Macclesfield Town v Bromley
Moss Rose / Conference Premier / 21st November 2015
“You’re Marc’s brother aren’t you? I’m his mate from his time in South Korea.” These were the words that suddenly greeted me during the second half of Taffs Well v Monmouth Town in August of this year. I’d never met or seen the lad in front of me before, but indeed I was Marc’s brother and indeed my brother had lived in South Korea (as you would have noticed from these pages). Further investigation unveiled the lad to be my brother’s friend Stu, a Bromley fan and serial groundhopper too who my brother had met out in Korea. After our Friday evening telling our tales of groundhopping whilst watching the entertaining Welsh League game in front of us, we stated that our paths would undoubtedly cross again. Which brings us to Macclesfield…
I’ve lived in the north-west for the best part of 5 years now and so I have covered all the Football League clubs in this part of the world and whole host of the north-west non-league contingent. However, Macclesfield’s Moss Rose had been eluding me for a while and Macclesfield was probably the biggest club up here that I was yet to visit. It had become my classic ‘Oh, it’s not too far so I’m sure I’ll end up going there eventually.’ Well, that eventually never seemed to be coming and with nothing planned for the upcoming Saturday I figured it was time for that ‘eventually’ to happen. Macclesfield was finally happening.
What I had initially failed to notice though was their opponents for that day: Bromley FC. A quick Facebook message to Stu, who confirmed that he’d be at the game, and it was soon sorted that I’d be joining the Bromley folk in the away end; away ends have become a bit of a running theme for me recently it seemed, as it’d be the 4th time I’d head into the away end in my past 5 games (with 4 different clubs too).
Undoubtedly, Macclesfield’s most famous son is Joy Division’s Ian Curtis (born in Stretford but raised in Macclesfield) and so it was only right that the haunting punky sounds of one of the greatest bands ever accompanied me as I headed to Manchester Piccadilly. My usual trip to Starbucks for an early morning coffee was derailed when I spotted Morecambe fans Phil and Mark up in the Mayfield pub in Piccadilly station; they were off to Barnet v Morecambe so I joined them for a quick drink and catch up before we headed our separate ways.
Just as Joy Division’s Atmosphere finished I was rolling into Macclesfield with the time just ticking over 11am. I decided to get my now compulsory Wetherspoons visit done and dusted, as I traipsed down Sunderland Street to the Society Rooms. Just your average, decent Wetherspoons really – Punk IPA drunk, locals chatted with and onwards through Macclesfield town centre I headed.
I’d not really known what to expect from Macclesfield as a place, but what I found was a rather charming little town, made all the more pleasant-looking today with the surrounding hills peppered in white from the slight snowfall the night before. It was all just very nice with people enjoying some more morning shopping and queuing around the block outside of tea rooms; I wondered why the tea rooms were all so busy and then it dawned on me: all the pubs were closed. Yep, it seemed Macclesfield is just one of those places that refuses to open drinking establishments until midday. I continued in my quest for a drinking hole until I eventually headed past St. Michael’s Church and the town hall and found Brewtique. And what a find it was.
Part liquor store, part bar, Macclesfield have a gem in the form of Brewtique. The establishment advertises itself as a seller of ‘artisan beer’ (and fine Cuban cigars) and the shelves are full of all sorts of funky looking beers and ales – a hipster’s wet dream. I shunned the bottles on the shelf and headed for the draughts at the small bar. On a whim I opted for a half pint of ‘Blue Sky Blue Sea’ and my life changed forever. I was straight on Twitter and Facebook declaring the boldest of statements to my social media audience: this was the finest drink I’ve ever discovered. It was just utterly unreal. What was in it? Well, it was a mix of seaweed and cloudberry – I know it doesn’t exactly sound the most appealing thing ever, but it mesmerised my taste buds (something the barman became fully aware of by the strange, slightly orgasmic, approving noises I was making whilst drinking it). If you find this stuff, buy it and savour it.
