Manchester Walking Football November 2023
All Reports By Kevin Williams
Week 1 – Over 70s Division 1 & Over 60s Divisions 1 & 2
Over 70s Report
Every division in the GMWFL is fiercely competitive; battles are won and lost, tempers occasionally fray, and now and then boil over into something more. But those occurrences are rare, thankfully, and yesterday there were two outstanding examples of sportsmanship shown [and probably quite a few minor ones] that show this league in the best possible light.
Manchester Citizens unfortunately lost a man to a red card, and with only 6 players to start with, were short handed for their game against Blackpool Senior Seasiders. The Fylde coast club promptly withdrew one of their own players to ensure a ‘fair game’ was enjoyed by all. Add to that the fact that the game ended 0-0 and possibly cost Blackpool a big chance of sealing their first win of the campaign; bravo Blackpool!
Agree Kev, there have been some outstanding examples of sportsmanship shown in this league over the years. I cannot recall any team refusing to field five players when the opposition were down to five players themselves (Ed).
Sticking with the ‘Pool, my seaside correspondent Steve Hyde reliably informs me that they have now conceded four penalties in the ‘goals against’ column total of six so far this season. Added to that their ‘goals for’ tally includes two spot kicks amongst the four scored, but have also missed two themselves. No wonder they are in a spot of bother at the foot of the table.
I was collared by Bury Relics stalwart Keiran Tilley prior to the start of Thursday’s games. Keiran really wanted me to include another great piece of sportsmanship from their match with Rochdale Strollers. A free kick had been awarded to ‘Dales Chris Reynolds – who promptly advised the referee that the collision had been entirely accidental and that no free kick should be awarded.
This is great sportsmanship not just from the Rochdale club but also their friends and rivals from Bury who really appreciated such fair play. Thanks for that Keiran!
No such problems for Manchester Corinthians who now have one hand firmly on the Division 1 trophy, following another successful day. Four clean sheets, three wins and a draw on the day show what a fine team they are; only a collapse of the highest magnitude would see them see them fail in December and that really doesn’t look likely.
Bury also kept four clean sheets and pocketed 8 points on a good day for some defences, the Citizens blank day in front of goal was compounded when Rochdale claimed their scalp with their only goal of the day.
Over 60s Report
Kingsmaid leapfrogged the early season pacemakers Fleetwood Town Flyers at Heywood this morning, assuming a position in the table that they are more than familiar with. A crucial 2-1 win against the Flyers sealed a great day for Stuart Saint, Denis Johnson and their teammates as they plundered 12 points to go top with four games remaining. The Flyers slip to second, but they have had a great season already.
Bury Relics failed to trouble the opposition goalies enough to register a goal, which is quite amazing when you see the quality they possess in their team; that also speaks volumes for the standard of opposition.
Wakefield secured nine very welcome points on the day to ensure there is no danger of them slipping out of the top tier, a fate that is almost certain to befall Manchester Corinthians Reds.
My earlier comments regarding Bury also apply to the team propping up the table; they are all top players so their position is a tribute to the sheer strength of the GMWFL.
All eyes were on the skies as Storm Ciaran threatened to make an unwelcome appearance today at Heywood Sports Village. That we only suffered 10 minutes or so of the rain and wind has to be seen as a blessing.
A first defeat of the season for Bolton Wanderers had little or no impact on their standing as favourites to win Division 2. In fact, the bookies are taking no bets as they go into the final round of games 6 points clear and with a goal difference of 6+. They’ll be taking nothing for granted though, and neither will Panthers, their closest rivals. But with just the four points to show for their efforts today, the latter look to be playing for the runners up trophy along with Blackpool, who crept just a point closer today.
Rochdale Strollers managed to claim their first two wins of the current campaign, Bob Hartley getting back into the groove after a difficult time with injuries. They are the outsiders of the three with aspirations on the second spot, but with just four points separating the trio it should make for an interesting final round. Corinthians still prop things up, despite a late winner against Rochdale.
Week 2 – Over 70s Division 2 & Over 60s Divisions 3 & 4
Over 70s Report
Tameside Striders Blues stride to the top of the table continued today, at a chilly HSV, with the shadows from Salcom on their shoulders. Both teams once again enjoyed a fruitful morning, remaining unbeaten and collecting 8 points apiece. That sets them up for a thrilling finale in December, when the two sides meet at 12.20 – Salcom’s last game of the season, and Tameside’s penultimate. Fascinating stuff – but there’s points to be won and lost before that fixture kicks off.
Last month I wrote about the need for an early win for both Bolton Arena and Preston North End, and it was the former who managed the single goal in today’s clash. That goal could be crucial as it helped lift Arena four points clear of their rivals.
Rochdale’s title challenge faltered when they fell to both Tameside and Salcom; a mid table finish awaits, I suspect.
Over 60s Report
The Over 60’s Division 3 table sees Rochdale Striders standing outside of the shop window gazing wistfully at their opponents, who will decide between them who eats all of the pies in December. Apart from a Val Mears super strike in the first minute of their opening game today, it was a very bad day at the office for the Dale, who will be competing in the fourth tier next season, following three straight defeats.
