By 2012, this was the third Non-League Day, but by some way, the most heavily publicised yet. Sponsors of the Conference, Blue Square, heightened this increased media attention by arranging the Cheshire Groundhop. The kick-off times of Macclesfield’s, Stockport’s and Hyde’s home games were staggered to allow for all three games to be visited and the sponsor laying on a bus between games. A £10 charitable donation was required to use the coach and a free groundhop T-Shirt was provided. All good publicity for the people at Blue Square.
Macclesfield Town 1 Newport County 1 Blue Square Bet Premier Att: 1544. The Moss Rose Ground.
High-flying Newport County managed by Justin Edinburgh were the visitors to Moss Rose for this early kick-off. We arrived by train, with the ground some walk away. Therefore took refuge in the George and Dragon, which provided something from the Jennings Brewery range. This was followed by a 20 minute walk to the home of the Silkmen.
We must have that air of groundhoppers about us, because as we walked around the ground we were approached by a Sky TV cameraman asking us if we knew where the coach would be leaving from after the game. We didn’t but a hastily typed tweet to Blue Square PR man Alan Algar gave us the answer we needed. Inside, Moss Rose still remains, on the whole a traditional lower league football ground. The main stand, that doesn’t cover the whole length of one side of the pitch, is seated, with a bank of terracing in front, where the more vocal Macc fans were located. This is where we took our positions.
Behind the goal that the visitors were shooting towards in the first half however, was a stand that was seated at the front (around 5 rows), but with terracing behind. Opposite us was a more modern all-seater stand backed by darkened windows to I presume attempt to deal with the ever insatiable demand of executive corporate hospitality at this level. Behind the other goal was an empty bank of terracing, which we presumed was the away end, and used when there is a big away following.
A good atmosphere prevailed amongst the faithful Macc fans as the game began, and hilarious banter between Newport’s obliging assistant manager Jimmy Dack and the home fans entertained. However it was the visitors, underlining their superior league position who made most of the early running. It was to the delight of the 200 or so travelling County faithful when their team took the lead through Tony James just before half time. A County free-kick was floated into the box, which the Macc ‘keeper was only able to parry out, the ball falling towards James. It still required a neat finish from the defender to put the Welshmen one-up though.
During the interval, Macc’s manager Steve King was sent to the stands because of an altercation in the tunnel. This may have been due to his reaction to his half-time cuppa. As if it was the same standard as offered the fans, he would have had reason to be annoyed. Watered-down milk would have been a better description than tea!
Anyhow the lack of a decent half-time brew seemed to spur on the home side in the second half as Newport tried desperately to hold onto their lead. To be fair, they did a good job of this until the 80th minute when Matthew Barnes-Homer popped up for the home team to equalise. The game finished 1-1, which was a fair result and so it was outside to the awaiting coaches and the PR ladies from Blue Square that were ready to whip us up to Stockport.