Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Witton Wisdom of a Groundhopper

The floodlights of Northwich Victoria in the background (though the Vics have been displaced to be tenants at Stafford Rangers at the moment)
Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Tuesday 1 January 2013 at the Help for Heroes Stadium
Witton Albion 2 Nantwich Town 2
Northern Premier League (Step 3)
Number 501 on the lifetime list, and one of my priorities for the season, leaving me 12 more (8 Northern and 4 Southern) to complete all current English grounds to step 3.  I’m here because of an early “game on” tweet from the club.
Pre-match preparation
This is likely to be a keenly contested game between local rivals – Witton play in Wincham on the outskirts of Northwich.  Witton are in the divisional playoff positions and Nantwich are just outside - five points separate them.  Nantwich are unbeaten in five league games but have not played for almost a month.  Witton won their last league game back in the middle of December.
This match in one sentence
Hard-fought and sometimes forgettable, as Nantwich battled back twice to take a point and keep the unbeaten run alive with a late freekick.
So what?
Witton are 4th and Nantwich are 8th in the league.
The drama unfolds
There was not much to note for the first 15 minutes other than a midfield stalemate while I sipped my mulled wine.  Mulled wine!  A first for this hopper, and very good it was too.  I eventually took a scene-setter clip at around the midpoint of the first half, and I offer it as an addition to the world’s stock of cures for insomnia.

There was plenty of effort, a bit of suspicion about how the ball behaved in certain areas of the pitch, and a bit of niggle too.  On 25 minutes, Nantwich defender Darren Moss did well to outmuscle Shaun Tuck as he had to turn on to his right foot, so the chance was snuffed out.  Then Witton’s Steve Foster appeared (from a distance) to put his foot in on the prone Nantwich keeper Jon Brain (There was definitely foot movement but I couldn’t tell you whether there was any contact or whether the keeper has been watching too many episodes of Casualty.)  The ref felt strongly enough to both book him and have a word with his captain Josh Hancock.  More niggle ensued.

Brain made a good block save but then rather flapped at a corner.  Captain Hancock went in the book.  It was all rather mediocre until suddenly Foster stepped up after 44 minutes to curl a lovely right-footer around the goalkeeper.  1-0 at half-time

The second half was also dour to begin with, but Witton almost had a second on the hour as a header hit the post with the keeper beaten.  Tuck was also denied, by Rod McDonald this time.  However, Nantwich were never out of it and drew level a few minutes later.  A square ball from the left wing to midfield gave the chance for a superb diagonal through ball from Mark Beesley to Lewis Short, and the latter finished neatly.  1-1 after 71 minutes

Chances continued to be few and far between and the home crowd grew rather restless.  Here is a clip from about 80 minutes.

Witton put together a few minutes of sustained pressure.  Moss earned his keep again by dealing with a cross from Foster to onrushing sub Alex Meecham.  Hancock turned on a proverbial sixpence and fired just wide.  Then Brain was adjudged to have brought down Foster – penalty and yellow card.  Anthony Gardner calmly scored from the spot.  2-1 after 85 minutes

Witton then went down to ten men as Foster was dismissed and the conditions suddenly worsened.  Here are a couple of clips from Nantwich trying to get back on level terms – the third one has Sean Cooke’s freekick from which they succeeded, and the last one shows how they almost nicked the win.    2-2 after 89 minutes and at full-time

The programme

Something random
The Witton Albion club museum is just wonderful – far and away the most organised and loved display of memorabilia I have seen on my travels.  Here are some pics to give the sense of awe and wonder.  I don't know enough about the club to understand the significance of some of the items but I was so impressed with what has been put together.

Hopping for Moorfields Update
Four goals taking us to 129 goals in 39 games at an average of 3.31.
Mars Bar Watch 2013
A new blog feature for this year.  I feel the nation needs to know whether there are regional variations in the supply and pricing of this important hopping staple, and how to recognise cases of Mars Bar mistreatment or exploitation.

Witton Albion FC Snack Bar – 60p (1/1/13)
Good undamaged condition.  An early benchmark for this vital research.  It must also be said that there were plentiful supplies of pies at this ground, which I may have sampled depending on who is asking.
What Next?
Follow @GrahamYapp for any announcements!

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