Stockport County vs Chorley, Vanarama National League North, 7/11/15, Edgeley Park, Match 16
In the last blog, I had stated that this game was always to be my plan, but I had been tempted by Kendal Town vs Farsley Celtic, this was based on the fact that Manchester United were at home, and that would inevitably lead to traffic on the M61 and M60 route that my phone’s map had suggested, as it would see us skirt round Stretford. So I had initially changed my mind, and had decided on Kendal Town’s game, this was then boosted by the fact that due to a fan’s generosity, there would be free tea and coffee. Unfortunately due to heavy rain Kendal’s game was called off at 10.15am, following a pitch inspection, this’ll become common place during the winter, and is one of the reasons why I think 3g pitches will be the future for most clubs. So my plans changed back to the Stockport County vs Chorley game.
Joining me for today’s adventure would be my sister-in-law’s boyfriend, Adam. We set off from Chorley at around 1.20pm, which I thought would be plenty of time to get to Stockport in. It was a good thing that we set off when we did, as due to the inevitable traffic around Manchester, we pulled into a carpark near to the ground at around 2.55pm, and hurried over to Edgeley Park. We paid £4 for parking on Stockport College Booth Street car-park, and by the looks of the car-park they had certainly made their money.
As we left the car, we headed past the Edgeley & Shaw Heath Labour Club, and found the away entrance straight in front of us. Now at this point, I am going to ask a question of any Stockport or Chorley fans reading this, is this fixture a derby fixture? I’m asking due to the fact that before we went through the turnstiles we were searched. To make things even more awkward for the steward searching me, I remarked “That’s the most action I’ve had all week, mate.” He quickly stopped searching me, and I headed through the turnstile.
After paying £15 for entry, which I believe is the most I’ve paid all season so far, we emerged behind the goal, by the Railway End, a large uncovered seated stand, which looked to be out of bounds for this game, at the back of this stand is a scoreboard, and a number of national flags, one of which being a Uruguayan flag which is a tribute to one of Stockport’s greatest managers Danny Bergara. Opposite the Railway End, is the Cheadle End, which towers above the rest of Edgeley Park, and seemed to house the more vocal element of the Stockport County support.
Before we continued around to where the away fans were situated, we paused as a minute’s silence was observed for those who have lost their lives fighting in combat. The minute’s silence was impeccably observed by all those in the ground.
Following the end of the minute’s silence we continued round to the section of the Popular Stand which we had been allocated. I was glad that we were to be sat in the Popular Stand, as it was raining, and I didn’t fancy sitting in the uncovered Railway End. The Popular Stand is split between the home and away support, with the away support taking around a quarter of the stand. Opposite this stand, is the Danny Bergara Main Stand, which is named in tribute to Danny Bergara who sadly passed away in July 2007. (Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Bergara) The Danny Bergara Main Stand, houses the changing rooms, and the dugouts, this stand covers two-thirds of the touchline and straddles the halfway line.
Heaton Norris Rovers were formed in 1883, and in 1890 changed their name to Stockport County to represent the county that they play in. County joined the Football League in 1900 and competed in it continuously from 1905 to 2011. Most of their history has been spent in the lower divisions of the football league, but the 1990s were the clubs successful period, as Danny Begara transformed them into regular top of the table contenders, he was replaced in 1995 by Dave Jones, and they won promotion to the First Division (Now the Championship) in 1997, they spent 5 seasons in the First Division, but instability on and off of the pitch saw them fall back to the lower divisions. In 2011 the club were relegated to the Conference National, and struggled in this division. County’s manager for the majority of the 2010-2011 season was a man that still gives Shrewsbury Town fans sleepless nights, Paul Simpson. Simpson was appointed in July 2010, and sacked in January 2011 with the club struggling in League Two. Following their relegation Ray Mathias was appointed as permanent manager for the 2011-2012 season, but before a game could take place he was replaced by Dietmar Hamann. Hamann did poorly as he won only three games out of nineteen, and he resigned in November 2011, and was replaced by Jim Gannon. At the end of the 2012-2013 season Stockport were relegated to the Conference North, where they have played for the last two seasons, with this being their third season at this level. Stockport have got to be hoping to regain their league status soon.
