from Ericstan Park
What an unexpected charm Ericstan Park was, not to mention a fascinating top-of -the-table encounter on the pitch. Wythenshawe had flown beneath my radar until this season, on account of being a step eight side, a step where most teams play on roped pitches – my groundspeed is not yet sufficient to warrant delving that low.
Town got promoted from division one last season, thus exhibiting a small blip on my radar screen. Being just up the A34, it was a must on the last week of 6.30 kick offs, before the sun sets too early for county league midweeks. As a bonus they were playing champions and neighbours, Knutsford, lying second in the league to Wythenshawe’s early top position.
I’d heard they had a stand, but wasn’t prepared for the polished, top-notch set up they have. The ground lies next to a Tesco Extra (useful for some pre-match Indian snacks), about the same distance past Manchester Airport as Knutsford is below it, between Stockport and Altrincham.
Two wrought iron gates, displaying the club name front the premises. The man at the gate charged £2 for me £1 for my son and, always a bonus at county level, a programme was on offer for £1 . Good to see county leagues charging a small fee for entrance, often they don’t, and even better to see a well put together programme with some nice touches, like the fixture as a footer, along with the club website. It was better than a lot of higher level programmes I’ve seen.
The ground has two stands, both 31 seaters, both with a 15,16 two row combo, sat opposite each other, just down from the middle of the pitch. One is called the Billy Moore stand and the other has Wythenshawe Town emblazoned on the front. They were well used for this game that I counted roughly as an 80 crowd, maybe as much as 100.
The clubhouse was built in 2009 at a cost of £500,000 and holds a bar and four changing rooms. As well as the bar facilities there is a snack bar at the far end of the near side you come in on, behind the goal. Outstanding facilities for this level of football. Half the ground is tree-lined, on the Tesco side, with one side backing on to what looks like a council estate. Behind the main stand is another pitch, at a 20° angle, next to a Selco Building Warehouse.
The game kicked off at 6.33, a bit laissez-faire given the sunset times, but maybe they’d have a quick break? It was a full-blooded encounter, with both defences solid early on. It was played at a quick tempo and with a concentration that showed how much the game meant to both teams. The quality of football was excellent at times, as both teams tried to find a way through. Knutsford looked slightly the better team and more likely to score in the first half hour, but there wasn’t much in it.
A moment of magic split the teams before the break. Jimmy Green took the ball from midfield, weaved past a couple of Knutsford players, then looking like he’d play it to the left wing, suddenly turned and eyed up the options; before launching it at waist level from 25 yards into the net. The WTFC tweet summed it up well:
The second half was more of the same, intense and competitive. Knutsford struggled to get beyond the competent home defence and Town actually had more opportunities to put it beyond the visitor’s reach. A one-on-one with the keeper after 50 was well blocked (but should’ve been put away). A great through ball on about 70, was fired over, when it should have been buried. They did close out finally, about 5 minutes from time, when veteran Gavin Salmon, ex Warrington Town star, scored from the spot for 2-0. With the second half kicking off at 7.37, it was almost pitch black when he scored. The last 15 minutes was the darkest I’d ever seen football played at. Why the ref allowed a massive half-time I’ve no idea. Kids playing in the street have given up and gone in, in lighter conditions. It has to be noted the Town keeper made a tremendous save from a top-corner bound shot late on, that he would barely have been able to see – kudos for his bat senses.
We stumbled out from what was now a dark skies site, having witnessed a great game of football and superb all-round performance from the newcomers against the league champions. A must visit Cheshire League venue.