AFC Telford United

AFC Telford United vs Chorley, Vanarama National League North, 05/03/16, New Bucks Head, Match 31

It was another one of those weeks where everything went to plan. Last week I had said that I would be taking in this fixture, and I have to admit I did spend a lot of the week waiting for it to be called off due to weather related issues, but happily the fixture was on, and maybe I should stop being such a pessimist. This fixture had caught my eye at the start of the season, as it would give me a chance to see my second team, Chorley, at my first teams near neighbours AFC Telford, with my first team being Shrewsbury Town. I normally wouldn’t use the terms first and second team, but that’s the only way to describe my allegiances so it’ll have to do.

There was also another reason why this fixture caught my eye, and that is because Chorley will be playing Telford both home and away in the same half of the season. With the away fixture being today, Chorley then host Telford on the 30th of April in the final league fixture for both sides. I’ve not seen this occur often in my time as a football fan, and I’m hoping to get to the return fixture in April.

I decided to leave my car at home today, given that there is a good train service between Wrexham and Wellington, and the cost of the train ticket £13.70 was around the same as how much I would use in petrol, plus it meant I could have a couple of beers. I caught the 12.34pm train to Shrewsbury, and once on board I soon spotted the food and drink trolley from which I purchased a can of Carling for £3.20. The train soon arrived in Shrewsbury, and I disembarked from the train, and spent a twenty minute wait on the platform before the train to Wellington arrived at 13.33pm. I finally arrived into Wellington station at 13.47pm, and headed straight for the Wetherspoons.

The William Withering JD Wetherspoons pub is around a 5 minute walk from the station, and goodness me it is dark inside! I mean dark to the point of almost being pitch black, and I was surprised that people weren’t carrying torches. After successfully navigating my way to the bar I ordered a pint of Carling and paid £2.49 for it. I then found a relatively clean table, maybe that’s why it was so dark to hide the dirt, and drank my pint.

Pint finished, I left the pub and stood blinking at the sun for a while, as I waited for my eyes to readjust. Strangely in the Shelter Charity shop next to the Wetherspoons, there was a signed Shrewsbury Town shirt, which was odd given the rivalry between Salop and Telford. I didn’t require directions from my phone to find the New Bucks Head, as I’d driven past the ground numerous times, as my late Nan used to live in Wellington, and to get to her flat we used to drive past the New Bucks Head, so the route has been burned into my brain. I decided to stop off for another pint in the Swan Hotel, another Carling this time for £3.20. In the Swan I watched the last ten minutes of the Spurs vs Arsenal game, and at the final whistle I headed down to the New Bucks Head.

I’d arrived in plenty of time to have a walk around the ground, and I headed around the David Hutchinson terrace, towards the away terrace, the Frank Nagington terrace. This is where it gets odd, as I arrived outside the terrace to find all of the turnstiles closed. Confused, I headed back to the David Hutchinson terrace, and found a very friendly steward, who informed me that I would need to go through one of the David Hutchinson turnstiles, and then walk in front of the Sir Stephen Roberts Stand to get to the Frank Nagington terrace where the away fans were housed. At the terrace I paid £14 to get in, and before I queued up I separated with £2.50 for a programme.

This was to be the second time I had ever stood on the Frank Nagington terrace, as I have been here before, back when I was around 11 years old. My memory is hazy given that it was 14 years ago, but I believe it was April 1st 2002, and I had nagged my dad into taking me to see Hayes FC play Telford FC, we were in the area as we were either dropping my nan off after having her at ours, or we were picking her up to take her down to ours. If memory serves me rightly, Jim Bentley was playing for Telford, and the ground was still undergoing renovation work, I can’t remember what the Sir Stephen Roberts stand looked like, but the Jack Bentley stand had a temporary seater stand on it, and the players were getting changed in portakabins on the car park, the score that day was 2-1 to Hayes. I’m going to have to see if my parents still have the programme for this game.

As I have just mentioned, the last time I was here, the New Bucks Head was undergoing serious renovation, which finished in 2003, and the stadium looks great, even as a Shrewsbury Town fan, I have to say that this is a great stadium and it wouldn’t look out of place in the Football League. I emerged through the turnstiles onto the concourse of the David Hutchinson terrace, the entrance to the terrace is at the back of the stand, and from the back of the stand you get a great first impression of the ground. The home fans occupied the David Hutchinson terrace, which houses 1100 fans, opposite this stand is the Frank Nagington terrace, which is given to the away fans, with both stands being identical. From the David Hutchinson terrace, I walked down to the Sir Stephen Roberts stand, this stand provides the only seating in the ground, and houses 2200 fans, the seats are beginning to fade but the stand is still smart looking to one side of this stand are the changing rooms and at the other stands a Police control box. To the right of the Frank Nagington terrace is the Jack Bentley stand which is a large uncovered terrace, the dugouts stand to the front of this stand, but it is dominated by the club offices and study centre which stand at the back of this stand.