I’ve covered Chorley FC before in “Up the A6” and “First of the Season”, but haven’t gone into much detail about their history, so I’m going to set that right. Chorley FC were formed in 1875 as a Rugby Union club, but in 1883 switched to Football. In 1889 Chorley joined the Lancashire Junior League, and the following year became a member of the Lancashire Alliance, a league in which they were crowned champions of in 1893. In 1894 Chorley joined the Lancashire League, and became champions twice in the 1896-1897 season and the 1898-1899 season. During the First World War Chorley joined the Northern Division but due to difficulties in raising a team they were disbanded early in 1916. Chorley did not have a team for the next two seasons, but in August 1918 formed a side for friendly matches. Following their reformation they joined the reassembled Combination, with what proved to be one of their finest ever teams, Chorley went through a phase of glory in the 1920s, with the club being among the honours for ten successive seasons. In 1920 Chorley moved to Victory Park, which is still their home to this day. In 1968–69 Chorley were one of the founder members of the Northern Premier League, left at the end of the season, and rejoined in the 1970–71 season. Chorley joined the Cheshire League in the 1972–73 season, finishing as runners-up in 1975–76, and another two times in 1976–77 and 1981–82. Chorley rejoined the Northern Premier League in 1982–83, and became champions in 1987–88, which saw them promoted to the GM Vauxhall Conference – the fifth tier of the English football league system. Chorley spent two seasons in the GM Vauxhall Conference before being relegated back to the Northern Premier League in 1990–91. Recently the club has enjoyed a number of good seasons which saw them win promotion from the Northern Premier League Division One North in the 2010-2011 season, as they beat AFC Fylde in the play-off final. In the 2013-2014 season, Chorley won the Northern Premier League Premier Division, and joined the Conference North. Garry Flitcroft guided them to the Play-off Final in their first season in the Conference North, where they were unlucky to lose to Guiseley. Flitcroft stepped down as managed before the start of the 2015-2016 season, following a successful five years as manager. His assistant Matt Jansen, the former Blackburn Rovers’ striker, replaced him as manager, and Matt is doing a good job so far, in his first season as manager.
We’d only just taken our seats as the game kicked off, and both sets of fans burst into life, with them being equally loud. The Stockport fans had a drum, which was beat continuously for a large part of the first half. 249 Chorley fans had made the trip, and were in fine voice, which made for a good atmosphere.
Both sides were equal, on the pitch, for the first half, with both teams having good chances to edge themselves into the lead, yet neither side could take the chances presented to them, and both keepers played very well. Stockport had the fortune of the linesman running the line in their attacking half, running as if he was running through treacle. During the first half he missed a number of offsides, and he began to get a bit of abuse from the Chorley fans, who weren’t impressed with his performance.
In the 33rd minute, the linesman managed to keep up with the play, and he correctly signaled for an offside, which led to sarcastic cheers and applause from the Chorley fans.
The opening goal came in the 39th minute, as Jake Cottrell had a shot from 30 yards which looked to be harmless, until it squirmed under the Stockport keeper, Ian Ormson. Ormson had been unlucky to concede this goal, as the ball deceived him, and wriggled under his body, and into the back of the net.
Two minutes later, Jake Kirby thumped in the equalizer, as he received the ball on the edge of the Chorley area, and let loose a beautiful shot, which eluded the fingertips of Sam Ashton.
Half Time: Stockport 1-1 Chorley (Kirby 41 – Cottrell 39)
An even half led to the teams going into the break on level terms, which to be fair was a fair reflection of how both sides had played in the first half. Neither side had excelled in the first half, and I was hopeful that the second half would provide a bit more entertainment. As Edgeley Park is a segregated ground, I was unable to complete my usual lap of the ground, and instead Adam and I headed to the refreshment hut for some food. In the queue Adam remarked that he thought that Chorley would emerge as 4-1 winners of the game, but he hadn’t been having the best of days predicting winners of events as he had already lost a couple of bets. To his credit he paid for my cheeseburger and Pepsi Max, which in a deal cost £5, for a Liverpool fan, he’s not a bad person!
The burger was alright, but that might have been due to the fact, that the last time I had eaten anything substantial had been Friday lunchtime, as I had been sick Friday night, and had to be sent home early from work. I had managed a bowl of cereal on Saturday morning, but although I was hungry, I didn’t have any kind of appetite for food, so when it came to half time, I was starving, and I wolfed down the burger.
Chorley could have gotten themselves back into the lead in the 49th minute, as Andy Bond saw his effort cleared off of the line by Paul Connelly, with Marcus Carver missing a gift of a chance as he latched onto the clearance, but he shot wide of the goal.
Darren Stephenson made no mistake in the 54th minute, as he ran onto a poor back-pass, he had a shot at goal, which rebounded off of Ormson, and Stephenson picked up the rebound and made no mistake with his second shot, which thundered into the back of the net.
Josh Hine made it 3-1 in the 62nd minute, as Chorley caught County on the break, and Hine followed a superb run down the right wing, with a fantastic finish past Ormson, for his 9th goal of the season.
