Manchester Walking Football December 2023
All Reports By Kevin Williams
Due to the Christmas holidays the final Autumn fixtures in Division 1 of the over 70s and Divisions 1 and 2 of the over 60s were played in November instead of December. [Ed]
Week 1 – Over 70s Division 2 & Over 60s Divisions 3 & 4
Over 70s Report
In Division 2, Salcom’s big chance to overhaul leaders Tameside Striders came in the penultimate round of fixtures yesterday, on a cold but beautiful day in Heywood. Although the Salford based side managed to keep a clean sheet against the East Manchester team, they couldn’t find that elusive goal. Tameside denied all comers a goal, and deservedly topped the group to win by a point. Not a huge amount, but plenty enough – congratulations to everyone involved!
Bolton Arena picked up a very useful 8 points, to accompany another full set of blanks in the goals against column – perhaps they will continue in the same vein come March 2024? Rochdale will have been disappointed to drop to fourth place, albeit on goals difference, whilst unlucky Preston finished in the position that they probably suspected had their name on for a couple of months – bottom – there’s always next year folks!
One rather unwelcome statistic saw the light of day very recently – courtesy of league supremo Bill Murney – in that the only two red cards issued this season have come in this age group; as Mike Willmore said to me yesterday, “as the temperatures drop, the tempers rise!” Couldn’t have put it better Mike, thanks for lending me the quote!
Over 60s Report
You could feel the tension at HSV this morning, as the much anticipated ‘triple header’ title deciders in Division 3 were about to kick off. Preston’s Ray Richards wasn’t nervous though, he was still chatting to me and Garry Pearce in the reception area 20 minutes before the start; nobody needs to tell Ray to calm down. It was probably PNE’s 2-1 defeat of rivals Bolton that clinched the title, as the other ‘tie breakers’ finished all square.
Try as they might – and they certainly tried – Burnley just couldn’t find that last 1% to get them over the line – their battles with Bolton and promoted Winstanley next season will certainly be worth watching. It could have been oh so different though, as Bolton had an apparent equaliser disallowed for running; there then followed a penalty awarded for that very running offence which PNE duly converted. Fine margins once again.
Very well done to the North End club on their Championship, and commiserations to Rochdale Strollers who slipped quietly into Division 4; hopefully they will find their feet in those slightly calmer waters.
Winstanley Walkers continued to trample all over Division 4, claiming a very impressive total of 29 points from just 12 games. Long time students of the beautiful game will have noticed over time, that just now and then a team marches up through the ranks until they hit a peak. I have a feeling that the Wigan club might just do something like that; they have some very good players and play very much as a team. Sorry lads, that’s probably just got you relegated next year, I have that effect.
Moston Brook and Salcom will be relishing the loss of Winstanley to this division, in the nicest possible way, as March promises to see at least three teams at a similar level – Rochdale adding to the mix. Whoever replaces the unlucky Roach Dynamos when coming up from Division 5 will make this a very interesting scenario indeed.
Week 2 – Over 70s Division 3 & Over 65s Divisions 1 & 2
Over 70s Report
Burnley Clarets went one place better than the previous campaign when they took the 3rd Division Championship, courtesy of a 16 match unbeaten run. Congratulations to everyone involved at such a well run club.
Garry McGrail settled any early nerves in the opener against struggling Moston Brook, with Brian Keith sealing the deal from a distance. What then became Tameside’s big chance came and went, when a 0-0 draw saw the Lancashire club over the line, before a scrappy win over Purple Panthers was won by a Dave Stobbs penalty.
It was pretty much ‘as you were’ in the lower ranks then, with Moston having another blank day, with Panthers only goal securing a victory over them. A round of applause for Tameside Striders Greens as they kept three clean sheets, whilst securing two victories to finish in the runners up berth.
Over 65s Report
It seemed that nerves played a part today as Bolton Arena and Manchester Corinthians faced off for the honour of becoming Division 1 Champions in the 2023 Autumn season. Neither team ran away with things, but it was the former who just did enough with a return of 6 points, crucially holding off their rivals in an opening 0-0 draw.
Well done to everyone at the Arena, this is a tough league to win – and commiserations to the Corinthians lads who just fell two points short on the day.
Bury Relics made ground collecting 7 points, including a potentially significant 2-0 victory over the runners up, but it wasn’t enough to clinch the consolation prize. Blackpool had a good day, most crucially pipping relegation rivals Preston North End to send their neighbours down to Division 2. It was a dark day indeed for the Lilywhites who had one player red carded for denying a Corinthians player a goal scoring opportunity, but more importantly losing Tim Allen who was taken to hospital.
League official Bill Murney has already extended the good wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery for Tim to the Preston club; it goes without saying that I’d like to repeat those sentiments in this report.
