I was in Manchester for a couple of days work, so I took the opportunity of a bit of ground hopping. It was the night of the Manchester United v Manchester City game and I was staying in a hotel which had a free bar for 2 hours. So did I stay in the bar and watch the game on Sky TV like most sensible people would?
You already know the answer to that when you read the word “sensible”. Yes, I decided to drive up into the Peak District on a freezing cold night when it was blowing a gale to watch New Mills against AFC Goole.
I was staying in the same hotel in Manchester that is used for the Prawn Sandwich brigade hospitality. As I was leaving the hotel, coaches were loading up with Asians and Eastern Europeans who had paid an arm and a leg for a prawn sandwich and a match ticket. The concierge at the hotel asked if I was going to the football, when I said yes, he tried to escort me onto one of the coaches. He wouldn’t accept my protestations that the coach wasn’t going to take me where I wanted. He did not appear to understand that there could be more than one football match that night.
I eventually got away and drove to New Mills which is situated seemingly on top of a hill in the Peak District. The sight of snow as I got higher and higher should have been a warning as to how cold it was.
The ground itself is easily missed. The main stand is very low rise and not particularly striking from the outside. The ground is also a little way from the centre of New Mills.
Arriving at the main entrance, I got an unwelcome surprise.
The poster showed the game was on the 10th April, not the 8th. Had I misread the fixture list in The Non League Paper or had the paper got the listing wrong. Either way, it was a waste to come this far for a game that wasn’t on.
Fortunately, the turnstiles were open, and an enquiry revealed that New Mills were playing against AFC Goole tonight instead of the Wednesday. Apparently the fixture had be re-arranged again to try to fit all the remaining games in.
The main sign outside the ground still showed the game from the preceding Saturday!
Inside the ground and my first look at the ground. The first think I noticed was the slope on the pitch and the fact the changing rooms are behind the goal, and up several steps. An unusual layout.
The crowd seemed rather sparse, this was because many people stayed away to watch the Manchester derby on Sky TV. Indeed, the game was being shown live in the clubhouse inside the ground and it seemed as many people were watching the Manchester derby in there as were watching New Mills v Goole.
The referee appears to be hunting for the teams.
The above pictures shows some of the quirks of non league football, with picnic tables in side the ground and the player’s tunnel being a couple of pieces of fencing which are opened after the team is on the pitch.
The ground is locate at the top of a hill and provides a great view across the Valley. It is a very picturesque location and the ground is in keeping with the surroundings, doing its best to blend in.
The game itself is between a New Mills team chasing promotion and a Goole team fighting against relegation although that was not obvious for the first 25 minutes with both sides coming close to scoring. New Mills scored first, Goole hit straight back, but then 2 quick goals demoralised Goole and heads started to drop. The fact that Goole were playing downhill and with the wind behind them probably made the game look more even.
I spent most of the first half chatting with a very knowledgeable football fan who watches Macclesfield, New Mills and one or two other local sides and had travelled all over the country to games. He’d been to most of the Northern League grounds over the years.
He pointed out to me that I would be unable to walk around all the ground as they had shovelled snow over the advertising hoardings at the bottom end of the ground. Sure enough, the bottom part of the ground was closed to spectators. Not that this made a lot of difference with the size of the crowd (92).
The only stand was a slightly unusual affair consisting of terracing at one end and seats at the other end. This was down one side of the ground. The other 3 sides of the ground were open to the elements. The ground did have the almost compulsory phone mast though.
The wind made for a very cold night, and it did little to encourage some fans out of the bar to watch the football of New Mills rather than the SKY TV offering of the Manchester derby.
A very friendly little club with a draw back of being surrounded by bigger clubs in easy commuting distance. It would be good to see a club like this progress. A non league club whose fan’s don’t have a chip on their shoulder unlike some clubs.
I arrived back at my hotel just as the prawn sandwich brigade were returning from seeing Man U lose at home to Man City. From the looks on their faces, I had a far better night than they did. My match cost me £6.50. Their night cost the several hundreds of pounds each.