Tag Archives: Leek Town

Ground-hopping #1 x Non-League football #1

Welcome to the “Abacus Community Stadium” or Cantilever Park for short

WARRINGTON TOWN 1 – 2 LEEK TOWN – FA TROPHY FIRST PRELIMINARY ROUND

So I’m back to trying to get some regular blogging done, which feels rather nice actually. For those of you who aren’t aware the last couple of months have been hectic, hence the lack of blog updates. I’ve gone and got myself married to a fantastic woman, I’ve moved towns and I’ve gone and got myself back into work after just over a year out, brilliant. Now that all these things have happened it means that now, even though I have a lot less spare time on my hands, I do have a bit of extra income which means I can finally go out and do activities, and purchase items which will give me some subject matter in which to actually commentate on in this here blog, which, and let’s be honest now, is what my blog has lacked….subject matter.

So anyway, like I mentioned before I have moved home and into a little place with my Wife in, well…Warrington. I know that straight away that will raise a few eyebrows and I have to admit, despite the fact my Wife comes from here, I’ve always been somewhat cynical and a bit harsh on Warrington. It’s only since moving here I’ve actually come to the conclusion Warrington isn’t actually that bad. I mean yeah it has it’s bad parts, but where doesn’t these days? Also, yeah it may not be as good a place as Liverpool or even Wirral in my eyes, but that’s because for me Merseyside has been my home for 25 years. To be fair on Warrington I’m starting to find some of it’s hidden gems that you only realise are here from living here and not just occasionally popping through to go to IKEA. I have no doubt that some of these gems will create some kind of subject matter for future blog entries.

However, I do have an issue with Warrington. Unfortunately, this is a Rugby League town, famous for it’s Cup winning side Warrington Wolves. Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to Rugby, well I’ll be honest, I really don’t care for it. I played some Union when I was a kid in school but never stuck with it and I don’t believe I’ve actually sat down and watched a full Rugby match either on the telly or in real life since England won the World Cup v Australia back in 2003 when I was still in college. So as you can imagine the majority of people who do follow football in Warrington tend to support Utd, City, Liverpool or Everton and maybe perhaps a few other teams that aren’t geographically far away, that saying I have seen a few people in recent weeks wearing replica kits of Norwich, Palace, Ipswich and even Brighton & Hove Albion which is kind of odd. For the true passionate football fan in Warrington however there is Warrington Town FC.

Just like in most large towns around the country, or towns that are more famed for their Rugby, you’ll always find a little lonely non-league club hidden away in the middle of nowhere. Based roughly half a mile from my house on the banks of the Manchester ship canal overshadowed by the Cantilever bridge you will find Cantilever Park home of Warrington Town formally known as Stockton Heath Albion FC. Little fact for you, former Liverpool legend and World Cup winner Roger Hunt began his career here before brief spells at Bury and Devizes Town and then returned all before signing for Liverpool in July ’58.

Warrington Town are currently sat in 8th tier of English Football in the “Evo-Stick Northern Premier League Division One North” which is the league that the new birth Chester FC found themselves in a few seasons ago, in fact Chester’s first league match as a new-co club was actually against Warrington at the Cantilever. This Saturday just gone Warrington we’re scheduled to take on Division One South outfit Leek Town in the first preliminary round of the FA Trophy at the Cantilever, and seeming as I had the weekend off work, I love football of all levels and can never say no to an opportunity to visit a pastures new when it comes to football grounds, well it was a no-brainer really, and to make it better I invited my old man up for the day to experience some non-league cup football.

First half view from the ‘Bridge End’ Terrace. Warrington are the team in Yellow shirts, Blue Shorts. Leek Blue shirts, white shorts

Prior to kick off I headed to the pub with my old man to watch the second half of the Norwich-West Ham game and take in a few scoops. As soon as that had finished we took the short stroll up towards the Cantilever and found ourselves with 10 minutes to spare before kick off and headed into the Sports social attached to the ground which at £2.50 a pint is a cracking little pre-match drinking option. After throwing back a couple of quick pints we headed through the turnstiles (pictured at the top) paid our £8 in and headed straight for the small snack bar that was serving the usual pie, chips and gravy option at £3, before heading over to the “Bridge End Terrace” located at the far end of the ground in the shadow of the Cantilever Bridge.