The work on the New Bucks Head finished in 2003, which was around the time that Shrewsbury Town dropped into the Conference and into the same league as the old Telford United. The two sides fortunes couldn’t have been more different, as at the end of the season Shrewsbury Town were promoted back into the Football League, but Telford United ceased to exist. Financial difficulties bought on by debts accrued by formed owner Andy Shaw saw Telford United collapse, and out of the ashes rose AFC Telford United, with the new club being founded in May 2004, and able to boast 1005 fan ownership. Bernard McNally was appointed as the clubs’ first ever manager, and AFC Telford embarked on their first ever season in the Northern Premier League Division One. AFC Telford were successful in their first season, as they gained promotion through the play-offs, beating Kendal Town 2-1 to clinch promotion to the Northern Premier League Premier Division. Their second season didn’t go exactly to plan and the club sacked McNally, who was replaced by Sean Parrish as caretaker. Rob Smith was appointed in February 2006, and he was to be assisted by Larry Chambers, the new regime started with an unbeaten run and Telford finished in 10th place. Their third season bought a second promotion, as Telford once again went through the play-offs, this time beating Witton Albion 3-1 to secure promotion to the Conference North. Telford then went on to qualify for the play-offs in their first season in the Conference North, but they were beaten 4-0 on aggregate by Barrow in the semi-finals. Telford were once again to qualify for the play-offs in the 2008 to 2009 season, and after beating Alfreton Town 5-4 on aggregate in the semi-finals they faced Gateshead in the final, unfortunately for Telford, Gateshead emerged victorious in a game that finished 1-0. Rob Smith and Larry Chambers were to leave the club following a disappointing 2009 to 2010 season, with Andy Sinton replacing Smith as manager. Once again Telford qualified for the play-offs following finishing second in the 2010 to 2011 season, this time they were to emerge victorious as they beat Guiseley 3-2 in the final, which meant the club won promotion to the Conference National. The Bucks were to survive in the Conference National until the end of the 2012 to 2013 season when they were relegated back to the Conference North. They didn’t spend long in the Conference North, as new manager Liam Watson guided them to top spot in the league, with the club finishing as champions, and earning a return to the Conference National. However United didn’t spend long in the Conference National as they finished 23rd in the league, and dropped back into the Conference North. This season hasn’t gone swimmingly for Telford, as they currently find themselves battling against relegation, the return of Rob Smith and Larry Chambers seems to have lifted the club slightly, but they come into this game in 20th position, and desperate to catch Brackley Town who sit one point ahead, and outside of the relegation zone.

I’ve covered Chorley’s history before, in my blog from their game with Stockport County, so I won’t go into it again. The Magpies come into this game sat in 8th place, and 8 points off of North Ferriby United who occupy the final play-off spot.

On the bench for AFC Telford was an ex-Shrewsbury Town player in the form of Dave Hibbert. Hibbert played for Salop between 2007 and 2010, and in my opinion was a fantastic striker, in 104 appearances, he netted 29 goals for us, and I was sad to see him leave for Peterborough in 2010. Unfortunately at Peterborough he picked up a knee injury which saw him retire from the professional game in April 2013. Hibbert then returned to football with Nuneaton Town before going on to play for Tamworth, before joining AFC Telford in 2015.

Chorley found themselves attacking towards the away fans in the first half, and to Telford’s credit they weren’t playing like a team near the bottom of the league, as Telford matched Chorley attack for attack, and as the half time break loomed it looked like the half would finish even in a tight game.

However that wasn’t to be the case, as following a defensive blunder on the edge of the Chorley area, the ball fell to AFC Telford striker and former Manchester United player John Cofie, who coolly slotted past Sam Ashton to put Telford into the lead in the 39th minute.

With that sucker-punch goal, Telford took the initiative and continued to push forward. Chorley seemed to be unable to cope with the Telford attack, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only Chorley fan hoping that the team would make it to half time.

Fate didn’t seem to be on the Magpies’ side, as the referee spotted an off the ball altercation between Chorley captain Andy Teague and Josh Wilson. I’m not 100% sure what actually happened, and I would welcome anyone at the game with a better view of the incident to leave a comment explaining what actually occurred. All I know is that the ref blew for a penalty and Andy Teague received a red card for his actions. Lucas Dawson stepped up to take the penalty, and he put the ball away with power to put Telford into a two goal lead on the stroke of half time. Following the goal, Chorley made their first change with Jack Lynch coming off for Courtney Meppen-Walter in an attempt to solidify the Chorley defence.

