Eccleshall (Wednesday, September 19)


Eccleshall 0 Northwich Villa 1

A RECENT visit to Fleetwood re-completed my current 92 League clubs for the umpteenth time but I am eager to return to Non-League action tonight.

Eccleshall, of the North West Counties League, is an embarrassing gap on my ‘to visit’ list, so the decision is made…

This is the sort of driving that usually infuriates me: stuck behind dawdlers on narrow country roads but I am in plenty of time on this beautiful autumnal evening.

I chill out, admire the radiant setting sun and join the crawlers heading westwards out of Stoke-on-Trent. Consequently, I arrive at Pershall Park in relaxed mood.

I enter the deserted clubhouse. A few players drop in and help themselves to a hot drink. The music from the dressing rooms is drowning out the television so I study the ‘Respect’ posters on the walls instead; one perfectly sums up my feelings on the matter: ‘Everyone v the Gobby Morons’

Autographed Stoke City and Stevie Gerrard shirts adorn the walls. Eventually, someone appears and takes my money for a pie and a tea at the tiny food bar.

Meanwhile, several other committee members are going about their duties in a quiet and efficient manner. When I ask the secretary for the team changes, he kindly prints off a teamsheet for me and invites me into the boardroom for refreshments at half-time.

The home shirts are very dark and it is difficult to distinguish the players from the officials. The first half is most notable for the amount of attempted shots blazed over the bar by both sides.

I shouldn’t be surprised: the last two Eccleshall matches produced 16 goals, so this one was bound to be dreary. The half time cuppa is most welcome, served in a very smart Eccleshall mug.

The second half is worse than the first. I nearly run onto the pitch to kiss and hug Kwame Barnett when he scuffs home an injury-time winner for Villa: what a hero.

The friendly Eccleshall officials do not deserve this defeat but I am just happy to see a goal go in!

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