Stockport County 3 Sutton United 0
Saturday 29 October 2022
This would be a new ground for John; my last visit was thirty-five years ago, during a series of Cup-ties between Telford and Stockport. Infernal mid-Eighties synchronicity saw us play them four times in five seasons, build up some enduring grudges and get totally fed up with one another. Maybe such rampant over-exposure – during some frankly grim years for County – explains why I left it so long before coming back.
There’s another piece about Stockport – the ground’s development, and my experiences there – elsewhere on this site:
Stockport has many rivers. The Mersey – which historically divided Cheshire and Lancashire – runs near Edgeley Park. Victorian engineers spanned its deep valley with their magnificent railway viaduct; textile mills along each bank allowed hatmaking to became another major industry, bringing great prosperity until hat-wearing declined after World War One (even as cheap competition increased from Luton and other Southern towns).
Railways arrived in 1840. Two substantial stations followed – Edgeley (now Stockport), and Tiviot Dale. The latter was served by long-distance express trains from Manchester Central and Liverpool Central. It stood on Lancashire Hill until eventually being buried beneath the M60 motorway. Battered remnants of one bay platform can still be found, sections of track bed survive as cycle paths and a Tesco supermarket has obliterated everything else.
For an interesting article about Tiviot Dale station use this link.
The main line south from Manchester passes Edgeley Park. An engine shed here was demolished after steam locomotives gave way to diesels, and Network Rail’s modern depot now occupies the same land. Driver John Axon worked at Edgeley; he died in the 1957 Chapel-en-le-Frith rail crash after heroically remaining with his runaway train. Euan MacColl’s classic (and very long) radio ballad commemorates Axon’s bravery.
The Bradford fire had forced temporary closure and hasty modernisation just before Telford played here during November 1985. This put paid to the creaky old Cheadle End stand, wooden bench seats and decades-old railway sleeper terraces. Belligerent police crammed us into a narrow, newly-concreted section behind one goal; displaced Stockport fans looked on balefully from their equally half-finished Popular Side.
Remedial work didn’t finish until summer 1986. County disguised that Cheadle End void with seven basic, open terrace steps which nonetheless proved surprisingly well-used by fans. A visitors’ enclosure opposite incorporated new perimeter fencing (contemporary ideas of safety seem tragically ironic now). The narrow Main Stand paddock was also closed; three rows of new plastic seats eventually appeared there, offering quite appalling views.
This stand had replaced an earlier one that burned down and took all County’s historical records with it. Old Stockport Express reports describe how fire broke out at midday on Tuesday 23 July 1935 and quickly engulfed the wooden, tar-lined structure. Local firemen were alerted by clouds of black smoke; they pumped water from Sykes Reservoir but flames still spread across Hardcastle Road, badly damaging twelve houses – much closer to the ground at that time – and rendering fifty people homeless.
Stockport is roughly half way between our houses. We met up – just minutes away from the ground – at a car park off Edgeley High Street. My own drive proved trouble-free and featured the M60’s Tiviot Dale section, complete with elevated views of Tesco. Urban landscapes change frequently at the best of times; for everything to have vanished so completely, however, felt somehow wrong.
The modern Cheadle End stand – built during a highly-successful spell that saw County play five Championship seasons, also reaching Wembley on four occasions – accounts for half of Edgeley Park’s capacity. The Popular Side and Railway End terraces have also been seated. They are clumsy conversions, with awkward sightlines; the latter remains uncovered and is only used for large travelling supports. These sometimes get soaked just like we did in 1985.
Sutton’s few hundred fans had no such worries. They rattled around the Popular Side’s final block, separated from our family section seats by low fences. We had bought tickets in this area without considering how its regulars might feel about us turning up fashionably late smelling of pubs. Why do people who take flasks, rucksacks and other paraphernalia to games always wedge themselves in place so long before kick-off?
Flesh and wine
Edgeley pleasantly contrasts most Sky-era beer deserts, offering more boozers than there was time to visit. We sampled the Armoury, Jolly Crofter and Pineapple. They proved respectively anodyne, edgy (Stone Island outside, Racing Post-reading old men within) and rough-arse (a good thing, obviously). The Pineapple had Boddingtons and melamine-inspired 1980s décor; its cash-only policy was equally nostalgic.
Various refreshment facilities lurked behind our stand. This area – once used for training – has now been repurposed with tents and other ad-hoc fanzone type stuff. My views about pretend meals in boxes are pretty much what you would expect; nonetheless, I went to get a pie/peas/mash/gravy thing after seeing someone’s child devouring one. It tasted excellent and more than justified making the tartan blanket brigade stand up again.
Today’s result was largely determined – after just two minutes – by some decisive but questionable refereeing. Sutton’s Omar Bugiel challenged Will Collar for a loose ball; both players went over the top, but Bugiel made contact with Collar and found himself sent off. That effectively ended the match as any form of contest and (to no-one’s great surprise) Stockport went ahead not long afterwards, Kyle Wootton heading home James Brown’s deep cross.
Sutton might have equalised when Ben Hinchcliffe scrambled Donavan Wilson’s low shot round his far post. Instead it was soon 2-0 due to dogged persistence by Paddy Madden after Lewis Ward spilled a Calum McDonald free kick. More goals seemed about to follow; only one did, but this proved best of all. Stockport broke, Madden and Hippolyte did well to set up Collar and he finished accurately from the right.
Teams and goals
Stockport: Hinchcliffe, Wright, Horsfall, Hussey, Brown (Crankshaw 76), Collar, Croasdale, Hippolyte (Sarcevic 82), MacDonald (Johnson 76), Madden (Lemmonheigh-Evans 77), Wootton (Jennings 82). Unused subs: Palmer, Jones.
Sutton: Ward, Kizzi, Rowe, John, Milsom, Neufville (Fadahunsi 66), Lovatt (Boldewijn 66), Eastmond, Randall-Hurren (Hart 75), Wilson (Kouassi 76), Bugiel. Unused subs: Hart, House, Gambin, Kendall.
Goals: Wootton 19, Madden 57, Collar 72.