His side had just dominated a game at one of the division’s high-flying teams, but Paul Bowyer, 1874 Northwich’s manager, was reluctant to talk promotion.
‘We can’t really assess things for a few weeks yet,’ Bowyer said, which was a mighty understatement. Win their games in hand in the North West Counties League Premier Division, and his side will leap into the second promotion spot, occupied by Widnes. Yet today, they sit 24 points adrift of them.
Welcome to the ridiculous world of Britain’s most overworked football team, whose fixture pile-up means they’ll play on each of the next five Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, wrapping up 19 games in a month before this season is through.
Northwich claimed a hard-fought point with a 1-1 draw at high-flying Hanley Town
1874 Northwich’s extraordinary schedule between now and the end of the season will see them play today, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, finishing May 5.
Injuries take on a whole new significance when you’ve almost half your league games still to play. A second-half knock on Saturday to Ryan Jackson — one of Bowyer’s most influential midfielders — could rule him out of contention for two weeks.
‘That means he misses eight games,’ said Brian Edge, the club chairman.
Conventional team selection has long since gone out of the window.
‘We’d usually tell them who’s in a few days in advance,’ said Bowyer, after pulling up at Hanley’s tidy little ground in the Potteries.
‘I gave them suggested squads last Sunday for Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and today and asked them if they could make the ones they’re picked for. We’re spreading the workload. They’ve got jobs, families. They need to plan car shares.’
Hanley’s Martin Stanyer points the finger at Matt Woolley of 1874 during a heated encounter
Captain Matt Woolley, who works for an engineering firm, says he has ‘understanding employers’. And an understanding wife. They have a threeweek- old baby. Other members of the side are juggling fixtures with jobs ranging from accountant to shop worker. Bowyer, who co-manages the side with former Barnsley full back Wayne