The month started with the news that the club had been punished by the league for playing an unsigned player in the opening day victory against West Didsbury. This was correct, but the error was reported to the league straight after the game and unlike other teams who regularly break the rules the club did not try and con the league – the punishment, although following the league rules felt harsh and unfair – the challenge was now to continue the unbeaten start – with two games against unbeaten Alkrington before an end of month showdown against AFC Middleton.
The month started with a home game against Torpedo Chorlton and a debut for new signing Dominic Goodhall who made it a perfect start with a stunning 50 yard goal – which would eventually win the Goal of the Season Award.
It was a clinical first half performance, Paul Walley added a second with a smart finish and Sam Davidson made it 3-0 with a bullet header. An own goal made it 4-0 in the second half and it was a complete performance from Grove, one of the best ever in some eyes. The only negative an injury to keeper Phill Campbell.
Hazel Grove 4 (Goodhall, P Walley, Davidson, o.g.) Torpedo Chorlton 0
A tough test up next, a trip to Alkrington to take on the unbeaten Dynamos. A game full of positives and a couple of negatives. It started badly with a serious injury sustained by captain Paul Walley. This was also the first encounter with referee Eddie Aspin, he clearly knew all the Alkrington players and if effected his performance, he put in terrible display but his overall aggressive attitude towards several Grove players was disappointing to see. He failed to take control of a game that as Grove took control Alkrington started to lose self-control.
Ben Brooks scored twice and Jason Walley added a third in a comfortable win but the referee tried to take centre stage – it wouldn’t be the last we saw of Aspin. He did show a red card to the Alkrington keeper for a cowardly stamp on Brooks.
Alkrington Dynamos 0 Hazel Grove 3 (B Brooks 2, J Walley)
Two weeks later and the same opposition arrived at TP – including goalkeeper Liam Baker sent off 14 days earlier. They laughed and joked he wasn’t banned because of ‘Eddy’. The taunts backfired as Grove outplayed, out thought and demolished them with a 6-0 victory that saw Grove go to the top of the MSMFL.
Davidson put Grove ahead before Alkrington’s ill discipline again get them into trouble. The central defenders poorly timed two-footed tackle on Brooks resulted in a straight red-card and from the free kick Jason Walley smashed the ball past the keeper. Burgon added a third just before half time.
Grove controlled the second half, Burgon adding a fourth before another flash point. Bruce Roberts elbowed in the face by defender Ryan White, the referee admitting after the game he had not seen the incident.
Hazel Grove 6 (Davidson 2, Burgon 2, B Brooks, J Walley) Alkrington Dynamos 0
The month ended with the biggest game of the season, a trip to Middleton to take on old rivals in what promised to be a massive 90 minutes. The day started badly with the appointment of Oldham based referee Eddie Aspin – a referee who had played with all the Middleton players for years and clearly had a chip on his shoulder about Hazel Grove FC.
Grove’s unbeaten start to the season was ended in a game that had a little bit of everything, quality football from both teams, great goals, poor defending and an as predicted an abysmal referee but that is not to take away anything from Middleton who deserved to take the three points on a hugely disappointing afternoon in North Manchester.
Grove suffered a big blow before kick off with in-form Sam Davidson ruled out so Bruce Roberts was handed his first start of the season in the only change from the side that beat Alkrington. Grove started well, playing good football and creating a number of half chances.
Grove took the lead with an absolute cracker, the ball breaking to midfielder Dominic Goodhall on the edge of the box and he smashed the ball home past the keeper, on the balance of play it was no more than the visitors deserved.
Middleton started to use the ball better and grabbed an equaliser, but there was a touch of fortune, the striker clearly handling the ball with raised arms before the ball was turned past Campbell into the back of the net. Grove players clearly not happy with the decision, made worse by the referee who decided on booking captain Josh Taylor and warning ‘everyone’ he would book them for speaking out of turn again.
This seems to get into the heads of the Grove players as every 50/50 decision seemed to go Middleton’s way followed by the referee, desperate to be centre of attention, speaking to a Grove player and slowing down what had been a fast pace game. Middleton, who all seemed to know the referee very well, most using his first name, were wise to his methods and just let Grove get on with it – using the opportunity to add a second before half-time as their striker seized on an error from Fitzmaurice.
To make it worse the referee then went and spoke to a couple of Middleton officials at half-time, which added further fuel to the Grove fire.
The break did Grove some good, allowed them to re-focus on the task at hand and they started the second half well. The equaliser arrived with them on top, Ben Brooks turning home a corner although how the Middleton player on the line missed the ball is still a mystery.Kai Burkitt went close to giving Grove the lead, the keeper making a great save after the ball broke following a corner.
Both sides continued to play quick attacking football but it was the home side that took the opportunity. Campbell spilling the ball behind for a corner, his mistake punished as the ball was headed home from the resulting cross.
Middleton then made it four with a devastating counter-attack, the ball swept past Campbell as Grove seemed to stop and allow the home side to win the game, despite having ten minutes left to play.
Jason Walley managed to pull one back and had a great chance in injury time to equalise but failed to hit the target with his free kick. The full time whistle was celebrated by the home side and Grove trudged off to their first defeat since March.
The referee had got his way, he was the centre of attention and took the gloss of a fantastic advert for the league between two excellent footballing teams. After the game Warrender was furious with both the referee and also how his side had made stupid mistakes that had cost them the game but took his complaints to far and was reported to the FA by Aspin.
AFC Middleton 4 (D Murray 3, L Murray) Hazel Grove 3 (Goodhall, B Brooks, J Walley)
It was a bad way to end the month that started badly with the points deduction before three superb performances. It was now going to be about how Grove would bounce back from their first defeat since March.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH
New signing Taylor had a superb month, outstanding in each game, including a man of the match performance against Torpedo Chorlton.
Comfortable in midfield or at the back he looks like being an excellent acquisition by Warrender.