Rowley Street before turning right onto Surrey Street). Please note that the 231 service also calls at Tameside Hospital [Hartshead Building North] prior to stopping at Hurst Cross.
- Hyde United (Ewen Fields): the easiest way of getting to Ewen Fields is either on the 201 from Hattersley, Denton, Gorton or Piccadilly Gardens (Stagecoach Manchester), or the 387 service via Mottram and Stalybridge (First Greater Manchester). A short walk from Mottram New Road to Ewen Fields is possible via Grange Road North and Miles Street. Alternatively, you may wish to plump for the 341 from Glossop and Broadbottom (High Peak Buses) or the 342 (Stagecoach Manchester). For the 341 and 342, alight at Walker Lane and walk towards the Active Hyde leisure pool.
- Radcliffe Borough (Stainton Park): the 98 bus (First Greater Manchester) from Bury, Radcliffe town centre, Whitefield, and Manchester city centre offers a frequent link with Boro’s home. The ground is only a few yards from Manchester-bound and Bury-bound bus stops.
- Trafford (Shawe View): the train service to its nearest station, Chassen Road, is truly shocking with trains every two hours from Manchester city centre. If you’re lucky to cop for one of the Chassen Road trains, the ground is less than five minutes walk from the station. More options are available by walking from Urmston or by catching the 255 service from Piccadilly Gardens to Partington (Stagecoach Manchester). If you choose the bus option, alight at the stop outside Flixton Girls School and walk down Shawe Road. The ground should be on your right hand side.
Whilst many of England’s non league sides are involved in the F.A. Cup, most of the Manchester League’s sides are involved in the Preliminary and First Rounds of the Gilgryst Cup.
Gilgryst Cup Preliminary Round
- Bolton County v. Hindsford;
- Uppermill v. Manchester Central;
- Westbury Sports Club v. Royton Town.
The tie of the round should be of particular interest to football historians. Uppermill’s hosts will see the return of Manchester Central. Playing their home matches at the Manchester Regional Arena, they aim to be the successors of the 1930s club who played at Belle Vue Speedway Stadium on Hyde Road. The original club tried and failed to gain election into the Football League.
- Uppermill (Churchill Playing Fields): 180 from Piccadilly Gardens, Hollinwood, Oldham, and Greenfield [Clarence Hotel] (First Greater Manchester). Also 350 service from most Saddleworth villages, Oldham, and Ashton-under-Lyne, and 354 service from Ashton, via Bottom Mossley (First Greater Manchester). Alight at Greenfield Tesco and walk along Wellington Road.
Gilgryst Cup First Round
- Atherton Town v. Rochdale Sacred Heart;
- AVRO v. East Manchester;
- Dukinfield Town v. Boothstown;
- Elton Vale v. Heywood St. James;
- Manchester Gregorians v. Wilmslow Albion;
- Old Alts v. Altrincham Hale;
- Pennington v. AFC Monton;
- Wythenshawe Amateurs v. Irlam Steel.
Dukinfield Town seem to have had the same bad luck as its much bigger rivals, Stalybridge Celtic. They have won two of their last six games (3-0 versus Wilmslow Albion and, away from home, 2-1 against Old Alts). A previous match at Springhead was abandoned due to heavy rain.
- Dukinfield Town (Blocksages Playing Fields): 343 bus (Stotts Tours) stops outside Blocksages either by Dukinfield Town’s social club (Stalybridge, Mossley and Oldham bound buses) or All Saints Catholic College opposite the Premier Kia showrooms (Hyde bound buses). Walk past Active Dukinfield towards the playing fields then turn right towards an enclosed pitch, which is Duki Town’s humble abode. Alternatively, you can catch the 346 (First Greater Manchester/Stagecoach Manchester) to the Albion Hotel or the 41 from Boyd’s Walk (MCT Travel) and walk along Birch Lane.
Manchester League Premier Division
- Springhead v. Walshaw Sports.
Owing to the Gilgryst Cup, this is the only Manchester League Premier Division team fixture taking place this Saturday. Springhead have had a fantastic August, starting the new season with a 100% record.
- Springhead (St. John Street): the main bus to the ground is the 81A service (First Greater Manchester) from Oldham, Moston, and Manchester city centre. Alight at The Grapes Inn public house.
Hallmark Security Cheshire League
- Altrincham FC Reserves v. Rudheath Social;
- Denton Town v. Garswood United.
Denton Town begun the 2016 – 2017 season with a decent start. They are currently fifth in the Cheshire League Premier Division with twelve points. Garswood United, one time NWCFL members, have the second worst defence with a goal difference of -8. Could we see a goal feast at Whittles Park?
- Denton Town (Whittles Park): the 347 (Stagecoach Manchester) from Ashton-under-Lyne, Guide Bridge, and Denton [Crown Point] will suffice. Alight at Stockport Road/Pendle Road stop then walk up a short distance to Prince Edward Avenue. Continue via Leesway Drive till you see Heather Lea on your left hand side. Walk the full route of Heather Lea where you should see the entrance to Whittles Park.
For most non-league matches within Greater Manchester, the kick-off time is 3pm. In the Manchester League and the Hallmark Security Cheshire Football League, the usual kick-off time is 2pm.
Where will you be going?
Whether you wish to cheer on The Mighty ‘Bridge or go to somewhere completely different, give yourself a rest from the pantomime that is the money-orientated world of the EPL and its external baggage. As often said on many websites, non-league football is where you see tomorrow’s stars today.
Feel free to comment on any of the games you may be attending. Any comments after the match you have visited will be welcome. I shall be seeing The Mighty Stalybridge Celtic’s fixture against Nuneaton Town.
S.V., 01 September 2016.