Monthly Archives: March, 2013

Ground Review – Ashton Town/St. Helens Town, Edge Green Street

Accessibility – 3/5Edge Green Street 1

Appearance – 2/5

Facilities – 2/5

Parking – 2/5

Refreshments – 3/5

Total:  12/25

Edge Green Street is currently used by two North West Counties sides, it is owned by Division One’s Ashton Town, but has been shared with Premier Division outfit St. Helens Town since 2010.

As long as you know where you’re going, the ground is fairly easy to get to. It is located just off junction 23 of the M6 in Ashton-in-Makerfield near Wigan.

The town itself is easy to navigate but the ground is located down a small backstreet, it is not signposted and you have to look out for the ‘Edge Green Street’ road sign. With a SatNav it will be simple, but without one you may struggle.

Parking is not the greatest, there is a small area in the ground itself behind the goal for around ten to fifteen cars, but they risk being pummelled with wayward shots. The side street to get to the ground can accommodate around twenty cars, it is bumpy and full of potholes but an easy getaway is ensured if you find a spot here.

After paying an adult price of £5 to enter you emerge behind the goal. Down the touchline to the left are the only two stands, a small all-seated stand that must hold around 100, and another covered area with both seats (approx. 30) and steps for standing.

Edge Green Street 3

Both stands look like their best days are behind them, the seats have faded in the sunlight and the corrugated iron and scaffolding the stands are made from are starting to rust.

Behind the far goal is just a fence and a high net to stop balls from flying out of the ground. Down the touchline to the right are the two dugouts, and a small changing room area.

Edge Green Street 2

The perimeter fence around the ground leaves a lot to be desired, it is covered in either dirty tarp or weedy hedges depending on where you look.

In the corner next to the changing rooms is a small clubhouse with a bar, pool table and TV with Sky Sports, although having no windows makes it very dark inside. The bar wasn’t open when I visited but the tea hut at the far end was, and provided the usual football food.

Edge Green Street is not the best ground in the NWCFL Premier Division, but that is to be expected with it being owned by a club from the league below. It does have a good pitch though, and with a bit of housekeeping to the stands and the perimeter fence it would greatly improve.

The Race for Promotion

As April draws ever closer, the race for promotion in the North West Counties Premier Division remains wide open.

It looks as though there are, at most, five teams still in with a chance. Padiham currently lead the way but Runcorn Town and Maine Road sit right behind them, ready to capitalise on any slip up.

Maine Road have played more games than any other team in the top five which leaves them at a disadvantage, Bootle on the other hand have games in hand on all of their rivals. They currently sit in fourth, ten points behind Padiham, but if they were to win all four of their games in hand then they would go top.

Winsford United are the outsiders, they are putting together a good run of form – currently unbeaten in six, winning five of those. If they were to win their games in hand over Padiham, then they would sit just five points off the top. If Winsford continue their form and others stutter, it is not unreasonable to think they could go up.

For Runcorn Linnets in sixth though, it seems it may have to be next year. They have played a game more than Winsford and are still two points behind them. If they could have beaten the Blues in their meeting last week then it might have been a different story, but a 0-0 draw left them wondering what might have been.

If we look at the remaining fixtures of the clubs in the mix, we can get a better idea of who might be playing in the Evo-Stik First Division next season. I’ve had a go at predicting the results too (shown in italic next to the fixtures).

Padiham

The Storks have some really tough games in their schedule and you cannot see them winning all of their games against Linnets, Maine Road, Bootle and Runcorn Town, especially considering they are all away. It looks as though it may be too tough for Padiham to finish as league winners, but if they manage to do it, nobody will argue that they didn’t deserve it.

27.03.13 (H) AFC Liverpool – WinPadiham badge

01.04.13 (H) Silsden – Win

06.04.13 (A) Runcorn Linnets – Draw

11.04.13 (A) Bacup Borough – Win

13.04.13 (H) Congleton Town – Win

20.04.13 (A) Maine Road – Draw

23.04.13 (A) Bootle – Draw

27.04.13 (A) Ashton Athletic – Win

TBA (A) Runcorn Town – Loss

Maine Road

Road’s fixture list has been fairly kind to them, you would expect them to be able to pick up a lot of points in their final games. They do have a habit of throwing up an unexpected poor performance though, as shown by their ten losses this season. All they can do is try to win their remaining games and hope the other slip up

30.03.13 (A) Alsager Town – DrawMaine Road badge

01.04.13 (H) Stockport Sports – Win

06.04.13 (A) St. Helens Town – Win

13.04.13 (H) Squires Gate – Win

20.04.13 (H) Padiham – Draw

27.04.13 (H) AFC Liverpool – Win

TBA (A) AFC Blackpool – Win

Runcorn Town

Runcorn Town’s schedule is similar to that of Padiham’s, in that they have a run of very tough fixtures at the back end of April (Bootle, Winsford and Padiham). However, Runcorn Town play all of those games at home which may give them the advantage.