Wakefield Wanderers powered to the 2nd Division title with an outstanding 12 point haul today; add to that the fact that they recorded four clean sheets and you could just fancy them to have a decent crack at winning the top division next year. Not only do Wakefield regularly produce very good teams, they do it with a great attitude and sporting approach to every game. They are a credit to their club and to the GMWFL – congratulations to everyone over in South Yorkshire!
It was nip and tuck for the next three clubs, although Manchester Citizens kept their noses in front for long enough to grab the runners up spot, with Rochdale AFC Strollers and Panthers sharing third place, fully six points behind in the end. Well done to the Sky Blues.
Fleetwood were destined for the drop some way out, but I’ll repeat myself when I say that are a decent team and their relegation only goes to prove what a strong league this is, they might surprise a few teams in Division 3.
Week 3 – Over 60s Division 5 & Over 65s Divisions 3 & 4
Over 60s Report
All of the smart money will have been on Ribble Valley securing the 5th Division title at a wet and windy HSV on Wednesday. They sat 4 points clear of Bury Relics before kick off and were hot favourites. They didn’t disappoint, and indeed stretched their lead to a very impressive seven points; considering this division only plays 12 games in the season – that’s pretty good.
Bury gave them a helping hand mind you, surprisingly picking up just the two points. Wakefield almost made them pay dearly when they continued their recent improved form, including a high scoring victory over Bolton Arena – six goals shared in the Yorkshire club’s favour.
Arena’s return of 10 points was better than it looks at first – only one other team taking home the wooden spoon managed double figures in this age group, and they played three games more. So well done to Ribble Valley, and commiserations to the remaining clubs.
Over 65s Report
With deepest apologies to Roy Wood and The Move, cast your mind back 4 weeks [no googling, remember the lyrics!] and you might recall that the games were played in gale force winds running from one goal to the other. It was a similar story for the final day’s play of the 2023 Autumn season as storm Pia played havoc in the UK, with the epicentre surely in Heywood!
You would have needed a crystal ball to predict the final outcome in Division 3 as Moston Brook, Burnley Clarets and Rochdale Striders kicked off with just two points separating them.
Salcom only had a bit part to play, seemingly, but started the day like a team determined to spoil a few dreams of silverware, when they held Burnley to a 1-1 draw. Ron Peden saved the Clarets from defeat, and Pete Hey had to do the same as the Lancashire Lads could only draw with Moston too [once again thanks to Jim Bowden for the detail].
Evergreen Val Mears scored three [all penalties] for Rochdale, in their brave bid to overtake the others in the title race; but the five points gleaned was only good enough to grab the consolation prize. I watched the game with Burnley [of course] and it was a thriller, both sides making a mockery of the conditions.
But the day belonged to Moston Brook, who have a lot of popular and well known faces amongst their squad; so whilst the Dale and Burnley can count themselves a tad unfortunate maybe, the Green and Black lads fully deserved their day in the sunshine, well pouring down rain, but they are well used to that! Well done Moston!
With the big match of the day in Division 4 ending in a goalless stalemate, Winstanley Walkers basically sealed the Championship by virtue of their opening game win against Tameside. It was a much more crucial victory than they might have envisaged, with Wakefield leaving themselves a hill to climb when recording a 1-1 draw with Ribble Valley on the adjoining pitch. The Champions elect crashed to a surprise defeat in their final game against that very team – but the season was effectively over by then.
Ribble recorded 7 points on the day, which must give them thoughts of going at least one place better in the Spring 2024 season, whilst poor old Tameside battled gamely on, despite having their name etched in bottom place for a while now. Better luck next year lads, but congratulations to Winstanley Walkers.
The final presentation of the Autumn 2023 season saw the usual trophy awards, photographs and thank you to everyone involved with the GMWFL. However, today was a little bit different, as Paul Gardner announced the raffle ticket receipts collected over the last 4 weeks amounted to more than £1,000!
This magnificent total was only made possible by you, the players, managers and supporters, with – I’m sure – some sizeable help from our referees! In addition, Ron Blakeley of Manchester Corinthians organised a raffle within the club that realised a fantastic £275 – well done Ronnie – which tipped us well over the four-figure mark.
The charity to benefit on this particular occasion was The Lymphoma Society, which was chosen in recognition of the quite amazing recovery from serious illness made by Mick Tarpey, who so many of you will know. Mick and his lovely wife Jane were there to thank everyone for their help and encouragement over the past year and more. Mick’s treatment has been successful and he is even kicking a ball again, albeit tentatively, at Corinthians training sessions.
A well deserved presentation was also made to GMWFL and Rochdale WFC stalwart Steve Colesby, who was recognised for his outstanding service to the game in so many ways. Congratulations Steve, and thanks for everything you do! Along with his dedicated colleagues on the committee, and our intrepid men with the whistles out on the pitches, these guys are what makes this league one of the best in the country.
A last word for now – you’ll be pleased to hear – a Merry Xmas to you all, a Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!
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