Manchester Walking Football September 2023
All Reports By Kevin Williams
Week 1 – Over 70s Division 1 & Over 60s Divisions 1 & 2
Over 70s Report
The 2023 Autumn season of the GMWFL kicked off in glorious sunshine, which was marvellous for the spectators, but was probably not the kind of weather our senior players would want to play a competitive game of football in…or four.
But for the most part, there was plenty to sit back and admire about the standard of football on show as the Over 70’s Division 1 kicked off.
After the first round of games, Manchester Corinthians have the bragging rights, going through the card unbeaten with two wins and two draws…a fine performance. The two victories came against fancied outfits in Manchester Citizens and Rochdale Strollers, and included four clean sheets, no mean feat.
There was controversy in the Bury Relics and Rochdale tussle, traditionally a top of the league battle.
At the insistence of the sporting Rochdale team, a goal originally chalked off by referee Denis Cuhady for encroachment into the penalty area, was awarded after the Dale lads admitted that the Relics player had been outside of the box.
Denis awarded the goal, but that fair play approach cost them the three points as, despite having a man sent off for foul and abusive language, Bury cleverly played their way through the remaining minutes unscathed.
Bury are in second place, just above Blackpool Senior Seasiders who drew all four games to stay well in touch with the leading pair. Steve Hyde returned to Heywood Sports Centre for another season of frustrating would be goalscorers, conceding just the one goal this time around.
Rochdale lie in fourth place, level with Blackpool on points, but a goal worse off, whilst Manchester Citizens prop up the opening table but will realise that they are only a couple of good results next time round from climbing the ladder, creditable draws with Blackpool and Bury proving that is more than just a possibility.
Over 60s Report
Newly promoted Fleetwood Town took a strong grip at the top of the table as the new Over 60’s season kicked off in very hot weather at Heywood. Beating some past champions of the league in some style, the ‘Walking Cod Army’ took a maximum of 12 points from 4 games in a blistering start to proceedings.
Sam Truesdale grabbed all Fleetwood’s 8 goals today (Ed)
Bury Relics are clinging on to the Flyers shirt tails following fine victories over Corinthians Reds and Wakefield. Last season’s winners Kingsmaid have ground to make up – although they will be the first to point out that there is a long way to go.
Wakefield and Corinthians trail by some way after four games, and will be looking to improve on their results in October.
In Division 2 relegated Rochdale Strollers found out just how high a standard exists when they struggled to pick up more than two points from four games.
All the matches were close run things, with no game settled by more than 1 goal; 5 of the 10 matches were draws.
Long time league members Bolton head the table, with 8 points, fractionally ahead of Panthers who ended the day similarly unbeaten.
Fellow stalwarts Blackpool are mid table, whilst Corinthians Whites and Rochdale share – for the moment – the wooden spoon.
The standard of football in these divisions continues to improve season on season, and it will be interesting to see what the lower divisions deliver in the next week or two.
Week 2 – Over 70s Division 2 & Over 60s Divisions 3 & 4
Over 70s Report
Yet another glorious day at Heywood [surely, I won’t be saying that many more times this season?] as Division 2 of the Over 70’s league kicked off.
Understandably, teams were cautious and looked to preserve much needed energy in the early games, but soon enough there were goals to be seen, with Tameside opening their account with a fine 2-0 win against Preston North End.
Not long afterwards, it was Tameside’s turn to taste defeat when Rochdale scored their first goals of the new season – Danny Kilroy on target with a cracker – and so it continued, with Salcom also claiming a victory to go with three draws.
Bolton showed how tight this Division will be, sitting fourth of five at the close, although they kept four clean sheets thanks to keeper Colin Pearson, and remained unbeaten all day; the Trotters will need to find their way to goal if they are to challenge for honours.
Rochdale sit on top of the pile for now, a point ahead of Salcom, leaving PNE bottom, but well within touching distance of their rivals.
Over 60s Report
The Over 60’s Division 3 read like a good old Lancashire fixture list from the past, with Preston North End, Burnley, Bolton Wanderers and Rochdale lining up to kick off the new campaign.
Bolton once again stayed unbeaten throughout the day, but everyone else tasted defeat at one stage or another.
Rochdale came from 1-0 down to beat Preston 2-1, with Val Mears missing out on a hat-trick when hitting the post with his second penalty of the match.
Burnley managed to claim two fine victories to go top of the opening day’s table, although the loss to Bolton kept them well within reach of the chasing pack, whilst Preston find themselves propping up the table with just the one point to show for their endeavours.
Division 4 saw Winstanley Warriors surge ahead with three straight wins; the Wigan based side conceded just the single goal to Roach Dynamos, who share equal second billing with Salcom on two points each. Moston Brook are bottom of the table but only on goal difference.
It looks like Winstanley are going to take all the beating already, and certainly one of the chasing pack needs to string a winning sequence together before they are out of sight. But as I’ve said before, there’s a long way to go!