30.03.13 (A) AFC Blackpool – WinRuncorn Town badge

01.04.13 (H) Runcorn Linnets – Draw

06.04.13 (A) Wigan Robin Park – Win

09.04.13 (A) AFC Liverpool – Win

13.04.13 (H) Glossop North End – Win

15.04.13 (H) Squires Gate – Win

20.04.13 (H) Bootle – Loss

22.04.13 (H) Winsford United – Draw

27.04.13 (A) Stockport Sports – Win

TBA (H) Padiham – Win

Bootle

Looking at the league table, you would think Bootle are in a great position, but when you see how tightly packed their schedule is, you can’t help but think that will affect them. They are pretty much playing three games a week from now until the end of the season, as well as tough games against the likes of Padiham, Runcorn Town, Winsford and Barnoldswick twice. They will do well to catch the leaders with this influx of fixtures.

26.03.13 (A) Alsager Town – WinBootle badge

28.03.13 (H) Glossop North End – Win

30.03.13 (A) Glossop North End – Draw

01.04.13 (H) AFC Liverpool – Win

04.04.13 (A) Barnoldswick Town – Loss

06.04.13 (H) Stone Dominoes – Win

09.04.13 (H) Alsager Town – Win

13.04.13 (A) Colne – Draw

20.04.13 (A) Runcorn Town – Win

23.04.13 (H) Padiham – Draw

27.04.13 (H) Barnoldswick Town – Draw

29.04.13 (A) St. Helens Town – Win

01.05.13 (H) Winsford United – Draw

Winsford United

Winsford have a fairly tight schedule too, but it seems easier than Bootle’s as they only face two teams from the top five. It’s the games against the likes of Barnoldswick, Congleton and Colne in which Winsford will have to pull off a win. If they can’t do that, then you can’t see them going up.

28.03.13 (A) Barnoldswick Town – DrawWinsford badge

30.03.13 (A) St. Helens Town – Win

03.04.13 (A) AFC Liverpool – Win

06.04.13 (H) Congleton Town – Loss

09.04.13 (A) Stone Dominoes – Win

13.04.13 (H) Silsden – Win

17.04.13 (A) Silsden – Win

20.04.13 (A) Squires Gate – Win

22.04.13 (A) Runcorn Town – Draw

27.04.13 (H) Colne – Win

01.05.13 (A) Bootle – Draw

Predicted final table

My result predictions leave the table looking like this:

  1. Runcorn Town – 90 points
  2. Padiham – 89 points
  3. Bootle – 87 points
  4. Maine Road – 86 points
  5. Winsford United – 84 points

Very difficult to predict, but whatever happens we are in for an exciting finish to the season.

Ground Review – Congleton Town, Booth Street

Accessibility – 2/5Congleton 3

Appearance – 5/5

Facilities – 4/5

Parking – 1/5

Refreshments – 3/5

Total: 15/25

Hidden away in a housing estate in Congleton you will find Booth Street, they have done their best to surround the ground with houses but you can just catch a glimpse of it if you look hard enough.

The cricket ground of Congleton CC is easier to see, and if you find that then you’ve found Booth Street, which is just a few yards down the road.

There is no use looking for a car park however, as they do not have one, the best you can do is park up on the roadside of the housing estate. Congleton have escaped getting a 0/5 for parking as there is actually a lot of space to park, but it is certainly not ideal.

Despite what may not be the best start to a visit to Booth Street, when you get in the ground, all will be forgotten.

This is one of the better looking grounds in the North West Counties League, with all four sides providing something different.

After paying an adult price of £5, you emerge from the turnstile by a corner flag; behind the goal on the left is a covered standing area, with netting above to stop any balls flying out of the ground. Down the touchline to the right are two stands (shown below), one is a good sized all-seater that must hold around 200-250, and the other is another small covered standing area.

Congleton 1

On the opposite touchline is a third, fairly modern looking covered stand. This has around four or five steps and sits on the halfway line, in between the two dugouts.

Behind the far goal is a sizeable grass bank, something that always adds a bit of character to a ground. It is fairly steep though, and fans face a struggle to climb to the top where it flattens out, but the struggle is worth it as it provides a great view.

Congleton 4

Congleton, nicknamed the Bears, also have their ‘Bears Den’ club. This is a modern-looking club, not the biggest in the league but still boasts a bar, television and hot food being served, although I believe this was only for the match sponsors.

