The 2017-18 season: first half review
26 January 2018
Now that January has rolled around, it's time for a look back at how the 2017-18 season has treated Village Manchester FC so far. The First Team had a tough start to life in their new division in the Lancashire & Cheshire League, with a sequence of hard fought draws and narrow losses. After the exhilarating high of last season's promotion run it may have seemed like a bit of a comedown, but it's no surprise that it can take time to adjust in a higher division.
The team was very unlucky not to take more from a 4-4 draw against Aldermere AFC 1sts, but in the following game they took their first victory of the season, beating Hargreaves (Bury) 1sts 4-2 at Wythenshawe. After tasting victory once, they couldn't stop winning, taking three points from Moston Brook and Chorltonians Villa.
With one game postponed due to a frozen pitch, the First Team are on a winning streak in the league since the 18th of November. After nine games they sit seventh in the league, with three wins and three draws.
In cup competitions they beat Boothstown Reserves on penalties in the Manchester CFA Saturday Amateur Cup, followed by a convincing 3-0 victory over Didsbury FC 2nds at Didsbury Sports Ground. Their game against West Didsbury AFC 1sts a month later also went to penalties after a 2-2 draw, but this time sadly their opponents prevailed.
However, the preliminary round of the Whitehead Cup, finally played once the pitch had defrosted, saw the firsts defeat Chorltonians Villa 2-0. This was followed by a bye for the next round, meaning that VMFC First Team is through to the quarter final, being played against Stoconians 2 at Hillcrest Road on 3rd March.
In other cup news, VMFC entered the GFSN Cup with a joint first and second team squad this season, with excellent results. After beating Edinburgh's HotScots 3-0 in the preliminary round, the round of sixteen saw Village defeat Newcastle Panthers 5-2. This was followed by a trip to Bristol, where the quarter finals were combined with the GFSN Christmas Party. Village faced Charlton Invicta in a tense and hard fought match, but ultimately emerged 3-0 winners with goals from Peter Edwards, Petr Mrnka, and Fernando Martins. VMFC now progress to the semi final, to be played against Soho in Regents Park on 24th March. The Bristol game saw all the teams don the Rainbow Laces as part of the campaign to rid football of homophobia.
The VMFC Second Team had a cracking start to their first season in the Manchester Amateur Sunday Football League. Leaving aside their difficult time in the pre-season MASFL Memorial Tournament Cup, they opened their account on the first day of the season with an 11-2 victory over AFC Medlock. This is the biggest victory ever recorded by a Village side, and with five goals Paul Golds came close to equalling the most goals any Village player has ever scored in one game (don't worry Holmesy, your record is safe).
The good times continued with a 3-1 victory over Wythenshawe Celtic 2nds the next weekend, but after that the results turned against Village. Despite spirited performances and consistent improvement across the whole team, they went a month without scoring a goal, suffering heavy losses in every game. The goals started to flow again at the end of October, when Village were very unlucky not to prevail in an incredibly close 5-4 loss against Barlow Moor Rovers.
Results were still going against the Seconds, including a 13-1 thumping against promotion chasers Manchester Powerhouse, but the players continued to grow as a team. The first signs of real progress came in the second league game of 2018, when Village managed to limit another promotion chasing team, River Plate Reds, to just a 2-0 win, having lost 5-2 to the same side in the JA Kennedy Cup.
The following game will be remembered by the Second Team players for some time. Barlow Moor Rovers, narrow victors earlier in the season, chose to go ahead with their home game in the falling snow at Turn Moss. Despite going 1-0 down, Village stayed strong, and with the help of four goals from the mighty Fernando Martins they took a 4-2 lead into half time. The first twenty minutes of the second half led to two goals from Barlow, and the game went into the last ten minutes finely balanced at 4-4. The snow had let up and the pitch had turned into a mudbath. With nine minutes left on the clock, a goalmouth scramble saw Gareth Doyle poke the ball home to score his first Village goal - and give Village the lead. Barlow came back hard, putting pressure on the Village defence, but the back four stayed strong. With four minutes left, Village won a free kick twenty-five yards out from the Barlow goal. Alex West's shot was saved by the keeper, but he could only palm it into the path of - who else? - Fernando Martins, who calmly took his fifth goal of the match, putting the game out of sight. Combined with the First Team taking a 2-0 victory over Moorside Rangers the day before, the halfway point of the season marked a double win for Village.
Both managers will be hoping for a few more of those as the second half of the season unfolds!
We were excited in November to attend Manchester FA's Grassroots Awards where the first team was nominated as male team of the year following promotion in the Lancashire & Cheshire League last season, and thrilled when our Treasurer/Communications Officer/kit washer/dogsbody/Mother Hen Steve Joyce won the award for Volunteer of the Year.
Words: James Cole
Photos: Steve Joyce, Mark Stather, Lancashire & Cheshire League, Manchester FA, James Gill Media, Paul Lewis, Jay McNaught, Damien Mooney