Half Time: AFC Telford United 2-0 Chorley (Cofie 39, Dawson 45- Teague red card 45)

At half time I headed around to the Sir Stephen Roberts stand to get some food, as the refreshment hut in the Frank Nagington terrace was closed. Whilst in the queue I reflected on the first half, and came to the conclusion that this Telford side shouldn’t be in the league position they are in. I also reflected on the game I had seen last week, in which I had seen Porthmadog go a man down, to win the game, and began to hope that it would be the same again with Chorley coming back to win. One thing I didn’t get whilst in the queue was any food or drink, as in the 15 minutes I was in the queue, it barely moved, and I was still about ten people from the front when the two sides came back onto the pitch, given the choice between football or food, I was always going to choose football.

As a regular contributor to the Football Snack & Tea Bars Facebook group, I took my usual picture of the refreshment hut. As I turned to walk away, after taking the picture, I was stopped by a steward who demanded to know why I had taken a picture. Calmly I explained that I was a groundhopper, and that I would be blogging about the game, and that the picture would be something I placed on the internet. He then asked if I had any ID, I’m guessing official photographer’s ID, to which I responded that I didn’t. I’m still not sure what the point of this exchange was, as it was easy enough just to walk away from him, which I did. Strange.

The second half started with Chorley facing the task of closing a two-goal gap, and in all honesty they didn’t look like they would manage it, as they were toothless in the final third.

Chorley made their second sub of the game in the 66th minute as Jack Dorney came on to replace Adam Roscoe.

Chances were very few and far between, and the tempo of the game appeared to have fizzled out. Telford seemed comfortable with the fact that they would be finishing this game with three points if they didn’t do anything stupid, and Chorley seemed unable to find a spark.

Telford made their first change in the 80th minute as goal-scorer John Cofie came off for Izak Reid. Cofie looks to be a good player, and I know that he had a trial at Shrewsbury once, he could definitely play at a higher level, possibly League Two.

In the 83rd minute, Telford made their second sub with Jack Rea making way for Sean Clancy. Telford seemed to be happy to slow the game down at this point, which was reflected in their subs.

Chorley made their final change in the 85th minute, as Paul Jarvis made way for Kieran Charnock. Telford then made their final sub two minutes later, with Connor McCarthy being replaced by the brilliantly named Tom Tonks.

The referee signaled for four minutes of extra time, and I tried to work out why he was prolonging the Chorley fans’ suffering, happily the four minutes passed quickly, and an abject Chorley performance was bought to an end.

Final Score: AFC Telford United 2-0 Chorley (Cofie 39, Dawson 45- Teague red card 45)

Three points for Telford sees them move out of the relegation zone and into safety on account of their goal difference. Lowestoft now occupy 20th place, and both Telford and Lowestoft are on 33 points, although Telford’s goal difference of -14, sees them in 19th, whereas Lowestoft’s -16 sees them in 20th. Lowestoft do have two games in hand over Telford but that doesn’t equal guaranteed points, and if Telford continue to play the way they are, then they should be safe. Whilst Chorley were poor and out-of-sorts, Telford were fantastic today, and deserve full credit for a good win.

Despite defeat today, Chorley continue to occupy 8th position, and currently sit 1 point above Stockport County. Chorley do know find themselves 9 points off of Nuneaton Town who now occupy the final play-off spot. With only ten games left for Chorley, they’ll need to find some form if they are to get into the play-offs.

I was really impressed with my visit to the New Bucks Head, not only with the stadium, which is fantastic, but also with the stewards who were friendly and informative, even the steward at half time was friendly enough. You can tell that Telford is a community club, and I wish them luck for the future, but not on Tuesday 5th April when they take on Shrewsbury in the final of the Shropshire Senior Cup. It was great to see that Chorley made an effort to clean up their changing room, and it was good to see plenty of praise for the Chorley fans and playing staff, and hopefully there’ll be a good game between the two sides on the 30th of April when the two sides meet at Victory Park.

From the ground I walked down to the train station to find out that the next train to Wrexham would be the 18.07pm to Holyhead, with around 45 minutes to kill, I headed into the Station Hotel & Bar. I was spontaneous in my drink choice and decided on a pint of Carling, okay so I wasn’t spontaneous, and this blog has definitely not been sponsored by Carling (although if anyone with connections to Carling is reading, I’ll write stuff for beer). Feeling hungry I got some crisps as well, and my jaw hit the floor when I was told that it would be £2.60 for the Carling and the crisps. I had noticed that the crisps would be 60p, which meant that my pint was £2. I sat and watched the scores on Sky Sports News whilst waiting for my train, noting that Salop had beaten Doncaster. So even though Chorley had lost, today was a good day.

Attendance: 1391

Hat-tricks seen so far: 3

Money spent: In the ground £16.50 Outside of the ground (excluding train tickets) £11.49

Next game: Porthmadog vs Buckley, Huws Gray Alliance, 19/03/16

AFC Telford’s twitter: https://twitter.com/telfordutd

Chorley’s twitter: https://twitter.com/chorleyfc

For pictures of today’s adventures follow this link: My Flickr

Thanks for reading!

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