Droylsden 0 Stamford 3 (12th April 2014)
Raining? : ✓
Cold? : ✓
Windy? : ✓
Yep, another day in Greater Manchester, where the arrival of spring appears to only be a rumour. If that was disappointing, then at least it didn’t match Droylsden’s season so far, where disappointing would be a description that Mother Theresa would have rejected as being unduly kind.
Loads of fans moan that their team is having a poor season, but it takes raising the bar an almost ludicrous number of notches to redefine the term to describe Droylsden’s season so far. A remarkable 4-3 victory over Witton Albion a few weeks earlier had been the first, and only, win of the season. Three games had been drawn, and 37 lost, conceding an eye-watering 169 goals in the process. They’d let in five or more 14 times already this season, and morale-sapping 0-9 and 0-10 home defeats had been topped the previous weekend with a club record 1-13 defeat at Chorley. Not even the cups offered any respite, with all four games ending in defeat, and a further 15 goals conceded. Simply, this is not a season that promises healthy sales for a season highlights DVD.
And that’s a shame because it’s a friendly club. Any club that has a pay and display car park next door which waives charges on match days is making a good start in my book, and the welcome means you do actually feel they are pleased you turned up, which to be honest probably is the case. A season-low of 83 fans turned up for a game midweek after the Chorley debacle. With trams on their doorstep now whisking people directly to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, just a couple of miles up the road, or Old Trafford, or any of the League clubs in the area, it’s always going to be a fight for supporters.
The ground has clearly been smarted up due their brief stint in the Conference National in 2008, although it’s a commendable determination to pay off debts, possibly accrued during that period, that’s the cause of their current woes.
Most impressive is a new covered terrace at the southern end of the ground. It certainly wouldn’t be out-of-place in the football league, and the roof certainly isn’t out-of-place in the Manchester climate.
Two new structures dominate the main stand side. In the centre is a seated stand, with seats above the club offices and changing rooms. The view is good from here, except for the inability to see the near touchline, with the seats being more shallow than they probably ought to be.
Next to this is the large two-storey club bar. The upper storey, with balcony, was unused, but the lower bar did its best to encourage people to use it rather than the numerous pubs nearby. With three pubs within 50 yards, and a further two (at least) round the corner, you won’t go thirsty on a trip to Droylsden, and with offers such as “Bitter – £1.60 a pint” you’ve won’t break the bank either.
One pub that doesn’t exist any more is The Butcher’s Arms, from which the ground takes its name. Now flattened, with its car park being the one we parked in right outside the ground, its 1892 landlord instigated the creation of Droylsden by offering the land behind his pub for a ground.
Looking nearly as old in parts is the covered terrace on the opposite side of the ground, whose roof-mounted advertising hoardings look like they should be advertising Oxo, Woodbines and Brylcreem along the length of its undulating roof. Even a few of the crush barriers sagged on this delightfully old-fashion terrace, behind which a Victorian factory dominates the view.
The final end is disappointingly flat, presumably because it was cheaper to tarmac over what was there previously that replace it. When happier times come back to Droylsden, they can probably do something with this end, but at the moment they are just doing what’s necessary, and that includes the wage bill.
While there’s no doubt that the prospect of goals did attract me to Droylsden, I did actually want to see them win, however unlikely that might have been. “The Daniels”, as Stamford are strangely known, arrived in the bottom half, hardly formidable opponents, but still ones who’d have expected a comfortable win. Stamford had taken their nickname from Stamford resident Daniel Lambert, who was Britain’s fattest man in 1809, weighing in at 52 stone. 200 years before Channel 5 had voyeuristic documentaries, Daniel was charging people a shilling to gawp at his giant frame, and he became something of a celebrity. As well as being a surprisingly active man, he was also once said to have punched a bear to save his dog.
In their nightmare against Chorley the previous week, Droylsden had found themselves 0-5 down after just 12 minutes. They put up much more of a fight against Stamford, but the writing was on the wall once the visitors had opened the scoring against their young and inexperienced-looking hosts midway through the first half. Guilty of ball watching, a Stamford attacker was allowed far too much time on the edge of the box to pick up a loose ball and simply pass into an unguarded part of the net.
Just after half an hour it was effectively over, with a more or less route one ball playing another striker through, and his shot found the corner of the net to all but rubber stamp Droylsden’s 38th league defeat.
The host’s did have the odd chance of their own. Probably best was a race to the ball between keeper and attacker, which ended with the ball being flicked over the keeper, but also over the bar as well. It would be another difficult half-time team talk for the Droylsden manager.
Stamford’s team talk must have pretty much been saying the job was done, as they showed much less ambition in the second half. There were signs that if the hosts could somehow nick one, then it could be a very different game. The key word though was “somehow” as it wasn’t easy to see where a goal was coming from, and Stamford in the end put the game to bed with 20 minutes left, flicking a crossed ball into the far corner of the net. A fourth a few moments later was ruled out for offside, after some more untidy defending allowed a chance at the back post.
There was nearly some consolation for the home side. Another scramble between keeper and attacker saw the keeper do enough to block, and one ambitious shot from a tight angle just didn’t curl enough to find the far corner. In the end the only consolations were that the season is nearly over now, and if you need to drown your sorrows in this corner of Manchester, at least the beer is cheap and very plentiful.