In the 64th minute Stockport made a double substitution with Yusuf Coban and Joe Garvin coming on to replace Abdulai Bell-Baggie and Modou Cham respectively. Coban would be coming on to make his debut after signing on loan from Stoke City.
In the 70th minute, Stockport made their final sub with Andy Robinson coming on to replace Micah Evans. This being the Andy Robinson who joined Shrewsbury Town in 2014, and made a couple of appearances before picking up a serious knee injury which saw him retire from the professional game, he then signed for Stockport in 2015.
Chorley made their first change in the 76th minute with James Dean coming on to replace Marcus Carver. Deano has become a hero to Chorley fans since signing for the club and his introduction into the game was greeted with cheers from the Chorley faithful.
In the 80th minute, some Stockport fans began to leave, as they had seen enough. The Chorley fans noticed this, and began to chant “Is there a fire drill?” Which has got to be one of my favourite chants at any football matches (I’m easily amused).
It got worse for Stockport in the 85th minute as they were reduced to nine men. Yusuf Coban had had to leave the pitch due to injury, and in the 85th minute Lewis Montrose was sent off for a rash tackle. He couldn’t really have picked a worse place to make this tackle, as it was directly in front of the linesman, and the Chorley fans. The ref didn’t hesitate and Montrose was on his way off of the pitch. For some reason Andy Robinson decided to get involved at this point, and there was some handbags between the two. Following this, Robinson continued to complain, as he suggested to the ref that Montrose had only been sent off as the ref had been influenced by the Chorley fans, not due to the terrible tackling of his team mate. In all fairness to Robinson, I’m going to assume that he was just frustrated with how the match had gone.
Chorley made a second sub in the 86th minute, with Dean Rittenberg coming on to replace the fantastic Darren Stephenson.
The mass exodus of the home fans continued, and who can really blame them? Their team hadn’t turned up for the second half, and to be fair the home fans had been great during the first half, as they had gotten behind their team. Following Stockport’s plummet through the leagues, I feel that the Stockport fans deserve a lot of credit for sticking with their team.
The Chorley fans began to chant my second favourite chant of the day with a tongue in cheek poke at the ticket prices, “15 quid? You’re having a laugh!” Chorley fans being more used to paying £10 for entry to Victory Park. At £15 Stockport is one of the more expensive ticket prices in the league, however it is worth noting that they do only charge £10 for concessions, who are counted as OAPs, full time students, Under 22’s and the disabled, Under 18’s can get in for £3, and Under 11’s are allowed in for £1.
In the 90th minute, Chorley made their final sub as Jack Lynch came on to replace Andy Bond. Lynch didn’t get a lot of game time as the ref bought the game to an end only a couple of minutes after this substitution.
Final Score: Stockport 1-3 Chorley (Kirby 41 – Cottrell 39, Stephenson 53, Hine 62)
It had begun to rain minutes before the final whistle, and it was still raining as we made our way back to the car. After a bit of guess work we found our way back to the M60. There was still a bit of traffic on the M60 following the Manchester United match, with the United fans making their way back to the South of England (I kid, I kid, my dad’s a United fan, put down the pitchforks). But thankfully this traffic was light, and we got through it quickly. It took around 50 minutes to get back to Adam’s place in Chorley, where I dropped him off, and picked up my wife and kids, who had spent the day with their Aunty and cousin (Adam’s daughter).
Edgeley Park is a brilliant ground, full of character, and definitely more suited to the higher leagues. Stockport have been unlucky of late, and it can only be a matter of time before they find themselves back in the Football League. It won’t be easy to get back there, but I feel it is achievable for a club of Stockport’s size, and at the very least it is what the Stockport fans deserve.
This result leaves Stockport in 6th place, but only a point out of the playoff zone, and only 7 points from the top of the table. Chorley find themselves in 9th position, which sees them 3 points off of the playoff zone, and 9 points from the top of the table. It is worth noting that Chorley have a game in hand over Tamworth who are 5th in the league, and if Chorley win their game in hand they could leapfrog a number of teams.
The officials were alright, the linesman in front of the Chorley fans didn’t have a fantastic game, as he didn’t improve after the break, and continued to miss offsides. The other linesman was good, as he made the correct decisions, or so I thought, and the ref had a good game.
Attendance: 3408 (249 Chorley fans)
Hat-tricks seen so far: 2 (Still!)
Next week’s plan: Bala Town vs Carmarthen, Dafabet Welsh Premier League, 14/11/15
Money spent: £21.50 (£2.50 for a digital copy of the programme, as I couldn’t find anyone selling any in or around the ground it would have been £26.50 if I had paid for my food, cheers Adam!)
Thanks for reading.