Gloucester City 1-3 Warrington Town (National League North)
It's grey, dark, wet, miserable and I’m up early as we've got the mother in laws dog staying over this weekend.
The wife's getting her nails done at 9am and she's asked me to walk Bruce & Molly before I leave for football. Sod that, too wet, regardless, they haven't moved from their comfy sleeping positions all morning. Fast off they are, they're not wanting to go walkies in this horrible weather, I'll grab a quick brew and do some emails instead.
She's back for 11am and I'm soon out the door, quickly swapping sitting duties. The rain relentless as I run to the car and switch on the engine to find I've only got 30 miles of fuel left. Clifton petrol station is packed so I'm filling up at Castle Donington where I also grab a meal deal, then onto the M42 and M5 before hitting the A40 South-West for the last leg.
Last week I watched Gloucester get beat at Boston and after his late sending off they'll have Danny Wright missing this weekend. 22nd on eleven points it's been a tough start for the Tigers who have been troubled financially since last seasons’ playoff achievements, they play a Warrington side who I thought were competitive a couple of weeks back at Alfreton in a 1-1 draw. The yellows in 15th on nineteen points after promotion last season are doing ok in their first ever year at the level.
I've arrived in good time and pull up on Submeadow Road, a scruffy looking back street on the outskirts of town, a few terraced houses opposite some factories it smells of manure, I'm walking through some puddles as the road opens up, then the ground appears, distant, on the left-hand side.
Shipping containers. The back of the stand is made up completely of them. Stacked on top of each other I've heard it was done in the World Cup and went down a treat in Qatar. Not as popular in the National League but I'm certainly all for it. Recycling does make use of them well… If indeed they look a little odd.
Apparently, the clubs old ground, Meadow Park was ruined by flood waters a few years back and their new ground, New Meadow Park, was built as replacement in 2020. The rain is still chopping away but at least the 3g surface will hold up with little chance of water damage here, despite it pelting down frantically on the metal roof, players warming up as fans take cover. It's not the most pleasing afternoon for a football match.
Inside the grounds boundaries it's all very modern, open to the elements wide and spacious. Two large metal red and yellow seated stands on one side, two low roof terraces behind each goal and a far side, tree lined with nothing more than two portacabins on top of each other with a bright light scoreboard for all to see.
An old boy is sitting in front of me, he’s a groundhopper from Sheffield and got the train in to watch the match. I'm chatting away as the two sides come out, it’s only then I notice the skies have cleared and the sun is beaming down on the soaked synthetic surface.
Gloucester start well with a gorgeous curling effort by Alefe Santos which is inches wide, at the other end, Connor Wood is given too much space to turn and strike. A couple of minutes gone and Warrington already one up. A few giggles in the crowd, even from the home support as the stadium announcer mumbles dis-heartedly 'Gloucester Nil, Warrington One'... It seems he's had to say similar a few times this season.
That goal is more than worthy difference of the qualities in teams on show. Warrington confident in passing between themselves, they dominate play whilst Gloucester lack ideas, they go long, fail to press, it looks like a team in trouble and one that is lacking several players good enough for the level.
That trouble worsens when Warrington make it two. Josh Amis sent through to coolly finish at the goalkeepers near post, they’re much the better team in a one-sided first half but Gloucester have their moments as yellows goalkeeper Atherton is called into action to flick one attempt onto the bar.
The groundhopper says his goodbyes at the break as he tells me ‘I like to watch each half in different parts of the ground’. There’s a local kids team playing on the pitch all kitted out in yellow and blue, there must be thirty of them running around after one ball. It looks like madness, but they seem to be having fun.
Into the second half it’s again the home team who start brightest. Warrington sitting on their cushion haven’t really got out of second gear but their fans are in fine voice. 'Yellows' they sing as the home support respond with ‘Barmy Army’ as they bang on the back of the stand. There's good banter between the two sets who stand pretty much side by side. Not used to winning so many games this season the away following bait the home support with a chorus of ‘how shit must you be, we’re winning away’ before Gloucester reduce the deficit. Debutant Ben Beresford on loan from Birmingham City, up top on his own and scratching around for sniffs, he gets a bite inside the box and bundles one in… ‘How shit must you be, we’ve scored a goal’ sing the Gloucester fans.
That goal kicks Warrington into gear who must come out and play, attack is their best form of defence, and they do, as the game goes on their former England youth international Isaac Buckley-Ricketts becomes more prominent with more space to run at the Tigers defence, he carries forward before playing wide where a lovely cross by Woods is headed home by Amis, textbook centre forward play by a very good number nine who climbed above his marker to powerfully thud home a proper goal into Zach Jeacock’s net.
That goal is enough to take the tie away from the home side and put Warrington out of sight. They end good value with a tidy three points on the road. Some very neat football played by them, a happy coach journey to follow up the M5 and M6 for their players, staff and fans.
Connor Woods was always a threat down the right and it’s the best I’ve seen of him with a goal and an assist. Tricky and talented he’s a tough boy and is always up for the graft. I was very impressed with the finishing ability of Jordan Amis who struck a cool calm strike and a proper forward’s header to cap a good day for him and his team. The little and large duo of Sean Williams and Bohan Dixon combining well in midfield. Isaac Buckley-Ricketts driving in possession is a player when in full flight is a real good sight.
One worthy of a mention is goalkeeper Dan Atherton who didn’t have too much to do. He’s always on the move and is probably the most comfortable keeper I’ve seen with the ball at his feet at the level. He’s chirpy and confident, at one stage he had former Premier League defender Andre Wisdom tying his laces for him. At 23 he’s not the tallest but commands his area and catches well, he made one stunning save to tip a shot onto the bar and due to his confidence on the ball will take a lot of touches that allows Warrington to play calmly out from the back.
For Gloucester, there was a debut goal for Ben Beresford and he worked hard up front, often without great service. He’s a young kid, local to me, who I remember getting transferred to Birmingham City from Basford United a couple of years back. Tall and awkward looking he has an eye for goal and I’ll be watching how he does in a struggling side, which will probably tell you a lot about the character of player as he develops.
Brazilian born Alefe Santos and seventeen-year-old Kai Churchley were two players who also caught the eye. Like Churchley, Right back Harry Leeson in on loan from Bristol City and also looked like a player with good technical ability and heart. It’s not for want of trying that Gloucester are down there, but perhaps their lack of experience at the level counts when carrying a few youngsters in their makeup.
I see Gloucester going down if things don’t change and after listening to what one of their media guys tells me I don’t see it changing too soon, with their owners refusing to put money into the club, their current chairman is left with a struggling squad and not much funds to improve it.
For Warrington they’ll be ok in the division, maybe even an outside contender for the playoffs, as they grow at the level, they’ll get better, and they already have a good side under Mark Beesley, in my eyes.
Gloucester City: Zach Jeacock, Harry Leeson, Tyrone Duffus, Ben Richards Everton, Jamie Reckford, Max Ram (Elliott Durrell 55), Alefe Santos, Joe Hanks, Harry Emmett (Enoch Andoh 83), Kai Churchley (Harry Pinchard 66), Ben Beresford.
Warrington Town: Daniel Atherton, Declan Walker, Andrew White, Connor Woods (Aaron Bennett 87), Sean Williams, Joshua Amis, Bohan Dixon (Jordan Buckley 90), Isaac Buckley-Ricketts (Matthew Grivosti 83), Mitchell Duggan, Andre Wisdom, Peter Clarke.
3pm Kick Off. Saturday 4th November 2023, New Meadow Park, Gloucester (att 755).