Stu had put me in touch with Manchester-based Bromley fan Will and on receiving a text from him to say that the Bromley fans had arrived in town, I rolled out of Brewtique (almost reluctantly) and headed back down the hill to Sunderland Street again. My destination was the Treacle Tap.
Once again, the Treacle Tap is a bit of a hidden gem too. Walking down Sunderland Street, blink and you’ll miss it (as I did the first time by walking straight past it). When I did find the place, what I found was brilliant. The bar area is only small, so the place felt full with a host of Bromley fans enjoying the ales on offer, as well as the excellent looking pies (which I didn’t sample sadly). On purchasing a pint of the Mosaic beer on tap, I met up with Will and his fellow Bromley fans.
Fair to say, that Bromley fans have to be some of the most accommodating fans I’ve met in a while. They all made me feel very welcome and were all round great company. It must be remembered that this is Bromley’s first ever season in the Conference Premier and the fans were clearly still loving their adventure at the top table of non-league football, as there was a real buzz about them.
Soon, Stu joined us having journeyed up from my neck of the woods in South Wales, but the time was approaching 2pm and some of the Bromley contingent started rolling on to pubs nearer the ground. We stayed put as we were more than content with staying in the Treacle Tap. We did have to talk ourselves out of trying the ridiculously strong BrewDog beer on the menu though – not far off 50% alcohol within it; well, the price (£5) for just a shot of it put us off actually). More Mosaic beer was drunk before we decided to start making the walk up to Moss Rose.
Macclesfield’s famous Moss Rose home is located a short distance outside of the town itself and it took us roughly 15 minutes to make it there walking from the town centre. Immediately, you cannot help but be charmed by this ground as it comes into view – a gallimaufry of old and new in one ground. But first, we had to get tickets from the away ticket office before we could get into Moss Rose (despite Stu’s efforts at charming a steward to just let us pay on the turnstiles). £14 later and with an actual ticket in hand we were into the ground.
My observation about Moss Rose was confirmed almost immediately on entering. It’s almost as if one side of the ground is living in the Football League and the other side in non-league. Behind the goals nearest us today was a large opening standing terrace; usually, I’d have wanted to be standing on this, but the cold weather today left me thankful for being under cover (in fact,the terrace was not used today at all). We were located in the corner of the Henshaw’s Stand – your standard single-tiered sheltered, seating stand, which did offer a lovely view of the Cheshire countryside heading beyond the ground. This stand was shared with home fans too, as well as the hospitality areas being housed at the back of the stand. Behind the further goals is the Star Lane End (or Macclesfield’s Audi Stand if you so wish to call it by its now ‘official’ name) where the more vocal home fans were located (not that they were very vocal at all today). Undoubtedly, the ground’s pièce de résistance though is the Main Stand. The stand is a compact little thing which sits along the halfway with opening terracing either side of it. A brilliant looking stand.
There is a concourse running the length of the Henshaw’s Stand and so that’s where we headed first, even braving the fact that we had to share the concourse with Macclesfield fans. There was time for a quick beer, but it had to be quick as soon the players were coming out onto the pitch. I headed up into the stand with the Bromley faithful, whilst my companions took their time over their beers down below the stand.
It was a clear, yet chilly, afternoon now in Macclesfield as the game kicked off with Macclesfield in their traditional blue kits and Bromley in their red away kit. Immediately, the away fans were in great voice and this seemed to carry on for most of the 90 minutes. On the pitch Bromley started well too as they had all the ball.
There was a lot of singing of ‘You are my Bromley…’ as the team fought to make a breakthrough. They had had most of the ball but without any really clear-cut chances. That was until their striker Moses Emmanuel broke through two defenders, before his effort was saved by Shwan Jalal in the Macclesfield goal.
Bromley had been the better team, but the game itself had hardly been a thriller. There was a chance at the end of the half for Macclesfield striker Kristian Dennis to grab a goal when he had a free header at goal, but his effort lacked the necessary power and it was comfortably saved.
