Manor Inne 2 Kidsgrove Carpets 1

Monday 4th May 2009
Manor Inne 2 Kidsgrove Carpets 1
Staffordshire County Senior League Division 1
At: North Stafford Sports Club, Shamblers FC
Kick-off: 6-30 pm
Attendance: 30 (headcount)
Weather: overcast, no rain
Duration: first half: 45:46; second half: 46:20

Around 20 football travellers came from far and wide to complete Bank Holiday ‘doubles’ and ‘trebles’. Some had arrived from Coventry Amateurs; others had arrived from Stafford Town. Some had been to Enville in the morning. As for me, it was my only game as we’d spend the day at Beeston Castle in Cheshire.

Technically there was something at stake in this game though the prospects of Manor Inne not winning the Division 1 title were about as likely as Elvis Presley turning up to watch the game riding Shergar. Manor Inne (54 points from 24 games with a goal difference of +44) headed the table needing just a point from one of their last two games to guarantee top spot in the final league table. Third-placed Holt JCB (48 points from 24 goals with a goal difference of +20) were six points behind with two games remaining and had a worse goal difference by some 26 goals. Sandwiched in between Manor and Holt were Hanley Town Reserves, trailing Manor by five points with one game left (played this evening at home to Barton United).

Ninth-placed Kidsgrove Carpets (34 points from 24 games), the opposition for this game, took a four-match unbeaten run in the league into this game which was the penultimate fixture of their first Senior League campaign. They joined last summer from the Crewe League. Kidsgrove had hosted Manor Inne on the opening day of the season back in August and lost 4-1

Manor Inne play at the North Staffs Sports Club (aka Shamblers FC), which is situated in a rural location on Whisper Lane off the A5182 a couple of miles south west of M6 junction 15. I approached from Hanchurch crossroads (where the A519 meets the A5182 and B5038 from Trentham) following a sign for Market Drayton and Shrewsbury over the M6 until a sharp left turn into Whisper Lane after about 1.3 miles. The ground was a further half mile up a track to where pitches were on the left and parking on the right. The place turned out to be familiar as it was the base of an West Midlands League orienteering event I took part in earlier last year in the nearby Swynnerton Old Park.

Around and behind the Sports Club building was an ‘L’ shaped playing field with three pitches running parallel behind the building and one in front to the right. Manor Inne used the furthest pitch of the three which was surrounded on three sides by countryside, hedges and trees with the fourth side adjacent to the cricket square and the remainder of the playing field. It was roped off with dugouts opposite each other on halfway with Kidsgrove’s on the far side and Manor’s on the near side. Both benches kindly provided their respective line-ups and no programme was issued.

“Let’s keep this record intact”, was the cry from the Manor Inne bench as the visitors, Kidsgrove Carpets (wearing all blue) got the game underway attacking the far end in the first. I guess ‘this record’ refers to Manor’s current 11-match unbeaten run in the league. Like the majority of the crowd, I opted to watch the game from the near side next to the cricket square which meant Kidsgrove were playing from left to right.

The game took a while to get going and, in the 16th minute, Manor defender Chris Bailey got forward and curled a shot wide of the Carpets’ goal.

Manor Inne (wearing red and white stripes, red shorts and red socks) went even closer a minute later – in fact so close that they took the lead! Nathan Calvert crossed from the left for Neil Coxon to fire home at close range via the hand of the Kidsgrove keeper Matt Hollinshead.

The home side started to create all the chances. Jamie Derby played a free-kick short to skipper Glen Rae who saw a well-struck rising 25-yard drive tipped over by Hollinshead. Coxon headed wide as did Calvert. Chances continued to be created and Lee Bott sent a long-range drive wide of the right-hand post from some 35 yards out.

Manor Inne thought they’d doubled their lead in the 36th minute and so did I. Calvert got on the end of a right-wing cross and sent a downward header between the keeper and left post, only to see his effort disallowed.

Towards the end of the first half, Manor keeper Ben Lucas was finally called into action to push a dangerous corner from Ashley Stanyer over the bar. The resulting corner wasn’t cleared and Will Slater’s shot was gathered up by Lucas. A couple of minutes before the interval, Derby battled into the Carpets area and fired a low angled shot straight at Hollinshead.

Both sides stayed out at the half-time with the light not at its brightest as dark rain threatening clouds had gathered overhead. The Manor Inne manager was happy with this team’s first-half performance and he wanted them to kill off the game in the second half.

No doubt the boss was delighted when the lead was doubled barely 86 seconds after the restart. Calvert’s initial shot from outside the area was fumbled by Hollinshead and Coxon forced the loose ball home at close range. Surely the title belonged to Manor Inne, if it didn’t already.

However, Kidsgrove quickly pulled a goal back in the 49th minute. Steven Hackney was fouled inside the area by Lucas and Stanyer stepped up to convert the resulting penalty. Rae was booked for his protests and was into the ref’s notebook by five further names before the end of the game.

Around the hour mark, Tom Swindells fired just over the Carpets bar from outside the area and Derby headed Shaun Keates’ free-kick over the bar.

Looking for an equaliser in continuing gloomy light, Jamie Evans angled a shot across the face of the Manor goal which flashed past the left-hand post.

Both sides made a change and Kidsgrove manager Eddie Forrester brought himself on for the last five or so minutes. It was almost a fairy tale cameo by the boss and he almost equalised with a late downward header which Lucas held.

At full-time, two league officials emerged with the Division 1 trophy and skipper Rae was the grateful recipient. Well done Manor Inne!

Thankfully, the rain kept off for the whole game despite the dark clouds overhead.

Manor Inne (red and white stripes / red / red): 1. Ben Lucas, 2. Lee Bott, 3. Chris Bailey, 4. Glen Rae (capt), 5. Dave Cartlidge, 6. Damon Hill, 7. Shaun Keates, 8. Jamie Derby, 9. Neil Coxon, 10. Nathan Calvert, 11. Tom Swindells. Subs: 12. Dan Arrowsmith (for Swindells, 79), Chris Prior (not used), Craig Clewlow (not used).

Kidsgrove Carpets (blue/blue/blue): 1, Matt Hollinshead, 2. Will Slater, 3. Alan Smith, 4. Martin Moran, 5. Phil Wootton, 6. Richie Birchall, 7. Jamie Evans, 8. Matt Smith, 9. Steven Hackney, 10. Martin Smith, 11. Ashley Stanyer. Subs: 15. Eddie Forrester (for Birchall, 85), Joel Ward (not used), Simon Tinsley (not used).

Referee: –