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Friday November 29th 2013, KO 19:45pm at ‘Church Lane’, New Mills, Derbyshire.
Evo Stick Northern Premier League D1 North.
New Mills (Amber/Black) 0-2 Salford City (Sky/Navy Blue), attendance 140.
Admission £6.50, programme £1.50, badge £3, coffee £1.
Scheduling a Friday night fixture, for a ground hopper is like throwing a stick for a dog. Especially in my case, because I needed this ground, and it being in a part of the country where the Saturday ‘new ground’ options would be numerous. New Mills FC were experimenting to see if they could entice more through the gate. I suspect what they gained in the many ground hopping faces present, they lost in locals who preferred to stay home, or at the pub on a cold evening. The gate of 140 was about average for the season, so I’m not sure they’d view it as a total success?
New Mills is in the North West of the Peak District, only fifteen miles from Manchester and bordering Cheshire, but just in North Derbyshire. Historically, apart from being a tourist magnet for its very good walking and hill climbing country, economically it’s prosperity was through coal mining and cotton-spinning and bleaching.
One of my main employers now for the local population of about 10,000 is sweets manufacturer Swizzels Matlow who produce popular brands which include, ‘Parma Violets, ‘Refreshers’ ‘Drumstick lollies’ and ‘Lovehearts.
These are all sweets from my youth which are as visible in the shops now as then. Apparently Swizzels Matlow moved to New Mills during the second world war during the blitz of London, and have stayed ever since.
By the time we arrived in nearby Hayfield at our overnight stay, the GBG listed ‘George Hotel’, it was already dark, and so even though we were in the ‘High Peaks’ of the Peak District, enjoyment of the views would need to wait until the Saturday morning. Never has a ground been more appropriately named, with the church of ‘St George’s ‘ being literally twenty yards across the lane, in fact the club were once known as New Mills St George’s and for the first time in my 43 years of watching live football, we were treated to some very loud bell ringing for long periods of the game!
Even before kick off I was recognising a few faces from previous weekend groundhops, and I soon fell into a conversation with another hopper from Watford, up for Fri/Sat fixture, and then later with the kit man (no less) of Maidstone United, who’d been up North all week, because “The Stones don’t have a game this week”. He’d been quite chuffed to have taken in a Europa League fixture the night before at the DW Stadium home of Wigan Athletic for just fifteen pounds admission.
The Millers and Salford were both lower mid table, with New Mills having the slightly loftier league position. As the game progressed you’d not have guessed this, as Salford started with pace and intention. Immediately taking a grip on the game with a six-minute fifteen yard strike from Purcell. The Millers cause not helped by early injuries and substitution of Danny Shaw and Daniel Douglas-Pringle. On the half hour I made my excuses from chatting to my fellow hopper friend from Maidstone and made my circuit of the ground, stalling at a point opposite and between the two dugouts, where after what had seemed a short break the bell ringers were in full flow again, and where I experienced the juxtaposition of some glorious (but loud) church bells, and the expletives and anger of the two benches (Salford being the worse). Made me wonder why so many bores and morons are attached to our wonderful game, that they think communication is always only possible with regular usage of foul and abusive, and haranguing of officials, shame really. On that note, all power to the Northern League with their secret shopper campaign, although I do wonder if this is the equivalent of trying to push an elephant up a stairway? At least they are trying. Having just spent a month watching Rugby League during the world cup, where the behaviour from the players and bench is impeccable I’d love to see improvement in our game, but I believe it is probably just to ingrained for any impression to be made long term.
The second half like the first saw more of the same, Salford created more clear-cut chances, and but for some poor finishing and some good goalkeeping from Pete Collinge, they did not add a second until the 52nd minute when Daniel Browne scored, and although New Mills tried hard for a route back into the game, it was the twenty or so Salford fans that would have had the happier journey home. The second half had been spent under the low slung cover chatting with my new Watford and Maidstone friends and chewing the fat on grounds visited, and where we might all be the following day. At that point in time Mossley and FC United of Manchester were my friends prefered options, whereas mine (at the time) was Frickley Athletic.
And so I journeyed back the three miles to the George hotel to enjoy a few pints with Ros by the warming log fire, and reflect on another enjoyable football evening, amongst the company of a group of red shirted ‘mountain rescue’ volunteers, reminding me that clearly I was not in Berkshire!