The Non-League Football Paper



GROUNDHOPP­ERS know the feeling; you get within touching distance of finishing off a league and then get distracted. The North West Counties is one such competitio­n.

Having sneaked in a new ground on Tuesday night at Foley Meir, my NWCFL interest is piqued once more, so I tell The Fox we will be visiting Ashville on Saturday. Pencilman gets a sniff of the plan and bags himself a seat.

Ashville play in Wallasey, on The Wirral. We are about the first spectators at Villa Park on Cross Lane. A steward shows us where to park and then comes over to the car for a chat. It’s a very friendly welcome indeed. The Stafford Town minivan turns up and lots of banter with ‘our’ steward ensues.

The Fox hops out of the car and collects the programme (£2 each). It’s a glossy, 24 pager and I settle down to read mine. Disappoint­ingly, there is just one page of writing (a potted history of Ashville), three pages of home team player photos and a page of pen pics without photos. The rest is adverts.

I pay £5 at the gate (£2 concession­s) and head straight for the clubhouse. It’s quite dark in here as people watch the Arsenal match. The toilets are clean and fragrant. People queueing at the refreshmen­ts’ hatch in the corridor can easily block the door to the club. My burger is thick and tasty.

By the time I emerge into the fresh air again, a guy is freely handing out teamsheet. The clubhouse (including a patio area with picnic benches) and changing rooms are situated behind one goal. The only cover is a stand full of seats down one touchline. Spectators are only allowed along two sides of the stadium.

The main focus of attention is the massive church on the hill away in the distance. Apparently, a warren of tunnels can be found in the church grounds, which lead under the town to the coasts. It’s a fascinatin­g story.

Stafford Town arrive at Villa Park ten points behind their hosts at the wrong end of the table. Both sides create score-able chances in the first minute. The Fox and I glance worryingly at each other: in our experience, easy early chances missed mean a low scoring game. I needn’t have worried, though. Ashville ease into a three-goal lead in under half an hour.

The friendly steward drops by for a chat at the break. In fact, most people at the ground take the time to say hi. The only other goal is scored by Ashville on the hour. It completes an ‘easy’ victory for them.

At least I can now say I’ve completed this division. I really must get the rest of this excellent league finished.

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