Just occasionally a best laid plan goes wrong. I travelled north the day before with two cameras safely tucked away in my bag, on the grounds that it’s always best to have a back up.
But on the day of the game I decided not to take the back up camera, WRONG! I managed to get one photo taken outside the ground, see to your left, before my camera batterty (as my wife’s six-year-old nephew used to call it), failed on me, damn blast and all things not repeatable here!
Of course, I have since been wearing a virtual hairshirt and swatting myself regularly with the Daily Mail (well it has no other use does it?).
So the other photos you see in this blog have been half inched from the T’internet, so apologies to my blog readers (the two of you out there), and I hope not to repeat this schoolboy error in the future.
Anyway, it’s a painless fifteen minute train ride out of Manchester Piccadilly. Alighting at Godley station, from there it’s a ten minute walk down a straight a road before a left turn and the ground is tucked behind housing fifty yards after turning off and into that road.
Hyde is a suburb to the east of Manchester, famous during the 19th century as a mill town during the industrial revolution, these days now more a satellite town for those working in the city.
Sadly it is has some pretty depressing criminal connections. Serial killer Dr Harold Shipman practised there. And the infamous 60s ‘moors murderers’ Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were arrested in the town.
But as I strolled toward the football ground on a fine spring day, it felt just like any other quiet respectable suburban town.
Many locals, some I’m sure not intending to watch Hyde later, were glued to the big TV screen in the car park clubhouse watching Man City play at Everton (they lost 2-0). I noted real ale was not available and quickly left the scene, but just hovering long enough for a short conversation with the club shop man.
Ewen fields is my kind of ground, it has plenty of covered terracing, an adequate number of seats, and that lived in homely feel that many of the new builds don’t posses. It did remind me so much of Blyth Spartans ‘Croft Park’ ground which has a similar layout.
What is less easy to like is the branding of the stadium and club since Man City moved in a few years ago. City’s academy teams now play their games at Ewen Fields. As a consequence, they asked that the United be dropped. Yes we all know that they are City’s bitter rivals, but how petty is this? Worse still, all the seats were changed to sky blue, the club badge became sky blue, and for a while, apparently the club dropped their traditional red shirts for a blue variety, and the stands are littered with ‘Etihad’ as well as the City badge prominant on front and back of stand.
Seemingly the change from red to blue was a step too far, many fans were up in arms about this, and they soon dropped that in favour of reverting back to red shirts and navy blue shorts. However, during this re-branding process the club lost local United fans, many who haven’t returned.
Now clearly Hyde with a regular fan base of five hundred or so are punching above their weight, playing their first, and it seems succesful season of conference national football, and I’m sure the income from City, suggested to be about 6k a month is very valuable, but I question whether it is worth sacrificing ones history and identity? Although I can also see that Hyde’s board must have been very compromised with City’s bullying tactics, money in one hand and hammer in the other, a tricky decision.
Going into this game, Dartford, also new to the Conf national in 12-13 but having been promoted from the Conf South, rather than the Northern variety Hyde had come from, were sitting very nicely in mid table, couldn’t go up, couldn’t go down. Hyde had been on an amazing run of form before christmas but that form had dipped. However, a 2-1 win at Luton in midweek had lifted them out of the gloom, and with the addition of the excellent Jamie Milligan on loan from Fleetwood, still looked a very good bet to avoid relegation. From my neutral eye this looked to be about whether the Dartford boys had the attitude to match Hyde.
Before kick off, I managed to get a practice ball full on in the chops, thankfully as I was turning from dropping my pie foil in a litter bin, the ball hit me just below the nose, having bounced on the terracing first, a bit of a shock, but no harm done, half-inch higher and I may have had some broken glasses to add to my camera dilemma! And no thanks to the player/s who couldn’t even be bothered to attempt a shout of ‘fore’ grrrrrr.
The game went exactly as I thought it may do, the experienced Milligan got a grip in midfield for Hyde, and although Dartford has much, if not more possession, they did little with it, and there wasn’t much threat to the Hyde goal, their lone striker Erskine looked slow of foot as well as mind. Hyde took the lead on twenty-six minutes after a neat half volley from Hogan. Then a lovely team move finished with Hogan crossing for Blinkhorn to sweep the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to put Hyde 2-0 up in the 68th minute, a really lovely goal that even saw me applauding enthusiastically.
Dartford plodded away, but didn’t give their small band of loyal travelling fans (9am coach from Kent apparently) much to cheer, and after eight three minutes Hogan was the provider again with a pin-point cross to set up Louis Almond, 3-0 was how it finished, and although the club looks a little confused with its image of the pitch, today on it, they played with purpose and unity, and I suspect that loan signing of Milligan will turn out to be catalyst for them finishing in a comfortable position away from the relegation zone.