After weeks of having very little to do, a weekend arrived that spoilt us. The World Cup quarter finals were in full flow, Wimbledon was reaching it’s climax, the Tour de France was starting in Yorkshire and the pre-season calendar was well and truly under way.
My ideal day would have been a day in Yorkshire watching the Grand Depart, however, after recently booking a trip to Belgium I had little money left and simply couldn’t afford to go. That along with the fact nobody else would go with me left me looking at football matches.
Matt and I had marked the friendly between Daisy Hill and Salford City down as a possibility weeks ago. This was before Salford City had announced the arrival of a brand new playing team, a change of kit colours and a redesigned badge.
The club from Moor Lane had recently been taken over by members of the “Class of 92” in Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Phil Neville. The five former Manchester United players have laid out ambitious plans which, if go to plan, would see Salford City become a top name in non-league football. New Sirs, home of Daisy Hill would see the Class of 92 era begin.
As Daisy Hill is only one stop from Atherton on the train it meant that I could wake up quite late and then hop on a service to the neighbouring settlement. Matt (who is an adopted Salford fan) was already on the train and we arrived in a matter of minutes.
Upon arriving in Daisy Hill; an area to the south of Westhoughton, you’ll find there isn’t much to see. With three hours until kick off, we opted to walk towards Westhoughton to see if we could find a pub away from the ground. A minute or so later and we were at the Rose Hill Tavern which had nobody else in. Even the woman who worked behind the bar ran upstairs when we walked through the door, before coming back down a couple of minutes later.
An hour passed and I was glad to be out of the place to be honest. In all fairness, I bet it’s a nice little pub when other people are in there watching the football. Our next port of call was the Daisy Hill Hotel, but this wasn’t open yet so we pressed on to The Grey Man which is the final pub in the vicinity of New Sirs. Again, this pub was quiet, with one bloke sat watching the Tour de France and the F1 qualifying from Silverstone simultaneously. This was rather off-putting as it sounded like Mark Cavendish had an engine attached to his bike.
We waved goodbye to The Grey Man with half an hour to go until kick off and strolled down to the football ground. On the left as we walked down the road was Daisy Hill Cricket Club which looked quite busy; perhaps that’s where all the locals were? I think I was a good luck charm to the local cricketers as Daisy grabbed a wicket during the thirty seconds I watched.
Daisy Hill media man Ben was waiting at the entrance and he got me in for free if I supplied the club with photographs of the day. What a day to take the camera out too. A beautiful blue sky, radiant sunshine and a large crowd in attendance. Rob and Zach were already in the ground, which was a relief, as Rob had tweeted the night before that he was off to do some sightseeing in Wigan. He obviously survived the experience.
Salford were sporting their brand new white away shirt which featured their brand new club crest. I was sceptical of the badge when I first saw it, and I’m still not keen, but having had the concept of it explained to me at least it has a reason. The lion is now facing forward, to the future of the club and the shape of the crest resembles the shape of a hull of a boat, as once found in Salford Quays… I’ll let you decide whether you agree or not!
Three of the five new owners were in Westhoughton for the match, with Paul Scholes the first to arrive, closely followed by Gary Neville and then Ryan Giggs. I felt sorry for the three of them. They were hassled throughout the opening 45 minutes. I was of course guilty of asking them for a photograph, but at least I had the decency to ask during the half time interval. Giggs had sneaked off somewhere though so I didn’t manage to get a snap with him unfortunately. Scholes was really nice to the fans and took time to sign everything for the younger fans.
I was expecting this match to be a cricket score in favour of Salford, but Daisy Hill held their own and took the lead. I cover Daisy Hill for the Bolton News and I felt so sorry for them last season, winning just one match in the league after their victory at home to Atherton Collieries in September. Their one win coming on the final day of the season.
The BBC film crew were in position for the match as the two teams came out. I’ve been told that there will be a documentary made which follows the progress made at the club in the coming seasons. I assume it will be the same kind of format as the QPR documentary which was published a couple of years ago which went behind the scenes at Loftus Road as the side tried to make it back into the Premier League.
Salford had the first opportunity of the match when Sam Madeley made his way into the penalty area before putting the ball just wide. Another new signing came close soon after when Simon Wiles curled a corner in from the right. Curling at speed, the cross hit the back post and bounced out to safety.
Daisy Hill were looking stronger than last time I had seen them (a 2-1 home loss to Atherton Laburnum Rovers) and they took the lead on the half hour mark. A smart ball beat the Salford defence and the Daisy Hill striker slotted past debutant goalkeeper Andy Robertson.
Just two minutes later and The Ammies were back on level terms. A long ball was pumped forward and won by Madeley. The former Mossley man flicked the ball on to Nicky Platt who smashed the ball into the net, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance.
Four minutes before the break the visitors took the lead. Simon Wiles carried the ball down the right hand side before cutting inside and floating the ball towards the back post. Sam Madeley lost his marker and was left with a simple header from close range.
Salford were now in full flow, and they were on the attack again a minute later. Gareth Seddon picked the ball up on the edge of the box before unleashing a stinging shot towards goal. It looked to be flying into the top left hand corner but the Daisy Hill goalkeeper palmed his effort on to the crossbar.
Daisy Hill had a guilt edged opportunity to equalise just minutes into the second half when the left back found himself through on goal after great play from a forward. The defender took too long to compose himself and was dispossessed with a last gasp sliding challenge.
The Ammies extended their lead shortly after the interval when Seddon lobbed the Daisy goalkeeper after winding his way through the home sides defence. It looked far too easy for Seddon who had just completed a move from Conference Premier side Chester.
The match seemed to go on forever, not that we were complaining. It was fantastic being able to sunbathe on the grass behind the goal at the far end. When the final whistle did arrive we decided that we’d try the Daisy Hill Hotel again before setting off home. The Argentina v Belgium match was due to kick off any time soon and we arrived just in time. Okay, we missed the opening goal but we managed to watch the rest of the match.
I didn’t particularly like the Daisy Hill Hotel. It was one of those pubs where the locals instantaneously judge you and treat you like you’re not one of them. The irony was I was only two miles from home and the pubs in Atherton are far more welcoming. The woman behind the bar wasn’t that polite and scrutinised my ID for at least a minute as she was too thick to calculate how old I was. One positive came out of the experience, I had a lovely pint of Kingstone Press which I always go for after a day in the sunshine.
Overall, I’m really glad I made the trip to Daisy Hill. Not only did I meet Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, I also witnessed what could be the start of something huge at Salford City. I wish them the best and I will probably be at their match again next weekend when they travel to NWCFL Premier Division side Colne.
Daisy Hill – Steve Whittle, Mike Gervin, Liam Green, Tim Raines, Morgi Bragman, Steve Johnson, Martin Haystings, Ryan Mee, Jake Foster, Simon Farrell
Salford City – Andy Robertson, Chris Lynch, Andy Smart, Jason Jarrett, Paul Linwood, Aaron Walters (Warren Gaskin), Ashley Dunn (Jamie Rother), Nicky Platt (Phil Edgehill), Sam Madeley, Gareth Seddon (Stuart Rudd), Simon Wiles (James Moss)
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 2.5 miles
- ADMISSION: Free as a photographer
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £1.50