Tamworth v Curzon Ashton
The Lamb Ground / Conference North / 16th February 2016
“I’m going to have a few days relaxing for a change,” was how I forecasted my week off in the days building up to it. Obviously, the Saturday that began my week off was a football day, so a trip to Newcastle Town happened, but after that – yes, I was going to take it easy. That plan didn’t last.
Having moaned for a couple of years about never setting foot in Bolton town centre, despite it being a few miles from my Salfordian abode, Gibbo convinced me a day out in Bolton followed by Atherton Colls v AFC Liverpool was a good idea. In fairness, it was, as I finally got to visit Bolton (interesting place), sample ‘pasty in a barm’ and watch Colls tonk AFC Liverpool 5-1.
So, Tuesday was then penciled in for my new day of rest. Once again this didn’t last. Clearly buzzing off the stout and pasty I’d consumed in Bolton the previous day, I was straight out of bed late Tuesday morning and soon found myself at the Piccadilly Tap (or Lost Boyos HQ2 as I’ve recently christened it) and debating where to go for a football adventure. There were a few candidates, but I wanted a proper adventure and so all roads (railway lines anyway) seemed to be pointing me one way: Tamworth. I’d spent the last few weeks dallying around the north of England and so I felt a trip to the Midlands would be a welcome change; especially as Tamworth were taking on one of the blog’s favourites, Curzon Ashton.
First port of call for such a trip is M&S to purchase the compulsory M&S Belgian Lager and after a few train cancellations I found myself heading south to Brum shortly after 1.30pm. I figured I’d head to Tamworth after a quick visit to Birmingham. In fact, the schedule I had in my head appeared reminiscent of my trip to Walsall last year (drinks in Birmingham and then onwards to a Brummie satellite town to watch some random football). That night I ended up stranded in Crewe station overnight after missing a rail replacement bus change in Crewe. Surely, no such rail replacement bus cock-up could happen tonight though? Well, I was horrified to learn that if I didn’t leave Tamworth at a reasonable time later that night then I would indeed have to gamble on a rail replacement bus from Crewe again. I was not sure my soul could endure another night in Crewe train station and so I vowed to stick to a rigorous plan.
I always say it’s not a trip to Birmingham without a visit to the incredible Wellington pub; a ‘Mecca of real ale’ as it was once described – although it may actually be myself who I’m quoting there, I’m not sure anymore. Anyway, the usual random ale was selected as I mingled with the old men in their flat caps enjoying their Tuesday afternoon ales. I debated my next move and opted that time was getting on a bit and so instead of indulging in any more Brum public houses, I figured I’d head over to Tamworth. Back to the newly flush Birmingham New Street I headed.
I almost didn’t get off the train at Tamworth. It seemed I had stumbled upon the finest train in Cross Country’s fleet. It had to be the comfiest train I’d ever sat on and I felt Twitter needed to know about it. Soon I was receiving tweets off Cross Country themselves delighted to hear about this and they even introduced some Game of Thrones banter to their tweets. Top effort Cross Country. But sadly the journey from Birmingham to Tamworth was a mere 15-20 minutes and so I clambered out of my comfy chair and headed into the Tamworth evening.
I arrived into Tamworth just as the markets were closing up shop and the town seemed to be quietening. Not to worry though – I was off to Wetherspoons. The Bole Bridge is your fairly average Spoons, but with Punk IPA in hand I was fairly happy and from here I plotted my course through Tamworth thanks to some internet research. However, micorpub guru and groundhopper Russell Cox was soon informing me on Facebook that I should visit the King’s Ditch and since his recommendations are usually pretty spot on, I opted to go there.
I found the King’s Ditch towards the top of town and it certainly lived up to its ‘micropub’ name. There wasn’t even any taps on show and on ordering some sort of local ale, the lad behind the bar had to go out the back to pour it; a bit unnerving not being able to see your drink being poured, but it was beautiful nonetheless.The company was also good in here with many enquiring what the hell I was doing in Tamworth. On explaining I was here to watch football, the barman declared that he was a season ticket holder at Tamworth FC and that they had played so badly on the weekend that he couldn’t be arsed walking down to the ground for the game that night. Not the greatest display of football fandom I’ve ever encountered.
I was going to try find a pub of similar quirkiness next, but I ended up in the rather generic Yates, a place completely devoid of customers on this Tuesday evening. So onwards I went.
As skies above Tamworth darkened, I decided to make my way over to Tamworth FC’s home, The Lamb Ground. A great name I thought – a name that apparently comes from The Lamb Inn which once stood on the site of the ground. The club were formed in 1934, but only played one year at the Jolly Sailor Ground until they moved into their current home the next year. Back in 2016, the hue of the floodlights was filling the air and the ground was found easily enough after a 10 minute walk from the town centre.
