West Cheshire League 1st Division
Saturday 27th October, 2012
Maghull is a town of some 22,000 people, situated north of Liverpool and south-east of Southport. It is one of the nearest towns to my current base, and so - with money running a little tight - I elected to watch a game at step 7 of the non-league pyramid for the first time.
The West Cheshire League is a feeder to the North West Counties League, but promotions have been rare in the past. Only Cammell Laird, Runcorn Town and Vauxhall Motors have made the leap up in the past twenty years.
Admission was free, so the total cost of my outing was £2.10 - the return Merseyrail fare from Ormskirk to Maghull, a journey lasting 9 minutes.
Teams in the West Cheshire League are not required to have floodlights or a stand, and Old Hall Field had neither of these things, but was still recognisable as a football ground. The pitch was fully enclosed by a fence (sporting a solitary advertising board), there were two dugouts opposite each other on the half way line and finally, a clubhouse building which held the changing rooms, toilets, a refreshment kiosk and also a smart little bar.
It was a most picturesque setting, with the town church visible behind one goal along with the towpath which hugs the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. The rest of the ground (and adjacent public park) was enclosed by trees.
Today's game saw two lower half of the table teams come head to head, needing both their respective seasons to take a turn for the better. Maghull had 13 points from 11 games and Southport Trinity 7 from 9. The latter had won just two of their opening nine encounters.
To be honest though, from the first kick, Southport were the better side and should have taken the lead when the Maghull keeper spooned a clearance from the corner area straight to a Trinity player. He shot at goal first time, and the Maghull keeper did brilliantly to leap back to flick it off the line. Some of the away bench were adamant it went over the line. I don't think it did.
On 27 minutes, the away side did take the lead. Suicidal defensive play ended with a backpass which was played criminally short. A visiting forward pounced on it to poke it past the furious home keeper. 0-1 at half time.
After this though, Trinity started to expose Maghull at the back, but their shooting was either weak or non-existent.
Just as it looked to be heading for a draw, the Maghull defence switched off, and the right winger of Trinity cut inside with everyone in the ground expecting him to cross. He didn't. He shot, it caught the keeper by surprise, and on 80 minutes the away side held a 1-2 lead.
Maghull heads dropped and on 87 minutes the game was up when they conceded a penalty. The video (open it in full screen and click HD for best effect) shows the resulting spot kick, which was saved but then pounced upon immediately by the a team-mate for 1-3.
The drama wasn't over there. In the 92nd minute, a Maghull player in an attempt to get his head on a ball in the box, ran straight into a post and knocked himself unconcious. Thankfully he was OK, and the referee shortly blew up on what was an entertaining game of football.
Four goals, attacking football, comedic defending at times, an unconscious player and lots of entertainment. For free. A lovely afternoon out at a very scenic ground.