Week 3 – Over 70s Division 3 & Over 65s Divisions 1 & 2
Over 70s Report
Goals were at a premium as the third tier of the Over 70’s league kicked off on the 20th September, with only four matches registering a goal.
Any complaints about the heat of previous weeks were soon forgotten as the heavens opened to make ball control difficult…hail even made an unseasonal appearance; but don’t worry if you missed it, there’ll be more to come.
After the first round of games, there’s a definite split between the four teams, with only Burnley Clarets remaining unbeaten, and keeping a trio of clean sheets to boot. Burnley’s crucial win against Tameside came courtesy of a late penalty tucked away by Keith Harvey, in a team display considered to be a top class effort.
Panthers failed to register a win, but did manage to hold the league leaders to a 0-0 draw; things could have been even better for them, with a last minute penalty being saved by the Clarets keeper John Finn. Tameside earned a useful 6 points with victories against the Panthers and bottom club Moston Brook.
I suspect everyone will be searching for their shooting boots before October’s games.
Over 65s Report
A lot of familiar teams faced up to each other on Thursday 21st September, as the 65’s kicked off another season in the top two divisions.
Blackpool’s downfall appeared to be their lack of firepower, with no goals recorded in four games, leaving them to gather just the two points; defeats to Bury Relics and Manchester Corinthians are no disgrace but I’m sure they’ll be looking to improve next month.
In what turned out to be a crucial game – even this early in the season – Bury pipped Corinthians by 2 goals to 1, earning them top spot with a very decent return of ten points. That was the only defeat for the latter named, who also beat Preston North End to lie second; they were the only team to take points off the leaders all day.
Bolton sit in mid table, following a typically solid start to their campaign, with 5 points.
Division Two saw Wakefield and Manchester Citizens romp to the top of the table, also with unbeaten starts; the only points dropped were against each other. The next three games between these clubs will almost certainly be ‘6 pointers’ as the pundits enjoy saying; however, these lads will know that it’s just as important to pick up points against the lower sides.
Rochdale came from one down to grab a draw against Panthers, but following a win against luckless Fleetwood, couldn’t hold onto the lead given them by the evergreen Terry Williams in their clash with the Citizens. The Sky Blues made a tremendous fightback to win 2-1, although there was huge debate earlier on when a ‘goal’ was controversially disallowed by referee Garry Pearce. I was on the sidelines for this game and the vote seemed to be split 50/50 as to whether the ball hit the bar, post or the back of the net/stanchion! I still don’t know myself.
Wakefield recovered from having a player blue carded for the first time in their illustrious seven-year spell in the GMWFL to beat the Dale 1-0; however, it was only awarded as a handball and shouldn’t be looked at in anyway detrimental to the South Yorkshire club who have always been one of the most sporting in the game. Wanderers keeper Phil Killey salvaged a point against the Citizens, saving a late penalty.
Panthers only netted twice but those goals earned them four points as they sit in third place, whilst Fleetwood prop up the table following four defeats; however, I watched their last game against Citizens and they definitely shouldn’t write off their season just yet, as they were in the game throughout.
Week 4 – Over 60s Division 5 & Over 65s Divisions 3 & 4
Over 60s Report
It’s a rare thing to see the name Wakefield at the bottom of any league table, where walking football is concerned, but that’s how it is after Division 5 finished its opening round of games.
Ribble Valley showed a clean pair of heels to go five points clear, scoring 4 and conceding none in an outstanding start to their campaign.
Bury Relics and Bolton Arena can just see the leaders on the horizon, and both teams will be keen to prevent them from disappearing in a cloud of dust when the second round kicks off in a months’ time.
Over 65s Report
There’s a saying in football, in that the best referees are those who you don’t notice. Personally, I don’t agree, especially where walking football is concerned. Referees have to be strong and seen to be in control, and we saw an official in Ian Liversidge yesterday who was just that, without being over officious.
There was a lot going on in Division 3’s Rochdale Striders v Moston Brook opener, and the players [and spectators] soon knew who was in charge. Well done, Ian.
Vinnie Dugdale kept three clean sheets and helped steer his Moston Brook teammates to the top of the table; Salcom’s problems appeared to be at the other end of the pitch when they failed to trouble the opposing goalkeeper. Rochdale Striders were disappointed to pick up just the one win.
Burnley Clarets matched Moston’s feat in keeping three clean sheets, with new signing Ken Hitchell [you may have heard of him!] proving to be a great acquisition for the club. The Lancashire club were decimated by COVID but will be pleased that Stuart Gladwell was fit enough to finish off a move involving team mate Nigel Holt when beating the Dale. Six points separate the four clubs, all to play for.
Division 4 has a similar look to it after week 1; Winstanley Warriors fought their way to the top on seven points, 6 ahead of Tameside Whites, whose baptism in the GMWFL may have been a bit warm to the touch. However, they are still within sight of the Wigan side and will have learned plenty. Wakefield and Ribble Valley both managed a win apiece, and occupy the mid table places. Another division that could go to the wire.
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