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The Non-League Paper’s Diary of a Groundhopper: Prestwich Heys

The Non-League Paper's, NLP Groundhopper

The Non-League Paper’s Diary of a Groundhopper – Saturday January 18: Prestwich Hayes AFC 1 AFC Darwen 1

At last, some decent weather to look forward to but we’ve had so much rain and some pitches will still be a bit dodgy.

With this in mind, The Fox and I make sure we have a Plastic Fantastic back-up in case the first choice of game – Prestwich Heys – is off.

I have no idea why I haven’t visited Adie Moran Park before. I think it’s because my feeble brain seems to think I’ve already been.

After arguing with my brain Homer Simpson style, I manage to convince it there is a gap on my North West Counties League list and off I go.

A quick check on Twitter before setting off confirms the game is on. I park up in the large car park and immediately head off to secure the programme (£2). The Touchliner is a professionally laid out edition.

The programme is named after Alan Bell, an original member of the club’s committee who wrote match reports for the Prestwich Guide under the name ‘Touchliner’. It’s a nice nod to the past by the current committee.

I pay £5 at the gate and enter in one corner of a neat and tidy stadium. Most of the perimeter is open but there are seats near the halfway line along one touchline and a covered terrace in the corner by the turnstile. As I enter, there’s a sign up saying ‘No Dogs’: bliss!

The numerous molehills around the grassy verges suggest the local moles find Adie Moran Park much to their liking, though. Inside the cosy clubhouse, a range of pies and peas are on sale plus some warming soup.

There’s a picture of the chairman on the wall: I swear it’s the same guy that gave me a warm welcome earlier while stewarding the car park. That’s Non-League for you!

The notice by the exit asks patrons to be considerate and to leave the building quietly. This is perfectly reasonable apart from the fact you can hardly hear yourself think because of the constant roar of traffic passing along the M60 just a few feet away!

Just before kick-off, a man emerges from the office with a pile of photocopied teamsheets. There is a queue of locals waiting for him to appear and one is given out to anyone who wants a copy.

Today’s visitors are an in-form AFC Darwen side. Indeed, the visitors look impressive early on and take a deserved lead after just ten minutes.

Heys keep plugging away but don’t cause their visitors any concerns until just after half an hour when Will Shawcross’s mishit cross loops over the startled keeper and dinks in off the far post!

Darwen are very disappointing in the second half. Prestwich gain confidence from their opponents’ off day and press forward with menace.

Their winner comes from a timeless move that has been seen and appreciated at hundreds of thousands of football grounds around the world: well-struck corner kick firmly headed home at the back post with a defender bundled onto his arse.

Scorer of said satisfying header, Adrian Bellamy, then tries one of those painful looking knee slides much-loved by the pros (but hated by groundsmen, I imagine!).

But unlike the pros, who gracefully slide ten yards across the turf with puffed out chest, our hero manages to slide six inches and then unceremoniously nose dive into the mud with a splat!

With that, I pay heed to the notice on the exit gate: ‘Thank you for your support. Please come again and have a safe journey home’ and head for the M60.

Groundhopper ratings
Pre-Match info:
9
Welcome: 9
Facilities: 5.5
Food: 5
Charm: 7.5
Programme: 8
Home Team Respect: 3
Home Fans: 5
Match: 7
Overall Trip: 8.5
Officials: 8
Attendance: 129

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