Burnley kept three clean sheets whilst gaining their seven points, scoring 5 goals. Crucially, goalkeeper Karl Greenwood saved a penalty in the 1-0 win over Bolton. On such moments are titles won – although Pete Gregory might point to his winner in the same game, to keep his brace against Rochdale company. [My thanks to Gary Hitchen for the details].
Preston continued their decent run of form picking up five points. Bolton Wanderers could only muster 4 points on the day, but their previous chart topping form means that the final round of games in December will see them join Burnley and Preston in a three way tussle for the title. There will be four games that will decide the eventual winners in a very exciting conclusion to the season.
In Division 4, Winstanley Walkers will be playing next month, safe in the knowledge that the title has been secured with an entire session in hand. 9 points clear with by far the best goals difference seems a safe enough gap to me, remembering that there are only three games remaining of course! They recovered from last month’s slightest of wobbles to keep three clean sheets.
Roach Dynamos player Chris Reynolds popped over to Spotland to borrow two Rochdale players to help them field a team today – they could have been renamed Roachdale Dynamos – but it was to no avail as the Heywood club failed to pick up a point, leaving them with the wooden spoon firmly in hand. Salcom and Moston Brook vie for the runners up spot; the formers 2-0 win today set up an interesting final day.
Week 3 – Over 70s Division 3 & Over 65s Divisions 1 & 2
Over 70s Report
Burnley Clarets and Tameside Striders emerged from yesterday’s fixtures very much as they were before kick off, each recording a win and two draws to maintain the status quo.
Down Down, Deeper and Down went the lads from Moston Brook who now prop up the table, with just the one point to show for their efforts, with Panthers drawing blanks in all three of their engagements, but still notching up 3 points.
One of my very helpful contacts in Burnley – John Walton – advises me that Panthers have only conceded one more goal all season than they themselves have; testimony indeed to the value of being able to find the net. Skipper Dave Stobbs and Keith Harvey hitting the target yesterday in the 2-1 win against the Brook.
It’s all very much to play for in the December finale, at both ends of the table, and with sincere apologies to all Quo fans, nobody will want to Roll Over and Lay Down.
Over 65s Report
Bolton Arena swept to the top of the Division 1 with an outstanding return of 10 points from their four games today, including a crucial 2-0 win against previous leaders Manchester Corinthians. Bury’s five point haul keeps them on the fringe of the title chase, although it’s now looking a big ask for them being 5 and 4 points adrift respectively.
Blackpool’s inability to put the ball in the onion bag has been the biggest contributory factor of their season; another blank Thursday for the Tangerines leaves them rooted to the foot of the table.
Rivals Preston gave themselves some breathing space grabbing two vital 1-0 victories, against the aforementioned and perhaps surprisingly, Corinthians. The final round of games will probably go down to the final fixture or two before we know who is to be crowned Over 65’s Champions; fascinating stuff.
Division 2 saw a significant shift in power today, with Wakefield taking a stranglehold on the table courtesy of three wins on the bounce, that came after a surprising defeat [on paper that is] by struggling Fleetwood Town. This was the Flyers first win of the season, but along with a draw against Rochdale wasn’t enough to give them a realistic chance of surviving the drop to Division 3.
Wakefield now sit six points clear of Manchester Citizens who struggled with a depleted squad today; three defeats were the first ones of the campaign.
Rochdale continued their decent run of form, just pipping both the above mentioned and Panthers before falling victim to the league leaders from Yorkshire in a somewhat stormy affair, settled by a late penalty. Panthers lie a point behind the Dale, who trail the Citizens by five, but it seems highly likely they will all be waving Wakefield goodbye as they step up a division in December.
Week 4 – Over 60s Division 5 & Over 65s Divisions 3 & 4
Over 60s Report
Wakefield’s mini revival continued on Wednesday when they picked up 7 points from their three games, including another crucial win against rivals Bolton Arena.
Bury Relics will have been disappointed with a single point return, handing the initiative to fellow title challengers Ribble Valley, who now lead by four points with just the nine to play for. Although the Valley took just the five points on the day, they could prove to be priceless.
Over 65s Report
Three clubs have thrown their hats into the ring in a bid to be crowned Champions of Division 3 in December. The gale force winds, racing from one goal down the pitch to the other, meant the matches were truly games of two halves.
Salcom’s unwelcome run of games without a goal came to an end in their second match of the day, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Rochdale, who picked up five points to end proceedings in joint second place with Burnley Clarets.
Another of my excellent correspondents up in Burnley – Jim Bowden – was full of praise for the ‘really enjoyable session’ had by all on Thursday morning. I was at the games too, and Jim you’re spot on, despite the conditions there was so much entertainment on show.
The Rochdale v Burnley game in particular was a cracker, with both keepers kept busy throughout. Burnley were also full of praise for referee Ian Liversidge who took control of a Clarets game for the first time. Once again I agree Jim, but I’ve got to say that every referee in the GMWFL officiates with a tremendously positive attitude, despite the undoubted pressures that such a competitive league brings. Here’s a big pat on the back for all of our match officials!
