The long awaited return to Witton Albion

Back in 2009 Lincoln City were embarking on an unusually long cup run, now, the reason I say unusually long, was because Lincoln had been knocked out of every single knockout competition at the first hurdle since a 5-1 win over then Championship Crewe in 2005. The FA Cup had regularly been unkind, consistently drawing the club against sides in League One in that time (Hartlepool, MK Dons, Port Vale and Nottingham Forest, the only exception being elimination to then Conference table toppers Kettering in 2008), so in 2009, when the Imps were handed a favourable draw away at Conference North midtable dwelling Telford, signs of a cup run were promising, that despite City’s position towards the bottom of League Two.

With Chris Sutton at the helm, the Imps travelled to Telford in what was a fairly uneven game for the majority, with the Imps being well in control thanks to Sergio Torres’ opener. Telford bombared the Imps goal with shots consistently hurtling in the general direction of Rob Burch, albeit very few on target, and in the end the Imps went through relatively with a relatively comfortable 3-1 scoreline.

Subsequently Telford fans refused to accept the result, coming onto Lincoln City forums, my own included, and slagging off our club, heavily suggesting that Telford had considerably more shots on goal, ignoring the fact that it was 16 shots each and pretty much all of Telford’s were from well over the 25 yards and like most underdogs, they refused to just accept that on the day they weren’t the better team.

The second round draw pitted the Imps against Northwich Victoria and due to it being picked for TV coverage and a subsequent earlier kick off time, there was the opportunity to go to another game. My initial thoughts were to go to Macclesfield, but I decided to go somewhere I hadn’t been before, and with Witton Albion being extremely close to Northwich Victoria, that become the game of choice.

Witton were facing Sheffield FC and at £5 to get in that day, you couldn’t go wrong. I drove up and asked where was the best place to park, I was asked if I was a Sheffield fan so I explained that I was a Lincoln fan, and all of a sudden they acted as though I was royalty due to my club beating their local rivals, and that’s pretty much how the day kept going. Tannoy announcements for any Lincoln fan entering the stadium.

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Wincham Park – Home of Witton Albion

After initially thinking that I should leave as I really couldn’t be bothered, it turned into one of the most enjoyable trips to a new ground for some point, helped by Witton’s 3-0 win, and since then I had been waiting for an opportunity to go back.

Upon moving to Wigan a few weeks ago the journey became considerably cheaper on the train and therefore it was a no-brainer pretty much. I had looked around at other friendlies but this was the one that stood out for me so off I went, cramped into a Transpennine Express train that was near enough completely full of people standing and with no air conditioning or windows. It was not pleasent. A quick stop off at Manchester and a trip to Yo Sushi for an ever delightful katsu curry was then followed by the 45 minute journey from Piccadilly to Northwich. The one issue with that was that in Stockport a party of about fifteen women got on, and after 45 minutes of them shouting “woooooooooo” more than Ric Flair, and them singing happy birthday to one of their group after EVERY SINGLE FUCKING STOP, I was not in the best of moods and even considered just going home because it had pissed me off that much.

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It felt like I was sat next to this guy on the train

After a half an hour walk that, according to the ever unreliable Google Maps at least, was under a mile, I finally arrived at the ground and it was pretty much deserted. I wandered through the open gate to have a look around, taking the obligatory pictures that I had previously deleted by mistake after the last visit and got talking to a few of their staff, after which I realised that people were starting to come into the ground. I went around to pay for my entry but I was turned away by the turnstile staff, saying that I should stop bothering them. In other words, I ended up getting in the game completely for free. I had offered to pay but they refused.

Anyway, after the crowd slowly crept into the stadium, I ended up sitting in front of what turned out to be the Telford media team. In their group was one young lad who quickly disappeared and seemed to be by far the most sensible of the group, a middle aged man with the personality and sense of humour of a wet fish, and an old man who talked so much shit it was beyond belief, there will be a good example of that later.

The game eventually kicked off with Telford fans well outnumbering their hosts, with the vast, vast majority of the 146 crowd being from Shropshire. I’ll be honest, I expected a Telford victory. Witton had struggled against relegation to the Evostik South Division 1 (Lincoln United’s division) last season, whereas Telford won the Conference North, however, judging by the performances that could have easily been the other way around.

Witton dominated early on, with Scott Bakkor proving exceptionally skillful up front, regularly dancing around the Telford defence. Infact, judging by Bakkor’s performance, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him quickly rise up the leagues in the near future.154071958

Scott Bakkor (whilst playing for Clitherhoe) – Judging by his performance against Telford, he seems destined for football much higher up than the Evostik League

After dominating early on, Witton eventually took the lead when Danny Andrews nipped in following a defensive mistake to lift that ball over Hedge in the Telford goal. Bakkor had several great chances to extend the lead, whereas every Telford attack resulted in them losing the ball and although it’s only pre-season, if I was a Telford fan I’d be very worried for the coming season.

Michael Powell doubled the lead just before half time after receiving the ball in the area, taking advantage of the Telford defence not closing him down and placing his shot carefully beyond the exasperated Hedge as he questioned his defence’s quality to allow Powell so much time in the area.

Half time came and went and for what must be a first in footballing history, neither side made a change at half time in a pre-season friendly, and because of this the tone of the game remained the same as the first half, and it wasn’t long before it was 3-0 as a cross towards the back post again met an unmarked Powell to easily head in.

After this Witton seemed to take pity on their loftier opponents and whilst they were still attacking, there was less of an urgency to their attacks, although Telford’s cause was helped by making several substitutions just after the third. 

The game in truth was fizzling out and the only really interesting note for a long period came beyond me. I mentioned earlier than the old man in the social media team talked shit, and midway through the second half, he and the young fan got into an argument. I made a note to remember the exact wording of this to put emphasis onto what an arsehole the old guy was……

Old media guy : “We’ve not played well, the worst thing that we can do now is concede a third.”
Young media guy : “We’ve already conceded the third, you were in the bar at the time.”
Old media guy : “Right, listen here, you quite clearly didn’t listen to what I said, and your stupid comment is not warranted!”

At this point I felt sorry for the young media guy. The old guy had been a dickhead throughout the match, making stupid comments all the way through and now he was lambasting a young member of his team for making a very valid point. It was obvious that the old guy didn’t like someone point out how stupid his comment was, and acted like a child because of it.

It wasn’t the only nugget of wisdom from the Telford media team though, as the man with the personality of a fish popped up stating that the manager had told him that he wasn’t worried about pre-season results, because, and I quote “he’s lost every single pre-season game and won the title twice before.” Yeah, not too arrogant then. 

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Two of Telford’s media team

Anyway, the game did indeed fizzle out before Telford eventually pulled one back, although it was very undeserved.

Both sides will have very different hopes going into the new season. Witton, based on this performance and their form at the end of last season, can hopefully expect a promotion push, whereas the bookmakers’ early predictions of Telford being in a relegation battle look to be well founded.

I would recommend a trip to Witton Albion to anyone. It’s one of the most enjoyable days I have experienced since I started going to football on a regular basis and for only a few pounds (assuming that they don’t turn you away when you try and pay) it’s worth the trip.

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