Stupidly, I had left my memory card for my camera at home and so taking photos for this blog was reliant on the camera on my phone. It has to be said, the phone struggled with this task tonight (although my semi-inebriated state stopped me from having the patience to suitably adjust some settings on the camera to improve quality), so apologies if the photos do not really capture the ground’s essence well.
So what of the ground’s ‘essence’? Well, I liked the place without it really blowing my mind either. The Lamb Ground is a fairly standard ground for a club who play in the Conference leagues. On entering the ground, I found myself on a completely open terrace behind the goal which led towards the clubhouse. One one side of the ground stands the Main Stand with 500 seats, whilst opposite runs a sheltered standing terrace. There was still plenty of time until kick-off so into the bar I headed for my prematch drinks.
It seemed that I had arrived at the ground the same time as the travelling Curzon Ashton fans and on entering I found my mate Aaron and his brother Lucas at the bar.The Curzon lot seemed in good spirits and I’d obviously be cheering for them. After the prematch gaiety with the Curzon fans, it was time for tonight’s game and out we headed (via the food bar to purchase pie, chips and gravy).
I took my place amongst the Curzon fans with me cheering on the Tameside club, even though Tamworth had a bit of a hero of mine in their dugout: former Wrexham, Coventry and Bury striker Andy Morrell.A strange character to dub a ‘hero’ I know. In fact, I probably shouldn’t like him as the reason I generally hold him in such high esteem is because he was the first player I ever saw score 4 goals in a game live. Sadly, all 4 of those goals came on the last day of the season for Blackpool against Swansea in a quite spectacular 6-3 thriller at the Liberty Stadium. The game tonight was definitely not in the same ‘thriller’ category.
This won’t be too much of a match report as there wasn’t really too much to report on. There were a few chances early doors, but the game then descended into a series of misplaced passes, silly tackles and general errors.
It would take until the 39th minute for the scoring to open and it would go the way of the home team. A freekick on the edge of the box was expertly curled in by Ellis Deeney to make it 1-0 to the Lambs.
The goal seemed to fire up Tamworth who had a couple more chances to add to their tally and they would have been disappointed to go in at the break just 1-0 up.
Half-time: Tamworth 1-0 Curzon Ashton.
After a quick drink back in the bar, the second half wasn’t much better, especially for Curzon. By the 54th minute it was 2-0 to Tamworth. This time a cross driven across the face of goal was eventually finished by Ross Dyer.
Then my latest 2016 trend hit home again. Already twice since the turn of the year, I’ve witnessed outfield players don goalie gloves because of a goalkeeper injury; I feared it may happen again here at Tamworth as Curzon’s Hakan Burton went off with a wrist injury (fortunately, Curzon actually had a substitute goalie on the bench). So goalkeepers beware if you see me turn up in the terraces, as I seem to be some sort of goalkeeper jinx. (Amazingly, the next evening I witnessed another goalie injury and an outfield player head in goals – but that blog is to come).
Coming off the bench for Curzon was Sheffield United loanee Dan Cockerline, which meant I did get to hear a brief repose of the Cockerline chant invented by pals Craig and Joe at a recent Curzon match (essentially, singing ‘DAN COCKERLINE…’ to the tune of Neil Diamond’s’Sweet Caroline’). But still it wasn’t falling for Curzon and in the 78th minute they had a header cleared off the line.
Tamworth seemed to think they had the game wrapped and they created little towards the end of the game, whilst Curzon grabbed themselves a lifeline in the closing minutes. A scramble in the box saw the ball eventually fall to Ryan Brooke who fired in from close range.
Despite the rallying cries from the Curzon contingent in the stand, the away team failed to grab a vital equaliser and Tamworth saw out the game.
Full-time: Tamworth 2 – 1 Curzon Ashton.
Initially, I considered heading back to the bar for one final drink and getting the slightly later train; I then had flashbacks to that harrowing night spent in Crewe train station and opted against it and instead darted back to the station.
No cock-ups. No drama. No night in Crewe train station. Considering the spontaneity of deciding to go to Tamworth, the trip had actually gone very smoothly. To be honest, a little too smoothly as the usual shenanigans and mishaps that usually seem to head my way on these days were nowhere to be seen and thus this blog feels…well, a bit dull I suppose. Don’t worry though, the usual weirdness comes back in abundance in the next one (it may involve a middle-aged man thinking I was coming onto him and then telling me his wife was down in Bournemouth, so he was keen). My day out in Tamworth had all been a bit ‘meh’ though.
Highlights: revisiting the Wellington, comfy train, King’s Ditch, good club bar, good food.
Low Points: poor game.
See all my (really bad) photos from my day out in Tamworth here.