Moston’s single goal in the 1-0 win against Burnley was the first in their trio of tussles this season, and put the North Manchester lads on top of the table with four games to go. Two points separate the top three, and I for one can’t wait to watch the final round of games.
Winstanley Walkers kept Wakefield at arms length following a 0-0 draw in the key clash of the day in the fourth tier of the Over 65’s age group. Once again the wind had a big say in the proceedings but it’s to everyone’s credit that football was the winner in the end.
Tameside picked up only their second pint of the season, but it was well earned from all accounts, as they held a strong Wakefield team 1-1. Ribble Valley’s four points increased the gap between themselves and Tameside but still leaves them with work to do to catch the Yorkshire outfit in the race for runners up spot.
Week 5 – Over 70s Division 1 & Over 60s Divisions 1 & 2
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]
Over 70s Report
Manchester Corinthians claimed the first trophy of the season winning Division 1 by quite a distance today. Theirs was a record to be proud of as they recorded 9 victories from 16 games, losing none at all. Congratulations to Manager Stewart White and all of the lads involved – thoroughly deserved.
Runners Up Bury Relics and next placed Rochdale Striders enjoyed a game of two late penalties. Referee Stuart Saint was ‘spot on’ in his judgement when initially awarding the Dale the chance to seal the win with a minute on the clock – Ray Pemberton convincingly slotting home. Rochdale, however, failed to manage the game out and a similar running offence saw the Shakers grab a last gasp equaliser. Not many referees would want to be making such game changing decisions at the death, all credit to Sainty for doing the right thing.
Blackpool might claim that the low winter sun was in their eyes, as they suffered another blank Thursday in front of goal, and their failure to find the net meant relegation for them as they drew 0-0 with Manchester Citizens in the final game of the day.
Over 60s Report
It was a beautiful day at Heywood to witness the closing day of the 60’s top two Divisions. Bitterly cold, but with a strong winter sun that, whilst it cheered up the spectators, caused more than a couple of problems for the players looking into it. At least the referees had an option to stand with their backs to it, although as top official Garry Peace declared, he does like to get around the field to view play from different angles. Not so today, but the refereeing was as good as usual.
It was a familiar name that took the honours in Division 1, as Kingsmaid won three, but crucially avoided defeat at the hands of nearest challengers Fleetwood Town Flyers who claimed a very creditable runners up spot – keeping them at arms length. Kingsmaid’s achievement shouldn’t be dismissed lightly, simply because they’ve been there so often, and are currently buying even more of the t-shirts; they had to overcome top class opponents every month, and that takes a lot of doing. Congratulations to everyone associated with the club.
The smallest of margins decided the winners of this division. In the head to head with the score 1-1 and both teams with the same goal difference and Kingsmaid with a 3 point lead, Fleetwood were awarded a penalty with a minute left to play. If this had been converted it would have made Fleetwood champions by a margin of plus one goal as in the remaining games both teams had the same goal difference. Incidentally a great save by the Kingsmaid keeper. [Ed]
Fleetwood have had a brilliant season and finished 11 points clear of Wakefield, who again are no mugs. The sheer strength of the top Division is encapsulated at the foot of the table, where you will find Bury Relics Whites and Manchester Corinthians Reds; you will all have seen the talent within the ranks of these two long serving members of the GMWFL – it says so much that the Reds will be playing in the 2nd tier next March. I wouldn’t bet against them bouncing straight back.
The standard of football continues to grow. All former champions, Manchester Corinthians, Rochdale AFC Strollers and Wakefield Wanderers have now been surpassed by Fleetwood and Kingsmaid, two teams who would be amongst the best in the country. [Ed]
It was an unfortunate relegation double for Manchester Corinthians today, as the Whites slipped into Division 3. As a club they have missed that top class centre forward Mick Tarpey, who continues to recover remarkably well from his illness. Again they are a side packed with good players, but they just seem to be short on goals, as confirmed by Gaz Morris earlier today, as we chatted on the touchline. Another good bet to make a swift return next year.
A big shout however, must go to Champions Bolton Wanderers Blues who have no problem finding the onion bag [you’re all old enough to remember THAT one!] and three goals in the defeat of Panthers today proved that point. Bolton’s strength is similar to Kingsmaid’s, they are just so consistent throughout the team – very well done lads!
Panthers slipped from their usual standards, failing to find the net at all today, whilst picking up a single point in the deadest of rubbers against Corinthians. Speaking with some of the Panthers lads – a good bunch of fellas – they were at a loss to explain their drop in form today. Next season lads…next season.
Blackpool comfortably held second place, enjoying the sunshine [a nice change from home lads!] with three wins, well done all. Their only draw came courtesy of a Rochdale side who have suffered just the one defeat in their last 12 matches, after a dreadful start to the campaign. That 1-1 scoreline recorded the Dales tenth stalemate from 16 games – if I did the pools I know where my banker would be.
A very enjoyable season, win lose or draw, looking forward to March already.
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