The Bridge End Terrace

This was my first match day experience at Cantilever, although certainly not my first non-league match as I’ve frequented Marine, Chester, Cammel Lairds and even Burton Albion prior to their promotion 3 years ago, so it was all about first impressions today. To be honest, I can’t knock the ground at all. Considering how low down the pyramid ‘The Wire’ are the Cantilever is a decent ground, I mean it’s showing it’s age a little bit and obviously it homes a club with not alot of money behind it but there have been a few changes to help it bring it into the modern game a bit without going over the top i.e a fairly new smart looking clubhouse which has a balcony where you will find the club’s Directors standing during the match. There are 3 stands around the 4 edges of the ground. One stand is connected to the snack bar and the clubhouse located just behind the dugouts that homes about 80 seats, another stand located directly opposite the dugouts which homes about 100 seats and the ‘Bridge End’ terrace, which is a rather large all standing terrace behind one of the goals. In between all that there is plenty of standing space which in total can house 3,500 people (not that that is likely to happen anytime soon). Yeah it would be fair to say that I got a great first impression from the ground, cheap beer, cheap (and tasty) scran, decent entry price and a covered all standing terrace, what’s not to like.

The ‘Canal side’ stand, directly behind this you will find a large drop into the Manchester Ship Canal

As for the match itself the first half was a fairly dull affair, Warrington found themselves with the best of the chances but couldn’t make the breakthrough, no thanks to Leeks goalkeeper who was actually a cracking shot stopper, the first half finished goalless. At this point I headed for the Social for another pint with my dad but on my way round I couldn’t help but notice who was Warrington’s manager, Sean Reid. Sean is a former ex-pro who made his career in the lower ends of the football league with the likes of York, Preston, Chester and Rochdale oh and he also happens to have a brother, yep, Peter, the former Everton legend who happened to be there the week before to watch his brothers team progress into the next preliminary round of the FA Cup after beating Maine Road, unfortunately he wasn’t there today.

So after supping a couple of more pints at half time we headed back into the playing area where we found ourselves stood alongside the dugout as the Leek Fans (who by the way we’re in full voice even if there was only 26 of them) had moved to the Bridge End terrace. I love that about non-league, the fact you can swap ends at half time. As for the second half the match looked more lively, again Warrington creating most of the chances. They we’re finally rewarded with a goal when one of the strikers (no I don’t know his name) was brought down in the box and was rewarded a stone wall penalty which he cooly and calmly buried into the bottom corner sending the keeper the wrong way, 1-0 Warrington. However, this wasn’t to last. Just a few minutes after scoring the penalty, Town found themselves on the back foot and after a clever bit of play from Leek the score was even once again, 1-1. It got worse for Town as with 10 minutes to go a cross from the right was glided in straight on to the head of the Leek striker to make it 2-1.

View from the second half of the Bridge End and the Cantilever Bridge just above it

In the last 10 minutes Town tried to get themselves back on to level terms and possibly push a replay but it was to no avail and Warrington’s dreams of pushing for a place in this years FA trophy will have to wait another year. My old man and I left the ground chuffed we got to see a decent entertaining game but a little bit gutted the Wire didn’t walk away with the win, we headed back to the pub to get more drinking done, watch the Liverpool-Sunderland game and then eat some Chinese food.

All in all, my first experience of the ‘The Wire’ was a good one apart from the score. I mean I wouldn’t sacrifice Everton and become one of them fellas that only supports a non-league club and bangs on about how ‘I support my local club and the ONLY’ who’s biggest dream is the possibility of seeing his team in the dizzy heights of a FA Cup first round draw at Carlisle, but I will definitely be making a few trips up to the Cantilever again in the future. After all, the ground is literally half a mile from my house and with the current state of the Modern game making it more and more difficult for the average fan to get to a big game with the hike in ticket prices and the soulless cylinder block modern stadiums and being told to sit down and shut up by stewards it seems like a bit of a no-brainer for someone who loves football as much as I do.

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Filed under Cup Football, Ground-Hopping, Non-League