Half-time: Macclesfield Town 0 – 0 Bromley.
Stu had headed down to the bar with a few minutes left in the half, so it was nice to arrive back on the concourse to find a beer already waiting for me. Plus, it seemed that the Bromley lot didn’t want to mingle with today’s hosts so I found them all tucked away around a corner at the Bromley end of the concourse.
Despite having the better of things in the first half, the second half would not start well for Bromley. It took just 4 minutes into the second half for Macclesfield to take the lead. A cut back across goal by Chris Holroyd left Paul Lewis with the simply task of tapping home. 1 – 0 to the Silkmen.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Bromley a bit and it looked like it could go either way now. However, it looked to have swung further in the direction of a Macclesfield win when the home team were awarded a soft penalty for handball. Up stepped Dennis, but Bromley keeper Chris Kettings made a good save to keep the score at 1 – 0.
The Bromley fans were still in good voice and I felt the saved penalty was a sign that the away team were going to get themselves back into the game. It looked like they had shortly after the penalty when a few half chances fell their way, before Emmanuel controlled brilliantly on the edge of the box and curled a lovely effort which hit the bottom of the post and came back out again. Sickeningly close.
To the dismay of those around me, the game looked to be over in the 80th minute as Macclesfield scored a 2nd and Dennis finally grabbed his goal. The Macclesfield striker was left unmarked and he comfortably side-footed his effort under Kettings to give Macclesfield a more comfortable lead.
On such a cold evening I would not have been surprised to see Bromley fans start to exit the ground early and make their way back to warmer climes, as I’ve seen so many fanbases do in such situations before. But not Bromley. Macclesfield’s 2nd goal was the catalyst for constant singing and bouncing around for the final ten minutes as they showed superb support for their team, despite them looking dead and buried on the pitch.
Full-time: Macclesfield Town 2 – 0 Bromley.
Choruses of ‘You are my Bromley…’ were still going strong about 10 minutes after the final whistle and instead of waiting around for the rest of the gang, I figured I wouldn’t interrupt them and so I left them partying in the stand and headed for the warmth of The Macc pub that I’d spotted on the walk to the ground earlier. As I left, the stewards seemed to be getting bored of the cold too as they began to encircle the Bromley fans as a ‘I think it’s time to go home’ hint.
I found refuge from the cold in the excellent Macc (Macclesfield does pub really well it seems) although I did make the schoolboy error of ordering a nice looking beer called Clown Juice without asking how much a pint of it cost. I was caught off guard when the barmaid asked for the £5.90 it cost me. Fortunately, it was very nice (still not a patch on Blue Sky Blue Sea though – but I’m not sure anything will be as good as that).
I received word that the Bromley fans were back in the Treacle Tap, but by the time I arrived there I found Will and Billy finishing off their beers and pondering heading back to Manchester. That seemed a good call to me. Beer bought for the short train journey back to Manchester and it was time to call an end to an entertaining day in Macclesfield.
Moss Rose was a ground I instantly liked and I would happily return one day in the future, especially since Macclesfield is littered with good pubs too. However, the real winners for me on the day were the Bromley fans who had welcomed me so brilliantly. They’ve even invited me to Guiseley v Bromley next Saturday but sadly I cannot go as I’m staying in Manchester to accommodate friends from back home. But I may well join the Bromley brigade when they go to Southport in December as I’ve been meaning to go there for a long while. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even venture down to Hayes Lane one Saturday this season to see the home of Bromley FC.
Now, let’s get on Google and find out where I can buy myself some Blue Sky Blue Sea…
Highlights: Macclesfield is nice, Brewtique, Treacle Tap, Bromley fans were brilliant to me, Moss Rose is a good ground, good fun in the away end, discovering the greatest beer ever.
Low Points: not the most thrilling game, it was freezing!
See all my photos from my trip to Macclesfield here.