For the rest of the fans there is a tea hut outside with the usual items on sale – pies, chips, tea, coffee etc. good quality food but with a wait of around 30 minutes for a pie to cook in the oven, they lose a couple of marks here.

From a visual point of view, Booth Street is one of the nicest and most interesting looking grounds in this league. The only thing that lets it down is the parking and the difficulty that some may have to find it, but it would definitely be one that you would look forward to visiting again.

Ground Review – Winsford United, Barton Stadium

Accessibility – 4/5The Barton 2

Appearance – 2/5

Facilities – 3/5

Parking – 5/5

Refreshments – 4/5

Total: 18/25

Winsford United’s Barton Stadium sits atop a steep hill, its large floodlights rising high above the town to be seen from miles away. But that sounds a lot more glamorous than what it really is – a very old ground that is beginning to show its age.

The Barton Stadium is fairly easy to find, those big floodlights do stick out on the Winsford skyline, and it isn’t one of those grounds that’s hidden away on an estate. It has a good location, being fairly central to the town of Winsford and just down the road from a large Morrison’s supermarket.

It boasts one of the best car parks in the league, it’s a good size and well kept. It is not shared with anyone else either so you are pretty much guaranteed a space, and a quick getaway, on every match day.

The Top House pub is situated just next to the ground where many fans will go for a pre-game tipple. Before paying an adult entry price of £6, a fee that many believe is £1 too high for this league.

When stepping through the turnstile the first thing that hits you is the large size of the area the ground covers. The Barton Stadium used to have a greyhound track running around the outside of the pitch, that has been covered in grass now but the space is still there and it goes so far behind each goal that standing there is pointless.

Down one side is the Kingsway stand, a covered standing area that runs along most of the touchline, but with an extremely low roof you have to be careful not to get too enthusiastic when celebrating or you could wind up with a bruised head and hands.

On the opposite side of the pitch is the main stand and club house. The stand itself holds around 150-200 covered seats (depending on how many are actually sheltered from the holes in the roof), with the changing rooms and a tea hut located on either side of it.

Behind the stand is the ‘Blues Club’, a good-sized club with Sky Sports on the big screen and a good selection of drinks at the bar. The decor leaves a lot to be desired though, as it looks as it has come straight out of the 1970s.

Through the Blues Club you can also opt not to go back out in to the cold to watch the football, but stay indoors and watch through the window. The view you get is shown below from a recent game against Runcorn Town when an ambulance was needed for a serious injury.

The Barton 1

It’s a ground that you can tell is aging, but it certainly has character and is something different from most of the things you will see in this league. It is able to hold a large crowd and has good facilities, but just not in the best condition. A recent ground grading review did award the ground an Evo-Stik standard E Grade though, and with the arrangement of new club 1874 Northwich playing there from next season providing extra funds, we may see the Barton Stadium improve in the coming years.

Ground Review – Runcorn Linnets, Millbank Linnets Stadium

Accessibility – 5/5Linnets 2

Appearance – 2/5

Facilities – 4/5

Parking – 4/5

Refreshments – 4/5

Total: 19/25

With a ground that was opened as recently as 2010, you would expect it to be of good quality. Although, as with many of the newer grounds, the Millbank Linnets Stadium does lack that traditional, historic feel that many of the grounds around non-league have.

It is not near the centre of Runcorn itself, but located on the outskirts in area known worryingly as ‘Murdishaw.’ The ground is easy to find though, located less than 100m off an A533 roundabout and well signposted.

As you pull in you may worry at the size of a car park that looks to have a capacity of about 30 at most. But there is an opening that leads you through to the field behind the ground, it may be muddy but they could cater for as many cars as possible here.

You can stop off in the Halton Arms pub next to the ground for a quick pint, or enter straight away for a North West Counties regular price of £5 for an adult.

The ground gives you the feeling that they found a pitch on a field and decided to build a fence around it. Technically that is what has happened, but Linnets have to be commended for building themselves a new home after spending their first four seasons playing at Witton Albion’s Wincham Park.

There are two stands with a distinctly ‘flat pack’ look about them, an all-seated stand located on the half-way line, and a small terrace behind the goal closest to the clubhouse.

Linnets 1

A footpath and a metal bar at optimum leaning height surround the pitch, with a few advertising boards dotted around too. A corrugated fence runs around the whole area, but at a height of about six or seven foot, it is a regular occurance to see balls fly over in to the field that surrounds the stadium.

The clubhouse is usually packed before the game and at half-time, with Linnets boasting the best average attendance in the league. With drinks on offer inside and a good selection of food too, it’s a place that will keep fans happy.

