There’s a chap walking round the pitch selling Golden Goal tickets. I never win on those things and have often wondered who gets the payout if it’s a goal-less draw. Which gets me thinking about the other ‘Golden Goal’, the one that for a time was used to decide the outcome of a match when two teams were tied and inseparable. I’m not sure I ever went to a game that was decided thus, though I seem to recall – probably erroneously – the device being employed in the old Watney Cup battles of the early 1970’s. I wonder why the ‘Golden Goal’ is so wrong, yet a penalty shoot-out is apparently not.
Not that I expect there’s any need for any sudden death outcome for games like today, with flying-high Winsford United up against slumping-low Glossop North End in the North West Counties Premier. A late change of plan means I have my son with me for the second successive Saturday, and despite helping me to bust my budget – a 12-year-old’s appetite for spending cash is insatiable – we’re enjoying our ‘bonding’ sessions, especially when there’s a Wetherspoon’s lunch to be shared.
We get the single-coach train from Direby to Crewe, grateful that there is no Uttoxeter race meet, and that Stoke City are away. Even so, the carriage is full. We stop off at Crewe in search of the afore-mentioned Wetherspoons, and I proceed to entertain the locals by frantically stripping off layers of clothing in the street, due to the fact that a dozy wasp has flown straight down my neck. Thirty seconds he’s in there but fails to strike – an Emile Heskey of a wasp!
Feeling much refreshed from our lunch – which in my case includes two pints of Beartown from the nearby brewery – we take the ten-minute rail journey to Winsford, a place I’d never heard of until consulting the North West Counties League website. From here it’s a steady thirty minute stroll to the Barton Stadium, where a solid looking pub – The Top House – stands guard over the car park. A cursory glance into the bar reveals no evidence of handpump activity so we head into the ground which is accessed through an interesting-looking turnstile block.
The stadium itself is of a certain era. Oval in shape – to accommodate the erstwhile dog track for which the rusting lighting gantries are still in place – there is an ancient main stand on one side of the pitch, a well-worn covered terrace on the other, and odd little buildings dotted around, including a disused but intact scoreboard box looking not unlike those used at bigger village cricket grounds. We pass the supporters cafe and head into the bar which, despite showing promise with the silhouette of a handpump framed against the backbar, has nothing for the ale drinker, unless you like your Hydes smooth. I must mention, however, that you can get a great view of the game from in here, should the weather outside turn inclement.
We take up position alongside the goal being attacked by the home team and an early defensive howler soon puts them one up. Actually, Glossop arrive with the statistics showing one of the best defensive records in the division, but this has to be down to the keeper who makes several impressive saves as his defenders continually go missing at key moments. A second just before the break means much of his good work looks destined to be in vain. Winsford have a simple tactic of getting the ball forward early to their twisting and turning strike force, whose accurate lay-offs create opportunities for midfield runners. It’s late in the game before North End get their sizeable support excited but by then they are three down, the visiting keeper spoiling his impressive display thus far by gifting the ball to a predatory home forward who sets up a grateful pal for a tap-in. It finishes 3-0.
The tannoy man announces that the Golden Goal prize has been won, and I bemoan the fact that, once again, it isn’t me. My son points out that I didn’t actually buy a ticket. I guess that could explain why I never win.
Programme: On the turnstile. 50p I think. Includes an in-depth report of virtually every Winsford-Glossop match in living memory!
Floodlight pylons: Six
Parakeets: Just a local dog barking continuously throughout the first half.
Toilets: Several, including one behind a wall and another at the end of the covered terrace.
Club Shop: In a room attached to the Supporters Cafe, which incidentally had run out of food by half time, although I can report the presence of chips.
Tannoy music: Local radio, although an interesting club-mix version of Nellie the Elephant is used as goal celebration music.
Player with the quirkiest name: Winsford’s Shaun ‘Droopy’ Came