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A Trophy tale

November 5, 2015

Watching the Class of ’92 last week took me right back.

The BBC cameras followed Gary Neville and co. around the grounds of the Northern League, with one place immediately getting my mind racing nearly 20 years back.

Hurst Cross, home of Ashton United.

It was a miserable Friday in November 1996. My Dad got home from work, and put the Burton Mail down. “Have a look in there”, he goes, pointing at the back page. I opened the back page to find a brown envelope. (Hmm hidden brown envelopes, reminds me of a certain club and manager..) Written on the envelope was;




(Or something similar. My memory is good, but not that good!)

I felt like Charlie Bucket when he found the golden ticket, like David Cameron when he saw the bill on cutting tax credits from hard working families.

10-year old me was buzzing, an FA Trophy away game get in!!

Even at that age the FA Trophy was a competition I loved. I had heard the stories about the 86/87 run to Wembley, whilst the season before I experienced the drama of the 3-3 draw vs Bamber Bridge and the absolute ecstasy (and multiple pitch invasions) in the 3-1 win vs Telford.

I wanted some more special Trophy memories – but we had previous with Ashton.

We were Southern League Premier, with Ashton playing in the Northern League Division one – a level below us.

We were drawn together in the 1994/95 competition, a 1-1 draw at Eton Park followed up with a convincing 3-0 replay win for Ashton on a night where a threadbare Albion squad contained then manager John Barton on the bench.

Time for payback, surely?

So back to late 1996. I can remember us waiting at Eton Park for the 2 coaches to arrive. Marstons were also taking a coach as they often did to cup games.

It was your typical cold, dull November day. At the services there was coaches of Leicester fans heading to wherever. Funny to think that it was just 12 years after we’d played them in that FA Cup tie.

Once at Ashton we went into the bar at the ground which was really spacious and smart, father and son filling up on pre-match ale and panda pops.

The ground was small, rundown, typical non-league. The tea-bar had like diner tables and seats in front of it, something quirky and different which enabled you to munch your burger and sip your Bovril in style.

Onto the game, the crowd was just 397 but with 3 travelling coaches, at least half of the crowd must’ve been Albion fans.

I’m sure we hit the bar in the first half – Steve Spooner header – but I’ve drank many many fizzy lagers since then so I may be wrong…

I can’t remember what half Ashton scored in, but score they did.

Late on in the Tameside darkness we had a golden chance to equalise. Their ‘keeper and Les Hornby challenged for the ball, the ‘keeper ended up on the deck as the ball flew in the air, goal gaping.. but Hornby had lost his bearings, back to goal, he frantically looked around for the ball which then hit his back, shoulder, whatever, and flew out of play for a goal kick.

Costly Trophy errors.

The referee’s full time whistle would then end another season of Trophy dreams, there was to be no 10-year Wembley Anniversary visit for the Brewers.

Another memory is a bit of drama at full time, as we stood by the exit. Something kicked off on the pitch, the usual pushing and shoving with Alan Davies in the midst of it.

There was an Ashton fan nearby who started talking to my Dad about what happened, how it had all kicked-off. But within seconds of leaving the exits, this bloke was stood by his front door of his terraced house – he lived literally 10 seconds from the ground! I’m sure Dad wished him good luck in the next round, and off we went…

Seeing Hurst Cross on TV last week reminded me of those non-league days, how much I loved them (though I wasn’t loving this particular day too much at the time), and how much I appreciate the current success.

But we still owe Ashton one!

Hurst Cross

Hurst Cross – that blokes house literally behind the stand!

  • Albion would go onto finish 6th in the Doc Martens Prem but record a Southern League Cup and Birmingham Senior Cup double.
  • Ashton would go onto beat Nuneaton, Knowsley, and Billingham, before losing 5-0 at home to Macclesfield in the 2nd round proper.

From → The Albion.

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