Overall, the Millbank Linnets Stadium is bereft of character but that is something you cannot build in a day, that will come as Linnets continue to play there over the years. The club have plans to build a new roof over the fence, creating what would be like a new small stand which will help. It is a clean, smart looking little ground, nothing spectacular but seeing as the club are less than a decade old, they have done brilliantly to even have their own home.

Weekend Preview – 2nd March 2013

For the first time in a number of weeks, we don’t have a big top of the table clash in the fixture schedule for the North West Counties Premier Division. For the biggest game of the weekend, focus switches to the bottom of the table.

Squires Gate host St.Helens Town in a huge six-pointer. Gate sit in 21st, two points behind St. Helens, meaning a win would move them out of the relegation zone. The formbook suggests St. Helens may get a result, they have won two of their last six whereas Gate have failed to win in any of their last six games. The two teams will play again in three weeks’ time so a win in this first meeting is crucial.

League leaders Padiham travel to Norton United in a battle between two teams that were punished by the League this week. Norton had three points deducted for fielding an ineligible player, and Padiham were thrown out of the League Challenge Cup for the same offence. Padiham haven’t lost in the League since November 10th and have won four of their last five. They are putting an impressive run together that they will expect to continue that at Norton.

Bacup Borough welcome Maine Road to Brian Boys West View Stadium with both teams fighting at opposite ends of the table. Bacup are four points clear of the relegation zone and have the chance to pull away from Squires Gate and St. Helens with those two teams playing each other. Maine Road will be full of confidence after coming off a mid-week 6-1 win over Alsager Town, they can regain top spot if they win and Padiham fail to do so.

Runcorn Town travel to Congleton Town as they look to keep pace with the league leaders. Padiham are four points clear of Runcorn Town, with both teams having played 27 games. Runcorn will believe they get a win in this Cheshire derby, they have one of the best away records in the league and Congleton’s form is beginning to suffer, they have won just one of their last six.

Ashton Athletic are still far from safe, they lie five points clear of the relegation zone but have played more games than three of the four teams below them. They face a tough trip to Winsford United on Saturday, the home side are coming off a good 3-0 win at Glossop on Tuesday and will be looking at their next two games of Ashton Athletic and Stone Dominoes at home as an opportunity to pick up points in quick succession.

Fourth-placed Bootle are seven points behind Padiham with two games in hand heading in to this weekend and they will be confident of another three points at home to AFC Blackpool on Saturday. Bootle followed up last week’s impressive win at Maine Road with another win in midweek, winning 3-0 away at Ashton Athletic. They may be getting in to form at just the right time.

Speaking of teams that are in form, Runcorn Linnets have propelled themselves to fifth after an unbeaten run that has lasted for ten games. They travel to Stockport Sports, a game that sees the team bottom of the form table host the team at the top. Linnets have the chance to go fourth if they win and Bootle fail to beat AFC Blackpool, this run of form has them getting more and more involved in the promotion race each week.

Barnoldswick Town are another team just outside that promotion chasing pack. They have a winnable game at home to Wigan Robin Park. The travelling side lost their prolific goalscorer Phil Howard to Runcorn Town this week but a win here would calm any worries their fans have about that. Barnoldswick won the reverse fixture 1-0 back in October, a repeat performance could see them as high as fourth depending on other results.

A few weeks ago, Colne looked set for a title push, but after a run of five games without a win they have drifted away and find themselves in ninth. This weekend they travel to Glossop North End, who themselves have hit a patchy run. In the first meeting between the two teams back in September, Colne emerged 3-1 winners, something they will be eager to replicate here.

Stone Dominoes are running out of time to put a run of results together if they are to survive the drop as they sit ten points adrift of safety. They have a chance of a positive result this weekend though when they face 16th-placed Silsden at home. Silsden have the worst away record in the league, having won one, drawn one and lost 11 of their games on the road so far this year.

Alsager Town will be hurting after that 6-1 loss at Maine Road on Monday night, they will be looking for a response when they travel to AFC Liverpool. The two teams met just a couple of weeks ago in the League Challenge Cup and AFC Liverpool won that game 2-0, they are in good form too, having lost just one of their last six, and may prove just too strong for Alsager again.

Saturday 2nd March 2013 – NWCFL Premier Division

AFC Liverpool vs Alsager Town

Bacup Borough vs Maine Road

Barnoldswick Town vs Wigan Robin Park

Bootle vs AFC Blackpool

Congleton Town vs Runcorn Town

Glossop North End vs Colne

Norton United vs Padiham

Squires Gate vs St. Helens Town

Stockport Sports vs Runcorn Linnets

Stone Dominoes vs Silsden

Winsford United vs Ashton Athletic