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The Conference Years: Northwich Victoria

5 June 2014

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Remembering where we once were.

Northwich Victoria are said to be one of the oldest football clubs still in existence. Their presence was felt by Doncaster Rovers on no more than ten occasions between 1998 and 2003 as the sides regularly slugged it out in the Football Conference.

Despite being founder members of the English Second Division, The Vics have predominantly featured in the reaches of non-league football.

They first crossed paths with Doncaster Rovers in March 1999 when Ian Duerden’s hat-trick at The Drill Field saw off the hosts in a 3-1 win, which was duly followed just a month later by a 2-2 draw at Belle Vue when again Duerden netted.

The two sides were consigned to mid-table mediocrity the following year; emphasised by the fact that their inconsistency inevitably led them to take points off each other. The Vics went first (2-1) in August ’99 before Dino Maamria’s brace in front of less than 1900 at Belle Vue completed the home campaign for the temporary managerial duo of Dave Penney and Mark Atkins.

The 2000/01 season brought some notable names in the Northwich ranks to Rovers’ attention, namely former forward Adie Mike and future Premier League striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher but no more joy for Rovers who only picked up a point in a 1-1 draw before succumbing to a 2-0 home defeat.

The names kept coming for Rovers and Dave Penney’s men not only faced an old friend in Mark Barnard, but a new one in Gregg Blundell, who would go on to help the South Yorkshire side to back to back promotions.

Following a gripping 3-2 win for Rovers in Cheshire, the sides came back in March ’02 to fight out a 2-2 draw. Blundell got the visitors off to a flyer within the opening 60 seconds before Paul Barnes responded. Northwich retook the lead, only for Francis Tierney to secure a point. All three players proved instrumental in Rovers’ promotion push just twelve months later.

Rovers won in their final visit to Northwich, where the ‘hosts’ groundshared with Witton Albion which was to prove to be the start of The Vics nomadic existence.

Although Rovers lost the return at Belle Vue, with Blundell on the winning side, he would go on to end the season with a promotion medal around his neck after his 19 goals persuaded Dave Penney to part with £25,000.

The cash will have come in handy to the club who have, regrettably, been on a downward spiral since. Two administrations in five years and many months spent in some doubt as to just where they would be playing and who against, eventually led the club to an all time low – playing in front of just 86 spectators in a division below their local rivals Witton.

Former Stockport and Peterborough boss Jim Gannon remains at the helm of the 9th tier club, who play in Flixton, Greater Manchester – an hour away and have even seen a protest club formed by the Supporters Club take place.

*Winger Francis Tierney looks to rush past his marker in the 2-1 win at Witton Albion against Northwich Victoria in the Football Conference on 31st August 2002. By the end of the season, he would become a Rovers legend*

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