Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. We’re completely bonkers and we’re off to Colwyn Bay! That’s what we were singing as we headed over the border into Wales for yet another spontaneous journey on the road. Originally we were due to take in the match between Stamford and Curzon Ashton but snow had called that match off meaning I couldn’t tick off the brand spanking new Zeeco Stadium in Lincolnshire. Not to worry though, we could go to any match that we wanted to and a shortlist of 20 was drawn up.
Options were whittled down when more fixtures fell foul of the weather. Altrincham v Nuneaton, Bradford City v Notts County and Colwyn Bay v Hyde were our favourite options and I somehow convinced Aaron to drive to Colwyn Bay. A quick check on Twitter and it appeared to be a safe option as they claimed that despite the recent weather and the fact Wrexham was off due to snow their pitch was fine. With those crucial 140 characters to go off, we packed our bags and headed for Wales, with Tranmere v Northampton acting as an extremely uninviting backup plan.
Aaron picked me up at 11:00 and we arrived in Colwyn Bay an hour and a half later. I had been told that I could be in charge of where we went and what we did in Colwyn Bay… within reason. I felt like Brendan Sheerin off hit TV show Coach Trip with the amount of power I had been handed. In honesty, Brendan was performing in pantomime in Crewe so I even suggested that we could go and watch him in Jack and the Beanstalk before taking in Crewe Alexandra v Preston North End.
In Brendan role, I was in charge of music on the way there and I thought it would be refreshing to listen to one of my favourite albums from my school days in ‘Example – Won’t Go Quietly’. This album came out four years ago and helped me survive my final two traumatic years in state education. I saw Example perform the album live at the Manchester Academy 2, with support from a yet unknown Ed Sheeran. Fond memories came flooding back and then I pressed play. It was awful. Aaron agreed. Not only had we lost our youthful taste in music but we had also lost the plot going to Colwyn Bay given the bleak weather we’d had recently.
With 2010 style electro-house ringing in our ears we arrived in the seaside resort of Colwyn Bay. As always, we refused to use the GPS or Google Maps to reach our destination and it went very well. In fact, it went too well. Something was bound to go wrong at some stage.This is what we said in Barcelona just hours before Aaron had his phone stolen by a prostitute, so we were on guard when we walked through the town centre. We arrived at a peculiar looking Wetherspoons named The Picture House which is an old converted cinema built in 1914; very nice indeed. It certainly beat wading through the various drunks I’m usually subjected to at Wetherspoons in Wigan.
It was relatively quiet in Wetherspoons, with one couple muttering about us in Welsh while a Derby County fan propped up the bar. I opted to delve into the Welsh section of the menu, why not? There were only three options in the Welsh Classics section so I went for the Welsh beer & Brains ale pie. Of course, the only thing Welsh about it was the hint of some beer from Cardiff, but it went well with the shed load of sprouts which had been shoved on our plates… obviously leftovers from Christmas!
I didn’t treat myself to a beer in Wetherspoons as I was still feeling a bit delicate from Boxing Day when I went out celebrating Atherton Collieries 4-0 win over Atherton Laburnum Rovers. In fact, that was another reason that I wanted to come to Colwyn Bay as it was a great opportunity to clear my head with some fresh sea air.
We headed down to the beach walking through the small tunnel near the railway station. This takes you straight out on to the Promenade next to the Victoria Pier which is currently sitting dormant following it’s closure in 2008 due to financial problems. It is currently earmarked for demolition and there was a bloke in a fluorescent jacket circling the entrance ensuring no yobs (like me and Aaron) could make our way on to the Pier. It was a shame seeing a structure which was built in 1900 in such a state.
The weather was certainly nicer than when we were on the coast in Bridlington almost a year ago. The sun was shining and I was half tempted to get my bikini out and go for a dip. It was hard to imagine that my driveway at home was under a thin lining of snow and ice. Unfortunately there was no time for a dip in the Irish Sea as we had a football ground to find and we needed to allow ample time for travelling as we were still refusing to use maps or the GPS.
The ground is found a couple of miles away from Colwyn Bay in the town of Old Colwyn and yet again we found our destination without issue. Too easy. We plonked the car in the car park at the ground paying £2.50 for the privilege. The steward informed us that we were his first paying customers for the day and with that in mind we knew we had arrived early.
Two turnstiles were in operation and I paid £7 to get in as a student before being ripped off by a programme which cost £3. Advert after advert accompanied by replicated news stories and Welsh articles which I along with the Hyde fans couldn’t read. I assume the steep price is down to the very high quality of print. As always, I appreciate any effort at a programme but this really was a let down considering the price.
Llanelian Road has been home to The Seagulls since 1984, the season in which they joined the NWCFL. Before this the club had played at three different areas in Eirias Park which we drove past on the way to Old Colwyn. Despite moving to Llanelian Road in 1984, the club had to endure two years in exile between 1992 and 1994 when the Welsh FA banned all Welsh based sides from competing in the English pyramid. This meant that Colwyn Bay had to decide whether to move into the new Welsh League or move to the Drill Field in Northwich to continue playing in the Northern Premier League.
