Irlam 1 West Didsbury & Chorlton 1

Saturday 1st December 2012
Irlam 1 West Didsbury & Chorlton 1
North-West Counties League Division One
At: Silver Street, Irlam
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1-50 (48 pages)
Weather: very cold, dry
Attendance: 45
Duration: first-half: 45:50; second-half: 46:45

For a moment in second-half stoppage time I thought I’d seen something occur at a match for the very first time – a goalkeeper scoring in open play. Trailing to a nice bit of clinical finishing by West’s Tre Baldwin Willis in first-half stoppage time, Irlam threw everyone bar one defender forward in a bid to grab a last-gasp equaliser. Goalkeeper Jamie Brewer headed Chris Rowan’s corner towards goal and Theo Bailey Jones got the final touch before the ball entered the net.

Around eight hours before that equaliser, I got a bit of a surprise on opening the curtains; instead of an expected frozen winter wonderland, I was greeted by weak sunshine and light rain. I had thought my only option was going to be a 3G pitch so it became a question of which direction to head especially as a possible 2 pm kick-off in Sutton Coldfield ended up being out of reach due to an overrunning family commitment.

Twitter again provided valuable information and a message from Irlam FC (@IrlamFC) persuaded me to head up the M6 to make a first visit to Silver Street in over 21 years:

1st team game is on 3pm kickoff at sliver street vs west didsbury and chorlton

Like a lot of grounds I visited at night during the early 1990s, I’ve got little recollection of my previous visit to Silver Street on Tuesday 10th September 1991 to watch now defunct Irlam Town and Congleton Town in the NPL Division One which finished 5-3. With no photos to look at, my old plan of the ground shows that the three stands which stood back then have disappeared as has the clubhouse. I’m enjoying returning to some of these long since visited grounds and Irlam’s home was no exception.

I approached from M6 Junction 21 along the A57 and B5320. After passing Irlam railway station, I knew I needed to turn left but found street signs difficult to spot. Most helpfully, immediately after passing the Co-op, a sign pointed the way down Silver Street to ‘IRLAM FC’ and ‘Animals in Distress sanctuary’.

The programme today included the history of Irlam FC, which was formed as Mitchell Shackleton FC in 1969 by a group of employees working for Mitchell, Shackleton and Company Limited, a well established engineering company based in Patricroft. The club changed name to Irlam MS, then moved to Silver Street in 2003 and subsequently changed name again to Irlam FC. The club joined the North-West Counties League in 2008.

I saw West Didsbury & Chorlton play their first-ever North-West Counties League game back in August when they lost 3-2 to Formby ( We didn’t know at the time how good that narrow defeat was as Formby began the season with nine straight league victories.

League table wise, Irlam (12 points from 15 games) went into game in 16th position with West Didsbury (26 points from 16 games) pushing for promotion in fourth position, seven points behind leaders AFC Darwen with a game in hand.

Teams were announced over the tannoy, the turnstile man went out of his way to sell me a programme (I was an early arrivee) and the tea bar was a nice place to relax out of the cold before the game. Just before kick-off, I was approached by a fellow traveller, Colin, who had made his way up from Birmingham. Nice to meet you.

West Didsbury (in white and black) got the game underway attacking the entrance end in the first half – left to right in relation to a seat in the stand.

Defences were very much on top from the off and the first decent scoring opportunity didn’t come until the 11th minute. A good move by Irlam set up Theo Bailey Jones who forced West’s goalkeeper Ben Simpson to dive to his right to hold a low shot.

As the half wore on, I felt that the touch-tackling visitors were starting to get on top and, in the 36th minute, Tre Baldwin Willis picked up the ball in space on the left and fired low across the face of goal. Lee Shillito also shot across the face of the Irlam goal and wide of the far right post a few minutes later.

It looked like the first half would end goalless until the visitors took the lead in stoppage time. Baldwin Willis got clear and confidently hammered a well-struck shot past Jamie Brewer.

For the second half, I stood between the two dugouts and saw West Didsbury continue to threaten after the restart. Shillito stayed onside as he broke down the right and cut in to hit a low shot which Brewer parried at the near post.

Just before the hour mark, Callum Jones latched onto a pass from Anthony Potts down the middle and poked the ball past the onrushing Brewer just past the unguarded goal.

The Irlam defence was certainly forced to work hard to keep their side in contention. Gareth Thomas played the ball to Danny Summers who took it into the area with two players unmarked at the far post. But Irlam’s Jordan Smith blocked the cross amid unsuccessful appeals for handball.

With 20 minutes remaining, I started to feel that West’s one goal advantage might not be enough especially when Irlam really started to pose problems in what was a really absorbing contest.

A corner from Chris Rowan wasn’t completely cleared and Liam Morrison drove low past the right-hand post.

“Millsy, keep us going, pressure,” shouted the home bench, “keep working”. An Irlam equaliser was a distinct possibility. Yet, while they were pushing forward, the defence continued to work hard.

Irlam made a third and final chance with Liam Pennington replacing Morrison in the 83rd minute (photo right).

With time running out, Rowan’s corner fell to Pennington at the far post who saw his shot cleared. Paul Monk tried to put Bailey Jones clear but Simpson raced out of his area to boot the ball out of the ground.

Dramatically, Irlam gained one last chance to equalise from a corner. Everyone bar one defender and one attacking packed the area including Brewer wearing a bright orange top. Rowan delivered the ball into the area, Brewer headed it goalwards and it ended up in the net. Bailey Jones was credited with the equaliser – a just reward for the hard work put in by the home side.

This was a fitting end to an enjoyable, though cold, afternoon at Silver Street.

Irlam (blue/blue/blue): 1. Jamie Brewer, 2. Paul Monk, 3. Barry Lomas, 4, Steven Mills (capt), 5. Connor Braithwaite, 6. Jordan Smith, 7. Mark Ratcliffe, 8. Liam Morrison, 9. Richard Chetcuti, 10. Darron Green, 11. Theo Bailey Jones. Subs: 12. Chris Monaghan (for Chetcuti, 69), 13. Chris Rowan (for Ratcliffe, ht), 14. Liam Pennington (for Morrison, 83), 16. Ryan Hutchinson (not used).

West Didsbury & Chorlton (white with black sleeves / black / black): 1. Ben Simpson, 2. Callum Jones, 3. Scott Jones, 4. Callum Schofield, 5. Anthony Potts, 6. Mike Aston (capt), 7. Danny Summers, 8. Mark Woodcock, 9. Tre Baldwin Willis, 10. Lee Shillito, 11. Lewis Schofield. Subs: 12. Gareth Thomas (for Baldwin Willis, 60), 14. Conrad Britton (for Summers, 79), 15. Tommy Walsh (not used), 16. Matt Eckersley (not used), 17. Paul Lewis (not used).

Referee: Abid Hussain (Oldham).
Assistants: D. Crompton and A. Hodgkinson.

0-1 Tre Baldwin Willis (45+1)
1-1 Theo Bailey Jones (90+1)

Irlam: Darron Green (YC, 60)
West Didsbury: & Chorlton: Mark Woodcock (YC, 61)