The Main Stand is the most recently renovated part of the Llanelian Road ground having replaced a large standing terrace a couple of years ago. It was opened in 2012 by Mike Summerbee when Colwyn Bay played Manchester City at home in a pre-season friendly. The new stand incorporates 500 seats and press facilities. This stand had to be built due to two quick promotions for Bay which saw them propelled into the Conference North, meaning the club now needed five rows of seats to meet ground grading standards. Looking at previous photographs, I think seats were moved across from the two sheds which sit either side of the halfway line on the opposite side of the ground. The rest of the ground sees another small shed behind one goal with a clubhouse and changing rooms at the other end.
It was in the clubhouse that we spent half an hour before kick off. There were a few Hyde fans in attendance who were hoping to see their club’s first away league win since last January, when they beat Welling United 2-0. The Tigers really did need a win if they were to avoid slipping into the Evo-Stik Premier at the end of the season. Colwyn Bay on the other hand were sitting in mid table having only recorded two home league matches so far this campaign.
Colwyn Bay in their claret and blue shirts lined up against Hyde with a number of players missing through injury. Chris Noone and Jack Truelove were both ruled out with knee injuries joining Marc Williams and Moustapha Saiel on the sidelines. Barbados international Louis Moss was involved as was former Hindsford player Prince Haywood. For a Manchester League side near Atherton, Hindsford have had an incredible amount of players who have gone on to play at a higher level in recent years. Former Chelsea and Leicester defender Frank Sinclair named himself on the bench, choosing to put former Winsford United striker Rob Hopley in at centre half.
The first half was one of the must dull and insufferable affairs that I have ever had the misfortune of attending. Even the long suffering Hyde fans agreed that it was bloody awful. It was as entertaining as watching grey paint dry in a grey room on a grey day.
In fairness to Hyde they did play some nice football in the first half, but this was overshadowed by both sides passing inaccuracies and insipid approach to the match. A few of the Colwyn Bay players moped around languidly, in a manner to suggest they were still recovering from being dragged around Cheshire Oaks in the post-Christmas sales. Meanwhile – keen to spread festive cheer – the Hyde defenders perpetually swore at each other and the officials.
Midway through the first half The Tigers came close to scoring when a good cross came in from the left wing. The ball was hit first time by former Maine Road striker Tom Bentham and he was unlucky to see it bounce out off the left hand post.
Hyde had a number of attacks which weren’t dealt with by Bay and they paid the price a minute before the interval when Ted Cribley fired home from close range.
Half time arrived and we headed up to the Main Stand where Luke from Hyde’s radio channel was busy chatting away to Aaron and a Tigers fan who had travelled over from the Isle of Man for the match. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted Hyde to lose so that I could win some money on my accumulator, or whether I wanted them to win so he could go back home happy. I briefly caught up with him at the end of the match and he shouted “Well, at least we didn’t lose!” as he left the ground in a joyous manner.
At the beginning of the second half, Frank Sinclair brought himself on and moved Rob Hopley up front. While the impact wasn’t immediate, the home side looked more organised and attacked with an impetus that they didn’t possess in the opening 45 minutes.
Still, the match continued to bore everybody in attendance and a steward soon took matters into his own hands. After a poor effort by a Colwyn Bay player which saw the ball headed well over the bar, he slammed the gates shut and proclaimed that “Nobody can escape now! You’re all staying here suffering with the rest of us!”.
Sinclair headed his side level on 71 minutes when he met a corner at the back post. The pure power of his effort took it through the hands of Hyde goalkeeper Connor Hunt who is currently on loan from Everton.
A minute later and Colwyn Bay were on the attack again, winning a free kick on the edge of the area. The ball was swung in and from the resulting failed clearance Obi Anoruo fired the ball past Hunt. The match had now been turned on its head and we didn’t have to wait long for the next goal.
The lead lasted only five minutes when a mishit Connor Hughes shot was steered into the goal by Tom Bentham. There were muted celebrations by Hyde who simply walked back to their own half to resume play, looking for their first away win of the season.
On 85 minutes, suicidal defending by Hyde gifted Anoruo another goal. A poor ball back to goalkeeper Hunt fell short and the Colwyn Bay striker was on hand to take it around the advancing stopper. It looked like he had taken the ball too far wide of the goal but he somehow curled the ball in from a tight angle to make it 3-2 to the Seagulls.
Deep into added time Hyde equalised again when Cribley’s shot took a plethora of deflections which took it past Chris Sanna in the goal. That was the final attack of the game and after such a poor first half we were glad that things picked up somewhat in the final 20 minutes.
Hyde recorded only their second point in 13 away games this season, leaving them rock bottom of the Conference North, eleven points from safety. Colwyn Bay on the other hand remain in 13th place.
Our journey home went pretty fast as we listened to the top selling singles of 2014 on the radio. Taylor Swift definitely wins my award for single of the season, but we’ll save that for another blog. Overall, it was an absolutely fantastic day in Colwyn Bay. Out of all the matches we had listed this match provided the most goals (joint top with Kendal 6-0 Prescot) and the weather was fantastic. Add to that the nice scenic ground set in amongst the hills of Old Colwyn and the welcoming home supporters and you have a good mix.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 75 miles
- ADMISSION: £7 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3